By Moira Warburton
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s foreign minister has condemned her own government’s approval of a known supporter of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to a consular post in Canada, and said she would look into the matter.
Canada, along with several other countries, cut diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 in response to the Houla massacre that killed dozens of people. Syria still maintains two honorary consul offices in Vancouver and Montreal.
Canada’s Maclean’s magazine reported on Monday that Montreal businessman Waseem Ramli, a supporter and ally of Assad’s regime, was appointed to the Montreal consul position.
The appointment, which was put forward by the Syrian government and approved by Global Affairs Canada, as the country’s foreign ministry is known, will take effect on Oct 1.
In an interview with Maclean’s, Ramli confirmed that he is a supporter of the Assad regime, was vetted properly 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.
“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,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister and head of the department that approved Ramli’s appointment, said on Twitter.
“Neither my team nor I were aware that officials at Global Affairs Canada had approved this appointment.”
Freeland said she has asked the department to look into the appointment immediately.
Canada accepted 58,650 Syrian refugees between 2015 and 2018 through both government and private citizen sponsorship, according to the most recent government statistics.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Dan Grebler)