Trudeau says government is monitoring after CSIS reports Iran issued death threats against Canadians
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is aware of reports that Iranians are « interfering » in the lives of Canadians and that his government is monitoring threats.
CBC News reported Friday that Canada’s spy agency is investigating what it calls several « credible » death threats from Iran targeting individuals in Canada. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said the threats posed a threat to the safety of Canadians and it was working with allies to respond.
WATCH: Trudeau reacts to reports of death threats against Canadians
“We constantly monitor and assess the threats posed to Canadians by foreign interference from various countries,” Trudeau said at the Francophonie Summit in Djerba, Tunisia, on Sunday.
« But obviously Iran is a big concern these days, with not only the extraordinary heroism of women and girls in Iran who oppose the regime…We also know there are significant concerns about Iranian interference with the well-being of Canadian citizens here in Canada. »
Trudeau pointed out that the federal government had announced a series of sanctions in recent weeks to bar Iranian leaders — including officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — from entering Canada. He said the goal is to ensure they can « never benefit from Canada, interfere in Canada or view Canada as a safe haven. »
Reports of death threats come as Iran enters its third month of anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by so-called vice police and died in custody after allegedly wearing her hijab inappropriately.
LOOK/ CSIS investigates Iranian death threats against individuals in Canada
At least 341 people – including teenagers and children – have been killed and more than 15,800 have been detained in connection with the protests in Iran, according to Human Rights Activists News Agency, an organization of Iranian activists. Experts suggest the actual numbers could be much higher, given the regime’s crackdown on posting real-time news online.
Iran has kidnapped and murdered activists, journalists and intellectuals abroad who speak out against the regime. Between 1988 and 1988, dozens of prominent Iranian dissidents abroad disappeared or were killed.
Kaveh Sharooz, a Canadian-Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, is now calling on Canadian police and intelligence agencies to take these threats seriously.
« Our lives are in their hands now, » Sharooz told CBC’s News Network on Saturday.
Sharooz is an Iranian-Canadian who is an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime. He was one of the organizers of a large anti-government demonstration last month in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Police estimated that more than 50,000 people attended.
He said Canadian authorities have not told him if he is a target and hopes people are warned they could be in danger.
« It’s deeply frightening that this is happening in Canada and that it can happen to people I know, » said Sharooz, who is also a principal investigator at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
LOOK/ Human rights activist says ‘it’s frankly terrifying’
Canadian-Iranian Lily Pourzand fled Iran in 1999 but has always worried about her safety here.
« I don’t feel safe in Canada, » said Lily Pourzand. « I never felt safe in Toronto, where I’ve lived for 24 years. We know the regime people are here. »
Her mother, Mehrangiz Kar, was a human rights activist and political prisoner held in Iran.
Her father, Siamak Pourzand, was a journalist who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2002 for allegations of espionage and incitement to commit acts of corruption. Pourzand reportedly committed suicide in 2011 while under house arrest, but his daughter said he was murdered by Iranian authorities.
In September, a federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia found Iran responsible for hostage-taking and torture, Bloomberg UK reported. Iran was ordered to pay Pourzand’s family, which includes US citizens, more than $34 million in damages. His daughter said it’s likely they’ll never see a dollar, but symbolism matters.
« It took years, » said Lily Pourzand. « But justice was the only thing my father asked for. »
She said she finally feels validated that Western countries like Canada are finally listening to concerns that activists here have been raising for decades.
Plot in 2021 to capture 3 Canadians
Last year, the Government of Canada condemned Iran’s « pattern of intimidation and foreign interference » after US authorities brought charges in connection with an alleged Iranian plot to kidnap five people – including three people from Canada – and to take them to Iran. FBI documents allege the Canadians were among those put under surveillance.
Family members in Canada who criticized the Iranian government after they lost loved ones in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in 2020 also reported to the RCMP that they had been the target of threats and intimidation from Tehran.
Flight 752 was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shortly after takeoff on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
MI5, Britain’s national counter-intelligence agency, said last week that Iranian intelligence services were targeting dissidents abroad whom they « perceive as enemies of the regime » and are responsible for. at least 10 potential threats of kidnapping or murder of British or UK-based people. This year.