Speaking notes for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship At a Plenary Session at the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants


New York
September 19, 2016

As delivered

Migration has been a constant throughout human history, so it should be seen as a reality to address rather than a problem to solve. It presents both challenges and opportunities, but remains a force for positive change, fostering inclusion, diversity, innovation and growth. And on the subject of diversity, I might mention that our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, frequently says that Canada is strong not in spite of our diversity, but because of it. And for us, immigrants and refugees are the very embodiment of our diversity.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 to leave no one behind, we need a comprehensive approach that focuses on the benefits of managed migration. This approach must be anchored in indivisible human rights that apply to all. It must address the particular challenges faced by female refugees and migrants, by women and girls. It must recognize the important role and enormous challenges of host countries. It must find equitable and comprehensive ways to share the global responsibility.

To achieve these things, we’ll need new partnerships and innovative ways of working together. That’s why Canada is particularly pleased to see the International Organization for Migration officially join the United Nations family, bringing with it a wealth of experience and leadership on international migration.

Immigrants have helped build Canada into a prosperous and dynamic country, broadening trade and investment, spurring economic and cultural growth, and making diversity into a source of great strength.

Around the world, migrants, including refugees, fill skills gaps and labour market shortages, address challenges of aging populations and improve understanding of other cultures. In Canada, refugees have done very well. Two of our former Governors-General are refugees and one of my Cabinet colleagues, Maryam Monsef, who was a while ago a refugee from Afghanistan, is now our Minister for Democratic Reform.

In formulating a cooperative approach to migrants and refugees, we must recognize their inherent dignity. Facilitating refugees' access to education and employment is a tangible expression of this. We hear many voices around the world speaking with insecurity about others and with fear of those who are different from them. And yet, many countries are hosting millions of refugees, often while dealing with already stretched resources. And I know this well from visits recently to Jordan and Lebanon, where it is abundantly clear that countries in such a position as they are in are bearing a huge burden in terms of all of the refugees.

Together, we must create a more balanced global vision and stronger collective commitment to the world’s displaced. By addressing these issues head on, we can reduce irregular migration, protect refugees, fight human smuggling, and give migrants and refugees more alternatives.

Both the Global Compact on refugees and the Global Compact on safe and orderly migration should be about our countries working together on a framework that takes advantage of our collective strengths. Over the next two years, we've been given a unique opportunity to shape these two agreements. It's a responsibility to help determine the world's ability to respond, innovate, cooperate and provide a better future for millions of people. It will also help our own countries benefit greatly from newcomers' contributions for many years to come.

Such opportunities are rare, and we must take full advantage of them. Canada offers its full support to both processes, and looks forward to the adoption in 2018 of two ambitious Global Compacts.

Thank you very much.

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