Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise and speak on this subject. I think that crimes, even genocide, of which we are speaking, are so horrendous that this is an issue that should go beyond partisanship and on which we should be able to find agreement among all parties in the House.
That is partly why I am speaking a little late in this debate, because we have been in discussions with representatives from the Conservative Party to see if we could come to a common understanding on a motion that we could all support. Those discussions are ongoing. I do not think we have come to an agreement yet, but I think all members would agree that it is worth an effort. We have certain differences between us and the Conservatives, and possibly the NDP, but those differences are very minor compared with the overall urgency and importance of the issue that is before the House today.
I would hope that further discussions, which are now ongoing, will lead to some agreement among the parties so that we can all agree on this motion. Whether or not those discussions bear fruit, I would like to single out the Conservative critic, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, for her commitment on this topic and for her willingness to enter into discussions with us to try to find an all-party agreement.
I would also like to single out my parliamentary secretary, the member for Parkdale—High Park, and in particular, the chair of the immigration committee, the member for Etobicoke Centre, for the undying passion he has exhibited on this question of the Yazidi. At the risk of leaving someone out, I would like to also draw attention to other colleagues in the Liberal Party and my caucus who have been very active on this file in favour of the Yazidi. This would include the members for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, York Centre, Mount Royal, West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, and New Brunswick Southwest. I am sure there are others, such as the NDP member for Vancouver East.
I know that members from all parties have been very active on this issue, because we are shocked and horrified by the atrocities brought against the Yazidi people, but also against so many others, by Daesh and also in the context of the Syrian civil war.
That, of course, is why we did step up early in our mandate to commit to 25,000 refugees within a four-month period, a commitment that we honoured, and I am proud of that.
We want to work with the Conservatives, but I would point out that in terms of resettled refugees, we are bringing in three to four times more in 2016 than was the case in 2015. I am proud that Canadians from all walks of life stepped up to the plate so forcefully in favour of the Syrian refugee effort, and I am also grateful to all of the opposition parties, which professed their support for this initiative from the beginning.
It is also true that other countries have shown great support and admiration for what we have done; so much so, in fact, that we launched an initiative at the United Nations to basically export our model for private sponsorship of refugees. Thirteen countries have already expressed an interest, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Canadians can therefore be proud of our efforts to help refugees.
However, we are talking more specifically about the Yazidi today, so let me report, as the parliamentary secretary has already said, that a group of officials from my department has recently returned from Iraq. We could not discuss this before they returned, because there are very dangerous conditions on the ground there, and indeed, that is one of the constraints on quick action in that part of the world. Not only is it dangerous, but there is a war going on, as we speak, in Mosul, which is not too far from where our officials were just recently.
That is one of the reasons why it is not easy to quickly address this issue. I have yet to receive a full debrief from my officials. They have just returned, but I know that they had a twofold mission. One was to interview Syrian refugees located in Iraq, and the second was to confer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, or the UNHCR and the IOM, on options regarding assistance for Yazidis and the opportunity to bring more of them to Canada.
I might mention that the IOM and the UNHCR are absolutely critical to our efforts in this area. When we brought all the refugees from Syria, it was the UNHCR that provided the names of the vulnerable people, and the IOM provided indispensable help in terms of logistics.
In terms of the Yazidi issue, it is Canada working with those international parties that will seek to bring to Canada many people who are victims of Daesh, including the Yazidi people, who have been subjected to unconscionable aggression in the form of genocide.
I can report to the House that my department is working very actively and very assiduously to come up with a solution to this issue as soon as possible.
I might just say in closing, more generally, that in terms of the refugee crisis the world is facing, I think Canada did step up to the plate. I think we can be proud of our efforts. In terms of the numbers we took in, it may be three times more than in 2015, but it is still just a drop in the bucket compared with the millions of refugees around the world, and this is a worsening crisis. It is a crisis that is tearing apart various parts of the world, including the European Union. It has become an issue in the United States. I think we can be proud of what we have done, but it is obviously a major crisis for the world as a whole.
I think there are really three parts to the solution to this.
One is miliary action to end the war in Syria and to defeat ISIS, or Daesh. Members know that Canada is involved in that in an important way. The attempt to liberate Mosul is playing out as we speak. That is an important part of the overall solution.
The second important part is humanitarian relief. My colleague, the Minister of International Development, has announced assistance in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the region.
I know from my visits that front-line countries like Jordan and Lebanon have had a huge burden imposed upon them, with as much as one-quarter or one-third of their populations consisting of refugees. It is as if in Canada we had some nine million or 10 million refugees in our midst. The burden they are bearing is enormous, so a second part of the operation is to provide assistance to those countries.
Finally, last but not least, is to receive refugees, and we have done our bit. However, it would be desirable to extend the number of refugee-receiving countries beyond the usual performers: Australia, Canada, the United States. Possibly other countries around the world could be induced to do more in terms of receiving these refugees.
This is not a simple issue; it is very complex. However, I believe that the solution has three basic elements: first, a military component; second, financial aid for various countries; and third, the resettlement of refugees, not just here in Canada, but in other countries as well.
Finally, I do hope that the inter-party discussions will bear fruit and that we will be able to vote as a whole, together, on this motion. Whether or not that happens, I am confident that all of us, in slightly different, nuanced ways, nevertheless support a very major effort to assist the Yazidi in their hour of great need.