"Your government uses tax dollars to pay for senators' second homes, while condemning families fleeing war to die at sea. There is blood on your hands," climate activist Sean Devlin said, when asked by National Observer what he would say to Prime Minister Stephen Harper if he could meet him face-to-face.
Devlin is reportedly facing charges for resisting arrest and obstruction of justice after attending Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign event in Surrey, B.C. He wore a T-shirt with the slogan "Aylan should be here," referencing the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey during his family's desperate journey to reach Canada. Alan Kurdi (his name was misspelled 'Aylan' in earlier reports), his five-year-old brother Ghalib, and his mother all drowned when their boat capsized at sea. Images of the toddler's lifeless body on the beach sparked international outrage and renewed calls for action to take in Syrians displaced by war.
Outrage over Syrian refugees' treatment
The Harper government has been under fire for allegedly rejecting the Kurdi family's refugee application, and ignoring calls from the UN to take in more refugees. Citizenship and Immigration minister Christopher Alexander suspended his campaign today after media reported that he had received a letter from the young boy's aunt — who immigrated to Canada 20 years ago — to consider helping their family. The application, which turned out to be that of the boy's uncle Mohammed Kurdi, was not accepted.
At the Surrey campaign stop, Harper denied that the Canadian government rejected the Kurdi family's refugee application, and argued Canadians needed to do "more of everything" to address Syria's humanitarian crisis — including more military strikes against ISIS.
"It brings tears to our eye,” Harper said, of the Kurdi family's deaths. “It truly is a heartbreaking situation and a terrible tragedy.”
A history of challenging the Harper government
Devlin, who has worked with U.S. activist group the Yes Men, made national headlines last year when he and a No One is Illegal activist stood on the stage behind Harper event in Vancouver, holding signs that read "Climate Justice Now" and "The Conservatives Take Climate Change Seriously." Devlin and his co-conspirator, Shireen Soofi, had entered the event dressed as servers.
A Canadian of mixed Filipino and Irish descent, Devlin has campaigned in recent years to bring more attention to how Canada's rising carbon emissions contribute to climate instability, with extreme weather events such as typhoon Haiyan causing hundreds of deaths in the Philippines.
In 2013, Devlin was among a group of activists disrupted the Enbridge Northern Gateway hearings in Vancouver. Police arrested Devlin and his group, including Council of Canadians campaigner Brigette DePape (known as the former 'rogue page' who held up a "Stop Harper" sign in Parliament), for drawing attention to climate change at a public hearing about the controversial oil sands pipeline.