Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at a Press Conference on Helping Yazidi Women & Children, and other survivors of Daesh


Ottawa, Ontario
February 21, 2017

As delivered

Thank you very much. Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today to discuss our government's efforts to resettle the Yazidi women and girls and other survivors of Daesh in Canada. I'm joined by my Parliamentary Secretary, Serge Cormier, and Dawn Edlund, the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister for Operations at IRCC, as well as David Manicom, the Department's Associate Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic and Program Policy at IRCC, and also here is Sean Boyd from Global Affairs Canada.

Today, I'll give you an overview of our plan to help Yazidi women and children and other survivors of Daesh, and then we will answer questions after that.

As you may be aware, on October 25, 2016, the House of Commons unanimously voted to resettle, to provide protection to Yazidi women and girls who are escaping genocide. To this end, our government will resettle approximately 1,200 highly vulnerable survivors of Daesh and their family members in Canada, particularly focusing vulnerable Yazidi women and children over the course of 2017.

It is important to make two points of clarification here. The first is that we've always had a tradition of offering protection on the basis of vulnerability, not religion or ethnicity. As such, our response is focusing on all survivors of Daesh. 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 that they have suffered at the hands of Daesh.

Second, while the motion focused on women and girls specifically, our efforts on this matter have revealed to us that Daesh has also deliberately targeted boys and as such, we're helping to resettle all child survivors of Daesh, and that is vital to our work.

Returning to our commitment of resettling 1,200 survivors, it is important to keep in mind that the Yazidi people are an integral part of Iraqi society. Many have roots in that community, which is why the program will focus on the number of people for whom resettlement is the best option. We've worked very closely with various partners to determine the balance, how we balance our desire to assist these vulnerable people with the need to ensure that the particular significant social, psychosocial vulnerabilities present are properly addressed.

Key in these lessons were the lessons that we learned from the German government in their efforts to resettle the Yazidi people over the course of a year. Based on these findings, Germany, which was able to resettle 1,000 Daesh survivors from Northern Iraq, we were able to learn a lot of lessons which informed our plan at IRCC.

Our operation is underway and individual survivors of Daesh have been arriving in Canada for resettlement in the last number of months, and this began on October 25, 2016. By tomorrow, it is expected that nearly 400 government-assisted refugees, mostly from outside Iraq, will have arrived in Canada. As you know, tomorrow marks 120 since the date of the motion that was passed in the House of Commons.

Arrivals of the remaining commitment of 1,200 will continue throughout the end of the year. These individuals will most, will be mostly resettled from inside Northern Iraq. We know from the German experience that this involves working in an extremely volatile and dangerous environment, so the security and safety of our personnel, as well as the survivors of Daesh themselves are of paramount importance to us and have been taken into consideration in the formulation of our plan and also in the implementation.

As such, we have obtained consent from the Government of Iraq, and we've also worked very closely with the Kurdish Regional Government to make sure that they support, they're supportive of our plan and we've had both support and cooperation from both of them as we move forward. We've also been working very closely with the International Organization on Migration, the United Nations Refugee Agency, as well as non-governmental organizations such as Yazda in the formulation and implementation of our plan.

As in all refugee cases, Canada's commitment to resettlement will be accomplished without compromising the safety of both, will be accomplished without compromising the security of both the survivors of Daesh and the safety and security of Canadians. On screening, I will take a particular note to say that all the individual that we're resettling in Canada were interviewed by highly trained officers and they underwent medical, criminal and security checks, as was done with our Syrian effort.

Survivors that come into Canada on commercial flights are being paced and at a controlled pace so that we don't overwhelm support and settlement services. As we learned from the Syrian refugee resettlement effort, it is important that we take the time to ensure that the support mechanisms are in place and the community services, the resettlement services are in place as we bring folks to Canada. That includes getting the pacing of the arrivals correct.

We also recognize that refugees, in particular women and youth, are our most vulnerable newcomers. As such, many in this particular case, many have experienced unimaginable trauma and vulnerability, both physical and emotional and many will have unique physical, psychological and social needs such as trauma counselling. We expect survivors of Daesh to have even greater needs than the regular refugees who come to Canada and that is what the German officials that we've dealt with have informed us.

As some of the survivors of Daesh have already arrived in Canada, we continue to work with service providing agencies, organizations, settlement service organizations to make sure that we continue to monitor the support services that they're accessing to make sure that we determine whether those support services are adequate and to make the necessary changes as we move forward.

We're also working very closely with the International Organization for Migration, which is helping to transport these refugees to Canada to conduct a broad needs based assessment before the survivors of Daesh come to Canada. As such, we are sharing this information with settlement agencies and other service providers to make sure that they use that information to craft a plan of settlement and support once these folks land in Canada.

We're also working very closely with provinces, territories, municipalities and other agencies such as school boards, to make sure that the survivors of Daesh as they come, we have the right supports in place, we continue to learn about the adequacy of those supports and to make sure that we refine our plan, moving forward, to make sure that there's always support for this highly vulnerable and traumatized population.

As we are resettling families, not only women and children, we feel that keeping families together is really critical to maintaining a support base for this particular set of individuals. It is, it is critical that families remain in place as these new Canadians establish a new home and adjust to a new environment.

In closing, I'd like to say that we, in Canada, have a very long and progressive tradition of welcoming those in need of protection and sanctuary from war and persecution and this initiative that has been underway and will continue to be underway for 2017 is in line with that tradition. Our government recently resettled more than 40,000 Syrian refugees and the lessons that we took from that initiative have informed us greatly on this initiative to resettle survivors of Daesh.

We are committed to offering protection to survivors of Daesh and we're committed to do, to taking the necessary time to get it right, which includes making sure that we continue to refine the, the adequacy of the support services around the, the needs of this particular population. Our operation aims to bring to Canada those at the greatest risk and to give them the support and services that they need to make a new home and to restart their lives here.

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