As Canada grapples with its own economic challenges, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Wednesday that nearly $10 million will be sent to support youth employment initiatives in Iraq.

Hussen explained that the Middle East and North Africa are key areas of focus for Canada’s foreign policy. The strategy for the Middle East focuses on stability, resilience, and economic development, he said. 

“This is a long-term play, because investment in the stability and economic resilience of countries like Iraq and the Middle East is in Canada’s national interest,” said Hussen. 

The $9.9 million will support vocational and technical education programs over the next five years, facilitated by a collaboration between the World University Service of Canada and Canadian Leaders in International Consulting. While based in Ottawa, these organisations focus on international projects.

The Training and Workplace Advancement Solutions for Opportunities in the Labour Force (TAWASOL) project, as outlined in the release by the World University Service of Canada, aims to empower over 20,000 students annually in Iraq through enhanced training and employment opportunities. 

“The TAWASOL project is a five-year initiative (2023-2028) that seeks to create a more enabling and gender inclusive environment for youth employment to flourish in Iraq,” reads the statement. 

The federal government has allocated $4.7 billion to its Middle East strategy since 2016. This funding is being used not only to combat extremism but also to develop strategies for post-conflict reconstruction, according to Hussen.

This announcement came during a cost of living crisis in Canada, largely felt by youth trying to buy their first home. 

Youth unemployment in Canada in May was 10.7%, more than double the total unemployment of 5.2%, according to Statistics Canada.

Roman Baber, former member of Ontario’s parliament and now a federal Conservative candidate, expressed his displeasure with the announcement on X

“Canada is sending $10 million to help youth unemployment in Iraq? How about unemployment and homelessness in Canada!?” 

Cody Morgan, columnist and show host at Western Standard, raised similar concerns.

“Good thing there aren’t any economically challenged youth back in Trudeau’s Canada,” he said sarcastically.

According to CBC, Hussen said that supporting youth in Iraq will ultimately help Canada because the investment supports stability in the region overall. 

Kirk Lubimov, a Canadian writer and commentator, posted his concerns on X, posting a facepalm in reaction to the announcement that this would help Canada.

“(Canada’s) youth will be paying for the Liberal’s debt and can’t afford to move out from their parents’ house,” Lubimov said. “The Liberals’ incompetence and cluelessness has no bounds.”