Anti-terrorism laws block Canadian humanitarian aid in Afghanistan

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Des anti-terrorism laws block Canadian humanitarian aid in Afghanistan

Politics and Humanitarians accuse Justin Trudeau's government of delaying Canadian aid to Afghanistan by refusing to amend the criminal code as quickly as possible.

Since the Taliban regained power in August 2021, Canadian humanitarian organizations have struggled to deliver aid to Afghanistan, due to Ottawa's sanctions against the Islamist regime in Kabul, which it still considers a “terrorist organization ”.

Opposition parties and humanitarian groups accuse the Trudeau government of dragging its feet in crafting exemptions to anti-terrorism laws to allow aid agencies to reach desperate people in Afghanistan.

Only the political will is missing to fix the problem, according to the New Democrat critic for affairs. Foreign Affairs, Heather McPherson.

In June, an all-party committee called on the government to amend the Criminal Code so that major humanitarian groups can help Afghans without being accused of aiding the Taliban.

Representatives from 10 aid groups told MPs in March that Global Affairs Canada had informed them that they would not be able to pay for a driver to deliver food or buy supplies in Afghanistan, as this would result in taxes being sent to the Taliban.

This would amount to supporting the terrorist group, which has been listed as such under Canadian law since 2013.

Liberal MP Salma Zahid, who sat on the special parliamentary committee, said Canada needed to find a workaround, as its allies did, to guarantee the delivery of the shipment. essential help.

Canada does not recognize the Kabul regime.

I think the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice are studying the matter, she said in an interview. They have to find solutions.

This issue was well known last December when the UN Security Council granted an anti-terror sanctions waiver against the Taliban, allowing humanitarian aid to reach the United Nations. Afghanistan.

In June, Australia invoked this resolution to send aid to Afghanistan, while the United States and the European Union have changed their rules to ensure that humanitarian groups can act.

That same month, officials warned Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly of the challenges facing Canadian organizations in Afghanistan before she met with former Afghan parliamentarians.

It is not possible to provide exemptions under current Canadian law, reads a briefing note obtained through an access request. ;information.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Liberals plan to change the law, but could not explain why the departments dealing with the Criminal Code have not moved.

They are currently working on options with the ministers of public security and justice, Sajjan said in an interview Thursday.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino's office did not provide an explanation or timeline, and did not confirm that Ottawa actually had the money. intention to change current laws.

We continue to explore new ways to support Afghans, while respecting the Criminal Code of Canada, wrote spokeswoman Audrey Champoux.

The Department of Justice did not respond to an interview request from The Canadian Press.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan

I, as Minister of International Development, must respect the current laws that we have, Mr. Sajjan argued.

He pointed out that the government has found ways to provide $144 million in aid to Afghans through organizations that can comply with Canada's rules. Much of this money goes to Afghans who have fled their country; the rest is largely transferred to the UN through the Security Council's exemption.

I just want to emphasize that this does not prevent us from providing the funding to the Afghan people themselves, Sajjan assured.

Aid groups say otherwise, arguing that their hands are tied as desperation mounts.< /p>

This month, a coalition of 18 groups, including the Canadian Red Cross and Islamic Relief, denounced the Liberals' disheartening lack of urgency to act to remove barriers.

In late August, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said more than half of Afghanistan's population – some 24 million people – needed help and that nearly 19 million were experiencing acute levels of food insecurity.

On Tuesday, the UN warned that drought, economic turmoil and high oil prices will only worsen the situation as winter approaches.

The Conservative foreign affairs critic said aid groups were raising the Criminal Code issue months before they testified this spring.

The majority of Afghans live below the poverty line.

They had a lot of time to fix the problem, lamented Michael Chong, who believes the Liberals should have introduced legislation earlier this month.

This failure to execute something on which everyone agrees is part of a larger pattern in this government, which is inca able to implement a policy, he argued.

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