Canada to introduce open work permit for Iranians, simplify process to stay

Not sure how widely the measures – waiving fees for passports, Permanent Resident travel documents and citizenship certificates – has been done in the past and for which groups.

Given the announcement in North Vancouver, where many Iranian Canadians live, not sure the fee waivers makes sense from a policy perspective (no issue with open work permit pathways).

The federal government is rolling out special temporary measures to make it easier for Iranians in Canada to stay.

As of March 1, measures will come into effect to simplify the process for Iranians who are visiting, studying in or working in Canada to extend their stay and switch between temporary streams.

For Iranians already in Canada, an open work permit pathway will be introduced as well.

The federal government will waive fees for passports, permanent resident travel documents and citizen certificates for Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Iran who wish to come back, and for those in Canada who want to remain.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement in North Vancouver today as part of the federal government’s ongoing effort to support Iranians following unrest.

Protests erupted in Iran in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police, leading to a brutal crackdown by the Iranian government.

Source: Canada to introduce open work permit for Iranians, simplify process to stay

Tensions rise in Toronto’s Persian community as activists try to expose regime links in Canada

Of note. More coverage on regime links and immigration:

As the uprisings continue in Iran, tensions between supporters of the regime and those who aspire to revolution are being felt in the Iranian diaspora.

In Toronto, anti-regime activists have moved to expose government insiders who they say live with impunity in Canada.

“This man sent me, along with many other students, to prison,” said Ardeshir Zarezadeh, an Iranian-born Toronto lawyer, pointing to his computer screen.

On the website of his organization, the International Center for Human Rights, the photo of Morteza Talaei, the former police chief of Tehran and officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), seen on a treadmill, in a gymnasium in Richmond Hill, Ont., in January.

Since the beginning of the uprising in Iran, Zarezadeh has called on members of the Iranian diaspora in Canada to send him information concerning relatives of the Iranian regime who visit or live in Canada in order to expose them on his website.

There is an expression in Iran that Canada is the regime’s paradise.— Mohammad Tajdolati, Iranian journalist based in Toronto

“We all know that many people affiliated with the Iranian regime live in Canada. They come and go.”

“They take advantage of life in Canada,” maintains the lawyer who spent nearly six years in Iranian prisons for his involvement in student movements.

For Mohammad Tajdolati, there is no doubt that the presence of supporters of the Iranian regime in Canada has exacerbated tensions within the Iranian diaspora since the beginning of the uprising.

“There is an expression in Iran that Canada is the regime’s paradise,” says the Iranian journalist based in Toronto.

The activist claims to have contacted the federal government on several occasions in recent years to denounce the presence of relatives of the regime on Canadian territory, without concrete measures being taken by Ottawa.

“They tell us, ‘We know, we’re watching them,’ but that’s not enough. […] That is why we are taking matters into our own hands,” he said.

On Oct. 29, in a long-awaited speech by the diaspora, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to maintain sanctions against the Iranian regime and its leaders. A promise received with skepticism by Zarezadeh.

You can’t do much legally, but by identifying them and exposing them, you can make people cut ties with them, or with their business.– Marjan

“We know that there are people today in Canada who have benefited from this horrible and corrupt regime and who are hiding in the middle of the community enjoying the opportunities that Canada offers. They are using the wealth they stole from the Iranians. We say: enough is enough,” Trudeau said.

He is not the only one. It was this same frustration that prompted Marjan* (her name has been changed) to begin investigating Iranian regime supporters in Canada. The young Torontonian left Iran to escape repression.

Radio-Canada granted her anonymity, because she fears reprisals against her or her family who still lives in Iran.

After arriving in Canada, she says she kept her distance from her home community. The uprising in Iran, however, ignited a new flame within her. On the opiran.toronto Instagram account, she now speaks out against government insiders whose families she says live freely in Canada.

“When I see these people here, it’s like post-traumatic stress disorder for me. I see them near my home, in the street, I see their children playing freely when I did not have this luxury in my country,” she said.

“You can’t do much legally, but by identifying them and exposing them, you can make people cut ties with them, or with their business.”

Even if he understands the anger of his compatriots, Tajdolti is worried about the abuses that some of their actions could cause, such as the denunciation of individuals online. “You have to be very careful because we live in a country of law. You can’t accuse someone very easily,” he warns.

Zarezadeh says he is aware of the risk of defamation. “We make sure that the information we publish is true,” he said, assuring that he will continue his fight.

Exacerbated tensions, broken wall of fear

Beyond online denunciations, tensions are also crystallizing in the community. In “Little Tehran,” a neighborhood located north of Toronto and which owes its name to its large population of Iranians, certain incidents have multiplied since the beginning of the uprising.

Opposite the famous Plaza Irania, in the heart of the Iranian quarter, a butcher shop has been the target of online vandalism and intimidation by netizens accusing it of having links with the Iranian regime.

Graffiti in Farsi saying “death to the mullahs,” for example, was painted on the walls of the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre in Thornhill, north of Toronto. The mosque was quick to refute any political allegiance.

Both the butcher shop and the mosque declined our offer to comment on the matter.

In front of the same mosque, however, signs with the portrait of the young Mahsa Amini, whose death was the spark of the movement, have been removed, according to a video widely shared on the WhatsApp network. And still in the same place, a motorist tried to rush into anti-regime demonstrators before fleeing and being arrested by the police.

York Regional Police, which serves the territory, says it is not concerned about a possible increase in hateful acts related to the situation in Iran. However, the police say they are aware of the divisions that exist within the Iranian community in the Greater Toronto Area.

According to Tajdolati, tensions have always been underlying in the community, with supporters of the two ideologies living together. What changes this time is that fear has changed sides, according to the journalist.

“The people you see on the streets now, before, they didn’t come to demonstrations because they were afraid,” he said, explaining that being photographed at an event like this could make it difficult afterward to travel to Iran or could make things difficult for their families back home.

“Now, he continues, the situation is so atrocious in Iran, it is so brutal, so inhuman, that these people say to themselves, ‘No, that is enough. I want to participate, I want to do my duty as a human being, as an Iranian.”

“The wall of fear has broken down.”

Source: Tensions rise in Toronto’s Persian community as activists try to expose regime links in Canada

105 Iranians say their dreams of coming to Canada were dashed just to clear a processing backlog

Of note, will be interesting to see how the court rules:

As a toddler, Rokhsar MousaviNezhad was mesmerized by the colourful motifs and designs of the handmade Persian carpets displayed in her grandfather’s studio in Shiraz, a city considered Iran’s cultural capital.

It’s where she fell in love with the craft of carpet-making and designs, and took her first dip into knotting and weaving with loom, combs and a traditional tool called gholab.

“I am proud of myself that I have continued my grandfather’s job,” says the now 41-year-old, who has built a career teaching the craft, displaying her work in shows and running her own carpet business.

It’s these skills and knowledge that she was banking on when she applied in 2016 for permanent residence in Canada under the self-employed immigration program, which aims at luring exemplary athletes, artists and farmers to this country.

Yet MousaviNezhad was rejected in 2018 for failing to demonstrate the ability and intent to become self-employed in Canada. Her refusal is among 105 cases entangled in an appeal to be heard collectively by the Federal Court next week.

At issue is whether the “mass” refusals made in “haste” — according to the applicants’ court submissions — of these Iranians by the Canadian visa post in Poland were the direct result of an effort to clear a backlog, allegedly “at the cost of violation of legal principles.”

The submissions say 479 files in the self-employed category were transferred to Warsaw from the backlogged Ankara post in Turkey on March 7, 2018.

“The Warsaw visa post defied all norms, procedural fairness requirements, and reasonable expectations of outcome in its assessment of the … (cases) transferred to it,” the applicants claimed. “Officers moved straight to refusals thereof.”

Almost all litigants were refused for failing to demonstrate their ability and intent to become self-employed in Canada, despite business plans that, in the past, would have met the expectations of the Ankara visa post, according to litigants’ counsel.

Pantea Jafari, lawyer for the 105 Iranians, said self-employed immigration applications are the most labour-intensive for both officials and applicants, since there are few guidelines to assist the assessment and applicants are left in the dark about what evidence would make their case.

“The document checklist does not provide any indication of what documents to provide for ‘relevant experience,’ it just says ‘relevant experience’ and ‘provide what you think is helpful,’” she told the Star.

“That’s it. There’s no reference whatsoever about the ability and intent to be self-employed in Canada.”

Jafari said officials in Ankara routinely requested further documentation and interviews with applicants in addition to a thorough review of the person’s business plan.

“So there was a stark change in the process once things were switched to Warsaw,” Jafari said in an interview. “Now, it’s saying ‘I’m going to refuse the application without any notice to the client.’ That is fundamentally procedurally unfair.”

In her business plan, MousaviNezhad — currently in Montreal — said she was going to run her own studio based in Newmarket, Ont., to teach design and weaving in handmade Persian carpets while marketing and selling her work domestically and internationally, especially to the huge U.S. market.

She also planned to offer classes at schools and community centres, and work with interior designers to create custom-made carpets.

MousaviNezhad said she applied to come to Canada after then-U.S. president Donald Trump banned Iranian-made rugs from entering from any country and restricted the sale of those already in the country.

“Iran is famed for two things: Persian cat and Persian carpet. My business as a part of the rug community has suffered,” said MousaviNezhad, who has a fine art degree in rug design from the Science and Culture University in Yazd and is a licensed carpet-maker in Iran.

“I want to know how I don’t have the ability to be self-employed while I have an academic education as a rug expert and designer, and worked as a freelance artist since 2007.”

In an affidavit, Thomas Richter, Canada’s migration program manager in Warsaw, said the self-employed class is part of economic immigration, where applicants are assessed “on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada.”

Qualified candidates, he stated, must have the relevant experience and be able to be self-employed, and must intend and be able to make a contribution to “specified economic activities” in the country.

“I can state with certainty that I am not aware of any policy that is in place at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw which would serve to discriminate or result in a bias against the clients,” Richter said in his affidavit.

“Each client is assessed on the basis of their individual attributes and in accordance with the criteria outlined.”

The self-employed immigration program was fine-tuned in 2004 to limit it to artists, athletes and farmers after a review found it had been “compromised” by business applicants unable to meet the skilled-worker criteria and unwilling to move to the more restrictive entrepreneur or immigrant investor programs, both of which require huge capital investments.

“A person may be talented and may even have in-depth knowledge, but that does not necessarily mean that the person has the ability to be self-employed; this must be linked to the intention and ability to create his or her own employment,” the government argued in its submissions in the Iranian case.

“Visa officers do not have a duty to seek to clarify a deficient application, to reach out and make an applicant’s case, to apprise an applicant about concerns arising directly from the legislation or regulations, to provide the applicant with a running score at every step of the application process.”

The government has asked the court to dismiss the applicants’ request, which is to have their cases set aside and sent to the Ankara post for redetermination.

Among the 105 who were refused is Milad Bagheri, a classical tenor and traditional Iranian musician, who has performed extensively in Canada, having toured in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver before applying to the self-employed program in 2018.

In August 2019, the 35-year-old arrived in Toronto with his musician wife, Homa Samiei, on a work permit as a self-employed foreign worker. The duo have been giving vocal and piano lessons, performing online concerts and producing music while collaborating with Canadian composers and musicians.

“Even with COVID’s situation, which you know was tough for artists, we worked and had outstanding achievements. I just had a sold-out show at Toronto’s Meridian Arts Centre and will have another one at Vancouver in September,” said Bagheri after a recent studio recording of a new single.

“They assumed we couldn’t live in Canada as self-employed. As you can see, we are living in Canada as self-employed right now.”

Source: 105 Iranians say their dreams of coming to Canada were dashed just to clear a processing backlog

How Iranian immigrants can be role models for diversity in STEM

Of interest:

When I first came to the United States from Iran in 2007 for a doctorate in computer science and machine learning, I was surprised by how few women attended industry conferences. Those I did meet were usually fellow immigrants.

Diversity and gender equality drive creativity and spur innovation across the globe. It’s why the United Nations has declared Feb.11 the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and why the U.S. House of Representatives just launched the first-ever Women in STEM Caucus. The bipartisan initiative, started by four female congresswomen, now has 13 members from both sides of the aisle. The caucus aims to increase the presence of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM across the country.

In Tehran, where I grew up, it’s considered normal for girls to study computer programming from an early age. That culture has opened the door for new generations of female engineers. In fact, in Iran, nearly 70 percent of university graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are women.

That’s a sharp contrast with the United States, where women are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. Data by the Council of Graduate Schools found that in 2018 U.S. women earned only about a quarter of PhDs in engineering, math and computer science. This is at a time when the United States is facing a critical shortage of STEM workers; in 2015, 14 states advertised 20 STEM jobs for every unemployed STEM worker, according to New American Economy. That demand is projected to grow over the next decade.

Today, I’m the executive vice president and chief algorithms officer for, a tech-driven online retailer committed to diversity. As an immigrant and a woman, I bring a wealth of experiences that help me see problems differently. Plenty of data shows women bring skill sets, strategic thinking and creativity valued by businesses. Women also take women’s needs to heart when creating products and services for them, whether it’s heart medication, seat belts or air bags designed for our physiques. Simply put, women are an essential part of the talent pool.

American companies should strive for increased diversity and inclusivity throughout their organizations. Teachers need to create inclusive classrooms that value girls’ and women’s opinions. Those of us in the field can create better representation by hiring and championing female colleagues or requesting female-friendly policies inside the companies where we work. Leaders in our communities also need to do more to encourage women, immigrants and minorities to enter STEM fields. I applaud the Congressional Women in STEM Caucus, whose mandate is to improve access to hands-on learning, technical training and real-world application of skills required in these jobs.

But we also need to remember the value of our personal stories in influencing young lives. If young American women and girls, including immigrants and minorities, are going to embrace STEM, they’re going to need more support and role models. As Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of West Chester, Pa., said, she was one of 10 women in her engineering major and doesn’t think the numbers have changed much in 30 years.

A 2018 study of 6,000 American young women conducted by Microsoft and KRC Research found that girls who know a woman in STEM are more than 70 percent more likely to know how to pursue a STEM career and what types of specific jobs might utilize a STEM skillset.

The study said parents’ encouragement was particularly influential in whether girls cultivated a love for science and technology and stuck with these fields over time. Likewise those of us already working in these industries can also serve as mentors for them, whether it’s volunteering at coding camps or sharing our enthusiasm for AI and robotics over ice cream.

Or we can simply raise our hands high in our communities and say: “This is what a female coder, engineer, biotech founder, mathematician or science professor looks like. You can be one, too.” That’s especially important, because 30 percent of girls and 40 percent of women described a man when asked what a “typical” scientist or engineer looked like.

As a woman in STEM, an Iranian American citizen and an immigrant, I want to encourage new generations to realize their potential. With any luck, I’ll see many more female faces at industry conferences to come.

Dr. Kamelia Aryafar is executive vice president and chief algorithms officer for

Source: How Iranian immigrants can be role models for diversity in STEM

Les Iraniens les plus nombreux à avoir choisi le Québec

Good illustration of how immigrants adapt to revised regulations (changing federal skills preferences leading those rejected to apply to Quebec):

Quel pays a fourni le plus d’immigrants au Québec en 2014, dernière année complète pour laquelle on a la statistique? La France? La Chine? Le Maroc? Haïti? Vous avez tout faux.

La bonne réponse est l’Iran, révèle le plus récent bilan démographique du Québec. Un résultat étonnant puisque ce pays n’apparaît habituellement pas au sommet de ceux de provenance des nouveaux arrivants.

Hormis le cas de la Chine, les immigrants qui entrent au Québec proviennent habituellement de pays francophones, latins à la limite. Or, même si le français a eu un certain rayonnement en Iran, notamment à l’époque du shah, chassé du pouvoir au moment de la révolution islamique de 1979, la place du français au sein des élites s’est amenuisée depuis.

Cette donnée a pris de court les experts en immigration du Centre Urbanisation Culture Société de l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) et de l’Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).

«J’ai été surprise, reconnaît Chantal Girard, démographe de l’ISQ. On a fait des vérifications auprès de l’Immigration et il y aurait comme un effet de concentration», dit-elle, en nous invitant à communiquer directement avec Immigration Québec pour les détails.

Changements à Ottawa

Il semble que les Iraniens qui se font refuser l’entrée au Canada aient décidé de passer par le Québec, quitte à déménager au Canada anglais par la suite.

«Cette variation pourrait être due à des changements apportés par le gouvernement fédéral en 2009», explique Karine Baribeau, porte-parole du ministère de l’Immigration. En effet, c’est à ce moment-là que le Ministère a modifié les domaines de formation recherchés, ce qui a causé le refus de nombreux candidats iraniens, qui n’avaient plus les diplômes privilégiés par le gouvernement fédéral. À ce moment, de nombreux candidats iraniens se seraient tournés vers le Québec et auraient présenté une demande.

«Nous avons donc reçu un nombre élevé de demandes de candidats iraniens de 2009 à 2013. En 2014, on a remarqué que le nombre de demandes reçues revenait tranquillement à la normale. Comme il s’écoule un certain délai entre la sélection par le Québec et l’admission, ça concorderait avec les fluctuations remarquées dans les admissions.»

Près de 6000 Iraniens sont entrés au Québec en 2014, comparativement à environ 3500 Français et 3500 Algériens. Après neuf mois en 2015, le Québec avait accueilli 3084 Iraniens, au deuxième rang des pays de provenance derrière la France.

Source: Les Iraniens les plus nombreux à avoir choisi le Québec | André Dubuc | National