Canadian lawmakers optimistic about improving ties with Kurdistan Region

“The Kurdish community, in general, means a lot. We do care a lot about the whole Kurdish situation and moving to the future.”

OTTAWA (Kurdistan 24) – Lawmakers in the Canadian Parliament say they are optimistic about Canada improving its ongoing relationship and partnership with the Kurdistan Region amid the formation of a new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Kurdistan 24 spoke last week to two Members of the Canadian Parliament, Tom Kmiec and Ziad Aboultaif, both of the Conservative Party of Canada, who expressed their support for Kurdish people all across the world.

Kmiec, who also serves as Deputy Shadow Minister for Finance, is the founder and co-chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of the Kurds, an all-party caucus dedicated to cultivating dialogue and fostering parliamentary ties with the KRG.

The MP spoke at length about the all-party group’s progress since its inception in 2016. Kmiec said the caucus’ relationship with the Kurdistan Region is “getting better” every year, adding he believes they are “making improvements.”

Kmiec revealed that the group now has a mini office in the autonomous region’s capital, Erbil, connected directly to the Canadian embassy, along with dedicated staff.

“It’s a starting point,” he told Kurdistan 24, Canada’s ties with the KRG are “getting better, something that I have been asking for many years now to be done.”

The Canadian lawmaker said although the all-party caucus’ people-to-people relationship is successful, the Parliamentary Friends of the Kurds want “to build a parliament-to-parliament relationship which is deeper, it’s one between legislators.”

“We’ve reached a comfort level where we’re going to try to organize a trip of Canadian parliamentarians to Erbil and to the region to visit and see for themselves and, you know, have that experience of meeting both legislators, government leaders, and community leaders,” he stated.

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Aboultaif shared a similar sentiment for the Kurdish people as he noted that he remains in constant contact with Kurds in his constituency in Edmonton, Alberta. He described it as “one of the best relationships among other communities.”

The MP said Canada will always be there for the Kurdish people because Ottawa is dedicated to helping those that are less fortunate and vulnerable, “the people that face torture in life and face difficulties.”

Indeed, the Kurds have experienced countless tragedies throughout their history under successive regimes across the Greater Kurdistan in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.

Pointing to Canada’s open-arms policy for the Yezidi (Ezidi) people who suffered genocide at the hands of the so-called Islamic State, Aboultaif said his government can still “do more for the people that suffer.”

“The Kurdish community, in general, means a lot,” he told Kurdistan 24. “We do care a lot about the whole Kurdish situation and moving to the future.”

Support for New KRG Leadership

The MPs also offered their support for the new leadership in the Kurdistan Region following the election of Nechirvan Barzani as President and Masrour Barzani as Prime Minister-designate.

Canada’s relationship with Kurdistan “will always be good because it’s based on how we view this unfairness that the Kurds went through in the courses of history,” Aboultaif added.

Kmiec, meanwhile, said although he does not like telling foreign leaders what to do, he encouraged the new KRG leadership to prevent corruption in government.

“Corruption undermines your civic institutions, it undermines the people’s faith in the political class, and it also undermines people’s willingness to participate in the future and electoral process,” he told Kurdistan 24.

Compared to other governments in the Middle East, the KRG has worked hard to crack down on graft within state institutions. Kmiec explained that liberal democracies worldwide are usually “strengthened when you clamp down on corruption, reduce it as much as possible.”

The lawmaker said Canada looks forward to the economic opportunities with the Kurdistan Region beyond its military support now that the Islamic State is defeated.

“The biggest thing I think for us to look forward to is: how can Canada lean in, and what are the economic opportunities, what are the reconstruction opportunities?”