Canadian aid organizations demand government action on Afghanistan sanctions

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  • A coalition of leading Canadian humanitarian aid organizations are calling for the Government of Canada to review and revise sanctions to humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
  • While other G7 nations such as Australia have found ways to allow for humanitarian aid to be delivered in the country, Canada's lack of urgency has been disheartening.
  • Around 23 million people in Afghanistan are dealing with drought, acute food shortages and hunger, and a breakdown of health services, among other critical cirumstances, all exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facing drought and severe food shortages, families in Afghanistan are struggling to feed their children. The country is in dire need of life-saving humanitarian aid, and the Government of Canada must act with more urgency to address barriers to humanitarian aid.
(September 22, 2022)

A coalition of leading Canadian aid organizations will be extending the Aid for Afghanistan Campaign following the Government of Canada’s disheartening lack of urgency in acting to remove the barriers so lifesaving humanitarian assistance can immediately reach the people of Afghanistan.
Approximately 23 million people in Afghanistan are dealing with drought, acute food shortages and hunger, a breakdown of health services, sparse access to cash, internal displacement, and the turbulent times of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the Government of Canada’s restrictive interpretation of the Criminal Code where aid agencies risk criminal prosecution, essential resources and supplies destined for the region’s most at risk, especially women and girls, are instead perishing in warehouses.
The coalition continues to maintain an open and constructive dialogue with the Government of Canada and understands the complexities and challenges regarding Afghanistan. However, other G7 nations and global partners have already found ways to resolve government barriers while Canada remains an outlier.
To re-instate critical humanitarian aid and save countless lives in Afghanistan, Canadian aid organizations are urging the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety, Foreign Affairs and International Development to put into action the findings of the Special Committee and to address the following: 

  • Revise the Sanctions Regulations to clarify the inapplicability of sanctions to humanitarian assistance and lifesaving aid and align with steps taken by other G7 nations such as Australia.  
  • Provide clarity to the humanitarian sector on permissible action within the current anti-terrorism legislation to combat the chilling effect on non-governmental organizations of the counter-terrorism regime. 
  • In the longer term, amend the Criminal Code to allow for an express carve-out for humanitarian action to ensure a sustainable solution applicable beyond the context in Afghanistan.
As parliament resumed this week, it must prioritize these issues as a first order of business. More than 8,000 Canadians who have shown their support for the campaign, the coalition of aid organizations, and the Afghan community demand that the Government of Canada takes immediate action for the people in Afghanistan.

Martin Fischer, Head of Policy at World Vision Canada:
"Canada must remove all barriers preventing Canadian organizations from saving lives in Afghanistan. Food insecurity is a major issue that our teams are trying to address through solutions like mobile health clinics treating malnourished children. Now, 95 per cent of people in Afghanistan lack adequate food. As the winter approaches, we hope the government will propose a solution that allows us to resume our work."

Reyhana Patel, Director of Communications and Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada:  
“The stories we are hearing from the ground in Afghanistan are horrific. Mothers are being forced with the decision to either marry off their young daughters or let their families starve. Despite over 8,000 people writing to their local MPs, Canada continues to block lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. We need the government to act now.”
Amy Avis, General Counsel, Canadian Red Cross:
“While we understand these issues are complex, we know that if we work together, we can find solutions that will allow Canadian aid organizations to resume their critical, lifesaving work. As the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan worsens each day, we must not let another year go by without our collective support for neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian action.” 
Quick facts
  • Canadians wishing to join the efforts to find a solution and provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan can visit to write to their political representatives and encourage their friends and family to join them using #aidforafghanistan.
  • The coalition of Canadian organizations partnering for the Aid for Afghanistan campaign include the Canadian Red Cross, CARE, Save the Children, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Vision, Islamic Relief Canada, Action Against Hunger, Equality Fund, Presbyterian World Service & Development, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, CanWach, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Mennonite Central Committee Canada,  Cooperation Canada, Human Concern International, Oxfam Canada and Amnesty International