Canada, the IOM, and International Migration Management

Opinion by Emily Wesseling.

A blue sky as a background to the Canadian flag waving in the wind.

Boasting an international reputation as a “poster child” for well-managed migration, Canada relies on immigration to sustain domestic labour, increase international trade, and uphold its multicultural image. However, emerging international challenges complicate migration management in both a domestic and global context. Under this changing migration landscape and global order, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) remains efficient and adaptable, facilitating international migration management while adhering to broader United Nations (UN) multilateral objectives. Canada should look into expanding its involvement with the IOM to navigate the current and future dynamics of global migration. Established in 1951 to address European displacement and resettlement after World War II, the IOM has evolved significantly to include 174 member states and offices in over 100 countries to facilitate and regulate migration [1]. In 2016, the IOM became a related organization of the UN, establishing the IOM as a global leader in migration and solidifying its organizational mandate over international migration [2]. With an emphasis on service provision, the IOM’s decentralized structure is designed to be more adaptable to country-specific migration situations [3]. Immigration priorities for Canada emphasize the importance of ambitious immigration targets and the need for strong migration networks. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), immigration accounts for almost 100% of Canada’s labour force growth and 75% of Canada’s population growth [4]. In 2021, Canada achieved the highest yearly immigration numbers to date, welcoming 401,000 new permanent residents, reflecting Canada’s commitment to the Immigration Levels Plan as an essential driver of economic growth and recovery [5]. Given low fertility rates and an ageing population, Canada has a strong incentive to maintain an open immigration policy that sustains and expands its domestic labour force [6]. The IOM remains an important avenue to attract migration into Canada, especially in the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery. The IOM has far-reaching capacities beyond migration that directly benefit Canada’s foreign policy objectives; in the last 15 years, Canada-IOM projects focused on a variety of humanitarian, development, migrant assistance, and border management issues [7]. Canada’s status as an immigrant-receiving state and strong history of multilateralism, along with the IOM’s credibility and international reputation in migration management, demonstrate potential for stronger Canada-IOM relations [8]. Canada’s future relations with the IOM will be highly influenced by evolving migration trends. Considering IRCC’s priority to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees within two years, as well as current displacement in Eastern Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Canada should utilize the IOM’s operational staff and logistical capacity to facilitate cooperative migration in response to present and future migration crises. Additionally, the IRCC should conduct an updated assessment of Canada’s IOM membership, which will develop clear and strategic priority areas in the IOM to maximize Canada-IOM relations. Canada should also expand its IOM office in Ottawa, which currently focuses on refugees and resettlement, to scale up capacity and communication between the Canadian government and the IOM [9]. Given that Canada had the second highest resettlement numbers from IOM projects in 2020, expanding operational and network capabilities from Ottawa will support a more streamlined approach to migration to achieve both IOM resettlement targets and Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan [10]. Ultimately, it is in Canada’s best interest to expand its involvement in the IOM. With a flexible organizational structure and UN-backed legitimacy, the IOM is uniquely positioned to serve the substantial migration needs of Canada while adapting to contemporary geopolitical challenges of global migration. A stronger and more integrated Canada-IOM relationship will assure greater immigration, support domestic labour and economic growth, and contribute to multilateral cooperation on international migration management.


Bibliography [1] IOM, “World Migration Report 2022,” December 1, 2021,, 8.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Cullen, “The IOM’s New Status and its Role under the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: Pause for Thought,” Blog of the European Journal of International Law, March 29, 2019,

[4] Government of Canada, “Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Mandate Letter,” December 16, 2021,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Yiagadeesen Samy and Howard Duncan, International Affairs and Canadian Migration Policy, 1st ed., 2021, Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021, 2.

[7] Geiger, 1644.

[8] Ibid, 10.

[9] Ibid.

[10] IOM, “Annual Report 2020,” August 12, 2021,, 19.