Mr. Speaker, I have had the honour in the past 10 years that I have served in this House to stand up many times for vulnerable groups. It has been said that a government can be judged best by how it treats its most vulnerable.
Today, I rise in the House to stand up for one of the most vulnerable people groups in our world today. I have had the opportunity to meet several Yazidi people. They are a very brave and courageous people. Yazidis have experienced things that we could not even begin to imagine, and here they are asking, in fact they are pleading for us to step forward, and for Canada to provide the assistance that we are more than capable of providing in this very devastating time in their lives.
Time is running out for the Yazidis. Canada must act now. The Minister of Immigration cannot start a new study or hold consultations on this topic. The Yazidi people are on the brink of extinction, and their time is almost up.
Concentrated in northern Iraq, the Yazidi people, a religious minority, is made up of around 700,000 people. They practice one of the oldest religions in the Middle East, dating back 6,000 years. If this genocide, being committed by ISIS, is successful, thousands and thousands of years of culture, language, and history will be wiped off the face of the earth. We must do everything we can to preserve this distinct and unique culture, and ensure that their lives and way of life are protected.
On June 15, 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued its report, “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”, which declared Yazidis are victims of genocide, and outlined a number of recommendations for the international community.
With respect to the motion put forward today by my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill, we are calling on the government to take immediate action on sections 210, 212, and 213.
I will not read all of the sections in their entirety, but will point out a number of crucial actions that are called for in each of the recommendations:
210. The Commission recommends that parties fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq:
(a) Strongly consider rescue plans targeted at Yazidi captives;
(b) Ensure coordination between local and international armed forces where military operations target ISIS controlled regions where Yazidi captives are held;
(c) Use all means available to ensure Yazidis held captive by ISIS in Syria are rescued during on-going military operations; and
(d) Put in place a protocol for the care and treatment of Yazidis rescued as areas are seized from ISIS.
212. The Commission recommends to the international community:
(a) Recognize ISIS’s commission of the crime of genocide against the Yazidis of Sinjar;
(b) For those States that are contracting Parties to the Genocide Convention, 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;
(c) Provide expertise, on request, to assist in the preservation and documentation of mass grave sites;
(d) Provide further funding for psychosocial support programmes, with increased emphasis on trauma therapy for children, noting that Yazidi children suffered different violations depending on their sex.
213. The Commission recommends that States and organizations involved in the care of Yazidi refugees and asylum-seekers:
(a) 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.
I cannot say it enough, the time for action is now. The NDP and the Conservative Party have unanimously moved forward on this topic. It was the Liberal Party that did not support our previous motion on June 9, more than four months ago. No action.
The motion was as follows:
That the House agree that ISIS is responsible for: (a) crimes against humanity aimed at groups such as Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims, as well as other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq; (b) utilizing rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and enslaving women and girls; and (c) targeting gays and lesbians who have been tortured and murdered; and, as a consequence, that the House strongly condemn these atrocities and declare that these crimes constitute genocide.
At that time, we were asking for an acknowledgement that a genocide was occurring, but the Liberals did not support our motion. In fact, they defeated it. Imagine, not even an admission that a genocide was occurring.
Only two days after the motion was defeated in the House, the United Nations issued a report that proclaimed what we already knew, that Yazidis in Iraq and Syria were, in fact, facing systemic extermination. The UN named these crimes against the Yazidis for what they were, genocide. Only then did the government finally choose to call it a genocide. So much for Canada being back. So much for Canada actually leading.
In any event, I am glad the government finally made the change and recognized this as a genocide. However, words are not enough. We need action. We need to walk the talk. Let us see some action today.
One of the disturbing accounts we heard was that of a UN goodwill ambassador, Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi of 22 years of age. At the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration she gave her testimony about the genocide and sexual slavery. She shared the very real and personal account of her story.
Ms. Murad described how her normal life of studying, friends, and peaceful coexistence with other religions was shattered when ISIS attacked her village in Sinjar, northern Iraq, on August 3, 2014. According to Ms. Murad, after 12 days under siege, ISIS gathered the villagers at the school, separating men from women. The men were shot, more than 700, in a matter of two hours. Young girls and women were taken to Mosul, Iraq, where they were held captive, forcibly converted, raped, and sold into slavery.
This is only one account of the atrocities that are currently happening in that region. In its recent report on the genocide of the Yazidi people in Sinjar, Iraq, the United Nations documented that thousands of men and boys were slaughtered in the streets, shot in the head, or even beheaded. In some cases, family members were forced to witness these killings.
The UN reports witness accounts of roads littered with corpses, the bodies of Yazidis who had refused to convert to Islam. For those Yazidis who are still in that region, rape, torture, and murder are everyday experiences. However, an audit of the Syrian refugee camps found that only three identified as Yazidi. The executive of the advocacy group Yazda has called this process flawed, unfair, and unacceptable. He has called on Canada to impose a quota of 5,000 to 10,000 Yazidi refugees, targeting the most vulnerable survivors of the genocide.
However, we know that immigration is not the only avenue through which we can help this vulnerable group. An article in The Washington Post, written by Ameena Saeed Hasan and Khaleel Aldakhi, outlines the need for military involvement. The article states:
We save as many victims as we can and provide care to help rehabilitate them. Thus far, however, we’ve been able to help only a small number of the 3,700 who are enslaved. We believe most are in Mosul, which is Iraq’s second-largest city, the Islamic State’s most important stronghold...and the largest urban center under the Islamic State’s control. So intense is the suffering of these women and girls that they tell us that they want the United States and other countries to attack Mosul....
Let us remember the cause of this crisis is ISIS. It was shameful to see how one of the first acts the government took was to withdraw Canada and our CF-18s out of the fight against ISIS. Canada's men and women in uniform serve our country with great distinction. When called upon, the Canadian Armed Forces have played a leading role on the world stage, protecting and promoting the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
Our military personnel, under the previous government, provided strategic airlift support for military supplies to Iraq. We provided $10 million in non-lethal security assistance to Iraq, including equipment like helmets, body armour, and logistical support for vehicles. We also contributed critical humanitarian aid to directly benefit the people of Iraq who are impacted by the ongoing conflict.
In conclusion, I would plead with the Liberal government that it immediately expedite the asylum claims of the Yazidi people to Canada and take immediate action upon all the recommendations that I listed above under the UN report titled “'They came to destroy': ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”.
I call on my colleagues to pass the motion tabled by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill. The time to act is now.