Emergency Debate – The Situation in Syria

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this occasion, belated as it is, to congratulate the member on his election in November. I have not yet had an opportunity to put a question to the member for Durham.

When he speaks of presentations this evening that were thoughtful and calming, I must say his was one. It was thoughtful and it took into account what we all feel, that we must not be imagining for one moment that Canada wants to engage militarily in Syria. It is nice to reaffirm that there is consensus in this place on that. I also appreciate his recognition of the toolkit of statecraft and diplomacy of the United Nations, and our other relationships.

I would ask him very specifically if it would not make sense for us in this House to agree by consensus that there is more we can do in humanitarian effort, particularly in those very significant humanitarian crises that exist in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, by providing more assistance directly through humanitarian relief in the camps and by offering that assistance to those governments that are hosting all those refugees.

Erin O’Toole: Mr. Chair, I thank the leader of the Green Party for her nice remarks in welcoming me. Certainly we have shared some time at Dalhousie Law School together, although not at the same time.

Her questions are good ones. We are working with other states in the region to address the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war in the last two years. Members on this side have expressed that we need to do more and to particularly watch how that evolves.

There is also security ramifications caused by a refugee exodus under these circumstances. Importantly, I have also heard some discussion in the chamber tonight about NGOs and actions by non-state actors on the ground in Syria, and I think we have to express some words of caution.

We are not even at the halfway point in 2013. I would remind this House that Syria is in a state of war, and as I said in my remarks, with very hard to identify teams within that war. There is certainly a united front against a regime, and then there is the regime. There have been five journalists killed this year in Syria, and we are only days past Press Freedom Day. Last month, two archbishops were abducted. It is a country with which we have to proceed cautiously, even with non-state actors on the ground.