JUSTIN TRUDEAU – Canadian Prime Minister’s Humanitarian Standpoint

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, since his taking over of office has become the all-time favorite of not only the Canadians but people from all the world over. His good looks, charming personality, kind and considerate nature has won hearts and minds all across nations. Among the changes that he has brought with his friendly policies, his humanitarian initiatives need to be spoken about for the good it is bringing on a global level.

Humanitarian Assistance

First and foremost, PM Trudeau has signaled Canada’s strong leadership in assisting and protecting refugees and migrants during his participation in the Refugee and Migration Summit, hosted by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada will provide increased support for education initiatives and humanitarian assistance that will help countries and people directly affected by humanitarian crises. For this purpose, he pledged to increase humanitarian assistance for 2016-2017 by at least 10 percent over the 2015-2016 total of $684 million.

Educational Initiatives

The majority of displaced youth and children face a grim future without adequate access to quality education. The potential long-term consequences include increased vulnerability to social, economic and sexual exploitation, and limited prospects for future employability. Educating and empowering girls is particularly important to safeguard both this generation and the next. In recognition of these challenges and in keeping with its responsibility as a member of the global community, Canada announced funding to improve learning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of displaced children in Iraq, Syria, and other countries.

To be more specific, Canada aims to provide: A total of $15 million over the next three years for the Education and Learning in Lebanon initiative to help ensure refugee girls and boys, including children with disabilities, receive a quality education. Further, $10 million over three years towards the Scaling Up Access to Formal Education for Syrian Girls and Boys project in Jordan. This initiative would help identify out-of-school children, encourage and support families to enroll their children in a nearby school, improve the learning environment by ensuring access to science labs, computer labs, and libraries, and help children to stay in school through targeted efforts to combat known drop-out causes such as early marriage and child labor. It will help Jordan’s Ministry of Education to deliver on its commitment to get every child in school—regardless of their nationality.

Another $20 million for the next two years are announced for the Education Cannot Wait Fund to ensure the right to education for emergency-affected children and youth around the world, including to address the specific needs of girls and young women. In times of conflict or crisis, the educational needs of children and youth are often an afterthought, but education is a right that should be upheld along with meeting other basic needs. Our support will help to eliminate gaps in education for these children and youth, so that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for the future. Finally allocating $739,000 over 18 months to improve the accessibility and quality of learning for refugee and host community children both in and outside the classroom in up to 25 schools in Lebanon and Jordan. The project, which will be led by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, will use digital learning innovations. The project will also build the capacities of teachers, educators, administrators, and counselors.

Addressing Syria, Iraq and the Region

As part of Canada’s new $1.6 billion strategy announced in February 2016 to address the crises in Syria and Iraq, the Prime Minister announced over $442 million in humanitarian assistance over the next three years that will help save lives and alleviate suffering of millions of conflict-affected people in Syria, Iraq and the region by helping them meet their basic education, food, health, water, shelter and protection needs.

Humanitarian assistance will be delivered by trusted and experienced international humanitarian partners including United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and will focus on four priorities: Helping families meet basic needs; Improving access to and quality of social and public services; Meeting the specific needs and rights of women and girls; and Supporting livelihoods of conflict-affected families.

This can be exemplified by the fact that Canada is providing $100 million in support of the UNHCR’s emergency response to the Syrian and Iraqi crisis over the next three years. Canada is also providing $78 million to UNICEF over the next three years to provide education opportunities and child protection services to conflict-affected children in the region as part of the No Lost Generation Initiative. This initiative is helping to ensure that children are able to continue their education in a safe and secure environment. Canada is also providing over $40 million to the United Nations Population Fund to provide reproductive health services to women and girls, and assistance to victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Role in UNHCR

In addition, Canada has announced long-term institutional funding of $37.8 million over three years in support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ global response. This predictable multi-year funding will support UNHCR in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and other displaced vulnerable populations, including women and girls.

Canada’s multi-year funding to UNHCR will help: Conduct refugee status determination for asylum seekers; Provide shelter, clothing and other essential non-food items such as blankets; Provide adequate sanitation services such as latrines; Respond to educational needs of refugees; Facilitate transportation and basic needs support for returning refugees or forcibly displaced persons; Support refugee in self-reliance and durable solutions, such as voluntary repatriation, resettlement to a third country, or local integration in the host country; Provide support and services to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) survivors and seek community involvement in SGBV prevention and protection of survivors; and improve participation of women in leadership management structures in refugee situations.

Supporting Migrant Workers

The Government of Canada is playing a leadership role on the world stage in refugee resettlement and international migration issues. The Government of Canada recognizes the significant contributions migrants and refugees can make to sustainable economic growth and to building dynamic, inclusive societies. In Canada, migrants and refugees fill skills gaps and labor market shortages, address some of the challenges associated with an aging population, increased international trade, and draw in investment from around the world – all of which strengthen the middle class at home.

Trudeau asserted that, “Millions of people around the world are fleeing their homes because of conflict and persecution. The international community must come together to address their immediate needs and to help rebuild their lives. “He further provided that, “Canada is a nation built from the ground up by immigrants and refugees. We have a proud history of opening our arms—and our borders—to those most in need, and we look forward to welcoming many more migrants and refugees in the coming years. We will continue to lead with warm hearts and open minds.”

Canada aims to provide much of the support announced through international partners, including UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to help meet the immediate, life-saving needs of populations affected by humanitarian crises around the world. The funds will provide predictable multi-year support through key international partners over three years. Through its refugee resettlement programs, the Government of Canada had tripled the number of resettled refugees Canada welcomed in 2016. Canada resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees from November 2015 to February 2016. By the end of 2016, and over 44,000 refugees in total by 2017, including 17,800 privately sponsored refugees.

Further, Canada aims to provide $5.5 million over five years through the International Labor Organization to promote and protect the rights of the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) migrant workers. Millions of migrant workers in the ASEAN region, particularly women migrants, engage largely in low-skilled work, which makes them vulnerable to labor exploitation and abuse. This project will ensure that the estimated six million women and men migrant workers within ASEAN are better protected. As a result, the development and poverty reduction benefits of migration are increased.

Advancement of Peace and Stability in Myanmar

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, met with State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, as part of her visit to Canada. The two leaders discussed Myanmar’s transition to democracy and Canada’s support for ongoing reforms in Myanmar. The Prime Minister encouraged Myanmar to accelerate its efforts to uphold human rights, particularly with respect to women, youth, and protecting ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya. They also discussed good governance, development cooperation, humanitarian issues, economic growth, and regional security.

Following the meeting, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $8.8 million in support for humanitarian assistance and the advancement of peace and stability in Myanmar. These contributions will help protect human rights, support peacebuilding, and promote women’s participation in the national peace process. They will also support a range of life-saving services, including emergency food assistance, shelter and health care, to vulnerable populations. Canada supports Myanmar’s ongoing efforts to secure an inclusive and lasting peace after decades of civil war. Since 2010, the Government of Myanmar has taken steps towards democratization, economic liberalization and national reconciliation. Canada encourages an inclusive peace process that respects human rights and meets the needs of all people in Myanmar, especially those of traditionally vulnerable populations, including ethnic and religious minorities, women and children.”

Halting Canada’s air campaign against IS

During the election campaign, Trudeau indicated he would withdraw Canada’s CF-18 bombers from the coalition mission against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He argued that there are better ways to take on IS, such as bolstering local forces on the ground and increasing humanitarian aid. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party opted not to support the Conservative government’s motion to extend combat operations in Iraq and expand them to Syria. He says Canada will cease all coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while it beefs up its military efforts, including the number of special forces deployed on the ground to train Iraqi forces for the next two years. He announced that, “It is important to understand that while airstrike operations can be very useful to achieve short-term military and territorial gains, they do not on their own achieve long-term stability for local communities,” and that, “Canadians learned this lesson first-hand during a very difficult decade in Afghanistan, where our forces became expert military trainers renowned around the world.”

Trudeau said while Canada will pull its six fighter jets from the bombing mission, it will also triple, from 69, the number of Canadian Forces members helping train local ground troops to fight ISIS in northern Iraq. It will also increase by 230 the 600 Canadian Armed Forces members deployed as part coalition mission. Moreover, Canada’s military effort under Operation IMPACT will also include maintaining aircrew and support personnel for one CC-150 Polaris aerial refueling aircraft and up to two CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft. Canada will also send troops to mark targets for the coalition partners.

Canada’s new contribution will total more than $1.6 billion over the next three years and include:$264 million to extend the military mission in Iraq and Syria for one year until March 31, 2017; $145 million over three years in non-military security efforts, such as counter-terrorism initiatives; $840 million over three years in humanitarian assistance; $270 million over three years to “build local capacity” in Jordan and Lebanon, where there are a large number of refugees; $42 million to redeploy staff and equipment to the region over the course of the new military commitment; and an increased diplomatic presence in the region.

Welcoming Refugees

The case of the young Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi shocked people worldwide, but it had particular resonance in Canada after it emerged that the Kurdi family had hoped to move to the country to join family. The story thrust the refugee issue into the center of the campaign. Trudeau promised the Liberals would accept more refugees than any of the other parties. He has also pledged to invest more money to speed up the processing of refugee applications.

Trudeau personally welcomed refugees arriving at the airport and was seen handing out winter coats. He met some of the families who have settled in the country at a restaurant in Toronto in a meeting filmed by a Canadian broadcaster. Syrian refugee, Vanig Garabedian and his family arrived in the city after fleeing the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo a year back. He described meeting the Prime Minister at the airport and how he felt welcomed into the country after witnessing the horrors of war in his beloved home country.

Rights of Aboriginal Women

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a public inquiry into why as many as 1,200 aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in the country. He has also said he wants to focus on improving relations with Canada’s indigenous community. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aboriginal women account for roughly 16 percent of all female homicides while they represent only 4.3 percent of Canada’s overall female population. The findings corroborated similar rates reported by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Between 1908 and 2013, 1,181 aboriginal women went missing or were murdered. Among those, 1,017 were killed.

It is a stark reality that has long been considered a national shame in a country that has grappled with its history of treatment of aboriginal peoples. Trudeau’s action signals a reversal of his predecessor Stephen Harper’s stance on the issue. Harper declined to authorize a public inquiry on the murders and disappearances even after a United Nations watchdog urged action and an Amnesty International campaign called the murder rate “so high it constitutes nothing less than a national human rights crisis.”

Trudeau asserted that, “The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to heal and to be heard,” for which his team aims to work together in order to put an end to this ongoing tragedy.

Decisive Action on Climate Change

Justin Trudeau offers a distinct policy from the outgoing Conservative government in this regard. While Stephen Harper refused to sign up to international climate agreements – and even withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol – Trudeau promised decisive action on climate change. He’s pledged to set targets to reduce carbon emissions, and to fund ways to help provinces achieve those goals in collaboration with China.

Both Canada and China affirmed that action on climate change, including decisive steps towards low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable development is crucial. As a global challenge, climate change and the need to transition to a clean growth economy demand a decisive, collaborative and cooperative response by governments, businesses, and other actors to drive momentum, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Li Keqiang agree that intensified cooperation between Canada and China is vital to mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects around the world. They further emphasize that protecting the environment and growing their economies go hand-in-hand. They are committed to take concrete actions and demonstrate determination to encourage the transition to a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society, and promote clean growth.

Canada and China welcome the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. They reaffirm their strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full and effective implementation reflecting equity and ‎in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances, and will move forward on policies and measures to implement their respective nationally determined contributions.

Canada under the leadership of PM Trudeau has provided the world with a humanitarian paradigm of democracy that not only stands to benefit the Canadians but people all over the world. The multiple initiatives taken for improving the standard of living for millions of individuals ought to be taken as frameworks of effective governance for world leaders. It is through such humanitarian steps that the world can become a better place to live.

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Amna Malik
About Amna Malik 44 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.