Conservatives blast Sajjan for linking Syrian conflict to climate change
Published Thursday, February 4, 2016 6:18PM EST
Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan responds to a question in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
The Conservatives chastised the defence minister in question period Thursday for remarks he made in a speech last week linking the start of the Syrian civil war to climate change.
Defence critic James Bezan said “the defence minister is blaming climate change for ISIS.”
“Does the defence minister actually believe that climate change creates jihadi terrorists?” he asked.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan responded that, due to the “complexity of conflict, you have to look (at) many different aspects of what causes it.”
“When it comes to ISIL, Taliban, Boko Haram and the atrocities that they commit, we have to be smart about it,” Sajjan added.
In his speech at the Canada 2020 conference last Friday, Sajjan spoke of how a failure to understand “ripple effects” led to military failures in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.
Sajjan gave climate change as an example of an issue “creating grievances in many different parts of the world.”
“Not a big deal when you talk about climate change on isolation, but put it into an area of Africa or Syria,” Sajjan said. “When the cost of food started to go up and people started to complain … that was that little clue.”
“Find me a crisis of this magnitude where coalitions need to be put together,” he went on. “I will find you a grievance which started it all.”
Sajjan is not the first public figure to link climate change and rising food prices to the civil war in Syria.
Prince Charles said in November that "one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria" was a long drought, which he said was caused by climate change.
Last March, U.S. researchers reported that a drought from 2007 to 2010 was two to three times more likely to have been caused by climate change than natural variability alone.
The researchers called the drought served a “catalyst” for the Syrian conflict.
The Council on Foreign Relations traces the current civil war back to protests that erupted in March 2011 in the city of Daraa.
The think tank says those protests were in response to security forces detaining a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. Four demonstrators were killed that month, igniting more protests.
Since the start of civil war, more than 250,000 people have been killed, 4.6 million have fled the country, and 6.6 million have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.