Two years ago, ISIS, a group of violent Sunni extremists, began a systemic extermination of the Yazidi people of northern Iraq. Thousands of Yazidi people have been forced from their homes, enslaved, tortured, raped, and murdered at the hands of this group.
Last month, the United Nations issued a report that named these crimes against the Yazidis for what they are; genocide.
This report also contained several blunt recommendations which call upon the international community to take action to prevent further atrocities from being committed and to assist Yazidi survivors.
In 2014 Canada deployed forces to northern Iraq to help contain the spread of ISIS. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the record almost immediately after the atrocities of August 2014 stating that “the people of northern Iraq are facing a act of genocide from the forces of the Islamic State”.
In addition to participation in the international coalition to contain ISIS, Canada’s former government deployed significant amounts of aid to the region, and implemented a refugee acceptance policy of prioritizing applications from persecuted vulnerable minorities from the region. This included the Yazidi people. To further assist vulnerable minorities from the region, Canada’s former government also implemented a policy to exempt Iraqi and Syrian refugees from the mission cap for private sponsorship applications, in order to fully harness the generosity of private sponsorship groups in Canada.
The June 2016 UN report which names the genocide of the Yazidis, calls upon countries to expedite their asylum claims. In Canada, there are two streams by which refugees can come to Canada; private sponsorship and government assisted. Privately sponsored refugees are identified and supported by charitable organizations and private citizens. Government sponsored refugees are identified by the government, which currently uses UNHCR lists to select refugees, and are supported by government funds.
We call upon the government to lift the mission cap they’ve imposed on private sponsorship application for refugees from Iraq, and to allocate appropriate resources to expedite the processing of applications via this stream from persecuted minorities from the region. This will allow private sponsorship groups who have raised funds to bring the most vulnerable refugees to Canada. These private sponsorship groups have identified vulnerable refugees and their whereabouts without the assistance of the UN, and are nimble enough to help groups like the Yazidis in an expeditious manner. The government should provide every assistance possible to these groups to assist in their efforts.
We also call upon the government to ask the UN to change their selection processes to prioritize the processing of Yazidi applicants in the government sponsorship stream. This is important because we know that Yazidis face persecution and discrimination in refugee camps from the ethnic majority, making life in refugee camps dangerous. It is often impossible for persecuted minority groups to remain in these camps for any length of time, making waiting for lengthy UN processing difficult, if not impossible. This assumes that these people can even make it to these camps without being captured, murdered, or tortured in the first place.
Even though the UN has asked member countries to expedite the asylum claims of Yazidis, at committee yesterday a representative from the UN stated that they have not put in place any mechanisms to specifically target and expedite Yazidi refugee applications in their own identification process. An audit asked for by the previous government showed that the UN presented few cases of persecuted minorities for processing to Canada, even though the government had expressly asked for these cases to be prioritized.
Given that the current Canadian government has stated that they will solely rely on the UN to select refugees in the government sponsored stream, it is vitally important that they lean on the UN to expedite the identification and processing of Yazidi refugees. If the UN is unwilling or slow to respond to this call, the government should change its processing criteria to ensure that Yazidi asylum applications are prioritized. We call upon the government to do this, and to regularly report to Canadians on the numbers of Yazidi cases that have been processed via the government sponsored refugee stream.
The current Canadian government must prioritize vulnerable minority groups for processing in the government sponsored refugee stream that have been persecuted because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. They government must also reflect this prioritization in their refugee acceptance processes, measure the success of its efforts, and further change processes if required.
The sad reality is that even if we do these things, we will never be able to process all the applications of all the refugees in the region. Because of this, we need to take steps to help secure the stability of the region. The government should restore Canada’s full participation in the military mission to contain ISIS, and provide humanitarian assistance for vulnerable groups in the region.
The survival of an entire group of humanity depends on our ability to do this.
Often times in Canada we cannot comprehend persecution based on these factors. However, they are a reality in most parts of the world, but especially in Northern Iraq. Violent Sunni extremists have tortured, murdered, and oppressed Alawites, Bedouins, Christians, Druze, Ismailis, Shi’a, Yazidis, other religious minorities, LGBTI, and women. This is a fact we cannot deny in the name of political correctness.
The woman sitting beside me has endured the most base type of evil. Yet, she has survived and is using her voice to advocate for justice for her people. While we sit here and discuss bureaucratic measures to save her people, many like her still remain as sexual slaves to ISIS fighters, and more are being killed by their hands.
It is my great honour and privilege to introduce to you Nadia Murad.