Welcome Home!

The first two sponsored Yazidi families arrived in Winnipeg on July 11, welcomed at the airport by family, friends, community members and supporters.


Check out the photos of their arrival here!


Watch CBC's video of the arrival here!

Operation Ezra Update


Forty-one Yazidi men, women and children are learning English, going to school, working, playing, feeling safe and secure, and freely celebrating their faith and culture in their new home of Winnipeg because of the grassroots initiative called  Operation Ezra.


Operation Ezra was launched in Winnipeg in March 2015 with two objectives - to increase general awareness about the plight of the Yazidi people in the Middle East, and to raise $35,000 for the sponsorship of a Yazidi refugee family to Winnipeg.


By the summer of 2015, Operation Ezra had raised that $35,000 and more, and grown into a Jewish community-wide initiative embracing dozens of volunteers and donors, as well as the support of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Jewish Child and Family Service and Congregation Shaarey Zedek. In the ensuing months, Operation Ezra extended its reach even further, evolving into a coalition of 24 Winnipeg-based multi-faith organizations.


By March 2017, just two years after Operation Ezra was launched, the coalition had raised almost $500,000 and arranged for the private sponsorship to Canada of 10 Yazidi families, representing 55 children and adults. To date, seven of those families, accounting for 41 people, have arrived and settled in Winnipeg. Three more families, comprised of 14 individuals, are expected to arrive in the city before the end of 2017.  Most of the families have young children.


Operation Ezra weighs several factors in determining which families to sponsor. Firstly, all of the families considered for potential sponsorship must have official UNHCR registration and ID documentation. Once that is established, the Operation Ezra working committee considers the geographic location of the family, the size of the family, the ages of the various family members, the employment potential of the adult family members, and the likelihood of the family adapting to a new culture and country.  With a data base that now contains the names of 3,000 Yazidi refugee families hoping to resettle in Canada, selecting which families best meet the criteria for sponsorship has become an onerous and delicate undertaking.  


So far, all of the newcomer Yazidi families have adjusted well to life in Winnipeg. The children are enrolled in schools and the adults are studying English in various programs, including a newly launched, weekly EAL program at Temple Shalom.  Jewish Child and Family Service has played a key role in mitigating the families’ acculturation and integration, as have more than 50 volunteers who have donated their time, advice and energy into ensuring that the Yazidis feel comfortable in their new surroundings and have everything that they need. 


These volunteers have located housing, collected donations of household goods from private and corporate sponsors,  furnished and set up homes for each of the families, welcomed them upon their arrival  to the city, and assisted them with resettlement  tasks like setting up bank accounts and accessing provincial health cards.  They have shown them how to use public transportation, accompanied them to grocery stores and doctors’ appointments, helped them enroll their children in school, and find employment. In fact, seven of the adults who arrived in recent months are already working at full or part time jobs, and four more will be starting work within the month. 


Operation Ezra is the only organized Yazidi rescue effort of its size in North America. In addition to its sponsorship activities, it has significantly raised awareness about the plight of the Yazidi people among the general public and in both the provincial  and federal legislatures. Operation Ezra’s ongoing advocacy and lobbying was instrumental in the federal government unanimously passing a motion last fall to take decisive action to save the Yazidis from genocide. Its efforts also directly influenced the Trudeau government’s decision, announced in February, to bring 1,200 government sponsored Yazidi refugees to Canada by the end of the year. 


In just over two years, Operation Ezra has saved, resettled and given hope and a home to dozens of Yazidi refugees. 


To support this rescue operation financially, readers can donate online here.

The Yazidi People


History and Current Crisis

  • One of the oldest religious and ethnic minorities in the world, the Yazidis have faced religious persecution for over 700 years.
  • Having suffered over 70 massacres over the course of their history, their population has been decimated from 23 million to only approximately 700,000 today.
  • It is one of the longest ongoing hatreds perpetrated against a people for religious reasons. The persecution of the Yazidi people precedes the current conflict in the region and will continue long after.
  • In August of 2014, a large-scale massacre took place in Sinjar, in the Ninveh province. Over 5,000 Yazidi people were killed and 50,000 displaced. 3,000 to 5,000 remain hostage to ISIL. Sinjar was destroyed. There is no home for the Yazidi people to return to.
  • Yazidi girls and women as young as nine years of age are being sold into sexual slavery by ISIL fighters, raped and tortured. Often, they are resold to other countries as far away as Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  • Mass graves have been discovered containing the bodies of Yazidi women who ISIL have executed because they were considered to be “too old” to be used as sexual slaves.
  • Young Yazidi boys are kidnapped and brainwashed by ISIL to become fighters.
  • Captured Yazidi men are forcibly converted to Islam but many are subsequently executed.
  • Aid workers have documented the fact that Yazidi people in refugee camps in Iraq are facing danger from other refugee groups who would do them harm.
  • Today, the Yazidi refugees find themselves in segregated camps in Syria and Turkey where they are not welcomed nor treated with equanimity.
  • There is no longer any doubt that a Genocide is being perpetrated against the Yazidi people:
    • The United Nations Human Rights Office  (in its Report on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by ISIL and associated groups dated March 13, 2015*) declared: “ISIL’s attacks on the Yezidi population “pointed to the intent of ISIL to destroy the Yezidi as a group.” The report says, which “strongly suggests” that ISIL may have perpetrated genocide.” **
    • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a report in November of 2015 entitled, “Our Generation is Gone: The Targeting of Religious Minorities in Iraq.” The report states "We believe IS has been and is perpetrating genocide against the Yezidi people.” ***


Demographics - Worldwide and Canada

  • Total Yazidi population worldwide estimated at 700,000 with approximately 500,000 scattered throughout Iraq; 100,000 in UNHCR camps in Syria and Turkey and 100,000 in Europe (mostly Germany).
  • In Canada, the Yazidi population is estimated at approximately 400 (220 in London Ontario and 180 in Winnipeg).


** Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50369#.Vlt5eYSSaOp
***Source: http://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/Iraq-Bearing-Witness-Report-111215.pdf


OPERATION EZRA COMMUNITY PARTNERS:  Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation  •  B’nai Brith Camp  •  Bridges for Peace  •  Calvary Temple  •  Camp Massad  •  Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue  •  Congregation Etz Chayim  •  Congregation Shaarey Zedek  •  Gray Academy of Jewish Education  •  Jewish Child and Family Service  •  Jewish Federation of Winnipeg  •  Jewish Foundation of Manitoba  •  Manitoba Multifaith Council  •  National Council of Jewish Women  •  Pembina Mennonite Fellowship Church  •  Rady Jewish Community Centre  •  Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre  •  Temple Shalom  •  Winnipeg Friends of Israel  •  Winnipeg Yazidi Community


How you can help






Latest News


May 2017: Operation Ezra Update

July 12: Welcome home! Photos of arrival

July 12: Video of arrival in Winnipeg (CBC)

July 11: Yazidi family finds new home in Winnipeg (CBC)

July 6: New photos with Andrew Smith

June 20: Anticipation of their new home...

April 25: Young Yazidi refugee drew Canadian flag...

April 18: See pictures...

April 2016: Midyat Refugee camp...

February 2016: First 2 families are due...




Primary Objectives


  • Raise Awareness of the Yazidi Plight within the Community at large
  • Sponsor as many Yazidi families as possible to Winnipeg in partnership with the local Yazidi Community for successful resettlement.



Project Status


First two Yazidi families arrived July 11.


  • Operation Ezra, the initiative to rescue and settle Yazidi refugees, began as a grass roots movement with Winnipeg Friends of Israel but has evolved into a multi-community coalition.
  • Organizations such as Jewish Child and Family Service, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Mennonite Central Committee, Manitoba Multi-Faith Council, Calvary Temple, Bridges for Peace, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, Rady JCC as well as countless other agencies and individuals have been involved in various aspects of the initiative. We are proud to be working with the Yazidi community on this initiative.
  • Individuals, organizations and agencies have provided advice, donated funds and useful household and personal items, storage space, time and skills
  • Operation Ezra has created awareness of the plight of Yazidis, lobbied government and coordinated volunteer efforts and fundraising.
  • Over $250,000 has been raised to date to fund the rescue operation.
  • The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is providing administrative support
  • “This is a private initiative undertaken by the Jewish community and many other local partners. Saving the Yazidi people from genocide is an obligation and a responsibility we all have.” – Michel Aziza
  • “Our scriptures say …’whosoever saves a life it is as if he has saved an entire world’, says Al Benarroch, CEO of Jewish Child and Family Service – the agency that will provide assistance in resettling the refugees” “Our settlement services will provide integration services from assistance with housing, school and childcare to career counseling services and basic acclimatization” – Al Benarroch
  • For more information, contact Michel Aziza, Operation Ezra Committee.