Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.
I would like to recognize the fact that Nadia Murad is going to be arriving in Ottawa sometime later today and will be staying in the area for the next four to five days. We certainly want to thank her for taking the time to join us here in Ottawa.
I know it has been said before, and I want to repeat it because I think it is important. Nadia is a Yazidi woman who was captured by ISIS, endured unimaginable horrors, and by the grace of God escaped. She has told her story repeatedly around the world, hoping that decision-makers will listen and act to help the Yazidi community in Iraq and Syria.
The plight of the Yazidis is very real and extremely devastating. Even though Canada is thousands of miles away, I believe that as a country we have a moral obligation and responsibility to speak up for this vulnerable community as they endure systematic extermination at the hands of the murderous ISIS terrorists. ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, located in parts of Iraq and Syria, has been one of the most, if not the most, talked about global issue for the last number of years.
Many victims of ISIS atrocities have come forward and told their horrific stories. The horrors ISIS members have inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including Nadia will long be remembered. These events will be painfully added to the list of genocides of modern times. We see clear evidence and listen to personal accounts of genocide, systematic rape, sexual slavery, beatings, and mass graves inflicted upon the Yazidi people.
How is Canada helping the Yazidis? We say we are monitoring the situation and we are sending people on fact-finding missions. However, it is really not a difficult situation to grasp. The Yazidis are dying at the hands of ISIS barbarians and Canada must start playing its part, and not just through monetary aid that may or may not help Yazidis directly.
Canada needs to step up and bring more Yazidis here for safety. Given the circumstances, this needs to happen now. It has already been proven that ISIS terrorists have been deliberately and systematically targeting the Yazidi people. It is not up for debate. It is actually a fact.
In August 2014, ISIS invaded the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, home to the majority of the world's Yazidis. They are a community that is thousands of years old, with its own beliefs and practices. For having a different set of beliefs and practices, along with a different religion, ISIS began systematically killing, raping, enslaving, and forcibly displacing Yazidis.
As a religious minority in the region, Yazidis were, and are still, caught in the struggle to survive ISIS brutality. Estimates say that at least 5,000 Yazidis have been massacred, and 3,200 women and children are still being held captive by ISIS. Sexual slavery is the most common role for the captured Yazidi women.
ISIS barbarians pay no regard to whether the women are married, unmarried, or have children or no children. Just to paint a picture, because it is absolutely necessary to expose ISIS, these murderous terrorists sell Yazidi women and girls in slave markets like cattle. It is unbelievable what has happened there. Sometimes ISIS fighters buy a group of Yazidi females, take them into rural areas that do not have a slave market, and sell them individually at higher prices. It is unimaginable that something like this is possible in 2016.
The Yazidis have suffered and continue to suffer immense physical and psychological torture. That is also not up for debate. It is also a fact. If they attempt to escape, the punishments are severe and extreme, including brutal beatings and sometimes execution.
There are far too many stories of horrific atrocities committed against the Yazidi people, things that we could never even fathom happening here in Canada. Personal accounts like that of a 16-year-old girl, which I know was mentioned by other members of the opposition and government members, who spent seven months as a sex slave to an ISIS fighter and was forced to watch them behead fellow Yazidis. There is the story of a Yazidi woman held for 16 months and sold three times, who then asked her captor about her children. She asked, “What did you do to them?” To which he replied, “They are kafir”, meaning non-Muslim children, “It is good they are dead. Why are you crying for them?”
There are far too many heart-wrenching accounts of Yazidi women in ISIS captivity: Yazidi women scratching and bloodying themselves to make themselves more unattractive to prevent potential ISIS buyers, Yazidi women committing suicide in ISIS holding sites, Yazidi women and girls committing suicide by cutting their wrists and throats, while others are hanging themselves with their head scarves. Many of these accounts are detailed in the report of the UN commission on the inquiry into Syria.
The report makes it unequivocally clear that, “ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis”.
The Yazidi community is still under threat of extermination by ISIS, especially now that ISIS is getting desperate and fighting for its own survival. Improving conditions and saving Yazidi lives must be made a priority for Canada now and into the future. Canada must play its part. We cannot turn a blind eye to the situation. History will not be kind to us if we do nothing for the Yazidis.
The government recently announced it will contribute $200 million in foreign aid and that aid will go to the Government of Iraq for economic reforms. These funds are important and critical for security and stability; I understand that. However, it is hard to see how this money will actually help the devastation and desperation of the Yazidi people. The government has said very little regarding bringing more Yazidi refugees to Canada and at this point the only thing that it has done is send a team on a fact-finding mission, which actually returned yesterday, to confirm what we already know, that the Yazidis suffer genocide and that they are in desperate need of help.
So far the government seems to be in full support or willing to comply with everything the UN asked for, so why is it not acting on the UN report recommendations to “Accelerate the asylum applications of Yazidi victims of genocide” and “Put in place a protocol for the care and treatment of Yazidis”? These recommendations are not asking Canada to put money in the hands of Iraqi government officials and hope for the best thereafter. The recommendations are clearly asking for direct aid, direct help, and direct involvement in bringing Yazidis to safety.
That is why I call on the government to support the recommendations found in the June 15, 2016, report issued by the United Nations commission on the inquiry in Syria. In terms of humanitarian aid, I am not sure if the government really thought through the $200-million plan to help Iraqi economic reforms, when that $200 million or maybe even part of that could have gone toward helping the community that is under constant threat, desperately in need of aid, and systematically being massacred.
It is safe to say that the majority of Canadians would agree with this. I am also not sure if the Liberals really thought through their decision to vote down our motion in June of this year. The motion urged the government to take action on the ongoing genocide Yazidis are facing by recognizing the crimes against Yazidis as genocide. The motion was non-partisan in nature and it was supported by the NDP. Two days following the vote, the UN proclaimed what we already knew, that the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria were facing systematic extermination. The UN named these crimes against Yazidis for what they were, genocide. Only then did the government choose to call it a genocide.
Nadia testified in front of our Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration this summer. She said, “After I was freed, I thought that the world would bring justice to us, that the world would be fair to us. But still nothing has happened.” These are chilling words that paint a very real picture. The world needs to do more to protect the Yazidi people, so let us start right here at home.
Let us review the selection process used by the United Nations to identify refugees for the government-sponsored refugee stream and encourage changes if we think changes are necessary. The system can be improved upon to help Yazidis come to Canada faster and in larger numbers. After all, those who have suffered genocide are the Yazidis; therefore, it makes perfect sense to prioritize them for asylum in Canada.
The citizenship and immigration committee heard many concerns about lengthy, sometimes more than five-year waits given to the Yazidi victims of genocide by the UNHCR for refugee selection appointments. Many victims of genocide are unable to stay in refugee camps. This happens due to financial concerns and worries that they will be revictimized in camps. Revictimized once again because of who they are, Yazidis.
The committee also heard another disappointing fact, the fact of discrimination against Yazidis by UN representatives in the UN refugee camps. The sad reality is that very few Yazidis have been recommended for resettlement to Canada and the United Nations. This is the major issue the government must take a closer look at as soon as possible.
This past summer on the steps of Queen's Park, I, along with the hon. members for Thornhill and Calgary Nose Hill, marked the second anniversary of the genocidal attack on the Sinjar region. We called on the government to help the Yazidi people in Iraq and Syria. We now repeat this call and ask the government to once again consider a more focused approach to helping the Yazidis. That includes fully recognizing that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi people, acknowledging that many Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive by ISIS as sexual slaves, and providing the House with a viable plan and the corresponding acts required to respond to this humanitarian crisis. Also considering the magnitude of the situation, the government must consider providing asylum for Yazidi women and girls within 120 days.
It is about time this happened and it is without a doubt the right thing to do.