Evidence of meeting #31 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

  • Dawn Edlund  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Jennifer Irish  Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Les Linklater  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Daniel Thérrien  Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
  • Michael MacDonald  Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Public Safety Canada

4:45 p.m.

NDP

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Minister, you've clearly identified some of the gaps that were found, which led to the conclusion that further reforms were needed. I have a series of questions here I'd like to ask, but just to begin, can you tell us what the projected savings are under Bill C-31?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

We estimate that the savings under Bill C-11, which is the basic structure of the new asylum system, to be about $1.8 billion over five years. Most of those savings are to be derived by the provinces, because they'll be paying less money in welfare payments to failed asylum claimants, who will be removed in a matter of months rather than several years.

The main savings that we generate are through the interim federal health program. Altogether, along with the scaled-down benefits that I announced yesterday, we estimate there will be about $100 million in savings on the IFH program over five years, again because we're providing those benefits to people for a few months rather than several years.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

It seems clear to me that we can't keep going with the status quo.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

It's $1.6 billion, not $1.8 billion. I'm sorry, I want to correct myself.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you.

Clearly we could not keep going with a status quo system that has created all kinds of backlogs and problems. We know because we did the backlog study. Over one million people are waiting in the backlog. We look at the refugees and we see people clogging up the refugee system, who, quite frankly, are being identified as not legitimate refugees and are then being returned. Applicants—people from democratically elected European countries, who have no legitimate reason for claiming refugee status—are trying to come through a faster channel, if you will, into Canada. What does that do? It clogs things up the system and keeps legitimate people from having an opportunity to come here, people who are really in danger of some sort of persecution in their country of origin.

Perhaps you can elaborate for us, Minister, on what the estimated total processing time for a refugee claim is today.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

We estimate that is 1,038 days until someone in the current system has used all of their recourses—1,038 days. But it's actually often longer than that because of delays in removal, and it can take as long as 10 years or more.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

So what will be the change under Bill C-31? What do we project that to be?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

For those we call fast-track claimants, those coming from designated countries of origin, we would see them exhausting all recourses in about 45 days. For those we call the normal claimants, those who are coming from non-designated countries, it would be 216 days, give or take, or a little over six months.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

It would take a little over six months. So we're taking people who are legitimately waiting to be recognized and accepted as having refugee status in this country, who are waiting in the system for 1,038 days, and we're cutting that down by some 75% to 80%. People who legitimately need—

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Actually, I have a chart here I'd be happy to circulate. Here are the wait times with the processing times, minimum, in the current system; and here is the fast track under the new system.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

To me that tells the tale, Minister. There are people who really need to come into the country because they're in fear and in danger in their country of origin, and that amount of time is being fast-tracked so they can get in faster. We're weeding away the people who don't have legitimate claims and who are clogging up the system.

It's our obligation under the law, if I'm not mistaken, to assess every single one of those applicants, no matter where they come from. Is that not correct?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

I'll give an example of what it basically means right now. You come off a plane, let's say coming from Iran via Europe, literally having fresh scars of torture on your back and compelling evidence of persecution.

You come up to the CBSA at the airport and say you're a refugee, and you clearly are. We say take a number, fill out a form, and we'll get back to you in 21 months.

In the new system we'll say fill out the form, come back for your hearing, and we'll give you status in a couple of months. That's one of the virtues of the new system.

I should point out that I find it strange that even though Canada is geographically remote we typically figure in the top four or five destinations for asylum claims worldwide, even though 64% of them are found not to be bona fide claims.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) Jinny Sims

Thank you, Minister.

Your time is up. It's more than up.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.