Threat to justice and human rights in any corner of the world, is a threat to justice and human rights everywhere else in the world. Flipped around, the same philosophy holds true for protection of human rights.
Canada leads by example in recognising the urgency to protect people who defend human rights. Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that there will be a new path to Canada for refugees who fear persecution because of their work in defence of human rights.
The new refugee stream will extend to anyone facing persecution for advocating or defending human rights. However, there will be a special emphasis on journalists, women and advocates for LGBTQ and two-spirit people.
"Human rights and democracy are 'under siege' around the world. From authoritarian regimes to organised crime, the threats have never been more severe," Mendicino said.
He also said that Canada recognises not just the refugees who were displaced by conflict but also those people who were forced to flee because they worked to record human rights abuses or defend the rights of others.
The official statement also noted how, "Human rights defenders face persecution at the hands of both state and non-state actors, including arbitrary arrest, detention, threats, torture, enforced disappearance and assassination."
Canada opens doors to 250 claimants each year
The new refugee stream will be open for up to 250 claimants each year, which will also include the members of their family. In its move, Canada is partnering with the United Nations Refugee Agency and International organisations which specialise in aiding people facing threats because of their work to defend human rights or expose human rights abuse around the world. Canada is also partnering with Front Line Defenders and ProtectDefenders.eu
On its official Twitter account Front Line Defenders welcomed the opportunity and applauded the Government of Canada for its resettlement scheme, "at extreme risk and to find solutions for protection."
Andrew Anderson, the executive director, of the organisation said, "Canada is one of the first countries to incorporate special refugee recognition for the defenders of human rights, and is going further than any other government has to date." He also hoped that this initiative will be followed by other governments to ensure a strengthened international protection for human rights-defenders who are at risk.
Defenders of human rights at their riskiest point in life
According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 30 journalists were killed in 2020, of which 21 were, "singled out for murder in retaliation for their work." The International Federation of Journalists documented the killing of 65 journalists in 16 different countries in 2020, including 14 in Mexico, 10 in Afghanistan, nine in Pakistan and eight in India.
In 2019, there were 49. It also said that in March, there were at least 229 journalists in prison because of their work.
Canada also rushing to bring Afghan interpreters
Mendicino also said that Canada was rushing to finalise a plan to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada, 'as quickly as possible.' Which means that the interpreters who worked for the Canadian Armed Forces, now face possible retribution from the Taliban.