The Canadian government will apply economic sanctions against 27 members of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Canadian Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the sanctions on Friday, in a statement, saying that the more than two dozen high-ranking Syrian government officials are now subject to an freeze on their assets and a prohibition on any financial dealings with Canada.
The statement also alludes to Canada’s contribution to an investigation on Assad’s use of chemical weapons in order to collect evidence that can be used against the Syrian president for his indictment and prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
“Last week’s chemical weapons attack in southern Idlib is a war crime and is unacceptable,” she said. “Canada is working with its allies to end the war in Syria and hold those responsible to account.”
Freeland says the addition of 27 names to the sanctions list is part of an escalating campaign to put increased pressure on the Assad regime to cease using chemical weapons in attacks on the Syrian people, as the regime just did in early April, and to engage in meaningful negotiations for an end to the bloody civil war.
The Trudeau government was slow to acknowledge the responsibility of Assad for that attack and did not immediately respond when President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on an Syrian airbase in retaliation. But Trudeau issued a statement of support the morning after the U.S. military action and said that in a conversation with Trump the night before he was provided with “undeniable proof” of Assad’s complicity in the using chemical weapons.
Canada was apparently prompted to announce the sanctions after Assad claimed on Thursday that the chemical weapons attack was a hoax. Freeland is urging Russia, who continues to support the Assad regime, to openly break with the Syrian president and assist in brokering a peace.
Freeland says the new sanctions against key officials are part of Canada’s continued efforts to pressure the Assad regime to stop the violence against innocent children, women and men.
Friday’s statement marks a departure for the Canadian government and a more aggressive response to the Assad government. Up until now, it has focused on humanitarian and development assistance while bringing some 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.