If only it were so easy. The leader of a war-torn Middle Eastern country commits an atrocity; the West removes him. Problem solved. At least, that's the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to see the future in Syria. The only problem is that Trudeau has forgotten the many other players who have a stake in what happens in Syria.
In the five years since the uprising-turned-civil-war, the Syrian conflict has become the "biggest humanitarian crisis of our time." The United Nations estimates more than 250,000 people have been killed (this figure is widely disputed among various international organizations), while another 6.6. million have been internally displaced.
I have a lot to be thankful for. Good health, a loving family, a home and a gratifying job. But like many, I often take these blessings for granted. This year, however, is different. Today I am thankful for having shared a cup of coffee with Syrian women refugees in Sawere, a small town in Lebanon's Bekaa valley.
In past refugee crises, Canada has responded swiftly and assertively. From the aftermath of World War II, through crises in Hungary in 1956, Chile in 1973, and Southeast Asia in the late 1970s, Canadians responded generously, receiving on each of those occasions tens of thousands of refugees into our communities. In 1999, Canada took extraordinary measures to evacuate thousands of refugees from Kosovo. Why should we do less now?
Years ago, when I was young and reckless, I backpacked solo through Syria. One morning, at the bus station in Homs, I had to make a spur of the moment decision; I could go west, towards the sea and Lebanon, or I could go east, to the ancient city of Palmyra. I turned west. I never saw Palmyra. The 2000 year old city is now in the hands of ISIS.
The Syrian conflict is entering its fifth horrific year of escalating violence, with little sign of ending. More than 200,000 people have been killed, 10,000 of them children. Today over 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 5.6 million children. Almost 11 million Syrians have been displaced within and outside Syria, including 3.3 million refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. More than half of the refugee population are children, and 114,000 children have been born as refugees.
When I asked in question period on February 20th whether the Minister of International Development would personally attend the donor conference, pledge, and champion 5.6 million Syrian children, Canada's Parliamentary Secretary replied that: "We are still in consideration of whether or not the minister is going to attend that."
The international community must strengthen its efforts to work towards a political solution to the Syrian civil war. It cannot afford to lose focus, as the children of Syria cannot afford another year of suffering, another year without education, healthcare, and protection. There are no enemy children, and we must do whatever it takes to save lives.
The international community has not only failed to live up to its responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes but its very inaction has encouraged escalating criminality by the Assad regime. With the crossing of the red line on chemical weapons use refocusing international attention on Syria, we risk losing credibility -- and more Syrians risk losing their lives -- should we not start now taking meaningful action to protect civilians in Syria. To that end, it is critically important that any intervention adhere to the requirements of international law.
The footage of purported victims of recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria shows a distressing number of children's corpses... but then both Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah have been accused of stockpiling such corpses in the past to reserve for media events. The Syrian National Front might be no different.