Canada's role in Syria not likely to be military, says Baird

Canada's role in the Syria intervention is likely to be a limited one, Foreign Minister John Baird said. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama both spoke of a "firm response" to the Syrian president's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. 

Photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking to U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo from Prime Minister's website.

Canada may not take part in proposed military strikes against Syria, but is likely to be involved in humanitarian efforts, Foreign Minister John Baird said today.

Baird met with Syrian National Council President George Sabra in Montreal to discuss how Canada can be a part of the solution.

"We haven’t made the decision to be part, or don’t know whether we have the capacity to be part, of any military engagement, which by all accounts will be limited in focus," Baird said.  

Unlike the U.S., which has lined up drones and four destroyers ready to send Hellfire and Cruise missiles, Canada doesn't have much military capacity to join the fight.

Baird confirmed that Canada will, however, stand fully behind any decisions the U.S. and U.K. make regarding a military intervention in Syria. The strikes against Syria will be delayed until at least next Tuesday, due to upset in the British Parliament over UK Prime Minister David Cameron's failure to secure a UN resolution today. 

Helping Syria in its "darkest hour"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's press secretary Andrew MacDougall said in a statement that Canada allocated $48 million of the $90 million in Syrian aid for “emergency food assistance for up to 4 million people, and some 300,000 children."

"It will give some 87,000 internally displaced people shelter, and will improve conditions for another half a million Syrians by providing hygiene and winterization kits. It will improve sanitation facilities, and help provide safe drinking water,” the statement said. It was, according to the PMO,  Canada’s way to help Syrians “in their darkest hour.”

Foreign Ministry press secretary Rick Roth told the Vancouver Observer that Canada “will continue to work closely with our international partners to review a full range of options.”

He added that the August 21 chemical attacks in Syria in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta  attack deserves a “firm response” by the international community and that the “only way to halt the bloodshed in Syria is through a political solution.” It was a solution, he noted, that is increasingly ceasing to be attainable.

Roth refused to elaborate what the Canadian leadership and foreign representatives consider a “firm response,” or what constituted a solution other than the stated political one. He reassured, however, that Canada “will continue to work with [our international partners] in lock-step.”

A debate in Parliament before joining Syria efforts 

Both of Canada’s opposition parties have urged the Prime Minister to recall the Parliament early to discuss how to proceed with the Syria intervention. Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau said Parliament called the current situation "unacceptable", while NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said "if there is any thought of an intervention, of course Parliament has to be reconvened." 

But Prime Minister confirmed that he no plans to start the new session, and said that Parliament will remain prorogued until October as planned. For now, as Minister Baird put it, Canada will have to “see what American president Obama will say.”

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