By Farah Bogani, Blog Writer
On October 25th 2016, Canadian parliament unanimously passed a motion to resettle members of the Islamic State (ISIL)-targeted Yazidi community in Canada by February 2017. For years, the predominantly Kurdish religious minority has been subjected to the brutality of ISIL whose use of sexual slavery, prevention of Yazidi births, forced indoctrination, and torture have been found to amount to genocide according to UN reporting in mid-June. According to non-profit advocacy group Yazda, this has led to 90% of the community being displaced with a majority located in refugee camps. However, despite passing the motion a concrete plan is still in the works on how to meet the 120-day target and how many Yazidi refugees Canada will take in. The question of whether the Canadian government will waive the ILP loans payments for these refugees is also at hand.
Between November 2015 and February 2016, Canada resettled approximately 25,000 Syrian refugees and waived their immigration loans programme (ILP) payments. It is necessary to question whether the same thing will be done for the Yazidi refugees. At STAND, we have analyzed from an economic perspective how the ILP unfairly disadvantages vulnerable refugee populations who are meant to pay back loans to the government as soon as one month into resettlement. Requiring repayments from incoming Yazidi refugees after they were waived for Syrian refugees amounts to a sense of injustice and unfairness as the move would prevent refugees from coming unless they can pay for it — or are willing to make the sacrifices to pay.
Currently, there are approximately 1000 Yazidis in Canada. Murad Ismael, executive director of Yazda, points out that accepting more Yazidi refugees would allow ‘Yazidis to preserve their traditions, culture and language’ while building a new community, which is important to the Yazidi faith. While Canada’s current refugee policy is based on the UNHCR’s identification system of refugees resettlement criteria, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel suggests going beyond the usual UN referral system could be ‘precedent-setting’ — indeed, Canada could act faster and contribute much more to helping resettle Yazidi refugees.
It has also been suggested that Canada should be doing more outside of resettlement. As a signatory to the Genocide Convention and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, Canada should also be committed to the physical security of the Yazidis where they live. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested creating ‘safe zones’ in Northern Iraq, which presents an opportunity for Canada to offer its support both politically and militarily through joint lobbying with Germany at the UN and the commitment of its already operational military in Iraq to upholding such safe zones. Canada could also do more by following the recommendations set out in the UN’s mid-June report which include providing psychosocial support and trauma therapy, funding for reconstruction and assistance in preservation and documentation of mass grave sites.
Having been praised globally for its successful welcome of Syrians in early 2016, Canada is well-positioned now to do more for incoming refugees and to show its dedication to upholding the principles of keeping those at risk of persecution around the world safe.
ILP reform is necessary to support refugee settlement in Canada. STAND Canada is very close to achieving 500 signatures on our e-petition, which would force the Government of Canada to acknowledge our concerns. Help us achieve our goals by adding your name by clicking here.