ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Canadian Embassy in Erbil on Monday celebrated Canada Day for the first time in the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s capital, underlining the importance of gender equality for Canada in the Middle East.
Canadians celebrate the holiday each year to mark the anniversary of July 1, 1867, the day three separate colonies united to form the country of Canada. For the first time this year, the national holiday was marked in Erbil.
During her speech on Monday, Nancy Bergeron, the Head of Office at the Embassy of Canada in Iraq’s Erbil bureau, said she was “proud to be the first female Canadian” to serve as the head of the Kurdistan Region office.
As part of Canada’s Middle East strategy, Ottawa has increased its diplomatic presence in Iraq to promote good governance, democracy, human rights, pluralism, and accountability for war crimes.
Canada also recently expanded its NATO mission in Iraq until 2020. Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan, who Bergeron described as “Canada’s highest rank woman officer,” will head the mission.
According to Bergeron, Canada works globally to advance gender rights in trade and international development. “Gender equality is everyone’s business everywhere, and Canada is no exception,” she stated.
She called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to include more females amid the formation of a new cabinet.
“We like to commend the KRG’s effortto advance gender equality and female empowerment,” Bergeron said.
“We applaud the appointment of more women to leadership positions, including the presidency of parliament and secretary of parliament, and we hope to see more women named in the upcoming cabinet.”
Falah Mustafa, the Head of the Kurdistan Region’s Department of Foreign Relations, also delivered a speech during the event where he congratulated Canada on its national day and praised Bergeronfor being the first female representative in Erbil.
Mustafa also thanked Canada for accepting Kurdish refugees, especially welcoming members of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority who suffered genocide at the hands of the so-called Islamic State in August 2014.
He also thanked Canada for its essential role in the training of Peshmerga forces and providing humanitarian assistance.
Mustafa called on Canada and other “friends of the world” to support dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad, and to make sure “a federal system is implemented, as stipulated in our constitution.”
Great to join @NBERGERN, our #Canadian friends & friends of #Canada at a reception in Erbil to celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Confederation. On behalf of the people & government of @Kurdistan I extend my sincere congratulations to all Canadians & wish them #HappyCanadaDay pic.twitter.com/ojzKqVJ0Ni— Falah Mustafa (@FalahMustafa) July 1, 2019
The Kurdish foreign relations head also said thousands of Iraqis who were displaced during the Islamic State war should receive support, so they can return “in dignity and go back to their hometowns and villages.”
Mustafa concluded with a call on Canada to support the Kurdistan Region’s education sector and bring Canadian companies to the region to assist with reconstruction in Iraq.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany