Former First Nations chief Terry Nelson
Credits: MARCEL CRETAIN/QMI AGENCY
WINNIPEG - A former Manitoba First Nations chief plans to go to Iran on a human rights mission, despite the fact the federal government asked Canadians not to travel there.
The federal government said one of the reasons it cut diplomatic ties with Iran is because of the human rights abuses of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime.
But former Roseau River First Nation chief Terry Nelson says he will head to Iran next Thursday with four or five delegates because Iranian officials expressed interest in meeting to discuss First Nations humans rights issues in Canada.
"I'm saying to you that if the United States and B'nai Brith doesn't give a damn about the human rights violations in Canada, we will go to wherever the hell we need to go to bring these issues out," Nelson said.
He said he believes Iran can help raise the profile of First Nations people among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and expose the fact the federal government hasn't given them "a dime" from oil revenues in Canada.
"Our goal is to turn a spotlight on the Canadian human rights record and show that there is no payment to First Nations on oil and gas exploration," he said.
Nelson said he would pursue these issues with any country that is willing to do so.
He said he also wants to prevent a potential war in Iran, which he equates to "economic suicide" for Canada because of Iran's resources.
Minister John Baird was unavailable for comment Friday, but his press secretary issued a statement alleging Iran is attempting to exploit First Nations people.
"The Iranian regime is now attempting to exploit Canadian aboriginal leaders and feign concern as yet another PR stunt to distract from its own abhorrent record," the release says. "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."