Tuesday, March 27, 2012



WINNIPEG - An official with a prominent Jewish organization is dismissing former First Nations chief Terry Nelson's meeting with Iranian embassy officials about alleged Canadian oppression as a "publicity stunt" in which both parties are seeking attention for their own purposes.

"It's part of a game being played," Ruth Klein, national director of advocacy for B'Nai Brith Canada, told QMI Agency on Wednesday from Toronto.

"Canada takes the lead at the United Nations in trying to focus attention on Iran's human rights record -- and to retaliate, Iran attacks Canada."

Klein added it's "absurd" that Nelson -- former chief of Roseau River First Nation -- and three other current or former First Nations chiefs from Manitoba are trying to arrange a further meeting with leaders of Iran's "oppressive regime" in that country to discuss the struggles facing aboriginals in Canada.

"Its record is so abysmal. Nobody really can take this seriously," she said. "But from Iran's point of view, it gives them a sort of public relations advantage because it can sort of hit back at Canada."

Klein pointed to the arrests of 13 Iranian Jews in 1999 on what she called "trumped-up" charges and arrests of 528 Baha'is in Iran since August 2004 -- 97 of whom remain in prison.

Nelson and chiefs Frank Brown of Canupawakpa and Orville Smoke of Dakota Plains Wahpeton, as well as former Sioux Valley chief Ken Whitecloud, met Monday with officials of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.

Nelson later said that their requested meeting with the Iranian government in Tehran is likely "going to happen pretty quick."

Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, head of mission of the Iranian embassy in Canada, confirmed that the First Nations delegates outlined their complaints of "injustice" during Monday's meeting and that "we listened to their views while emphasizing our respect" for Canada's sovereignty.

"They have also requested to travel to Iran and speak at the Iranian parliament. Their wish has been sent to the relevant officials for consideration," Sheikh-Hassani said in an e-mailed statement.

"We believe that all countries should respect their international obligations and responsibilities, through co-operation with their indigenous communities to find a just and sustainable resolution."

-- With files from Paul Turenne


Twitter: @RossRomaniuk

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