July 25, 2023—Ottawa In a significant move towards offering greater support to human rights defenders (HRDs), Canada has announced its plan to double the available resettlement spaces.
The Expansion Plan
Announced by Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the number of resettlement spaces for HRDs and their families will be increased from 250 to 500. This comes as part of Canada’s continued commitment to offer safe and welcoming spaces for those actively fighting for justice and human rights on the global stage.
Who are Human Rights Defenders?
HRDs are individuals, both singular and in groups, committed to:
- Promoting or protecting human rights
- Documenting and raising awareness of violations or abuses by governments, businesses, individuals, or groups
These defenders often face significant persecution, including threats, violence, arbitrary arrest, and even assassination. Those from marginalized and vulnerable groups are particularly at risk.
Canada’s Proud Tradition of Asylum
Canada is known worldwide for its dedication to helping those in need. Some key statistics are:
- For four consecutive years, Canada has been the leading country for resettlement
- In 2022, over 47,500 refugees were welcomed from more than 80 countries
- Canada was among the first nations to provide a permanent pathway for HRDs
This expansion is another step in Canada’s continued efforts to support vulnerable people worldwide.
“Canada firmly believes that the protection of human rights is the cornerstone of a just society. As the world grapples with numerous human rights challenges, Canada is reinforcing its role as a global leader in promoting human rights and protecting those who safeguard them. By doubling our resettlement spaces for human rights defenders, we send a resounding message of support and solidarity, ensuring that those who fight for justice are not left alone in their struggle. Together, we will continue to champion human rights and foster an environment where individuals can freely exercise their voices without fear of persecution. We call on our international partners, other resettlement countries and advocates for more dedicated protection measures.”The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
“I was not sure that I would be able to continue raising my voice as a human rights defender for vulnerable citizens of Afghanistan. Thanks to the humanitarian assistance of the Government of Canada, now I have the opportunity to fight for the basic rights of Afghan youth and women while facing no direct threat to my life.”Masiullah Jahed, HRD from Afghanistan resettled to Canada, and founder of the Global Goals Organization for Prosperity, which provides free virtual education to Afghan girls
Moving forward, Canada will re-engage with Canadian civil society organizations to develop a temporary protection pathway for HRDs. This initiative is expected to further enhance support and protection for HRDs around the world, allowing them to work in a safer environment and protect them from harm.
Collaborative Efforts For Resettlement
Collaborations will continue with Front Line Defenders and ProtectDefenders.eu alongside the United Nations Refugee Agency. Together, they will:
- Identify vulnerable HRDs
- Assess the risks faced by these HRDs
- Refer these individuals to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for resettlement under the Government-Assisted Refugees program
ProtectDefenders.eu will work closely with Canadian civil society groups to identify at-risk defenders worldwide and help them seek refuge in Canada.
Additional Support for Other Vulnerable Groups
In addition to HRDs, Canada has also announced a partnership with Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit organization, to protect LGBTQI+ refugees. This initiative reflects Canada’s commitment to providing safe haven for all at-risk communities.
Through these initiatives, Canada continues to foster an environment that is inclusive, safe, and welcoming to those who need it most.