The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to re-establish relations with Iran is due to its adherence to a “stupid” Canadian law allowing the seizure of Iranian assets, says Canada’s recently expelled ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Dennis Horak, who was expelled from Saudi Arabia in August after its rulers were incensed by a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, offered that blunt assessment as he shed new light on another controversial moment in Canada’s Middle East relations.
Six years ago, the previous Conservative government abruptly severed its diplomatic relations with Iran, shuttering its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada.
The current Liberal government campaigned in 2015 on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran but it has been unable to deliver on that foreign policy promise because Iran appears unwilling to re-engage.
Horak, who retired recently, said one obstacle is standing in the way: the passage in 2012 of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism to sue countries that are listed as supporters of terrorism.
Among other things, the law paved the way for last year’s Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the seizure of US$1.7 billion in private Iranian assets by a group of American plaintiffs whose loved ones were killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by the Iranian regime.
“It was a stupid law. And it’s still a stupid law,” Horak told a meeting of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa this week.