Syrian Civil War Overview

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Video / May 9, 2017

What Caused the Syrian Civil War?

As of 2017, the Syrian Civil War is moving into its 6th year. Conflict began in the spring of 2011, in the city of Deraa, as part of the Arab Spring.

Before the uprising and violence began, there were local civilians protesting the arrest and alleged torture of numerous children for vandalizing a wall depicting anti-government discourses. Although protests were peaceful, Bashar al-Assad’s government responded with violence by using firearms on protestors, ultimately killing 4 people.

These measures elicited anger throughout the country and citizens demanded for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation. In July 2012 the international Red Cross officially declared the conflict and uprising in Syria a civil war.

Suggested Discussion Question: What challenges do you think refugees face during conflict?

Refugees and Canada’s Response


Syria’s ongoing war has instigated danger to its citizens, and has forced many to leave their homes and their country behind in the hopes of a better life. Millions of people have fled the country seeking safety and resettlement internationally. There are more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees primarily in neighboring counties because of war, hunger, and extreme violence; 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced in hopes to avoid violent conflict.

Canada’s Role

With the help of various governmental, and non-governmental organizations Canada successfully welcomed over 40,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and January 29, 2017.

Canada has committed approximately $100 million to assist with the crisis in Syria. Canada also formed a Syria Emergency Relief Fund, and gave Canadians generously donated $31.8 million to the Syria crisis, as of April 2016. This donation was matched by the Canadian government, giving a total of $68.2 million in humanitarian assistance to address the essential needs of people affected by the Syrian conflict.

The Canadian government has received a great amount of support from various Non-government Organizations, who have assisted with the immigration process of Syrian refugees, humanitarian aid, etc. United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Immigration (IOM), are two of the major contributors assisting migration and refugee processing, as well as performing medical exams.

 The Canadian government’s efforts have benefited from the assistance of a variety of other Non-Governmental Organization’s such as:

Suggested Discussion Question: What challenges do you think refugees experience after arriving to Canada?

Suggested Discussion Question: What do you think sparked interest in the general public to accept Syrian Refugees?

Suggested Discussion Question: Do you think Canada’s involvement in the Syrian conflict was the right response?

The Process and the Department of National Defence

DND (Department of National Defence) was highly involved in the process of accepting and migrating Syrian refugees into Canada, through Operation PROVISION. Canadian Armed Forces personnel were involved in a variety of different areas to augment the processes, and to ensure safety.

Much of DND’s work was done through operation centres, where Syrian citizens applied to become Canadian refugees. The process started with DND personnel getting notification of arriving individuals, where they then met with applicants, screened them, and then applicants were sent home where they waited for acceptance of their immigration application.

Screening Process

The process of screening Syrian applicants ensures all security measures are adhered to.

  • Applicants have digital fingerprints and photographs taken.
  • Perform background checks.
  • Locate existing family in Canada.
  • Record medical problems and assist with medical exams.
  • Perform interviews with applicants
  • Send collected documentation to Ottawa for verification.

Suggested Discussion Question: Do you think these screening processes were effective?

Suggested Discussion Question: Is there any other aspects to screening that should have been taken into consideration?

Medical Exams

The Canadian Armed Forces had many doctors and nurses that are actively performing medical exams. By doing so, CAF has been able to bring a health clinic where there wasn’t one before, and by providing medial exams they are keeping public health as a priority in the process.

Suggested Discussion Question: Do you think it is an essential responsibility for the Government of Canada to place importance around the health of Syrian refugees?

Suggested Discussion Question: What issues or concerns could stem from not lacing high importance?

Flight Process and Security

Once applicants were accepted into Canada, planes from the Royal Canadian Air Force were used to fly refugees to their new homes! The Department of National Defence provided refugees safe transit to Canada.


The Department of National Defence usually deploys image technicians to photograph and videotape various stories and moments from Operations and Exercises. With their hard work, Combat Camera was able to bring you From Conflict to Canada!

For more imagery from Operation PROVISION please visit:

Previous Humanitarian Operations the Canadian Armed Forces has participated in

Operation PARASOL

On April 6 1999, the Canadian Armed Forces launched Operation PARASOL in reaction to the conflict between Kosovo and the Federal Republic Yugoslavia (FRY) forces. They played a large role in migrating upwards of 5500 Kosovo refugees to Canada over (a 7 months period) during the conflict.

Suggested Discussion Question: How has the Canadian government’s response changed in the last 20-years regarding refugees? If so, what factors have contributed to this change of perspective/response?


British Broadcasting Corporation. "What's happening in Syria?" February 27, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2017.

Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Communications, E-Communications Communications Product and Services. “Canada’s Response to the Conflict in Syria.” GAC. March 10, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2017.

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