(Ottawa) The federal government wants to amend the Criminal Code to ensure that Afghans can receive humanitarian aid, the delivery of which is sometimes blocked because of the sanctions imposed against the Taliban.
A bill to correct the situation has been put on the order paper and is due to be introduced on Thursday. We will know more at that time, as parliamentary privilege prohibits venting the content of a legislative measure before it is tabled.
A trio of ministers — Marco Mendicino (Public Security), Harjit Sajjan (International Development) and David Lametti (Justice) — will hold a press conference at the Canadian Red Cross head office to detail the provisions.
The opposition in Ottawa had been calling for changes to the Criminal Code for months, like some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who were no longer able to come to the aid of the Afghan population, taken hostage.
The federal government had cut off supplies to at least two of them, on the pretext that the resources could have benefited the Taliban regime through the band. Due to the regime’s status as a terrorist entity, any direct or indirect funding that benefits them exposes contributors to criminal prosecution.
“Our operations are still suspended. We cannot do our job because of these legislative and regulatory restrictions,” lamented Sophie Rondeau, director and legal advisor of the Canadian Red Cross last January.
The organization had sounded the alarm last August, along with others who felt the same feeling of helplessness, unable to ship food or even medicine without exposing themselves to severe sanctions.
Urgency to act
Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, who has been hounding the Trudeau government for more than a year on this file, is delighted with this “enormous victory”, even if his final verdict will come after the reading of the bill which, according to him, way too long to write.
And once the filing stage has been completed, it will be necessary to work to “adopt it at full speed”, pleads the elected official.
“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 insists.
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.
The Taliban regained control in Kabul in August 2021. They have since reinstated draconian measures, especially against women and girls, including banning secondary education for young women.