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Canada removes notorious Assad supporter from diplomatic appointment following outcry

Waseem Al-Ramli drove around Montreal in a car featuring Assad's photo [Twitter]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2019

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Canadian Foreign Ministry officials have removed Waseem Ramli, a notorious supporter of Bashar al-Assad, from his posting as honorary Syrian consul in Montreal following a public outcry.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday removed an unapologetic supporter of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from his posting in Canada, following a public uproar over his appointment.

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

Upon learning of this, Freeland said that his views expressed to the media and on social media "are shocking and unacceptable," adding that he never should have been approved to serve in the job.

"I have instructed officials to immediately revoke his status," she said.

Ramli's appointment was unsettling for the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Canada and the US who would have to engage with him on consular matters such as passport renewals, arranging for remittances to family members or obtaining a birth certificate or school records from Syria.

Canada has sanctioned 234 officials from the Assad regime, which it holds accountable for war crimes, including "abhorrent” chemical weapons attacks against civilians.

Canada as also resettled more than 60,000 Syrian refugees who fled war.

A senior official told AFP on Tuesday 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 his support for Assad online and protocol bars diplomats from publicly espousing political opinions.

Among other views, Ramli had referred to the White Helmets, the Syrian rescuers who save and treat injured people following airstrikes by the Assad regime as a “terrorist organization”.

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

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

Bayan Al-Khatib, a Syrian-Canadian living in Toronto, told Reuters that Ramli’s removal was “a big relief” for the Syrian community.

The point for me is not about sides,” she added, “it’s about having someone that is neutral and isn’t blatantly making people uncomfortable.”

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