Member of Parliament for Lethbridge Rachael Harder recently returned from a fact-finding mission to northern Iraq where she learned firsthand about the genocide of the Yazidi people.
“What we saw and the stories that we heard were absolutely horrific,” Harder said.
Watch below: Alberta woman inspired to help enslaved Yazidi women and girls
In June, the United Nations declared the atrocities committed against the Yazidi population by ISIS as genocide. Harder heard from Yazidi women who escaped ISIS.
“Repeated rape and horrendous torture, being purchased and sold like they were simply a commodity,” she said.
The Yazidi people live primarily in Iraq, Turkey and Syria, and were first invaded by ISIS in 2014.
Since January, Canada has welcomed more than 25,000 refugees, but currently the Yazidi women, who are considered “internally displaced people,” do not meet requirements for immigration.
“Canada does have the ability to enact Section 25 of the immigration act, which would allow us to offer asylum to those who are not declared refugees but find themselves in unique and desperate situations,” Harder said.
“Canadians made a commitment to place some of the most vulnerable,” immigration director at Lethbridge Family Services Sarah Aimes said. “Certainly these women are some of these groups.”
Harder said more needs to be done to help these women flee their war-torn home.
“They don’t have a hope if they stay in the region that they live,” Harder said. “They have to come to the country where they’re given the opportunity to pursue a new life.”
Harder argued that Lethbridge is a perfect place for the Yazidi women to call home.
“We have a university, a college, and we have a great English learning program here,” Harder said. “We have structures in place to support new immigrants.”
Lethbridge Family Services, one of the first points of contact for new immigrants, has programs in place to facilitate education for the new refugees.
“English language, as far as we’re concerned, is your full-time job for the first year,” Aimes said.
Harder said she and her colleagues will continue to work with diplomats and aid groups to bring these women to Canada.
“The Yazidi people are at the hands of the genocide—they are the ones we need to be prioritizing.”