Ottawa seized with concerns about new Syrian consul in Montreal: Trudeau – Bridge River Lillooet News

Ottawa \seized\ with concerns about new Syrian consul in Montreal: Trudeau - Bridge River Lillooet News
Freeland shocked by comments made by Syrias honorary consul in Montreal
The man chosen to serve as Syria's honorary consul in Montreal, a proud supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, says his job is to work for all Syrian nationals, regardless of their political views.

Waseem Ramli, a Montreal businessman, was nominated for the post this summer and approved last month by Global Affairs Canada. As honorary consul, he would be responsible for helping Syrian-Canadians and in some cases, Americans, secure government documents.

Don’t stress out. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer grabbed early headlines on Monday by announcing his government would nix the mortgage stress test for homeowners renewing their mortgages, while lowering the bar for first-time buyers. He also vowed to bring back 30-year amortization rates for first-time homebuyers (the current cap is 25 years), which would lower monthly mortgage payments⁠—but also, of course, create longer periods of interest-accruing debt. “Young first-time homebuyers often have their highest earning years ahead of them,” Scheer reasoned aloud to a crowd of reporters in front of a seemingly random backdrop of row houses in Vaughan, Ont. “And so, as they get promoted and as their incomes go up, they’ll be able to carry the mortgages that they’ve gotten into.”

Ramli, who has held pro-Assad demonstrations in Montreal, drives a Hummer adorned with the Syrian flag and a photo of Assad.

The $6-billion man. In a brief stop at a venerable Italian bakery in Niagara Falls, Ont., Justin Trudeau gave no speeches and made no promises, but a hundred-odd fans clamoured for selfies and roared in applause nonetheless. The event came hours after a more thorough stop in Hamilton, Ont., where he promised a $6-billion investment in more family doctors, mental health services and prescription drugs. After the CBC ran a story with an appropriately critical headline (“Liberals promise to build national pharmacare program—but offer few details”), Trudeau chose to tweet that article out, which seems, you know, a little odd, considering he could have easily picked a headline that didn’t criticize him for pulling $6 billion out of thin air.

He is clear in his support for Assad, saying he doesn't believe the regime has used chemical weapons and calls the volunteer rescue organization known as the White Helmets a terrorist group.

The White Helmets have been documenting the atrocities committed against civilians in Syria since 2013. Their efforts have earned international praise, but Russia and the Syrian regime have labelled them terrorists and purveyors of fake news.

Critics argue this would rescind measures that prevented a Canadian housing collapse similar to the U.S. recession of 2008. (The Twittersphere is filled with quippy one-liners to that effect.) In response to some Liberal programs, including their proposed one-per-cent foreign speculator tax and the new first-time home buyer’s incentive (which has the government offering interest-free loans of five or 10 per cent in exchange for the same percentage of the sale, whenever that may be), Scheer said his team would review those plans to see whether they were truly effective.

In July 2018, several hundred people — volunteers and their families — belonging to the organization were extracted from Syria and taken to safety by an international operation.

On October 1, with Ottawas blessing, Ramli will become perhaps the most powerful Baathist regime official in North America. As Montreals honorary consul, Ramli will control the consular affairs of tens of thousands of people in the Syrian diaspora in Eastern Canada and much of the United States. The only other Syrian honorary consul in North America operates out of an office in Vancouver. (Maclean’s)

Ramli told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that his job is to provide services to the Syrian people, and his beliefs won't get in the way of that.

Assad’s man in Montreal. In a quick and quiet move, Waseem Ramli, a Kuwaiti-born Syrian living in Montreal, has been promoted to the role of “honorary consul” between Syria and Canada. It’s an odd and unsettling appointment for a man whose close ties to Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad could spell danger for Canada’s thousands of Syrian refugees, who specifically fled his lethal rule.

"For me, putting a picture of the president of my homeland, it's something I believe in," he said. "It's just [like] anybody putting someone else's president's picture on their house, on their car."

As honorary consul, Ramli will oversee requests for passport renewals and official government documents (among other tasks) for all Syrians living in eastern Canada and much of the United States. Honorary consuls are not full-scale diplomats — they have limited responsibilities and often keep their primary jobs (beyond owning Cocktaill Hawaii, Ramli is also a management consultant). However, Canada and the U.S. expelled most Syrian diplomats in 2012, meaning Ramli is now one of just two honorary consuls in Canada — they are the only affiliates of the Syrian government active in the country. (The other consul, located in Vancouver, appears to be neutral, without links to Assad.)

Assad has been repeatedly accused by the international community and human rights groups of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

With kitschy, somewhat dated tropical décor and a menu loaded with crepes (but no cocktails, or Hawaiian food), that restaurants tone seems a far cry from a government that has waged a brutal, years-long civil war. There are no signs at the restaurant of Ramlis fondness for authoritarian Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Cocktail Hawaii, but according to Macleans, Ramli prominently displays his affinity for the Syrian regime, as he gets around Montreal in a red hummer with a picture of Assad plastered in its window. His main Facebook profile photo also shows him posing with Assad.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the appointment of a known Assad supporter as Syria's honorary consul in Montreal is "unacceptable" and is promising to respond quickly.

Ramli is also an avid supporter of Prime Minister Justin Trudeaus Liberal party, having appeared at a Liberal fundraiser in Montreal in June, posing with Trudeau and Montreal-area MP Marc Miller. While Macleans appears to pin the responsibility for his appointment on the Trudeau government, Foreign Affairs Minister Christia Freeland said she was unaware of Global Affairs approving Ramlis appointment, and says she is investigating.

"I do think it's important for all Canadians, especially Syrian-Canadians and people who have fled the Assad regime, to know that, in my view, this situation is unacceptable and we will be responding to it promptly," she told reporters Tuesday at a campaign event in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que.

Share All sharing options Share All sharing options for: Syrian Regime Appoints Montreal Restaurateur As Honorary Consul to Canada Pocket Flipboard Email Waseem Ramli (right) poses with Syrian president Bassar al-Assad Facebook/Waseem Ramli The Syrian regime has appointed a downtown Montreal restaurant owner as an honorary consul to Canada — and a Canadian government agency signed off on the appointment.

The government's guidelines for appointing honorary consuls state that "diplomatic missions should avoid controversial or politically active persons."

For his part, Ramli told Macleans that he had been properly vetted by the Canadian government, and pointed to his history of humanitarian fundraising for Syria — although much of that work was for a group that has been accused of funneling humanitarian aid money to the Syrian government, and is no longer recognized as an NGO by the United Nations.

Nedal Alnajjar, a Syrian living in Quebec, said the honorary consul job should be held by someone who "brings people together, not someone who sows hatred."

Another member of the local Syrian community, who works with organizations that support refugees, detailed the impact of Ramli's actions. CBC News has agreed to withhold his name to protect his identity due to fear of reprisals.

He said Ramli has been planting fear in Syrians who live here, taking photos of people who take part in anti-government protests. Ramli denied that allegation.

The man said he has heard from some people that the imagery evoked on his Hummer reminds them of what they lived through in Syria — more specifically, of the Shabiha, which he described as a group of people "who go around, terrorize people, beat them up, kill people, carry weapons, and commit all the massacres."

“We have relatives in Syria and we care about them,” said Muzna Dureid, who moved to Montreal from Syria in 2016. “Any kind of activities we do, demonstrations or any activism against the Syrian regime … they will send it to security in Syria. That’s what scares us as Syrians in Montreal.”

And now Syrians living in Canada will have to come into contact with Ramli in order to process their paperwork, a vital part of moving on with their lives, he said.

In an interview with Maclean’s, Ramli confirmed that he is a supporter of the Assad regime, was vetted by Ottawa before being approved and would treat all Syrian immigrants equally. He also described the Syrian White Helmets rescue workers as a “terrorist organization” affiliated with al Qaeda.

The need for consular services in the North American Syrian community is high — the only open consulate is in Vancouver. The other nearest service point is the Syrian embassy in Cuba.

Freeland told reporters Canada is “very proud” to have welcomed so many Syrian refugees, many affiliated with the White Helmets, and said she wants them to “hear very clearly that Canada supports them, that Canada condemns the Assad regime for its war crimes.”

The Syrian Embassy in Ottawa was closed in 2012 when Canada cut diplomatic ties with Syria and expelled Syrian diplomats.

She told reporters in Quebec on Tuesday that “the current situation is unacceptable and we intend to respond very quickly,” but added she felt it was important to “hear out” the public servants in Global Affairs Canada, who made the decision to approve Ramli.

In April 2016, Ottawa closed the Syrian consulate in Montreal and terminated the post of its honorary consul, Nelly Kanou, without saying why.

“Shocked by the comments made to the press by the Syrian Honorary Consul in Montreal and the views he has espoused publicly on social media and elsewhere,” Freeland, who heads the department that approved Ramli’s appointment, said on Twitter.

Kanou, who was also pro-Assad, was temporarily suspended by the disciplinary board of the Quebec Order of Pharmacists in 2015 after pleading guilty to the unauthorized sale of $1.5 million in drugs to Syria between 2008 and 2011.

(Reuters) – Canada Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has condemned her government’s approval of a supporter of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to a consular post in Canada, and said she would look into the matter.

In January 2018, Raed Mahko was appointed to the position and the office was reopened, but the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council found he was in a conflict of interest. Mahko was also an immigration consultant.

In this May 17, 2018, file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Outrage over a sympathizer of Syrian President Bashar Assad having been approved as that countrys honorary consul in Montreal emerged on the federal campaign trail Tuesday even as the government scrambled for answers about how it happened. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

The conflict in Syria entered its ninth year in March. The most conservative of estimates puts the total number of those killed in the civil war at 400,000. 

Let me be very clear that in my view, the current situation is unacceptable and we intend to respond very quickly, she said, though she added: I think its important to act with speed, but not with haste. And its important to hear out the public service.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, since 2011, 6.6 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.1 million more have been driven from their homes but remain in Syria.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says shell look into why Ottawa signed off on a sympathizer of Syrian President Bashar Assad as that countrys honorary consul in Montreal.

I have personally spoken with (Foreign Affairs) Minister (Chrystia) Freeland this morning, who has assured me that she is looking very carefully into how this has happened and (will) ensure that we have next steps to share with you soon, he said.

A report in Macleans says Waseem Ramli, a well-to-do Montreal businessman and "unapologetic supporter" of Assad, was nominated for the post earlier this summer and approved last month by Global Affairs Canada.

As honorary consul, Ramli — a familiar figure who conjures fear and apprehension in the Syrian community in Montreal, the magazine says — will exert control over the affairs of the Syrian diaspora in eastern Canada and in much of the United States.

Ramli reportedly described the White Helmets, a volunteer group of first responders and war crime monitors that enjoys the support of the federal government, as a "terrorist organization" that supports al Qaida.

Freeland said on social media that she was "shocked" by Ramlis comments and the views "he has espoused publicly on social media and elsewhere."

She says neither she nor her team were aware that Global Affairs officials had approved his appointment and has asked the department to look into it right away.

2/2 Neither my team nor I were aware that officials at Global Affairs Canada had approved this appointment. I have asked the Department to look into this right away.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland makes a funding announcement at Tenaris in Calgary, Alberta on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley