- The Bahá’í Faith
- Canadian Community
- Social Action & Justice
- World Community
The Bahá’í Community of Canada and the Government of Canada
In 1949 the Parliament and Senate of Canada passed an Act of Parliament incorporating the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, the governing body of the Bahá’í Community of Canada. Canada’s government was the first in the world to have incorporated the Bahá’í Faith’s national institution in this way.
In 1967 representatives of the Bahá’í Community of Canada met with then-Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, in 1982 with Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau, and in 1986 with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. In all cases the meetings were friendly, informative, and symbolic of the close relationship the Bahá’ís of Canada have enjoyed with the Canadian government.
The Bahá’í Community of Canada has made formal, written, and verbal submissions to a number of public hearings and royal commissions of the federal government, including the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects of Canada in 1983 and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1993.
The Bahá’í Community of Canada has collaborated on social and economic development projects with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for more than two decade and on a range of programmes in countries in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.
Defence of the Rights of Bahá’ís in Iran
In June 1980, within a year of the revolution that overthrew the regime of the Shah in Iran, the Canadian Parliament became the first government to pass a resolution calling attention to the plight of the Bahá’ís in Iran, passing a second resolution in February 1981. Other national and international parliaments and fora passed resolutions in the months following the Canadian resolution.
Shortly after those resolutions, the Department of Immigration of the Canadian Government took steps to process Iranian Bahá’ís, granting them refugee status in Canada, the first country to open its doors to Bahá’ís who found themselves without passports and in mortal fear of returning to their homeland. The Canadian Government officials in that department then took the lead in explaining the situation of Iranian Bahá’ís to other friendly nations, helping to promote Bahá’í refugee programmes in a number of other countries.
The Canadian Government has also taken the lead at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York to see that strong resolutions are passed condemning the flagrant violation of the human rights of the Bahá’ís of Iran. These resolutions have been passed, always with active work on the part of Canadian officials, since the early 1980s.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has always been very responsive to the Bahá’í Community of Canada, meeting frequently with representatives of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, exchanging information, and generally cooperating in a most gratifying manner. Bahá’í representatives met with then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, on 20 February 1997. He expressed the strong resolve of the Canadian Government to continue to act on behalf of the Bahá’ís of Iran. Current Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Bill Graham, wrote the Bahá’í Community in 2002 to reiterate the commitment of the Canadian Government to defend the human rights of Bahá’ís.
Representatives of the Bahá’í Community of Canada have been active participants for a number of years in the annual consultations on human rights that the Department of Foreign Affairs holds with the NGO human-rights community in Canada.
On 7 October 1998, the Parliament of Canada passed a unanimous resolution condemning Iran for its ongoing persecution of Bahá’ís and attempts to shut down the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education. As Canada presses this issue at the Commission on Human Rights and during the General Assembly debates on human-rights matters each fall, the Canadian Government has been very active in its bilateral communications with Iran, urging that country to respect the rights of the Bahá’ís of Iran.