Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
I would like to thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition and member for Sturgeon River—Parkland for putting forward this motion and today's debate.
I believe that I am not mistaken, as I start, by saying that all members in the House are outraged by the pervasive and unrelenting violence in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Our government is outraged by the deliberate targeting of health facilities, as we have seen in Aleppo and in Kamounia camp, near the border with Turkey.
Canada deplores the deliberate targeting of civilians and the continued disregard for international humanitarian law. The continued cost in the lives of innocent men, women, and children from such attacks is unacceptable and further demonstrates the need for an urgent de-escalation of violence. The appalling acts of violence perpetrated by Daesh have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people of all faiths in Iraq and in Syria. The atrocities and widespread abuses perpetrated by Daesh against religious and ethnic communities, including Yazidis, Christians, Shiites, and Sunnis, is an affront to human dignity and Canadian values of peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity.
Freedom of religion and belief and the ability to worship in peace and security is a universal human right. Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated and must be enjoyed by all people, without discrimination and without distinctions of any kind. Canada stands in solidarity with those facing oppression as a result of their religious beliefs.
I am outraged, and Canadians are outraged, by the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Sexual violence as a specific tactic, as well as the enslavement of women and girls, is not unique to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. However, its systematic employment by Daesh in Syria and Iraq needs to be recognized, and its perpetrators will ultimately need to be held to account.
We are equally outraged by acts of violence against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In February, the UN commission of inquiry on Syria reported that Daesh continues to target sexual minorities for execution. The report contains shocking examples of Daesh's intolerance and brutality. This includes a video that shows two men being thrown from a building. Why? It was because they had been accused of committing homosexual acts. Our government deplores this violence and any kind of discrimination or intolerance based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Let me reiterate that our government strongly condemns the terrorist acts committed by Daesh, and we firmly support investigations into their crimes and the prosecution of perpetrators. However, while we respect the emotion behind this motion, and what fair-minded person would not, unfortunately, democratic governments cannot only be guided by emotion.
I understand that members opposite disagree with the approach we are following, namely to arrive at a legal determination and not simply a political or emotional one. Why are legal determinations important? It is so we do not risk acting in a manner that undermines our intent.
As part of our broader engagement in the Middle East region, Canada is taking substantial and concrete actions that contribute to preventing and halting war crimes, and possibly genocide, by Daesh.
Our participation in the international coalition, our provision of humanitarian, development, and security and stabilization assistance, and our diplomatic engagement all support the protection of vulnerable populations.
To this effect, on February 8, the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie shared Canada's commitment to deliver a multi-faceted response to the crises in Syria and Iraq and their impact on the surrounding region. This commitment includes $1.1 billion in much-needed humanitarian and development assistance over three years.
From this funding, $840 million will help provide much-needed humanitarian assistance, such as food, urgent health services, water, shelter, education, and protection, including from sexual violence, for the most vulnerable people affected by conflicts in the Middle East.
On April 13, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie took the first step in delivering on this commitment by announcing $100 million in humanitarian assistance funding to support the responses to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
This announcement included $31.8 million to UNICEF to match the generous donations of Canadians to charitable organizations responding to the crisis. This funding will increase education opportunities, provide child protection services in Syria and Jordan, and support immunization efforts for children in Syria, responding to critical needs and building the resilience of conflict-affected communities.
The funding announced is also supporting our humanitarian partners to provide emergency physical and functional rehabilitation services to people injured by the violence in Syria and Iraq, psychosocial support to people traumatized by violence, and clean water, food, shelter, and primary health care to people who have fled the violence in Syria.
In addition, this government is supporting the provision of confidential medical assistance, case management, and referral services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Canada's humanitarian partners work in some of the most dangerous and challenging environments. Every day, humanitarian staff, many of them Canadians, put their lives on the line to make sure that vulnerable civilians affected by conflict around the world, including in Syria and Iraq, get the assistance they need. The price they continue to pay for their dedication to their mission is tragic. Since the conflict began in Syria, over 87 humanitarian personnel have been killed.
One need not travel far from the House of Commons to appreciate the dedication of Canada's humanitarian community.
Given the inherent challenges in delivering humanitarian assistance, Canada's long-standing practice is that Canadian humanitarian funding is provided to experienced humanitarian partners to meet the life-saving needs of civilians caught in the middle of conflict.
With decades of experience, our humanitarian partners have developed practices and processes to ensure the integrity of the assistance they deliver. Canada's humanitarian partners adhere to the principle of humanity, meaning that all victims of conflict or civilians affected by conflict deserve protection and assistance, no matter where they are found.
In order to fulfill this goal, our partners also adhere to the principles of impartiality, neutrality, and independence so that they can work wherever those in need are located. This is an essential point. The ability of humanitarian workers to have access to people in need is predicated on their actions being neutral. This means providing assistance with no military or political objective, only the objective of saving lives and alleviating suffering.
In many contexts, the safety and security of aid workers depends on their ability to demonstrate that they have no other motive than providing assistance to those in need. Humanitarian principles remain the foundation of this trust, and we must be careful to protect their integrity.
Canada is committed to promoting and enhancing respect for humanitarian principles, international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians.
We must uphold the spirit and the letter of the law, improve compliance, and hold violators to account. For this reason, our humanitarian partners and the Government of Canada are extremely careful that humanitarian assistance is provided in full respect of humanitarian principles and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Last month, I participated in the World Humanitarian Summit, in Istanbul, Turkey. I represented Canada at an event entitled “A Call to Action for Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies”, because we continue to be concerned about the fact that there is an increased incidence of sexual and gender-based violence during a humanitarian crisis. Women and girls, in particular, continue to face increased protection risks, such as sexual violence, trafficking, and child, early, and forced marriage during crises.
I wish to reiterate this government's commitment to helping the most vulnerable and this government's commitment to do so in a manner consistent with humanitarian principles.
I understand that members opposite disagree with the approach we are following, namely that we be guided by principles, principles that have served Canada for decades, under governments of all stripes, and not by emotion or politics.
We all abhor what Daesh is doing. We all want it to stop and to hold the perpetrators to account. To do this, we must work with our allies through the international legal process. To not do so both elevates the structure of Daesh to something it is not, a government, and risks having Canada condemn it in a manner not consistent with how our country approaches addressing such acts. This is the appropriate process, and we are following in line with our allies and the international bodies responsible in that assessment.
This government stands with the United Nations and its international partners in calling for a judicial investigation and an end to impunity for the perpetrators of serious international crimes.