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CIMM Committee Report

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Dissenting Report of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition The Conservative Party of Canada

Migration Challenges and Opportunities for Canada in the 21st Century: Study of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees

Hon. Michelle Rempel, Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill

Larry Maguire, Member of Parliament for Brandon - Souris

David Tilson, Member of Parliament for Dufferin – Caledon

Introduction

Given that the Government of Canada had declared its intent to sign Canada onto the United Nations Global Compact for Migration but has not facilitated any study or debate in Parliament, on October 30th, 2018 the Hon. Michelle Rempel put forward a motion to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees (“the Compacts”).

Many Canadians have expressed concern with the Compacts, and to date, the government has dismissed these concerns rather than trying to address them.

As such, the motion included a requirement to examine potential impacts on immigration levels, resettlement cost supports, potential cost impact on social programs (such as social welfare systems, affordable housing stock, regional homeless shelters and food banks), and sovereignty on decision making regarding immigration policy. This motion was adopted and also mandated that the study conclude before the signing of the Global Compact for Migration in December 2018, and that an interim report on this aspect of the study be presented to the House of Commons.

After careful examination of the limited evidence made available to our Committee on these Compacts, we are left with many unanswered questions, as well as concerns about the Compacts’ impact on Canada, including:

  • The extent and impact of the Compacts on the sovereignty of Canada’s immigration policy
  • Suitability of the United Nations as a body to influence Canadian immigration policy
  • The potential impact on freedom of the press
  • The costs that Canada would incur, should the government choose to adopt all the measures within the Global Compact for Migration.

Ultimately, without concrete data and considering the Liberal government’s recent destruction of the integrity of our borders and immigration system, we disagree with the conclusion of the committee’s report and have therefore provided a dissenting opinion.

Canada’s Role in International Migration

We believe Canada should manage a fair and compassionate immigration system, underpinned by the necessity to keep strong borders that keep Canadians safe and allow for the careful selection of those entering our country as immigrants.

We also believe Canada has a continued role to play in preventing the causes of global forced migration.

The Global Compact for Migration states some worthy objectives which could assist Canada in achieving both of these goals including; “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin,”; “ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation,” ; “prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration,”; “cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration.” These are principles that the government should focus on achieving, while managing a fair, orderly and sovereign immigration system.

The rest of the report deals with concerning aspects of the Compacts.

The Extent and Impact of the Compacts on the Sovereignty of Canada

Witnesses from the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration provided conflicting testimony when asked about the impact of the Compacts on Canadian sovereignty. While on one hand they stated that the agreements were non-binding, they also stated that if the agreements were not signed, it would be difficult to coordinate immigration policy on a global scale, thus inferring the true intent of the Compacts.

When asked directly why Canada should sign the agreement if it is non-binding, the answers given to the Committee were inconclusive. This is troubling, given that we are firmly of the belief that Canadians should be the ones in charge of their immigration policy, not foreign entities.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, Matt DeCourcey, responded to this criticism by noting that the compacts are based on the understanding that states will retain the sovereign right to determine who enters and stays on their territories and under what conditions, yet he rightfully notes that the decisions states make must also be done in accordance with international legal obligations.[1]

In this, the government admits that non-binding agreements like the Global Compact for Migration can become customary international law and inform the interpretation of domestic law. This means Canadian judges will be able cite the Compacts in their decisions. We see this in decisions like Baker v Canada [1999] 2 SCR 817, R v Hape [2007] 2 SCR 292, and Ordon Estate v. Grail [1998] 3 SCR 437. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that despite no clear legislative steps being prescribed yet, the compacts can still influence Canadian domestic law.

We find it deeply troubling that the government has not conducted, or at the very least, has not provided Canadians with a detailed impact assessment on how they anticipate the Compacts affecting Canadian sovereignty in this regard, yet still intends to sign this agreement.

This is particularly concerning given the current state of immigration policy under the present Liberal government. Since 2017, the government has allowed nearly 40,000 persons to illegally enter Canada from the United States of America and subsequently claim asylum, at a projected federal cost of $1.1 billion. This has led to processing wait times at the Immigration and Refugee Board to spiral to a projected six years, has created significant burden on provincial social welfare systems, and has precipitated a potential problem with anchor relatives. All of these points have likely created a pull factor to Canada for asylum system abuse.

While Canada can always improve its own processes, signing the Global Compact for Migration will potentially allow the United Nations to berate Canada, which already has one of the most generous immigration systems in the world, if it does not meet their criteria and philosophy, instead of looking inward at problems arising from the following points.

Also, the Compacts fail to adequately acknowledge or discuss how to address the impact of uncontrolled migration on host countries in terms of costs for social welfare payments, integration, etc. This is concerning given the three year, $1.1B project federal cost to Canadians of illegal border crossers at Roxham Road.

Suitability of the United Nations as a Body to Influence Canadian Immigration policy

After WWII, multilateral organizations like the United Nations have played an important role in maintaining global peace and security.

That said, of late, the United Nations has been rightly criticized for its inertia and in some cases, near-silence, related to some of the most pernicious migration inducing conflicts and regimes in the world today. At a time when conflicts and unrest in South Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Congo, Myanmar, among many other places, are forcing people from their homelands, it could be argued that the United Nations has become an overly bureaucratic entity that has not had measurable impacts on developing long-term durable solutions in these areas, and thus preventing the causes of migration. The Compacts do not address this issue.

Further, the United Nations has made little effort to change its own refugee resettlement selection processes which may discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities, as evidenced by the lack of Yazidis referred to host countries in recent years. Given the United Nations’ unwillingness to undertake significant review or reform of its own processes, potentially ceding Canadian sovereignty to this organization is a questionable decision. The Compacts do not address this issue.

Pushing for reform at the United Nations, be it in terms of scope, mandate, and function, is likely necessary to see global change over time, as is making significant reforms to Canada’s own immigration system in order to restore order and fairness that has been lost under this government.

Finally, the United Nations has not taken a significant leadership role in assisting the European Union with developing reasonable asylum system reforms given the pressures on its system. At a time when host countries like Canada are seeing enormous pressures on social welfare, immigration processing, and integration systems, the United Nations has, in their messaging failed to recognize these challenges and help to address them. Rather, similar to the current Liberal government in Canada, the United Nations has been more focused on numbers and intake, as opposed to finding long term, fully costed solutions to migration pressures.

Costs Associated with the Global Compact for Migration

To reiterate a point made above, the Compact fails to adequately acknowledge or discuss how to address the impact of uncontrolled migration on host countries in terms of costs for social welfare payments, integration, etc. This is concerning given the three year, $1.1B project federal cost to Canadians of illegal border crossers at Roxham Road.

Conservative members of the committee are concerned that witnesses were unable to provide any details on implementation costs of the Global Compact for Migration. When asked by MP Salma Zahid what the costs were associated with the Compact, Mr. Glen Linder from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration responded that there are no immediate costs to implement the agreement since it depends on how the government chooses to implement it.[2] This answer is wholly insufficient for analyzing the costs that would be incurred by taxpayers if Canada signs onto the Global Compact for Migration, as it does not address implementation costs. However, Mr. Linder did point to the potential for contribution-based costs when he explained that the government could make contributions to capacity building or to funding the International Organization for Migration in order to facilitate some of the coordination work the compact asks it to do. Yet, he also stated that there is no requirement for the Government of Canada to make those contributions, and at this time no decision has been made as to whether the government will make these contributions.[3]

While the department states there are no direct costs associated with the Compact or requirements, they make clear that implementation is completely up to the government of the day. Therefore, the current government could decide to implement all of the objectives within the Compact and make significant financial contributions based upon measures in this agreement. Obviously, there would be a cost associated with doing so; however department officials did not provide any possible data to this effect. This is a major concern for Conservative members of the committee, particularly in the context of the government’s significant deficit.

The Global Compact for Migration and the Media

Section 33.C of the Global Compact for Migration states it will implement Objective 17 with the following action:

“Promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets, including internet-based information, including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants, in full respect for the freedom of the media.”[4]

Hon. Michelle Rempel questioned department officials about how the government plans to implement Objective 17. Department official, Mr. Glen Linder, noted in response to this question that they are working on an initiative that includes making data available to demonstrate the impacts of immigration on Canada, for example, the economic and social benefits of immigration to Canada.[5] MP Rempel followed up on this response by questioning if there was a framework for how that data would translate into potential advertising or with the media. Mr. Linder noted that he was unable to answer that question.[6] This exchange highlights that government officials were unable to provide details as to how the Compact’s Section 33.C would translate into frameworks and policy to “sensitize and educate media”.

However, when MP Rempel asked witness Michele Klein Solomon, a Director with the International Organization for Migration, about this section of the Compact, the witnesses did note there were items lacking in the Canadian media discourse on migration. Ms. Solomon suggested that sometimes there are assumptions or myths about migration or about refugees.[7] Conservative members of the committee are concerned that a witness accused reporters of purposefully propagating myths about migration, and that implementation of the Compact would seek to regulate their journalistic practices.

To be clear, we believe that Canada’s press should be free to scrutinize the government with regard to immigration policy, free of influence from an international body.

Conclusion

Canada should not sign the Compacts, and instead follow a path of reform to its own broken immigration system, to restore order and fairness to our system. Canada should also work within its own sovereign policy with other nations to reduce the causes of global forced migration, as discussed above. Canada should also push for reform to multilateral organizations such as the United Nations.

Recommendations

  1. The government cease dismissing the concerns of Canadians about this agreement
  2. That the government do not sign onto the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration.
  3. That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration undertake an analysis of the total costs associated with fully implementing this Compact, particularly with respect to resettlement supports, impacts on social programs such as social welfare systems, affordable housing stock, regional homeless shelters and food banks.
    • a. That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration make the results of this analysis publically available.
  4. That the government close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States of America.
  5. That the government make concrete reforms Canada’s immigration programs to restore order and integrity in our system.
  6. That the government should also work within its own sovereign policy with other nations to reduce the causes of global forced migration.
  7. That the government should explore a system of safe third country agreements with other advanced economic nations, to prevent the migration pulls associated with the phenomenon of asylum claim shopping.
  8. That the government should push for reform to multilateral organizations such as the United Nations.

[1] Mr. Matt DeCourcey Parliamentary Secretary, Immigration Refugees, and Citizenship, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 26, 2018, 1610.

[2] Mr. Glen Linder, Director General, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 26, 2018, 1710.

[3] Mr. Glen Linder, Director General, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 26, 2018, 1710.

[4] Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Final Draft, July 11, 2018, page 24.

[5] Mr. Glen Linder, Director General, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 26, 2018, 1630.

[6] Mr. Glen Linder, Director General, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 26, 2018, 1630.

[7] Ms. Michele Klein Solomon, Director, Global Compact for Migration, International Organization for Migration, appearing at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 22, 2018, 1605.