Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen speaks to reporters outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Hussen says Canada is committed to signing onto the United Nations pact on migration ??? an international agreement that has sparked angry protest from right-wing political operatives both here and abroad who, experts say, are spreading misinformation and xenophobia.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Immigration Minister defends Canada signing onto UN migration pact

Ahmed Hussen has faced angry protest from right-wing political activists

Canada is committed to signing onto 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 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 last year, leading several European countries to quit the compact.

RELATED: Trump to kill old NAFTA to push Congress to approve USMCA

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 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.

RELATED: Feds studying birth tourism as new data shows higher non-resident birth rates

Bernier has indeed spoken out against the migration compact, and was scheduled to speak at a rally in Ottawa Saturday to protest Canada’s signing the agreement. The rally is also scheduled to include a number of far-right, anti-Muslim 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.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Sharp-eyed boater catches South Okanagan road crumbling

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

Bulls take revenge at South Okanagan rodeo

Keremeos Elks Rodeo packs ‘em in for some high flying fun

Nominate your favourite businesses for the Best of the South Okanagan

Join the Penticton Western News as they celebrate the Best of the South Okanagan awards

Mainly sunny Victoria Day in Okanagan-Shuswap

The South Okanagan is the hottest spot to be in the province for Victoria Day

VIDEO: It’s warming up across the Okanagan Valley

Grey skies are expected to fade and the sun looks like it’s here to stay

Okanagan art gallery releases their theme

Fine arts painting will be the point of focus for this year’s event

South Okanagan search and rescue help injured climber

Search and rescue called on the assistance of a helicopter to help retrieve an injured hiker

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

North Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Firefighters respond to bus fire on Highway 1

Smoke in coach bus reported to have been caused by overheating, driver and passengers safe

Caravan Farm Theatre holds outlaw themed fundraiser

Caravan Farm Theatre hosts its western outlaw themed fundraiser, Hands Up! June 1

Police watchdog investigating motorcycle crash in Kamloops

A Kamloops Mountie had stopped the driver for speeding, but they raced off from the 0fficer

Most Read