On Friday, Canada’s Foreign Affairs department upgraded its travel warning regarding Syria from “Avoid non-essential travel” to “Avoid all travel.” They also said all Canadians in Syria should leave now:
“Canadians in Syria should leave now by commercial means while these are still available,” the department said in a statement.
“Canadians who remain in the country despite this warning should be aware that the Government of Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance may be extremely limited due to restrictions imposed by the Syrian government,” the statement also said.
Back in 2006 Canada issued similar warnings to Canadians in Lebanon. These warnings were ignored by around 15,000 “Canadians” who then had to be evacuated by the Canadian government at a cost of over $85 million. It was reported that within a month of being evacuated 7,000 evacuees returned to Lebanon.
At the time there was a fairly large outcry in Canada about the cost of rescuing “Canadians of Convenience” who actually lived in Lebanon full time and only held Canadian citizenship as a safety net. “If they don’t live here and don’t pay taxes, and may never be coming back, what is the responsibility of the government of Canada supported by the Canadian taxpayer?” asked Garth Turner, then the Tory MP for Halton, Ont.
The fact is that Canada and her Provinces regularly deny government services to citizens who don’t live in Canada. For example, Ontario residents who spend more than six months out of the country in any one calendar year lose their government health care coverage. This is the case even if those people actually live in Ontario and are paying income taxes in Ontario. If we’re not willing to pay for health care services for people who actually live here and pay taxes here, why are we willing to pay to evacuate people who don’t live in Canada, aren’t paying taxes in Canada, and who don’t bother to heed the warnings of the Canadian government to get out on their own while they still can.
The Canadian government should make it absolutely clear to Canadians living in Syria, and elsewhere in the world, that if they ignore the Canadian government’s warning to evacuate and remain where they are, then they do so at their own peril.