Evidence of meeting #11 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was immigration.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Neil Yeates  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Claudette Deschênes  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Daniel Paquette  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

I haven't announced that levels will stay flat at 254,000. In fact, our global operational target for next year is 259,000, and in fact our range goes up to 265,000. We may hit the high end of that range. I think you're perhaps confusing targets and ranges here.

As you can see in our plan, which is published on our website, we're anticipating that fewer applications will be submitted this year for spousal reunification. That's not a quota we set. It's an estimate of demand. But generally we will probably be receiving more newcomers next year than we have this year.

A final point on overall levels, and I've made this point before, is that we have to pay attention to public opinion on immigration. Eight out of 10 Canadians are consistently telling us that immigration levels are already high enough or too high. Only 10% to 15% say we should be increasing levels, and I don't want to end up in the situation of western Europe, where there's a huge disconnect between policy-makers—

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

I'm sorry to both of you. We're well over. We have to go on.

Monsieur Coderre, welcome back to the committee.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Yes.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You have up to five minutes, sir.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

We have here the brotherhood of former and present ministers of immigration.

I find it unusual that you have brought your set with you. It gives you a good backdrop. You don't need a set to talk about funding, minister.

I am replacing my colleague. I have some specific questions, but I will come back to them afterwards. We are going to talk about the Auditor General's report.

It seems the agency has trouble determining at the border whether a visa applicant is inadmissible for health or security reasons. In terms of the tools being used at present, the operational guidelines or the country-specific risk profile guide, they are said to be sometimes incomplete. When they are used, the information is not up to date.

Obviously, when people are being allowed to enter and we are working with visas.... I know the pressure you are under, because you are in charge. You have major responsibilities.

I would like you to give me a quick overview of this. What do you intend to do, what actions are you going to take?

I know you are of the same opinion as the Auditor General. You have said you are going to rectify the situation. But what does this mean specifically?

You have a decision to make tomorrow morning, because obviously it is a question of security and a question of public health. What do you do?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

The Auditor General's report contains a number of points. We agree with him concerning his recommendations. On several points, we have already taken actions to improve how visa applications are checked in terms of and public health and safety.

For example, the Auditor General said there are 26 diseases on the Public Health Agency of Canada's list, but we regularly check for only two diseases. That is why we have initiated consultations with the Public Health Agency of Canada to see whether there are more diseases that we should be checking for.

Second, in terms of security, that involves all the security agencies, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, and so on. We are doing our best to cooperate with them.

Ultimately, as you know very well, Mr. Coderre, the border security agencies make the decisions about inadmissibility, not the officers at the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I can ask one of my officials to add a few words on this subject.

November 24th, 2011 / 11:35 a.m.

Neil Yeates Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Yes, certainly.

Mr. Chair, we are doing a lot of specific things. For example, we are making changes

the visa application form

to simplify it.

We're doing a review of admissibility provisions of IRPA. As members may know, there's a very complex set of provisions within IRPA that determine admissibility.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

I understand, Mr. Yeates, but a form is not going to change anything. You can change the form, you can talk to each other more often, but there is a situation, you know, when it comes to risk assessment.

I know very well that when you have to make a decision, you are at the mercy of the people who do the security reports. You have to wait. And I would note in passing that this also has an impact on backlogs. It is not just a matter of internal administration; there is also an issue on the outside.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

In terms of the form, the Auditor General said that we do not have enough information to make admissibility decisions. The problem is that the only way to get more information is to request it and require that applicants provide more information. However, all MPs complain about the fact that the process is already too difficult.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Too complex.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

So a balance has to be struck.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Are you currently working with your colleagues, and in particular the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the issue of public safety in order to enter into more bilateral agreements with other countries so there is a better process for exchanging information?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

There is a group of five countries—Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada—that are increasingly sharing their information and their practices.

For example, there are problems with fraudulent marriages in India, in relation to immigration. We are all working together to identify trends and problems, and share information. We are doing it globally. I have spoken with the French minister of immigration with a view to better coordination.

The answer is yes.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Menegakis.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, thank you very much for appearing before us again. I want to thank the officials who are here yet again.

First of all, Minister, I'd like to give you an opportunity to finish your thought. In a previous question, you were saying we don't want to get into a situation like we currently have in western Europe. Would you like to finish that thought?