By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A former Manitoba chief’s attempt to land a meeting with the Iranian government won’t help the cause of First Nations people and will simply give the regime in Tehran another chance to deflect attention from its own human rights abuses, says the chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran.
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler said former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson’s campaign to seek an audience with the Iranian regime will do little to help First Nations people in Canada. The inter-parliamentary group includes political representatives from the U.S., Australia and the UK.
“I don’t believe that there will be any effective or even moral assistance that can be forthcoming from an Iranian government that assaults its citizens,” said Cotler. “I share Mr. Nelson’s concerns with the plight of Aboriginal people, but that plight will not be solved by those who assault and violate the rights of their own people.”
Nelson is leading a caravan from Winnipeg to Ottawa in March to visit the Iranian embassy and over 100 other diplomatic outposts. Nelson said he plans to deliver a package to the Iranian embassy that will include a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad requesting an audience with the Iranian parliament to highlight Canada’s wrongs against First Nations people.
The caravan will include representatives from the Ojibway, Dakota and Mohawk people, Nelson said.
The Iranian government has publicly criticized Canada in the past over First Nations issues. In January, the Iranian foreign ministry said it had summoned the Canadian charge d’affaires in Tehran over Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people.
“The unfavorable condition of the Indigenous Canadians is a cause of sorrow and grief for the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran strongly protests against the blatant violation of these people’s rights by the Canadian government,” said the ministry in a statement at the time.
Cotler said Iran uses the issue as cover for its own abuses.
“Iran will use and abuse the plight of Aboriginal people in Canada as they have in the past to deflect away from their own state’s actions and assault against their own people,” said Cotler, who held a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday to highlight the regime’s human rights abuses against dissidents, journalists and women.
Iran faces parliamentary elections on Friday.
Nelson said he’s not surprised by Cotler’s comments. He said they mirror what he heard during and after his 1998 trip to Iraq while it was under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Nelson said he is under no “illusions” about the Iranian regime, but First Nations people are being forced to seek help from all corners of the globe.
“The Americans remain silent on human rights in Canada and the UN blue berets aren’t coming to North America any time soon to rescue Indigenous people,” said Nelson. “There are human rights abuses all over the place…There are 600 murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada. Indigenous women are forced into prostitution and they find their skulls…on (serial killer Robert Pickton’s)farm.”
Nelson said First Nations people have to find foreign sources of revenue to break away from their dependency on the Indian Act and Ottawa’s money.
“We are going to deal with the issue of accessing foreign investment and development to break the Indian Act system,” said Nelson. “The Liberals didn’t do anything when they were in power, they had a chance to amend the Indian Act or get it out of the way, and now they are champions of the Indians when they have no power.”