House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

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11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, we were asked to accommodate a certain number of individuals. A potential 150 cases were identified, which might involve 297 people, but we are not certain that all those in this category would want to come here, because the U.S., Australia and Norway are also involved in this program.

As a result, we have indicated that we are prepared to take in more people if it is possible. Judging from the initial indications, however, obtained from members of the community, it would seem that some 200 people will be coming to Canada under this program. Should there be others, we will be able to take the necessary steps to process them, but at present there are no indications that this will be the case.

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11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Chair, I have one last question. I gathered from the minister that there is enormous collaboration among various countries in order to meet needs when certain situations arise affecting individuals.

Could the minister indicate if the Government of Canada will continue this collaboration and these partnerships? We know that partnership is a key to successfully negotiating the process here in Canada and also throughout the world. Can the minister indicate whether we will maintain such partnerships, should such situations occur, to ensure that the needs of these people are met?

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11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, we always try to build on our successes. These partnerships are one indication of the success we can achieve. We always want to ensure that any success is shared by all.

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May 18th, 2005 / 11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with our immigration critic.

Change begins with the recognition that a problem exists and what I have heard often tonight is that the minister is often a system defender rather than being the helpful change agent that I would really like to hear him be.

We have consumers, applicants or whatever we want to call them who pay a lot of money and yet they still have to adjust to the administrative system. Therefore people serve the system or the bureaucracy, instead of the other way around, where we are trying to serve people. We have that data in my constituency office and in every constituency office across the country.

I remember talking to the former minister of citizenship and immigration when she first was going to be appointed. She was very optimistic about what she could do as a minister because she had a constituency office in an urban riding with a high percentage of immigrants. She said that the work in the constituency office was something like 90% immigration. So she was very sensitized to that.

What happened to her and my conversations with her as the time changed and the senior administrators got hold of her and began to say that she could not do this and could not do that? Her optimism and her commitment to change seemed to disappear.

Eighty per cent of the work in my constituency office is immigration related. I certainly do not troll for it or ask for it but it is an expectation. People are knocking on the door and I see myself as the ombudsman of last resort. We try to get people to communicate with the department but in so many cases the department just cannot communicate with its own clients. It is a bureaucracy, as I said in my opening comments, which people who have to be served by this system cannot interact with.

We know it is certainly an overly complex system. We put in a new regime of legislation just a few years ago and we are still working the bugs out. I think the experience we are having with that new legislation needs to be adjusted because it really is not serving people the way I would like to see it.

Was it not the present minister who said publicly that if only he could become the immigration minister he would make the changes? I recall hearing those words from him. The talk around here was that he wanted to become the immigration minister and it was reported in the press. I am hoping that with that energy the immigration minister will begin delivering on this kind of system change and be the system change agent.

I am wondering if he will abandon the quota system. What quotas? We have all kinds of quotas and they are quotas by resources. It is often very discriminatory.

I have watched a succession of ministers and it just does not seem that the system improves, even though there is always a new program, a new review and now I hear about a six point plan.

If, in some circumstances, the department is shutting the door, it should do it honestly. Quit selling tickets on the airplane when the airplane is already full, is the example in that case. We are still advertising and saying that we are an open society and we want immigrants to come here but we do not have the resources or the capacity to deliver what we are saying to the international community. We take the people's money but we do no process the file.

I do not want to malign the department. I think the people are doing the best they can but we have observed a lack of administrative leadership and there are real problems.

What I have heard from the minister tonight so far is that everything is fine, that perhaps we can do a little better if we work just a little harder, we have a six point plan and all the rest of it. We have heard that all before.

My other colleague became a little excited and emotional in his comments but that represents a real concern that we want the minister and the department to succeed because if they do then Canada succeeds. Ministers and governments come and go but the department will there. Canada will still have an open face to the world and we need to do better than what we have been doing.

I will try and ask him a couple of specific questions. In view of the independent applicants, for instance, the lineup at Beijing, what is the current waiting list number? How long does it take for an applicant in Beijing to get the first interview? By when will the department resource that location, so that applicants will receive an interview within one year of the application?

I know that we are way off that standard at this point, but I am specifically asking about Beijing and the time limits. What is the backlog and how long will it take to get it down to the one year limit as it relates to getting an interview in Beijing?

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11:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to repeat what I said earlier, we have put some resources in budget 2005. Some $100 million for service delivery. That would result in better client service and apply, as well, to some of the resources in the call centres that we have, so that they are more client centred. It includes the portal that we would make available that would make people much more aware of both the department and what it does.

With respect to what we have been doing, I repeat again what I said on my occasions this evening, we have a levels plan that is tabled in the House every November and every member has an opportunity to have input.

However, the facts of life are that we have been very fortunate to have the demand exceed the supply or the levels. That speaks to the success of Canada. It does not necessarily mean that the system is wrong. We have had tremendous success and we constantly try to improve.

I have been characterized as a critic of the department in the past. I do not think anybody is ever going to point out that I wanted this job. I used to have a fairly senior portfolio when I was asked to take this one. I was quite happy where I was. I am happy now because I am not a defender of the department; I am actually someone who is working with departmental officials in the realization of all those goals and objectives that Canadians have identified through their parliamentary plan. Are we making some headway? I would like the member to acknowledge that over the course of these last four months we have put forward some initiatives that everybody would have applauded. I am not asking for plaudits but I, on behalf of the department, accept them.

With respect to the other questions regarding Beijing, I would like to answer each one of those specifically, and I will accept them in writing and return them in writing.

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11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Chair, my comment about the quota relates to resourcing because we know that an FTE, a staff member, a professional, can only handle approximately so many files in a year, and the department knows that. It makes that planning based on that.

However, when year after year our source points are tested by applicants, one would think that at some point there would be some kind of service demand relation that the department would respond to the kind of demand that it was getting out there in the field. If it does not do that, then it is artificially, by budget, setting a quota. This is what I have been seeing going on year after year at Beijing.

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11:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that we are resourced to meet the levels that are outlined by Parliament. That has been the case ever since I have been here for 17 years. The levels are set by Parliament and then Parliament sets out the resources to ensure that the department can meet those resources. As I said, we have had demand exceed the positions available and so we will have to deal with those issues.

However, I want to give some good news, if it has not come out yet. About 80% of all spousal applications, for example, are done within 12 months. It is not fast enough, but it is pretty darned good. About 72% of temporary resident visas are issued within two days and 72% of student applications are finalized within 28 days. These are measures of a department that is actually meeting performance criteria set independently of its own mission.

So, not everything is bad. We acknowledge that we are making progress toward another level. That is already a reflection that we are our own critics, as we move forward. However, it is important to understand that we are moving forward.

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11:25 p.m.

The Chair

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill has one minute if she wants to wrap up this discussion.

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11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Chair, I am sure everyone is desolate that I only have one minute, but I would like to say not to the minister but to the whole House that this is a disappointing process. We spent four hours here and I did not notice even one specific answer.

We have a lot of wisdom in the House. There are many people who have a great deal of experience and a lot of heart for the immigration system. Yet tonight there were a lot of platitudes and very little specifics. I think it is a shame. Specific questions were asked and specific issues were raised, but other than some adept violin playing, there was very little in the way of a real exchange of specific, positive and helpful ideas.

We need to re-examine the whole system of committee of the whole, Mr. Chair. We have to make this work for Canadians better than it did tonight.

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11:30 p.m.

The Chair

It being 11:30 p.m. all votes are deemed to have been reported pursuant to Standing Order 81(4). The committee will rise and I will now leave the chair.

(All Citizenship and Immigration votes reported)

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11:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11:30 p.m.)