1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 162

Thursday, May 9, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

Syria—Humanitarian Aid for Refugees

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Syrian refugees now constitute more than 10 per cent of the population in Lebanon. In Jordan, the population has increased by 6 per cent as a result of the refugee influx. As of Monday, May 6, more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees were registered or awaiting registration in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa.

I commend the government for its work with the International Red Cross; the Red Crescent movement in Turkey; UNICEF in Jordan and Iraq; and the UN Refugee Agency in London. I understand that since January 2012, Canada has allocated $48.5 million to international humanitarian assistance efforts in Syria and neighbouring countries, but sadly the situation is worsening. The number of refugees fleeing Syria to neighbouring countries and North Africa increased by almost 850,000 people in the first four months of 2013. Canada’s foreign minister has admitted that we have to do more.

What additional funds will the government make available to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees, both those still in Syria and those who have fled to neighbouring countries?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question, and for one that actually makes some sense. I have some data that I will read to the honourable senator.

Honourable senators know that the government has been providing assistance with food, water, housing and safety for the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Syria since 2011. Minister Kenney has met and spoken with Syrian Canadians across the country on many occasions about the crisis in Syria. Canada is one of the world’s largest donors of relief for Syrian refugees. The minister recently visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, where he announced that the government is contributing an additional $1.5 million to the Red Cross to help address the needs of those who have fled. This funding will provide food, water and shelter, as well as items such as hygiene kits, blankets, heaters and clothing for up to 170,000 displaced Syrians.

Honourable senators, Canada respects the international consensus reflected in the UNHCR recommendations and is working closely with the United Nations with a view to assisting these refugees.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question for the leader. I am presently working with Syrian women trying to make changes in their country. They are community workers simply trying to make a change. I hear about what is happening to them, and I have never in my life heard such things. I would not be able to repeat it here because I would not be able to get through my question.

How many Syrian refugees have we brought to Canada since this crisis began?

Senator LeBreton: I do not know that, but I will take the honourable senator’s question as notice.