Canada offers dedicated, permanent pathway to human rights defenders

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, announced on July 16 that Canada would be one of the first countries to offer a dedicated refugee stream to human rights defenders.

In 2020, Canada welcomed nearly a third of all resettled refugees into the countries from around the world. Now, the government has created a permanent pathway for human rights defenders with a goal to resettle up to 250 defenders each year, including their family members via the Assisted Refugees Program.

According to the Government of Canada, a human rights defender is classified as someone who, individually, or with others, acts to non-violently promote or protect human rights.

The program will welcome human rights defenders, including journalists, who may require asylum to escape persecution in their home country. The program will also come with a focus on those with increased risk, such as women, journalists, and LGBTQ2 advocates.

“We must not overlook those who wear witness to these human tragedies, who are active through demonstration and reporting, so the rest of us can be informed,” said Mendicino from a virtual news conference in Toronto. “But, in doing so, they risk persecution, arrest, torture, and even death.”

According to the Government of Canada, they will be working with Front Line Defenders and, as well as other Canadian and international partners to identify and provide support to human rights defenders.

More often than not, human rights defenders put themselves at risk in the name of protecting others, by denouncing injustice and demanding that the power be held accountable. Through this newly implemented stream, Canada will provide more options to these individuals who need protection, so they may have a pathway to permanent residence should they be unable to return home.

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