Canada has appointed a new ambassador to Iran and is making renewed efforts to pursue the Zahra Kazemi case, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced Tuesday.
Mr. Pettigrew appointed Gordon Venner, who has worked in the Department of External Affairs and International Trade since 1989 in various capacities, as Canada's new ambassador to Iran.
Mr. Venner replaces former ambassador Philip MacKinnon, who was withdrawn in July over the Canadian government's frustration with the Iranian justice system regarding the case of Ms. Kazemi.
The 54-year-old photojournalist died on July 10, 2003 in Tehran. An Iranian-born photographer who also had Canadian citizenship, she was beaten to death after being arrested for taking photos of protesters outside a Tehran prison.
Mr. Pettigrew said the new appointment means Canada will resume its full diplomatic presence in Iran, and Mr. Venner will try to make progress on the Kazemi case.
"Justice denied is offensive to all Canadians. This case will be pursued energetically."
The government was frustrated by efforts by the country's hard-line judiciary to censor news accounts of the trial of an intelligence officer accused of killing the Montreal woman. Although the trial was initially open to Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon and other foreign observers, they were eventually not allowed in.
The Iranian judiciary later said the Montreal photographer died when she fell on the ground and hit her head, and a Tehran court acquitted the intelligence agent.
The case has stalled since then, although Ms. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, has taken up his mother's cause and has been fighting to get her body returned to Canada and to have those responsible charged for their actions.
The case has strained relations between Canada and Iran.
Mr. Pettigrew said appointing Mr. Venner, formerly the director of the international economic relations and summits division at the European Union Division in Ottawa, will hopefully improve communications between the two countries.
He added: "Our ambassador will be responsible for representing Canada's views on Iran's nuclear program at a time when Canada chairs the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency."
Mr. Venner will also advocate for Canada's position on the human-rights situation in Iran, Mr. Pettigrew said.
Meanwhile, Mr. MacKinnon, the former ambassador, was named the Canadian ambassador to Egypt in September.
Conservative Party foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day said Mr. Venner's appointment and return to Iran must have a clear purpose.
"The Iranian regime should understand in no uncertain terms that Canada's Ambassador is returning with a mandate to secure clear steps of action on two fronts; resolving the Zahra Kazemi case and the abandoning of the uranium enrichment program," said Mr. Day.