March 9, 2023 (OTTAWA) – The Canadian government introduced Bill C-41, amending the Criminal Code to allow Canadian aid organizations to provide humanitarian support in Afghanistan without the fear of criminal prosecution. This is a critical and important step toward protecting the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide neutral and impartial aid in Afghanistan and other complex crises.
This action will bring Canada into better alignment with other nations such as Australia, the U.K. and the United States. In response to the introduction of this legislation, the #AidforAfghanistan Coalition of 18 leading Canadian organizations said:
“We welcome today’s announcement by the Government of Canada. We are encouraged that this step forward will not only support the need for humanitarian organizations to operate in Afghanistan, but also in similar contexts.
Today’s announcement is an important step forward in the right direction toward finding a permanent solution for the countless Afghan women, children and families who are counting on international aid and assistance to survive.
In the weeks to come, we look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue and working together with all parties to ensure these amendments are passed effectively and efficiently to allow Canadians to provide critical humanitarian aid and assistance to the people of Afghanistan and other countries with similar contexts.”
Under the #AidforAfghanistan campaign, we have worked to raise awareness of the impacts of regulatory barriers and their chilling effect. Such restrictions have prevented us from getting life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable during Afghanistan’s deepening humanitarian crisis. In recognition of the need to allow for life-saving humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, close to 10,000 Canadians have signed letters targeting their local MP, the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Development, Justice and Public Safety.
Over the past eight months, we have worked with legal experts, Afghan Canadians, and women’s organizations to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties, who have all affirmed their commitment to ensuring that legislation must be amended to allow Canadian organizations to help the people of Afghanistan.
With today’s announcement, we look forward to continuing to work with all parties in the House of Commons to ensure that the solution allows for a definition of activities that is broad enough to encompass targeted gender programming, including education and healthcare for girls, food, shelter, clothing, and human rights work. We also call on all parties to work collaboratively to ensure this solution comes to fruition quickly.
The humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan today is dire. Over half of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and there is a severe lack of food, medicines and essential supplies. This has resulted in grave impacts including an increase in child marriages and people taking extreme actions to survive. The people of Afghanistan need humanitarian aid, and they need it now.
Canada’s investment in Afghanistan over the last two decades has contributed to immense progress particularly advances in gender equality. Canada has a long history of support for Afghanistan and the Afghan people and Canadians are particularly concerned for women and children, who have been increasingly vulnerable during the last 19 months.
Today’s proposed legislative change is a critical first step toward ensuring Canada’s legacy in Afghanistan continues in that spirit of support and commitment and to allowing Canadian organizations and our millions of supporters across Canada to once again provide desperately needed support to Afghan women, children and communities.”