Canada

Syrian hardliner's family given visas for Canadian births: report

Daughter, daughter-in-law of hardline Syrian general given tourist visas so they could give birth in Canada, says Globe report.

Canada has issued visitors' visas to the daughter and daughter-in-law of a hard-line Syrian general so they could give birth to their children in Canada, says a published report.

Zeina Khair, daughter-in-law of Syrian Gen. Bahjat Suleiman, left Canada this spring after giving birth to a girl in Montreal, the Globe and Mail reported Friday. The visit was sponsored by a friend of the family who lives in Montreal.

Suleiman is the former head of Syrian interior intelligence and a key figure in the country's dictatorial government.

His seven-months pregnant daughter Randala Suleiman has also received a tourist visa and intends to visit Montreal to give birth, said the Globe.

According to the report, which cites sources close to the situation, it's common for the children of senior Syrian officials to deliver their children in Canada to give them citizenship and a place to receive a low-cost education.

The two women, Khair and Suleiman, had previously delivered babies in Canada, in 2002 and 2003 respectively, said the Globe.

Those visas were issued by the Canadian Embassy in Damascus following a request from the Syrian general. The ambassador in Damascus at the time was Franco Pillarella.

Pillarella recently told the Arar inquiry that there were no indications Ottawa engineer Maher Arar was tortured while being held in a Syrian prison, or that there were human rights abuses in Syria.

The Foreign Affairs department wouldn't confirm or deny whether the newer visas had been handed out, said the report.