After months of pressure from the opposition, the Liberal government has recognized Islamic State atrocities against the Yazidi religious minority in Syria and Iraq as genocide.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said on Thursday that Canada agrees with a new United Nations panel report that concludes the Islamic State committed genocide against the Yazidis. Canada joins the likes of the United States and the European Commission in calling the terrorist group's actions genocide.
"Today, for the first time, an independent report by the UN commission has concluded that genocide was committed by the so-called Islamic State against the Yazidis," Mr. Dion said during Question Period.
"Given this evidence, our government believes that genocide against the Yazidis is currently ongoing and that is why, as I said, as I said a month ago, we call once again for urgent action on the part of the UN Security Council."
The UN investigative panel, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, made the conclusion in a report released on Thursday. It found that Islamic State still holds more than 3,200 Yazidi women and children, most of whom are in Syria, where Yazidi women and girls continue to be sexually enslaved. It said thousands of Yazidi men and boys are also missing.
"ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis, thousands of whom are held captive in the Syrian Arab Republic where they are subjected to almost unimaginable horrors," read the report. "The genocide of the Yazidis is on-going."
Up until Thursday, the federal government had strongly condemned the crimes perpetrated by the Islamic State against religious and ethnic minorities, but refused to use the term "genocide" to describe the atrocities.
The Conservatives have pressed the government to recognize Islamic State's actions against the Yazidis as genocide, tabling a motion on the matter in the House of Commons. The motion failed on Monday when the Liberals voted against it.
Genocide is defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." As a signatory, Canada has an obligation under the convention to take meaningful steps to prevent genocide.
Earlier Thursday, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration unanimously agreed to study ways to expedite Yazidi asylum applications and those of other vulnerable groups facing persecution. The motion was introduced by Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, who said that the government has processed only nine Yazidi refugee cases, calling on it to welcome more.
Speaking in question period, Immigration Minister John McCallum said a number of Yazidi families will be arriving in Winnipeg within a few weeks under the privately-sponsored refugee program.