Letter Writing Campaign in support of Yazidi women and girls

Call to join in the United Nations' 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

November 15, 2016

Dear Friends,

We are writing to ask for your help. Will you write a letter to your Member of Parliament asking for support for Yazidi women and girls?

Thanks to Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad, the plight of Yazidi women and girls has been brought to the attention of the Canadian government. The Canadian parliament unanimously voted to support Yazidi women and children refugees after a motion was put forward by MP Michelle Rempel, as described by the CBC on October 25th:

“MPs have unanimously supported a Conservative motion that formally declares ISIS persecution of Yazidis a genocide and pledges to bring refugees fleeing the violence to Canada within four months….”[i]

We urgently request you take pen in hand for the Yazidi women and girls who are being systematically tortured and murdered by the ISIS/ISIL military. Your letter would be part of a campaign that will take place during the United Nations 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, November 25 to December 10.

Will you commit to write and send out a letter on one of these critical 16 days?

In August 2014 the Yazidi community suffered a horrendous attack by ISIS/ISIL. Many of the men and boys were slaughtered outright along with “older” women. Young women and children were enslaved and tortured. This summer the UN reported that atrocities, including daily rapes, against thousands of Yazidi women and girls continue.[ii] Those who managed to escape wait in overcrowded and ill-equipped refugee camps.

When the Yazidi women and children arrive in Canada, we want the government to ensure they are offered a safe haven, a place where they can receive ongoing financial, medical and psychological support to recover from their ordeals.

Remember Our Sisters Everywhere is urging people to write letters to their government representatives to take prompt and concerted action so these women and children can make the transition to safety in Canada. Won’t you be one of these people? On the next page we’ve provided talking points to assist you in writing a letter.

In sisterhood and solidarity, and with gratitude,


Possible talking points for your letter:

  • As they arrive in Canada, Yazidi women and girls need a healing place/sanctuary and transition process specifically designed to address their special needs.
  • The government of Canada must ensure adequate, dedicated and ongoing resources are made available for the refugees’ care.
  • Trauma counselling is crucial.
  • By writing this letter you are joining your voice to others to bring attention, resources, advocacy, and action to a human rights crisis.
  • If the Yazidi refugees are to receive the support they will need, additional ongoing resources must be provided at all levels of government. Services and systems that provide support to refugees in Canada are already working well beyond their capacities.
  • A personal statement about why you consider violence against women and children an important issue.
  • Background information on the Yazidi:

Please courtesy copy (CC) your letter to the following government representatives:

Your provincial and local representatives – MLA, Mayor and other officials

The Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or by online form - https://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Leader of the Official Opposition

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party

The Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General

The Honourable Patty A. Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill

The Honourable Mobina Jaffer, Senator, Senate of Canada

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The Honourable Randall Garrison, MP

Esquimalt- Saanich- Sooke

2904 Tillicum Rd.


V9A 2A5

Dear Mr Garrison,

I am sure that you have heard of the plight of the Yazidi people of Northern Iraq. In August, 2014, ISIS launched a horrendous attack which resulted in the slaughter of many of the Yazidi men and boys as well as the older women. Younger women and children were enslaved and tortured. This past summer the UN reported that the atrocities, including rape and torture, continue. Thankfully, some of these women and children were rescued or have managed to escape.

On October 25th, the Canadian parliament unanimously voted to support Yazidi women and children as refugees. Within the next four months Canada will be receiving some of these women and children.

When they do arrive in Canada it is essential that that they be offered a safe haven and the financial, psychological and medical support to assist them to overcome the horrific treatment they received at the hands of ISIS. If the Yazidi refugees are to receive the support they will need, additional ongoing resources must be provided at the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.

Before I moved to Victoria I served as the president of the Richmond Women's Resource Centre, a non profit organization committed to the empowerment of women through education and social justice. The majority of the women who seek the Centre's help are immigrants. My experience has led me to the conviction that adequately funded community support is key to their successful transition to Canadian society.

As a relative newcomer to Victoria I read your web page and it mentioned that you were a founding member of the Victoria Immigration and Refugee Centre. As such I would ask that you do all that is in your power as a member of parliament to assist these vulnerable women and children.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Mary Scott

I am sending this letter to coincide with the United Nations' 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.



The Honourable Hedy Fry, MP
Vancouver East
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6

Dear Hedy,

I am sure you are aware of the plight of Yazidi women and children, suffering ongoing sexual violence at the hands of ISIS. I call on you, as my MP and a long-time advocate for women and children, as am I, to strongly urge our government to support and welcome these women when they come to Canada for safe haven.

They must receive ongoing financial, medical and psychological support, specific to their unique situation, to recover from their ordeals, and transition to a secure and productive life. This is a crucial human rights issue.

I look forward to your assurance that the Yazidi’s are in good hands in Canada.


Bonnie Klein, OC

Prime Minister of Canada
Leader of the Conservative Party
Leader of the NDP
Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
Minister of Status of Women
Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Canada
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
MP Calgary Nose Hill
Senator for British Columbia
MP Vancouver East

About Bonnie Klein:

Bonnie Klein is a feminist filmmaker, author, disability rights activist, and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Klein worked for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in Montreal as a director and producer in the late 1960s. Between that time and the late 1980s, she made dozens of films there. In 1975, she joined Studio D, the NFB's women's section, which was the first government-funded film studio dedicated to women filmmakers in the world. She was also part of the NFB's Challenge for Change citizen media project.

In 1981, Klein made what is probably her best-known film, the anti-pornography documentary Not a Love Story. It went on to become one of the most popular and commercially successful films the NFB ever made. ...




The Honourable Don Davies, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
November 28, 2016

Dear Don Davies,

Hello Don, Anita Roberts here from Safeteen. We have met through my life/business partner, Coach Jeff Gourley of the Tupper Tigers.

I want to thank you for taking part in the unanimous vote to bring Yazidi refugees to Canada. What is happening to Yazidi women and girls is a historic low in violence against women. They are being used for military sexual slavery. They are suffering repeated rapes while being told they deserve every hideous act of violence and murder ‘because they are devil worshippers’. Babies, girls, young women are all victimized. Many of the male members of their families have been murdered. The pain, degradation and humiliation defy imagination. And they have been bought and sold for as little as a pack of cigarettes.

I feel compelled to write to you today because I am finding myself concerned for their safety, of the women and children in particular, once they arrive. Clearly the Yazidi refugees will need many different kinds of support when they get to Canada. I want you to be aware of what organizations, such as Safeteen, have to offer.

New immigrants may tend to think of Canada as a safe place, and the truth is sexual assault, harassment, bullying and racism are prevalent here, although certainly not to the extent they have endured at the hands of ISIS/ISIL. However, these women and girls will need skills and knowledge to help them navigate this new society.

As you may know, I am the founder of the Safeteen violence prevention programs. Through Safeteen we teach children, youth and adults how to express assertive boundaries, de-escalate threats of violence as well as how to defend themselves when it comes to sexual assault. The Safeteen program has been taught in schools and communities all across Canada for decades; and perhaps most relevant here is that through our extensive international work we have learned that the skills are translatable regardless of language or culture.  

In essence, we are empowering girls and women to value and protect themselves and inviting boys and young men to understand and reject the destructive ‘male code’ of masculinity as conveyed by patriarchal culture through media, video games, pornography, and so many of our institutions.

Canadian women have established programs, self defence organizations, crisis centers and transition houses for battered women and children for many, many years and in the process have developed much expertise. There are so many women across Canada, like myself, who have a lot to offer. I would hope that some of this expertise is recognized and put to use in this critical time.

In particular I would like to offer myself as a consultant and please know that Safeteen and our team of 30 highly skilled young women and men stand at the ready to help in any way we can.


Anita Roberts
Founder, Safeteen


The Honourable Jenny Kwan, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6

December 2, 2016

Dear Jenny Kwan,

Thank you for your commitment to invite Yazidi women and girls as refugees to Canada.
As you know, in October of this year, the Canadian parliament decided to step up to the appalling situation of genocide and sexual enslavement of the Yazidi people.

I am writing today to call upon the various levels of government in Canada to follow up by ensuring that adequate, dedicated and ongoing resources are made available for the refugees’ care.

As the Yazidi women and girls arrive in Canada, they will need a healing place and a transition process specifically designed to address their special needs. Considering the torture they have endured as reported again and again by the international press, trauma counseling will be crucial.

I am writing to you as an artist who has a long-standing artistic practice devoted to using natural materials to build community and draw attention to the environment. I have worked on many community based projects, including ones addressing the effects of violence against women.

The process of healing takes many forms and I am aware of the singular effectiveness of a community based artistic process to bring about personal healing.

When considering the needs of refugees as they arrive here in Canada, please look to the power of the arts to bring people together, to lift their spirits, to heal their spirits. Artists of all kinds - dancers, painters, filmmakers, musicians and artists whose main practice is in community engaged art and those who may also have training in human rights – could contribute to the successful transition of the Yazidi to Canadian society.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Haruko Okano
Community Engaged Artist


December 2, 2016

The Honourable Joyce Murray
Member of Parliament, Vancouver Point Grey
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Ms. Murray:

As I’m sure you’re aware, according to self-reports only 5% of sexual assaults against women and girls in Canada are reported to police. (1) In spite of the efforts of many good people, Canada has yet to provide the laws and systems that offer the protection and justice women and girls deserve. So when I learned of the unanimous vote in parliament, to support Yazidi women and girls who’ve been systematically sexually assaulted and tortured by ISIS/ISIL, I recognized another effort by good people to address violence.

First of all, thank you Ms. Murray for voting to quickly bring a significant number of these women and girls to Canada as refugees. This is a vital humanitarian gesture to a minority people under threat of genocide. We know that Yazidi women and girls have been burned alive for resisting rape, and thousands of others have suffered and continue to suffer terribly. (2) As a former rape crisis centre worker, and a poet who writes about gender violence, I’m gravely concerned for their welfare.

I’ve been so impressed by the federal government’s success at bringing Syrian refugees to Canada. Yet I’m concerned that dedicated resources be put in place to ensure the Yazidi refugees may truly have a chance at recovering a sense of safety and self-confidence. Will the federal government be consulting with other levels of government regarding funding? Consulting, too, with food banks, rape crisis centres and refugee services that are already struggling to keep up with current demand?

Dedicated resources would make all the difference. Can the federal government and its partners deliver this?

I look forward to your response. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Leslie Timmins, MFA


1. Perreault, S. 2015. “Criminal victimization in Canada, 2014.” Juris tat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002- X. Self-reported data from the General Social Survey on Victimization showed that only 5% of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older in 2014 were brought to the attention of police (Perreault 2015). Kappamaki, S.-M., J. Kääriäinen and N. Ellonen. 2011. “Physical violence against children reported to the police: Discrepancies between register-based data and child victim survey.” Violence and Victims. Vol. 26, no. 2. p. 257-268. Similar to sexual assaults in general, the number of sexual violations against children is also expected to be an underestimate due to compounding factors that are likely to impact reporting, such as reliance on an adult to bring the incident to the attention of police. Accessed Nov 24/16, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2016001/article/14642-eng.htm... Statistics Canada, Accessed Nov 29/16

2. Samuel Osborne, The Independent, June 5, 2016, “Isis burns 19 Yazidi women to death in Mosul for refusing to have sex with fighters"” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis- burn-19-yazidi- women-to- death-in- mosul-for- refusing-to- have-sex- with-isis- militants-a7066956.html


December 3, 2016


The Honourable Elizabeth May
MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and
Leader of the Green Party of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Re: A plea for Yazidi women

Dear Ms. May,

I am heartened to know that the Parliament of Canada has unanimously voted to support Yazidi women and girls and offer them refugee status in Canada. Many of these women and children have suffered horrific sexualized violence at the hands of ISIS and must now endure the additional torment of being shamed for their victimization by their own people. The prejudice against them is so intense that the international community has been asked to establish "safe zones" in refugee camps because of the persecution Yazidis face there.[1] Thankfully, Canada has offered a safe haven, but there is still much more to do.

During the United Nations' 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (November 25 - December 10, 2016), I am calling on you as my MP, and as a powerful voice for women, children and human rights, to do all you can to ensure that the Yazidi women and children receive adequate and carefully considered support during their transition into Canadian society.

As a Métis woman and documentary filmmaker, I am keenly aware of the kinds of discrimination and racism these women could face as they make a new start in this country. My 2006 NFB film Finding Dawn was an early call to action on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, and I know only too well the kinds of challenges Indigenous and racialized women face in overcoming and healing from violence and abuse. Culturally sensitive and appropriate support is essential, and so I ask you as a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Green Party of Canada to urge all levels of government to allocate adequate resources to ensure that Yazidi women and children receive the special help they need to heal their bodies and spirits and rebuild their lives.

Thank you for your efforts to address this urgent human rights issue.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Welsh
Filmmaker and Professor Emerita University of Victoria Dept. of Gender Studies


The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Member of Parliament for North Vancouver
Justice Building, Suite 09
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

December 4, 2016

Dear Mr. Wilson,

Over the last year or so I have been following the plight of the Yazidi people. The genocide and sexual enslavement of the Yazidi women and children keeps me up at night. It’s unfathomable to me that this can be happening and I feel powerless to help them.

What I can do, is thank you for your commitment to invite these women and girls to Canada as refugees.

My decades of study and training as an Iyengar yoga instructor and nutritionist have taught me how deeply trauma sits in the body, not only on an emotional level, but on a physical one as well. Though, in time these women may look healed and whole on the outside, grief and trauma can be locked not only into hearts and minds, but into the muscle and bones for many, many years.  This makes it imperative that the crucial support these women and girls receive from the Canadian government be on-going.

Today I would like to call upon the various levels of government in Canada to make sure that adequate and ongoing support is available for the refugees’ care.


Dhana Musil Bsc.


Don Davies, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

December 3, 2016

Dear Don Davies,

I am writing you today in support of the October decision to bring Yazidi women and girls to Canada as refugees. At that time, the government estimated that about four months was the earliest time we could expect the refugees to begin to arrive in Canada.

Yazidi women and girls will need a healing program and transition process specifically designed to address their special needs.

In Time magazine, August 3 2016, I was very moved by the story of Nadia Murad, a Yazidi sexual enslavement and massacre survivor. In the interview Nadia talks about the treatment she received in Germany after she escaped:

… After escape I lived in the refugee camp for about one year. Then I managed to immigrate to Germany through their program to treat women and girls who managed to escape captivity. Germany is the only country to offer help and support to ISIS survivors by giving them two years’ visa program for treating and hosting them in Germany; 1,100 survivors, including their family members, have benefit from these program, we hope that other countries would do same.[1]

When I read what Nadia says about the program Germany created, I want to encourage Canada to create a similar program here, because trauma counseling will be essential for these women and children.

I am writing during the UN 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence to join the call in Canada to bring attention, resources, advocacy, and action to a human rights crisis.

If the Yazidi refugees are to receive the support they will need, additional ongoing resources must be provided at all levels of government. Services and systems that provide support to refugees in Canada are already working well beyond their capacities.

I am writing to you as a mother and an activist to ask all levels of government to provide carefully considered support for the Yazidi refugees coming to Canada, and to look to Germany for models of care.


Krista Marshall
Women’s Monument Committee


The Honourable Joe Peschisolido
Member of Parliament
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6

December 5, 2016

Dear Mr. Peschisolido,

Thank you for your contribution to the unanimous support in parliament to bring Yazidi women and children to Canada as refugees.

Given the horrific circumstances that these women and children have endured since 2014, we are writing on behalf of the Richmond Women's Resource Centre to ask you to provide follow up support as they arrive in Canada.

We believe that the Yazidi will need special assistance beyond the usual support granted to Canadian refugees.

If the Yazidi refugees are to receive the support they will need, additional ongoing resources must be provided at all levels of government, especially federal. Services and systems that provide support to refugees in Canada are already working beyond their capacities.

Victims of violence require trauma counselling, and in this case specifically for sexualized violence, to enable the women and children to recover to their fullest potential.

We are writing you as part of the UN's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence to bring attention and action to this human rights crisis.

Will the government take steps to ensure the provision of care for these refugees?

Thank you for your attention and for your efforts to assist the Yazidi.


The Board of Directors
Richmond Women's Resource Centre


DAY 10

Honourable Hedy Fry, P.C., MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada  K1A 0A6

December 6, 2016

Dear Hedy Fry,

Today, on Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women,
we are writing to thank you for participating in the Canadian Parliament’s unanimous decision
to bring Yazidi women and girls to Canada as refugees.

We have read the devastating stories of the on-going genocide that ISIS has waged against the Yazidi people, including the sexual enslavement, torture and murder of Yazidi women and girls.

We are writing to you as feminists and concerned citizens, and asking the government to address the mental health needs for refugees. Given the severe trauma the women and girls have suffered, we are calling for access to counseling services and other appropriate interventions. Any funds provided must be adequate to address the nature of their horrific experiences, now and into the future.

All levels of government need to provide additional resources to care for Yazidi refugees. We urge you to seek new funds, and not redistribute existing resources for refugees and other communities that are struggling to meet the needs of women in crisis.

We envision appropriately funded, culturally sensitive support. We are asking for you to deliver this support to Yazidi women and children.

Chris McDowell & Lindsay Setzer
on behalf of ROSE
Remember Our Sisters Everywhere

(Participants at the December 6 Ceremony at the Women's Monument, Marker of Change, in Vancouver, signed in support of this message.)

DAY 11

Honourable Hedy Fry, P.C., MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6

December 5, 2016

Dear Hedy Fry:

I'm writing to urge that the federal government intensify its effort to bring Yazidi women and girls to safety in Canada. A Conservative motion put forward in October 2016 won unanimous support in the House, so there's no doubt that such a mission of rescue would be widely welcomed in this country.

In Canada it's proved possible to win (after many years) some serious attention for the plight of Indigenous women and girls. This cannot happen for Yazidi women in their homeland or in the refugee camps where many live. They need a safer place to live. Canada can be that place.

I'd also urge two special foci of attention when Yazidi women and girls arrive in Canada:

(1) trauma counselling, provided by women. This will be essential, and not only short-term.

(2) housing. It's alarming that so few government-sponsored Syrian refugees have found adequate housing. Many still live in hotels. This can't be allowed to happen again.

You and many in your government have a personal history of attending to women's issues. I hope you will do so again, for this particularly vulnerable group of women and girls.


Cynthia Flood

DAY 12

(This letter from Jenny Kwan, MP, was sent today on her letterhead to be read aloud at the December 6 Ceremony held at the Women’s Monument in Thornton Park in Vancouver. Thank you! Ms. Kwan.)

To Chris McDowell
Remember Our Sisters Everywhere

December 6, 2016

Dear Chris:

Thank you for the invitation to this important event in support of both Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and Yazidi women and girl refugees. As the House of Commons is in session, I am afraid I must send my regrets. Please accept my best wishes for a very successful event.

While Yazidis have been targeted, abused, and discriminated for centuries, it was two years ago that ISIS began engaging in the most horrific attacks on this Kurdish-speaking religious minority group—attacks that in June 2016 a United Nations panel of human rights experts confirmed constitute genocide. Even worse, Yazidi Women and girls in particular have been subject to unimaginable forms of violence, including rape and their buying and selling on open slave markets. These are atrocities that defy description. I believe, as do so many others, that Canada can act immediately to help the Yazidi population in Syria and Iraq that is facing genocide at the hands of Islamic militants, and I have repeatedly called for the Liberal government to do all that it can on this front.

However, in the six months since the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration (“Committee,” on which I sit) had an emergency study on this issue, and in the full two months since MPs voted unanimously to bring Yazidi refugees to Canada, little substantive action has been taken. At the Committee I learned that government officials are ready to mobilize their teams into action. They advised that they could immediately help resettle 1,000 women and girls who are victims of genocide from Yazidi populations in refugee camps located in Northern Iraq. While conversations have begun, without any real plans, timelines, or targets they are unable to begin this important undertaking. Instead, they continue to wait for the plan from Minister McCallum and his officials. Committee members and other government officials do not know what is the timeline or, in fact, how many Yazidis survivors the government is planning on resettling. In spite of the real sense of urgency from witnesses who appeared before the Committee, the government has to date been very slow to act. This is extremely concerning and disappointing.

On the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women—an issue that is near-and-dear to me—I am so proud to belong to our community’s Missing and Murdered Women coalition, a coalition comprised of family members, community advocates, and women's organizations all of whom have fought long and hard for a national inquiry. It is my deepest conviction that Canada must finally address the root causes exacerbating violence against indigenous women and girls, which is why my heart sung when the government committed, in its throne speech, to this national inquiry. And while the wheels of justice have thus far turned far too slowly, I am cautiously optimistic that the federal government will ultimately take advantage of this historic opportunity to deliver justice to those who have waited so long for it.

In the meantime, the single most important action they can take is to revise the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, which feature clear limitations and deficiencies (such as the lack of an explicit investigation into policing). As well, there is no reason why the government cannot take action to address the housing affordability crisis that many vulnerability women are in. Further, a national strategy to address the poverty that women face each day and that puts them in precarious and dangerous situations can be acted on immediately. It is also important that the Trudeau government strive to ensure that meetings with family members are as inclusive as possible by, for instance, listing meeting dates on a publicly-accessible website and notifying a wider range of impacted families.

Be assured that I will continue to work with the community and bring your undeterred voice for action to the House of Commons.

Thank you once again for the invitation.

Yours truly,

Jenny Kwan
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

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