TORONTO– Liberal Leader Bob Rae sent the following letter today to Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney and Minister for International Cooperation Julian Fantino on the ongoing conflict in Syria:
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
365 Laurier Avenue West
The Honourable Julian Fantino, P.C., M.P.
Minister of International Cooperation
200 Promenade du Portage
The evolving situation in Syria continues to be of great concern to Canadians. We are encouraged by the government’s recent announcement of increased humanitarian aid to the people affected by the Syrian crisis. But there is still much more to be done.
Members of the Liberal caucus met this week with representatives of the Syrian-Canadian community, and I would like to put forward for your consideration some of the suggestions that arose to strengthen Canada’s role in the crisis.
We all agree that the $2 million in humanitarian aid for medical supplies is urgently needed and must be distributed, as promised. There are a number of reliable Canadian organizations with impressive records of providing assistance in crises such as this, such as GlobalMedic. We urge the government to have an open and direct dialogue with both the Canadian NGO community and with the Syrian-Canadian community to determine an effective means of dispersing the assigned $2 million in aid as soon as possible.
The Syrian-Canadian community has also expressed the need for additional humanitarian funding to help those on the ground. As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, we urge the government to consider implementing a program to match contributions, similar to the program that assists with the humanitarian situation in the Sahel region in West Africa.
Syrian-Canadians are worried for the safety of friends and family on the ground. The Syrian crisis justifies the introduction of flexible measures for immigration, family reunification and refugee claims from Syria. Existing applications by individuals and families affected by the crisis in Syria should be expedited, and we must look at options for new applications.
We share the same hopes and concerns of the Syrian-Canadian community when considering a new Syria after Assad. It is incumbent on us all to foster a democratic government that respects the rights of all Syrians, regardless of gender or religion. We urge the government to collaborate with the Canadian NGO community to develop and implement a program by which Canada can contribute to a democratic post-Assad Syria. The government should work with the opposition Syrian forces and with the new UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, on a Syrian-led political transition to end the civil war. A democratic and stable government is essential for the future of the entire region and the security of Syria’s neighbours.
We urge the government to continue working with like-minded members of the international community to deal with the dramatically increased level of violence. The threat of the use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria gives special urgency to this task.
Canada should be at the forefront of the response to this humanitarian crisis. I look forward to a response from you on these issues of great concern to the Syrian-Canadian community.
The Honourable Bob Rae, P.C., O.C., M.P.