Afghanistan aid blockade can only be fixed by changing Criminal Code: officials

OTTAWA — Federal government officials say Parliament would need to amend the Criminal Code for Canadian humanitarians to be allowed to help in Afghanistan.

Senior public servants told the Senate human-rights committee Monday evening that they have spent a year trying to see if there is any workaround in Canada's anti-terrorism laws.

Those laws forbid Canadians from purchasing goods in Afghanistan or hiring locals, as taxes paid to the Taliban might be considered contributions to a terror group, despite humanitarian crises in that country.

Other Western countries amended their laws or issued exemptions for aid groups as long as a year ago, but officials testified that Canada's laws are outdated and provide little wiggle room.

Constitutional lawyers have argued the existing laws are contradictory and would not have aid workers sent to prison.

But the officials say a judge would need to rule on that, most likely after an aid worker is charged with a criminal offence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

The Canadian Press