OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls it a "sick joke" that the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad could get a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.
"It would do irreparable damage to the United Nations and likely would be the biggest blow that the United Nations has taken since its formation," Baird said during a teleconference Friday after the Friends of Syria meeting in Paris. "What Assad needs to be facing is the International Criminal Court to face charges for committing crimes against humanity, he and his henchmen."
Syria is a candidate in the 2013 election for seats on the council.
The council condemned Syria on Friday for human rights violations, but UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer says it watered down a U.S. proposal to specifically rule out Syria's candidacy.
"We had a reference that all countries need to the meet the standards of membership, but there was no express rejection of Syria's candidacy," Neuer told QMI Agency. "At this point, the possibility that Syria will run next year is still on the table."
Neuer says it's also worrisome that Canada and other western governments haven't spoken out about Pakistan and Venezuela likely winning council seats in November.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly criticized the governments of both countries.
Canada singles out Russia as obstacle to peace in Syria
Canada is backing up blunt criticism of Russia and China for defending Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad instead of working through the United Nations Security Council to isolate his regime.
Following the international Friends of Syria conference in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Moscow and Beijing to "pay a price" for their defence of Assad.
Asked about Clinton's comments, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird singled out Russia.
"It is not merely blocking UN Security Council sanctions, it is enabling this regime to soldier on," Baird said from Paris. "They need to reflect on the role they want to play in the civilized world."
He also said the UN is "losing relevance" because of Russia's stance on Syria.
Following calls for tougher sanctions against the Assad regime, Baird announced that Canada has now banned exports of goods and technology to Syria that could be used for "internal repression" or for "the production of chemical and biological weapons."
Canada has also banned financial transactions with the Syria International Islamic Bank and the Syrian National Security Bureau.
That came as Syria's army took control of the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria.
"The Free Army withdrew from the town last night after it ran out of ammunition," rebel spokesman Abu Hamam said Friday. "Assad's army is in control. They are burning the houses. They have burned my own house."
Opposition activists say more than 15,000 people have been killed in the uprising.
Diplomats at the Paris conference have agreed to "massively increase" aid to Syria's rebels by sending them communications equipment.
However, western governments are leery about putting more weapons in the hands of rebels, who remain badly divided and include significant numbers of Islamists who could turn around and support international terrorism.
Canada is adding $1 million to the $7.5 million in humanitarian assistance already announced for Syrian civilians.
"Per capita, we're just about among the top donors of any country in the world," Baird said.
In response, Liberal foreign affairs critic Dominic LeBlanc issued a late-day news release accusing the Conservatives of inadequate “press-release diplomacy” when other countries have doubled their aid for Syria.
-- with files from Reuters