Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Some good contrasting articles from Andrew Coyne and John Ivison on the Conservative opposition to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, with Andrew Coyne’s, in my view, being the stronger.

Campbell Clark also, correctly I think, how the Conservatives are playing this as a wedge issue, similar to M-103 on Islamophobia, and possibly to counter Bernier, who will be attending a rally organized by the far right on Saturday on Parliament Hill:

Starting with Coyne:

Since he became Conservative leader, it has been a matter of speculation: how far would Andrew Scheer go to pander to the populist-nationalist right, specifically on the matter of immigration?

His predecessor had pulled in both directions at once, one minister building bridges to immigrant communities even as another was blowing them up. But candidates who had courted the pop-nats during the leadership race had not attracted many votes. Perhaps their moment had passed.

But then came the influx of asylum seekers crossing our border. After that came Maxime Bernier’s dramatic departure to found his own party, the one-time libertarian wonk rebranded as an immigration skeptic. And the question returned: how far would Scheer go to keep  from being outflanked on the issue?

Well now we have our answer: as far as it takes. Exploiting Liberal discomfort over the border-crossing issue was one thing. But with the Conservative leader’s embrace of far-right fear-mongering over an anodyne UN agreement on immigration, we are deep into the fever swamp. It is disturbing and frankly embarrassing to see.

The document in question is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Negotiated and drafted over a year and half, the text was agreed to in July by all but one of the UN’s 193 countries, the lone hold-out being the United States. It’s to be formally adopted later this month.

That so many countries saw the necessity for such an agreement is in recognition of the international dimensions of the issue, especially as migration has expanded in recent years. With so many people on the move — some 258 million now live outside their country of birth — there is a pressing need for states to work together. If countries attempt to deal with the pressures of immigration by dumping migrants on each other’s doorsteps, no one’s interests will be served.

Accordingly, the compact sets out a few basic principles to guide states’ actions, with the aim not just of facilitating “safe, orderly and regular migration,” but “reducing the incidence and negative impact of irregular migration.” That’s right: the agreement is as much about reducing immigration as it is facilitating it, specifically by addressing the “structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin.”

Among the 23 “objectives” are such not-terribly-shocking ideas as that states should “collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies,” that they should “ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation,” “facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences,” and so on.

Some are admittedly a little more contentious. Maybe not everyone believes states should “provide access to basic services for migrants,” or “establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements.” But here’s the thing. Suppose Canada, or any country, does not live up to these or any other of the agreement’s objectives. What happens then? Answer: nothing. The agreement is entirely and explicitly non-binding, non-enforceable, and non-justiciable.

This point is made at several points in the document. “The Global Compact is a non-legally binding cooperative framework,” it says, whose “authority rests on its consensual nature.” How does it affect national sovereignty? Not at all: “The Global Compact 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.” It could not be any clearer.

And yet in the months since it was agreed upon, the compact has become one of those bizarre objects of fascination among the conspiracy-minded, in which it has been elevated into a fiendish plot to dictate immigration policies to national governments, if not to eliminate them altogether. As in previous such episodes, what begins on the outer fringes of debate migrates inward: from racist websites to the right-wing press to opportunistic political leaders.

Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm [MALCOLM: The UN Migration Compact – the details are truly worrisome] handily sums up the theory in one breathless sentence: “This dystopian UN plan seeks to erase borders, destroy the concept of citizenship, undermine the rule of law and circumvent state sovereignty.”

It seeks, she claims, “to make immigration a universal human right,” while blurring “the distinction between refugees and migrants.” After all, doesn’t it say right there in the preamble: “Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”?

Yes it does. And in the next sentence says: “However, migrants and refugees are distinct groups governed by separate legal frameworks. Only refugees are entitled to the specific international protection as defined by international refugee law.” The compact is a statement of broad principles, not a body of law.

And yet there was Scheer on Tuesday, claiming the agreement could “open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders.” The Conservatives, he said “strongly oppose Canada signing” the compact and would “withdraw” Canada from it if elected. To which I suppose the best answer was supplied by Louise Arbour, UN envoy for international migration and former Supreme Court of Canada judge: “There’s nothing to sign. It’s not a treaty.”

Still, Scheer would put us in select company in rejecting the compact: not only Donald Trump, but the right-wing nationalist parties in Europe, such as now govern Hungary, Austria and Poland. I had not thought I would ever see the Conservative Party of Canada among their number, but you learn something new every day.

A final note: on one of the agreement’s objectives, that urging states to “(stop) allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants,” the critics have a point. The threat to press freedom is obvious.

But the answer to this concern is not to give public funding to media outlets — on any side — not to pander to hysterical fears about open borders and shadowy world governments.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Ivison urging caution:

The late Christopher Hitchens called conspiracy theories the “exhaust fumes of democracy” — the unavoidable result of large amounts of information circulating among a large number of people.

The latest conjectural haze drifting in from the fringes of the political spectrum is that the United Nations’ agreement on migration, which Canada is set to sign in Morocco next week, will see this country lose control of its borders.

The Rebel’s Ezra Levant called the UN’s global compact on migration “dangerous” — “a done deal cooked up by unelected bureaucrats with no regard for national sovereignty.”

Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, said his party strongly opposes Justin Trudeau’s plan to sign Canada onto the compact, saying it will open the doors to foreign bureaucrats to direct immigration policy. He was specifically concerned about an objective in the compact that deals with how media report on migration issues. The section calls for an effort to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” in public discourse about migration issues — which, if enforceable, would be an existential threat to The Rebel.

After question period on Wednesday, Scheer asked for unanimous consent for a statement that urged the government not to sign the compact and which blamed the UN for the torrent of refugees that has crossed into Canada from the U.S. Not surprisingly, he did not get it.

For now at least, Scheer’s fears are overdone. The potential limitations on media reporting, for example, are not enforceable. Chris Alexander, a former Conservative immigration minister, pointed out that the compact is a political declaration, not a legally binding treaty. “It has no impact on our sovereignty,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trudeau made the same point on Wednesday, as he boasted about Canada’s “global leadership” and its adoption of “open policy.”

It’s hard to find anything particularly offensive in the compact — it says refugees and migrants are entitled to universal human rights; that countries should improve co-operation on international migration to save lives and keep migrants out of harm’s way. It is explicit that it is not legally binding and the sovereign rights of states to determine their own migration policy is re-affirmed.

Still, I remain unconvinced that Canada should sign on. The compact also says that states should “determine their legislative and policy measures for the implementation of the global compact.” The very act of signing creates an expectation that the signatories will take action. It’s not nothing.

We have heard in the past about UN declarations being merely “aspirational.” As it turned out, they have become much more than that.

Take the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was also sold as a non-binding, aspirational document.

When it was introduced in 2006, the Harper government opposed the declaration’s 46 articles, on the practical grounds that previous court decisions had referenced the work of UN bodies and used them to interpret the laws of Canada. One article in the draft version could have been interpreted to mean military activities could not take place on land that had traditionally been Aboriginal.

The late Jim Prentice, who was then Indian Affairs minister, said the declaration was inconsistent with Canadian law and refused to sign. The declaration only received the Canadian government’s unqualified support in 2016 under the Trudeau government. The new prime minister had already agreed to “fully adopt and implement” the UN declaration, even though his justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, called it “unworkable” and a “political distraction.”

Whatever your views on the declaration, it is beyond dispute that it is not merely an “aspirational document.”

In fact, it is now the law, after NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill was passed by the House of Commons last May. The bill required that Canada’s laws be consistent with the declaration.

In the coming months and years, legislation and judicial interpretation will determine whether Canada’s existing jurisprudence on the duty to consult is sufficient to meet the UN declaration’s requirement on the need to secure “free, prior and informed consent” in any given area of policy. Critics argue that the passage into law of the declaration gives Indigenous Canadians rights not enjoyed by other Canadians.

What was presented as a nice thing to do to be onside with a global consensus has now evolved into a situation that could yet result in legislative gridlock, if the declaration’s provisions on the “rights of self-determination” are taken at face value.

The global compact’s intentions may be pure, but there will be consequences to its adoption that could over time impact Canada’s ability to set its own course on migration.

It won’t erase the border but it could erode sovereignty on immigration. You don’t have to inhale the exhaust fumes of the online conspiracy theories to believe that signing the UN global compact on migration is not a great idea.

Source: John Ivison: The UN’s global pact on migration sounds nice — but don’t sign it

Lastly, Campbell Clark on the politics and similarity with M-103 tactics:

The Global Compact for Migration is the new motion M-103, held up by anti-immigration right-wingers as a scary monster that is going to radically change Canada even though it won’t do much of anything at all.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stepped out on Tuesday to warn, wrongly, that the Global Compact, a document negotiated by many countries under UN auspices, would force Canada to cede its sovereignty and cede influence to shadowy “foreign entities.”

In fact, the Global Compact – which aims to promote international co-operation on migration flows – is a vague, non-binding document full of long-winded, gobbledygook claptrap that includes a few worthy principles and a couple of dumb ideas. But it won’t force anyone to do anything.

So if Mr. Scheer had opposed the signing of Global Compact on the grounds that Canada shouldn’t put its name to long tracts of big words that don’t have any clear meaning just to make people feel good, he would have deserved a nod of respect.

But the warning the Global Compact will put Canada’s sovereignty in imminent danger is fantasy.

This is the kind of fabricated freak-out we saw in 2017 with M-103, a Liberal MP’s motion asking the Commons to condemn Islamophobia. The motion sparked conspiracy theories – fuelled by the online site the Rebel – that it would restrict free speech, provide “special privileges” to Muslims or somehow lead to sharia law.

It was bunk, because such parliamentary motions don’t lead to anything other than a study. The motion passed, a parliamentary committee issued a bland report last February – and sharia law was not imposed.

Now, the same angst machine is working on the Global Compact for Migration. The Rebel argues it is dangerous, Maxime Bernier, Leader of fledgling right-wing People’s Party, complained about it on Tuesday morning. Then Mr. Scheer followed.

The thing is, the Global Compact is a mess of muddle verbiage, but it is not going to cede immigration policy to the UN or anyone else.

“There is no duty on Canada to implement, enact or enforce anything,” said James Hathaway, a Canadian who is director of the University of Michigan’s program in refugee and asylum law. The compact not only explicitly says it is non-binding, it is also not a treaty, Prof. Hathaway noted. It signs up countries for a discussion process. “No government has to do anything here other than show up for meetings.”

Of course, it’s reasonable to ask whether there’s much real point to the 16,600 words of bureaucratic blah-blah. It is supposed to encourage things such as sharing data on migration. The signatories say they hope to “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin” – you know, like poverty – but there are no firm commitments.

Some of the criticisms seem to be based on a misreading of the document itself. The Rebel’s Ezra Levant decided that approving references to “regular migration” meant that the compact aims to make mass migration normal and permanent. But regular migration refers to orderly flows of migrants through official border crossings and legal methods – as opposed to irregular migrants. Mr. Bernier echoed Mr. Levant’s words.

One commentator argued that the compact muddies the divide between refugees and migrants, but as Prof. Hathaway noted, it explicitly separates the two. Another commentator alleged it establishes new human rights for migrants, but it doesn’t.

There are flaws: circuitous language and dumb stuff. There’s a section on “promoting independent, objective, and quality reporting” on migration, including cutting off public funds to media outlets that “promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants.” Canada certainly shouldn’t want state re-education of the media to be an accepted notion in such documents.

It is worth asking whether this loose collection of words is worthwhile.

Chris Alexander, the former Conservative immigration minister, who tweeted that Mr. Scheer’s warnings were factually incorrect, also opined that there is nothing wrong in setting out some principles for dealing with migration. Prof. Hathaway said there were some ideas in it that made it “a little bit better than nothing.”

Mr. Scheer has every right to think it’s worse – full of misguided notions. But no, next week’s signing won’t give the UN control over Canada’s borders.

Source:     To right-wingers,the Global Compact for Migration motion is a sign the sky is falling again Campbell Clark December 5, 2018     

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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