Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Commons Committee Recommends Better Settlement Services for Vulnerable Refugees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Commons Committee Recommends Better Settlement Services for Vulnerable Refugees

Article excerpt

Yazidi refugees facing barriers in Canada

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OTTAWA - Yazidi refugees brought to Canada after surviving rape and torture in Iraq are facing barriers accessing mental health and other settlement services in their own language, a House of Commons committee has found.

The immigration committee delivered its report last week after studying resettlement issues faced by Yazidi women and children.

Those who have come through the government-assisted refugee program are running into roadblocks trying to access affordable housing, mental health and other services in their mother tongue after arriving in Canada, the committee found.

In some cases, only Arabic-speaking interpreters are available, which one witness said was upsetting for a young Yazidi girl in Calgary because her captors in Iraq spoke Arabic.

The committee says government should offer better, more integrated settlement services for vulnerable refugee groups and better anticipate their linguistic needs.

But Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, whose lobbying efforts helped push the government to commit to resettling 1,200 Yazidi women and children last year, called the committee's final recommendations "broad and milquetoast." After dealing directly with many of these survivors of genocide, rape and torture, Rempel said she wanted to see a stronger call for services for these refugees.

"We don't have an integrated response," she told The Canadian Press.

"It's one thing to say, 'Hashtag welcome to Canada' and it's another to do the heavy lifting and hard work and hard discussion to 'Hashtag integrate into Canada.'"

Another recommendation from the committee report is also drawing some criticism.

It calls on Canada to increase its refugee resettlement targets in the wake of the global refugee crisis, but stopped short of specifying any groups.

A number of witnesses called for more Yazidi refugees to be brought to Canada. But others, including the United Nations refugee agency, raised concerns about the politicization of Canadian resettlement programs that target specific groups.

Michel Aziza works with Operation Ezra, a coalition of faith groups that has privately sponsored 10 Yazidi refugee families over the last year. …

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