Calgary’s Syrian and Egyptian communities gather in solidarity
Published Saturday, August 24, 2013 5:12PM MDT Last Updated Saturday, August 24, 2013 6:19PM MDT
Local Syrians are demanding the Canadian government take a tougher stand against the violence in their homeland.
A protest was held at Calgary city hall Saturday after videotape emerged reportedly showing new evidence the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own citizens.
The gathered crowd of Syrians, with support from members of the Egyptian community, denounced the atrocities in their homeland.
“I have some relatives there,” says Yaser Ghanam, a member of the Syrian Community of Calgary. “I have some relatives who fled Syria because they couldn't stand the continuous shelling in the city of Allepo. I have relatives that are still there because they simply cannot escape.”
The images surfacing from Syria are disturbing; rows of dead bodies, children struggling to catch a breath, and the twisted remains of a rocket.
United Nations inspectors are demanding access to the areas where the video was purportedly shot, but the Syrian government says it's too dangerous.
“We're obviously appalled at the violence,” says John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.
Baird says Canada supports international efforts to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.
“Canada has provided up to two million dollars to the United Nations, specifically to support their work to validate whether chemical weapons were used,” says Baird. “The evidence, though, is becoming increasingly clear.”
Members of the Egyptian Community of Canada say the federal government’s response to Syria has been disappointing.
“I was actually hoping for more from Canada as one of the democratic countries, and actually, a model for democracy in the world,” says Osama Refai.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says it's appropriate the demonstrators are going public with their beliefs.
“We've worked hard to make sure that we've got space for freedom of speech and protest,” says Nenshi. “I think it's great when Calgarians get together to have conversations about important issues in the world.”
Calgary’s Syrian and Egyptian communities say they will continue to make their voices heard, until the killing stops and their respective countries become truly democratic.
On Saturday, Doctors Without Borders announced three Damascus area hospitals have received 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms, of which, 355 have reportedly died.
With files from CTV's Reg Hampton