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FAAE Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE FIFTH REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ENTITLED “RESPONDING TO THE CONFLICT IN SYRIA”

The Government of Canada has carefully considered the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the report).

The Government would like to thank the members of the Committee for the opportunity to participate in the hearings, as well as the opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the report. The Government would also like to thank the Committee for its efforts in preparing the report and welcomes the continued interest of the Committee in the situation in Syria.

As indicated in the Standing Committee’s Fifth Report, the conflict in Syria is creating a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions, and the humanitarian situation in Syria and the region continues to deteriorate, with 9.3 million people in need inside Syria, 6.5 million internally displaced persons, and over 160,000 deaths. Over 3 million Syrians have now fled to nearby countries, causing concerns over regional stability, as refugee host countries struggle with the economic and political pressures related to hosting large refugee populations. There has been little improvement in humanitarian access in Syria, particularly in the North of Syria, despite the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2139 on February 22, 2014.

More troubling, this situation is likely to continue over at least the medium term given the stale-mated military conflict and stalled peace process.  There have been important developments in the conflict over the last several months.  For example, the old city of Homs has now been completely retaken by the Syrian regime after a “humanitarian ceasefire” and evacuation of opposition fighters was completed in order to lift the Syrian regime’s siege on the city and its long-standing blockade of humanitarian supplies, including food.  Overall, however, the situation remains the same:  an ongoing conflict between the Assad regime and armed opposition groups, with Al Qaeda aligned extremist elements continuing to play a significant role.  The political situation remains bleak.  The Geneva II peace talks failed to yield progress between the regime and the opposition, and prospects for holding a third round of talks are dim. Prospects for peace negotiations were further undermined when Assad chose to hold national elections, held on June 3, 2014.  Unsurprisingly, Assad won the election by a substantial majority.  The election was specifically designed to disenfranchise many millions of Syrians, aim to confer a semblance of legitimacy on the regime, and can only undermine efforts to reach a political solution. Minister Baird condemned the election as a sham on June 3, 2014.  Minister Baird condemned these election are a sham on June 3, 2014.  Further, Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Brahimi, who mediated the Geneva II talks, resigned his position on May 13, 2014 and no replacement has yet been named.

While there has been progress in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks since Syria became a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention in October 2013, the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program may prove challenging as the Assad regime claims that the remaining 8% of its chemical agents cannot be removed from one site due to the surrounding security situation.

Canada’s response to the complex and deteriorating situation in Syria is robust and multifaceted.  To date, Canada has committed over $630 million in response to the crisis in Syria.  This includes $353.5 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis both inside Syria and those seeking refuge in countries in the region, namely Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. It also includes $210.6 million in development assistance to Jordan and the region and $67.7 million in security-related regional assistance through the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), the Global Partnership Program (GPP), and the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP).

Further, Canada has imposed twelve rounds of sanctions on Syria in an effort to end the violence and bring about an inclusive, Syrian-led political transition. 

In response to the June 2013 UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) appeal for assistance with extremely vulnerable cases, Canada committed to resettling 1,300 Syrian refugees—200 refugees through the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program and 1,100 through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program. 

Canada has also listed Syria as a state supporter of terrorism, which facilitates compensation for victims of Syrian-backed terrorism.

In January 2014, Prime Minister Harper made a series of announcements of Canadian assistance related to the Syria crisis, incorporated in the figures above.  While visiting the Zatari refugee camp in Jordan on January 24, 2014, Prime Minister Harper underscored the tremendous stress the situation in Syria is putting upon millions of people as well as the great stress it places upon the Jordanian authorities and noted the importance of not losing sight of the impact of the crisis on a whole generation of Syrian children.  In his remarks after receiving an honorary degree at Tel Aviv University on January 20, 2014, Prime Minister Harper warned that the sectarian component of the Syrian conflict is “increasingly extreme and dangerous” and reiterated that the only hope is for “accommodation and conciliation” between the groups.

Current and former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Minister Baird and Minister Cannon, Minister of International Development Christian Paradis, as well as former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular) Diane Ablonczy, have collectively made over 80 public statements since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011.  Some of these statements include:

-          On 3 June, 2014, Minister Baird condemned the presidential elections in Syria as a sham and reiterated Canada’s work towards a political solution to the conflict. 

-          On May 14, 2014, Minister Baird expressed his appreciation for the work of UN-Arab League Special Representative on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

-          On January 21, 2014, Minister Baird expressed his outrage at the scale of the brutality of the Assad regime in response to a report indicating the systemic torture of an estimated 11,000 prisoners.

-          On December 24, 2013, Minister Baird strongly condemned the ongoing air strikes by the Assad regime on Aleppo and other areas, and called on all parties to adhere to international human rights obligations.

-          On October 3, 2013, Minister Paradis voiced his support for the United Nations Security Council’s presidential statement which urged Syria to grant immediate access to humanitarian agencies to those affected by the crisis.

-          On August 30, 2013, Minister Baird joined with international allies to condemn the Assad regime’s despicable and abhorrent us of chemical weapons against the Syrian people

This is only a small sampling of recent statements.  Ministers have regularly spoken out on the situation in Syria, provided updates on the humanitarian situation and Canada’s response, and announced successive rounds of sanctions against the Assad regime and its supporters.  As will be seen in the responses to the Committee’s recommendations below, the Government of Canada has been active on the situation in Syria in a variety of diplomatic fora, responding to the ever evolving political, humanitarian, security and chemical weapons situations. 

Recommendation 1

That the Government of Canada continue to support the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118, which requires the expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program and Syria’s compliance with all aspects of the September 27, 2013 decision of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, to which Syria has acceded.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation. The Government of Canada has firmly pressed the Syrian Government to comply with all aspects of its obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 and the decision of the Executive Council for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of September 27, 2013, and will continue to do so until all of the Syrian Government’s obligations have been met. The Government of Canada will sustain pressure on the Syrian Government to complete removal operations of its chemical weapons stockpile outside of its territory and urge that it propose a destruction plan that fully meets the requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention for the destruction of its 12 remaining chemical weapons production facilities. The Government of Canada will continue to press the Syrian Government to clarify outstanding ambiguities in its initial declaration and subsequent amendments of its chemical weapons program, and will further stress that all parties to the conflict must fully cooperate with the Joint OPCW-UN Mission, including the OPCW fact-finding mission to investigate recent allegations of an industrial-grade chemical being used as a chemical weapon.

This recommendation emphasizes the importance of supporting the full implementation of UNSCR 2118 which requires the expeditious destruction of Syria's CW program. The Government of Canada fully agrees. Thus far, Canada has contributed $15M to the chemical weapons destruction effort through the Global Partnership Program (GPP), as announced in January 2014 by the Prime Minister. Prior to this, Canada had provided in-kind contributions of air transport for US armoured vehicles and $2M to fund the OPCW-UN investigation of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria. 

Recommendation 2

That the Government of Canada continue to support the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139 demanding, inter alia: full, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access and the delivery of emergency relief to those in need; the cessation of all attacks against civilians; an end to sieges preventing civilian access to food and medicine; and an end to violations and abuses of international human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  In order to look at practical measures to improve humanitarian access, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos established a High Level Group on Humanitarian Access in the fall of 2013.  Canada actively engages in Geneva in the High Level Group through Ambassador-level participation in plenary meetings and through the hosting/chairing of the HLG's Working Group on the Polio Immunization Campaign. The Working Group has enabled effective information exchange between key agencies, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and influential states, and helped ensure an appropriate response to the polio outbreak in Syria and the region.

In addition, Canada is working with like-minded and humanitarian partners to determine what more can be done to improve humanitarian access in Syria, including through multilateral efforts.   For example, Canada is working closely with like-minded partners on the Security Council to press for the full implementation of UNSCR 2139 as well as any further United Nations Security Council measure to improve access for humanitarian workers, including greater consideration for the provision of cross-border assistance by UN entities.  Moreover, Canada has routinely issued statements calling on all parties, particularly the Assad regime, to allow improved humanitarian access in Syria; encouraging countries with leverage over Syria, i.e. Russia, to use all means to improve access; issuing statements and decrying the lack of humanitarian access in Syria.

Recommendation 3

That the Government of Canada support the negotiation of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would impose international sanctions on the Assad regime, while also enforcing an arms embargo on Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation. Canada has repeatedly called on the United Nations Security Council to impose tough, binding economic sanctions and an arms embargo on Syria under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. We have worked with our allies on numerous occasions to achieve this result, though Russia and China continue to veto – or threaten to veto – resolutions on Syria at the Security Council. Russia, which has been particularly intractable, is the primary provider of arms to the Syrian regime.

In the absence of UN Security Council resolution on sanctions, on June 25, 2013, Canada hosted the seventh Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions . The participating nations underscored the international community’s continued determination to ensure coordination and effective implementation of sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria in order to exert strong pressure on the Syrian regime and limit that regime’s ability to continue using violence against its own people and, ultimately, to help enable a democratic transition.

Canada has imposed twelve rounds of sanctions against the Syrian regime under the Special Economic Measures Act. Most recently, on January 29, 2014, in response to the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) prohibiting the procurement of chemical weapons from Syria and the recommendation of the Australia Group to control the export of certain chemical weapons precursors to Syria, Canada imposed further sanctions against Syria. These measures prohibit the export of chemicals that can be used as precursors to chemical weapons agents and dual-use equipment that can be used in a chemical weapons programme. The import, purchase, acquisition, carriage or shipment of chemical weapons and equipment, goods or technology related to chemical weapons from Syria is also prohibited. In addition, the acquisition or purchase of technical data or technical assistance related to chemical weapons is prohibited.

Previous sanctions targeted the Syrian regime and those that provide it with support and have included: a prohibition on dealing in the property of designated senior members and supporters of the regime (184 individuals and 51 entities since May 24, 2011); sanctions on the Syrian petroleum sector (October 3, 2011); a prohibition on imports (December 23, 2011); a prohibition on new investment (December 23, 2011); a prohibition on the export of surveillance equipment and software (December 23, 2011); a prohibition on all financial transactions (March 5, 2012); a prohibition on the export, sale, supply or shipping of luxury goods to Syria (May 18, 2012); and a prohibition on the export of listed goods and technology that can be used to manufacture and maintain items that may be used for internal repression, and goods that can be used in the production of chemical and biological weapons (July 6, 2012). Canada has also imposed a ban on the export to Syria of goods and technology subject to export controls. This includes arms and munitions, and military, nuclear and strategic items for use by the Syrian military, police or other state institutions. In addition, Canada has suspended all bilateral cooperation agreements and initiatives. Canada consistently encourages Syria’s neighbours to consider similar measures in an effort to end the violence and put pressure on all actors within the Syria conflict.

Recommendation 4

That the Government of Canada continue to follow events at the United Nations Security Council and work with our international partners.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  Canada diligently follows the day-to-day discussions/debates of the UN Security Council on this critical file, works closely with friends and allies to support the implementation of Council decisions, and will continue to do so.

Most recently, on May 22, 2014 Canada joined 64 other Member States in co-sponsoring the France-led UN Security Council draft resolution referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Ultimately, this resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.  Nevertheless, key allies were pleased by the number of co-sponsors to the resolution, which sends an important political message to Syria about accountability. 

Canada has also called upon the UN Security Council regularly to take concerted action to protect those caught in the cross-fire inside Syria as well as those deliberately targeted by the Assad regime.  Since the conflict first erupted, Canada has consistently used the twice-yearly UNSC open debates on the Protection of Civilians to highlight the importance of protecting those affected by the conflict and ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.  Canada is also raising our voice to highlight the plight of the 6.5 million internally displaced persons in Syria at the UN Security Council informal discussion on this issue in an effort to encourage the Council to take a more concerted response to the political and moral imperative of protecting this vulnerable population.  Canada welcomed the subsequent passing in the UN Security Council Resolution 2139 which clearly highlighted Council expectations regarding the need to address the humanitarian suffering inside Syria.  Canada, along with other key allies on the Council, has been very clear about the Assad regime’s failure to meet its responsibilities, including the deliberate denial of life saving humanitarian assistance to those in need.  Canada continues to push for additional Council action to address the tragic humanitarian situation in that country, including greater consideration for the provision of cross-border assistance by UN entities with or without the regime’s approval, in spite of the threat of a Russian veto. 

Similarly, Canada worked closely with allies to ensure the effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 regarding the need to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.  Since the resolution was first adopted on September 27, 2013, Canada has provided important support to the destruction efforts, including by supporting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Trust Fund ($10 million) and US Department of Defence destruction efforts ($5 million).  Canada also played a key role in responding to an urgent United Nations request to provide much needed airlift support to transfer armoured vehicles into theatre to ensure the safety and security of the joint UN-OPCW team on the ground.

Finally, Canada has repeatedly and forcefully called on the UN Security Council Members to impose tough, binding economic sanctions and an arms embargo on Syria under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  We have worked closely with key Council members and allies and will continue to do so to achieve real results despite the constant threat of a Russian veto in the Council. 

Recommendation 5

That the Government of Canada continue to encourage a Syrian-led political transition leading to the emergence of a free, democratic and pluralist Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  The Government of Canada continues to push for a political solution to the crisis in Syria.  The Government of Canada has called for a to end the crisis in Syria through a Syrian-led political transition leading to the emergence of a free, democratic and pluralist Syria.  The Government of Canada is supportive of the Geneva II peace talks and the Geneva I communiqué as the basis for these talks, which lays out the principles and guide-lines for a Syrian-led transition.  On January 22, 2014, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird joined over thirty of his counterparts in Montreaux Switzerland to support the launching of the Geneva II process. 

To facilitate outreach to Syria’s opposition the Government of Canada has created the position of the Representative of Canada to the Syrian Opposition, currently based in Istanbul, Turkey, which engages with a variety of Syrian opposition figures to advocate for a democratic future for Syria, free from tyranny and extremism.  The Government of Canada continues to call on the opposition to unite in a manner that gives full respect to the rights of all groups, including minorities, and to disavow extremism. 

In order to encourage the non-violent, pro-democracy Syrian opposition to unify around a concrete plan for transition to a peaceful, democratic, pluralistic post-Assad Syria, Canada supported a series of five conferences in 2012-2013 for the Syrian opposition organized by the Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. The conferences helped to address some of the key challenges facing the Syrian opposition, including the need to build bridges between different ethnic and religious communities and ideological groupings so that the opposition might unite into a viable alternative to the Assad regime, and the need to coalesce around a shared plan for an inclusive, Syrian-led political transition. The conferences brought together a diverse group of Syrian opposition figures, activists and international experts to develop a transition plan for a post-Assad Syria, resulting in the “Syria Transition Roadmap.”  Should Syria moves into a democratic transition period, this document will serve as an excellent framework for the important constitutional, legal and judicial transitions that Syria will need to undergo on its path to democracy.

Recommendation 6

That the Government of Canada fully participate in and support the Geneva process.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  The Government of Canada is supportive of the Geneva II peace talks and the Geneva I communiqué as the basis for these talks, which lays out the principles and guide-lines for a Syrian-led transition.  The Government of Canada has consistently supported the Geneva II process.  On January 22, 2014, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird joined over thirty of his colleagues in Montreaux Switzerland to support the launching of the Geneva II process.  Canada was among the very first to provide financial and political support to the office of the Joint League of Arab States-United Nations Special Representative to the Syria Peace Process, who mediates the Geneva II process, through the provision of $250,000 in 2012. 

Canada also worked with like-minded countries to encourage then Joint League of Arab States-United Nations Special Representative to the Syria Peace Process Lakhdar Brahimi to make all possible efforts to ensure the meaningful participation of Syrian women in the Geneva talks. In December 2013 in Geneva, Canada co-sponsored a roundtable on “The Role of Syrian Women in Resolving the Crisis.” This event brought together women representatives of Syrian civil society, the joint UN-Arab League Special Representative on Syria, UNWomen, as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and highlighted the positive role that Syrian women can play in the Syrian peace process. Canada continues to monitor closely all developments in this regard and to support efforts to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the Syrian peace process.

While Canada continues to support the Geneva II process and its underlying principles as the basis of a necessary political solution to the crisis, unfortunately, the current prospects for the Geneva II peace process are dim.  Two rounds of talks were held in January and February 2014, yet failed to yield progress between the regime and the opposition.  The Geneva II agenda centred on prisoner releases, the proposed creation of a transitional governing body (TGB) and the need for humanitarian access to all vulnerable populations.   The prospects for subsequent rounds of Geneva II talks are not encouraging given the widely divergent views of the parties. The Assad regime has fervently maintained its unwillingness to discuss a post-Assad era, making meaningful negotiations with the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) near impossible. The SOC has insisted that the Geneva conference – or any negotiated solution – be based on the transfer of power to a TGB where the Assad regime and those closely associated with it would have no role in the transitional period and future of Syria, as was outlined in the Geneva I communiqué, the notional basis of the Geneva II talks. This TGB would include full executive powers including presidential powers with control over the military and security apparatus. This is a position advanced by the Government of Canada and its allies.

Prospects for future rounds of peace talks became further complicated when, on May 13, 2014, joint UN-Arab League Special Representative on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who mediates the Geneva II process, resigned his position.  No replacement has yet been named.  The Government of Canada will continue to monitor this process closely and identify opportunities for Canadian engagement.

Recommendation 7

That the Government of Canada continue to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs in Syria and neighbouring countries as appropriate.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  Overall Canada has provided $353.5 million in humanitarian funding to support the response to the crisis in Syria. This includes $180 million in 2013, making Canada the 7th largest bilateral donor that year, and $150 million to date in 2014, making Canada the 5th largest donor so far in 2014. The Government will continue to closely monitor humanitarian needs in Syria and neighbouring countries hosting refugees and provide humanitarian funding, as appropriate, in support of experienced humanitarian partners responding to the crisis.

Recommendation 8

That the Government of Canada disburse its pledged humanitarian funds as efficiently and immediately as possible, while giving its partner organizations as much flexibility as possible to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. The Government of Canada should also encourage its development assistance partners to demonstrate similar timeliness and flexibility in making and fulfilling their assistance commitments.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  Following the announcement of an additional $150 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis by Prime Minister Harper on January 24, 2014, in Jordan, programming decisions and disbursements for this additional funding were made in the first quarter of 2014.

In our response to the Syria crisis, Canada has not earmarked support for multilateral organizations to specific activities. Rather, funding is allocated against programs of work in order to allow the flexibility for partners to set priorities and allocate resources to meet urgent and changing needs.

Canada has also consistently called on other donors to ensure that all pledges made to support the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis are fulfilled without delay. This call was most recently repeated by Canada at the 2nd international pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait city in January 2014.

Recommendation 9

That the Government of Canada continue to assist local humanitarian and democratic actors in Syria by providing institutional and training support, and by providing support for long-term peacebuilding, including projects with a focus on women and youth,  resiliency, and intercommunity reconciliation in Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation. With approximately $4.1 million in funding from the Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) from the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) since 2012, Canadian assistance in Syria has focused on increasing the credibility and communications capacity of pro-democracy actors, primarily through skills training for Syrian independent journalists, bloggers, media and civil society groups. In addition, support was provided on sub-national administration and governance to civilian opposition groups to increase their credibility and capacity to coordinate and deliver benefits that build community resilience. The Government of Canada will continue to identify opportunities to engage with pluralist, moderate, democratic elements of the Syrian opposition, including with actors who may be able to facilitate the promotion and protection of religious freedom. Further, Canada supports experienced humanitarian partners, who work closely with local humanitarian partners, to provide life-saving assistance to conflict-affected Syrians.

Recommendation 10

That the Government of Canada continue to work with civil society organizations to document violations of international law and human rights abuses in Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation. Canada’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Taskforce (START) supported several initiatives that aimed to document ongoing human rights abuses in Syria. For example, by supporting the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, Canadian funds contributed to the construction and maintenance of a secure database containing information about human rights violations.  By improving the security of the information and the quality of the documentation, these efforts will contribute to a more accurate historical account of the violence perpetrated. Furthermore, START also deployed a gender advisor from Justice Rapid Response to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The Commission’s mandate is to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law and, where possible, to identify those responsible so that perpetrators may be held accountable. 

The Government of Canada has also actively supported important multilateral efforts to document human rights abuses in Syria. At the UN Human Rights Council, for example, Canada has co-sponsored four special sessions on Syria which condemned the regime’s systematic and widespread human rights violations and established a UN fact-finding mission, and subsequently the Commission of Inquiry, to investigate these violations. Canada was also an early co-sponsor of resolutions adopted at the last ten regular sessions of the Human Rights Council since June 2011, which strongly condemned the grave, widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Syrian authorities, including some which may amount to crimes against humanity, and called for all those responsible for violations or abuses to be held accountable for their acts. The most recent resolution on Syria extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry for a full year.  Canada also co-sponsored the Syria resolution at last fall’s UN General Assembly stressing the importance of holding to account those responsible for violations of international law and violations and abuses of human rights. Further, the Government of Canada has delivered strong statements at the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, condemning the deplorable and senseless violence committed against the people of Syria.

The Government of Canada has also played an important public advocacy role. Canada continues to publicly condemn the actions of the Assad regime in Syria as a gross violation of human rights, and has called for accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes. In this regard, Canada co-sponsored the UN Security Council resolution proposed by France on referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  This draft resolution was vetoed by Russia and China on May 22, 2014. Canada also continues to call on all parties to adhere to their international human rights obligations and to provide full and unhindered humanitarian access and emergency relief to those in need.

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with civil society, international allies and international organizations to actively support prevention, treatment and documentation of sexual violence stemming from the conflict in Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  The Government of Canada condemns the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, which disproportionately affects women and girls.  As a part of its humanitarian response to the crisis, Canada is supporting the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to increase access to health care services, protection, clinical and social services for refugee and host populations inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, in particular to pregnant women and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.  Canada has, through its funding support to the Justice Rapid Response provided concrete support to address the issues of human rights violations against women.  The Justice Rapid Response deployed a gender advisor to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, to conduct investigations into sexual violations and abuses committed by both government and antigovernment forces. Some of the key findings from the Syria Commission of Inquiry point to the prominent roles sexual and gender based violence have played in the conflict, including the threat of rape as a tool to terrorize and punish women, men and children.  Canada has demonstrated longstanding support for the human rights and well-being of women and girls in conflict and transition situations, including prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.  Canada has a National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, which was announced in October 2010, and reports annually on its implementation. The Action Plan sets out concrete objectives, actions and performance indicators. It emphasizes support for the participation by women and girls in peace processes, the protection of their human rights, including protection from sexual violence, and ensuring their equal access to humanitarian and development assistance. 

Canada and its G8 counterparts launched and endorsed the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in April 2013 . In the fall of 2013, Canada co-sponsored a Security Council Resolution calling on the UN and all countries to do more to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account. Further, at the UN General Assembly in September, Canada and others launched the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, now endorsed by 143 countries.

Recommendation 12

That the Government of Canada continue to work with the UNHCR on resettlement and other refugee issues in Syria.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  Canada has a multifaceted relationship with the UNHCR (diplomatic, policy, financial and humanitarian), and appreciates the Agency’s leadership and advocacy in support of refugees. The UNHCR plays a crucial role in protecting and in mobilizing support for asylum space and durable solutions on behalf of Syrian refugees.

In 2013, Canada provided $22.7 million to the UNHCR in response to the Syrian crisis, particularly in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. To date, in 2014, Canada has provided $18 million to the UNHCR for the Syria crisis.

In addition to commitments to resettle Syrian refugees, in the Middle East Canada has ongoing resettlement commitments to Iraqi refugees and refugees based in Turkey. Canada has committed to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees by 2015 and is on track to meet this commitment. Canada has also committed to resettling 5,000 refugees out of Turkey by 2018. These commitments ease the burden on the region, freeing up resources and opening up protection space for the current influx of Syrians seeking relief.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada examine its current and future commitments to resettle Syrian refugees.

The Government of Canada agrees to this recommendation.  Canada has one of the most generous refugee policies in the world.  We resettle more refugees than almost any other country in the world.

The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the crisis in Syria and will continue to do what it can to best help the Syrian people.  Canada is one of the world’s largest providers of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.  To date, Canada has committed more than $630 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance to the Syrian crisis

Recognizing that large-scale resettlement of millions of people out of a region is not a solution to a conflict, Canada has been active in calling for an end to the crisis in Syria through a Syrian-led political transition leading to the emergence of a free, democratic and pluralist Syria.

In response to the UNHCR’s appeal for assistance with extremely vulnerable cases, Canada has committed to resettling 200 refugees through the Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) program by the end of 2014.  In addition, Canada committed to accept 1,100 privately sponsored refugees.

Canada is reviewing an additional request for Syrian resettlement from the UNHCR as part of our broader response to this crisis.

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada look at the feasibility of working with community and academic partners on a scholarships program to support Syrian students.

The Government of Canada takes note of this recommendation.  Responding to the educational needs of Syrian is a priority for the Government of Canada’s response to the situation in Syria.

The conflict has provoked enormous population movements and has caused devastation to public infrastructure such as schools. In Syria, the Ministry of Education reports that 4,000 schools were out of service at the end of 2013. By the end of 2013, the non-attendance rate of school age children was 51.8 %. In areas such as Aleppo and Al-Raqqa, the non-attendance rate is as high as 90%. In Jordan, the refugee population represents close to 10% of its population and in Lebanon it is well over 20%.  Children represent close to 50% of these refugees populations, placing an enormous burden of the host countries.

The needs of the Syrian population are the primary driver for a comprehensive Canadian response which aims to reach as many civilians affected by the conflict as possible.  In large part, this has been achieved by channelling Canadian assistance through experienced non-governmental and international organizations.  In the education sector, the overwhelming demand is  placed on expanding the capacity of local communities hosting displaced children within Syria and refugee children in neighbouring countries in order to cope with the educational demand. Canada’s response in this sector to date has been to give priority to the immediate needs of displaced and refugee children.  Prime Minister Harper underpinned Canada’s support for children affected by the Syrian conflict by announcing $50 million to support the “No Lost Generation” initiative to provide children with a protective environment and learning opportunities. This response is coordinated closely with governments of neighbouring countries, the donor community, experienced international organizations and Syrian interlocutors throughout the region as appropriate. By supporting this UNICEF initiative, Canada confirms the value of education as a protection tool in and of itself.

Beyond primary education, Canada recognizes that university-educated Syrians will be essential for Syria’s eventual reconstruction, and is continuing to monitor this matter in close cooperation with the United Nations and other donor coordination mechanisms.  The Government will work to identify ways in which Canadian community and academic partners can engage to address this issue.