(Ottawa) Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should be able to help Afghans without facing serious penalties: the federal government has introduced a bill to change the provisions of the Criminal Code that exposed NGOs to this risk .
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino presented Thursday morning in the House of Commons Bill C-41, which aims to correct the situation that has been denounced for several months by both NGOs and opposition parties.
The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to create a regime under which the minister “may authorize a qualified person to engage in an area controlled by a terrorist group and for certain purposes” an activity that would otherwise be prohibited.
Authorization, if granted, is valid for a maximum period of five years.
The sectors of activity that may be given the green light are, among others, humanitarian aid (food, shelter, hygiene), health aid (vaccination, maternal and child care services) or education services ( teaching materials, literacy training), is listed in a government document.
“Whether we’re delivering aid or hosting refugees, we’re here for vulnerable Afghans, while continuing to strongly condemn the Taliban regime’s violence, misogyny and disregard for human rights,” he said. Minister Mendicino in a press release.
He had made his announcement with his colleagues in International Development, Harjit Sajjan, and Justice, David Lametti at the headquarters of the Canadian Red Cross – an NGO which was one of those whose shipments of humanitarian aid intended for the Afghanistan were restricted by law.
The Taliban, who took over the reins of power in Kabul on August 15, 2021, are listed as terrorist entities in Canada. Because of this status, any funding that could benefit them directly or indirectly exposes contributors to criminal prosecution.
The majority of the Afghan population does not have enough to eat; more than 28 million people, or two-thirds of the population, will need humanitarian aid in 2023, according to a report published on February 21 by the World Food Programme.
A bill that has been delayed
Bloc Québécois Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, who has been hounding the Trudeau government for more than a year on this file, is delighted with this “enormous victory”, and he promises the Liberals that his party will work together to ensure that the bill is adopted at any time. steam.
“The government can count on the cooperation of the Bloc Québécois to speed up the process. We can’t wait until September for it to come into effect. People in Afghanistan need help now,” he said in an interview on the eve of the official C-41 deposition.
She also believes that the adoption of the bill should be considered a priority, her NDP colleague Heather McPherson also expressed her relief to see measures finally announced by the Trudeau government.
“While this bill comes 18 months too late, New Democrats will give it careful consideration and ensure that Canadian organizations have the tools they need to finally resume their lifesaving work in Afghanistan,” he said. she reported.
Same story in the Conservative camp with regard to Liberal slowness.
“From the beginning, the Liberal government has failed the Afghan interpreters who served with our men and women in Afghanistan, and it has failed all Afghans by not addressing sooner the legal issues that impact development aid”, denounced Garnett Genuis.
Discontent at Doctors Without Borders
The story is completely different at Doctors Without Borders, where the organization’s humanitarian representative in Canada, Jason Nickerson, protests against the obligation to obtain authorization to offer humanitarian aid.
“Legislation proposed today requires humanitarian organizations to seek authorization from the Canadian government before sending medical personnel to respond to certain humanitarian crises. What if the request is rejected? “, he raised in a press release.
According to the organization, the amendments proposed by the government create “new bureaucratic obstacles that humanitarian organizations must overcome and even criminalize impartial aid workers”.