Canada revokes status of Syrian envoy


TORONTO — Canada’s foreign minister said Wednesday she has revoked the consular status of a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The action came a day after Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she didn’t know her department had approved Waseem Ramli as honorary consul general in Montreal.

“The views expressed publicly by Waseem Ramli to the press and on social media are shocking and unacceptable. No one who shares Mr. Ramli’s views should have ever been approved by Global Affairs Canada to serve in this capacity,” Freeland said in a statement.

Freeland’s statement did not say how it happened, but she instructed her department to review the system by which such appointments are processed.

Canada severed diplomatic ties with Damascus in 2012 over alleged violations of human rights, including chemical attacks. But the Canadian government allowed Syria to maintain honorary consulates led by Canadians in Montreal and Vancouver to assist Syrians with passports and other administrative issues.

Ramli has defended the Assad government on social media and is pictured with Assad on his Facebook profile. His Facebook page also includes photos of his red Hummer with a picture of Assad on a window.

Ramli has also described members of the White Helmets humanitarian organization as terrorists, according to Maclean’s magazine, which first reported on the new consul’s appointment.

“I would like to express by deep regret over the difficult situation this nomination has posed for many Syrians living in Canada, including the many brave White Helmets and other refugees who now call our country home and may be feeling fearful and distressed,” Freeland said in her statement Wednesday.

Freeland noted that Canada has taken in over 60,000 Syrian refugees since her Liberal government took office in 2015 and among them are members of the White Helmets, the volunteer group of first responders and war crime monitors.

Ramli has insisted in several media interviews that even though he supports Assad, his comments on social media are within his rights as a Canadian citizen and his political beliefs won’t interfere with his role delivering services to Syrians.

He didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Rob Gillies, The Associated Press