Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join the debate late in the evening tonight. I appreciate that much has already been said on this subject, the crisis in Iraq. My remarks tonight will probably be a bit brief, but I hope to bring out a few aspects concerning our humanitarian response to the crisis in Iraq and maybe a few comments that will overview and wrap up the debate tonight. I do appreciate this opportunity.
I will be sharing my time with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular Services.
On September 5, the Prime Minister announced that a small number of Canadian Forces members would be deploying to northern Iraq: advisers and technical assistants on a non-combat mission. This is the latest of a series of actions that Canada has taken since last January to protect Iraqi citizens from the brutal persecution by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or ISIS, which are the various names by which it chooses to be known.
We have seen armed violence that has forced masses of people to flee their homes and their communities. It has created havoc in the entire country. We have all witnessed the brutal advance of ISIS and ISIL forces. We have seen the images on television of the mass murder of disarmed Iraqi soldiers, rape, pillage, convert-or-die edicts and the brutal death by beheading of American and British hostages. All Canadians are aware of the carnage that is going on under the force known as ISIS or ISIL.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in Iraq to date, an estimated 1.7 million have been displaced throughout Iraq and countless more are under threat. The surviving people—children, elderly people, women and men—are living in dire conditions. Thousands have taken refuge in schools, churches, mosques and unfinished buildings. Some are trapped in contested areas with no access to food, water or medical care and are extremely vulnerable to more armed attacks. In regions hosting large numbers of displaced people, local hospitals and clinics are under extreme pressure.
Recent clashes in the Kurdish region of Iraq have led to concerns that the situation will worsen. Let us remember that in the last few years some 215,000 Syrian refugees have already created an acute stress on essential services in that region and have sought safety in the Kurdish regions.
Canadians understand the actions we have undertaken. Our response to this crisis is a direct reflection of our own values, of our understanding that a country like ours cannot stand idly by while millions of Iraqi civilians are suffering.
Since the beginning of 2014, Canada has allocated more than $28 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Of this, $19 million is in response to the recent civil unrest and almost $10 million is in response to the needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq. It makes us one of the largest donors in response to the crisis. In fact, I believe we are the fifth largest donor to date.
With these funds, lives have already been saved. Food and clean water is being brought to displaced people in need. The camp supplies, tents and basic humanitarian needs are being delivered. Camps are being constructed through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to provide displaced people with shelter, and measures are being taken to protect people from violence. More important, health services and medical supplies are being made available to respond to the urgent needs of displaced populations.
Canada has delivered relief through four Canadian agencies, which have been mentioned earlier tonight: the Canadian Red Cross, Save the Children, Development and Peace and Mercy Corps. The Red Cross, for example, has been supplied through Canada's warehouse in the International Humanitarian City in Dubai. Many Canadians may not have heard of the IHC, the International Humanitarian City, in Dubai. It is a logistics centre for humanitarian aid, with some 9 UN agencies and more than 40 non-governmental organizations, and they are focused on the delivery of aid in crises and long-term development aid.
Supplies are being delivered and distributed through the Red Cross and through Save the Children, and they are saving lives. Kitchen sets are helping to feed the hungry, and tents are providing temporary shelter and a place for the weary to get some rest and shelter. Hygiene kits and mosquito nets are preventing the spread of diseases.
For all these actions on the humanitarian front, Canada is showing that it stands with the people of Iraq.
It is important to recognize that since the beginning of 2014, $20 million has been invested in Iraq. Before the ISIS onslaught, Iraq had been added to our list of targeted countries for development, a new partner, a recipient of Canadian investment and programming. We were working at that time on re-establishing schools and educational infrastructure. However, all the efforts to help establish normalcy and advance the situation for traumatized civilians, and Iraqi children in particular, for education, and to establish security, are now threatened by the ISIS invasion.
I had the privilege of visiting Jordan earlier this year and witnessing first hand the enormous human tragedy of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians seeking refuge in the camps in Jordan. I saw the enormous efforts and the compassion of the Jordanian soldiers at a frontier border crossing. They were helping men, women and children who were carrying what belongings they could bring with them across a frontier border seeking safety.
The Jordanians are doing a heroic job with support from Canada. They expressed support. We have provided them directly with ambulances. I know these Jordanian soldiers told us how much they appreciated Canada's assistance and also how much they appreciated that we came out to the frontier to witness what they were doing in trying to help people on the front lines. However, we should make no mistake, as the member for Mount Royal mentioned earlier, Jordan is also in the crosshairs of ISIS as are other countries in the region. It is out to destabilize the entire area in expanding its state.
The threat posed by ISIS is not something the western world can afford to ignore or take lightly. We cannot sit back and say “Well, it's over there. It doesn't affect us”. The brutality unleashed by this force is evil personified. It is religiously driven, but without moral restraint or regard for human life or dignity. It is a force that must be faced head on with the collective wisdom and resources of the nations. We cannot turn our backs on the religious and cultural communities targeted for conversion, exploitation or destruction.
Yazidis have been driven from their villages. Men have been separated from their families and murdered, women and girls raped, or selected for forced marriages to ISIS fighters or sold as sex slaves. Christian communities that have survived for 2,000 years are being similarly decimated by ISIS.
Tonight we have outlined Canada's response in providing what we have such as military transport planes, our Globemaster C-17 carrying mega-tonnes of suppliers, in many cases from our allies, non-combat military gear, helmets, body armour, tents and relief supplies for the people in peril. We are also sending in military advisers to help the fighters in the northern region in Kurdistan organize and be effective in pushing back against ISIS and protecting the civilians who have come to them for shelter.
Together with our partners in the family of civilized nations we need to find a way to contain this plague of terror. May God grant us collectively the wisdom, the strategy, the courage and the determination to see this evil contained and defeated.