For Arash Abadpour, voting in this year’s Iranian presidential election is about sending a message to two governments.
Abadpour was part of a group of 25 people who gathered in mid-town Toronto Friday morning to travel together in six vehicles to Buffalo to vote.
“This is just one of the groups that are leaving the GTA. We’ve been in touch with many other groups … many people will be crossing the border to vote,” Abadpour told CBC Toronto.
They were forced to make the trip because the federal government hasn’t set up any polling stations for Iranian-Canadian voters — even as Iranians lined up to cast their ballots in Iran, the United States and Europe in a pivotal election, the first since the country signed a deal with world powers to limit its nuclear program.
The Harper government broke off relations with Iran five years ago, pulling out its diplomats and closing the Canadian embassy there. The Trudeau government has been trying to re-establish the relationship between Ottawa and Tehran since the nuclear accord was signed.
“The lack of diplomatic ties, the lack of a consulate or an embassy [in Canada] is a big hurdle, not just because of events like an election but also daily needs and consulate services,” Abadpour said.
But the U.S., which also has no diplomatic relations with Iran, has 55 different extraterritorial polling stations set up.
“We want this trip to also be a message we send to the Canadian government regarding the large Iranian population in Canada,” said Abadpour.
For Bahar Almasi, not voting in this election was out of the question.
“At the same time I couldn’t really justify not going given the current situation in Iran,” she said. “I wanted to do my part in what I think can at least save Iran in some way.”
Most Iranians will be voting for incumbent President Hassan Rouhani or his main rival, Ebrahim Raisi.
Rouhani is a reformer who, in addition to signing the nuclear deal, has opened his country to the world and loosened restrictions on the country’s citizens.
Raisi is seen as a religious conservative and a hardliner who wants to undo Rouhani’s reforms.