Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Honourable senators, the crisis in Syria has been going on for five years and counting. Nearly 4 million people have fled the country and over 7 million people have been internally displaced by the violence.
The United Nations estimates that more than 16 million people in Syria and its neighbouring countries are in need of humanitarian assistance — the largest number of people displaced by a single conflict in the world.
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been examining the case of Syria in the context of how UNHCR and UNICEF are meeting the needs of over 5 million displaced children.
While listening to the witnesses during our study, I was touched by how positively they spoke of Canada and our leadership in the crisis. I wanted to speak about it here in the Senate Chamber because our response as a nation transcends party lines and is something of which we can all be proud.
Canada has been a global player in the crisis from the very beginning. We’re the sixth largest donor country to the response in Syria. So far, we have committed more than $800 million in humanitarian development and security assistance.
Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, Deputy Director at UNICEF, said:
. . . I must start by thanking the government and all the people in Canada for the very generous support for the children around the world who have been facing humanitarian crises . . . we have really counted on Canada as being a strong ally as we support the children who are in the fifth year of a conflict that shows no sign of abating.
Rob Young, a senior delegate at the International Committee of the Red Cross, thanked:
. . . the government and the people of Canada for the significant support that comes every year to the International Committee of the Red Cross that allows us to work in contexts like Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, year after year, in the face of tremendous humanitarian challenges.
Furio De Angelis, a Canadian representative at the office of the UNHCR, stated:
Canada is a strategic partner for the UNHCR, and we deeply appreciate the ongoing support that the Canadian government and Canadians have given to the UNHCR’s humanitarian action around the world.
He went on to say that the UNHCR is hopeful for Canada’s further engagement in the Syrian crisis as a global leader in refugee affairs.
Honourable senators, these are major international organizations that have credited Canada for its support. We should be proud of the work that our nation is doing in regard to the immense crisis for which we see no end.
In the words of Yacoub El Hillo, a UN humanitarian coordinator, “Syrians haven’t given up. The world should not give up on them.”