Mr. Speaker, we all agree that what ISIS is doing in Syria and Iraq is absolutely atrocious.
Here are some figures. The violence of ISIS has led to the displacement of 2.5 million civilians in Iraq alone and left 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 5,000 people have been killed by ISIS. In May, 50 mass graves containing the bodies of civilians who were murdered by ISIS were discovered in Iraq.
The UN has reported gross human rights abuses, including attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape, and other forms of sexual and physical violence.
A March 2015 report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that the following atrocities were being committed against the Yazidi community: the brutal and targeted killings of hundreds of men and boys in Nineveh province, northwest of Baghdad in August 2014; the rape of girls as young as six years old; the abduction of women as the spoils of war; and the forced separation of families, where boys as young as eight years old were taken and forced to become child soldiers. These are just a few examples of the horrors committed by ISIS.
In light of these facts, we have no problem joining our voices with those of the U.S. Congress, the Obama administration through the Secretary of State, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the British Parliament, which we have talked a lot about, to say that the evidence is quite clear that in all probability there was a genocide, particularly against the Yazidi community.
However, simply saying that in the House has very little impact. Obviously, the motion of Parliament carries moral weight, but it does not involve any obligation on the part of the government.
An analysis was done in order to determine what would happen if the government ever said that genocide was taking place in a particular location, generally speaking. The conclusion was that this would open the door to restrictions on imports and exports, the reduction or withdrawal of international development assistance, the expulsion of diplomats, and the suspension of diplomatic relations. That is the list.
Obviously, this would have no impact on a non-state actor. In order to have a discernible impact, it has to go through the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Many of our global partners have adopted this kind of motion. I hope these motions will help maintain the pressure on institutions like the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court, so that we can get to the bottom of this.
As I said a little earlier, I am a little surprised that the motion does not suggest referring the issue to those international bodies and continuing to work with them to move forward with the investigations.
The motion has a moral impact, more than anything else, but unfortunately, words are not enough, as one of my colleagues said. Very specific action needs to be taken.
First and foremost we need to investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are being committed in Syria and Iraq. Of course ISIS is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, but we must not forget those being committed by the Bashar al-Assad regime. I am not sure why we do not talk about that more. There are also those committed by armed groups like the ones fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime, which are not lily-white themselves, by any means. We have to admit, this is another flaw in the motion.
If we had drafted the motion, I think it probably would have been written better, but, well, that is life.
We absolutely have to investigate what is happening on the ground. Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said:
There’s been virtually no effort to systematically document the crimes that have been perpetrated, to preserve evidence, to secure and preserve forensic evidence, to ensure that mass graves are being protected so we can actually have successful prosecutions in the future. This is one area where Canada can play a crucial role in supporting financially, but also sending experts to areas that have been liberated from the Islamic State.
That is absolutely essential. Canada has tremendous expertise in this area. We have been calling for the government to get involved for years. The little bit of funding voted last year has run out. We would like some solid details about what the Government of Canada intends to do about this.
These crimes must be investigated so that they can be prosecuted in the future, but we must also act now. That means helping people on the ground, helping refugees, providing humanitarian aid in the camps, continuing to welcome refugees to Canada, giving them enough help when they get here, ensuring that they can integrate into society, and ensuring that they have opportunities to learn English or French. We also have to help neighbouring countries a great deal. I commend the government for doing that. Helping Jordan and Lebanon is critical to preventing the instability from spreading.
We also need to ensure that all regions of Syria receive humanitarian aid. There is an enormous amount of diplomatic work to be done in that regard, and Canada needs to put a lot of effort into that. Clearly, that work alone is not enough. We need to attack ISIS itself. We have always said that the first thing that needs to be done is to cut off ISIS's funding. We need to cut off ISIS's access to money.
We know that in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is funded in part through extortion. However, the group also continues to engage in trade, oil trafficking, and other activities. The international community really needs to focus on that. Everyone is familiar with the expression “money is the sinews of war”. If we can cut off ISIS's funding, then we will have made a significant amount of progress. We also need to cut ISIS off from its weapon supply.
I want to reiterate and stress that the Canadian government needs to quickly accede to the arms trade treaty. That is absolutely essential and it will help us to convince other countries to work toward that goal. The global movement of weapons is one of our biggest threats. We obviously also have to prevent ISIS from recruiting more members. I will not get into the details because we have talked about it often enough, but there is a problem here, because some of the measures being taken by various countries seem to be providing ISIS with more opportunities to attract supporters.
These things are also part of the mandate that we were given by the United Nations. It is essential that we focus on them. It is also essential to work on deradicalization here in Canada. We need to remember that radicalization is not just an Islamist phenomenon. Right-wing radicalization and other radicalization movements also exist. We need to do more in that regard.
Finally, above all, we need to find a peaceful solution in the region. I was pleased to see that Canada is now being invited to the major international meetings to try to find a sustainable diplomatic solution and, we hope, to start to think about rebuilding and the future.
General Dallaire, for whom I am sure everyone here in the House has the utmost respect, said recently in an interview that what is happening in Syria is the Rwandan genocide all over again. We have to reach an agreement. We have to find a solution.
I would add that we must also work on prevention. As one of my colleagues whom I admire greatly said, these terrorist groups these days are like the Hydra from Greek mythology. When we cut off its head, two heads grow back in its place. A few years ago, we were dealing with al-Qaeda. Then it was al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, followed by the Islamic State. We must focus on prevention. Prevention is not simple. It is not easy and it takes time, but it is essential. Prevention takes good governance. To prevent conflicts, we must ensure that justice is served in every country. This also means ensuring that justice is served when crimes against humanity are committed.
We all agree that the atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq are pretty awful. I will not go into all the details, but we are talking about 5,000 people killed by ISIS, for example. We are also talking about using rape as a weapon of war. We are talking about young children being taken from their families and becoming child soldiers. We have all seen the images, such as the beheadings, which are awful, but it is the day in day out atrocities that are committed.
In that respect, we have no problem with adding our voices to those of the American Congress, the Obama administration, through the Secretary of State, the European Parliament, the European Council, or the British Parliament to say that with regard to the Yazidis, the evidence is quite clear that in all probability there was genocide.
However, words are not enough. Today's motion has no legal consequences on the government. Even if the government were to say it were genocide, no legal consequences would apply in this because it is a non-state actor. If it were about a country, then we could cut diplomatic links, or recall our diplomats or things like that. That does not apply in this case.
We have to act, and Canada could act through many avenues. We could investigate the war crimes of not only ISIS, but the war crimes of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which has done terrible things, and the war crimes of some opposition groups that also have committed atrocities and crimes against humanity. Canada can play a key role in that respect. We can provide money and expertise to gather evidence and treat it properly.
A little over a year ago, the previous government announced $1.2 million. I would be interested in getting more details about what the current government is planning and whether it will go full steam ahead in investing both atrocities and those war crimes. This is absolutely essential.
We also need to continue our fight against ISIS. We need to starve it of money. We need to work together with the international community to ensure ISIS cannot sell any more artifacts or petroleum, all of the sources of its money, or as we say in French, l'argent est le nerf de la guerre. We have to starve ISIS of arms. In that respect I trust the government again to accede to the arms trade treaty as soon as possible so we do our share. We need to encourage other countries to control the flow of arms.
We have to deprive ISIS of militants, of jihadists. We can do that by preventing people from going abroad and by having finely tuned policies in place, policies that place a lot of emphasis on humanitarian assistance so the people of the region see we are with them, not against them. That would help to prevent ISIS from recruiting more militants.
We need to help on the ground and provide humanitarian assistance. We need to help countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey that are dealing with a difficult situation. We need to receive refugees here.
We also have to work on the peace process. I am happy that Canada is now a part of the process. This is good news. Retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire has said that the genocide in Rwanda has repeated itself now in Syria. That can be resolved, but key to that is finding a political solution.
We have to work at prevention. We have to work around the world to avoid new groups. It is like the Hydra. We cut off one head and two new one take its place. We have to work on human rights and good governance. We need a good justice system around the world for conflict prevention.