Evidence of meeting #19 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Naaman Sugrue
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin  Special Rapporteur, Special Procedures Branch, United Nations, Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner
Lindsay Gladding  Director for Fragile and Humanitarian Programs, World Vision Canada
Farida Deif  Canada Director, Human Rights Watch
Taryn Russell  Head of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children Canada
Amilcar Kraudie  Humanitarian Advisor, Save the Children Canada
Justin Mohammed  Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
Juan Pappier  Americas Senior researcher, Human Rights Watch
Mario Gil Guzman  Sociologist and Popular Educator, Assemblée populaire de colombiens et colombiennes à la Ville de Québec, Carrefour d'animation et de participation à un monde ouvert

6:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call the meeting to order.

I am going to get started, members, because I want to bring up an item just before our meeting. I'm going to beg the indulgence of the witnesses while we do this.

I've received requests from a couple of our members to discuss an issue that has been sent to all members. It would be unfair to do this during our scheduled committee time with the witnesses who are coming before us today, so I've asked our clerk to put an in camera link for a quick five- to 10-minute meeting after our session concludes today, and I'm looking to the members right now to see if there is consensus to do that.

I see MP Sidhu. Please go ahead.

6:30 p.m.


Maninder Sidhu Liberal Brampton East, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

With regard to having an extension of this meeting, I've already got something. It's Ramadan Iftar. I have to attend right after this meeting, so that won't work. I don't know if we're able to do it at a later date, but I obviously want to be respectful to the witnesses who are here with us today and respect their time.

6:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I understand, and that is what's most important.

I don't think we have consensus, members, to do that at this time. I don't want to take up more time and I want to respect the witnesses. They are waiting to get started, so thank you.

6:30 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Naaman Sugrue

Before we begin, Mr. Chair, I need to test Monsieur Brunelle-Duceppe very quickly.

6:30 p.m.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC


So, I'm sorry, but I had some technical problems. My favourite clerk is going to do the checks. I hope there aren't any sound issues.

Good evening to all the witnesses and all my dear parliamentary colleagues.

Is it working?

6:30 p.m.

The Clerk

Everything's working well. Thank you.

You can continue, Mr. Chair.

6:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Okay, we'll get started.

Welcome, colleagues, to meeting number 19 of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights.

Today we meet to hear from witnesses for briefings on the situations in Turkey and northern Syria, followed by Colombia.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I would encourage all participants to mute their microphones when they're not speaking and to address all comments through the chair. When you have 30 seconds left in your questioning time, I'll signal you with this paper.

For our witnesses, interpretation in both official languages is available through a globe icon at the bottom of your screen. Please note that screen captures or photos are not permitted.

I would like to welcome our witnesses for the first panel on Turkey and northern Syria.

We have with us Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur, special procedures branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations; Lindsay Gladding, director for fragile and humanitarian programs at World Vision Canada; Farida Deif, Canada director at Human Rights Watch; Taryn Russell, head of policy and advocacy, and Amilcar Kraudie, humanitarian adviser, from Save the Children Canada; and Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner at Amnesty International Canada.

We'll begin with opening statements.

I invite Professor Ní Aoláin to give your opening statement, for up to five minutes.

6:30 p.m.

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin Special Rapporteur, Special Procedures Branch, United Nations, Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

Good afternoon.

I will just make the usual disclaimer that UN officials make at the beginning of such evidence, which is that my attendance before the standing committee is in my capacity as special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

I'm here to provide an informal, unsworn, oral briefing to the foreign affairs committee in the framework of the discussion on Syria and Iraq. Nothing in my remarks should be construed as a waiver, express or implied, of the privileges or immunities of the United Nations officials or experts, pursuant to the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. Thank you.

Let me make some generic remarks.

As you know, the mandate I hold has been intimately engaged with the situation of civilians, particularly women and children, who find themselves in northeast Syria, including a significant number of Canadian nationals. The mandate I hold, along with 15 other special procedure mechanisms of the United Nations, has issued a letter to 57 states, of whom Canada is one, that have their nationals currently held—women and children—in camps and in detention sites in northeast Syria.

This list, in my view, is not a list that any state wants to be on, because it is a list that defines a set of obligations to individuals in this territory and defines the failure of states to live up to their international obligations.

We have made clear in this letter that there are multiple and serious human rights violations taking place for your nationals, Canadian nationals, in the situation in northeast Syria. They include torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, including for Canadian children. They include the danger of, and actual, sexual and reproductive harm to women and to minors. They include arbitrary detention, risks to the right to life, restrictions on freedom of movement, denial of the right to non-discrimination, and the abrogation of the rights to education, health, and clean and safe water.

I have consistently affirmed the obligations of states, including Canada, to urgently repatriate their third country nationals.

Let me be clear that other states are doing this. My mandate works closely with a large number of states that have, even throughout the COVID pandemic, worked to ensure the safe return of their nationals. With the exception of one minor child, an orphan, Canada has not been among those states making large-scale returns.

I want to stress that your nationals are being held by non-state actors who have no legitimate basis to hold them.

The situation is worsening in the camps. The mandate has, for example, been aware in the last two weeks of a significant military incursion in the camps, a clearing out, and another data and biometric data-collecting exercise on persons held there. We remain deeply concerned about the gathering of information on third country nationals and the question of with whom that data will be shared.

Let me make a couple of brief remarks about a group that has not had much attention in the camps: adolescent boys, young boys under the age 18.

It's particularly concerning to me that while our attention has been on females—girls and mothers—there are a sizable number of adolescent boys being held in prison facilities on what appears to me to be multiple spurious grounds. Some of these facilities, including for Canadian nationals, have been described as rehabilitation camps. I would unreservedly voice my concern at the use of this nomenclature. There is no legal basis to justify the detention of any of the children being held in these so-called rehabilitation sites. None have been legally represented, no best-interest test has been applied to keep them there, and no child has meaningful exit from the camp unless Canada is prepared to take them back.

There is an obligation not just on human rights and moral grounds to return your women and children home, but also on security grounds.

The long-term security of this region and of all states will only be secured when all the individuals in the camps are returned or a safe process has been put in place for those who can't be returned on the basis of non-refoulement. Security and human rights are the basis for return, and both are imperatives.

Thank you.

6:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you.

Now we'll move to Ms. Lindsay Gladding.

6:40 p.m.

Lindsay Gladding Director for Fragile and Humanitarian Programs, World Vision Canada

Thank you so much, Chair and members of the committee, for inviting us to contribute to today's briefing on the situation in Turkey and northern Syria.

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. We work throughout the world in nearly 100 countries on the basis of need, with no strings attached. Here in Canada, we're supported by a network of 650,000 individuals and partners, including churches and university clubs.

The humanitarian consequences of a decade of fighting and displacement are clear: Humanitarian needs across Syria have risen by 20% since last year, with an estimated 13.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021.

The rights of Syrian girls and boys to be healthy, educated, protected and empowered are being severely undermined. Cross-border humanitarian assistance is a vital lifeline in helping to ensure that at a minimum, the right to assistance for Syrian children and families is upheld.

Children can be astoundingly resilient, but in Syria they have faced more than 10 years of relentless injury, death and destruction. As a result of a decade of war, they have lost their education, safety and family income, and their hope in a peaceful future. Children and their families live in constant fear of violence that threatens death or sexual assault, particularly against women and girls. World Vision's most recent assessment in northwest Syria indicated that every single girl we spoke to lives with the fear of being sexually assaulted and raped.

At least 1,435 schools and hospitals have been attacked—grave violations—preventing children from having the most basic rights to health care and education. Children who survive the air strikes, barrel bombs, ground attacks and siege strategies consistently face an unsafe reality and an uncertain future.

Of course, it's key to situate our response, as well as the broader operational environment, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial and health impacts of COVID-19 on communities already impacted by the decades-long conflict are devastating, particularly for those living in displacement and refugee camps and collective shelters in areas with limited health care.

An estimated 2.45 million girls and boys—or one in three—were already out of school by the end of 2019. The COVID-19 crisis has pushed an additional 50% out of education in the north of the country, resulting in two-thirds of children being out of school in northern Syria. Sadly, we know, of course, that girls are least likely to attend or return to school.

The Government of Canada is an important partner for our work in Syria, and we appreciate the financial commitments made to the Syria crisis in the recent budget. Our Canadian grants in northwestern Syria have focused on providing life-saving protection, health, water and sanitation, but I really want to stress the importance of dedicating sufficient funds to address the staggering humanitarian needs and ensuring the protection of children's rights.

I'd like to turn our attention to the important issue of cross-border humanitarian operations between Turkey and Syria.

The ability to provide cross-border assistance in Syria, initially through UN Security Council Resolution 2165 in 2014 and then its subsequent renewals, has been a vital lifeline to millions of people in Syria. It has allowed organizations like ours to reach people in spite of continued fighting and insecurity and in spite of severe access constraints, and has enabled humanitarian actors to ensure that those most in need are reached with assistance in a direct, safe, sustained and timely manner.

The scale of these operations is massive. Last year alone, the cross-border response allowed humanitarian actors to reach over 2.4 million people a month with life-saving food, nutrition assistance, education and critical medical supplies. Extended authorization of these operations by the UN Security Council is critical to support a pandemic response, including vaccinations in northwest Syria, where the first shipment of vaccines was received on April 22. It is deeply concerning that over the past years the number of border crossings available to humanitarian organizations has steadily decreased, placing additional constraints on humanitarian operations.

Let me conclude with two quick recommendations.

We urge the Government of Canada, through its permanent missions in New York and Geneva as well as through the ministerial level, to continue to strongly advocate a timely and unrestricted renewal of cross-border authorization.

We encourage Global Affairs Canada to make multi-year funding the expectation rather than the exception, providing the greatest flexibility for organizations like ours to have meaningful partnerships with local organizations.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to you today.

6:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you.

Now we'll hear from Ms. Farida Deif for five minutes, please.

6:45 p.m.

Farida Deif Canada Director, Human Rights Watch

Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members of Parliament, for inviting me to appear before the subcommittee.

I will focus my remarks today on the humanitarian crisis in northeastern Syria, given the gravity of the human rights abuses on the ground and the urgent need for this government to address the plight of Canadians trapped there.

As you know, 10 years of conflict have decimated Syria's infrastructure and social services, resulting in massive humanitarian needs and making millions reliant on aid, including many of the roughly two million people living in northeastern Syria in areas under the control of the Kurdish-led autonomous administration, the region's de facto government.

While much of the population doesn't have sufficient access to services—including health care, water, sanitation and shelter—the UN Security Council has unfortunately failed to maintain critical cross-border aid systems for northeastern Syria, making a desperate situation worse. Lest we think that this is a problem thousands of miles away that doesn't acutely affect Canadians, it's important for the subcommittee to recognize that dozens of Canadians, mostly children, remain detained in these life-threatening conditions amid growing insecurity, shortages of vital aid and a deadly global pandemic. These Canadians were detained by the Kurdish-led authorities two years ago after the fall of the Islamic State's so-called caliphate. The detainees include roughly 45 Canadians: eight men, 13 women and 24 children, most of whom are under the age of six.

The indefinite detention of these Canadians without their being brought before a judge to review the legality and necessity of their detention is both arbitrary and unlawful. The detention of Canadian women and children solely because of their ties to male ISIS suspects amounts to guilt by association and collective punishment, which is prohibited under international law.

The conditions in the northeastern Syrian camps and prisons holding these Canadians are life-threatening. According to humanitarian groups, more than 700 detainees in the al-Hawl and al-Roj camps—at least half of them children—have died in the past two years. The illness, filth and overcrowding in these prisons and camps have created a prime environment for the spread of COVID-19, which is increasing the despair of detainees and their families.

To be clear, these Canadians have no hope of leaving the detention camps and prisons of northeastern Syria without this government's intervention. Canada holds the keys to their release, but thus far, this government has consistently turned a blind eye, recycling the same excuses again and again to justify an unwillingness to spend political capital to repatriate Canadians with suspected ISIS ties. There is no repatriation plan for this specific group of Canadians. Consular officials have had little to no direct contact with detainees, much less lifted a finger to improve the conditions of their detention, nor has Canada helped verify citizenship for any of the detained children born in Syria to Canadian parents, leaving them effectively stateless.

Despite the Kurdish authorities' pleading with states to repatriate their nationals, Canada has only brought home two Canadian children, a five-year-old orphan and another young child in March, whose Canadian mother remains detained. While Canada may have obtained the mother's consent to repatriate her child alone, Human Rights Watch questions whether consent can be informed and voluntary for women indefinitely detained with no access to redress or counsel.

For over two years, Canada has flouted its international legal obligations to intervene when citizens abroad face serious abuses, including risks to life, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment. The growing humanitarian crisis and these Canadians' indefinite detention in appalling conditions make piecemeal returns untenable. All of these Canadians have the right to adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, mental and physical health, and fair trials. The children have the right to an education.

Repatriation also makes sense from a security standpoint. Orderly returns allow Canada to conduct individual assessments of each returnee, monitor them as appropriate and prosecute those who may have committed crimes, a critical step in redress for thousands of ISIS victims.

In closing, I appeal to members of the subcommittee to urge this government to repatriate, as a matter of urgency, all Canadians detained in northeastern Syria. Adult guardians should be brought home with their children, absent compelling evidence that separation is in the best interest of the child.

Pending repatriations, Canada should immediately increase consular assistance to—

6:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you. You'll have an opportunity during questions.

We'll now move to Ms. Taryn Russell for five minutes.

6:50 p.m.

Taryn Russell Head of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children Canada

Thank you.

My colleague will give our remarks.

6:50 p.m.

Amilcar Kraudie Humanitarian Advisor, Save the Children Canada

Thank you, and good evening.

I am Amilcar Kraudie, humanitarian adviser at Save the Children Canada. I am here with my colleague Taryn Russell, the head of policy and advocacy.

My comments today will be through the lens of Save the Children's experience working to address children's needs and rights in humanitarian development settings for more than 100 years.

Every year, Save the Children responds to close to 80 emergencies across 120 countries. We have been working to reach children affected by the war in Syria since 2012. We provide emergency and life-saving support, combined with early recovery activities that help restore basic services for children and their families. We welcome this opportunity to brief you on our key concerns for children in northern Syria and Turkey based on our work in this region.

The Syrian crisis for us is fundamentally first and foremost a protection crisis. More than 10 years of conflict continues to have a devastating impact on children inside Syria, as well as those displaced to neighbouring countries. Every child in Syria has been impacted by the ongoing violence and displacement. Violations of children's rights by all parties to the conflict continue, to varying degrees.

The convergence of conflict, COVID-19 and its control measures, and the seeming collapse of the Syrian currency are having profound effects on food security, education and other markers of well-being. Children's mental well-being is an increasing concern, as we are now seeing children resorting to taking their own lives. Almost one in five of all recorded suicide attempts and deaths in northwest Syria are children. The last three months of 2020 saw an 86% jump in suicide rates from the beginning of the year. These figures emerge among constantly deteriorating conditions for people in northwest Syria, including a substantial increase in the impact of COVID-19, poverty, a lack of education and employment, domestic violence, child marriages, broken relationships and bullying, all these in communities that have been reeling from a decade of conflict.

Mental health support is just one of the escalating needs we are seeing in northern Syria. It is estimated that 3.4 million people in northwest Syria alone are in need of humanitarian assistance and remain in areas outside of government control, only reachable with life-saving cross-border assistance. This cross-border assistance through the Bab al-Hawa crossing point in northern Idlib will only become more important, as it is needed to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. First shipments of the vaccine were received a few weeks ago. Without cross-border access, vaccination efforts in northwest Syria will be all but impossible.

We are particularly concerned about the impact this latest increase and accompanying lockdown will have on children, including the thousands of children who are detained in northeast Syria in camps and other detention settings because of links to ISIS. In the largest camp, al-Hawl, 43,000 out of its 65,000 total population are children. Because of COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews, they are less likely able to access medical services and facilities affecting their health, education and mental well-being. This crisis is made much worse by the closure of the Al Yarubiyah border crossing point last year, cutting off all vital supplies, including medicine and food, from the most vulnerable people, including children. There is no justification for preventing life-saving supplies from reaching people in need, particularly during a global pandemic.

On top of all of that, we do want to highlight that there is also now an increased concern around water scarcity and how that is also impacting multiple needs across the board.

Recognizing the deteriorating situation in northern Syria and escalating humanitarian needs, we offer the following recommendations for the Government of Canada.

First, it is imperative that life-saving aid continues to reach millions in need in northwest Syria, and the UN Security Council should, at a minimum, renew cross-border access through Bab al-Hawa for at least 12 months. The Government of Canada should use any diplomatic influence to ensure this happens.

Second, the international community should also recognize the escalating humanitarian needs in the country and increase humanitarian funding accordingly. It is shameful that the pledging conference for Syria fell so short of its target. This gap needs to be rectified urgently. We are grateful that Canada stepped up and did not cut funding like other donors; however, additional funds could support some of the urgent mental health needs I discussed earlier.

The situations in the camps in northeast Syria are challenging, and the camps are no place for children to grow up. Putting even COVID-19 aside, we regularly see children die or being injured by accidents. It is estimated that 9,000 foreign children are in the region, including about 25 Canadian children, so for our third recommendation, we urge the Government of Canada to increase its efforts to identify the most appropriate routes for repatriation in line with the best interests of the child.

Thank you for your time today.

6:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you. You were right on time.

Now we will move to Mr. Justin Mohammed for five minutes.

6:55 p.m.

Justin Mohammed Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for inviting me to participate in this briefing. I'm joining you tonight from unceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory in Ottawa.

Before I begin my testimony, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Library of Parliament analysts who serve this committee, a role that I once held and remember very fondly.

Mr. Chair, I intend for my testimony this evening to be an update to that which Amnesty International provided at the foreign affairs committee, exactly two months ago today, regarding detention camps in northeast Syria. This is an important international human rights issue that, as you know, directly implicates Canadian citizens.

Let me begin with the positive. In mid-March, a Canadian child was allowed to return to Canada from a camp in northeast Syria. After exiting that country, she is reported to have received consular services to facilitate her travel from Iraq to Canada, including the provision of travel documents.

Last week, Minister Garneau stated that he would be investigating how G7 countries have approached the question of repatriating their nationals from the prison camps in the northeast. This was also a very welcome development, and Canada could look to U.S. leadership in this regard. Not only has the U.S. repatriated its citizens, but it has also encouraged other countries to do the same, and has even offered to help with this task.

Regrettably, this is where the good news comes to an end. The humanitarian situation facing the people who are arbitrarily and indefinitely detained in the al-Hawl and al-Roj camps has not improved. Forty-five Canadian citizens, of whom roughly two dozen are children, remain in squalid camps that the UN experts have qualified as potentially amounting to torture or other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment under international law.

Such human rights violations are among the most serious, with these prohibitions contradicting peremptory norms of international law. In the case of children, such acts are downright unconscionable

Canadians continue to languish there, but it is not for want of a responsive policy framework. The consular manual boldly proclaims, “The torture or mistreatment of Canadian detainees is not tolerated.” Consular officials must “promptly advise the Minister...in writing if there is credible information indicating torture, and the Deputy Minister in cases indicating mistreatment.” Although “prompt” is undefined, a period of three months was deemed by the Auditor General to be unacceptable. This group of Canadians has been in detention for over two years.

The policies further provide that where such mistreatment concerns arise, a consular ad hoc working group on torture and mistreatment should assess whether the allegations are valid and advise on the management of these cases. Amnesty International has been informed that the minister has been advised of allegations of torture and mistreatment in Syria and that the ad hoc working group has been convened. Unfortunately, we do not know what advice the ad hoc working group has provided. A request to know when the minister was advised of the torture allegations and the outcome of those assessments has been refused. An access to information request about the provision of consular services to the detained Canadians remains unanswered one year after it was submitted.

Questions must be answered about the application of these policies to this group of Canadian citizens, who continue to be subject to daily human rights abuses with no end in sight.

One Canadian detainee's mother shared a recent message from her daughter: “Salaam, mom. How are you? They let out a bunch of sisters from the prisons throughout Ramadan, some at night with no tent to go to, the one who was locked in a toilet for three months, the ones who ate only tea and bread, the ones who got only five minutes of sun with their kids, the ones who had no change of clothes, the ones who were beat.”

Moreover, Canada's failure to resolve this situation presents a major credibility risk to many aspects of Canada's international human rights agenda. Consider, for example, Canada's recent initiative on state-to-state arbitrary detention or its efforts to pursue the Assad regime over crimes of torture committed since 2011. Such endeavours lack principle when Canada allows its own citizens to be held in arbitrary and indefinite detention in conditions that may constitute torture.

Similarly, Minister Garneau said that Canada's feminist foreign policy will be announced this spring. How can Canada promote a foreign policy based on gender equality when turning its back on vulnerable Canadians in Syria, many of whom report or have been threatened with gender-based violence?

Mr. Chair, in our previous testimony, Amnesty International offered four recommendations. I won't go over them for the sake of time, but I would conclude by offering one recommendation to this committee, which has admirably called out serious international human rights violations in so many contexts: Do not allow the violations in northeast Syria to escape your condemnation. It is rare that the mandate of this committee should overlap with human rights abuses suffered directly by a group of Canadian citizens.

Amnesty International encourages this committee to seize the moment to advocate on their behalf.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.

7 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Mr. Mohammed. Welcome back home to committee. It was great to hear about your history here and your work on the Hill.

We're going to move now to questions from members. Members, looking at the time, we will only have one round of questions. It will be seven minutes per member from each of the parties.

We're going to begin with Ms. Vandenbeld.

7 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I will split my time with Mr. Sidhu.

I thank all the witnesses for their incredible expertise and testimony today, much of it very startling.

I did have some questions, but I want to start by following up on something that Mr. Kraudie said in his testimony. I've been on this committee for a number of years. I've worked in international development all over the world in some of the most dangerous places, but I've never heard about children committing suicide, which is incredibly alarming to me. I think you mentioned something like.... I can't remember the statistic, but can you elaborate on that? That is something I don't think we have very often heard in situations like this. Could you tell us what is causing that and what we can do about it?

7 p.m.

Humanitarian Advisor, Save the Children Canada

Amilcar Kraudie

Perhaps allow me to expand, going back to that issue, on how we recognize at Save the Children that the fact that Syria has been in conflict for 10 years reflects on the wider international community.

As you might imagine, that has a long-term and protracted impact on the well-being of children themselves. That's the first point, which is that there has been no end to the plight, and you can imagine how this happening day in and day out deepens their trauma.

The second point is a salient issue that we've picked up on. It is that Syrian children, even overseas in different locations, also voice that they simply don't want to return to Syria, because for them it evokes images of horror and further trauma.

The whole concept of post-traumatic stress disorder that these children are facing in the coming generations is fairly significant, and we at Save the Children want to put that at the forefront of the durable solutions this specific group needs. Especially when we're talking about durable solutions for the Syrian population, this angle or this element of mental health and psychosocial support is absolutely critical.

7 p.m.

Head of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children Canada

Taryn Russell

I can add that one of the reasons for the recent jump is the surge of COVID cases and the associated lockdowns, which means children are out of school, which is often a safe space. Mental health is really affected by that, as we see here in Canada. Lockdowns, as well as the impact of COVID, also limit the ability of organizations to deliver mental health supports. That's one of the reasons for the recent surge in the last few months.

Thank you.

7 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you.

That was my next question—the impact of COVID and some of the measures that may have been taken to try to curb COVID-19. I will go back to either one of you, and also to Ms. Gladding, to answer that. Be aware that I only have about a minute and a half for that answer, and then I want to give the floor to my colleague.

7 p.m.

Head of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children Canada

Taryn Russell

Sure, I can continue quickly, and Lindsay may want to add anything from World Vision.

Yes, I think the closing of schools is a huge thing. We run safe spaces programs in schools, which are a really great way to reach out to children who have had a lot of trauma. As well, the lockdowns make it so that when children need to access services, they cannot. That's making it harder to reach them and making us think of more innovative ways to do that, which is part of the reason for the surge.

Lindsay, please add.

7 p.m.

Director for Fragile and Humanitarian Programs, World Vision Canada

Lindsay Gladding

I would add that the fear of COVID-19 infection is also hampering people's willingness to reach out for services when they need them. They have limited mobility and aren't able to reach out even when services are available.

7:05 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON


I'll give the floor to Mr. Sidhu.