Former First Nations chief to meet Iranian officials in Tehran over ‘common plight’

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

I must admit that when we first reported on this story back in March, I didn't think it would actually happen.

Here we had an ex-First Nations' chief from Manitoba seeking a meeting with the Iranian regime to complain about Canada's human rights record?

The National Post, however, is reporting that the meeting between former chief Terrance Nelson and Iranian officials is expected to take place next week in Tehran:

"Mr. Nelson, who is on contract with several First Nations communities in various capacities, said Iranians and First Nations people share a common plight: Both, he said, are suffering under deadly economic sanctions — Iranians at the hands of the UN and western governments such as Canada, and First Nations people under the Indian Act.

The blueprint for the trip was laid out months ago, when he visited the now-shuttered Iranian embassy in Ottawa requesting a meeting with Iranian authorities because they "have always promoted the human rights issues of indigenous people in this country.""

Rick Roth, a spokesperson for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggested that Iran was merely "attempting to exploit Canadian Aboriginal leaders and feign concern" as a means to deflect its own human rights' record.

[ Related: Canadians support government's decision to close Tehran embassy ]

"We hope that the Aboriginal leaders in question won't allow themselves to be used as pawns in the sad game the Iranians are playing," he told the National Post.

This isn't the first time that Nelson has been the subject of controversy.

According to a PostMedia News article, the five-time chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba was once quoted as saying: "There's only two ways to deal with the white man. Either you pick up a gun or you stand between him and his money."

Nelson traveled to Iraq in April 1998 at the invitation of the Saddam Hussein Government and was also a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2012.

What makes Nelson's trip to Iran even more interesting is that it comes on the heels of the Canadian government shuttering its embassy in Tehran.

Nelson believes that there is a link between his trip and Foreign Affairs' decision to cut ties with Iran.

[ Related: Is Canada's closure of its Tehran embassy a precursor to an attack on Iran? ]

Sadeq Rahimi from the Huffington Post published a snippet of an open letter from Nelson to prime minister Stephen Harper last month:

"In today's [September 10] Globe and Mail, there is an article on the closing of the embassies in Tehran and Ottawa, stating 'It is unclear what triggered Canada's decision...'

We both know that the accusation that the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa was recruiting Iranians in Canada was a smokescreen, the real reason for the closure is APTN [News] reporting our scheduled trip to Tehran on October 8 to 20.

Dakota Chief Frank Brown, Dakota Chief Orvile Smoke, myself and possibly Lubicon Lake Chief Bernard Ominayak were scheduled to travel to Iran. The implications of this trip are that the Americans would go ballistic with your government when Chief Frank Brown does his power point presentation in front of the Iranian Parliament showing pictures of the mass graves from the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre."

As 'they' say in 'the biz', sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.