Nenshi lashes out at Chris Alexander on refugee crisis

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi didn't pull any punches when asked about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Canadian government's response.

Calgary mayor says maybe it's time to bring back 'ministerial accountability'

Naheed Nenshi on refugee crisis

8 years ago
Duration 1:51
Calgary mayor rips into Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on the refugee crisis

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi didn't pull any punches when asked about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Canadian government's response.

He slammed the "talking points" about attacking ISIS as a solution to the crisis and said Canadians are asking whether the airstrikes are working.

"No one is saying you bring in the refugees and that solves the whole problem," he said. 

"But regardless of all the rest of it, we have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of desperate people, and we have a country that's known as being a safe haven and we have to be able to do that."

Taking on the minister

He saved his strongest condemnation for Chris Alexander, the federal immigration minister who was once a Canadian diplomat stationed in Afghanistan.

He lashed out at Alexander's blaming of the media for not bringing more attention to the Syrian crisis, a comment that resulted in a strong backlash against the minister.

"As if federal government policy should be based on what's on the cover of the Calgary Sun or on Power & Politics every morning is ridiculous," Nenshi said.

"Minister Alexander should have been a star. He was an incredible diplomat. By all accounts he's a brilliant man, but he's also the minister behind Bill C-24, which I remind you means that me — born at St. Mike's hospital in downtown Toronto — could have my Canadian citizenship stripped," he said.

Alexandra Day, a spokesperson for Alexander's campaign in Ajax, Ont., said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that Calgarians "have for years been supportive of sponsoring refugees from the region and helping them start successful new lives in Canada."

"As for his views on our strengthened citizenship laws, unless he [Nenshi] intends to commit and be convicted by a Canadian court of acts of terrorism, treason, espionage or taking up arms against the Canadian military, he has nothing to worry about."

Ministerial responsibility

Nenshi went on to lambaste the minister for preferring to "insult other parties rather than answer questions," and said he wants an answer to just how many Syrian refugees have come to Canada since the number "changes every day."

"If the minister can't answer those basic questions, well let's be blunt here. We used to have a principle called ministerial responsibility, ministerial accountability, that if the bureaucrats in your department are not doing a great job, you take responsibility," said Nenshi. 

"It's been a long time since we've had that in Canada and maybe we need it back."

Protesters gather at City Hall

Calgary rally for Syrian refugees

8 years ago
Duration 1:06
Dozens of people gathered at City Hall Friday, asking for more help for Syrian refugees from the Canadian government.

Dozens of people gathered in downtown Calgary on Friday night to show their support for Syrian refugees.

Two young Syrian brothers and their mother, who drowned while trying to reach Greece, were buried on Friday in their hometown in Syria.

Images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, shocked the world this week. 

The photos gave a human face to the large-scale refugee disaster unfolding across Europe and prompting both empathy and outrage over the perceived failure of rich, developed nations to protect such vulnerable people.