Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
I met the Morad family earlier this spring. They're a Yazidi family. It's a seven-member household headed by Gule, who is in her early thirties. She is responsible for an elderly mother, a severely disabled adult sister, and four girls between the ages of five and 13.
Gule herself was held captive by ISIS and horrifically abused, as was her young daughter. All the male members of their household were murdered: her husband, her father, her brother, her uncle, and her infant nephew. They witnessed many of these murders. One surviving male family member, Gule's brother, is now in northern Iraq in a refugee camp waiting to come to Canada. He is desperate to come and help them.
Because of all this trauma and current stress, I've seen little or no progress in Gule's ability to learn English over the last seven months or so. She's been taking classes. She's been attending regularly and trying very hard, but I believe the stress and the trauma are preventing her from learning English.
Her oldest daughter in particular is struggling as well. She loves school, but she's filled with anxiety. On the first day of school in September, she was attending a new junior high school. She had to walk several blocks and take two buses to get there, and she became very overwhelmed. She and her mother decided she would no longer be put through that, and so she stopped attending school after the first day. Just before Thanksgiving in October, I happened to stop by the house during the day and found the 13-year-old at home. I asked Dunia what she was doing at home. She told me the situation. I asked her if she wanted to go to school. She fell to her knees crying and shaking and saying she wanted to go to school but didn't know how.
I immediately went back to work and phoned the principal of the school, who was absolutely amazing. He was mortified that this had happened and called an emergency meeting that evening. The next morning and every day since, Dunia has been picked up by a taxi and taken to and from school. But she went 40 days without attending school, crying at home, and nobody noticed. There were no calls from the school. I don't say this to criticize the school. They handled it very well in the end, but I don't understand how that happened to this little girl.
They have some wonderful volunteers in their lives who have done a really good job of taking them on outings, but it's very difficult. One of the issues is that the severely disabled sister, who has some form of cerebral palsy it seems, cannot walk, cannot communicate. She's absolutely housebound. They've been here for seven to nine months, and there is no wheelchair access in or out of the home. It's up to these very slight women to try to carry her down cement steps in and out of the house. I don't understand how that happened. I'm working with volunteers to try to get a ramp installed.
Gule was sold hourly as a slave to members of ISIS for months. She is very traumatized. The daughter is very traumatized. They wake up in the night crying and screaming. When I go to visit, the elderly mother spends much of her time weeping with her apron over her head. She has flashbacks. She relives memories over and over. I'm really uncertain as to the kind of mental health help this family is getting. I know there were some group sessions early on—Gule told me that—but translation services were cut off for the family six months after they arrived here, so mostly how I communicate with them now is through pictures and acting things out. I've seen very little progress in mental health as well. Kifshe, the elderly mother, will not leave her disabled daughter's side, so she is not getting out either.
I asked Gule what she would like me to tell the committee. She said, “Please, please, my sister and my mother need fresh air. They need to get outside. We need a ramp. We need help.” The other thing she told me was, “Please, why is my brother not allowed to come to Canada?” It's almost a year that he's been waiting, and I don't have a good answer for her as to why this fully capable, willing-hearted, adult man has not been brought to help this family.
I asked the 13-year-old daughter, Dunia, what she would like me to tell the committee. She said, “Please bring my uncle. We need help. My mom needs help.” She said, “Please bring my father as well”, which alarmed me, because I knew that Dunia knew her father had died. I asked Gule why she was asking to bring her father. Gule told me that she's not doing well. From what I can tell, Dunia is really deteriorating. She's regressing. Gule doesn't really know how to express this to me, so please forgive these words, but this is what Gule said to me, “Please, I'm crazy. My daughter is crazy. We need help.” I know they're not crazy, but I know that's the only way she knows how to express herself. They realize they are in mental distress, and they do need help.