Government introduces legislation to support humanitarian aid to vulnerable Afghans
March 9, 2023
Canada has a proud history of offering refuge and assistance to the world’s most vulnerable. The fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan created a unique and dire situation for the people in Afghanistan, and changes to Canada’s Criminal Code are needed in order to allow international assistance, including humanitarian aid to reach them. The scale of the humanitarian and economic crises that Afghans are currently facing cannot be overstated, and Canadians want to help. These changes will enable Canadian organizations to deliver much needed assistance, while maintaining our strong anti-terrorism laws and protections.
The Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, today introduced legislation to facilitate humanitarian aid – as well as immigration activities and other government operations – in Afghanistan and other geographic areas controlled by terrorist groups. Bill C-41, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, will make important changes to the Criminal Code to allow desperately needed aid to be delivered by Canadian organizations to the people of Afghanistan.
At present, the Criminal Code’s anti-terrorist financing provisions inadvertently place significant constraints on the delivery of international assistance. After extensive consultation with aid groups affected, this legislation would create a regime providing authorizations for certain purposes, like aid and immigration activities, in geographic areas controlled by a terrorist group. Those who receive an authorization (and respect its terms) would be shielded from the risk of criminal liability when carrying out authorized activities. Stringent measures to prevent any financing from reaching terrorist groups would remain in place.
These changes to the Criminal Code support Canada’s deep commitment to the people of Afghanistan, while upholding our domestic and international obligations to combat terrorism. We are joining our allies in fulfilling obligations contained in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2615 by facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Afghanistan while ensuring that authorized activities are not under risk of criminal liability. Beyond Afghanistan, the proposed authorization regime would also support international assistance and efforts to resettle refugees from other geographic areas controlled by a terrorist group in the future, in situations where life-saving support is required.
“Canada’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan did not end with the fall of Kabul. Whether providing aid or welcoming refugees, we are there for vulnerable Afghans – while always strongly condemning the Taliban’s violence, misogyny and disregard for human rights. This legislation ensures we can keep making good on our commitment, while respecting Canadian law and standing strong against terrorism.”
- The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety
“The people of Afghanistan are facing a humanitarian crisis - one unlike we have ever seen before. I remain committed to doing all I can to support the Afghan people, especially the women and girls in the face of unacceptable discrimination solely because of their gender, during this dire situation. The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code will facilitate Canada’s engagement alongside our allies to address humanitarian crises and advance human rights globally.”
-The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada
“Canada has one of the most ambitious Afghan refugee programs in the world. We have welcomed almost 30,000 Afghan refugees and we remain on track to reach our commitment of welcoming at least 40,000 by the end of this year. The changes announced today will support the safe movement of Afghans destined for Canada and give us the flexibility that we might need in the future to ensure that Canada remains a global leader in refugee and humanitarian response.”
- The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
“Canada has some of the most robust and stringent anti-terror laws in the world. The proposed changes to the Criminal Code strengthen the Government’s commitment to providing life-saving assistance to vulnerable Afghans and other populations suffering a humanitarian crisis, while continuing to protect Canadians through robust anti-terrorist laws and close oversight.”
- The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
According to the United Nation’s 2022 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, there are unprecedented levels of need amongst ordinary women, men and children of Afghanistan with two thirds of the population affected.
According to the UN, a total of 28.3 million people (two thirds of the Afghan population) need humanitarian assistance in 2023, an increase of 16% since 2022. Nearly 20 million people are facing acute food insecurity, and an estimated 4 million children and pregnant and lactating women in Afghanistan are at risk of acute malnutrition. Women and girls are deprived of access to education, employment, and even the most basic human rights.
In June 2022, the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan issued its report, Honouring Canada’s Legacy in Afghanistan: Responding to the Humanitarian Crisis and Helping People Reach Safety, which detailed the humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan and the challenges in bringing Afghan nationals who are at risk to safety. Recommendation 10 of the report called for the Government of Canada to ensure that Canadian organizations have the clarity and assurances needed to deliver international assistance without fear of prosecution for violating Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, while Recommendation 11 advised that the Government of Canada review its anti-terrorist financing provisions and urgently take legislative steps to ensure they do not restrict legitimate international assistance. Recommendation 4 of the Senate Interim Report on Canada’s Restrictions on Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan similarly called for the creation of an explicit humanitarian exemption to the Criminal Code.
Since August 2021, the Government of Canada has announced $156 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. This aid is being administered through experienced humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide assistance including food, water, nutrition, medical care, sanitation and hygiene.
Giving Canadian organizations the clarity they need so that they are shielded from criminal liability in meeting humanitarian needs on the ground and carrying out life-saving assistance in support of health, education, livelihoods, and human rights, will be fundamental in responding to the crisis.
In addition, in 2022/23, Canada also provided over $70 million in support to basic services, including health, to the Afghan people.
The Government of Canada’s goal to bring at least 40,000 Afghan nationals to Canada by the end of 2023 is unwavering and is one of the largest commitments of any country in the world. This commitment includes an emphasis on individuals who supported Canada and our allies over the past two decades, many of whom remain in Afghanistan, as well as vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders, 2SLGBTQI+ people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of religious and ethnic minorities. Since August 2021, over 28,000 Afghans have arrived and now call Canada home.
Canada’s 2001 Anti-terrorism Act created anti-terrorist financing offences in the Criminal Code to meet Canada’s international legal obligations to combat terrorism. These included the offence of directly or indirectly providing or making property available knowing it will be used by or will benefit a terrorist group.
Office of the Minister of Public Safety
Public Safety Canada
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Office of the Minister of International Development
Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
Bahoz Dara Aziz
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: