Mr. Speaker, to start, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.
It is an honour to speak to today's opposition day motion on the plight of the Yazidi people. I would like to start by reflecting on how Canadians have helped the oppressed around the world.
A good friend of mine worked with an NGO in Afghanistan for decades. Her role with this NGO was to help widowed women and their families, especially young girls, and teach them how to run businesses and look after their families as they survived wartorn Afghanistan.
When the Taliban took over, she was forced to leave and ended up working with displaced Afghan women and children in Pakistan. It was the world's military effort to go after the Taliban, including Canada's great sacrifice of our own men and women in our Armed Forces, that made it possible for her to return to Afghanistan and restart her courageous work. This has also helped return millions of young girls to school and to the beginning of a normal life.
I say this for three reasons. First is the need to recognize the need for a military presence in conflict areas. Second, humanitarian aid provided by Canadians is crucial. Third, people with big hearts make a difference. That passion, that commitment, that dedication is something we can show the Yazidi people with our words and our deeds as we debate this motion.
Today's motion dealt initially with five critical elements. It has since been amended.
First is that we recognize that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi people. I know that when this discussion was first presented, the government was reluctant to use the term “genocide”, but I welcome its acceptance of the horrors and systemic crimes against humanity.
The June 15, 2016, United Nations Human Rights Council report, “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”, made clear what we have been saying, which is that the Yazidis are victims of genocide, and it spoke of recommendations for the international community to embrace.
Second is acknowledging that many Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive as sexual slaves. As Canadians, and I am thinking specifically of our former colleague, Joy Smith, we have been champions in the fight against human trafficking, but the atrocities being perpetrated in an evil and systemic way upon Yazidi women and girls has taken this to the cruellest level of slavery and physical and sexual abuse.
To quote Nazand Begikhani, “These women have been treated like cattle. They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systemic rape and sex slavery. They've been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags”.
Dr. Widad Akreyi confirmed that ISIL uses slavery and rape as weapons of war.
The third point speaks about how urgent it is to have the government act. At the end of June, just two weeks after the UN Human Rights Council report, I, along with colleagues in the House, were part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE, in Tbilisi, Georgia. Canada and the U.S. play a vital role in that organization, and I was honoured to speak at the OSCE on behalf of Canada about our action on human trafficking. We also heard about the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, the plight of migrants, and those who have been stuck in refugee camps, many for years and years, and how that was a grave concern.
In other areas, the organization Defend International reached out to Yazidi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, in December 2014, to provide humanitarian aid. In September 2014, Defend International launched a worldwide campaign, entitled “Save The Yazidis: The World Has To Act Now”, designed to raise awareness of the tragedy of the Yazidis in Sinjar and to coordinate activities to intensify efforts amid the rescuing of Yazidi and Christian women and girls captured by ISIL, and we should do no less.
The next part had us supporting recommendations found in the June 15, 2016 report issued by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria entitled “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”.
To this end, there is an additional concern that Yazidis face. Some Yazidis struggle to obtain adequate protection because they are internally displaced, rather than being refugees under the United Nations definition. They do not have the resources to reach another country, and also have difficulty obtaining passports and other official documentation.
These points, in their own right, speak to the urgency of this crisis, and underline the need for the final part of the motion, that the government be called upon to take immediate action upon all of the recommendations found in sections 210, 212, and 213 of the report, and do so with great haste using its full authority to provide asylum to Yazidi women and girls within the next 30 days. We have amended this to 120 days.
It is important that we look at what those options are. In section 210, the commission recommends that parties fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq strongly consider rescue plans that are required for targeting the Yazidi captives. Second, that they ensure coordination between local and international armed forces where military operations target ISIS controlled regions where Yazidi captives are held. Third, that they use all means available to ensure Yazidis held captive by ISIS in Syria are rescued during on-going military operations, and that we put in place a protocol for the care and treatment of Yazidis rescued as areas are seized from ISIS. This is the military aspect of what is required.
Section 212 speaks of the definition of genocide, the humanitarian assistance, and of course, the support that is important as we discuss the international community. First, recognizing ISIS's commission of the crime of genocide against the Yazidis in Sinjar. Second, for those states that are contracting parties to the genocide convention, to engage with article 8 of the convention and call upon the competent organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council, to take such action under the charter of the United Nations to prevent and suppress acts of genocide. Third, that they provide expertise on request to assist in the preservation and documentation of mass grave sites.
Going further, and looking after the needs of individuals, it is required that they put funding in for psychosocial support programs with increased emphasis on trauma therapy for children, noting that Yazidi children suffered different violations depending on their sex. It requested funding and expertise to support the training of psychologists and social workers in Iraq and Syria.
The commission also recommends that organizations involved in the care of internally displaced Yazidi build and provide skill training programs aimed at allowing Yazidi women greater financial and social independence.
Section 213 deals with integration and safety, where the commission recommends that states and organizations involved in the care of Yazidi refugees and asylum-seekers ensure that Yazidi victims of genocide, including but not limited to sexual violence, are identified, and treated as a vulnerable group for the purposes of housing, psychosocial support, and with regard to the asylum process.
As we look at the needs of the Yazidi people, it is so important that we look at things that we can do. I have outlined the three parts of the UN report, but can we expedite the asylum claims of the Yazidi people to Canada?
Will we treat the declaration of genocide as an immediate call to action for Canada, in which a whole of government approach to humanitarian aid, military intervention, and resettlement would be acted upon?
Will we act upon the June 2016 UN recommendations to accelerate the asylum claims of the Yazidi victims of genocide?
Will we review the selection process used by the UN to identify refugees for the government sponsored refugee stream?
Will we examine the need to restore the exemption for Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the mission cap under the privately sponsored refugee program in order to fully harness the generosity of Canadian private sponsors?
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this very important issue.