Conservative candidate and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander took heat online Wednesday and Thursday over the Syrian refugee crisis, particularly the death of Alan Kurdi. Disturbing photos of the three-year-old boy lying face down on a Turkish beach have circulated widely online.
On Wednesday evening, the National Post reported that Kurdi's family, which has relatives in B.C., was trying to come to Canada as refugees, but was denied entry by the government.
On Thursday, a relative of the family in B.C., Tima Kurdi, clarified that she did not apply to sponsor the family of her brother, Abdullah Kurdi (Alan's father), for citizenship. She said she did apply to sponsor the family of her other brother, Mohammed, to come to Canada as refugees. That application was returned as incomplete, according to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
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In the wake of the National Post story, Alexander announced early Thursday, that he would halt his re-election campaign to return to Ottawa to focus on his portfolio and the refugee crisis.
"I am meeting with officials to ascertain both the facts of the case of the Kurdi family and to receive an update on the migrant crisis," Alexander said, in a statement Thursday morning.
There's been a lot of online reaction to how Alexander has handled the Syrian situation. Some thought it was a good move he decided to halt the campaign.
The only sane thing to do, but I can't help but wonder if Alexander will be just a fall guy for the Harper government http://t.co/fxL8qkv59r— @saila
Others thought the suspension came too late.
Another note to Chris Alexander: The time for decisive action on this file is not immediately after your incompetence is revealed to world— @prenerk
It's been a bumpy 24 hours for Alexander.
He sparred with CBC's Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics Wednesday, with Barton questioning Alexander on the government's management of the Syrian file.
Question for Canadian political historians: has any federal cabinet minister ever had a worse 24 hours than Chris Alexander?— @damianpenny
During the interview, Alexander blamed the media for not bringing more attention to the Syrian crisis.
"The biggest conflict and humanitarian crisis of our time has been there for two years, and you and others have not put it in the headlines where it deserves to be," he told Barton.
Barton rebutted by saying the subject has been covered many times on Power and Politics, including in interviews with Alexander himself. That got folks on Twitter talking about the role of the media in covering the Syrian crisis.
If the media was really ignoring the refugee crises wouldn't it be Chris Alexander's job to make it an issue?— @Andrew_Waterloo
One Twitter user considered the use of the photo against Alexander to be too exploitative...
I am certainly no fan of the Harper Government but the exploitation of the dead child by his political opponents is just as sad. #cdnpoli— @alexanderknight
Another tried to stress that it was about more than just the photo.
Talking about a photo instead of reality is simply another way to avoid doing anything. #ChrisAlexander— @LaurieGrassi
And columnist Scott Gilmore came out in defence of Alexander.
You can't place the body of that drowned child at Alexander's feet. And trying to do so distracts from doing things that will actually help.— @Scott_Gilmore
First, Immigration Ministers typically don't decide who gets in and who doesn't. Bureaucrats and the system does.— @Scott_Gilmore
Some weighed in on what this would mean for Alexander's political future.
I'm glad Chris Alexander is making one last trip to Ottawa. #exln42— @FarAndWide
2. it is not the media's responsibility to oversee refugee claims. It is YOURS. sack him #chrisalexander— @canhabsfan
Despite the pause, Alexander's campaign office was open Thursday afternoon.
The CBC's Trevor Dunn tweeted a photo of the open office after two staffers arrived. Alexander is in Ottawa.
A previous version of this story said relatives of Alan Kurdi told the National Post that his family had applied for refugee status in Canada. In fact, no formal application for refugee status was made. An application on behalf of Alan's uncle, Mohammed Kurdi, was received by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada but was returned because, the department said, it was incomplete and did not meet the regulatory requirements for proof of refugee status recognition.Sep 03, 2015 3:18 PM ET
A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Alan Kurdi's name.Sep 03, 2015 3:44 PM ET