Trudeau has failed to make the case for the Compact

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So the Canadian government just joined the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  It did so at a conference of the United Nations held in Marrakech on Monday.

The text states that “favorable conditions must be created to enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities” and it emphasizes the need for States to assist migrants on unsafe routes.

The text provides that “health care providers […] should take into account the cultural specificities in the context of their practice” and “allocate to institutions […] frequented by a high proportion of migrant children from resources intended to finance integration activities”.
Mutual recognition of foreign diplomas and the need for harmonization on a worldwide scale are also mentioned.  All general principles that the world is coming together on as it deals with more migration than ever before.

But before last week, most Canadians hadn’t even heard about this agreement, which aims to cover all dimensions of international migration.  Since then, the Conservatives have ramped up their rhetoric against the agreement, accusing the Trudeau government of abdicating Canadian sovereignty, and raising fears about foreign bureaucrats making decisions about our immigration system.

Trudeau’s answer, so far, has been less than convincing.  The fact that it is non-binding is not good enough.  His explanation that Canada is merely showing leadership and exporting its know-how to the world regarding the handling of migrants of all kinds seems to fall way short.

Because Canadians know that the current system is broken.  The surge of irregular migrants has led provincial governments to send bills to the Federal government.  The Federal government has set up not-so-temporary housing units at border crossings.  Refugees are being kicked out 9 years after their arrival.  Canada’s failing refugee system is leaving thousands in limbo.  What is there to export?

Sadly, the Federal Liberals have failed in their duty to inform the public on this treaty before signing on.  The Migrants’ Pact aims to strengthen cooperation on international migration in all their aspects.  It is a very long and very complex document.  But, as it was almost unheard of up to the point of signing, there has been no public debate in Canada about it.  Was this done on purpose by the Trudeau government, knowing that anything regarding the immigration file can quickly become toxic?  If so, that was a mistake as the government has a duty to explain policy and educate the population, particularly around the concerns about this issue.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was also late to the debate.  In his case, he rang the alarm bell only five days before the signature.  Until then, the Conservatives were not paying attention to the issue, it was not discussed, and there was no debate in Parliament.  Was this a strategic decision to wait until it was too late for the government to back out without losing face?  Unlikely, especially considering that about 30 countries (out of over 190) backed out after having signed on in the early stages of the process.

Most likely, the Conservatives were playing catch up and made the tactical decision to go all in once they learned about the nature of the treaty.  This controversial agreement has blown up the Belgian government and is one of the reasons behind the outbreak of Yellow Shirts Protests in France.

“Many of the attacks that we see on social networks, or in the media in general, are either based on a very bad understanding of the text […] or based on ignorance or bad faith, Louise Arbor, the UN special representative for women, said last week.

For example, one of the main arguments made against this pact is that it undermines the sovereignty of states, however the Compact expressly states that State sovereignty is the cornerstone of migration policy.  Would all the countries inadvertently abandon their sovereignty and national interests?  Not so. This is why many civil society organizations find it deplorable that the Compact is not legally binding.  They are concerned that it will not have any real impact on the migration crisis.

But ignorance, fear and intolerance are easy to exploit when there is a knowledge vacuum.  The Conservatives should be condemned for using this for political gains, particularly when allies such as former Conservative Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, claim Scheer’s statement was factually incorrect.

Alexander, who was staunchly partisan in his days in cabinet, is absolutely right.  But at the end of the day, it is the Trudeau Liberals who failed to make the case for the Compact.  It is the Trudeau Liberals that left themselves vulnerable to very predictable attacks from their main opponents.

Photo Credit: World Press

More from Karl Bélanger    Follow Karl Bélanger on Twitter at @KarlBelanger.

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