Canada is imposing sanctions against the Syrian government and its president, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced late Tuesday afternoon.
Baird said the targeted measures include travel and economic sanctions against members of the Syrian government and are being imposed "because of the regime's steadfast and continued refusal to end its violent repression of peaceful demonstrators and the threat it poses to the region."
The government has a list of individuals that have been banned from entering Canada, and the sanctions also ban certain exports to Syria and suspend bilateral co-operation agreements. Arms, munitions, nuclear and other strategic goods and technology are among the banned exports.
The measures are effective immediately. Baird said they are not meant to punish Syrian citizens who are expressing a desire for a more democratic government.
The foreign affairs minister said the Syrian government's actions against its citizens since the uprising there began in March amount to a "grave breach of international peace."
"This abhorrent crackdown must end," Baird said in the foyer of the House of Commons. Reports indicate that hundreds of people have been killed by Syrian military forces, hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested, said Baird.
'The international community is not standing idly by, nor will Canada' —Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird
"The international community is not standing idly by, nor will Canada," said Baird.
Baird's announcement came after a cabinet committee meeting earlier in the day where the various options for sanctions were discussed. Other countries imposed sanctions weeks ago but Canada has delayed taking such action because of the spring election according to the government. Baird said the re-elected Conservative government has acted swiftly.
He said Syria's president, Bashar Assad, is among the designated individuals affected by the new sanctions.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chairs the national security committee, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is the vice-chair. Baird also sits on the committee, along with Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
Baird and his department have been preparing options for sanctions.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has warned Canadians to avoid all travel to Syria because of the violence and crackdown on peaceful protesters that began in March.
According to 2009 statistics from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian exports to Syria were worth $61.3 million and Syrian exports to Canada totalled $5.9 million.
The United States has imposed a number of sanctions against Syria, its president, and several other top government officials. The European Union has also imposed sanctions.
The continuing unrest in Syria is expected to be a widely discussed agenda item this week at the G8 meeting in Deauville, France. Harper and Baird will attend the two-day gathering of G8 leaders on Thursday and Friday.