Politics

Freeland revokes appointment of Assad-sympathizer as Syrian consul in Montreal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has revoked Waseem Ramli's appointment as Syria's honorary consul in Montreal.

Waseem Ramli has held pro-Bashar al-Assad demonstrations in Montreal

Waseem Ramli, right, poses for a photo with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Waseem Ramli/Facebook)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says a known sympathizer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will no longer serve as that country's honorary consul in Montreal.

Freeland issued a statement on Wednesday saying she's revoked Waseem Ramli's status, meaning he will not be allowed to carry out any consular functions in Canada.

As first reported by Maclean's, Global Affairs approved the Montreal businessman for the posting last month after the Syrian government nominated him.

Ramli has held pro-Assad demonstrations in Montreal and drives a Hummer adorned with the Syrian flag and a photo of Assad. He also refers to the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue organization also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, as "terrorists."

Assad has been condemned by many world leaders for human rights violations in the course of his government's prosecution of Syria's civil war. Canada was among the countries that cut diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 in response to the Houla massacre, which claimed the lives of dozens of people.

Freeland said she'll launch a review into how he was appointed in the first place.

"No one who shares Mr. Ramli's views should have ever been approved by Global Affairs Canada to serve in this capacity. Upon review of the department's decision, I have instructed officials to immediately revoke his status," she said in the written statement.

"I would like to express my deep regret over the difficult situation this nomination has posed for many Syrians living in Canada, including the many brave White Helmets and other refugees who now call our country home and may be feeling fearful and distressed."

In a brief interview with CBC, Ramli called his removal from the post "unfortunate."

"Honestly, I don't have much to comment about it. It's [an] unfortunate decision to be made based on personal views that I have which my Canadian rights grant me," he said.

"It's unfortunate also that many, many Syrians will not be able to have their documents authenticated and processed through our honorary consulate. Hopefully another solution can be found."

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