Kurdistan Region is safe to visit: Canadian MP

“I'm absolutely delighted to be leading a parliamentary delegation from all parties here to Kurdistan.”
Canadian conservative MP Tom Kmiec (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Canadian conservative MP Tom Kmiec (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – MP Tom Kmiec, who led a cross-party delegation of Canadian MPs, told Kurdistan 24 that he is absolutely delighted to lead a parliamentary delegation from all parties to the Kurdistan Region and underlined that visiting Kurdistan felt very safe.

Read More: Canadian parliament delegation visits Kurdistan Region

“I'm absolutely delighted to be leading a parliamentary delegation from all parties here to Kurdistan. It's historic, and it's the very first time that the parliament of Canada have been able to send a delegation,” he said.

Kmiec is the founder and co-chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of the Kurds, created in 2016, which is an all-party caucus dedicated to cultivating dialogue.

“And I think the starting point for us is to learn from you, learn about your culture, [and] learn about your democratic institutions. We have been meeting with ministers, with your government, from all the political parties, [and] we want to meet with every single party in the government,” he said during a visit to Kurdistan 24.

“We have met with several civil society centers and civil and government institutions. Our goal is to become more familiar with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) institutions, its political parties, Kurdish culture and history,” he said.

He said it’s especially important to have a people-to-people relationship. “Governments can talk to each other, but I am a member of the opposition, not a member of any government.”

He also said there is also a large Kurdish diaspora in Canada that keeps talking about how great Kurdistan is, including the food and hospitality. Therefore, he said it is important to come to the Kurdistan Region to “live the experience”.

“What I've been told by the Kurdish community of Kurdistan matches up pretty closely with what's going on on the ground. It's truly safe. We were out in the community walking around.” he said, which is different from the travel advice from the Canadian government that advises people not to visit.

“The travel advisory needs to be amended to match reality on the ground. Despite the government’s safety notice, on the grounds things are extremely safe.”

He also said they have discussed issues of security, cooperation between different political parties and the unity of Kurdistan.

Moreover, he said they want to raise the plight of displaced Yezidis that still live in refugee camps. “The Yezidi plight back home is extremely important.”

“There was a conservative motion that recognized genocide of the Yezidis by Daash (ISIS)  [that] called on [the] Canadian government to accept Yezidi refugees to canada. That was a motion I co-sponsored to accept Yezidi refugees to Canada. I also worked on a report on how to settle the Yezidis.”

Moreover, he said they want to reunite Yezidi families with their missing family members. “We want to reunite those families. The main issues are that we want to talk with the KRG [on] how to make it happen.”

Furthermore, he also compared the conflicts between Baghdad and Erbil between the Canadian capital and different provincial capitals. “I'm an Albertan. We have had a centuries long conflict with the central government over the right of our natural resources, which is very similar to what Kurdistan has with Baghdad. You know, we have on the delegation as well, two members [that are] Quebec nationalists,” he said.

He said it's not a problem as long as they are non-violent debates. “And I think in the cases that we've heard so far, some of the disagreements between the capital here in the KRI and Baghdad goes beyond that fact. Baghdad is trying to have more control. There needs to be space for autonomy obviously, and that happens in Canada all the time.”

The Canadian delegation also visited the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) on Tuesday to meet with experts, officials, journalists and civil society activists.

During their meeting, Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, the Founding President of the Middle East Research Institute, underlined Canada's crucial support to the Kurdistan Region in combating ISIS.

He also said the visit by the delegation will contribute significantly to the development and enhancement of political and economic ties between Canada and the Kurdistan Region.