Estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveals that 1.5 billion people will be displaced by 2050 as a result of drastic climatic changes created by droughts, floods, heat and fire.
Countries such as Vanatu and Kirabati will become uninhabitable or disappear completely and countries such as South Vietnam and Bangladesh will be well below sea level. By some etimates, 50% of the earth will become arid and uninhabitable by the end of the century.
Individuals displaced by such extreme, climatic changes are not recognized legally as refugees (other than by Finland) since they do not fit into the conventional United Nations definition of a person “…who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” Clearly the worldwide, climatic conditions are creating more and more displaced people who are desperately forced to relocate either internally within their own countries or, externally, by way of immigration. No legal category defines such displaced individuals so as to grant them entrenched international rights.
That is why Canada’s recent announcement on October 10, 2023 by the Minister of Immigration was so important wherein Canada is welcoming and committing to the support of migrants in the Americas. As announced, Canada will welcome 15,000 migrants on a humanitarian basis from the Western hemisphere. The Minister stated “We are providing a path to economic opportunities to help address forced displacement as an alternative to regular migration. …. Starting this fall, Colombian, Haitian and Venezuelan foreign nationals located in central or South America or the Caribbean who have extended family connections in Canada will be eligible to apply for this new pathway.” Relatives such as a child, grandchild spouse common-law partners, parents, grandparent or sibling of Canadian citizen or permanent resident are all eligible to be sponsored. Such action is welcome given the dire situation as the PBS video on the Darien Gap reveals:
This is an important step by Canada in recognizing displaced individuals without attaching their displacement to refugee status These type of climatic incidents will be increasing and encompassing the world over the next 50 years if the post-industrial temperature increase of 1.5 degrees C. is not maintained or reduced within the next several years. Although the “humanitarian” classification, mentioned by the Minister will include those who are normally considered refugees, the broader definition of ‘humanitarian” can definitely include those who have been the subject of climatic change.
Canada does work closely with the United Nations IOM which facilitated over 198,010 international movements in 2022 and most noteworthy were those individuals affected in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Somalia. IOM recognized Canada as one of the top three countries, along with Australia and the United States, to where displaced individuals migrated. In 2022, IOM had reached 963,000 people across 16 countries. https://www.iom.int/resources/iom-global-activity-report-2022-operations-and-emergencies
The Minister went on to say Canada actively works … “with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration to understand the …. humanitarian needs linked to migration in the Americas.” Canada has also committed $75 million over six years for projects in Latin American and Caribbean to strengthen and to better “…integrate migrants and refugees into local communities and labour market…and to address the challenges of irregular migration, while improving the quality of life for migrants and refugees.”
Canada has taken a leadership role in addressing an issue which will continue to challenge national boundaries for years to come.