The Liberal government is touting its plan to join the first United Nations migration agreement next week in Morocco, despite accusations from the Conservatives that it will force Canada to give up sovereignty over its borders and immigration system.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen will travel to Marrakesh next week to join other countries in adopting the Global Compact for Migration. The non-binding agreement aims to mitigate factors that drive migrants out of their home countries, reduce the risks they face if they are forced to leave, and create conditions that allow migrants to contribute to society.
Mr. Hussen’s office said the government is proud of the role Canada has played in bringing countries together to develop the Global Compact.
“We recognize that Canada is not alone in facing these issues and believe that a compact to promote safe, orderly and regular migration is an important step in the right direction,” Mr. Hussen’s press secretary, Mathieu Genest, said in a statement Thursday. “The Global Compact ... is an opportunity to share best practices and encourage other countries to take action.”
The Conservatives have criticized the government’s support for the Global Compact, saying the agreement will force Canada to give up control over its borders and immigration policies.
“We believe Canada must always be in control of its borders and we must have full autonomy over who we let into our country. It is for these reasons that we strongly oppose Justin Trudeau’s plan to sign Canada on to the UN Global Compact on Migration," Tory Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters on Parliament Hill Tuesday.
Mr. Scheer said the Prime Minister should instead focus on “fixing the mess” at the Canada-U.S. border, where nearly 38,000 asylum seekers have entered Canada at unauthorized border points – mostly through Quebec – since January, 2017. The surge in asylum seekers has put immense pressure on Canada’s refugee system.
However, the Global Compact explicitly “reaffirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law.” Chris Alexander, a former Conservative immigration minister who is no longer a MP, pointed this out in a critical tweet of Mr. Scheer’s position.
“Scheer’s statement is factually incorrect: this compact is a political declaration, not a legally binding treaty: it has no impact on our sovereignty. Canada has always been a champion and example of safe, orderly and regular migration,” Mr. Alexander wrote on Tuesday.
Rob Oliphant, a Liberal MP and chair of the House of Commons immigration committee, held a press conference on Parliament Hill Thursday, where he accused the Conservatives of dragging internal party matters into the public discourse. He speculated the Conservatives are concerned they will lose supporters to Maxime Bernier, who split from the Tories in the summer to form the People’s Party of Canada and has loudly opposed the Global Compact.
“Mr. Bernier has left their party. He has extreme right-wing views. He is extremely anti-immigration and instead of challenging him ... [the Conservatives] have decided to cozy up to him and attempt to pull his supporters in their party,” Mr. Oliphant said.
Mr. Oliphant also said department officials told the committee, which recently examined the Global Compact as a part of a greater study on migration in the 21st century, that Canada won’t have to make any changes to its immigration policies in light of the agreement because it already meet its 23 objectives.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said her party supports Canada joining the Global Compact. She blamed the Conservatives for fear mongering and “dehumanizing refugees” in their opposition to the agreement.