Yezidi refugee children from Iraq gather around a bonfire at a camp in Greece. Their tents are in the background.

CNS PHOTO | KOSTAS TSIRONIS, EPA

Yezidi refugee children from Iraq gather around a bonfire at a camp in Greece. Their tents are in the background.

April 18, 2016
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

Widespread slaughter, expulsion, kidnapping and rape of Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in territory controlled by the Islamic State may well constitute a genocide.

However, the Canadian government will not join a growing international movement and formally call it a genocide before there is a proper, third party investigation.

"Canada is appalled by the atrocities," Global Affairs Canada told The Catholic Register. "We believe some of these show the hallmarks of genocide."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said Daesh may have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Western observers are now referring to Islamic State as Daesh because the former term confers legitimacy upon the group.

Canada, along with the United States, the European Parliament and the United Nations, wants an "independent investigation and that a legal determination be made by a competent court or tribunal," said a Global Affairs spokesperson in an email.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as deliberate acts to "destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

These acts can include killing, causing bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions intended to cause a group's physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births and forcibly removing children.

GENOCIDAL CULT

The Conservatives have been pushing Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion to declare it a genocide now. Shadow cabinet chair Jason Kenney has taken to describing the Islamic State as a "genocidal cult."

In Europe, Catholic bishops welcomed a motion passed by the European Parliament that classified ethnic and religious cleansing by the Islamic State as genocide, but warned that calling it genocide must translate into action.

"Steps to prosecute criminals and bring them to justice are also imperative," Father Patrick Daley, general secretary of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, said Feb. 4.

Pope Francis has spoken frequently about the atrocities inflicted on Middle East Christians. Last June, he referred to "this third world war" of terrorism and how "a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end."

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the American government to classify various minorities living under Daesh rule, including Muslim minorities, as victims of genocide.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has formally and pointedly used the word genocide.

"In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions - in what it says, what it believes and what it does," said Kerry on March 17.

Kerry's statement is "a historic first step towards addressing the human cost of IS's atrocities," said a statement from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. But the museum, a major centre for genocide research, wants more than just rhetoric.

EMPTY DEBATE

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Canada is not interested in a debate over whether the murderous, fake caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq has committed genocide.

"The issue is not the terminology," said CNEWA Canada executive director Carl Hetu. "For us, as an agency, we feel this is an empty debate.

"Daesh is dangerous. They're killers. It's clear they need to be stopped. The actions of our own government need to reflect that."