September 12, 2015 / 7:50 PM / 3 years ago

Canada creates emergency relief fund to aid Middle East refugees

Canada's Industry Minister Christian Paradis speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will create an emergency relief fund by matching the donations of Canadians to assist refugees in conflict zones in the Middle East, the minister of international development said on Saturday.

The government will match contributions donated to registered Canadian charities, up to a maximum of C$100 million ($75.43 million).

“These funds will be used to help meet the basic needs of conflict-afflicted people in the region including shelter, food, health and water as well as protection and emergency education,” Christian Paradis said at a news conference in Ottawa.

“The fund will also be used to provide assistance in some transit countries for refugees.”

The Canadian government’s response to the refugee crisis came under fire after a Syrian toddler’s body washed up on a Turkish beach, and it emerged that the child’s family had wanted to emigrate to Canada. The revelation rattled Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s re-election bid.

The center-left opposition Liberals and New Democrats, leading the ruling Conservatives in most polls ahead of an Oct. 19 election, have railed against Canada’s slow refugee process and pledged to do more to accept additional refugees from the war in Syria.

Earlier on Saturday, Canadian Defense Minister Jason Kenney said the government will introduce more measures, including fast-tracking the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada. In an interview on CBC Radio, Kenney said the government will focus on speeding up the process for religious and ethnic minorities in the region.

Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by David Gregorio

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