Minister defends signing onto UN migration pact
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.