Federal Liberals now say that the so-called Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidi minority in Iraq and Syria in light of an independent report from the United Nations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion confirmed the position in question period Thursday, two days after Liberal MPs voted against a Conservative motion that sought to label ISIS atrocities with the same term.
"Today for the first time, an independent report by the UN Commission has concluded that genocide was committed by the so-called Islamic State against the Yazidis," Dion said. "Given this evidence, our government believes that genocide against the Yazidis is currently ongoing."
This undated file image posted online on Jan. 14, 2014 shows ISIS fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: File/The Canadian Press via The Associated Press)
Dion said the federal government is again calling on further, urgent action from the United Nations Security Council.
Veteran Tory MP Jason Kenney said it was unfortunate it took the "stubborn minister so long to realize the facts that have been staring the world in the face."
Shortly before voting against the motion Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that the determination on what is or is not genocide must be done objectively by the UN, not partisan politicians.
Four Liberal MPs strayed and voted with Tories, New Democrats, and Bloc MPs in supporting the motion.
The report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, based on dozens of interviews with survivors, summarizes in graphic detail the "ongoing genocide" against the Kurdish-speaking religious community of 400,000 people at the hands of ISIS. Testimonies included recollections of mass killings and the sexual slavery of women and girls.
The report summary states:
ISIS has sought to destroy the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community, and erasing their identity as Yazidis.
The report concludes survivor testimonies "clearly demonstrate" the extremist group's intention to "destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar."
A number of recommendations were put forward, including that the UN Security Council consider invoking Chapter Seven powers that allow the use of military force.
But government's shift on the matter did not quell criticism from Tories who earlier blasted Trudeau, Dion, and other Liberals for failing to recognize what they say is beyond debate.
Kenney said that while he appreciated Dion's reflection on the UN report, he also found the foreign minister's statement "insufficient." ISIS' atrocities are not just affecting Yazidis, Kenney said, but other indigenous minorities in the region.
Kenney urged Dion to join allies such as the United States, European Union, and United Kingdom in recognizing the "broader genocide of Daesh."
The foreign affairs minister said Canada's position is the same as its top allies, and said the government has taken the lead by pushing the UN Security Council and tripling the amount of troops training Kurdish forces on the ground.
"I find it disturbing that the minister of foreign affairs is so profoundly misinformed on a matter of such great moral importance," Kenney said, noting other allies apply the term genocide to what ISIS is doing to other minority groups including the Assyrians, Armenians, and Christians.
Kenney said recognizing a wider genocide would mean following "Canada's natural moral conscience."
Tories press for combat mission
Michelle Rempel, the Tories' immigration critic, rose to press the Liberals to accelerate the asylum applications of Yazidi victims, as recommend by the UN. She said Immigration Minister John McCallum could provide refuge with "one stroke of a pen."
McCallum called her claim "a bit far-fetched," but said the situation is being taken very seriously.
"We are studying it, we are welcoming a number of Yazidis into Canada in coming weeks, and we will work very hard to do more, not just for Yazidis but for other endangered groups in difficult-to-reach territories of the world," McCallum said.
"Have the Liberals denied genocide to avoid restoring and extending Canada's anti-Daesh combat mission?"
Peter Kent, the Tories' deputy foreign affairs critic, used the occasion to press Liberals to restore the air combat effort against ISIS. He charged that Liberals have refused to speak the word genocide for months because if they "acknowledged the horrifically obvious, Canada would be obliged to do something."
"Is that the real reason? Have the Liberals denied genocide to avoid restoring and extending Canada's anti-Daesh combat mission?" Kent asked.
Dion said Liberals actually acted with "a lot of strength," again pointing to the amount of training forces on the ground.
"I call upon all my colleagues to support the plan that Canada is making on the ground to help these populations," he said.
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