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432-00060 (Foreign affairs)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

Whereas at one time, Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but today less than five thousand remain; and,

Whereas a recent bombing in early July killed leaders from both communities in Afghanistan, and demonstrates their ongoing vulnerabilities, especially since these leaders were on their way to meet the president; and,

Whereas the Minister of Immigration is already empowered by legislation to allow vulnerable minorities to come to Canada as privately sponsored refugees, directly from the country where they face persecution; and,

Whereas the Sikh and Hindu communities are ready to sponsor Afghan minority refugees;

Therefore we, the undersigned, urge the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to use the powers granted to him to create a special program to help persecuted minorities in Afghanistan.

And further, we urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise the persecution faced by this community with her Afghan counterpart and to strongly advocate for more to be done to protect them.

Response by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marco Mendicino

The Government of Canada takes the protection and promotion of human rights seriously and is deeply concerned with the discrimination and violence that has affected Sikhs, Hindus and other religious and ethnic communities in Afghanistan.

Resettling refugees is a proud part of Canada’s humanitarian tradition. It demonstrates to the world that Canada has a shared responsibility to help those who are displaced, persecuted and most in need of protection. Canada’s refugee and humanitarian resettlement programs are designed to provide protection to refugees who have been forced to flee their country of origin. By definition, in international and domestic law, a refugee must be outside their own country to be eligible for resettlement. In Canada, a legal framework enabling the systematic and ongoing resettlement of individuals who are still in their own country does not presently exist under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has implemented a number of temporary measures, including travel restrictions, to protect the health and safety of Canadians and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Refugee resettlement to Canada has been limited by border restriction measures and the temporary suspension of resettlement departures by Canada’s primary resettlement delivery partners. Our resettlement partners, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration, are starting to resume operations where it is safe to do so.  Canada is working with them to facilitate resettlement for refugees where conditions allow and to ensure that they have the support they need so that refugees arriving in Canada can do so safely.

Canada will continue to facilitate refugee resettlement as conditions permit and honour its international humanitarian commitments. We will also continue to support religious freedoms both at home and abroad.

Response by the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne

Respect for human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is fundamental to the development of more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous societies. Consequently, the promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy and bilateral engagement.  Global Affairs Canada consistently advocates for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities around the world through both bilateral and multilateral forums.

Canada strongly condemns all terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and offers its heartfelt sympathies to all the victims and their families, including the victims of the tragic March 25, 2020, attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul, which killed 25 Sikh worshippers.

Canadian officials regularly raise their concerns about the persecution of minorities in Afghanistan, including Sikhs and Hindus, with the Government of Afghanistan. On April 16, 2020, Canadian Minister of National Defence spoke with Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor about the March 25 attack, calling for measures to be put in place to protect the Afghan Sikh population and for the perpetrators of the attack to be held accountable. On May 15, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue with Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister. Afghan officials have recently conveyed that, at the instruction of President Ghani, a commission has been established to ensure the Sikh and Hindu communities are protected. In consultation with leaders from these communities, an action plan is now being implemented. Global Affairs Canada has requested regular updates on the work of this commission from Afghan officials.

Canada firmly believes that freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right. People must be able to practice their religion without fearing for their lives and safety. Canada consistently raises issues related to human rights and the protection of religious minorities during multilateral meetings on Afghanistan, such as the most recent Senior Officials’ Meeting in July 2020, and regular meetings of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process forum. Canada uses these opportunities to call for the full inclusion of all Afghans into every aspect of society, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender or background.

Through its development and security assistance, Canada is committed to helping the people of Afghanistan create a more peaceful environment that is safe and secure and a country that is well governed. Canada works with members of the international community to help strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government to protect human rights, to ensure stability and security for all Afghans, including members of minority groups As part of the Universal Periodic Review  process on Human Rights in 2019, Canada called on the Afghan government to undertake a review of the security challenges faced during past parliamentary elections and to apply the lessons learned in order to ensure the safety of Afghans during the September 28, 2019, presidential election. Canada’s intervention was partially in response to the July 2018 attack that targeted the Sikh and Hindu community in Jalalabad and killed Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh candidate for the 2018 parliamentary elections.

Canada recognizes the strength and resilience of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan and is committed to working with the Afghan government to emphasize the importance of ethnic and religious minority rights.

Presented to the House of Commons
Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan)
October 5, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00060)
Government response tabled
November 18, 2020
Photo - Garnett Genuis
Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
Conservative Caucus
Alberta

Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.

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