Canada has voted unanimously to declare the ISIS treatment of the Yazidis a genocide, paving the way for the government to offer refuge to the people who were victims of sex trafficking in Iraq.
MPs voted 313-0 in favour of the declaration on Tuesday, committing to bringing Yazidis to Canada within 120 days, which is before the end of February 2017.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a statement: “The Government of Canada is pleased that all parties are cooperating to help the vulnerable Yazidi population that has suffered so much.
“Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it the most. The unanimous support for this cause in the House of Commons demonstrates that this principle is embraced by all Canadians.
“The Government of Canada is committed to offering protection to the Yazidi population at risk. We support the terms of the motion to bring Yazidis to Canada within 120 days.
“We recognize that operating in the region is complex and could pose risks. It is imperative that we consider the next steps very carefully.
“Officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are meeting with key partners to gather as much information as possible on the significant challenges and the steps forward.”
The Yazidis, who lived in northern Iraq, have faced two years of misery at the hands of ISIS after thousands of men were killed, with women and girls sold as slaves.
The Liberal government stopped short of committing to a number of Yazidis it would bring in, with Conservatives calling for a minimum of 1,000.
The move will only enhance Canada’s humanitarian standing among the world’s elite nations, having welcomed almost 33,000 Syrian refugees since the Liberals came to power in October 2015.
Syrian Refugees in Canada
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||3,316|
Source: Government of Canada
Canada could have helped Syrians much sooner had the former Conservative government not blocked a crucial rule change aimed at making sponsorship easier.
Chris Alexander, the former immigration minister, twice said no to proposals to facilitate private sponsorship, which would ultimately have allowed sponsors, already lining up to help, to begin bringing in refugees as early as March 2015.
But Alexander said no in March and again in July, and only acted when Canada’s willingness to accept refugees was tied to the death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy pictured washed up on a beach after drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
The arrival of Syrians has not been without problems. Schools reported major issues coping with a sudden influx of new children who did not speak the language and were not used to the structure of a Canadian school day.
Meanwhile, a recent estimate suggested 7,500 Syrian families have been left in limbo after being told they were accepted into Canada.
Canadian private sponsors have also made preparations for families to arrive, only for them to be delayed by months.
The Canadian government responded by saying sponsors could swap families for those ready to come, presenting a difficult dilemma to those already committed to specific refugees.
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