Why is Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa renting space to “Iran Culture,” an agency of the Iranian embassy, for a “cultural day”? According to Macleans.ca, that’s precisely what’s planned, and I don’t understand why an organization, with over 55 per cent of its funding coming from Parliament, is associating itself, in any way, with the Iranian embassy.
Iran Culture plans what its website describes as “a cultural event” entitled Iran, Land of Glory, Cultural Day to take place on June 4 at Ottawa in the National Arts Centre’s Panorama Room.
I find this offensive. According to the Government of Canada’s website:
“Canadian political and economic relations with Iran have been governed by the Controlled Engagement Policy.”
Consequently, Canada’s current policy is to place limits on its contact with Iran, preventing, for example, the establishment of direct air links between the two countries and the opening of Iranian consulates and cultural centres in Canada, except in our capital. And, while our two countries agreed in 1996 to exchange Ambassadors, representation in each other’s capital has been reduced to the Chargé level for the past several years.
Moreover, each year Canada leads a resolution at the UN General Assembly on the “Situation of Human Rights in Iran,” the annual adoption of which tells Iran that the international community remains deeply concerned by deteriorating human rights in its country. And in 2005, Canada tightened its “Controlled Engagement Policy,” limiting official contacts between our two countries to four subjects:
- the human rights situation in Iran;
- Iran’s nuclear program and its lack of respect for its non-proliferation obligations;
- the case of Mrs. Zahra Kazemi who was killed in an Iranian prison by regime officials in 2003; and
- Iran’s role in the region.
It seems clear to me that the Government of Canada intends contact between Canada and Iran to be severely limited, and with good and valid reasons. Therefore, Canada’s National Arts Centre—which is primarily funded by the Parliament of Canada and describes itself as “Canada’s foremost showcase for the performing arts”—should not be associating itself, in any way, with Iran or its agencies.
I believe those in charge at the National Arts Centre should know better than to poke Canada’s government, its main benefactor, in the eye. Shame on them.