Mr. Speaker, the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. Since October, we have been encouraging Canadians to leave Syria while commercial means are still available. However, with additional sanctions imposed by the Arab League, reducing flights out of Damascus taking effect today, there may soon be fewer options to leave safety.
For this reason, today our government announced a voluntary evacuation for all Canadians from Syria. Over the next month, we will provide specialized consular assistance and an open express lane across government departments to help Canadians obtain the documentation they need to leave.
This is a difficult time for the people of Syria, as they face incredible hardship in their struggle for a brighter future. We urge Canadian citizens, their spouses and dependent children to apply for travel documents and ask that people with loved ones in Syria help us spread the message to loved ones back home. The time to leave Syria is now.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy new year.