Mr. Speaker, it is with a significant measure of urgency, combined with a degree of perplexity, that I stand before the House today and ask the government to take a stand for human rights.
The urgency comes from a place of care and compassion for tens of thousands of innocent Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq who are being abducted, tortured, raped, and turned into slaves or killed at the hands of ISIS.
The degree of perplexity of which I speak is in response to the government's lack of willingness to call these crimes what they are. The atrocities committed by ISIS are genocide. Today, we call on the government to join with the U.S. and our allies in the U.K. and to declare that these crimes do in fact constitute genocide.
Those of us who sit in the House are free people. This chamber hosts 338 remarkable men and women who come from all walks of life. Many have had to overcome difficult situations. Others have been blessed with good fortune. However, all of us embody a story, a story of stewarding our freedom, the freedom that was granted to us simply because we were born or became Canadian citizens, freedom to dream and have hope for a vibrant future, freedom to go to school and acquire an education and training, freedom to work and earn a living, freedom to make purchases, freedom to enjoy recreational activities, freedom to worship, freedom to speak about our beliefs and our values, freedom to move from one province or territory to another, and freedom to run for public office to become members of Parliament and sit in this chamber. As residents of Canada and members of the House, we are incredibly blessed. We are among the world's most privileged.
I am confident that each of my colleagues, myself included, ran for public office because we believed that we could make a difference, because we wanted to contribute to make Canada better, a better Canada domestically and on the world stage. However, what I find is that the four walls of this chamber sometimes have a detrimental side effect for those of us who reside in this place. In the short time I have been here I have become increasingly aware of the amnesia that sets in when we neglect to look beyond the ideals and the theory of this assembly room and into the space beyond these walls called reality.
Beyond these walls and across the ocean there exists a very different reality for tens of thousands of innocent Yazidis, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minority groups. In their reality, there are no plush green chairs, cheese platters, or mineral water. For this group, reality looks like living in fear, fighting for survival, men and women being abducted, men being lined up and shot to death in front of their loved ones, women and girls being captured, tortured, raped, and sold into slavery. In their reality, they are no more than a commodity on a black market.
Young virgins, some as young as nine, are a prized possession and sold for a price well above the average rate, determined by the powers that be within this lucrative and criminal world of commerce. Meanwhile, those who are pregnant will be killed or subjected to barbaric and excruciatingly painful abortions.
This is but a small glimpse into the real life situation faced by tens of thousands of innocent men and women in Syria and Iraq who find themselves at the mercy of ISIS. Rape is being used as a weapon of war. Torture is the daily norm. Of course, death is the only foreseeable escape route.
Meanwhile, Canada's present government appears to be undisturbed, content to sit on its hands and do nothing of significant meaning.
Just a few days ago, 19 Yazidi girls were marched through the public square in Mosul and forced into an iron cage where they were burned alive for refusing to have sex with the ISIS soldiers. Hundreds of people watched as this atrocious human rights violation took place. No one could do anything.
This is the reality beyond the four walls of this chamber and across the ocean in a not-so-distant place called Iraq and Syria. This is the reality that I call upon Canada's government to acknowledge as genocide.
I call upon the government to do so because it is the definition that goes along with the wrongful practice that we are witnessing. The crimes that I speak of are crimes against humanity for the purpose of extinguishing a group of people.
Dr. Widad Akreyi who works for Defend International has called upon the international community to call these grave atrocities what they are: crimes against humanity, crimes against cultural heritage of the region, and ethnic cleansing.
One survivor who was interviewed had this to say, "If we're not protected soon, there'll be none of us left in the country--which is our country...“
On December 9, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly, within the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defined genocide as:
....any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Based on this convention, which bears Canada's signature, I call upon the upon the Canadian government to acknowledge the brutal acts committed by ISIS as genocide.
For over two years now, the persecution of minority groups, such as Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims has gained international attention, starting with the U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS. Iran was close at hand. Shortly thereafter, 14 countries, including Canada, joined together in a U.S.-led coalition to execute air strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
When Canada's new government took power, however, efforts were significantly thwarted. For the most part, a blind eye was turned to those who are being persecuted at the hands of ISIS. I am perplexed as to why our Prime Minister will not join with those in the European Union and the United States of America to declare these acts for what they are.
In 1948, we joined our allies to legally define genocide for a reason, that we would be empowered to take action, action that defends freedom and acknowledges the value of human life. I would speculate that the current government is refusing to define these horrific human rights violations as genocide because doing so will require it to take action. It viewed the decision at hand as an unwelcome obligation rather than an opportunity to take a stand for the most vulnerable and defend human rights.
The matter of which I speak today is not to be taken lightly. In Syria and Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities are living in incomprehensible fear. These are the people that would consider themselves fortunate. Others have been slaughtered, and still others have been kidnapped, tortured, and raped.
These are crimes against humanity committed by the hands of Islamic State militants for the purpose of ethnic cleansing. The wicked acts committed by ISIS are deliberate in nature and calculatedly committed against specific religious and minority groups.
What I have described today is in fact genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. I thereby call upon the government to join with our allies and recognize the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide, and to take action to prevent those who are responsible.