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“Limited and focused”

Trudeau announces Canada’s support for a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian crisis but critics point out the lack of concrete action

Canada was briefed on Trump’s Syria plan an hour before the air strikes

Canada was briefed about an hour before the U.S. launched missiles at a military airfield in Syria in response to a chemical attack earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Friday.

Canada’s backing for the air strike, which took out Syrian air capabilities, comes after a chemical weapon attack that killed scores of civilians, which bears all the hallmarks of previous attacks thought to be carried out by the Assad regime.

“In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized peoples must speak with one voice.”

In a statement earlier Friday morning, Trudeau said he “fully supports” the U.S.’s “limited and focused” action against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against civilians.

“This morning I spoke with the president directly and emphasized that Canada agrees that Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons must not continue,” Trudeau said.

He said prior to the airstrike, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had phoned Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who then briefed him.

“In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized peoples must speak with one voice.”

Throughout the week, Trudeau had called repeatedly on the international community to investigate the attack to confirm whether or not the Assad regime was responsible. But on Friday, he placed the blame on the Assad government in no uncertain terms.

President Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored,” said the statement. “These gruesome attacks cannot be permitted to continue with impunity.”

“The global community cannot sit idly by while deadly nerve toxins are unleashed on innocent civilians.”

The Canadian government, however, has deliberately refused to call for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is instead waiting for a resolution from the U.N. Security Council, on which Russia, a close Syrian ally, holds a veto. It was on that point that Trudeau caught flack in Question Period on Friday.

“When will the prime minister stop being so dangerously naive and confront this dictator and this tyrant?” he was asked by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

Overnight, the U.S. fired 59 cruise missiles at a military airfield in Homs in response to this week’s chemical attack in the Idlib province, which left 80 civilians, including children, dead.  

According to U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News, the airbase was where Tuesday’s gas attack was planned, and all but one missile hit the intended target.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose also expressed her party’s support for the US’s action, but was critical of the Trudeau government for offering “very little in terms of concrete action to hold the Russian-backed government of Syria accountable.” She also said Canada seemed to “have been out of the loop on this action by the United States.

“The global community cannot sit idly by while deadly nerve toxins are unleashed on innocent civilians,” the statement said.

Cover: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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