Mourners place candles and photographs during a vigil for those who were among the 176 people who were killed when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed after takeoff near Tehran, Iran, outside the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

Iranian-Canadians killed in plane crash part of growing diaspora community

63 Canadians are believed to have been killed in the plane crash

If there’s a sign of how Canada’s Iranian diaspora has grown just over the last decade in Canada, consider the story of a festival held in Toronto to mark the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz.

Toronto has long had among the country’s larger Iranian communities and in 2006, when a group of Iranian students decided to throw a Nowruz party, about 20,000 people showed up, said Nima Ahmadi, one of the organizers.

Of course they weren’t all Iranian — the 2006 census put the Iranian population of the city at about 56,930 — but still, it was a pretty big turnout.

So big, in fact, that it spawned a secondary cultural festival, known as Tirgan.

The most recent one, in 2019, attracted upwards of 150,000 people, in a city whose Iranian population, as counted in the 2016 census, sits at 97,110.

Ahmadi and his friends had originally decided to focus on that festival, but demand was so high that in 2017 they brought back a Nowruz party too. Planning for this year’s event, scheduled for mid-March, is now well underway.

But the work took on a sombre tone Wednesday.

Two of Tirgan’s volunteers — Parinaz and Iman Ghaderpanah — are believed to be among the Canadians killed outside Tehran when their flight to Kyiv crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday.

A part of the upcoming festival will be dedicated to them, Ahmadi said.

“We are going to celebrate the lives of these two beautiful people.”

READ MORE: At least 10 people from B.C. among victims in fatal Iran plane crash

The Iranian-Canadians killed in Wednesday’s crash came from business, health care, education, and many other fields. Many were also students, a growing segment of the Iranian diaspora in Canada.

The number of student visa applications from Iranians approved by the Canadian government has increased significantly in recent years, from 2,437 in 2006 to 11,754 in the first 10 months of 2019.

Ahmadi himself came to Canada in 2002 as a student, his life not that different from those of many killed in Wednesday’s crash.

Ahmadi said he has watched the Iranian-Canadian community grow ever since, with young people bringing over their parents, parents bringing over their children, and all seeking to make new lives for themselves here.

The Tirgan festival, he said, has two goals for that reason: it serves both newly arrived Iranians and those who have been here for decades.

“For the people who are new, you want to show them how beautiful is this country that they allow you to celebrate Iranian culture here,” he said.

“For the people who are here for a longer period, you want to polish and highlight the beauty of our culture.”

The 2016 census suggests there are about 210,405 Iranians in Canada now, with 169,485 identifying themselves as having been born outside Canada. The largest group of immigrants arrived between 2001 to 2010, most as economic immigrants.

READ MORE: Foreign affairs minister asks Iran to let Canada in to investigate plane crash

Over the years, the government has targeted Iranians with particular immigration programs, including one begun in 2009 by the previous Conservative government focusing on LGBTQ Iranians in Turkey. Some 9,000 Iranians have also been part of privately sponsored refugee programs since the early 1980s.

There do remain ongoing tensions, however, about how long it takes for many Iranians to get their applications for permanent residency in Canada approved.

For the last few years, many have complained that their applications have been held up for seemingly no reason, when applications from citizens of other countries seem to move much faster.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: James Bay wolf released into wild of western Vancouver Island

Conservation officers confirm wolf is from Discovery Island

Traffic delays: Saturday work added to Highway 1 construction schedule

Work continues on dangerous stretch between Leigh Road and West Shore Parkway

Supreme Court bans Victoria man from practising law

Jeremy Maddock received a law degree in 2016 but never completed articling

Canadian Tire Fix-A-Heart campaign raises more than $75,000 for Royal Jubilee Hospital

Donations will help purchase infusion pumps for cardiac care units

Victoria shops avoid plastic bags, despite bylaw being voided

The city is working on getting the bylaw re-established

VIDEO: Driver guilty in Saanich crash that left 11-year-old with catastrophic brain injuries

North Saanich woman convicted on one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

First-place Canucks beat Blues 3-1 for ninth straight home win

Miller nets pair as Vancouver defeats Cup champs

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Filming for Resident Alien begins in Ladysmith

Aliens and excitement take over the streets of Ladysmith during new TV series

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

The Three Bears are down to two after baby bear carving stolen from his perch in Island community

Thief repeatedly kicked it and dislodged it from cement and rebar

Most Read