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Politics House votes unanimously to provide Yazidis refuge in Canada

Nadia Murad, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, waves while being recognized by the Speaker in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Oct. 25, 2016.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

With a freed Yazidi sex slave watching from the gallery, the House of Commons voted unanimously Tuesday to acknowledge a genocide against her people and to offer safe haven in Canada to vulnerable women and girls by the end of February.

Nadia Murad, described by the Conservatives as a victim of sex trafficking at the hands of members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has been lobbying MPs this week on behalf of her hard-hit fellow Yazidis.

She received an ovation from the House before MPs voted 313-0 to adopt a Conservative motion calling on the Liberal government to help her fellow Yazidis within the next 120 days.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his personal assurance that help is in the offing.

"I am pleased to see Nadia again today and reassure her that in the coming months we are committed to bring in ... vulnerable Yazidi refugees," he said during question period.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking religious minority who used to dwell mainly in northern Iraq, have been targeted by ISIL militants over the last two years. Thousands of Yazidi men were killed, while thousands of women and girls were carried off, bought and sold in slave markets.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, who helped guide the motion through the House, said she wants to see a concrete action plan to help the Yazidis, saying that will count more than words.

Immigration Minister John McCallum confirmed the government intends to act.

"We on this side of the House are every bit as enthusiastic and committed to welcoming Yazidis to this country," he said.

"We are looking into various ways in which this can be done and we will do the job."

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He also said the unanimous vote is a good thing. "I am really pleased that an issue of this importance should go above politics."

Ambrose has said a minimum of 1,000 Yazidi women and girls should be brought in, but McCallum didn't offer a target.

"We do not have any numbers today."

During a news conference earlier Tuesday, Murad said she was grateful to Canada, "the second country after Germany that did not accept the injustice against the women and girls and decided to step up and help them," she said, speaking through an interpreter.

"These women and girls have been under extreme suffering for the past two years, where they were sold, where they were raped, where their children were taken away from them."

Women and girls have no value to the Islamic State's militants, she added.

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"I would like to thank Canada on behalf of the victims who will come here and who will start a new life," she said. "They will start a new life where they will have rights, where they will have safety, where they will have a new life that is different than the life they had at the hands of ISIL."

She also said it's impossible to move the entire Yazidi people to other countries. She said she hopes Canada will join other countries in defending a safe zone for her people, where they can be protected from ISIL.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, who sponsored the Yazidi motion, said the women and girls at the heart of it have suffered unspeakably.

"As one victim said, 'If you can't save us, please bomb us, as we can't bear to live."'

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