Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing on Foreign Affairs and International Development, presented on Wednesday, November 28, be concurred in.
Recently our committee passed a report on Syria. In the House today I brought up the issue of Syria. We have to be seized with this issue because it is an important one. The report we passed was not a long report. In effect, it was a motion asking the government to do three things. We asked the government to provide more aid to help the refugees, who are now spilling over the borders of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and so on. We estimate that this will continue to be a chaotic situation for those countries. We want to see more aid going to those countries, particularly Turkey. If members have been following the issue, they are probably aware that Turkey has made a proposal.
Before I continue, I should mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will sharing my time with my colleague, who seconded the motion, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
They key is that we need to follow the three committee recommendations. First, we need to provide more aid and humanitarian support to the refugees. Second, we need to ensure that we also support Mr. Brahimi's mission. Mr. Brahimi is a special envoy of the United Nations who has been in Damascus trying to find a political solution to this ongoing crisis and war. The third recommendation is that we fast-track those Canadian Syrians who have family members in refugee camps right now.
I listened carefully to the minister's response to my question in question period today. He is not dealing with the issue. The report and the motion were unanimously supported by the foreign affairs committee in which we asked to fast-track the applications from refugees. We are not talking about the backlog or the previous applications, of which the minister said that there were something like 200. We are dealing with the present situation, which is the thousands of refugees who have left Syria to find a safe haven. The committee members said that the Canadian government should be fast-tracking their applications.
We have to put the context of this issue on the record. The situation in Syria is getting worse. Many more people are spilling over the borders. We need to see more support from the government because these people are now facing harsh winter conditions, which is threatening their lives. There have been warning signs about the potential use of chemical weapons by the regime and this will cause more refugees to leave. There is also the danger of sectarian violence. That is why we need to ensure we support Mr. Brahimi's role as a special envoy, because we need someone on the ground who is aware of what is going on in Syria.
When the committee did its report that led to the motion, we looked at what was happening around Syria. We heard from representatives from neighbouring countries like Turkey and Lebanon. Most important, we heard from Syrian Canadians who had been in touch with people on the ground in Syria as well as those who were in camps. It was clear from their testimony that we could do more. We lauded the government for its initial provision of humanitarian support earlier in the year, but after hearing the reports from representatives from Turkey, Lebanon and the Syrian Canadian community, it was absolutely crystal clear that we needed to do more.
For instance, this is the situation on refugees as we heard from the charge d'affaires from Turkey. According to the UNCR, there will be about 261,114 recognized refugees. The numbers within the refugee camps are fluid. Turkey has 96,000, Jordan has 58,000, Lebanon has 65,000 and Iraq has 40,000. This information was received a couple of weeks ago, so it has now changed, but there were over 50,000 Syrians waiting at the borders who were wanting to be admitted into other countries, but they could not leave because they were undocumented. This is why we need to ensure we give more aid and support for the missions in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, et cetera.
None of us want to see these conditions continue. We want to ensure we are providing what we can, and that is why the members of the committee believe we should formulate a resolution to the House to ensure that the government will hear this message loud and clear. We have an urgent need to increase our humanitarian support.
To put this in a personal context, one of our witnesses, Faisal Alazem from the Syrian community in Montreal, provided the following testimony. He said:
Domestically, many members of the Syrian Canadian community are worried about the fate of their families in Syria or those exiled out of Syria, and they therefore request that in keeping with Canada's long-standing tradition of concern for the displaced and persecuted, our Canadian government facilitate bringing their family members to join them in Canada. Many members of the Syrian Canadian community are concerned that no priority processing or family reunification program is in place to assist their families affected by the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Such measures were taken in 2007 for Iraq;...in 2010 for Haiti...The Syrian Canadian community is also hoping that Canada will admit a limited number of political refugees who face grave danger in Syria and in the surrounding countries, especially those with family members in Canada.
A Concordia University student, Kinda Masri, told the media recently, “she can barely reach her family in the coastal Syrian town of Latakia by phone. She said that she wanted to bring her family to Montreal, but her efforts so far had been in vain. She said, “I read the name of my friend who had been captured by security forces, and after 12 days he was delivered to his family as a” corpse.
Surely, everyone in the House can feel the anguish that our Syrian Canadian citizens are feeling. We had co-operation at the committee to pass this motion, and I hope we do. We heard other stories that were gathered by members' testimony and brought to committee.
A Canadian citizen wanted to bring here parents to Canada. The following information was provided:
Recently the regime forces invaded my family's neighbourhood and forced them to get out of the house without taking any of their belongings. My family couldn't stay in the city...because it was no longer safe as the fighting between regime forces and rebels spread out allover the city neighbourhood. And now, they are still hardly finding any shelter to rent...
These people are caught in a trap between those rebel forces and government forces.
Another citizen who wants to bring siblings to Canada said that family members “live in suburbs of Damascus which is bombed and invaded by the Syrian army” so her brother and sister with their children have to keep moving from one building to another without any security or safety at all. They simply want to be able to sponsor them and bring them to safety here.
Another witness says, “I want to bring my brother and...(wife with two little children) because they are in danger in Syria”. They are living in Homs city and their house was attacked by the regime. They are displaced from their home and have been displaced for more than eight months now and they are moving from village to village and are in big danger.
Another witness spoke of her husband of four years. She said:
My husband is Syrian. He went [there] 1week before the situation changed in Syria and he's been there ever since. I would love to bring him to Canada to be with me (his wife of 4 years) and our daughters. He is in very difficult hardship. Nobody is there for him and he is going thru all the emotional and mental difficulties as all his family is in Syria.
These are testimonies and there is further testimony that we heard at committee about the horrific violence on the civilian population.
We are talking about the use of rape, civilians being bombed by their government and civilians being caught between both the rebels and government forces. They are innocent civilians. I want to underline that.
Our motion at committee asked that we provide more humanitarian support, that we fast track refugees and that we support the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Mr. Brahimi, in his mission. I hope the House will underline the importance of these three important initiatives. It is something we can do. Once we get to the vote, I hope members will vote unanimously in favour of this motion.