Chris Alexander takes heat online after death of young Syrian refugees

Conservative candidate and current Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is embroiled in online controversy after the deaths of young Syrian refugees.

Much of criticism related to incorrect report that citizenship claim for dead child's family was rejected

Conservative candidate and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is taking heat online over a report that the Canadian government denied refugee status to the family of Syrian children who died off the coast of Turkey. (Chris Wattie/Reuters/Twitter)

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.

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.

Others thought the suspension came too late.

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.

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.

One Twitter user considered the use of the photo against Alexander to be too exploitative... 

Another tried to stress that it was about more than just the photo.

And columnist Scott Gilmore came out in defence of Alexander.

Some weighed in on what this would mean for Alexander's political future.

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 incorrectly spelled Alan Kurdi's name.
    Sep 03, 2015 3:44 PM ET


  • 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