Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 50

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

Sri Lanka—Humanitarian Aid

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We know a terrible tragedy is taking place in Sri Lanka. Many Tamils are suffering in camps. What is our government doing to help these Tamils?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, the situation is dire in Sri Lanka. Minister Cannon has made representations to Sri Lankan officials. The government is monitoring the situation, as is the case with other partners in the United Nations. As the honourable senator knows, it is difficult for all countries to obtain accurate information from regions experiencing conflict. The government has made its views known to the Sri Lankan government, as it has to the Iranian government with regard to the situation in Iran.

Senator Jaffer: Canada has one of the largest Tamil communities outside of Sri Lanka. Canadian Tamils live amongst us. What is our government doing to ensure their families are brought to Canada as soon as possible, and how many will be brought?

Senator LeBreton: I do not have an answer to that question. There is a large Tamil community in Canada. I am not in a position to respond to the efforts they are making to bring family members here, or what the government’s response is.

I think I reported to the honourable senator when she asked an earlier question that the Minister for International Cooperation personally went to Sri Lanka and announced an extra $3 million for critical and crucial humanitarian aid to assist displaced citizens. That brought our total assistance to displaced citizens to $7.5 million this year.


Honourable senators, Minister Oda continues to call for the safe and voluntary movement of civilians from the troubled zone. We have all seen the pictures of the refugee camps. There is no doubt that this is a full-blown humanitarian crisis. Minister Lawrence and particularly Minister Oda are working diligently with the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Senator Jaffer: Could the leader make enquiries as to exactly what we are doing to help Canadian Tamils assist their families in Sri Lanka?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for that question, but I do not have an answer. I will take the question as notice.