Canada is showing solidarity with human rights defenders (HRDs) by doubling resettlement spaces for them and their families from 250 to 500.
According to “Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders”, HRDs are people who peacefully promote or protect human rights, either individually or in groups. They may adopt one or several means to achieve this objective, such as documenting and calling attention to violations or abuses by government, businesses, individuals, or groups.
Despite their undeniable contributions to the building of inclusive and democratic communities, HRDs are often the victims of criminalization, threats, and violence. This requires international support for their rights and protection, and Canada has a long-standing tradition towards this aim. In fact, it has been ranked as the top resettlement country worldwide for the fourth year in a row and welcomed more than 47,500 refugees from over 80 countries in 2022.
In keeping with this objective, the former Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, expanded the global HRD stream — a government-led initiative that has resettled HRDs since 2021 — on July 25. This provides a dedicated and permanent pathway for even more HRDs than before under the Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) Program.
The resettlement process under the global HRD stream involves identifying and assessing refugee applicants through reputable organizations such as Front Line Defenders (FLD), ProtectDefenders.eu (PD), or the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These referrals are then processed by the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O) — where a file is created — and then transferred to the migration office for processing.
IRCC partners such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) may assist the applicant in certain locations by helping them fill out forms required to support their resettlement application.
In addition to supporting HRDs, the Canadian government has also announced a partnership with civil society to protect LGBTQI+ refugees . Through the Government of Canada’s partnership with Rainbow Railroad, LGBTQI+ individuals and their families escaping violence and persecution will be identified and referred to IRCC under the GAR program.
Canada’s commitment to supporting and protecting vulnerable refugee groups, including HRDs and LGBTQI+ individuals, demonstrates its dedication to championing human rights and fostering an environment where individuals can freely exercise their voices without fear of persecution.