Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank my colleagues for being here to discuss an issue that is important not just for Canada, but also for the entire world.
I'm certainly pleased to be here today to discuss the Government of Canada's support for the adoption of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and the global compact on refugees.
With me, from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, are Glen Linder, director general for international and intergovernmental relations; and Susan Greene, senior director for resettlement and protection policy. From Global Affairs Canada are Deirdre Kent, director general for international assistance policy; and Stephen Salewicz, director general for international humanitarian assistance.
I will deliver a few opening remarks, and then I will be more than happy to take your questions.
Mr. Chair, as the committee has heard during its study on 21st-century migration challenges, global migration is generally on the rise. In 2017, the number of migrants worldwide was estimated at 258 million, a 49% increase compared to the year 2000. Also in 2017, 68.5 million people around the world were forcibly displaced from their homes.
Not only is Canada aware of these developments, but we are considered a global leader when it comes to managing migration and refugee issues. We have a mature, well-managed migration system, which includes our recently announced levels plan and substantial investments in settlement and integration. As a way to share this experience with the global community and strengthen its reaction to migration and refugee issues, Canada has also played an active role in the development of the two compacts that we are here to discuss today.
As the committee members may know, in September of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It launched separate processes to create two non-binding international instruments: the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and the global compact on refugees. I will start with the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, and then I will speak about the global compact on refugees.
Canada has greatly benefited from treating migration, not as a problem, but as a complex reality that brings opportunities along with its challenges.
The global compact for migration provides a long-term vision for how countries can improve their responses to migration so that, together, the international community can better reap the benefits and respond to the challenges of migration.
At the centre of the compact for safe, orderly and regular migration are 23 balanced objectives that states can work towards over the coming years. They draw attention to the serious challenges that irregular migration poses while emphasizing the positive contributions of migrants, the benefits of regular pathways and the need for well-managed migration systems.
This is based on the understanding that, as the primary actor in migration and decision-making, it is individual countries themselves that retain the sovereign right to determine who enters and stays on their territories and under what conditions, provided this is done in accordance with their international legal obligations. Accordingly, the text of the compact includes national sovereignty as one of the 10 guiding principles, something that Canada recommended during the process to develop the text.
I want to be clear at the outset about an important aspect of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. It is a non-binding instrument; it is not a treaty. Each objective in it includes commitments that, over time, would contribute to meeting the compact's objectives. The actions listed under each commitment are considered a compendium of best practices. This list is intended to provide guidance to countries as they consider how they might work toward achieving the objectives.
Because the compact is non-binding, fulfilling the commitments is voluntary. Each country has the flexibility to implement the compact in a way that works best for them. However, it is Canada's hope that countries will implement the compact in a meaningful way. We would encourage them to use the guidance and the best practices to strengthen their national migration systems.
It is only by better managing migration in each national context that we can, together, work to counter the risks and address the challenges of irregular migration globally. When it comes to implementing the compact in Canada, I should note that a review by federal departments has confirmed that Canadian practices generally align with the compact's objectives and commitments.
Adopting the migration compact would not require changes to our current system, nor would it limit our ability to continue protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians. Canada's responsibility would simply be to consider implementing those best practices that we feel would help to further improve our approach to managing migration. Put simply, in Canada the migration compact would provide an additional policy lens when planning, developing and evaluating our migration policies and programs.
Internationally, Canada could use the adoption of the compact as an opportunity to showcase our mature migration system, to encourage other countries to deter irregular migration and to put in place pathways for regular migration, so that they can take advantage of the benefits that migration can bring.
I want to note that consultation on Canada's approach to the migration compact has been quite extensive. To inform our negotiation position, my department put together a Canadian migration expert group made up of representatives from civil society organizations and academia from across the country. This group's detailed and helpful insights were considered carefully as we developed Canadian positions and interventions. We also consulted the provinces and territories. In fact, Canada's delegation to the adoption conference will include representatives from municipal and provincial governments as well as civil society.
After two years of consultations and negotiations, the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration will be presented for adoption at a high-level global conference on December 10 and 11 in Morocco, followed by formal adoption by the UN General Assembly. Given the diversity of views about migration that exist around the world, it's inspiring to consider that the vast majority of countries will attend and adopt the compact.
Allow me to turn to the global compact on refugees, which is expected to be validated by the UN General Assembly by the end of 2018. Remembrance Day has just passed, which provides us an opportunity to reflect both on a shameful time when Canada turned its back on the MS St. Louis and also to remember the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers who died fighting Nazism and fascism in Europe. Let us also remember that in the days following the world war Canada stood with other states, creating the 1951 refugee convention to protect innocent people fleeing persecution.
We see, once again today, many people on the move for myriad reasons. We see the necessity of working in a comprehensive, coordinated and co-operative effort to address this pressing global challenge. Every time we settle a woman at risk or offer asylum on our land, we demonstrate the values and ideas that define Canada today, just as they did after the Second World War. The compact is about a stronger, fairer response to global refugee movements. Its key aims are to ease pressure on major hosting countries, help refugees become self-reliant, expand opportunities for resettlement and create conditions for sustainable voluntary returns.
The global compact on refugees outlines non-binding best practices that encourage the international community to stand with refugees and host communities. This new way of working between governments, development agencies, humanitarian agencies, civil society and the private sector brings us together in solidarity with refugees.
As a world leader, Canada's resettlement program responds to the needs of the most vulnerable refugees who have been forced to flee their homes. Our recent commitment to resettle an additional 1,000 women and girls reinforces just that.
We are already doing our part. The global compact on refugees encourages other states to follow our lead in this work, and we are helping them build capacity with our global refugee sponsorship initiative.
I should note that the Government of Canada, in consultation with Canadian civil society, has been actively engaged in shaping the global compact on refugees. In particular, together with Canadian non-governmental organizations, we have consistently advocated for a gender-sensitive compact throughout its development.
Canada strongly supports the ways in which the final version of the global compact on refugees focuses on specific measures to advance gender equality and ensure the active participation of refugee women in shaping and implementing refugee responses. This will advance the empowerment of refugee women and girls.