Federal government heeds Senate committee’s call to allow aid to vulnerable Afghans
Ottawa – Some humanitarian aid organizations can once more send much-needed assistance to vulnerable Afghans after Bill C-41An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received Royal Assent on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.
The Senate unanimously agreed to fast-track the adoption of the bill on June 15 to ensure Canadian aid organizations can legally provide Afghans with humanitarian aid, including health care, education services and immigration programs.
Canada’s anti-terror laws had prohibited any organization from providing humanitarian assistance or indirect support — such as paying taxes — to a region under the control of a terrorist group. When the capital of Afghanistan came under Taliban control in August 2021, humanitarian groups were no longer able to legally send food, medical supplies and other aid.
The adoption of Bill C-41 follows a December 2022 report by the Senate Committee on Human Rights on humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, specifically how Canada’s terrorism financing laws interfere with the delivery of aid to those in Afghanistan who need it most.
The committee had called for the Department of Justice to amend the Criminal Code so that humanitarian organizations would be exempt from a provision that penalizes anyone who — directly or indirectly — provides property, finances or related services to a terrorist group.
- Bill C-41, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, amends the Criminal Code to allow the provision of humanitarian assistance to regions that are controlled by terrorist groups.
- More than 24 million people in Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
- Canada joins the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia — among others — in removing legal barriers for providing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
“Canada can finally pull its weight in providing support to Afghans who have been living under the Taliban’s brutal regime for almost two years. I applaud the many humanitarian aid agencies and individuals who sounded the alarm over the dire situation in Afghanistan, and I thank my Senate colleagues for demonstrating their profound commitment to human rights.”
- Senator Salma Ataullahjan, Chair of the committee
“This long-overdue bill will help ensure that the millions of Afghans who have been suffering through decades of conflict, natural disasters and Taliban rule will now have more access to basic necessities like water, food and medications. It will also help vulnerable people everywhere who live at the mercy of a terrorist regime.”
- Senator Ratna Omidvar, member of the committee
- Read the committee’s December 2022 interim report on humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #RIDR.
- Subscribe to email alerts for Senate committees.
- Sign up for the Senate eNewsletter.
For more information:
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