Canada has sanctioned a high-profile former Tehran police chief whose appearance at a Toronto-area gym last year sparked outrage and allegations that Canada is a haven for high-ranking members of Iran’s regime and their relatives.
Morteza Talaei is a retired second brigadier general with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was in charge of Tehran’s police in 2003 when Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death in custody.
Kazemi was arrested in 2003 for taking photos of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where protests were taking place over students detained by the regime.
Iran’s government eventually admitted she had been beaten but maintains her death was accidental. The attending physician, who fled to Canada, said Kazemi showed signs of “very brutal rape,” torture and head trauma before her death.
Now, almost 20 years after Kazemi’s death, the federal government has announced it is targeting Talaei — along with three other Iranians and five entities — under the Special Economic Measures Act for gross and systemic human rights violations committed in Iran.
Under the regulations, the government can ban people from entering Canada and freeze any assets they may have in the country.
“We’re looking and continuing to look at all ways to ensure that the Iranian regime knows its continued reprehensible behaviour is absolutely unacceptable,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
The federal government is under intense pressure from the Iranian-Canadian diaspora and the Conservatives to get tough on Iran.
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September triggered massive protests across Iran and around the world, including in Canada. Iran’s morality police arrested Amini for wearing her mandatory hijab “improperly.”
On Nov. 14, the federal government listed Iran as a regime that engages in terrorism and systemic human rights violations and banned regime members, including their relatives, from entering Canada. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the ban could lead the government to revoke a relative’s permanent resident status if they’re already in Canada.
Some Iranian-Canadians claim that regime officials have immediate family living in Canada and may have financial assets here. Many in the Iranian community also allege that female family members of Iranian officials in Canada often don’t adhere to the strict dress codes the regime itself requires for women in Iran.
A video and photos posted on social media in January showed Talaei walking on a treadmill at a gym in Richmond Hill in 2021. Swiss-based Iranian independent journalist Abdollah Abdi posted the images, raising questions about what Talaei was doing in the country.
Abdi said Talaei later told him he was visiting his daughter but insisted it was a private matter.
An Iranian journalist inside Iran, Fariborz Kalantari, tweeted that the question isn’t why Talaei was in Canada but rather how his daughter obtained Canadian residency.
The National Post was the first Canadian media outlet to report on the photos.
سردار مرتضی طلایی کجاست؟<br><br>بر اساس عکسها و فیلم به دست رسیده مرتضی طلائی، نایب رئیس سابق شورای اسلامی شهر تهران و رئیس پلیس سابق تهران بزرگ که در سال هشتاد و پنج با درجه نظامی سردار سرتیپ دوم پاسدار بازنشسته شده بود اکنون در کاناد اقامت دارد و به زندگی مشغول است. <a href=”https://t.co/6X3WHBtWKD”>pic.twitter.com/6X3WHBtWKD</a>
Many on social media called out the hypocrisy of a high-ranking regime official working out at a gym where women do not wear hijabs.
U.S.-based Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad has called on Canada to find out how the former “chief of Tehran police and IRGC commander was allowed to enter the country.”
“He’s working out next to an unveiled woman but his police flogged women for not wearing hijab,” she tweeted in January to her 600,000-plus followers.
Shocking that Canada gave visa to this torturer. <br>We call on Canada to investigate how former chief of Tehran police and IRGC commander was allowed to enter the country. <br>He’s working out next to an unveiled woman but his police flogged women for not wearing hijab.<a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> <a href=”https://t.co/4dVSlVP0h5″>pic.twitter.com/4dVSlVP0h5</a>
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not answer CBC’s questions about how Talaei entered Canada previously and whether any family he might have here would be affected by the sanctions against him.
“Due to privacy legislation,” the department said, “we cannot comment on individual cases.”
IRCC said broadly that spouses, partners or dependent children of those sanctioned for being a member of a terrorist organization would be inadmissible to Canada. But it added that “if a person is already in Canada and becomes inadmissible due to an inadmissible family member, they could apply for a temporary resident permit or for permanent residence under humanitarian and compassionate considerations.”
CBC News has searched property records and has not located any homes listed under Talaei’s name in Ontario.
The National Post reported on Talaei’s controversial history in Iran, including his role in creating a new police unit in Tehran in 2006 to enforce the country’s dress code for women.
Women in Iran accused of not wearing their veils properly face arrest and prison.
Talaei told the state-controlled Fars news agency in 2006 the unit would “confront women showing their bare legs in short pants.”
“We are also going to combat women wearing skimpy head scarves, short and form-fitting coats, and the ones walking pets in parks and streets,” he said.
The federal government also announced sanctions against Ali Ghanaatkar, who was a senior judge, prosecutor and interrogator at Evin prison.
U.K. Labour Party MP Chris Bryant has alleged Ghanaatkar was involved in mistreating detainees, bringing false charges against them and forcefully interrogating them.
The federal government also announced sanctions on Iran’s Javan News Agency, the Baharestan Kish Company, Safiran Airport Services and Hassan Karami, the commander of the Islamic Republic’s Law Enforcement Forces special units.
The Holocaust strikes our very being
To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.
Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.
People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.
Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.
Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.
If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.
Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.
My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.
Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.
Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care
The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.
Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.
The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.
During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.
But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.
Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.
The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.
But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.
Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.
Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Singh meeting with Trudeau about private health care ahead of sit-down with premiers
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
While health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, Singh believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health-care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
On Saturday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his Liberal government will ensure people don’t use their credit cards for health-care services and health care will remain universally public.
Singh is also expected to request an emergency House of Commons debate on the privatization of health care Monday afternoon.
If the request is granted, the debate could go ahead as early as Monday evening.
Health care is a top priority for the leader as members of Parliament return to the House Monday following a holiday break.
Singh spent some of that time away holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
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