Hon. John McCallum, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Refugees Building Jean Edmonds South Tower, Floor 21 365 Laurier Avenue West Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
Dear Minister McCallum,
Re: Urgent Measures Required to Assist Yazidi Victims of Genocide
As you are aware, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration just completed its study entitled, “Immigration Measures for the Protection of Vulnerable Groups”. As this study was completed during Parliamentary recess, there will not be an opportunity for the committee to table a full report in the House of Commons until session resumes in late September. I anticipate that the report coming out of this study will be broad in scope , given the array of issues that were touched upon.
There were, however, several urgent issues that require our immediate assistance, pertaining to the plight of extremely vulnerable groups, specifically Yazidi victims of genocide.
I urge you to consider the following for immediate action:
1.) Treat the declaration of genocide as an immediate call to action for Canada in which a whole-of-government approach is required (humanitarian aid, military intervention, and resettlement).
2.) Act upon the June 2016 United Nations recommendation to accelerate the asylum claims of Yazidi victims of genocide.
3.) Review the selection process used by the United Nations to identify refugees for the government sponsored refugee stream, and encourage changes if necessary.
We heard many concerns raised about lengthy (5+ years) waits given to Yazidi victims of genocide by the UNHCR for refugee selection appointments. Many victims of genocide are unable to stay in refugee camps due to financial concerns and concerns from victims regarding the incidence of further persecution in the camps. Also, we heard concerns about the ability of victims of genocide to travel to UN refugee camps for resettlement processing, and potential discrimination against Yazidis by UN representatives. The reality is that very few Yazidis have been recommended for resettlement to Canada by the United Nations.
4.) Examine the need to restore the exemption for Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the mission cap under the privately sponsored refugees program, in order to fully harness the generosity of Canadian private sponsors.
5.) Review processing times in Canada for asylum claims of victims of genocide, in both the government sponsored and private sponsorship stream, and make process improvements.
6.) Set specific targets for numbers of victims of genocide within our refugee sponsorship programs, and put mechanisms in place to measure whether or not we are meeting these targets in order to measure efficacy.
7.) Examine and implement innovative ways to identify victims of genocide, as many of these people can experience difficulties in being identified as part of the UN selection process.
8.) Establish a Ministerial advisory committee to improve processes for bringing Yazidi victims of genocide to Canada, which includes organizations with current on- the-ground experience in working with the Yazidi people. Similar advisory committees could be established for other groups facing genocide.
9.) Examine the possibility of utilizing Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to bring Yazidi victims of genocide to Canada in an expeditious manner.
Minister, the devastating testimony that we heard this week compels us to put partisan politics aside and act, as the very existence of the Yazidi people is threatened. The previous government tried to prioritize persecuted religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities, but we face a common enemy in seeing results; the inertia of bureaucracy.
Our NDP colleague Jenny Kwan will also be sending you a letter, with many recommendations that I support.
Without the benefit of a committee study, last summer Prime Minister Trudeau said that bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada was only a matter of political will. Given that so few Yazidis have made it Canada, I hope you will take this same approach to doing Canada’s part to save the Yazidi people.
With Great Hope,
Hon. Michelle Rempel, P.C., M.P. Official Opposition Critic for Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees