Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and ladies and gentlemen of the committee.
My name is Stéphane Vinhas. I am the Emergencies Coordinator of Development and Peace-Caritas Canada. On behalf of the members of my organization, the local partners we support and the vulnerable populations we assist in more than 40 countries, I would like to thank you for this consultation.
For 50 years, Development and Peace-Caritas Canada has been the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada. We draw our strength from the commitment of 13,000 members across Canada who are determined to help the poor in their struggle for justice in the countries of the South.
We are members of the international network called Caritas Internationalis. At the moment, we are conducting an education and advocacy campaign on forced migration called “Share the Journey”.
We draw inspiration from the words of Pope Francis; our members feel that it is very important to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees. They have actively participated in welcoming Syrian refugees here to Canada.
Beyond the two compacts, they are particularly concerned with working on the root causes of forced migration. As a witness today, I am bringing you that message, their message.
Every minute, 31 people are forced to flee their country. Today, almost double the population of Canada, about 68 million people, are in situations of forced migration. Most of those people come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Burma and Somalia. Development and Peace-Caritas Canada supports local partners in those countries.
Migrants and refugees are more than figures and abstract ideas. Above all, they are people like you and me, seeking peace, as Pope Francis has urged. They aspire to freedom and safety for themselves and for their families. They long to be the authors of their own lives once again.
Certainly, they made the decision to leave, but they really had no choice but to do so. No one chooses to flee and put their lives or the lives of their children in danger. They do so because they are forced to, by necessity, by despair and also by hope. Above all, migrants and refugees are human beings, with their rights and their dignity.
How can we help them? As the two pacts state, we help them by attacking the root causes that drive people to leave, so that we can simultaneously prevent forced departures and facilitate the return they desire. Most of them want to return when conditions permit. When they do not permit, it creates situations like the one in Bangladesh, where Rohingyas have been fleeing or committing suicide ever since they were asked to return to Burma. In Syria, the risks of forced recruitment, political repression, and uncertain security are still obstacles to returns.
If we want people to return in an informed, voluntary, dignified and sustainable manner, we must ensure that the reasons that drove them to leave no longer exist. To do so, we absolutely have to work to resolve the root causes of forced human migration. The global compact on migration and the global compact on refugees, which were actually put together following a consultation with the Catholic Church, stress that eliminating the root causes is the most effective way to bring about solutions.
More than anything, forced migration is a consequence of poor political, economic, and social development. Humanitarian work and migration management attempt to address those unfortunate consequences.
It is important to recognize the causes, the many complex and interrelated factors at the origin of these upheavals. There are armed conflicts, persecution, economic, political and environmental reasons. Other reasons are mentioned less often: megaprojects for so-called development, as well as mining, oil and gas, or large-scale agro-industrial operations.
In the light of this presentation, the members of Development and Peace-Caritas Canada offer you the following recommendations, which reflect the two global compacts.
As an artisan of peace, Canada can build on its leadership to ratify and implement the two compacts on refugees and on migration, consistent with the values that Canada espouses internationally. Canada can exercise its leadership by promoting diplomatic and peaceful solutions to armed conflicts, with inclusive peace processes, especially those involving women. Canada can also strengthen and protect civil society organizations working for peace, democracy, human rights, and the empowerment of leaders in the fragile states of the south. Without inclusive and participatory democracies that protect minorities, diversity and the rule of law, forced migration will only get worse.
As a recognized contributor, Canada can rely on its funding to give predictable, flexible and multi-year support with a view to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal of reducing inequality, in order to make a contribution to reduce forced displacements. This can be done specifically by reaching the OECD’s objective of a contribution of 0.7% of GDP for public developmental assistance.
Canada's funding must also be used for initiatives to reduce the dangers from disasters, to prevent conflicts and to promote peace.
As a responsible member of the international community, Canada can also rely on its values to make sure that local populations receive all the economic benefits that are due to them, in order to prevent economic migration. Those who benefit from international assistance must not be the same as those who are the victims of harmful international or regional policies, real or needed.
Through its values, Canada can also continue to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to preserve our common home—the term that Pope Francis uses to describe Earth—thereby reducing the risk of environmental migration.
In conclusion, it is important to recall the vision expressed by Pope Francis on the occasion of the first World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May 2016. In his words:
…there must be no family without a home, no refugee without a welcome, no person without dignity, no wounded person without care, no child without a childhood, no young man or woman without a future, no elderly person without a dignified old age.
That, above all, is what we must ensure.
Thank you for your attention.