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Yazidi women. Photo: Igal Hecht

Canadian government decision to bring in Yazidi refugees kept from Yazidi leadership

Will it be too little, too late? While grateful that after ignoring the Yazidi genocide by ISIS that began in 2014, Canada is finally promising to bring 1200 of them to Canada by year’s end, no one in their leadership or otherwise was told or consulted, despite the critical role they should be playing in the process.

On Tuesday, February 21 2017 Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, held a news conference about the government plan to rescue 1,200 Yazidis and other victims of ISIS by the end of 2017. He said that nearly 400 had already arrived. Of those, about 74 per cent are Yazidis.

“We are not at all aware that 400 refugees have arrived in Canada,” said Mirza Ismail, Chairman of the Yazidi Human Rights Organization International who is based in Toronto and is in constant contact with Yazidis in Iraq and in refugee camps in Turkey and Greece. “The Canadian government should have notified us . We are a very small Yazidi community in Canada and we all know each other. We do not know why our government did this without our knowledge and why they did not ask the Yazidi communities for resettlement assistance?”

Mozzud Freedom Foundation, a human rights organization, is spearheading a project to privately sponsor Yazidi refugees. Executive Director, Geoffrey Clarfield was mystified that no one was told and called the process “untransparent” and “cloak and dagger”. He wonders too why no one was told about the arrivals.

“The understanding of the government is that they’re supposed to be integrated into the community so if the community leaders don’t know who they are and where they are, it’s puzzling,” he said on CBC radio.

Hadji Hesso of the Canadian Yazidi Association, also knew nothing about government assisted Yazidi arrivals. Most of the small, closely connected Yazidi people in Canada live near each other in Winnipeg, London and Toronto area.

The peaceful Yazidi people practise an ancient religion, 6000 years old. Their home is in northern Iraq, the Nineveh plain and around Mt. Sinjar. In August l914, ISIS attacked, killing thousands and enslaving thousands more of the woman and girls. The slaughter and sexual enslavement continues to this day. The UN declared last year that the Yazidis were the victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Canada followed.

Since December 2015, more than 40,000 Syrian refugees “regardless their religion” were brought in Canada by The Liberal movement who maintained that Muslims are the greatest victims of terrorism. Former Minister of Immigration and Refugees John McCallum revealed the great majority the government sponsored refugees are Muslims and according to official report only 9 Yadizis arrived in Canada by mid 2016.

“According to the UN and international law, when genocide is declared, the international community has an obligation to ensure their safety. Canada has declared Yazidi genocide but is not carrying out its legal obligations,” Ismail said. “Canada should have agreed to take in much larger numbers of Yazidi refugees. Canada has brought more than 35,000 Syrian refugees because of civil war there. But the Yazidis face genocide and are on the edge of total annihilation . Even the 1200 promised, the Minister said ,would include other minorities.” He urges the government to give “equality and equal rights to the Yazidi refugees. They’ve lost everything and for many that includes their loved ones that are still being bought and sold in sex slave markets.”

Geoffrey Clarfield: “We have people on the ground in Iraq who can aid Canadian officials to make sure the most vulnerable Yazidis are saved from ISIS.”

Mirza Ismail: “I hope our Canadian government does not make the same mistake where the real victims are ignored while others benefit instead just because of political interests.”

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About Doris Strub Epstein

Doris Strub Epstein
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.

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