Canada Adopts Controversial UN Migration Agreement

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An installation depicting migrants is pictured during the second and final day of the UN Migration Conference in Marrakech Morocco, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. Government envoys and advocacy groups are working to flesh out and refine a migration policy blueprint adopted by 164 United Nations countries. But one of the supporting states said it wanted to "clarify" its position because of perceived ambiguities in the pact opposed by several U.N. member nations. At least 16 countries have rebuffed or hesitated to become signatories to the accord.(AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

OTTAWA:  Canada believes that effective international cooperation is essential in order to address common challenges as well as harness the benefits of global migration.

Canada has announced its signing of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the first global framework on all aspects of international migration. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, made the announcement at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, Morocco.

Among the countries that have pulled out of the agreement are Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, the Czech Republic and Austria, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Non-EU countries Israel, the USA and Australia also rejected the pact. 

“The GCM acknowledges the serious challenges that irregular migration poses, while emphasizing the positive contributions of migrants, and the benefits of regular pathways and well-managed migration systems. Migrant and refugee flows are a growing phenomenon around the world,” a release by the ministry noted.

Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for International Migration Louise Arbor speaks during a press conference ahead of the UN Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. The leader of a U.N. migration conference that has been snubbed by the Trump administration and at least seven other governments has lashed out at “misinformation” about an agreement on migration backed by about 150 countries. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

According to the United Nations, there are currently about 258 million people on the move. Of these, 68.5 million are forcibly displaced people – including refugees and asylum seekers – who are forced to flee their homes in search of new ones due to violence, discrimination and war.

The Compact sets out 23 objectives, each focusing on one aspect of migration. Participating states are not expected to implement each action, but to view them as examples of best practices on how to achieve the objectives. It emphasizes state sovereignty as a guiding principle and that it is a state’s sovereign right to control its own borders.

Canada has been actively engaged in the development of theC

GCM. This includes the majority of the almost 200 action items, which reflect Canadian practices and are aligned with the compact’s objectives and commitments. 

Following more than a year of negotiations, this is an important milestone and represents the first multilateral framework for the global response to migration.

Hussen said: “Comprehensive national migration systems can help drive innovation, economic growth, and social stability. Our government believes that this Global Compact is not only an effective way to address the challenges that migration can bring, but is also an opportunity for nations to harness the contributions of newcomers and to ensure their successful integration into new countries.”

Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said:

“Canada is proud to adopt this Global Compact. The compact is an important international framework to better manage and address global migration challenges, as well as improve cooperation between countries. It contributes to a rules-based international system, and furthers a global approach to migration, which is based on facts, stands up for human rights and works to eliminate gender-based violence. Canada would especially like to thank Louise Arbour for her leadership and hard work to protect vulnerable populations and migrants all over the world.”

• In September 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. That Declaration launched separate processes to create 2 non-legally binding Global Compacts: the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

 • Canada’s engagement on the GCM has been co-led by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs.

• The number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow and was estimated at 258 million in 2017. This constitutes a 49 percent increase compared to 2000.

The agreement itself contains 23 objectives and commitments, each focusing on a different dimension of migration, from the moment a migrant decides to flee their country due to violence or persecution through to the time they return to their home country.

Trudeau has defended the pact. “Welcoming people through a rigorous immigration system from around the world is what has made Canada strong, and indeed something the world needs more of,’’ Trudeau said.

However, the government has been flooded with form letters from Canadians asking that it delay signing the agreement until a national debate is held. The letters, an example of which was provided to The Canadian Press, claim the UN agreement is attempting to eliminate criticism of the accommodation of migrants and would effectively “label those who complain as racists or haters, thus stifling any freedom of discussion.’’ Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer strongly opposes the agreement.