Waseem Ramli, a Montreal businessman and outspoken supporter of al-Assad, was nominated for the post this summer and approved last month by Global Affairs Canada. He was set to take up the new role on Oct. 1
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In an interview with CTV Montreal, Ramli said he had "not seen any wrongdoing from my president towards the country." Al-Assads regime has been accused of war crimes.
On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was "shocked" by some of Waslis views, including referring to White Helmets, a volunteer group of first responders and war crime monitors supported by the federal government, as a "terrorist organization" that supports al Qaida.
She said neither she nor her team were aware that Global Affairs officials had approved his appointment, and that she would look into it.
The approval was granted despite Ramlis outspoken support for Assad, whose government has used chemical weapons and other tactics to crush dissent during what has been a bloody eight-year civil war in Syria, as well as social media posts criticizing Western sanctions against the country.
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On Wednesday, Freeland posted on Twitter that she had rescinded the position, saying "no one who shares Mr. Ramlis views should have ever been approved by Global Affairs Canada to serve in this capacity." Freeland also said she has also instructed Global Affairs Canada to initiate a review of the system by which these appointments are processed.
Ramlis appointment worried many in Montreals Syrian community, some saying he conjures fear and apprehension. In his position, he would have been responsible for issuing passports and other official documents for Syrians on behalf of the government in Damascus.
Canada has resettled tens of thousands of Syrian refugees since 2011, when Assad launched a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that quickly spiralled into a full-blown civil war. – With files from The Canadian Press
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says a known sympathizer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will no longer serve as that country's honorary consul in Montreal.
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Freeland issued a statement on Wednesday saying she's revoked Waseem Ramli's status, meaning he will not be allowed to carry out any consular functions in Canada.
As first reported by Maclean's, Global Affairs approved the Montreal businessman for the posting last month after the Syrian government nominated him.
Ramli has held pro-Assad demonstrations in Montreal and drives a Hummer adorned with the Syrian flag and a photo of Assad. He also refers to the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue organization also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, as "terrorists."
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Assad has been condemned by many world leaders for human rights violations in the course of his government's prosecution of Syria's civil war. Canada was among the countries that cut diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 in response to the Houla massacre, which claimed the lives of dozens of people.
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"No one who shares Mr. Ramli's views should have ever been approved by Global Affairs Canada to serve in this capacity. Upon review of the department's decision, I have instructed officials to immediately revoke his status," she said in the written statement.
"I would like to express my deep regret over the difficult situation this nomination has posed for many Syrians living in Canada, including the many brave White Helmets and other refugees who now call our country home and may be feeling fearful and distressed."
The move sent ripples of fear and dismay throughout the Syrian refugee community, most of which tends to be solidly opposed to Assad, whose scorched-earth warfare is the reason most of them are refugees in the first place. As for Syria’s celebrated White Helmets, Canada resettled 250 of the heroic first-responders and their family members last year following a daring operation to rescue them from Assads advancing army adjacent to the Golan Heights. The operation was coordinated out of Canadas embassy in Amman, Jordan, with the help of the Israeli Defence Forces. In my conversation with him last Sunday, Ramli told me the White Helmets are terrorists. They are a terrorist organization, Ramli said. They support Al Qaida. They are just an affiliate of Al Qaida.
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"Honestly, I don't have much to comment about it. It's [an] unfortunate decision to be made based on personal views that I have which my Canadian rights grant me," he said.
"It's unfortunate also that many, many Syrians will not be able to have their documents authenticated and processed through our honorary consulate. Hopefully another solution can be found."
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This individual should never have been appointed in the first place, Scheer said. Again we see people who hold extreme views who have made anti-Semitic comments and who sympathize with terrorists seem to feel welcome in the Liberal party of Canada.