1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 113

Thursday, April 13, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Refugee Programs—Trauma Support—Yazidi Women

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the leader of the government.

Leader, I would like to ask you about the government’s recent commitment to provide help for the vulnerable Yazidi women and children and other survivors of ISIS.


I am pleased to see that the government has devoted $28 million towards providing asylum to 800 Yazidi refugees before the end of the year. In particular, I’m glad to see that the program will focus on keeping families together and providing trauma care to the refugees. By that I mean the government made the very wise decision of not only bringing the women who were abducted but also to support them by bringing their families as well. I applaud that decision.

Leader, can you provide us with an update concerning the status of this program and an idea of how many Yazidi refugees have been accepted into Canada so far?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and her ongoing interest in this community and other communities needing the protection of Canada and other like-minded countries.

I’m happy to inform the house that more than 450 persons have already arrived in Canada, and we expect to welcome a total of 1,200 vulnerable Yazidi and other survivors of Daesh by the end of this year.

In addition, the Government of Canada is facilitating private sponsorship of the Yazidi refugees. As a government, we are committed not only to welcoming these highly vulnerable persons to Canada but supporting them on the very difficult road ahead, given the circumstances they have experienced and therefore the circumstances in which they’re arriving. The department and the government has therefore engaged closely with local partners to ensure appropriate support is in place because it’s a special needs support, as the honourable senator will know. This includes reaching out to members of the Yazidi community, engagement with the Canadian Yazidi Association and other partners involved in the community to act as interpreters, volunteers and support. The timeline is challenging but it is one that the government is confident it can achieve, with 450, as I say, having already arrived.

I’m going longer with this answer because of the importance of this issue to Canadians and the need for information. The logistical challenges involved with this community are particularly difficult because they come from a highly volatile region. The Government of Canada is very grateful to other governments, particularly the Government of Germany, in organizing how we best provide the support to and extract these candidates for status in Canada. The circumstances of trauma and other difficulties will require special, on-the-ground work, not just in Canada but also in the extrication itself. I reference Canada’s contributions to the region in the context of refugees but also other support to displaced and vulnerable populations in the region.

As senators will know, since November 2015 we’ve welcomed nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees and also fully fulfilled the commitments to resettle 23,000 Iraqi refugees by 2015. Canada is providing $150 million in humanitarian assistance over three years to Iraq, in line with our pledge in the Washington conference of late last year and is working with experienced partners to provide particular attention to the Yazidi community working with like-minded countries.

I would also reference that Canada is investing over $1.6 billion over three years for countering Daesh and is responding to the crisis in Iraq and Syria to address the impact that is having on the wider region, including Lebanon and Jordan. That investment includes humanitarian assistance in the amount of $840 million, $305 million in military assistance, $270 million in development assistance and $145 million in stabilization and security assistance.

This is a very important holistic approach because it is not just in receiving refugees but also dealing with the context of a situation which is causing the refugee movement that I would wish to respond to this question, and I thank Senator Jaffer for it.

Senator Jaffer: Leader, I really appreciate your thorough response to this question because this is a serious issue.

Senator Dupuis, Senator McPhedran and I attended a lunch today where a Canadian-Iraqi woman activist, Ms. Yanar Mohammed, described how the Yazidi women are really like pieces of meat. After hearing her, I want to emphasize — and you covered this — that if there was a group of women who needed help with psychological, social and physical support, it’s the Yazidi women.

For the purposes of your discussions with the government, I would like to share with you one of the things I learned today. The women who were abused not only suffered at the hands of Daesh/ISIS but they are also suffering at the hands of their family because they are seen as women who have been dishonoured. I appreciate your response and we cannot forget that these women will need a lot of help for a long time.

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her encouragement in having this holistic approach that the trauma engagement take place immediately in the region. We also need to ensure that trauma support is available here and in cooperation with the Yazidi community and associations across Canada.

The observations that the senator makes from the luncheon event is another occasion to remind all senators of the comments made by Malala yesterday of the beacon Canada is to so many affected groups in receiving refugees: women, children, families and of course men. This is a challenge that we have engaged in collectively with all partners across the country and will continue to do so.