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Canada to increase aid to Syrian people, Baird says

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper during arrivals for the G-20 summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Canada is preparing to increase humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged Syrian people.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird – who has ruled out a military contribution to any Western air strikes on Syria – said Canada intends to play a larger role in helping affected civilians in Syria and Syrian refugees in the region. And that means increasing Canada's aid contribution, an official with Mr. Baird's office confirmed.

"This is the biggest humanitarian crisis in this century. I think Canada has consistently been there and been generous in humanitarian aid," he told reporters in St. Petersburg, where the minister is attending the G20 summit. "This crisis is not going to end today or tomorrow, and Canada will continue to be there in a big way."

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According to Foreign Affairs, Canada has already given $317-million in humanitarian, development and security assistance in response to the Syria crisis.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the humanitarian situation in Syria before departing for Russia this week.

Canada is worried that the civil war in Syria could destabilize neighbouring Jordan and other countries as a massive influx of refugees strains government and donor resources.

While Mr. Baird supports a military response from other nations, he also said that a political solution remains the best option to stop the fighting in Syria.

"One of the great challenges in the history of humanity is how to stop a war. It's no different with the crisis in Syria. Obviously, we're appalled by the violence, the destruction and the suffering. … Obviously, Canada wants to play a constructive role in the international community to end the suffering of the Syrian people," he said.

"We do not want a new world order established where dictators can use these weapons of mass destruction, a poor man's nuclear weapon, act with impunity and see this type of behaviour encouraged."

Mr. Baird met with his international counterparts from Germany, France and Australia on Thursday to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, and will meet directly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday before another session.

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Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian President Vladimir Putin, maintained Russia's position that there is no justification for a military strike.

"Saying that the [Syrian] government is using gas against civilians is not a legitimate statement," he said.

Further, he said, the international community has no way of knowing how much support exists inside Syria for the Assad government.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More


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