New Canadian Minister Mandate Letters and the WRMC

New mandate letters from Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau to the Canadian Ministers of Public Safety; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; International Development; and Foreign Affairs outline specific ways for Canada to address global migration and forced displacement including:

  • Expand the new immigration stream for human rights defenders and work with civil society groups to provide resettlement opportunities for people under threat. (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship)
  • Continue to support the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to facilitate the safe passage and resettlement of vulnerable people from Afghanistan, with an emphasis on individuals who supported Canada and our allies over the past two decades, women, LGBTQ2 people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of religious and ethnic minorities. (Minister of Foreign Affairs)
  • Continue to support women leaders and feminist groups leading efforts to promote peace and protect the rights of women and vulnerable groups, including through new funding for the Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. (Minister of International Development)
  • Continue modernizing infrastructure and processes at Canada’s ports of entry, including digital and right touch technology for travellers and conveyances, and ensuring the safety, security and integrity of Canada’s borders. (Minister of Public Safety)

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has been mandated to expand “the new immigration stream for human rights defenders and work with civil society groups to provide resettlement opportunities for people under threat.” The Minister is to continue working to “facilitate the safe passage and resettlement of vulnerable people from Afghanistan, with an emphasis on individuals who supported Canada and our allies over the past two decades, women, LGBTQ2 people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of religious and ethnic minorities and increase the number of eligible refugees from 20,000 to at least 40,000”. 

As the government in Afghanistan collapsed and the Taliban gained control over the country, the WRMC issued a statement with eight priorities for the international community to avert further human suffering and bloodshed. The WRMC also hosted the event “Displacement in Afghanistan: How Should the International Community Respond?”. The follow-up report overviews the situation in Afghanistan, how the international community can negotiate with the Taliban to provide assistance to Afghans, migration pathways or other options available to those fleeing Afghanistan, and The Global Compact on Refugees.

Further, the Minister has been tasked to work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to develop a system for Canadian companies to hire temporary foreign workers and simplify permit renewals and uphold the processing time for permits. The Minister is also mandated to expand Permanent Residence for international students and foreign workers, while working “with employers and communities across Canada to welcome skilled refugees to fill labour shortages in high-demand sectors such as health care.” The WRMC has championed the use of private community sponsorship of refugees initiatives, such as those in Canada and elsewhere, as useful, flexible policy tools that help resettle refugees and apply their skills to labour specific areas. 

The Minister of International Development’s has been mandated with implementing Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and maintain an “ongoing focus on gender equality and reaching the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized.” This includes greater access to high quality, inclusive and equitable education for marginalised children including for girls and refugee education. The Minister is also required to support women leaders and feminist groups’ efforts “to promote peace and protect the rights of women and vulnerable groups” while increasing Canada’s investments to enable staff at Canada’s embassies around the world to support the work of “feminists, LGBTQ2 activists and human rights defenders.” 

The WRMC is proud to partner with Global Independent Refugee Women Leaders (GIRWL), a group of refugee women-led initiatives, networks, and advocates that works with and for refugee women to: Increase refugee women participation in shaping policies; build refugee women’s capacity to engage locally, nationally, regionally, and globally; and strategically advocate for and promote inclusive human rights approaches to forced displacement. Their report “Report Refugee Women: Unpacking Gender-based Violence” addresses gender-based violence as it impacts migrant, refugee and displaced women. Their latest event looks at moving from awareness to action and accountability in preventing and responding to Gender-Based Violence, enabling women as agents of change, and the role of women-led initiatives on gender, climate and security. The Council sees education as an essential human right, but also seeks to use education as a way to transform the world refugee system. The Council hosted an event with the US Institute of Peace (USIP) to explore linkages between refugees, access to education and conflict, and issued an event report with analysis from regional experts on the topic.

Like the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister is directed to work with Minister of Environment and Climate Change to “support developing country adaption, mitigation and resilience, including support for small island states at particular risk of climate-related emergencies.” Climate migration is an increasing phenomenon both in Canada and elsewhere around the world. Recently, WRMC Special Advisor Allan Rock delivered remarks on the lethal combination of climate change, conflict and forced migration. The WRMC is aware that climate migration is an increasing phenomenon both in Canada and elsewhere around the world, and has issued a  policy brief on climate change and forced displacement. The Council has also held an event on climate change and forced displacement, and issued an event report outlining four sets of uncertainties facing the world regarding climate change, and how confronting them in the next 10-15 years may be able to address climate induced migration for the foreseeable future. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been mandated to “Continue to support the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to facilitate the safe passage and resettlement of vulnerable people from Afghanistan, with an emphasis on individuals who supported Canada and our allies over the past two decades, women, LGBTQ2 people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of religious and ethnic minorities.” Recently, WRMC Member and Independent Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar delivered the opening remarks at the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s event “Solidarity with Afghan Women: A Policy Perspective” to discuss the ways Canada can better support Afghan women. The Minister is also tasked tasked with “continuing to develop and implement Canada’s feminist foreign policy with the support of partner organizations and continue to be a global leader in championing the rights of women and girls in all their diversity, LGBTQ2 people and other marginalized communities”. As part of Canada’s feminist foreign policy, Council is working Global Affairs Canada on the project to promote education for refugee, other forcibly displaced and host community children and youth, “Together for Learning”

The Minister is also required to work with international partners to help establish an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC), to prevent corrupt officials and authoritarian governments from impeding development that should benefit their citizens, while also continuing to support and implement Canada’s Magnitsky Law, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. The WRMC is working with Integrity Initiatives International to help develop the framework for the IACC and is also working to develop new legislation alongside Senator Omidvar through the re-tabling of Bill S-217, the Frozen Assets Repurposing Act in the Canadian Senate. As Senator Omidvar has noted, the Magnitsky Act and other legislation currently allows the Government of Canada to freeze the assets of corrupt foreign officials. But this new bill asks Canada to take the next step. If passed, it would authorize Canadian courts to take the frozen assets of foreign officials whose mis-rule creates forced displacement and other humanitarian needs. These funds could then be sent to organizations helping those victimized such as UNHCR.

The Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, has been tasked with ensuring the “safety and integrity” of Canada’s borders, including addressing irregular migration. The WRMC, along with the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Colegio de México, the Migration Policy Institute and the Inter-American Dialogue, is a founding member of the North and Central American Task Force on Migration. The Task Force is a non-governmental forum of academics, civil society and business leaders, and former policymakers in dialogue with current government officials created to facilitate a broadly driven solution dialogue among the countries involved in the crisis of migration and forced displacement in the region. Recently, the Task Force issued a report on how to address irregular migration in the region through alternative pathways for migration. The Task Force has identified the need for more lawful channels for migration and has called on the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico to create alternative migration pathways for Northern Central Americans

Image credit: shutter stock/Wangkun Jia