by Doris Strub Epstein
In a stunning about-face, the Liberals have committed themselves to bringing in the most vulnerable refugees – the Yazidi people who top the list of non Muslims targeted for genocide by ISIS. For over two years, since the genocide began in Northern Iraq in August 2014, the government has turned a blind eye to helping anyone except Syrian refugees – their election promise – despite shocking evidence of the atrocities committed against Yazidis. Pleas to help to prioritize these most at-risk refugees were ignored. Thus far, they have brought 35,000 Syrian refugees to Canada and nine Yazidis.
In June, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion refused to recognize a motion raised by interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose branding ISIS’s atrocities against Yazidis as genocide. Two days later following the UN”s declaration of genocide, he recanted. But nothing happened. Nothing changed.
But on October 25, Michelle Rempel, now the Official Opposition critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, brought a motion to Parliament, demanding that this government rescue and bring to Canada the persecuted Yazidis of Iraqi Kurdistan. The House of Commons vote was unanimous. All parties agreed. In her address to Parliament she lambasted the Trudeau government and senior officials such as Immigration Minister John McCallum, for ignoring the Yazidi genocide.
She told the Globe and Mail, after a series of hearings into the Yazidi situation this summer, “I was furious. When I heard our bureaucrats and the UN talk about why we couldn’t be bringing these people to Canada, that was it. The thing that has angered me most is we have this absolutely ineffective inertia within our bureaucracy in Canada, and as well within the UN in dealing with this. We have every tool at our disposal.”
Now the government has committed itself to bringing the Yazidi refugees to Canada within four months. Mr. McCallum did not specify how many. “We have committed to do this and it will be done,” he told the CBC. Rempel said she is pleased the government will support the motion and “finally act after wasting precious time. This should have happened a long time ago,” she said. Rempel urged the minister to present a clear commitment to the number of Yazidis who will be brought Canada under the government’s protection.
“I hope our Canadian government does not make the same mistake where the real victims are ignored and others benefit instead due to political interests,” said Mirza Ismail, founder and chairperson of Yezidi Human Rights International.
Ismail, regarded by all as the imperative partner in the rescue, with has enormous experience and key contacts on the ground in Iraq, was not invited to MCallum’s latest information gathering trip there, nor has he yet been contacted by the Canadian government.
“After a long period of silence, we were happy to see the Canadian government taking action,” said Majed El Shafie, founder of Toronto’s One Free World International, which is helping Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. He spoke at a press conference last Wednesday along with several community groups and leaders urging the government to provide a clear timeline and concrete plans for the rescue.
In a statement to the press, Geoffrey Clarfield, the Executive Director of The Mozuud Freedom Foundation who is helping Canadian Yazidi families bring their relatives to Canada, said. “One would hope that the Canadian government would bring in 35,000 Yazidis to match the number of Syrians that they’ve already brought here. Our society can absorb them and our economy can absorb them. (and) It would be wise if tomorrow the government bring the more than 1000 female rape victims who have escaped slavery under ISIL.”
MIrza Ismail is asking for “equal rights” (with the Syrian refugees) for the Yazidis in northern Iraq, especially those who escaped ISIS and the orphans and refugees in Turkey, Syria, Greece and Jordan. They are stuck in a “terrible limbo” as MP Peter Kent put it, “facing discrimination and segregation in Muslim- run camps.”
“Our urgent demands from our government are to bring 7,000 Yazidis from DP camps in Northern Iraq…and 23,000 refugees from Turkey, Syria, Greece and Jordan as quickly as possible.” He also demanded that the government “take immediate action in rescuing more than 3,200 of the abducted Yazidis who are still in ISIS captivity in ISIS controlled areas.”
Rananah Goldhar of Canadian Jews and Friends for Yazidis, which she co founded shortly after the genocide began in August 2014, stated: “We brought 35,000 Syrian refugees, mostly Moslems, into Canada. Now we need to at least equal this number for the Yazidis and then bring in comparable numbers for the other non Muslim minorities of the Middle East, especially the Chaldo Assyrian Christians and the Mandaens.”
“This is Canada’s chance to redeem our negligence of the Yazidi genocide victims,” Rev. El Shafie said.
Since the press conference, no action has been taken. CIJNews has made repeated calls to Minister McCallum’s office. No one has responded.