Mr. Chair, it is almost 16 months since things happened in Syria. In January 2011, a series of protests began in Syria. Among other things, Syrian protesters called on the Syrian president and his government to bring in political reforms and stronger protection of civil rights. It was the beginning of the Arab Spring. Sixteen months later, we have a situation in Syria in which it is not any longer spring, but deep winter.
I mentioned in this House earlier tonight that in October 2011—October 18, as a matter of fact—I asked for unanimous consent for a motion to be passed. We asked for a motion for an emergency debate to be passed, and neither one of them flourished.
I even wrote to the minister on August 19, 2011, enclosing a letter from the Syrian Canadian Council, at which time they were asking the Canadian government to do the following:
1. Ensure that Canadian companies, such as Suncor Energy Inc., are not funding the present Syrian regime;
2. Call for a Conference of members of the Syrian Diaspora and others who were interested in developing a free and democratic Syria;
3. Offer to host the Conference in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Government and assist with the funding of the Conference;
4. Expel the Syrian Ambassador to Canada; and,
5. Consider recalling the Canadian Ambassador to Syria.
That was August 2011, and to date I have not heard from the minister, not even a whisper and not even a return email. We did get a receipt that the minister did read it.
However, the Canadian-Syrian diaspora is asking for much more. They and our party as well have asked that CIDA match dollar for dollar whatever the community raises in order to help their loved ones back in places like Turkey, Libya and Jordan where they have fled, but again, nothing from the government.
There are people who have come to this country and have claimed refugee status for what is happening back in Syria. There are Syrians who were here in Canada before the atrocities started and have claimed refugee status, yet the government is not saying, “Yes, go ahead; we will accept your claim”. Instead people have to resort to courts, and courts are refusing their applications.
I even got an email this evening from a young man who is in Canada, Mike Wise. It states, “Today my house in Aleppo City was under fire and the Syrian army destroyed more than three buildings beside where my mom and sisters live. More than 44 people died under fire.”
The atrocities are perpetrated by the government of Syria, the Assad regime. It is not the first time he has done it, and his father did it before him. These atrocities need a quick response, and the quick response is that we should not have waited 16 months after it started to have a debate in this House.
The Government of Canada issues press release after press release, but has done absolutely nothing else except to address the situation. The Syrian community of Canada has asked the government to match dollar for dollar. We do not have a crisis on our hands of the kind we did in Haiti, and the Prime Minister is not going to go to the Red Cross and give money. It does not really matter, so the government is not listening.
The accountability has to start right here, tonight. The member for Mississauga South, I believe, says we must, and I will repeat the words, “be held accountable”. I think the Canadian people and the Syrian diaspora in Canada are holding us all accountable, especially the government, because the government waited for 16 months to have the Syrian debate in the House, has not answered the diaspora's calls for action and certainly has not answered its calls to match dollar for dollar, which is what they are asking.
The minister of immigration is not assuring the community that we will take seriously their calls to stay in Canada and to be protected. He is not taking it seriously by telling the courts or his bureaucrats to stop deporting people or to not to turn their claims away.
The accountability should start in this House. It should start right here, today, and the government especially has to be held accountable. It has waited long enough, and this is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.
Accountability should start in the House and it should start right here today. The government has to be held accountable. It waited long enough and that is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.