Tories face crit­i­cism for re­marks on UN mi­gra­tion pact

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - MICHELLE ZILIO PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY AF­FAIRS RE­PORTER OT­TAWA

Scheer says Canada should have full au­ton­omy over who it lets into the coun­try

Cana­dian aca­demics and refugee ad­vo­cates are call­ing out the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives for spreading mis­in­for­ma­tion about the im­pli­ca­tions of a United Nations mi­gra­tion agree­ment, which Canada will join in Morocco next week.

In­ter­na­tion­allawand­glob­al­af­fairs pro­fes­sors from the Univer­sity of Toronto and McGill Univer­sity held a video con­fer­ence with re­porters Fri­day to ex­plain the Global Com­pact for Mi­gra­tion and re­but Con­ser­va­tive Party claims that the agree­ment will force Canada to give up control over its bor­ders and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. The first-of-its-kind agree­ment has be­come the sub­ject of a con­tentious po­lit­i­cal de­bate in Ot­tawa, with the Tories urg­ing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal gov­ern­ment not to sign the pact.

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer held a news con­fer­ence on Par­lia­ment Hill on Tues­day, where he crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for the Global Com­pact and said Canada should have full au­ton­omy over who it lets into the coun­try.

Craig Damian Smith, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of the Global Mi­gra­tion Lab at U of T’s Munk School of Global Af­fairs and Pub­lic Pol­icy, said the Con­ser­va­tives’ claim that the Global Com­pact threat­ens Canada’s sovereignty is “logic-de­fy­ing,” as the agree­ment ex­plic­itly reaf­firms the right of mem­ber states to de­ter­mine their na­tional mi­gra­tion pol­icy. He said the Con­ser­va­tives ei­ther don’t un­der­stand in­ter­na­tional law or are will­ing to make false claims.

“Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment in the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Party are mim­ick­ing and im­port­ing far- right po­lit­i­cal rhetoric from Europe. Their ar­gu­ments are cut and pasted from xeno­pho­bic and self­de­scribed de-liberal po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” Prof. Smith said.

“The mis­in­for­ma­tion about the Com­pact is part of a pro­ject to un­der­mine mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions and core in­ter­na­tional norms that un­der­pin the rules­based in­ter­na­tional or­der.”

Au­drey Mack­lin, a law pro­fes­sor and chair in hu­man-rights law at the Univer­sity of Toronto, said there are no for­mal re­quire­ments when nations sign on to the Global Com­pact be­cause it’s not an in­ter­na­tional treaty or con­ven­tion.

Im­mi­gra­tion Minister Ahmed Hussen will travel to Mar­rakesh, Morocco, on Mon­day to join other coun­tries in adopt­ing the Global Com­pact. The non-bind­ing agree­ment aims to mit­i­gate fac­tors that drive mi­grants out of their home coun­tries, re­duce the risks they face if they are forced to leave and cre­ate con­di­tions that al­low mi­grants to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety.

In ad­di­tion to their con­cerns about sovereignty, the Con­ser­va­tives sounded the alarm over a sec­tion of the Global Com­pact on the role of the me­dia. The text en­cour­ages the pro­mo­tion of “in­de­pen­dent, ob­jec­tive and qual­ity re­port­ing,” in­clud­ing by ed­u­cat­ing me­dia on mi­gra­tion-re­lated is­sues and ter­mi­nol­ogy. It also calls on mem­ber states to halt al­lo­ca­tion of pub­lic fund­ing for me­dia out­lets that “sys­tem­at­i­cally pro­mote in­tol­er­ance, xeno­pho­bia, racism and other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion to­wards mi­grants.”

“It at­tempts to in­flu­ence how our free and in­de­pen­dent me­dia re­port on im­mi­gra­tion is­sues,” Mr. Scheer said on Tues­day.

How­ever, Rob Oliphant, a Liberal MP and chair of the House of Com­mons im­mi­gra­tion com­mit­tee, said the sec­tion is not in­tended to tar­get Cana­dian me­dia.

“Cana­dian me­dia are fact­based, ev­i­dence-based, neu­tral and in­de­pen­dent. … It’s not the na­ture of me­dia in ev­ery coun­try,” Mr. Oliphant said on Thurs­day. “What this Com­pact does is sug­gest that the kind of stan­dards we have for Cana­dian me­dia are the kind of stan­dards that would pro­mote good, or­derly mi­gra­tion.”

In a let­ter to par­lia­men­tar­i­ans Fri­day, Cana­dian civil-so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions reaf­firmed their sup­port for the agree­ment. The or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Ox­fam Canada, Save the Chil­dren and World Vi­sion, said the Global Com­pact will “pro­vide clar­ity and mo­men­tum for in­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion on mi­gra­tion.”

ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

PC Leader An­drew Scheer speaks with the re­porters af­ter Ques­tion Pe­riod in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

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