Canada Strong campaign unifies Canadian-Iranian community

Published On January 13, 2020 | By Zee Zaman | News
Zainab Zaman
Iranian demonstrators hold signs bearing the image of slain military commander Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran. ( Photo by Getty Images)

A national fundraising campaign was launched on Monday for Canadian family members who lost their loved ones when Flight PS752 crashed in Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board.

The “Canada Strong” Campaign hopes to raise $1.5 million to help cover funeral costs for the victims. Mohamed Fakih, Founder of Paramount Fine Foods restaurant chain, urged Canadians to show their compassion and find it in their hearts to donate. 

“Let’s all stand together united in ensuring that those we lost are never forgotten and that their families and friends feel Canada’s embrace,” Fakih said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also showed his support at the campaign launch, ]and encouraged Canadians and organizations to contribute with donations. 

“This is a national initiative. This is meant to ask Canadians … to please follow through on the generosity of spirit that you’ve demonstrated with respect to all of the vigils and commemorations, which have happened across the country,” Tory said. 

Myer Siemiatycki, Policy Advisor for the Iranian Canadian Congress said citizens are more aware of the Iranian community in Canada after the deaths of 57 Canadians in the fatal plane crash.  

“All Canadians feel this loss so deeply and are contributing funds to those who need it so badly now.” He said. 

“A great degree of compassion and respect is shown from Canadians, in addition to the commemorations and memorial events we have seen, the fundraising efforts can in the very immediate run do the thing that are necessary to mourn and grieve … it’s a beautiful tribute to the lives lost,” Siemiatycki said. 

As the Canadian community grieves a massive loss, citizens in Iran have escalated their jet rage onto the streets for a third consecutive day as protestors chanted against Iran’s leaders. 

The angry demonstrations reflect the growing tension between the United States and Iran that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the assassination of General Qassim Soleimani. It was Iran’s retliatory missile attack on the U.S. targets in Iraq that ultimately brought down the plane.

“It’s tremendously brave and impressive that Iranians in Iran are demonstrating and protesting against their own government, we know that the government is brutal in Iran against opposition and protestors… this is not unique to Iran,” Siemiatycki said.

Shahrzad Mojab, a leadership professor at the University of Toronto and activist who is internationally known for her work on the impact of war, said citizens in Iran are facing political and economic damage. 

“People are under much economic pressure in Iran because of the U.S. sanctions and the corruption of the regime, despite the sanctions they are still mismanaging and misusing the limited funds, resources and finances available,” she said. 

Iranian forces fired live ammunition on Monday to disperse protestors and videos show citizens fleeing tear gas canisters landing among them. Another video shows a woman being dragged in the aftermath as a blood trail is spread on the streets.

“It’s a tragedy and according to reports more than 2,000 people are killed on the streets of different cities in Tehran, this is related to the continuous 4 decades of depression in Iran,” Mojab said. 

The continuation of what is going on in Iran has now involved middle-class people in the city.  Back in 2009, the Iranian presidential elections caused a momentum shift in politics which caused clashes between police and citizens. 

Saffaneh Neyshabouri, Muslim Culture Professor at the University of Calgary said the way Canada is acknowledging the crisis in Iran has helped them grieve and get more answers about the plane crash. 

“Prime Minister Trudeau coming forward and being very fast and quick about the plane accident clearly helped the Iranian government accept the blame and confess quicker than they wanted to,” Neyshabouri said. 

“The aftermath of the election and as we saw then, women were the forefronts of the protests and we can see this again now in videos surfacing,” she said.

Iranians have expressed their anger through ongoing protests as they demand those responsible for shooting down the civilian plane and be publicly held accountable. 

“As an Iranian Canadian I am very proud of our government and how the media has handled the situations, it has made me feel included and that fact that we are dealing with this as a Canadian tragedy it has brought the community together,” Neyshabouri said. 

They are also mourning the dead, which included young people who were studying abroad. “It’s remarkable to see resiliency of people in Iran especially the youth and college students who are sacrificing in a daring political way expressing their voices,” Mojab said. 

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