February 8, 2021

As a senator from Manitoba, I recognize that I live on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene, and the Métis Nation homeland.

Colleagues, today, I speak of something we all hold dear — family. For many of us and Canadians across the country, family is the most important thing in our lives. It bookmarks our days. It brightens our mornings and builds our memories.

It is because of this that I am honoured to work with civil society leaders, including Project Ezra in Winnipeg , to speak out for the eight families of Yazidi refugees now settled in Canada, some in Manitoba, who have been struggling for months to be reunited with family left behind in refugee camps.

These Yazidi families were torn apart in August 2014 when the Islamic State murdered thousands of Yazidi men, kidnapped thousands of women and girls and forced them into sexual slavery, and forced boys to become child soldiers. This has been declared a genocide by the United Nations.

When it needed to, Canada stepped up and pledged to welcome 1,200 Yazidi refugees in 2017, but we’re facing a failure, colleagues, a failure to bring over surviving family members. These Yazidi newcomers that we have welcomed to Canada cannot reach their full potential as new citizens of Canada when their families remain so fractured and there is so much anxiety over what’s happening to those who have not been reunited.

Yazidi refugees in Canada are adapting to our country. They are surviving; they are thriving in some cases; they are contributing. Now, they have to worry constantly about whether COVID-19 will hit their loved ones in cramped refugee camps, many of which lack the hygiene and medical support that’s needed.

Colleagues, 12-year-old Ayad was ripped from his family when he was kidnapped by the Islamic State at age 6 and held until age 11. He needs to come to Canada to be with his family. The spouses of Hadiya and Kahla need to see them again, to build their life together here in Canada. Twin brothers Nijman and Naji need to be with their older sister and brother again here in Canada.

I ask, please join me in holding the reunification of these families and other families of refugees who have been accepted into Canada as a priority. Get them here so they can be safe and strong and productive.

We’re a founding member of the United Nations —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Your time has elapsed, Senator McPhedran.

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