Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.
Since it has been one year since I was elected to represent the riding of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, I would like to take a moment to thank my constituents for their support.
I would also like to recognize the traditional land of the Kanien’kehaka or Mohawk people, on which my riding, Tiotake, is situated, with a small greeting:
[Member spoke in Mohawk as follows:]
That is appropriate in the context, because it is a peace greeting.
I have the honour, but also the heavy burden, of rising today to discuss a topic of great importance, genocide, and the motion moved by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill.
When we talk about genocide, our thoughts immediately turn to the Shoah and the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War, particularly against the Jews.
As a human being, it is easy and even natural to get angry and upset. However, as legislators, we have to remain calm and deliberate in our words and actions. Often, our words are all we have and they have a major impact not only here in Canada but also throughout the world.
In 1948, in light of the atrocities committed during the Second World War, the United Nations adopted the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This document has two important components: prevention and punishment.
Too often, in these debates, the emphasis is put on repression, on punishment for the crimes committed. However, that is not the most important thing. After the Shoah, when the entire world said, “never again”, there was talk of prevention and a world where mass burials would be a thing of the past.
Yet it has happened several times since 1948. Srebrenica. Rwanda. And now, the Yazidis, and perhaps even other religious groups, such as Shia Muslims. As lawmakers, it is our duty to interpret the words in a legal sense, and the legal definition of the word “genocide” differs significantly from what most people think it means.
Here is the definition according to the convention on the prevention of genocide:
...genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Whether genocide has taken place by mass killing or via any of the other categories I just mentioned turns on whether the perpetrator had a specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, or religious group. Crimes against humanity, on the other hand, include a much wider range of offences and lack the specific intent to destroy a group in question as such. Both are despicable.
The confusion between these two types of crimes in a previous motion by the official opposition was the reason that many of my colleagues on this side of the House voted against it. Unfortunately, today, we have been unable to achieve consensus among the parties, and partisanship has consumed us.
The motion we have proposed to the other side reads as follows: “That the House (a) recognize that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi people; (b) acknowledge that many Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive by ISIS as sexual slaves; (c) support recommendations found in the June 15, 2016, report issued by the United Nations Commission on Inquiry on Syria entitled, “They came to destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”: and (d) call on the government to take action as soon as possible upon all the recommendations found in sections 210, 212, and 213 of the said report, undertake best efforts to provide asylum within 120 days to the victims of ISIS, including the Yazidi people who have experienced rape, torture, prolonged captivity, sexual slavery, and other atrocities.”
In the case of the Yazidis, the evidence not only of crimes against humanity but also of the crime of genocide is overwhelming, as detailed in the report of the UN Human Rights Council issued on June 15 of this year.
These horrific crimes cannot be ignored. We as human beings, not just as parliamentarians, have an obligation to turn the spotlight on the plight of the Yazidis. That is why, in the little time I have today, I want to share with you a small glimpse of the horrors they have lived and continue to live.
As the report indicates, on August 3, 2014, fighters from Daesh swept in across Sinjar in northern Iraq, home to the majority of the world's Yazidis, whose religious community and beliefs span thousands of years and who are publicly reviled and condemned by Daesh. Within days of the attack, Daesh is alleged to have committed systematic, unimaginable atrocities against the Yazidi community: men were forced to choose between converting or being killed; women and girls, some as young as nine, were sold at market and held in sexual slavery by Daesh fighters; and boys were ripped from their families and forced into Daesh training camps.
During its investigation in Syria, the UN commission determined that Daesh had forcibly transferred and continues to forcibly transfer thousands of Yazidi women and children into Syria. It is estimated that at least 3,200 Yazidi women and girls remain captives of Daesh, the majority of whom are held inside Daesh-controlled areas of Syria. It has not been possible to estimate the number of Yazidi boys who have been or are being trained by Daesh forces, though it is clear that many such boys are trained and then forced to fight during Daesh-led offensives.
The witness testimony is compelling. One of them wrote:
After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men. They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats.
That is testimony from a 16-year old girl who was held for seven months and sold once.
I think at this juncture, these acts and many others, coupled with Daesh's intent to wipe out this group as such, clearly establish for the House the undeniable evidence of genocide. Having identified these heinous crimes, we have an obligation as human beings, acting according to the dictates of our conscience, and as a nation that is party to the genocide convention, to act.
As outlined in the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, factors to consider when assessing whether we have discharged our obligations under the genocide convention include whether the state has the capacity to influence effectively the actions of persons likely to commit, or already committing, genocide. Therefore, let us discuss Canada's actions.
One year ago, Daesh was in control of significant territory in Iraq and Syria and was able to project an image of semi-permanence, attracting foreign fighters from around the world, and generating significant revenue from oil sales and illicit financial transactions. Now, almost a year later, Daesh is not the same organization it was at the end of 2015. The momentum against Daesh has clearly shifted along all lines of effort.
Our government's strategy, through the coalition of 65 countries, continues to make a difference as the situation on the ground shifts, in particular, for the millions of people who are suffering as a result of the conflicts in the region. By contributing to the military campaign, supporting stabilization efforts, and countering the flow of foreign fighters and Daesh's financing and its despicable narrative, Canada is helping to address some of the deeper drivers of the conflict and helping to build a stable and secure future for the region's people. We are taking this broad approach to ensure that another terrorist organization does not simply fill the void once Daesh is defeated. To that end, Canada has tripled the number of Canadian Armed Forces members advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces, and is providing assistance to the Kurdish peshmerga, in particular, through the provision of training and equipment. On the intelligence level, we have provided two CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft to enhance the intelligence and reconnaissance provided to the coalition's military efforts.
Canada's efforts will also include the clearing of improvised explosive devices. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced at the July Iraq pledging conference, co-hosted by Canada in Washington, we will contribute to a U.S.-led initiative to clear lEDs in areas liberated from Daesh to facilitate the return of displaced populations. As of today, Canada will commit an additional $2 million to removing IEDs from Nineveh, one of the most affected provinces in Iraq.
Canada is contributing $3.3 million to the Commission for International Justice and Accountability's investigation of crimes committed by Daesh in Iraq. As indicated previously, Canada's contributions are comprehensive and integrated into the coalition's efforts. Now we have to keep up that support if we want to succeed, and the Iraqi people need to know that Canada is with them for the long haul.
May I be so bold as to conclude my speech with the words that General Dallaire used to sign off his fateful message to the United Nations, words that seem just as fitting here: “Where there's a will, there's a way. Let's go.”