Evidence of meeting #29 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 system.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Amipal Manchanda  Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Les Linklater  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Claudette Deschênes  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Well, we have something called the five-country conference, which already is a platform for information sharing, particularly on asylum claimants: that's Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. We have very complementary laws and systems.

We already have an information-sharing agreement that has helped to identify, for example, bogus asylum claimants. In one case, there was a Somali national who made failed refugee claims in Australia and the U.S. and then showed up in the U.K. trying to make a third claim. He was identified. That's the kind of usefulness of this information sharing.

The main initiative now is expanding information sharing with the United States in the context of “Beyond the Border”, the continental security perimeter action plan, but we would not preclude more robust information-sharing agreements with other liberal democracies that are respectful of privacy rights and serious about national security.

Would you like to...?

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Claudette Deschênes

Also, our biometrics are fingerprints, and they will be checked against the RCMP system. The RCMP has major information sharing through Interpol and other things. There's a whole variety of other countries. I think the RCMP did come to the committee before. We're going to be building on that. Therefore, again, in regard to the other countries that have shared fingerprints and so on, that will be one of the key ways for us to expand our knowledge.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Yes, we did indeed hear from the RCMP, CSIS, and CBSA—acronyms again—and certainly we saw a willingness, even for cross-department communication, to ensure that we secure the borders as much as possible.

Minister, if I may, I'd like to ask a question about one of the issues that Bill C-31 actually addresses; that is, dealing with people who are claiming refugee status and who come from countries around the world that have democracies much like ours. Can you tell us really how effective you think that would be?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

One of the reasons we proposed additional reforms to our asylum system through Bill C-31 is that since the adoption of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act in June of 2010, we have seen a growing wave of unfounded asylum claims coming in, particularly from member states of the European Union—last year, 5,800 EU claims—which has created the bizarre situation that we're getting more asylum claims from the European Union than we do from Africa or Asia.

I mentioned this in my speech to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees 60th anniversary meeting in Geneva, and there were visible gasps in the audience. The high commissioner himself said that was the single most remarkable thing he had heard during the conference.

It just strikes us as being, at best, peculiar. Virtually none of those EU asylum claimants actually show up for their hearings. Since we've had the visa exemption for the Czech Republic, Hungary, and other European countries in 2008, about 95% of claimants have abandoned or withdrawn their own claims. That is to say, through their own admission, they're saying that they made claims but they didn't need Canada's protection.

So clearly we need flexible tools to address highly organized waves of unfounded claims coming from democratic countries, where life may not be perfect, but if you are a citizen of an EU member state, you can move. If you need protection, you can cross into any one of another 27 states. Why is it, I ask myself, that there were I think zero asylum claims from the EU in Australia last year, and I think about 30 in the United States, but 6,000 in Canada?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Madame Turmel, welcome to the immigration committee. I hope it's not too much of a shock to the system to come from the offices of the leader of the official opposition to the immigration committee, but we're pleased to have you.

You have up to five minutes.

March 27th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure to be with you.

I want to ask a question of the minister. Under Bill C-11 you had an independent committee with a role to establish safe countries. At the time, you said this was a great idea. I want to quote what you said at that time:

Regulations would also require that a designation can only be made if an advisory panel including at least two independent human rights experts recommends it.

These amendments go a long way in providing greater clarity and transparency around the process of designation.

Now this is part of Bill C-31, as you know very well, so here's what I want to know. Were you wrong at the time on the clarity and transparency when you said it, or are you wrong not to remove it...? So one way or the other....

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

I was wrong then. Mea maxima culpa.

I think, apropos to the last answer I gave, we have since then seen just this huge and growing wave of unfounded claims coming from democratic European countries. We have realized, since the adoption of Bill C-11 in 2010, that the process for designation was too cumbersome, too slow-moving, and that if we were to grant a visa exemption to a European country and saw a huge spike in claims, it would take us too long to be able to use the tool of designation to address such a spike.

So this is really about responding to an unfolding reality of highly organized waves of false claims from liberal democratic countries.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

I have another question, and it's about clause 19. It seems there's a consensus in the legal community that clause 19 will make it possible for the minister, through the RPD, to cease the permanent residency of a refugee for the reason that conditions have changed in the country of origin. You said that this is not the case.

Now, we know that some people coming from different countries—Chile, El Salvador, the former Yugoslavia—are really concerned about it. Is it your intention to make it possible to remove the PR status from refugees because conditions have improved in their home country? And if not, are you open to amending the bill to make this explicit?

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Thank you, Madame Turmel, for giving me the opportunity to clarify a great deal of misunderstanding on this point.

In point of fact, section 108 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act already allows the minister to apply to the Immigration and Refugee Board for the cessation of protected persons status, or the revocation of permanent residency on various enumerated grounds, including a change in country conditions.

So there is no new power accorded to the minister under Bill C-31. Cessation of protected status or revocation of permanent residency can only be decisions made by an independent member of the IRB, not by the minister.

The only change that's made under Bill C-31 is that cessation of protected status and revocation of permanent residency could be made in a one-step process at the IRB rather than a two-step process. After all, if you're going to cease the protected status of someone who obtained it fraudulently with the intention of subsequently removing their permanent residency, the view is that it's much more sensible to do that in one stage rather than two.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

At the same time, as I said, it seems not clear for people. Is there a way to amend it, or to put it in a way that is clear?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

I would be open to constructive suggestions of committee in that respect. If there is misunderstanding, it does concern me. I want to be absolutely clear to refugees, whether resettled or successful asylum claimants who have permanent residency in Canada, that it is not our intention to arbitrarily or in any way revoke people's permanent residency. There is no new power to do so in the bill.

If there are suggestions about how to clarify that when the bill comes to committee, I would certainly be open to such suggestions.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Okay.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

I'm told that there have been only 200 cases of revocation of permanent residency for landed refugees in the past decade. So the tool that already exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is used in only extraordinary cases.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Trost, a new player to the government side, welcome.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair. There was a time when I actually was a permanent member of this committee, even if it was only for a few short months. It's good to be back here, since Saskatchewan is now one of the major players in immigration in the country.

Mr. Minister, there was a bit of an article in the news not long ago about a foreign criminal in Canada who had sexually assaulted a disabled woman. While all sexual crimes are disturbing, this one was apparently more disturbing than most. What was also very disturbing about this was that he has been allowed to stay in Canada due to two unrelated sexual assault cases that were pending. How is someone like this, a sex offender, going to stay in Canada, and for how long? And the notes I have say that this is not a unique case.

Now, biometrics are going to be used to keep criminals outside the country. What about criminals inside the country? What about those who are already here? What about those who engage in criminal activity after they are here in Canada?