Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Leader, the people of Venezuela need our help more than ever. Their economy is in shambles with the annual inflation rate now at 83,000 per cent. To put this in perspective, this means that Venezuelans are no longer able to afford even the most basic needs. Shelves in supermarkets are bare, water is scarce and families never know whether or not they will have power for the day.
Venezuelans are forced to flee the country because their hospitals no longer have medicine, and pregnant women must cross the border to get life-saving vaccines for their future babies.
Leader, this is a humanitarian crisis and I am proud to see that Canada is stepping up to help with the $5.3 million that Minister Freeland promised in May. However, little has been announced since that promise was made. Leader, can you provide us with an update on the funding of the humanitarian relief efforts?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question, and this is indeed an evolving situation for which I’m sure there will be future announcements as well. Let me, first of all, state the strong action the Government of Canada has taken with respect to sanctions against members of the Maduro government.
Colleagues will know that new sanctions on 14 key figures of that regime have been taken by the government, and we have downgraded our diplomatic status as a reflection of the concerns we have with the direction of the government. As a government, we’re clearly concerned about the worsening political and economic situation. The government is working very closely with the UN Refugee Agency, as well as the Canadian private sponsors to identify the most vulnerable persons in the world for resettlement. Some of them, as the senator suggested, have now already left Venezuela. Ecuador is taking a large number of them, I should point out.
The government resettles those who are referred to them by the UNHCR or those sponsored through private sponsorships. I would be happy to report precise numbers at a future date. That, too, is an evolving point of work.
Since 2017, Canada has provided over $2.2 million in humanitarian assistance directly to help the most concerned and vulnerable populations. This includes support for the UN World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger, and to the Colombian Red Cross to provide basic services protection, gender and inclusion activities to affected populations in Columbia where there is also a large host group.
Senator Jaffer: Leader, thank you very much for your extensive answer. I appreciate it.
Leader, if anybody knows this, you do. On the TV, I have never seen — and I have been a refugee myself and been involved in refugee crisis — so many women and babies crossing the border. That just breaks your heart.
Leader, you were involved in the Women at Risk program. Is our government going to take the step of bringing those women and babies to our country, and under the Women at Risk program?
Senator Harder: Again, I will inquire specifically, but I want to assure the senator that programs such as Women at Risk are exactly the programs that are targeted in situations like this because of the vulnerable community and groups that are identified, and as a government we work very closely with the UNHCR to ensure we are providing support to those of this group who are most vulnerable.