At a camp near Erbil – the largest city of Iraqi Kurdistan – MP Russ Hiebert meets refugee children.

Visit with displaced refugees hits home for Hiebert

Fist-hand view of 'desperate situation' in Northern Iraq leads Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP to call for financial aid

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert said scenes of human suffering he observed firsthand during a Labour Day weekend visit to refugee camps in embattled Northern Iraq will stay with him.

And he said he is gratified the Canadian government approved a further $7 million in emergency aid to the region so soon on the heels of the tour he took with fellow Conservative MPs Leon Benoit and Brad Butt.

“I’m quite pleased at how quickly this got accomplished,” he told Peace Arch News Monday, noting that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was touring the same refugee camps just days after he and his colleagues returned urging international help to avoid “a humanitarian disaster.”

Hiebert said more than 1.3 million people are now “internally displaced” in Iraq, with floods of refugees including Christians, non-Sunni Muslims and Yazidis fleeing western Iraq and Syria for relative safety in Kurdish Iraq.

“It’s a desperate situation. The internally displaced people have had to leave everything they had,” he said, adding that the people used to have reasonably comfortable lives, with jobs and homes and facilities that most of us take for granted.

“They’re living in tents, in the best case scenario – in the worst case scenario, they’re divided by tarps in abandoned buildings, sharing water and toilet facilities.”

Hiebert said the pressure is on to find more permanent housing for the refugees, particularly as winter approaches.

One community he visited – an area with a population of 1.2 million –  has grown by some 650,000 people in three weeks, 250,000 of them within a 48-hour period, he said.

“They have a third of the doctors and nurses needed, and the prescription-drug budget has almost tripled from $6 million to $17 million – and they don’t have the money for it.”

Hiebert said this doesn’t begin to calculate the impact of family members lost and others victimized in what he characterized as “the so-called Islamic State… brutalizing and killing those who do not agree with their ideology and will not submit to forced conversion.”

Urging humanitarian aid is a natural response to such suffering, Hiebert said.

“You cannot see this situation without thinking ‘what if this was my country – what if this was my family?’” Hiebert said.

Closer to home, the Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP said he looks forward to serving the community for the balance of his term (he announced last February he will not be running for re-election in 2015).

After the return of Parliament, he said, he is interested in seeing the passage of his controversial private-members’ bill – requiring full public disclosure of union finances – through the Senate. He added he also plans to follow up on a long-term personal initiative calling for income splitting to achieve lower levels of taxation for families – something he was glad to see become part of the Conservative campaign platform in the last election.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A new 23-storey condo development – which might also house a new White Rock city hall space – is proposed for the current site of 3 Dogs Brewing on Johnston Road, and will be discussed by the Land Use and Planning committee on Oct. 26. (File photo)
Civic centre could be part of new 23-storey White Rock condo tower

Development proposal to be discussed Oct. 26 by council’s land use committee

(Image: CDC)
Fraser Health orders Surrey food-processing facility to close amid COVID-19 outbreak

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility also tests positive for the virus

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

Lotto winner Erwin Espiritu. (submitted photo: BCLC media relations)
$1M lotto surprise for Surrey dad buying takeout food for son’s birthday

‘When I went to show my son, he said that there was six zeros on the screen, not three’

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Most Read