Yazidi Refugees Promised Safe Haven In Canada

Approximately 1,200 Yazidi refugees have been granted asylum in Canada as the Canadian government looks to resettle this vulnerable group by the end of 2017. Already victim to acts of genocide, the Yazidi people are considered to be one of the highest risk refugees on the move right now.

As it stands, about a quarter of the goal has been already been reached, with the Yazidi people making up roughly 300 of the refugees that have landed in Canada, but there is quite a way to go. According to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, their resettlement will cost about $28 million dollars, but there is a positive message for people in need. “We’ve always had a tradition of offering protection on the basis of vulnerability,” says Hussen. “Having said that, the Yazidi people constitute a vast majority of the people that will be resettled as a result of this initiative because of the particularly high level of violence they have suffered at the hands of Daesh.”

The high-risk status of the Yazidi people has made this move a monumental one. In past years, the Yazidi people have been singled out by ISIL, in a forced attempt to convert them to Sunni Islam with fatal consequences for noncompliance.

Acts, dating back to August 2014, by ISIL have been labeled as genocide, as hundreds of Yazidi families in Sinjar, Iraq fell victim to the terrorist group. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report estimating a loss of around 1,800 Yazidi lives by the end of the month-long siege.

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Member of Parliament representing Calgary Nose Hill, has been an active proponent of refugee action since the Liberal Party took office in 2015. “The plight of the Yazidi people is something that I think if humanity can’t respond to with great concern and great compassion and anger and desire to change, then I’m not really sure we’ve advanced any of our processes in terms of preventing genocide,” says Rempel, who was present during the press conference earlier this week.

So far, the Canadian government has steered clear of publicizing this transition in an attempt to protect family and friends connected to the Yazidi’s seeking asylum. Considering their historical victimization by ISIL, those just beyond the Canadian grasp are likely to be targeted if identities were revealed. Files from the Canadian Press state that government officials ask that this process be respected.

The topic of refugee resettlement has been a highly-debated one over the past two years in Canada. While some believe that Canada is accepting too many, others think their commitment is not enough. However, as Rempel points out, the conflict here with the Yazidi people underlines how essential action is. “It is so important for motions like this, countries around the world to put politics aside, to put very heated, very polarized discussions about refugee resettlement aside and come up with good smart public policy and I think that was achieved in Canada today.”

Wyatt Lang