Minister de­fends sign­ing onto UN mi­gra­tion pact

Times Colonist - - Canada - TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA — Canada is com­mit­ted to sign­ing onto the United Nations pact on mi­gra­tion, Im­mi­gra­tion Minister Ahmed Hussen says, de­spite an­gry protest from rightwing po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists both here and abroad.

Speak­ing from Mar­rakech, Morocco, on Fri­day, where a UN sum­mit on mi­gra­tion is to kick off next week, Hussen said the Global Com­pact on Mi­gra­tion is an im­por­tant agree­ment that will set out, for the first time, an of­fi­cial in­ter­na­tional frame­work for coun­tries to work to­gether on the causes and im­pacts of mi­gra­tion.

For Canada, one of the key ben­e­fits will be an op­por­tu­nity to work with source coun­tries of ir­reg­u­lar asy­lum seek­ers, who have been cross­ing into Canada via non-of­fi­cial en­try points by the tens of thou­sands over the last two years.

Canada will have a more of­fi­cial way, through the com­pact, to ad­dress the problems that cause mi­grants to leave their coun­tries for Canada, Hussen said.

“Peo­ple talk about how we should ap­proach ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion — one of the ways to do that is to work with other coun­tries,” Hussen said. “One of the things that we do is work with partner coun­tries to as­sist them with job cre­ation and skills-de­vel­op­ment pro­grams that en­ables source coun­tries for mi­grants, like Morocco, to en­sure a bet­ter fu­ture for their peo­ple here so that they don’t have to take risky jour­neys for mi­gra­tion and en­gage in ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion.”

But de­spite two years of work at the UN level and con­sen­sus reached af­ter six rounds of ne­go­ti­a­tion on the fi­nal text, a move­ment of protest against the agree­ment has grown in Europe over the past year, lead­ing sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries to quit the com­pact.

Aus­tralia, Is­rael, Hun­gary, Aus­tria, Croa­tia, Italy, Bul­garia and the Czech Repub­lic have said they will not sup­port it. Poland and Es­to­nia also may not sign and Bel­gium’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment is so di­vided over it, the ques­tion of whether to sign the pact is threat­en­ing to top­ple its gov­ern­ment.

The United States will also not sign the com­pact.

In Canada, op­po­si­tion to the agree­ment has ap­peared on the con­tro­ver­sial news web­site Rebel Me­dia. It called the com­pact a means to nor­mal­ize mass mi­gra­tion and si­lence me­dia crit­ics. Re­cently, many of these same ar­gu­ments have been taken up by Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader An­drew Scheer and Con­ser­va­tive im­mi­gra­tion critic Michelle Rempel. Scheer held a press con­fer­ence ear­lier this week to say he strongly op­poses the pact, on the grounds that it would give for­eign en­ti­ties in­flu­ence over Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. Rempel has ar­gued the agree­ment would be legally bind­ing on Canada and would there­fore pose a threat to Cana­dian sovereignty.

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