Federal government reaffirms commitment to bring Yazidi refugees to Canada
'More can always be done, and we’re always looking at ways to integrate and settle refugees better'
Canada will meet its commitment to bring an unspecified number of persecuted Yazidis to Canada by late February, according to the federal government's new immigration minister.
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, newly minted Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen said his government would soon provide a detailed update on its Yazidi efforts.
"We intend to fully meet that commitment," Hussen told host Rosemary Barton. "That is still on track and we will make sure that we communicate the ongoing nature of the meeting of that commitment in due course."
The minister said he could not provide details now, because doing so could possibly endanger Canadian staff on the ground working with Yazidis.
The Yazidis are a religious minority with a 6,000-year-old culture, and are based mainly in northern Iraq. ISIS launched brutal attacks targeting the Yazidi community in August 2014.
In June, a United Nations report said ISIS was seeking to destroy the community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.
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Hussen, who arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old Somali refugee, is now the minister responsible for the department that granted him entry into this country. He said his new job was an "honour" and that he would work to ensure Canada remained open and welcoming to newcomers.
Asked what the federal government could do to better help integrate Syrian refugees that have come to Canada since the Liberals took office, Hussen related his own experience of integration, saying it wasn't always up to the government.
"The issue of integration and settlement has never been just left to the government. I think Canadians from all walks of life have always helped in that process," he said.
"I benefited greatly from various community resources in my settlement and integration into Canadian society and I'm sure that Canadians will continue to be generous to our new brothers and sisters from various communities who are coming to our country."
Hussen said that while he expected communities to play a major role, that "more can always be done and we're always looking at ways to integrate and settle refugees better."
In response to reports that refugees from Africa and other regions of the world were putting their lives at risk by walking across the Manitoba border from the United States to claim refugee status, Hussen said they should be treated like any other refugees.
"We have to continue our tradition of welcoming those who seek protection and sanctuary and also balance that with the real need to maintain the integrity of our immigration system," he said. "Each refugee case will be assessed on its merits. The immigration and refugee board will do its job and I look forward to their work."
Hussen also said that to his knowledge there has been no spike in the numbers of refugees crossing the border into Canada from the U.S. since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November.