Evidence of meeting #37 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 refugees.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Carole Dahan  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
  • Andrew Brouwer  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
  • Imre Helyes  First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary
  • James Milner  Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University, As an Individual
  • Chantal Desloges  Senior Lawyer, Chantal Desloges Professional Corporation
  • Mary Crock  Professor of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, As an Individual

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

Yes, Hungary is one of the member states of the European Union. As a consequence, all Hungarians citizens are considered EU citizens as well. As such, they are entitled to move freely around in the space of the European Union, and basically there is no restriction concerning employment; there is no restriction in any of the EU countries concerning establishing residence. So any Hungarian citizen can do it and can move, whether it's just to improve their life perspective or for any other consideration.

I think on the basis of our limited experience with Hungarian refugee claimants, we have noticed that the absolute majority of them have been enticed, I'm sorry to say...

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Go ahead, say it.

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

...by easy money, which can be obtained within the very generous framework of the Canadian refugee system. It does not mean, to my mind, that anyone would not be provided with the same scope of support from a social point of view or from a welfare point of view. Maybe the same scope of welfare could be preserved but be provided and given in a different form, not in such a liquid form that can be translated easily, even geographically, from Canada to other parts...but rather as services provided, in-kind services, etc.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

So it's worth the trip to come to Canada from Hungary because there's easy money on the table and our system currently is broken and we need to fix it. You would agree?

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

Yes. I would probably not have other options, just to go that way.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

What can you tell me about, in comparison, which you just alluded to...? Why are the social benefits more attractive here in Canada, and applying for refugee status here, having to wait up to 12 months for a hearing...? Why are our social benefits, do you believe, that much better here than in Hungary? Is there an aspect here that we're missing, something that we should be paying attention to that Hungary isn't doing in terms of social services?

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

I do not think that when it comes to providing social services as such there would be a big difference. The difference, there is no doubt about it, is in the general scope of the services or the level of the possibilities to provide those services. There is no doubt that the economic development of Hungary is not that of Canada; therefore, the Hungarian social welfare system cannot be as generous with anyone, including, obviously, and first of all, with its own citizens. Unfortunately, it's not in a situation and a position to provide that scope and that level of social services.

For example—it's very interesting—when it comes to the refugee system, Hungary is part, obviously, of the Geneva Convention and as such is providing refugee protection to those who are coming to Hungary seeking protection and who are entitled to it. We have noticed a similar phenomenon in relation to those countries that have a much lower level of general development in comparison with Hungary. Yes, there are persons from certain countries who are coming to Hungary seeking refugee protection, more or less on the same basis as sometimes Hungarians are coming here to do it in Canada.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

One of the issues we keep coming back to is the Roma population, and that seems to be a group that is coming to Canada. I wanted to give you the rest of the time you have to address that issue.

What are you doing for the Roma community in Hungary?

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

As I have already begun to explain, the government is considering this situation in general terms when it comes to a certain layer of the population that is in difficult social and economic conditions. But within that, there is a specific unit or a specific component, which is the Roma population, which would definitely be in a more difficult situation. Part of the program is specifically directed toward the Roma population, not just in general but specifically targeting those specific problems that the Roma population are encountering in Hungary.

We must be very much aware of the fact that these are complex problems, and therefore that program, which the Hungarian government has proposed not so recently, needs time to be developed and to bring fruit. The approach is complex and concerns all layers of the problem. Therefore, it is very possible and we expect that in the medium term it will bring the fruit that we would like to have.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Madame Groguhé, it's your turn.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for joining us.

Mr. Brouwer, could you share your comments and concerns with us regarding the process described in this bill as to the designation of safe countries?

4:20 p.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual

Andrew Brouwer

Thank you you for that question.

We have a range of concerns relating to the designation of countries of safety. It's our first position that it's never appropriate to designate a particular country as safe. Refugees may come from any country in the world, and the reality is that conditions change quickly in countries around the world, so a country that was safe may overnight become very unsafe. The result of the designation is that those people will be denied access to the kinds of protection that Canada should be providing.

In terms of some of the changes that have been proposed in Bill C-31, even as compared to Bill C-11 the last time around...at least the last time around there was to be an advisory committee that included outside advice on which countries were or weren't safe and should or shouldn't be designated. The minister has taken out any access for external advice and turned it into a completely insulated government decision, and we have huge concerns about that.

Beyond that, UNHCR has commented about the designation of countries. My understanding about their position is that they have said that in certain circumstances it may not be inappropriate to accelerate claims from some countries, but even the UNHCR has consistently said that an appeal has to be there even if you're going to designate a country. Bill C-31 takes that appeal away, and, as I mentioned earlier, not only does it take that appeal away, but there is also no real access to Federal Court for people from designated countries.

We're also concerned about the changes at the IRB, about the fact that decision-makers at the Refugee Protection Division now will be civil servants, not people who are put there for a fixed term with some degree of independence. They are now going to be the only people hearing claims from people from countries that their boss has designated as safe. We have concerns about how that is going to be impacting their ability to make impartial decisions on refugee claims before them.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you.

Ms. Dahan, what do your clients say about their permanent resident status being potentially revoked?

4:20 p.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual

Carole Dahan

That's a good question. I know there has been, or will be, other groups speaking specifically about clause 19 and the changes to clause 19, but as it stands right now, I think it would put fear in almost every single refugee and immigrant community throughout Canada.

Mr. Opitz, you referred to having served in Bosnia earlier in your life, so we'll take the example of a Bosnian refugee who comes to Canada, was found to be a convention refugee, and who now, under the provisions, because of the change of circumstances in Bosnia, could be stripped of both refugee protection and her permanent residence simultaneously and sent back there, because it's safe there now.

Many people, for a variety of reasons, don't take out citizenship when they are eligible for citizenship. They would suffer under these provisions and they would be at risk under these provisions. I think it sends a wrong message to immigrants and refugees throughout the country.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Quickly.