HALIFAX – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canada should be doing more to admit refugees from the bloody conflict in Syria.
Trudeau said Friday he was pleased to hear the Conservative government is not contemplating military intervention following an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime that the United States says killed at least 1,400 people.
The death toll since the conflict began has topped 100,000 and the United Nations says more than six million Syrians have had to flee their homes.
“I’ve very worried about the Syrian people,” he said before meeting people at a park in downtown Halifax.
“We also do want to see our government providing humanitarian support, diplomatic pressure to resolve this situation and I know we can do more around refugees in terms of bringing some of the many thousand of displaced people to Canada for a better life.”
Yaman Marwah, president for the Syrian Association of Ottawa, said his group was told earlier this year that the Canadian government was prepared to admit 1,500 Syrian refugees to Canada.
“We have connections all over Canada and we didn’t see anything so far,” he said in an interview from Ottawa.
“We haven’t seen anything aside from closing the Syrian embassy and getting the ambassador out since the beginning of the revolution.”
Earlier this week, Trudeau said Parliament should be recalled to discuss what role Canada should play as the international community prepared to respond on Syria. He said the use of chemical weapons is “unacceptable” and requires a “significant response.”
Andrea Khanjin, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said the United Nations is not asking for additional resettlement of refugees.
She added in an email that Canada is one of the world’s largest providers of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
“Trudeau is going against the UN’s advice on refugee resettlement. It is irresponsible and proves that he has no plan on immigration,” she said.
In June, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada would give Jordan an additional $98.4 million to help the Arab country cope with more than half a million Syrian refugees.
The following month, former citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney said Canada had made an initial commitment to resettle up to 1,300 Syrian refugees this year and next.
Kenney said Canada was responding to the UN’s appeal to help a limited number of extremely urgent cases. As a result, he said Canada will resettle 200 vulnerable Syrian refugees in 2013 and 2014.
As well, he said Canada planned to accept up to 1,100 Syrian refugees in 2014 through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
Ottawa has committed an additional $115 million in assistance to help Syrian refugees both in Syria and in neighbouring countries.