Evidence of meeting #35 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 detention.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Andrew Wlodyka  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
  • Jennifer Egsgard  Member, Human Rights Watch Canada
  • Bill Frelick  Director, Refugee Program, Human Rights Watch
  • Meb Rashid  Medical Doctor, Crossroads Clinic, Women's College Hospital
  • David Matas  Lawyer, As an Individual
  • Christine Hyndman  Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand
  • Stephen Dunstan  General Manager, Settlement and Attraction Division, Immigration Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand
  • Fraser Richards  Acting Director, Legal Business, Legal Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You don't have to talk for the full 10 minutes.

5:45 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

It's fine. Okay.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Each of my colleagues in the first round will have up to seven minutes to speak.

Mr. Menegakis, who is with the Conservative government, will be asking you some questions.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you.

Good morning to you all. Thank you so much for joining us today. It is certainly a pleasure for us to hear from our friends in New Zealand, albeit a little bit far from where we are, but I'm sure with these telecommunications we'll be able to communicate properly.

I have a few questions for you. We're, of course, experiencing some difficulties in dealing with wait times and backlogs of people, processing them through our system. We're trying to make some changes with our proposed Bill C-31.

When the power to designate countries of origin was introduced through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the minister could designate countries, regions of countries, and classes of nationals. This nuance was in recognition of the fact that safe countries may not be safe for everyone. Bill C-31 amends the power to designate, limiting it to whole countries only.

If your government uses a list of designated countries of origin, must countries be designated as a whole, or do you have distinctions for regions and classes of nationals?

5:50 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Thank you for your question.

Our numbers are really too low for us to have needed to move in that direction, so we do not classify countries. Our immigration act is relatively new; it's 2009. That does give us the power to designate safe third countries, which is obviously a separate point where people have transited a country that is signatory to the convention and where they could have claimed. That would be subject to an agreement with the country, and we have not made amendments to actually implement it.

With regard to your main question, therefore, no, we do not have the legal power to do that, and we're not envisaging it at this point.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

One of the phenomena we're experiencing, which we were not, quite frankly, expecting, is that we are seeing an unusual number of refugee claims from people coming from the European Union. In fact, it's a much bigger percentage than people we have coming from Asia and Africa. It's a little bit unusual for us, given the fact that the European Union is comprised of 27 democratically elected countries, and certainly someone who feels a need or has a need to leave their country for some protection or safety somewhere else has an immediate choice, if you will, of another 26 counties in the union that they can go to.

I wonder if you're experiencing the same phenomenon there in New Zealand, or if you could comment on this.

5:50 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

We are not. We have had claims in the past from people from generally central and eastern Europe, but at very low levels. The country at present we are experiencing a spike from is Fiji, which obviously is much closer in our vicinity, only three or four hours away by air. So the answer is no.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thanks.

If this bill were to be implemented here in Canada and become law, the time to finalize a refugee claim would drop from the current average of 1,038 days to 45 days for claimants from our designated countries of origin, or 216 days for all other claimants.

I wonder how that compares to your system. Could you give us a little bit of statistical information on how long it takes to process someone in New Zealand?

5:50 p.m.

General Manager, Settlement and Attraction Division, Immigration Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Stephen Dunstan

We do it quite quickly. We set a benchmark of 140 days, and we try to process them within the 140 days. If the people are turned down at the first refugee determination, they can go to appeal. It can take up to a year at appeal.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Well, 140 days would roughly be about 15% of the time it currently takes us to process a refugee here in Canada, so it certainly is very admirable.

How am I doing for time, Mr. Chair?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You have a couple of minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

I have a couple of minutes left, and I would like to pass them on to my colleague, Roxanne James, if that's okay with you, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Of course.

May 1st, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to my colleague.

I have a couple of questions.

I'm not sure whether it was today or yesterday, with the time change here, but you talked about a new package of policy and legislative changes you are processing in an effort to deter human smuggling. You indicated that it's at first reading. You've indicated also that it is not necessarily the same issue in New Zealand as it is here in Canada, but we both recognize that human smugglers do what they do for various criminal reasons. It is also a threat to the safety and security of the people who use human smugglers to go to a particular country.

I'm just wondering if you could tell us a bit more about the specific changes in the policies that are at first reading. Could you speak to those specifically?

Thank you.

5:55 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Certainly.

It is a package of legislative and policy changes. The legislative changes relate to the ability to detain people on a group warrant for up to six months. At present, for people who are detained, whether in a low-security or a high-security facility, the warrants are obtained on an individual basis and they have a maximum lifespan of 28 days. Basically, what is being asked of Parliament is the capacity to detain people on a group warrant for up to six months to enable us to deal with a group of perhaps 500 people.