FAAE Committee Report
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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE EIGHTH REPORT OF THE STANDING HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ENTITLED: “CANADA’S RESPONSE TO THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT (ISIL)”
The Government of Canada has carefully considered the Eighth Report (the Report) of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SCFAID).
The Government would like to thank the members of SCFAID for the opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the Report. The Government would also like to thank SCFAID for its efforts in preparing the Report and welcomes the continuing interest of SCFAID in the situation in Iraq and Syria perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It should be noted that two terms are used in this document to describe the terrorist organization commonly referred to as the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). While the Report refers to the organization as ISIL, the Government of Canada uses the term ISIS to describe the organization and will use this terminology for the purposes of the Government’s Response.
As indicated in SCFAID’s Eighth Report, ISIS continues to present a serious threat to the security and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. ISIS’s seizure of territory has caused the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and created a humanitarian crisis through the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. ISIS’s power base continues to reside in both Iraq and Syria, while many of ISIS’s strongholds and areas of refuge are located in Syria. The ultimate defeat of ISIS will require the international community to counter their power base, access to resources and support through a multitude of complementary efforts.
Outside of the Middle East, ISIS remains a significant threat to the security of Western countries. Terrorist attacks in Canada, Australia, France, Denmark and the United States by individuals inspired by ISIS and other jihadist propaganda, demonstrate that what is happening abroad can be brought home. This includes ISIS making specific threats against Canada, calling on supporters to attack Canadians. In addition, the threat of foreign fighters continues to grow as individuals, including Canadians, join ISIS, receive training or become radicalized to the point of violence, and travel to other regions. It is estimated that ISIS has upwards of 30,000 fighters in total across Iraq and Syria, of which approximately 15,000 are foreign recruits.
Canada has been proactive and multi-faceted in its approach to dealing with the crisis perpetrated by ISIS. As a part of the Global Coalition to counter ISIL (the Coalition) effort, Canada has committed militarily through Operation IMPACT, which includes a deployment of military aircraft and also Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel that are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces in planning and conducting their military operations against ISIS. Canada is concerned with the domestic threat posed by returning foreign fighters and is working with partners through a range of fora, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group. Canada has limited the financing generated by and provided to ISIS through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is working with the international community to stop the flow of funds to the terrorist organization. As a top-tier humanitarian donor to Iraq, Canada has provided $107.4 million since the beginning of 2014 to programs assisting displaced Iraqis, as well as helping meet the urgent food, health, shelter, education and protection needs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. In addition to humanitarian assistance, Canada is working to deliver stabilization programs in Iraq with a special emphasis on addressing sexual violence and violence against women. Canada is also developing a counter-narrative approach which involves targeted support of influential local actors best positioned in communities to deliver messages countering ISIS’s narrative that resonate, and is looking at ways to prevent Canadians from being radicalizing to the point of violence.
As will be seen in the responses to the Committee’s recommendations below, the Government of Canada has been actively involved in the situation in Iraq and Syria, responding to the evolving security, humanitarian, and political situation through a range of diplomatic, military and stabilization efforts with the ultimate goal of stopping ISIS’s actions in Iraq and Syria.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to participate in the United States-led international coalition towards the implementation of the coalition’s five lines of effort and the realization of the objective of defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
On 30 March 2015, the Government of Canada extended and expanded Operation IMPACT - the CAF’s contribution to the Coalition’s military line of effort against ISIS. As a result, Canada’s military contribution has been extended for up to twelve months, until March 30 2016, and the CAF have been authorised to conduct air operations against ISIS into Syria. The recent extension and expansion of Operation IMPACT demonstrates Canada’s resolve to stand with our allies and partners and contribute to defeating ISIS. Canada will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground and consider how to best support Coalition military efforts against ISIS.
Canada is concerned that returning foreign fighters pose a serious domestic security threat. Canada is working with partners in a range of multilateral fora to address the threat posed by foreign fighters, including through the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter working group. During the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ visit to Iraq in September, 2014, Canada announced $5 million over the next three years to support regional efforts to detect and deter foreign fighters at source, destination and transit points, and to limit their movement into Iraq and Syria.
Canada is also deeply concerned about the financing generated by and provided to the terrorist group ISIS and has demonstrated our commitment to this important issue by contributing to the FATF project on ISIS financing, participating in the Manama Meeting on Combating the Financing of Terrorism in November 2014, and through our ongoing efforts to fully implement the FATF recommendations on combating terrorist financing.
Canada is also working with its allies to support local and international initiatives on countering ISIS narratives to thwart its recruitment efforts and reduce radicalization. At the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum Ministerial in September 2014, Canada announced $1.5 million funding to counter violent extremism. In January 2015, Canada announced up to $9 million for the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Digital Public Square project, an initiative to increase digital space for free expression, open political dialogue, and engagement in places where civil society and citizens participation is under threat. It would include countering extremist narratives. This complements our work to reduce radicalization at home through deepened community engagement and dialogue. Collectively, these efforts are designed to impede the recruitment of foreign fighters to ISIS, diminish financial and material support to the group, and discourage the ideological support they seek.
Canada is working to deliver a new development assistance program in Iraq (which was identified as a development partner country in 2014), both to address short-term needs and to support resilience and prosperity in Iraq over the long term. Canada is allocating up to $10 million in funding to partners to address sexual violence and violence against women and on the security side, $15 million in security programming. Canada is also funding initiatives to support minority rights and to combat human rights violations against vulnerable groups in Iraq with a focus on religious communities.
Canada is also one of the largest humanitarian donors to Iraq and was one of the first to recognize and address the significant needs of the Iraqi people. Canada has provided $107.4 million in humanitarian assistance funding for displaced Iraqis and an additional $9.5 million for Syrian refugees in Iraq.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to support the full implementation of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2199 (2015), which aims to disrupt sources of financing for ISIL and other listed extremist groups, and Resolution 2178 (2014) which, inter alia, calls upon all UN member states, in accordance with their obligations under international law, to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including by preventing the radicalization to terrorism and recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
Canada fully supports the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2015) and UNSCR 2199 (2015). Legislation and requirements to implement 2178 have largely been fulfilled through existing and new legislation. Canada has a number of legislative tools including the Combating Terrorism Act (2013) which created new offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada to commit certain terrorism offences. Canada also passed the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act which allows for the revocation of Canadian citizenship from dual Canadian citizens (born or naturalized) if they are convicted of terrorist offences. The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, is a proposed comprehensive piece of national security legislation which includes measures to enhance information sharing for national security purposes; provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with the tools they need to address the evolving threat; disrupt planned attacks on Canadian soil; criminalize the promotion of terrorism; and prevent terrorist travel and the efforts of those who seek to use Canada as a recruiting ground.
Canada continues to support and participate in multilateral bodies such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Working Group on Foreign Fighters, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the G7 and the Coalition’s Working Group on Foreign Fighters. In early September 2014 Canada announced $5 million to support regional efforts to limit the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria. At the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum’s Ministerial meeting later that month, Canada announced that it will provide $1 million to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and $500,000 to the Hedayah Centre of Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, which is located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Canada is cooperating and supporting capacity building efforts to counter violent extremism and stem the flow of foreign fighters through programming with a number of implementing partners, including multilateral entities such as INTERPOL, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The legislation and policies required to implement UNSCR 2199 in Canada have been established for a number of years. Canada has three distinct, yet complementary terrorist listing regimes: the United Nations Al-Qaida and Taliban Regulations (UNAQTR), the Regulations Implementing the United Nations Resolutions on Suppression of Terrorism (RIUNRST) and the Criminal Code. Canada implemented the UNAQTR in 1999 to implement in domestic law the provisions of UNSCR 1267. UNAQTR prohibit persons in Canada and Canadians abroad from dealing directly or indirectly in any property of a person associated with Al-Qaida or the Taliban, freezing the assets of listed entities, and preventing the supply, sale, and transfer of arms and technical assistance to them. The travel ban required by the UNSC is implemented in Canada through the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Penalties for offences may include fines of up to $100,000 or up to ten years imprisonment. In 2001, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 amended the Criminal Code to create three criminal offences related to the financing of terrorism. These amendments to the Criminal Code enabled Canada to further implement international obligations under the UNSCR 1373 and the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. These provisions include the listing of entities. Listing an entity under the Criminal Code carries significant consequences. The entity’s assets are frozen and can be subject to future seizure and restraint, and even forfeiture (as required by the International Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing).
Canada provides financial contributions to support technical assistance delivered by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and UNODC to select countries in the region. In April 2015, Canada committed a new contribution of $2.5 million for activities to strengthen financial systems in MENA to cut off financing to ISIS. Building on past programming funded by Canada, this initiative will lead to better safeguards in regional financial systems to limit ISIS’ use of international financial structures and will lead to increased detection, prosecution and conviction of terrorist financing.
Canada’s approach to kidnappings for ransom prescribes: no substantive concessions and no payment of ransom. Canada also encourages private sector partners to take all necessary steps to prevent and respond to terrorist kidnappings without paying ransom. Canada is a State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property which is implemented in Canada by the Cultural Property Export and Import Act and a range of administrative measures, which prevents the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property in Canada. Government of Canada officials have been active members of the Counter ISIS Finance Working Group established by the Coalition and have been working on initiatives to improve international, regional and sub-regional cooperation.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with international partners, community and religious leaders, and civil society to counter ISIL’s extremist ideology online and to expose ISIL’s violent and intolerant nature, objectives and actions.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation. Canada collaborates with the United Kingdom in providing support ($500,000 as part of the Hedayah Centre,) for strategic communications against violent extremism in ISIS-held territories.
In January 2015, Canada announced up to $9 million for the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Digital Public Square project. This project aims to increase digital space for free expression, and open political dialogue in places where civil society and citizen participation are under threat. The project will include research into ISIS’s online strategies.
Recognizing that community involvement is key to preventing radicalization to violence, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada has developed a deepened dialogue with communities that involves a number of elements such as: understanding the pathways to radicalization; identifying possible points of intervention; developing an innovative and engaging story-telling and dialogue process; and clarifying existing resources and resource gaps in the community required to address the issue.
Complementing this approach, Public Safety Canada’s Kanishka Project is a multi-year program ($10 million over five years) investing in knowledge building to improve Canada’s ability to counter terrorism and violent extremism at home and abroad. Through it, Canada has made significant progress to develop and share research and resources relevant to counter-messaging. Resources include a series of counter-narrative videos that target youth, called “Extreme Dialogue,” along with methods to identify and reach target audiences online, as well as measure impact. Relevant research under Kanishka covers topics such as how foreign terrorist fighters receive information, how communities create their own counter-messages to challenge recruitment efforts by movements like ISIS, and how to better identify and engage the voices that matter for youth in particular.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada offer support to the Government of Iraq that can help to advance security sector reforms in Iraq, including through the training of security forces.
The Government agrees with the need to advance security sector reform in Iraq.
Although Canada is not participating in the US-led training mission for Iraqi forces, the CAF are currently advising and assisting the Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS. This advise and assist mission is part of the Coalition efforts to enable the Iraqi forces to effectively counter ISIS and to create the conditions for security sector reform.
The Government of Canada, in close coordination with the Government of Iraq and its allies, has provided non-lethal support to Iraqi forces fighting ISIS. This assistance is building the capacity of Iraqi forces, and it facilitated the ability of military forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to enhance protection for civilians. Canadian contributions of $10 million have provided for the purchase on non-lethal items such as: GPS units, vehicles, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), also known as “bomb disposal robots”, protective gear, and communications equipment.
Building on previous contributions, Canada will provide six additional ROVs and 200 sets of night vision goggles. ROVs enable the safe detection and detonation of a wide array of hazardous threats, including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Vehicle-Borne IEDs. Night vision goggles will support night operations against ISIS and allow field-deployed Iraqi forces to conduct night patrols in greater safety, avoiding ambushes.
In terms of possible future security sector reform programming, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) is working with the Government of Iraq and Coalition partners to identify priorities for addressing security sector reform.
In light of the conflict’s spillover to neighbouring countries, DFATD’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP) has made a sizable commitment to Jordan for programming activities totaling $16.7 million. These efforts, which began in 2013 and will continue through 2018, will enhance the capacity of the Jordanian authorities to conduct counter-terrorism operations; to counter the financing of terrorism; to collect, gather and analyse intelligence; and enable the safe detection and detonation of a wide array of hazardous threats, including IEDs. Canada has also committed $5 million of CTCBP funding over the next three years to support regional efforts to limit the movement of foreign terrorist fighters at source, destination and transit points, with a specific focus on those travelling into Syria and Iraq. Programming will build up the security sector in affected countries, emphasizing border security, surveillance, airport-to-airport information sharing systems, legislative assistance and countering violent extremism.
The Prime Minister recently announced projects in Jordan. These DFATD projects will promote stability in those areas impacted by Syrian refugees by supplying non-lethal security assistance to Jordanian military and police forces, and by supporting a non-governmental community-based conflict mitigation project, for a total value of up to $2,775,000. Furthermore, since 2013, DFATD has committed more than $30.5 million to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) security projects in Jordan, to bolster the ability of relevant agencies to detect and respond to potential CBRN threats. Some of this support contributes to addressing CBRN threats posed by neighbouring conflicts, including the threat posed by ISIS. For instance, DFATD has provided fixed radiation detection monitoring equipment at unsecured Jordanian border crossings, in order to mitigate the risk of illicit trafficking of nuclear or radiological materials through the region.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide support to help strengthen Iraq’s political institutions and civil society, and to advance inclusive governance and citizenship.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. In 2014, Canada identified Iraq as a partner country for Canadian bilateral assistance and recently announced over $23 million in development programming to address the urgent development needs in Iraq. In addition to improving access to services, this programming will also strengthen the resilience of communities and government institutions, thereby improving their capacity to meet the needs of Iraqis. In general, Canada’s bilateral development assistance program will aim to help Iraq build resiliency and make progress toward its long-term development goals. Among other things, it will help support communities in Iraq that are hosting internally displaced persons, so that they can continue to provide adequate water and sanitation for their population and for newcomers. In addition to this development programming, Canada also recently announced $1.2 million to investigate international crimes in Syria and Iraq. DFATD is exploring further options to build stability and prosperity in Iraq by helping its government to strengthen decision-making and to become more inclusive across the country, as well as by building the capacity of community groups, non-profit organizations and individuals.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to provide substantial assistance to meet the needs associated with the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, including with respect to enhancing food security, ensuring access to adequate shelter and housing, and providing specialized medical care, psychosocial support and rehabilitation services for victims of violence and human rights abuses, including sexual violence.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. On May 2, 2015, the Prime Minister announced $39 million in additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the ongoing crisis in Iraq. This funding is in addition to the $41 million already announced in 2015 and brings Canada’s total humanitarian assistance funding in Iraq to $107.4 million since the beginning of 2014. This assistance is helping meet the urgent food, health, shelter, education and protection (including from sexual violence and violence against women) needs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Government of Canada officials continue to monitor the humanitarian situation in Iraq and the region closely and additional humanitarian assistance may be provided based on the evolving needs of the conflict-affected population, as appropriate.
Canada’s development program in the region is also helping countries in the region meet the needs of populations affected by the crises in Iraq and Syria. Employing a resilience approach, programming bridges the gap between immediate humanitarian assistance and longer-term development while improving the ability of governments and communities to cope with immediate needs, recover from the impact of the crisis, and sustain this recovery into the future. Over $245 million in development funding has been committed to Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon between 2013 and 2019 to improve access to services and strengthen the resilience of communities and government institutions, thereby improving their capacity to meet the needs of the affected populations.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide targeted assistance to help members of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq who have been displaced to return to their homes in safety and dignity, and to promote intercommunal reconciliation in Iraq more broadly.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. As is the case in all countries affected by conflict where there are significant humanitarian needs, Canada’s humanitarian assistance in Iraq is based on vulnerability and protection needs of the affected populations, including the religious and ethnic minorities. It contributes to seeking solutions for displaced persons, whether voluntary return to their original residence, or local integration or resettlement elsewhere should return not be a feasible option. Religious and ethnic minorities have been specifically targeted by ISIS in Iraq and are particularly vulnerable. As such, they form an important segment of the affected population being supported by our humanitarian and development partners. Through the Office of Religious Freedom, Canada continues to advocate on behalf of religious communities under threat, including those targeted by ISIS. Canada is currently providing support through the Religious Freedom Fund to improve the ability of Iraqi civil society organisations to monitor and report on religious persecution. The Office is also in the process of finalizing initiatives that promote intercommunal dialogue and reconciliation in Iraq and neighboring countries.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to support the documentation of violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Syria and Iraq.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. Information and testimonies gathered by recent UN Fact Finding Missions to Iraq and Syria strongly suggest that serious international crimes have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated by ISIS. The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry has concluded that ISIS has committed the most grave war crimes against civilians and other individuals not taking part in combat, including sentencing and executions without due process, killing, mutilations, rape and other sexual violence. Furthermore, in areas where it has established effective control, ISIS has systematically denied basic human rights and freedoms and, in the context of its attack against the civilian populations, has perpetrated crimes against humanity. In view of these crimes, Canada is responding through support to a number of initiatives. For example, training investigative and first responder teams, as well as supporting the documentation and investigation of crimes, including sexual violence. To this end, Canada recently announced $1.2 million to investigate international crimes in Syria and Iraq.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with its international partners to ensure that women and girls who have been abducted and enslaved by ISIL are not forgotten, while doing all that is possible to ensure their safe release and return to normal life.
The Government agrees with this recommendation and notes that several Canadian-funded initiatives to respond to sexual violence and violence against women perpetrated by ISIS are already under way. Sexual violence and violence against women is a grievous affront to human dignity which disproportionately affects women and girls. On October 6, 2014, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in the House of Commons that the Government of Canada would increase efforts, in coordination with our allies and partners, to respond to the heinous acts of sexual violence and other human rights abuses being committed by ISIS against women and children.
Following that announcement, DFATD funded several projects that respond to ISIS-perpetrated sexual violence and violence against women. Through Iraqi and international NGOs, Canada is providing direct service support for female survivors of ISIS-violence (e.g. psycho-social, health and legal support), in addition to efforts in support of community reintegration so that women can return to normal life ($2.1 million). Canada is funding an organization that is providing assistance to conduct investigations, document crimes of sexual violence and mentor first responders (up to $2 million). Through community based-networks in Syria, Canada is supporting local community efforts to prevent, protect and respond to sexual violence and violence against women ($1.7 million). With Canadian funding, the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is supporting efforts to systematically document sexual violence through human rights monitoring and reporting. The OHCHR is also supporting efforts to building the capacity of government entities to ensure that legislation addressing the rule of law and security sector reform promotes accountability for sexual violence with Canadian funding support ($3 million).
In addition to these projects, DFATD’s humanitarian funding specifically allocated for projects that respond to sexual violence and violence against women totals $8.9 million to date. Two of DFATD’s experienced humanitarian partners are supporting survivors, as well as women and girls in general, by offering psychological support services, medical consultations, legal advice, awareness sessions, counselling, training, empowerment courses and clinical care for sexually assault survivors. These partners are also establishing women and girls safe centers through which these services are provided. Another project carried out by an experienced humanitarian partner is providing assistance, counseling and safe spaces for survivors. The project is also monitoring women’s rights violations and providing legal assistance. Finally, our partner is working with other humanitarian agencies on the ground to ensure that risks of sexual violence and violence against women are reduced and that the humanitarian response to incidents of such violence is improved.
Canadian support for female victims of violence is complemented by diplomatic efforts to keep ISIS perpetrated sexual crimes on the international agenda. On International Women’s Day 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs released a joint statement with the Director of the United Nations Population Fund against the pervasive sexual violence being waged against women and girls in the Iraq conflict and affirmed Canada and the UN’s commitment to the protection and empowerment of women and girls around the world. On April 15, 2015, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs spoke at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Sexual Violence and Conflict, specifically referencing ISIS-perpetrated crimes. Canada consistently champions international efforts to prevent sexual violence and funds initiatives through development and humanitarian assistance, the deployment of expertise, and the support of programs.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to provide substantial funding towards the international humanitarian appeals for assistance to meet the needs of people who have been affected and displaced by the conflict in Syria.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. On May 2, 2015, the Prime Minister announced $100 million in additional humanitarian assistance to meet food, shelter, protection, health, and emergency education needs of Syrians affected by the crisis. This funding is in addition to the $50 million already announced in January 2015 and brings Canada's commitment in humanitarian assistance funding to $503.5 million since the outset of the crisis in 2011, of which $150 million has been allocated in 2015. Canada is channeling this assistance through experienced humanitarian partners.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to support the “No Lost Generation” initiative, and provide targeted support for children and youth who have been affected by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, including by working to improve access to education and child-friendly spaces.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. Of the $139 million in additional humanitarian assistance in response to the Iraq and Syria crises announced by the Prime Minister on May 2, 2015, $53.9 million is supporting additional projects under the “No Lost Generation” initiative ($50 million for Syria and neighbouring countries, and $3.9 million for Iraq). This funding brings Canada’s total humanitarian assistance funding for “No Lost Generation” to $111.9 million in 2014 and 2015 ($16.45 million for Iraq and $95.45 million for Syria and neighbouring countries).
In addition to humanitarian funding, Canada is providing support to “No Lost Generation” in the region through its development assistance programming. To date, Canada has provided $10 million in Lebanon and $15 million in Jordan for projects under the “No Lost Generation” Initiative, which aims to provide opportunities for children affected by conflicts in Syria and Iraq to continue their education. Canada is also providing over $60 million to assist the Government of Jordan in providing quality education and protection services through formal systems benefitting some 130,000 Syrian refugee children living in Jordan and contributing to similar objectives.
Canada remains committed to ensuring the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children and youth have access to quality education and child protection services even as their lives are disrupted by conflict.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to encourage a Syrian-led political process – in keeping with the UN-led Geneva process - that would lead to the establishment of a stable, democratic, peaceful and inclusive society, consistent with the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation, and will continue to engage with like-minded countries to encourage a Syrian-led political process to end this tragic conflict. Canada’s position throughout this conflict has been to defend the right of the Syrian people to a society which meets their aspirations for democracy and the protection of minorities, and which will enable the millions of Syrians who have been displaced or have fled the conflict to return to their homes.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada develop a long-term strategy to guide its engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, anchored by the objectives of supporting good governance, advancing pluralism and expanding economic opportunities, particularly with respect to the youth population.
The Government takes note of the Committee’s recommendation to develop a long-term strategy to guide its engagement in MENA. At present, the Government of Canada employs a number of mechanisms to advance long-term strategic goals to address shortcomings in governance, insufficient respect for pluralism, and the lack of economic opportunities for youth in the region that are sufficiently flexible to respond to the fluidity of the political and security challenges facing many countries in the region, including the rise of ISIS, and are able to recognize the significant cultural, religious, ethnic, and economic differences that exist between countries in the region. To this end, the Government of Canada is working in bilateral and multilateral fora to provide assistance on countering violent extremism. Through the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP), Canada committed $3.1M in funding to provide countering violent extremism programming in Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan. Under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, Canada has committed $1.5M to support Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and the Hedayah Centre in their efforts to counter violent extremism in the region.
In the MENA region, mechanisms such as the Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), bilateral trade agreements, development partnerships, and country specific strategies, among others, promote Canada’s efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, promote peace, stability and economic opportunity, and core Canadian values such as democracy, transparency and accountability, pluralism, and human rights – including women’s rights and respect for religious freedom. Also, the recent Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)-Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) amalgamation that has created the new DFATD has increased coherence and cross-walks between the trade, diplomacy and development pillars of our actions in the MENA region. For example, in Morocco, many of our development programs support economic growth and other Government of Canada trade objectives such as trade liberalization (i.e. FTA).
Many of the mechanisms employed by Canada in the region can advance multiple priorities simultaneously. For the purpose of responding to the Committee’s recommendation, we have divided examples of the work Canada is doing between two overarching themes: Supporting efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, promoting peace, stability and economic opportunity, and; Advancing core Canadian values such as democracy, transparency and accountability, pluralism, and human rights – including women’s rights and respect for religious freedom.
Supporting efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, promoting peace, stability and economic opportunity: Canada has a variety of tools to help address instability and reduce the security risks present in the region, some of which pose a global threat. Defence deployments, such as the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, are one example. Another key tool is cooperation with our international partners – traditional and non-traditional – in the global fight against terrorism. This can take the form of capacity-building programs (e.g. the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, the Counter Terrorism Capacity Building Program), membership in multilateral groupings (e.g. the Global Counter Terrorism Forum in which Canada co-chairs with Algeria the Sahel Working Group, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s verification inspections in Iran and Syria, or the UN), cooperation to strengthen international legal anti-terrorism frameworks, or intelligence cooperation (e.g. with Saudi Arabia and Morocco). Sustained bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement aimed at deepening security cooperation with key allies and partners in the region (e.g. Jordan, Morocco, UAE, Algeria) provides an effective means to address challenges such as the civil war in Libya and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Although violent extremism and sectarianism are often considered the main drivers of regional instability, demographic and economic factors – population growth, uneven economic growth and undiversified economies – are also key drivers of instability. Economies in the MENA region have young and rapidly-growing work forces. The Middle East contains more than 50% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and GDP growth in the Middle East is above the global average and expected to remain steady in the medium-term. Two-way trade is currently valued at approximately $17 billion and seven MENA countries are identified as priority markets under Canada’s GMAP. Canada has a number of tools to help promote prosperity for the MENA region and for Canada. With the support of its 15 trade offices in the region, Canada is laying the groundwork to expand its commercial presence through trade missions, trade agreements and Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (FIPAs). In addition to benefitting Canadians, these efforts generate wealth in MENA countries and create employment for the region’s growing population.
Canada’s efforts to promote stability and prosperity in the region also include support through multilateral channels, such as Canada’s contribution to the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition and its $20 million contribution to the Middle East and North Africa Transition Fund.
Advancing core Canadian values such as democracy, transparency and accountability, pluralism, and human rights – including women’s rights and respect for religious freedom: Canada’s efforts to respond to the humanitarian and development needs of people in the region are also helping to reduce the poverty and suffering that can fuel instability and extremism. Since the beginning of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Canada has allocated over $600 million in humanitarian assistance, making it one of the top tier contributors. Canada’s development assistance programs in the West Bank/Gaza, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Morocco help create the conditions for sustainable economic growth, with positive long-term feedback effects for the Canadian economy.
Examples of Canada’s development action in the region include support for justice system reform in the West Bank and Gaza and efforts across the region to train journalists and promote women’s empowerment. In Jordan, Canada is improving skills for employment through technical assistance and training, as well as providing significant support to strengthen the country’s education system. In Tunisia, Canada has supported projects aimed at strengthening decentralized governance structures and providing training in civic empowerment to women. Canada’s development programming in the region is informed by the resilience approach. Resilience programming in crisis situations bridges the gap between immediate humanitarian assistance and longer-term development while improving the ability of governments and communities to cope with immediate needs, recover from their impact, and sustain this recovery into the future. The Office for Religious Freedom is also active in supporting pluralism in the region, for example through programming to protect the rights of religious minorities in Iraq.
Conflict and insecurity in the MENA region undermine efforts to cultivate and strengthen good governance and pluralism, hamper economic growth and prosperity, and deprive young people of opportunities. Canada’s flexible, multi-faceted and integrated approach has a stabilizing effect in the region and is well-situated to achieving our strategic interests.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with Canadian academic partners towards the consideration of scholarships to help young people from the Middle East and North Africa study in Canada.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation. The MENA region is included among priority markets under Canada’s International Education Strategy (IES).
Funding under the IES was allocated via Industry Canada to Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization, to support the Mitacs Globalink program to attract highly promising students from around the world to Canadian universities, and to allow Canadian students to take advantage of training opportunities abroad. This program is currently in process of expansion and certain countries in MENA, including Tunisia, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are among Globalink target countries.
Students worldwide are also eligible for federally funded programs such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships for study in Canada. As well, students from certain nations in MENA are eligible for the Programme canadien de bourses de la Francophonie administered by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a national, not-for-profit organization.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to use the Office of Religious Freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to work with faith and community leaders in Canada and the Middle East and North Africa to promote interfaith dialogue, tolerance and pluralism in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
Through the Office of Religious Freedom, Canada continues to advocate on behalf of religious communities under threat, including those targeted by ISIS. Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Dr. Andrew Bennett, regularly engages faith and community leaders both domestically and internationally, including Yezidis, Assyrian Christians and others. He also continues to speak out against violations of religious freedom across the world through statements, speaking engagements and outreach.
Canada is also currently providing support through the Religious Freedom Fund to improve the ability of Iraqi civil society organizations to monitor and report on religious persecution. The Office continues to explore further programming in the region.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada develop a training program on religious freedom for Canadian diplomats.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
Through the Canadian Foreign Service Institute (CFSI) and the Office of Religious Freedom, DFATD currently offers a training course on freedom of religion. The course is specifically designed for Department staff going out on posting to countries where human rights, in particular freedom of religion, are violated, as well as for staff at DFATD Headquarters who deal with religious freedom. The course provides participants with a basic understanding of freedom of religion or belief as an essential human right, its importance in the current geopolitical context, and the mandate and activities of the Office of Religious Freedom. The course was successfully piloted in June 2014, with over 30 participants. Additional iterations of the course are currently being planned.
 GMAP’s priority markets in the MENA region are Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Tunisia.
 Canada has concluded bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with Jordan and Israel, and an FTA with Morocco is currently under negotiation. FIPAs are in force with Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon, and under negotiation with Bahrain.