National security expert 'concerned' Iran may be excluded by foreign interference inquiry

Inquiry Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue received explicit instructions from Ottawa to examine how foreign state actors may have influenced the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. As of writing, Iran has not been explicitly mentioned in spite of an ongoing CBSA investigation into 141 persons with suspected ties to the Iranian regime.

National security expert 'concerned' Iran may be excluded by foreign interference inquiry
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld and THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby
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Canada’s long-awaited inquiry into foreign interference commenced Monday, with some national security experts warning against the exclusion of Iran. 

"Any country on which we have substantive information of engaging in foreign interference should be included," Dick Fadden, former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told Global News.

A 2019 report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) wrote that Canada's "close allies and like-minded states" had visceral anxiety about Tehran’s growing reach.

"Notable concerns included Russian and Chinese political interference activities and their efforts, along with those of Iran and Turkey, to influence and intimidate ethnocultural communities," reads the report.

Courtesy of tips from the public and referrals from the Department of Immigration, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is investigating 141 persons of interest with status in the country. As of writing, nine officials are set to appear before the IRB to assess their admissibility into Canada. 

Immigration officials engaged in deportation proceedings last December for two Iranian nationals suspected of operating in Canada as regime agents, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). 

IRB spokesperson Anna Pape named Seyed Salman Samani and Iranmanesh Majid as the persons of interest. Their admissibility proceedings commenced this month. Details on the allegations have not been disclosed. 

Paperwork on the remaining cases is still being prepared before it is sent to the IRB, confirmed Pape. Their identities remain undisclosed in accordance with the Privacy Act, reported Global News.

Fadden, who is expected to testify at the inquiry on Wednesday, said ignoring Iran in light of public information will convolute its mandate.

Inquiry Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue, a Quebec Court of Appeal judge, received explicit instructions from the federal government to examine how China, Russia and other “foreign state or non-state actors” may have influenced the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Her interim report is due May 3, with a final report due by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, Ottawa quietly added India to the list of nations under review after Hogue requested all federal records concerning alleged interference by the South Asian country.

As of writing, Iran has not been explicitly mentioned.

Last fall, a Global News investigation into Iran suggested regime agents operated in Canada, posing a viable threat to diaspora communities. 

The RCMP said it received "reports of foreign interference being committed by or at the direction of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The publication learned that roughly 700 people in Canada have suspected ties to the Iranian regime with some allegedly threatening critics to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. As of November 20, CBSA has denied 78 individuals entry into Canada following a review of roughly 17,800 visa applications for potential inadmissibility.

Fadden expressed concern that the timeline provided for Canada’s inquiry may ultimately leave out Iran because of the commission’s tight deadline.

"I think [Hogue] is operating under a timeframe that makes it almost impossible to deal with all the issues substantively," he said, suggesting a more comprehensive review of foreign interference could take a year and a half to complete.

"We’ll probably be in an election then and nobody will be paying a great deal of attention. But we’re not going to have many opportunities to deal with foreign interference," added Fadden. "I don’t understand why it took the government so much time to accept that we needed a public inquiry."

This is a developing story.

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