OTTAWA - The NDP and Liberals urged the Conservative government Thursday to make good on its pledge to help Turkey foot the bill for the influx of Syrian refugees, which topped 100,000 this week.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird publicly offered Canada's financial assistance to Turkey almost one month ago when he welcomed his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutolu, to Ottawa.
But Canada has yet to offer Turkey any money, acting ambassador Gulcan Akoguz said Thursday.
"It's a huge burden," she told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. "We keep our borders open. We also follow the principle of no rejection at the border."
Since the outbreak of violence in Syria 19 months ago, her government has spent $400 million to deal with the influx of Syrians fleeing across the border, Akoguz added.
Baird said last month that just because Turkey is Syria's next-door neighbour, countries like Canada shouldn't be left off the hook when it comes to sharing the burden of the refugee crisis.
Baird's office reiterated the commitment to Turkey on Thursday, but said it had nothing new to announce.
The Turkish government has built 14 refugee camps, and has welcomed financial assistance from Norway, Croatia, Slovakia, Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, and the United Nations, Akoguz noted.
"Is Canada helping you with any of this?" asked Liberal aid critic Mark Eyking.
"Not yet," Akoguz replied.
Afterwards, Eyking and NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar urged the government to come up with funds for Turkey, a NATO ally, because there is no end in sight to the Syria crisis, which has overflowed into neighbouring countries.
"You think it would be a given for Canada to help with these camps but they're not. That's pretty deplorable, really," Eyking said in an interview.
"These are the low-hanging fruit. If Turkey is a friend of ours and a NATO ally, we should be giving them the help they need."
Dewar said that with winter approaching, the lives of Syrian refugees are about to become that much more difficult.
"It is clearly an urgent call for help. We would like to see the Conservatives respond accordingly; that is, to respond to the ask of the Turkish appeal for assistance," Dewar said in an interview.
"We all hope there will be some sort of peace in the short term. It doesn't look likely. Even if there is some breakthrough, there will still be a need to help with resettlement."
Standing next to Davutolu in the lobby of Foreign Affairs headquarters last month, Baird indicated that Canada stood willing to offer assistance.
"The government of Turkey has been incredibly generous in allowing these people fleeing persecution and violence into their country," he said at the time.
"It has been tremendously generous financially. And just because it's the next-door neighbour to this tragedy, it doesn't let countries like Canada off the hook."
Canada has contributed $12 million in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian crisis, including $2.7 million to the UN World Food Program and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
"Our government remains open to additional assistance and in doing whatever we can to support the people of Syria," Baird's spokesman Rick Roth said Thursday.