Chretien on the election warpath, says Harper has shamed Canada

Jean Chretien celebrates his 80th birthday
Former prime minister Jean Chretien saluts after addressing the Liberal Party leadership in Ottawa, Sunday April 14, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

OTTAWA – Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien injected himself into the federal election campaign Saturday with a scathing critique of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy.

In a blistering, open letter to three newspapers, Chretien accused the Conservative leader of shredding Canada’s international reputation as a peace-seeking, progressive and compassionate country.

And he charged that Harper’s “cold-hearted reaction” to the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis has “shamed Canada in the eyes of Canadians and of the international community.”

The letter, published in the Globe and Mail, Le Devoir and La Presse, was just the first of a triple-pronged attack by Chretien. Later Saturday he made similar comments at a campaign rallly for an Ottawa Liberal candidate. He is scheduled to appear at a rally and media availability Sunday with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Hamilton.

In an apparent bid to blunt the force of Chretien’s indictment, the Conservatives held a hastily arranged news conference Saturday to announce $100 million in additional humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees. Harper is also expected to announce within days measures to accelerate the process of resettling Syrian refugees in Canada.

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Harper promised earlier this year to accept 10,000 refugees over three years and, since calling the election last month, has promised to bring in another 10,000 over the next four years. So far, fewer than 2,500 Syrian refugees have been brought to Canada.