Tony Clement, Canadian Minister of Industry (2008-2011)/Minister of Health (2006-2008), addressed at the 2nd Day of The Free Iran World Summit on July 12, 2021.
Thank you very much for the opportunity, Madame Rajavi and distinguished guests, and I can say to fellow delegates, it is such an honor to address this gathering, which due to the pandemic, and I’m familiar with pandemics as the former Minister of Health, unfortunately, we must be held remotely with the use of this technology.
Still, while we’re not together physically, we are together with a common purpose and a common mind. We are all aware of the trials and tribulations suffered by the Iranian people as a direct result of the Iranian murderous regime. This is a decade’s long tragedy now, and the recent national elections or so-called elections illustrate no softening of the regime’s authoritarian activities, both at home and around the world.
Despite the sometimes-conciliatory words used by the regime’s mouthpieces, there can be no doubt of their evil intent. Who suffers? Innocents do– Iranians and non-Iranians who get in the way. But this forum illustrates there can be hope, and there can be justice.
As a former senior Canadian government minister in the Stephen Harper government, I’m proud of our record of holding the Iranian regime to account. This culminated in the expulsion of Iranian diplomats and spies in 2012.
A formal breaking of diplomatic relations due to Iran’s material support to the Assad regime during the Syrian civil war, the noncompliance with the United Nations resolutions regarding its nuclear program, continuing threats to the State of Israel, and fears for the safety of Canadian diplomats in Tehran.
In addition, Canada formally listed the Iranian regime as a state sponsor of terrorism under the justice for victims of terrorism act. Unfortunately, the response of the Iranian regime was to harden their stance versus Canada, and indeed elsewhere. Their state sponsorship of terrorism is well-known. Less well-known is perhaps the harassment of and threats to the Iranian diaspora, including Iranian Canadians.
I have personally heard accounts of this harassment designed to quell critical voices and replace them with mouthpieces for the regime spouting the established narrative. Suffice to say that even without agents running this out of the functioning embassy, this is still a major problem in Canada and around the world. Meanwhile, Canada, through its parliament and its diplomats, continues to demand accountability.
The downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by the Iranian military, with so many people aboard with connection to Canada, further illustrates how important it is to hold the Iranian authorities to account. I was pleased as a parliamentarian at that time to participate in the recognition in 2013 of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners by the Iranian state as a crime against humanity.
And since that time, parliamentarians, including myself, have raised this issue. We must never forget about past atrocities simply because new atrocities have been committed. They all show a continuing and unabated course of conduct by the Iranian government, really, since the revolution itself.
Now, since the theme here is of accountability. I know some apologists will say of any Canadian you talk of accountability, yet in Canada right now, new horrible revelations about mistreatment of indigenous children in residential schools has been revealed.
Canada does not come to this debate with clean hands. With this argument, I would argue and answer the following: that like most countries, Canada does indeed have troubling and unacceptable acts that have taken place in the past. But here is the difference.
In Canada, we do not hide away from uncomfortable truths. We confront them, we acknowledge them, and we try to move past them in a spirit of reconciliation. This is not to say that it does not produce anger, far from it.
But we have a democratic society with a process by which these issues are resolved. Where is such a process in Iran? Where is the means by which families who’ve lost loved ones to state sponsored violence can receive accountability? Where does the Iranian regime share information, come to terms with its wrongs, and seek justice for the survivors? The short answer is this is not a trade of the Iranian regime, nor will it ever be so long as this along is this government is in control.
And that is the uncomfortable truth. That is why all of your work is so important: a voice of justice, seeking truth, and accountability. While it may seem at times that your work is futile, I firmly believe that the arc of history bends toward freedom, justice, and prosperity. And this will once again find the people of Iran.
Canada will no doubt do its part in this aspiration. I look forward to the day when these conferences are unnecessary and a part of the past because justice is with Iran in the present. Thank you.