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Canada’s Refugee Protection for Human Rights Defenders

Canada has established a renowned reputation as a safe haven in its protection of those at risk. Meanwhile, the country actively seeks more conduits to aid. On Friday, July 16, Minister Marco E. L. Mendicino of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the launch of an unprecedented refugee stream. The stream dedicates to protect human rights defenders at risk of persecution in their home country.

Human rights defenders are people who nonviolently strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Their work constitutes irreplaceable value in facilitating human rights around the world. Consequently, their lives are often at risk for holding the powerful accountable for grievances untold.

“We must not overlook those who bear witness to these human tragedies, who are active through demonstration and reporting so the rest of us can be informed. But in doing so they risk persecution, arrest, torture and even death.” – Minister Mendicino

The launch of a pathway for human rights defenders makes Canada one of the pioneers in the field. According to the UN Refugee Agency, this innovative stream will welcome 250 individuals per year, plus their family members. Eligible applicants will be resettled through the Government-Assisted Refugees Program. Moreover, the stream will specifically focus on people at heightened risk, namely women, gender rights advocates, and journalists.

The Government of Canada will cooperate with several other organizations in ensuring the protection of human rights defenders. To name some: Front Line Defenders, ProtectDefenders.eu, the UN Refugee Agency, and other active participants in the field. Two key responsibilities constitute Canada’s dedication: identifying activists who face prosecution and elaborating resettlement solutions for them.

Canada’s latest refugee protection initiatives indicated an intake of 45,000 refugees for 2021, almost doubling the previous cap of 23,500. Although the pandemic has brought many uncertainties to immigration, Canada is always in the pursuit of providing those in need with a brighter future.

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