Canada has joined with other Western countries in condemning Iran's crackdown on dissidents, many of them scholars, artists and writers.
But about 500 Iranian-born Canadians have signed a petition to Ottawa's political leaders protesting what they say is worsening discrimination against Iranians who want to visit Canada, some of them internationally known dissidents on the blacklist of the regime.
"It makes no sense to deny visas to people who are moderates, and want to bring that message to Canada," said Saeed Soltanpour, host of the Glass Ceiling program on Iranian Television Canada. "Those people shouldn't feel that they are being left alone."
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, of the University of Toronto, who organized one of the world's largest gatherings of Iranian scholars in Toronto last July, said "the difficulty in securing visas this year was unprecedented," in spite of efforts to smooth the way by meeting with Canadian officials and travelling to Iran.
Only a minority of several hundred Iranian artists and intellectuals invited to other Toronto events this summer were granted visas, Soltanpour said.
One rejected applicant, Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari, is a prominent clerical reformer who planned to lecture on democracy and women's rights. And, said Soltanpour, the Canadian embassy has failed to return his passport