Ottawa Journal (February 28 – March 04, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)
The Organization for Security and Co-operation for Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly recently held meetings in Vienna, Austria. In my role as President of the Canada-Europe Association, I had the privilege to lead the Canadian delegation that traveled Vienna to for these meetings. During my time there, I addressed the Assembly on the serious issues of human trafficking; immigration, integration, and multi-ethnic dialogue; as well as Millennium Development Goals, which have become important issues for Canada and the much of the international community.
The OSCE was established in 1975 and currently has 56 member countries that are, “all the European states, the United States, and Canada.” Eleven other states from the Mediterranean area and Asia joined as observers and are known as “Partners for Cooperation.” The main objective of the organization is to be a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, and crisis management. It has also been recognized as a regional arrangement under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, which requires that participating United Nations Member states “make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.”
While in Vienna, I first addressed the issue of human trafficking and Canada’s activities concerning the implementation of the recommendations from the OSCE 2010 Oslo Declaration. I informed the Assembly that in June 2010, the Canadian Parliament passed legislation which calls for mandatory sentences for child traffickers. The new law provides a minimum sentence of five years of imprisonment for anyone convicted of trafficking a minor in Canada and a minimum of six years imprisonment for cases with aggravating factors. The passage of this legislation was remarkable because it received bi-partisan support, which underscores the significance of this issue. Canada is also fighting the problem of human trafficking by establishing the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Person. It is comprised of experts from seventeen different government departments responsible for developing policies, exchanging knowledge, and facilitating cooperation amongst Canada’s federal anti-trafficking efforts.
I later provided the Assembly an update on Canada’s activities concerning the implementation of the recommendations on the Millennium Development Goals. Canada has taken decisive action in this area by raising the profile of maternal and child health. Our Government has done this by highlighting the issue during its chairmanship of the G-8 in 2010. The G-8 leaders agreed to the Muskoka Initiative, committing to $5 billion over the next five years, to support efforts in achieving the goal of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters and under-five child mortality by two-thirds. Canada’s own contribution of $2.85 billion over five years includes new initiatives concerning: improved food security for mothers and children in Ethiopia; strengthening the national health system in Mozambique; and improving maternal, newborn, and child health services in Bangladesh. Our Government recognizes that achieving the Millennium Goals is a global priority and a shared responsibility for all governments and organizations.
The last issue I addressed in Vienna was immigration, integration, and multi-ethnic dialogue. This is an issue of great interest to me in my role as Chair of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The challenge of integration has become an important issue for many countries and how to balance democratic values with respect for cultural and religious diversity. One way of approaching this issue is increased participation in debates and meetings, such as the OSCE, so best practices can be shared between member states. Canada, for instance, uses a range of tools and strategies to support the economic, cultural, and social integration of new Canadians. This includes: public education and outreach; funding of training and peer leadership, to help high school students and respond to discrimination; as well as language training, immigrant settlement, and adaptation programs; and resettlement assistance, to provide immediate needs. Such tools help to build bridges and promote intercultural understanding, as well as social and cultural inclusion.
The OSCE winter meetings were full of successful debate and dialogue for our Canadian delegation. We gained a great deal of information and perspective to bring back home to Parliament. The continued commitment by each member of the OSCE to ongoing dialogue will help to identify suitable responses to the international issues of human trafficking, immigration, and Millennium Development Goals.