Canadians support the acceptance of more newcomers, but we need a fairer, rights-based approach

Canadians support the acceptance of more newcomers, but we need a fairer, rights-based approach

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Global Trends Report recently announced that by the end of 2021, 89.3 million people worldwide have been displaced by force. While Ukraine’s neighbors originally opened their arms to people fleeing the war, they have since begun to reduce the benefits for Ukrainians as their cities are overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, Canada is continuing its efforts to build an “airlift” for an “unlimited number” of Ukrainians, backed by a one-time payment of $ 3,000. It is seen by some as a beacon of hope, and by other than unsustainable.

Despite the fact that Ukrainians have the need to travel to find safety and are called refugees elsewhere, they do not arrive in Canada as resettled refugees. Instead, the federal government has created a program – Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET) – that accelerates temporary immigration for Ukrainians.

Recent public opinion poll data from the Angus Reid Institute show that Canadians support Ukrainian newcomers, in addition to supporting newcomers from Syria and Afghanistan. As migration scholars, we argue that this continued support has proven that Canadian refugee policy, and newly developed programs such as the CUAET – which leads with the head and the heart – work.

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Human rights, economic growth and humanitarian impetus

The UN Refugee Convention and Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provide a rights-based approach to refugee protection. With its head, Canada has a legal obligation to promote and protect the right to asylum, and the principle of non-discrimination.

Regardless of their country of origin or immigration status, a person on Canadian territory has those rights that are protected by the Canadian Charter.

Canada’s immigration policy strives to be evidence – based. Research shows that immigrants and refugees are driving economic growth and contributing to the Canadian economy in a multitude of ways. There are good legal and economic reasons for protection.

And with his heart leading, Canada’s refugee policies and newcomer programs are framed by a humanitarian impulse. Canadian officials frequently refer to a “welcome“en”safe haven” for the “most vulnerable“en”those in need. ”

People who help people

Images of human suffering – from Phan Thị Kim Phúc also known as “the napalm girl” to Alan Kurdi – sparked public support for refugees.

A key component in Canada’s resettlement response was the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. Private sponsorship of refugees connects people with people, promotes empathy and generates long waiting lists as Canadians step in to help.

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But public support for refugees is not limited to sponsors.

A survey by the Angus Reid Institute conducted on May 18, 2022, asked about Canadians’ acceptance of newcomers from Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine, as they were the latest arrivals of newcomers to Canada. (This survey is not publicly available.)

The survey found that 35 percent and 31 percent of Canadians support the acceptance of more refugees from Afghanistan and Syria. And 56 percent of Canadians think Canada should accept more Ukrainians – only 14 percent think we should accept less.

As a reflection of public opinion, there is strong cross-party support for Ukrainian newcomers. In an unusual display of unity, most opposition members of parliament demanded that Canada waive visa requirements for Ukrainians in March.

A Man Is Wrapped In A Ukrainian Flag Behind A Luggage Cart While A Woman Embraces Another Woman Behind Him
Ukrainian students arrive on June 14, 2022 in St. Petersburg. John’s, NL.

The emotional and political response to different world situations has led to differential treatment for people fleeing violence. While Canada has reduced red tape to welcome an “unlimited number” of Ukrainians, including through direct airlift, Afghans are facing uncertainty, long delays and a 40,000-person limit.

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To ensure a fairer, rights-based approach, the Canadian government must draw on lessons learned from decades of refugee policies, practices and programs.

  1. Canada should leverage and scale up existing resettlement mechanisms, including private sponsorship. The government should process existing applications quickly and open up new spaces, taking into account the principle of additionality – the idea that new spaces should not displace people who are already waiting to be processed.

  2. Some visa requirements, including the need for biometrics, must be met in emergency situations for everyone nationalities.

  3. In line with the recent recommendations of the Special Committee of the House of Commons on Afghanistan, Canada needs to establish an emergency mechanism to act in a timely and equitable manner to all situations of displacement, not just those that attract media and political attention. .

Canada has a history of being a welcoming country for newcomers. Canadians maintain that legacy by supporting the acceptance of more. Despite this, we need a more equitable, rights-based approach so that we can continue to lead with the head and the heart.


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