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Evidence of meeting #26 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was microfinance.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Wendy Hannam  Executive Vice-President, Sales and Service, Products and Marketing, International Banking, Scotiabank
Morris Rosenberg  Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister Ablonczy, Minister Baird, and our officials for being here today.

Minister Baird, as you know, there's a very large Syrian Canadian community in Canada. I have met with members of the Syrian community in the Toronto area. I know that other members of this committee have met with Syrian Canadians from other parts of Canada. They're very concerned, obviously, about what's going on in Syria, and they are concerned about the welfare of their family and friends. Many have asked us whether or not Canada could participate with its international allies in some kind of a mission in Syria similar to the mission that occurred in Libya.

You were involved very significantly, obviously, in the preparation for the Libya mission, and you are very involved in Canada's response to the crisis in Syria. Could you lead us through the issue and the differences between those two situations? Could you tell us what differences there are, and why the situation may not lend itself to a military solution, as it did in Libya?

I also note that at least one Canadian senator has called for some kind of an intervention.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

A number of people have called for military action. I think we have to be very cautious. Every time there is a situation like this, sending the Canadian Forces, sending a foreign military into a country, should not certainly be the first response, and shouldn't be necessarily the response in every situation. Just because we did it...we can't do it everywhere; it doesn't mean we should do it nowhere.

There are many differences, I think, between Libya and Syria. The geography is very different. Obviously it's in a very hostile part of the world. You can stand on the Golan Heights on a clear day and see the suburbs of Damascus. Obviously you have Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan as neighbours as well.

In terms of the United Nations Security Council, we can't even get a resolution of condemnation of Assad's violence, let alone United Nations sanctions against the regime. So a resolution authorizing military force is just.... At this standpoint, it's unimaginable.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

How coordinated and cohesive is the opposition in Syria compared to the...?

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I think they're showing no united resistance, as we saw in Libya.

I have met with a good number of Libyan Canadians. I have met with our former colleague, Omar Alghabra. I have met with Canadian representatives who are serving on the Syrian National Council. I have met with other Syrian Canadians. They have a wide range of views. The one thing they all share, obviously, is wanting the violence to stop, and, in the absence of that, getting unfettered humanitarian aid there.

I would continue to have, at this stage, real concerns about outside military intervention. It goes beyond just the lack of United Nations cover. I just think we have to be very cautious. We can't be undertaking military intervention everywhere.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Okay.

Could I change the subject to the United Arab Emirates for a moment? I know you met recently with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Canada is cooperating with the UAE on a nuclear cooperation agreement. I also wonder if you could give us a general overview of the foreign relations between Canada and the UAE.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Sure. Just before I do that, I'd like to go back to the first point. I did speak earlier today with the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos. The Government of Canada has offered $1.5 million. The Americans offered $10 million. So you can see we're punching above our weight in terms of per capita, but certainly Canada will do everything we can to support either the UN or the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on the humanitarian side.

We're deeply concerned about that, and I asked for us to be advised if more needs to be done, if there is a channel that can effectively deliver it. Obviously we're concerned about the refugees. I've spoken to my colleague, Mr. Davutoglu, in Turkey. I understand there are about 12,000 refugees in Turkey. They can handle that. If it were to rise to 40,000 or 50,000, they would begin to need extra support, so we're going to watch it on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis to see what else Canada can do.

With respect to the UAE, I think the relationship has improved a great deal over the past year. I've visited the Emirates. Sheikh Abdullah visited Ottawa last week. I think it's well known that the relationship had deteriorated. I would say that it's recovered and is on a very good trajectory. It's an important country. It's one of the largest trading partners for Canadian firms in the Middle East. It's also been a good political partner—for example, the mission in Libya.

The UAE and the Arab League have been great partners for Canada on Syria. We've worked quite well with them, and I think that speaks well. It's been a good year, I think, for the Arab League, and some of the UAEs have provided a lot of leadership, and not just in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League. I think the relationship is sound.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much, Ministers, Deputy Ministers. Thank you very much for—

5:50 p.m.

A voice

That's it?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

That's it.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Did you have more questions?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

An hour goes by quickly. You guys are going to have to grab a coffee, I think.

I want to thank you for taking the time to be here today and for staying past the committee time.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Chair, given the fact that I think we always have such interesting exchanges, may I suggest, if the ministers are available, that they come back and see us after the tabling of the budget.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I'm always at the beck and call of this committee.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Consider yourself invited.

Thank you. With that, the meeting is adjourned.