Canada com­mit­ted to mi­gra­tion pact: min­is­ter

UN agree­ment de­fended amid right-wing op­po­si­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - TERESA WRIGHT

TTAWA — Canada is com­mit­ted to sign­ing on to the United Na­tions pact on mi­gra­tion, Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen says, de­spite an­gry protest from right-wing 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 past 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

Oit. 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 first 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.

These ar­gu­ments mir­ror those be­ing cir­cu­lated in Europe, and are “com­pletely er­ro­neous and fun­da­men­tally mis­un­der­stand the na­ture of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and in­ter­na­tional law,” said Craig Damian Smith, as­so­ciate direc­tor of the Global Mi­gra­tion Lab at the Munk School of Global Af­fairs and Pub­lic Pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

“What they’re do­ing is they’re im­port­ing this xeno­pho­bic po­lit­i­cal rhetoric from openly il­lib­eral po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Europe, and the rea­son is, it sells do­mes­ti­cally and they think they can ham­mer the Lib­er­als with it,” Smith said. “That’s the com­pletely un­var­nished truth about what’s go­ing on with this dis­course in Canada.”

He stressed there is noth­ing in the com­pact that is legally bind­ing, nor would the agree­ment some­how cause more mi­grants to cross into Canada or de­stroy Canada’s sovereignty.

The Global Com­pact on Mi­gra­tion was born af­ter the 2015-16 refugee cri­sis, when UN mem­ber states re­al­ized that, un­like flows of goods and ser­vices or cap­i­tal across bor­ders, no in­ter­na­tional regime cov­ers mi­gra­tion. It’s an is­sue that tends to be­come po­lit­i­cally po­lar­iz­ing when large flows of mi­grants be­gin to move, which is why a for­mal­ized agree­ment was sought, Smith ex­plained.

“The idea is, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity needs to start build­ing a global gov­er­nance regime for mi­gra­tion be­cause only through co-op­er­a­tion do you get the pos­i­tive div­i­dends of well-man­aged and safe in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion. That’s the goal.”

Hussen did not mince words in his as­sess­ment of Con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion to the com­pact. He pointed to a re­port re­leased Thurs­day by the Com­mons com­mit­tee on im­mi­gra­tion that stud­ied the agree­ment, in­clud­ing ex­pert tes­ti­mony and sub­mis­sions, and ul­ti­mately rec­om­mended Canada sign on.

“They’re ped­dling in a con­spir­acy the­ory that’s be­neath a main­stream po­lit­i­cal party that has ac­cess to ev­i­dence, that has ac­cess to tes­ti­mony from ex­perts who have clearly said this agree­ment is not a threat to Cana­dian sovereignty, it will not erase our bor­der,” Hussen said.

“They’ve cho­sen to take this po­si­tion be­cause they’re los­ing sup­port­ers to the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada and they feel this is what they need to do to win sup­port from peo­ple who sup­port the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada,” he added, re­fer­ring to the new party cre­ated by ex-Con­ser­va­tive MP Maxime Bernier.

Bernier has in­deed spo­ken out against the mi­gra­tion com­pact, and was sched­uled to speak at a rally in Ottawa to­day to protest Canada’s sign­ing the agree­ment. The rally is also sched­uled to in­clude a num­ber of far-right, an­tiMus­lim and neo-Nazi groups, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle pub­lished by the Cana­dian Anti-Hate Net­work.

A staffer who works with Bernier told The Cana­dian Press on Fri­day that Bernier was aware the Ottawa rally could in­volve the ex­trem­ist groups, and was still plan­ning to at­tend. Later in the day, the staffer said Bernier de­cided not to at­tend af­ter “ver­i­fy­ing claims about the ex­tent of these groups be­ing present or in­volved in the demon­stra­tion.”


Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen says ex­perts rec­om­mended that Canada sign the UN agree­ment on mi­gra­tion.

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