Canada to dispatch team to Iraq for Yazidi fact-finding mission

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum is dispatching a team of officials to Iraq to consider ways to help Yazidi refugees fleeing genocide.

Opposition accuses government of turning 'blind eye' to plight of persecuted women, girls

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk toward the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

The government is sending a team of officials to Iraq on a fact-finding mission to consider best ways to help Yazidi refugees fleeing genocide.

Immigration, Refugees and Immigration Minister John McCallum announced the trip today in the House of Commons.

"We recognize the exceptionally serious nature of this issue, and also the difficulties," he said. "So my department is sending an expedition — a group — over to investigate the situation in Iraq. They will be going themselves to gather facts and determine possible courses of action."

An official in the minister's office said the initiative has been under consideration since the summer, but few details will be released to protect the employees. 

Operational security

"For operational security reasons we can't disclose much of this information, other than to say that IRCC officials will be travelling to the region in the coming weeks to understand and assess the situation," the official said.

McCallum announced the trip in response to a question from Conservative MP Rachael Harder, who accused the government of turning a "blind eye" to the rape culture of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalists around the globe.

"When will the prime minister take real action instead of lip service?" she asked.

The House of Commons immigration committee held three days of special hearings over the summer, listening to horrific accounts of torture, rape, murder and enslavement as witnesses offered emotional testimony about atrocities carried out by ISIS. The Yazidis are a Kurdish minority group that practices an ancient faith.

Dion declares 'genocide'

Advocates urged MPs to do more to help desperate Yazidi survivors, including bringing in more refugees and providing more humanitarian and medical assistance for those in camps. Some said Canada can't rely on the "flawed" refugee identification system led by the United Nations. 

In June, a United Nations report said ISIS militants had been systematically rounding up Yazidis since August 2014, seeking to "erase their identity," a finding that meets the definition of genocide under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion subsequently declared that genocide was underway, after refusing to do so under pressure from the Conservatives.