Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I stand in frustrated and impatient support of the motion by the official opposition. I am frustrated because the Liberal government has so deliberately looked the other way in responding to the Yazidi genocide. First, it refused for so long to recognize what was clear to other democracies around the world, that Daesh, so-called ISIS, has committed the crime of genocide and a variety of crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis.
Then, when the Liberals finally recognized this outrage, they have for four months now refused to act, to consider even the most minimal of Canada's state obligations under the UN genocide convention. Two of these obligations are referenced in the motion before us today: to take immediate action upon all recommendations found in sections 210, 212, and 213 of the UN report, and to provide asylum to Yazidi women and girls.
I am impatient because Liberals, from the immigration minister down, have ignored those recommendations by virtually bragging that Canada does not seek to identify refugees by religious or ethnic groupings, and because Liberals, again from the minister down, have excused their government's inaction by saying they only accept refugees on the basis of recommendation and certification of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That is why the motion has been brought before the House today. That is why we in the official opposition are calling on the Liberal government to urgently, if belatedly, reassess and refocus Canada's refugee program.
I was asked yesterday, when notice of today's motion was given, exactly how many Yazidis live in Canada. I think the implication of that question is unfortunately clear. My answer is not many, maybe 4,000 or 5,000 naturalized Canadian citizens or permanent residents, perhaps not from the government's point of view a major political consideration. However, in my riding of Thornhill and across the country, survivors and descendants of the Holocaust and other genocides share my anger and frustration with the government's deliberate inaction on this tragedy.
Of course, I should recognize here the magnificent work done by the Jewish community of Winnipeg with Operation Ezra, which aims to sponsor privately, rescue, and resettle Yazidi refugees in Canada. Many of my constituents in Thornhill are standing by, again willing to sponsor, but the government is not stepping up and enabling those sponsorships.
Canadians have been pretty much left in the dark since the genocide was recognized by the government, despite, as I mentioned, a wide range of obligations that should have triggered Canada as a signatory to the UN genocide convention. While the government currently defers to the UNHCR to identify refugees for resettlement and literally boasts that Canada does not track refugees by religion or ethnicity, we believe the recognition of the genocide and associated atrocities that have been and continue to be committed should have immediately prompted a change in the selection process and should still, prioritizing the acceptance of Yazidis, particularly women, widows, and girls, as well as other persecuted minorities. In short, Conservatives believe that Canada should, when it comes to the Yazidis, deliberately circumvent the UNHCR process for all of the reasons offered here today.
The independent international commission recommended that all parties fighting against Daesh strongly consider rescue plans for thousands of Yazidis still captive in areas held by Daesh. We know that Canada is not in a position to consider such action. More importantly, we must hope that the allied coalition's Operation Inherent Resolve, now focused on liberating Mosul, will result in the effective rescue of many Yazidi prisoners. However, a rescue dimension could and should also apply to the many thousands of individually internally displaced Yazidi people, so-called IDPs, who are in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.
We know that more than 500,000 Iraqi Yazidis were driven from Sinjar and other communities, many finding sanctuary of a sort in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region. However, these internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are not recognized or certified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as refugees.
We heard powerful first-hand testimony from a strong, articulate, young survivor of the genocide and brutalization, Nadia Murad, at a special sitting of the House Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in July, that these displaced Yazidis, along with other persecuted minorities in Iraq, are caught in a terrible limbo. They often face discrimination, less deadly than from Daesh, but discrimination nonetheless, when they register at UN camps, where they are segregated from the others for their own protection.
Outside the camps, the Kurdish sub-sovereign government tries to provide humanitarian food and health services, but there is precious little funding for these IDPs from the Government of Iraq, which should be doing much more. The situation is somewhat better, but only somewhat better, for thousands of Yazidis who have made their way to relative safety in Turkey. However, we were saddened and again frustrated to learn that, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees tells us that it has submitted Yazidi women from Iraq for resettlement from Turkey, it is for Canada to say if the government is considering taking Iraqi Yazidis from Turkey as part of our refugee program. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has not stepped up.
We can be encouraged by the significant and continuing battlefield successes of the allied coalition against the dark, murderous forces of Daesh, but the liberation of cities and towns previously home to millions of Iraqi civilians of many regions, religions, and ethnicities is coming at a terrible cost. These cities are in different states of destruction and rubble, without basic services, and littered with many tonnes of unexploded explosives and booby traps. It has been estimated that it will take billions of dollars to make these cities safe, and many billions of dollars more and years to rebuild.
We know that however generously welcoming Canada and other developed countries might be during this massive refugee crisis, most of the millions of displaced survivors of the wars in Syria and Iraq, and the genocide, can only hope that one day they will be able to return to try to rebuild their homes, communities, and their lives. That is at best a faint hope for the Muslim victims of these wars, but hope is much fainter for the persecuted minorities who survive the conflict, particularly the victims of the Daesh genocide, the Yazidis.
We have suggested to the government several steps that Canada could take to help this tragedy. We suggested a removal of the cap on private sponsorships of Iraqi nationals. Our previous Conservative government did not have a cap on Iraqi or Syrian sponsorship. The Liberals have still not explained why they have chosen to impose a cap. We also urge the Liberal government to reframe Canada's refugee policy to address the specific Yazidi tragedy, to prioritize the most vulnerable, and to actively seek to identify and process survivors of the genocide.
A year ago, the Prime Minister told us that bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada was only a matter of political will. We on this side of the House hope that, despite the delay, the denial, and the inaction to date, the government will finally be moved to the same demonstration of political will and act to provide asylum and proper resettlement, specifically for Yazidi women, widows, and children.