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Canada 'probing appointment' of pro-Assad diplomat

Ramli allegedly drives around with a portrait of Assad on his car [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 September, 2019

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Businessman Waseem Ramli was appointment as Syria's honorary consul in Montreal, Macleans magazine reported.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said on Tuesday it is looking into how an unapologetic supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could have been approved for a diplomatic posting in Canada.

Canadian officials last month quietly signed off on Montreal businessman Waseem Ramli's appointment as Syria's honorary consul in Montreal, Macleans magazine reported.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a Twitter message that she was "shocked" to learn of Ramli's political leanings, and has "asked the department to look into (his appointment) right away."

A senior official told AFP that vetting of the relatively low-level appointment - which comes with no pay - would have been handled by the department's protocol office, adding that someone "dropped the ball" because Ramli has posted pro-Assad views online and rules bar diplomats from publicly espousing political opinions.

Canada has sanctioned the Assad regime and resettled more than 40,000 Syrian refugees who fled war since  Trudeau's Liberals came to power in 2015. 

Read more: Caught on camera: Don't mistake Assad's war crimes for 'tragedy'

The Liberals are now in a tight race against the Conservatives lead by Andrew Scheer, ahead of October 21 elections.

Ramli's appointment is unsettling for the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled war and are now forced to deal with him on consular matters.

This includes passport renewals, arranging for remittances to family members or obtaining a birth certificate or school records from Syria.

Macleans said Ramli has often been seen driving a bright red Humvee with the license plate 1SYRIA and windows emblazoned with a Syrian flag and a portrait of Assad

It also published a photo of Ramli with Trudeau at a recent Liberal party fundraiser.

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