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Tories accused of ignoring flood-ravaged Pakistan

In Canada on August 11, 2010 at 08:40

Tories accused of ignoring flood-ravaged Pakistan

Pakistani flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Pakistani flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan.

Laura Stone, Postmedia News · Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010

OTTAWA — A Liberal MP is accusing the Harper government of withholding aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan because the community in Canada won’t help them win a future election.

“When Haiti struck, and (the Conservative government) moved immediately; there was a lot of votes to be gained in Montreal in the areas where there is a lot of Haitians. There’s not one riding that has (a lot) of Pakistani-Canadian votes,” said MP Jim Karygiannis, who has worked in several countries following natural disasters.

“I don’t think that there’s enough votes in one particular constituency that (the Conservatives) can get,” he said, as a way of explaining why he believes the government is stalling.

Mr. Karygiannis is asking the government to immediately bump up its aid to Pakistan to $15-million from its already-pledged $2-million, as well as match donations made by community groups and non-government organizations in Canada up until Sept. 30.

He also wants the government to send the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team, made up of Canadian Forces personnel, to the country to help with medical needs and drinking water, and for the department of citizenship and immigration to speed along sponsorship applications and visitor visas for immediate family members of the Canadian-Pakistani community.

“We’re spending money like drunken sailors on other issues, why not dedicate these resources to the people that are in need?” said Mr. Karygiannis, who represents the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough-Agincourt.

There are some 125,000 Pakistanis and 102,000 Haitians living in Canada, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada report.

Many Haitians — up to 90,000 according to one estimate — reside in Montreal. Large communities of 20,000 to 30,000 Pakistanis live in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto, said Farooq Chaudhry, the president of the Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association.

A spokeswoman for Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda, who oversees the Canadian International Development Agency, fired back at Mr. Karygiannis for his comments.

“Canada is not ignoring the humanitarian disaster in Pakistan, and you can be sure that we are looking right now at our options to help the people of Pakistan every way we can,” said Isabelle Bouchard, without going into specific plans.

“This is not cheap politics. There are people right now that are suffering in Pakistan and we are looking at every way we can to help them, and we are not going to start doing small politics,” she added. “If the Liberals want to do small politics on the Pakistan people’s back, it’s their choice, but we’re not.”

According to the United Nations, 1,600 people have died so far in the Pakistani floods that began on July 22, with just under 14 million people said to be affected by the worse natural disaster in the fragile country’s history. It is estimated the damage costs are in the billions.

In February, Ms. Oda announced the government would match the $113-million donated by Canadians in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 225,000 people in Haiti.

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