Baird slams Iran on human rights, they hit back with Quebec sovereignty

QUEBEC – Iranian officials angry at John Baird for his criticism of their internal politics have hit back by asking how he’d like it if they weighed in on the Quebec independence debate.

The foreign affairs minister denounced Iran at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec City today.

He singled out the Middle Eastern regime for religious intolerance that has resulted in the persecution of people of the Christian and Bahai faith.

The Iranian delegation protested during the speech and was allowed to reply to Baird’s remarks.

Iraj Nadimi, head of the Iranian delegation, pressed the matter in a news conference, asking how Canada would feel if Iran used an international forum to support Quebec sovereigntists.

Uganda also denounced what it called Baird’s arrogance and ignorance.

There are about 1,400 international delegates at the meeting.

Relations have been tense between Canada and Iran since September, when Canada closed its embassy in Tehran.

Credentials were revoked for Iranian diplomats in Canada and they were ordered to leave the country.

Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said the Canadian Embassy in Tehran was closed because they feared for the safety of staff.

Previous to cutting ties, Baird and Harper also cited Iran’s alleged support for terrorists and attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

They have also criticized Iran’s support of the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its demands for the destruction of Israel.

Baird was unapologetic for his remarks at the conference.

“Sometimes the truth hurts,” he told reporters.

He says he chose the forum to try and gather more support against Iran’s nuclear program and human rights abuses.

“Staying silent is never an option when people stone women, when they hang gays, when they incite genocide, when they say they want to wipe the Jewish people and the Jewish state off the map,” he said. “It is never good for anyone in civilized society to stay quiet.

“It is tremendously important as an international community that we speak with one voice.”

(With files from Patrice Bergeron)