OTTAWA – Two containers of food bound for Afghanistan have been canceled by a Canadian-based aid agency due to a law prohibiting any dealings with the Taliban.
World Vision says it was forced to cancel a large delivery of “therapeutic food”, which could have fed around 1,800 children.
Asuntha Charles, country director of World Vision Afghanistan, said the country was facing a serious humanitarian crisis and the food shipment had to be canceled due to “unnecessary restrictions”.
Canada passed a law in 2013 listing the Taliban as a terrorist organization and creating penalties of up to 10 years in prison if Canadians directly or indirectly provide them with goods or finances.
Aid agencies working in Afghanistan complain that the law in its current form hinders their work because they cannot help anyone who might have official relations with what is now the Afghan government, including those who pay rent or taxes.
Charles said it was “time for Canada to act by decriminalizing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to save lives before it’s too late.”
Amy Avis, a lawyer for the Canadian Red Cross, said Canada must find a way to allow aid to reach people in Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, ten humanitarian organizations presented a brief to a special parliamentary committee on Afghanistan asking ministers to relax the laws so they can work on the ground in Afghanistan without fear of breaking Canada’s anti-terrorism laws. .
They criticized Canada for not changing its regulations following a December 2021 UN Security Council resolution that “humanitarian assistance and other activities that meet basic human needs in Afghanistan would not violate the board’s sanctions regime.
Michael Messenger, president of World Vision Canada, told the committee that Canada was “out of step” with other countries, including the United States, which have made changes to facilitate humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
In its official report, the parliamentary committee recommended that the government “ensure that registered Canadian organizations have the necessary clarity and assurances — such as exclusions or exemptions — to provide humanitarian assistance and meet basic needs in Afghanistan.” without fear of prosecution for breaking the law of Canada”. anti-terrorism laws.
Haley Hodgson, spokesman for International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan, said he was working with the Departments of Public Safety and Justice to review “necessary changes” to the law.
“We continue to respond to the immediate needs of the Afghan people,” she said. “In 2022, Canada allocated $143 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and neighboring countries.”
Sajjan has previously stressed that the government has no plans to remove the Taliban from its list of terrorist organizations.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2022.
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