Stéphane Dion declares ISIS killings of Yazidi people a genocide

Canada's minister of foreign affairs now says the atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria against the minority Yazidis amount to genocide.

Opposition Conservatives have been calling for the declaration of genocide for months

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

Canada's minister of foreign affairs now says the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria against the minority Yazidi people constitute genocide.

Stéphane Dion made the statement in the House of Commons after the release of a United Nations report Thursday affirming what observers have said for months: militants from the extremist group are seeking to destroy the ancient religious community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.

The report said the Islamist militants had been systematically rounding up Yazidis since August 2014, seeking to "erase their identity," a finding that meets the definition of genocide as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Dion admits ISIS genocide after UN report

7 years ago
Duration 2:21
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion admits that, according to a new United nations report, ISIS' actions do constitute a genocide.

"For the first time, an independent study by the UN has concluded that genocide was committed by the so-called Islamic State against the Yazidis. Given this evidence, our government believes that genocide against the Yazidis is currently ongoing," Dion said in French in response to a question from Conservative MP Jason Kenney.

"We call for urgent action by the UN Security Council," Dion said.

The opposition Conservatives have urged the government to declare ISIS actions against Yazidis a genocide for months, most recently in an opposition day motion that Liberal MPs voted down this week.

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards 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 defended that move by saying it was waiting for the UN to first formally declare it a genocide before taking action.

"We do not feel that politicians should be weighing in on this, first and foremost," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday. "Determinations of genocide need to be made in an objective, responsible way. That is exactly what we have formally requested the international authorities weigh in on."

Kenney said he welcomed Dion's move, but said it was "unfortunate that it took this stubborn minister so long."

"His statement today is simply insufficient because this genocide affects more than the Yaizidis, it affects the other indigenous minorities of Mesopotamia, it affects the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans and the Armenians," Kenney said.

Dion said Canada has been pushing the UN Security Council to commit to prosecuting the perpetrators of the genocide, and bolster investigative resources in the region to further "understand very well what is happening on the ground."

The 40-page United Nations report, entitled "They Came to Destroy: ISIS crimes against the Yazidis," sets out a legal analysis of the so-called Islamic State's intent to wipe out the Kurdish-speaking group, whom the Sunni Muslim militants view as infidels.

The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.

"The finding of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including at the Security Council," Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN body studying the issue, told a news briefing Thursday.

Power Panel: ISIS responsible for genocide

7 years ago
Duration 8:54
The Power Panel discusses the government's decision to call ISIS killings of Yazidi people a genocide after refusing to use that term earlier in the week.

Later Thursday evening, Marc Miller, MP for Ville-Marie Le Sud-Ouest Île-des-Soeurs and the president of the Quebec Liberal caucus, tweeted that this motion on genocide and crimes against humanity would go to the House on Friday. The motion says: 

  1. That the House recognize that there is strong evidence that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has committed and is committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against religious, ethnic, and other groups in Iraq and Syria, including Yezidis, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians and members of the LGBT community;
  2. That the government of Canada continue its efforts to have these atrocities properly investigated and, where appropriate, referred to the International Criminal Court to formally determine the existence of genocide and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice; and
  3. That the government of Canada and the international community continue their efforts to combat (ISIS) as well as help protect these vulnerable populations.

With files from Reuters