Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Russia-hating minister of immigration of Canada has been caught in a string of lies in his efforts to defend Canada’s miserable record of refusing refugee applications from Syrian victims of the civil war in that country.

Chris Alexander has suspended his re-election campaign in a Toronto region district in Canada’s October 19 federal election following revelations that he turned down a refugee application delivered directly to him in March of this year on behalf of the Syrian family whose tragedy has just exploded into international news.

Early on September 2, Abdullah and Rihan Kurdi boarded a boat at Bodrum, Turkey headed for the Greek island of Kos. With them were their two toddlers, Aylan, three, and Galip, five. Their boat and an accompanying boat sank shortly after leaving the Turkish coast. The mother and children drowned, the father survived. Photos of the two drowned children have been published in international media and have shocked the world.

The family had fled from their home in Kobane, Syria.

Minister tries to lie through the story of Syrian refugees to Canada

Speaking to the television program Power and Politics on the state broadcaster CBC on September 2, a few hours before the news of the Kurdi family’s tragedy broke, Alexander defended his government’s record of accepting refugees from Syria and other countries.

If the numbers of refugees accepted have been low, he said, Canada’s media shares the blame because it does not pay enough attention to the story. He specifically accused Power and Politics of being among those media outlets which have scantily reported the refugee crisis in Syria.

That claim was strongly challenged by the program host, Rosemary Barton. A later statement by Barton and the CBC provided some numbers to back her up. The numbers show that there have been 32 dedicated stories about the crisis in Syria on Power and Politics since 2011. Many other reports on the program have touched on aspects of the refugee crisis in Syria, says the CBC. (Watch here Alexander’s aggressive conduct and lies on Power and Politics and the response of Rosemary Barton.)

Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly has told Canadian media that in March of this year, he submitted an asylum request to bring the Kurdi family to Canada to the minister in a hand-delivered letter. Donnelly never received an answer. The request was made on behalf of Fatima Kurdi, the sister of Abdullah, the father who survived.

“I walked across the aisle in the House of Commons and handed it to him and had a conversation with him,” Donnelly told CTV’s Canada AM. “I asked him to look into the case.”

Donnelly said Alexander promised to look into it. He said Alexander’s office later requested more information about the family, which was supplied.

“But then the waiting began,” Donnelly said. “The weeks turned into months and we continued to wait and wait, and nothing.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has not confirmed whether the family’s application was rejected.

Fatima Kurdi lives in Vancouver and works as a hairdresser. Fin Donnelly represents a Vancouver district in the Canadian Parliament for the New Democratic Party and is running for re-election.

Kurdi is a “good upstanding citizen” who has lived in Canada for 20 years, Donnelly told the Canadian Press.

The woman is devastated by the news of the deaths of her sister-in-law and nephews. Barely able to speak through her tears, she told reporters gathered at her home in the Vancouver region on September 3, “They didn’t deserve to die, they didn’t.”

“I can say only one thing—stop the war [in Syria].”

‘Legislating discrimination in Canadian immigration’

In the last three years, Canada has accepted only 1,300 refugees from Syria. The growing refusal of Canada to accept refugees and the tightening restrictions to discourage and block their arrival to Canadian shores and airports has seen Canada decline from the fifth highest country in the world receiving refugees in the year 2000 to fifteenth in 2014.

Coincidentally, a new, groundbreaking refugee rights project in Canada was announced several days ago in Vancouver. Called ‘Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration‘, it is a multi-media project documenting drastic immigration changes during the past decade by the Canadian government and its devastating effects on families in Canada.

No One is Illegal says, “We believe that there are no illegal or undeserving human beings, only inhumane and immoral laws.”

The new project has been denounced by Canada’s former immigration minister and present defense minister Jason Kenney. He calls the project “complete rubbish” and directed special venom towards Harsha Walia, a law school graduate in Vancouver and spokesperson for No One Is Illegal. Kenney called her a “Trotskyite”. In another statement two years ago, he labelled Walia a “Black Bloc anarchist”.

A hard-hitting opinion column on Canada’s refugee polices authored by Walia was published several days ago in the Vancouver Sun daily.

Campaigning for re-election on September 3, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Our country has the most generous refugee and immigration system in the world.”

Harper’s government is ensnared in another domestic political upheaval over Syria, this one concerning its participation in the illegal, U.S.-led air bombardments against Syria and Iraq. Contrary to those two government’s bragging that their “precision” bombings avoid civilian casualties, the CBC’s Fifth Estate program is reporting (CBC Radio) at least 45 instances of bombings of so-called ISIS targets in which civilians were killed. One of those bombings was conducted by Canadian forces, on January 21, 2015. It killed somewhere between six and 27 civilians.

The information is contained in Pentagon documents obtained by the Airwars project, led by London-based journalist Chris Woods. The release of its latest findings was coordinated with the Fifth Estate and several other media outlets around the world.

The opposition Liberal Party and New Democratic Party say they oppose the decision of the Canadian government to join the U.S.-led air bombings of Iraq and Syria. But they have done nothing otherwise to oppose it. They voted against the measure when it came to Parliament, and that’s it. The Harper government’s war games go on with next to no antiwar protests. The situation is worse with respect to the government’s new adventure in Ukraine. There, the Liberals and NDP are entirely on board.

Soldiers and money for military threats against Russia

Also coincidental is the news that the full contingent of soldiers of Canada’s illegal military training mission to Ukraine has arrived in that country. An advance preparation team has been there since June.

Operation UNIFIER‘ will train Ukrainian soldiers in the grisly art of warfare as part of the NATO countries’ mounting threats, military exercises and sanctions directed at Russia.

Article 31 of Canada’s National Defence Act prohibits the deployment of Canadian forces outside national borders except in operations approved by the United Nations or in the case of an attack on NATO. Neither of these have occurred. The article reads:

31. (1) The Governor in Council may place the Canadian Forces or any component, unit or other element thereof or any officer or non-commissioned member thereof on active service anywhere in or beyond Canada at any time when it appears advisable to do so

* (a) by reason of an emergency, for the defence of Canada;

* (b) in consequence of any action undertaken by Canada under the United Nations Charter; or

* (c) in consequence of any action undertaken by Canada under the North Atlantic Treaty, the North American Aerospace Defence Command Agreement or any other similar instrument to which Canada is a party.

The U.S. and UK have also undertaken initiatives to place training missions in Ukraine.

NATO’s own charter does not allow it to engage in offensive operations, only to defend a
member being attacked. But for NATO’s warlords, a scrap of paper is no reason to get in the way of a good war whose time has come.

Chris Alexander supporting war in Ukraine

Chris Alexander, 46, is one of the most outspoken members of the Conservative Party government in Canada in support of the civil war being waged against the people in eastern Ukraine by the government of that country. Before entering politics in 2011, he worked in the Canadian foreign service for 18 years, posted first to Moscow and later Afghanistan. He was Canada’s first resident ambassador to Afghanistan, from 2003-05.

In August 2014, he attended an official Ukraine Independence Day event in Toronto which featured a strong presence of the Canadian chapter of the Right Sector neo-Nazi organization. The group was prominently raising funds at the event for the purchase of military supplies for its paramilitary battalions in Ukraine. Five of its red and black flags wafted prominently over the event all day, including at the head of a related street march of the assembled participants.

The event was also attended by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. She delivered a sharp speech in support of the civil war.

When asked by reporters about his presence at such a dubious event, Chris Alexander aggressively turned the question back on them, demanding that they go speak to Russian government officials and ask about Russian military supplies which Alexander claimed were being sent to eastern Ukraine.

In February of this year, Alexander spoke at a meeting in Toronto of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and delivered a pro-war, anti-Russia rant in the spirit of the script of the classic, 1960s anti-nuclear war film, Dr. Strangelove.

Background on Syrian refugees and Canada:
Migrants in Europe are everyone’s problem, by Tony Burman, Toronto Star, Sept 2, 2015

For Syrian refugees, it’s shame Canada, by Tony Burman, Toronto Star, Dec. 13, 2014

… The conflict in Syria is regarded by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in 20 years. More than 200,000 people have died. Half of Syria’s population of 22 million people is homeless. And more than three million Syrians are refugees outside their country.

How welcoming has the Canadian government been to these Syrian refugees? The answer: 200 people. That is the number of Syrian refugees the Canadian government itself has sponsored for all of this year. (There have been private sponsorships, but they have been minimal.)

… The Canadian government has been particularly attacked for its misleading and evasive justifications for its policy. Last month, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Canadian immigration officials confidentially told their cabinet minister Chris Alexander in the spring that Canada could substantially increase the number of Syrian refugees being allowed in. They also told him last March that the government’s decision to make private groups responsible for resettling 1,100 of the pledged 1,300 refugees made the commitment impossible to fulfil. None of this was made public at the time.

Roger Annis is a retired aerospace worker in Vancouver BC. He writes regularly for Counterpunch and compiles his writings on a ‘A Socialist in Canada’. He is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. He can be reached at