A screen grab from the video that captured Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the former Health Minister of President Hassan Rouhani's administration in Montreal, Canada

Uproar Follows Video Of Ex-Iranian Minister In Canada

Wednesday, 08/09/2023

A former Iranian minister has been spotted in Montreal, leading to uproar about Canada’s loose immigration controls in allowing entry to regime’s officials. 

The footage circulating on social media captured Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the former Health Minister in President Hassan Rouhani's administration, strolling through the streets of Montreal, accompanied by his family. The video is part of promotional materials for Quebec's tourism industry. 

“Canada has designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as a regime that has engaged in terrorism and systematic and gross human rights violations,” Marco Mendicino, former Minister of Public Safety announced in November 2022.

After years of calls by human rights activists and Iranians dissidents, Canada finally announced sanctions last November against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), permanently banning over 10,000 of its officers and other senior officials from entering Canada. 

Former Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi (left) and former President Hassan Rouhani

“We’re using the most powerful tools at our disposal to crack down on Iran's brutal regime. We'll be pursuing a listing of IRGC leadership under our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, making over 10,000 senior IRGC members inadmissible to Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time.  

According to Marco Mendicino, a member of parliament who was the Minister of Public Safety at the time, the entry ban into Canada was not limited to just members of the Revolutionary Guards, but also included heads of state, members of the Cabinet, ambassadors, senior diplomats, members of the judiciary, senior military and intelligence officials and senior public servants. 

No Canadian official has yet commented about Ghazizadeh’s presence but the ban on regime officials “applies to those who were senior officials at any time from November 15, 2019, onwards.” Ghazizadeh was elected as the health minister in 2012 and resigned from this position in January 2017. 

Nevertheless, based on the spirit of the legislation and the designation of the regime as a sponsor of terror, Ghazizadeh’s admission raises questions.

Canada-based activist and opposition figure Hamed Esmaeilion -- whose daughter and wife were killed by the IRGC in the downing of a Ukrainian airliner in 2020 -- took to Twitter on Wednesday in protest to Ghazizadeh’s presence in Canada despite the ban. 

He called on Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller to follow up on the case. “We need a response and action now,” he said. 

Similar calls for action abound on social media platforms with the Iranian Twitterati posting controversial remarks or actions by Ghazizadeh during his term as the health minister. Hailing from Khorasan province, Ghazizadeh’s family has always been close to the ruling regime in Iran. One of his cousins, Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a lawmaker from 2008 to 2021 is now Ebrahim Raisi’s vice president and the head of Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, a wealthy organization in Iran with hands in numerous construction projects. Another one of his cousins is Ehsan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, also a lawmaker since 2016 and a former senior official. 

Canada broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, citing its support for the Syrian government, non-compliance with United Nations resolutions over its nuclear program, and fears for Canadian diplomats after protestors stormed the British embassy. 

Critics of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly called on Western countries to restrict and prohibit the travel of Iranian officials and high-ranking figures to their territories, a measure meant to prevent Western countries from being a safe haven for the regime’s officials. 

The families of victims of Ukrainian flight PS752, shot down by the IRGC, have held numerous rallies calling for tougher measures against Iran. 

In September 2022, a Canadian journalist criticized Ottawa for spreading a “lush welcome mat” for rich Iranians linked to the regime but refusing visas to relatives of Flight PS752 victims. Earlier in 2022, several human rights groups issued an open letter calling on Canada to stop former officers of Iran’s military and other human rights violators from entering the country after a short video of a retired commander of the Tehran's Police forces and the IRGC, Morteza Talaie, working out in a gym in Canada went viral. 

Despite these calls, senior figures are being spotted in foreign countries. In one of the latest cases in early July, German media confirmed the presence of Hossein-Ali Nayeri, a 'hanging judge' involved in the summary trial and execution of thousands of Iranian prisoners in the 1980s, receiving medical treatment in a hospital in Hanover, Germany. 

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