Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to join this discussion. That we are discussing this issue so soon after the last debate on this very subject says much about the crisis in Iraq. It speaks to the gravity of the current situation and to the reality of the struggle many Iraqis are facing.
As the so-called terrorist group ISIL continues to spread its flawed ideology across Iraq, it is that country's innocent civilians who stand in the crosshairs. They are targets, unfairly victimized by a group whose only role is to be ruthless, to destroy any and all who believe in the greater good, who want an Iraq that is safe and self-sufficient, and whose beliefs dare conflict with those of an extremist minority.
We know that ISIL is waging a campaign of terror in Iraq, preying on the vulnerable to advance its alleged cause and doing so with wanton disregard for any and all who dare stand in the way. This group is morally reprehensible. It is one that wilfully kills innocent children, murders innocent journalists just to make a point, uses rape as a weapon of war, and savagely murders someone who is there to care for innocent people caught in the middle of their twisted world view.
Today I pay tribute to the work of Alan Henning. Alan, a British aid worker, dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate. How any member of the human family would believe that Alan was a threat to their existence is beyond me. It is beyond comprehension. It further proves how sick and twisted this group has become. It is a group that must be contained to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East, protect global security, and lessen the incredible burden that has been so unfairly placed upon Iraqi civilians. They are the ones living on the front line in this conflict. They are the people whose lives have been turned upside down as ISIL has captured vast stretches of territory from the Syrian border in the northwest to the outskirts of Baghdad.
I want to focus on the humanitarian aspect of this crisis and on the role Canada is playing in helping Iraq's innocent children and terrified mothers and fathers find the normalcy and safety they so desperately seek.
Armed clashes between ISIL and government forces have driven displacement, causing the humanitarian situation in Iraq to rapidly deteriorate. When such violence erupts it not only forces masses of people to flee their homes and communities but creates havoc in the entire country. Businesses stop operating. People lose their jobs. Food production and clean water services are disrupted. Normal supply routes are blocked.
Families are separated and suffer tremendous shock, especially when they lose a parent, a child, a sibling, or a friend and are left to grieve amidst the turmoil of their own circumstances, which for many has included fleeing homes, villages, and the familiarity of everyday life.
This has been the case for an estimated 1.7 million people who have been displaced throughout Iraq. In early 2014, conflict displaced an estimated 475,000 people in Anbar province. Then in June, an estimated 571,000 people were displaced from Mosul. In August, an additional 662,000 were displaced from the Sinjar area, where tens of thousands of Yazidis remained trapped for several days in dire humanitarian conditions and at temperatures of more than 40°C.
The size and pace of displacement has overwhelmed local communities, including in Dohuk Governorate, which is hosting more than 400,000 internally displaced persons.
Following recent clashes between Kurdish Peshmerga and ISIL forces, there have also been reports of people being displaced for a second time from the Kurdish region of Iraq to the southern areas of the country.
On August 12, the United Nations declared the situation a level 3 emergency, the highest level for a humanitarian crisis, underlining the gravity of the situation. As a result, the humanitarian response in accessible areas is being rapidly scaled up and humanitarian leadership is being bolstered.
Approximately 43% of the internally displaced Iraqis are living in vulnerable locations, including schools, churches, mosques, and unfurnished buildings. There is a concern that over 850,000 children are beginning to fall behind with their education, because the schools being used as shelters have been unable to reopen as scheduled for the beginning of the school year in September.
Canada is actively working with partners to address children's needs and to see what more can be done. We are currently working through experienced partners, such as Save the Children and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These partners are helping to provide child-friendly environments for displaced children and are giving them the psychosocial support they need.
We believe that when adults fight, children's education should not suffer and that even in the face of conflict, a child's continued academic growth must be secured. Education can provide essential aid to Iraq right now. It gives children and youth a sense of normalcy, stability, and structure. When schools are open, they provide places for children to free their minds of the anxiety of war and to instead focus on the pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of skills.
For most Canadians, the situation in Iraq is simply unimaginable. Few of us could ever contemplate having to leave our homes and leave most of our possessions behind. The thought alone is enough to spur our desire to help, because while we may not be able to relate to the chaos of war, we understand at a basic human level that nobody should have to live that way. That is why Canadians will say that the actions we have undertaken in response to the crisis are a direct reflection of their own values. They understand that a country like ours cannot possibly stand idle while millions of Iraqi civilians are suffering.
Since the beginning of 2014, Canada has allocated nearly $29 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Of this, $19 million has been in response to the recent civil unrest, and almost $10 million has been in response to the needs of the Syrian refugees in Iraq. This makes Canada one of the largest donors in response to this crisis.
With these funds, lives have already been saved. Food and clean water are being provided to displaced people in need. Camps are being constructed through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide the displaced with shelter. Measures are being taken to protect them from violence. Importantly, more health services and medical supplies are being made available to respond to the urgent needs of the displaced populations.
The Canadian Red Cross also brought in relief supplies from Canada's warehouse in the International Humanitarian City in Dubai. These supplies, distributed by Save the Children and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are saving lives. Kitchen sets are helping hungry families feed themselves. Tents are providing shelter and a place for the weary to get some rest. Hygiene kits and mosquito nets are preventing the spread of diseases.
Through all of these actions on the humanitarian front, Canada is showing that it stands by the people of Iraq. We will continue to look for more ways to respond to the needs of all Iraqis, but the world must unite to constrain the ISIL threat and to ultimately defeat it.
I would like to close by saying that it is important for the House to support our humanitarian work and our work to contain and eradicate the ISIL threat.