Evidence of meeting #11 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was question.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marian Campbell Jarvis  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Matt de Vlieger  Director General, Immigration, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Louis Dumas  Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Jonathan Wallace  Director General, Temporary Foreign Workers Program, Department of Employment and Social Development
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Before you do that, I have one quick question to add to that.

Is it true that if this issue isn't resolved, no immigration can happen this year?

3:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Marian Campbell Jarvis

No immigration can happen this year...?

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

I mean under this program.

3:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Marian Campbell Jarvis

You mean under the agri-pilot.

We may have difficulties with landings because of the travel bans, but there are actually already people here in Canada who would be able to apply and proceed. People who are already here in Canada can now apply and use this pathway. It's the people from overseas who would have more challenges, just because of the COVID context and the travel bans.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Wallace, my colleague Mr. Blois was asking something along the same lines. I'm wondering if there was an attempt ever to have streamlined federal guidelines for the quarantine measures that were to happen for temporary foreign workers or seasonal agricultural workers upon arrival. I know they're under provincial jurisdiction, as far as health goes, but was there ever an attempt—

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I'm sorry, Ms. Rood; we're out of time. Maybe you'll have a chance again for Ms. Campbell to finish your question.

I now yield the floor to Ms. Lyne Bessette.

Ms. Bessette, you have five minutes.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Since many producers and farmers in my riding benefit from the help of temporary foreign workers, I am pleased to see that there has been some relief in terms of paperwork. The process announced on May 12 is making our administration more efficient and getting workers to work quickly.

Can you explain to the committee how this helps workers? Is it possible to keep this relief in the future, or is it only temporary?

3:40 p.m.

Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Louis Dumas

Mr. Chair, if I may, I'm going to answer the first part of the member's question, and I'll ask my colleagues to talk about future progress in this area.

With respect to paperwork, we have indeed made great efforts to compress the administrative process. We've really tried to streamline it. I will give a few examples. On the ground, overseas, we have had close discussions with the staff of the departments of labour and the visa application centres. So it was a matter of having a good synergy. We also worked very closely with our colleagues at Global Affairs Canada.

Earlier, I mentioned biometrics. With the help of the Canada Border Services Agency, we have been able to obtain biometric data at ports of entry. It is very helpful to us. We have really focused on the demands of agricultural workers so that they are given priority. We are doing that not only abroad but also in Canada. We have created specialized teams. We have also brought some of our officers who were abroad back to Canada for medical or family reasons. They're now working in Ottawa on these files.

In Canada, we have asked that all applications from agricultural workers be fast-tracked. As you mentioned, people picking strawberries on Île d'Orléans could pick apples in Montérégie in the fall, for example. So there needs to be a great deal of flexibility in the system in order to be able to meet the needs.

I'm going to ask my colleagues to continue on the topic of future progress.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Director General, Immigration, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Matt de Vlieger

Thank you for the question.

The question was about the new policy that was announced on May 12, last week.

The question was about whether this a temporary measure. It is a temporary measure. It's a public policy that waives some of the current requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for any work permit, there has to be an application before you can get on to a new work permit. What this new policy does is that it allows somebody, if they've found a new job, have that job offer and it's backed up by a labour market impact assessment.... Because of the context we're in with COVID, because of the number of people impacted who might be laid off, might have had trouble finding new employment, if they've secured new employment, we're going to facilitate their getting into work as quickly as possible, so within 10 days. That's a temporary measure.

The act does want the full application processing to happen. That's what we'd be looking at for the longer term, making sure that all of those application steps happen.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Thank you.

Do you see the effects of this new process? Are they being felt?

3:40 p.m.

Director General, Immigration, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Matt de Vlieger

It's early days. We're within the first week, so there are no trends.

I understand that there are upwards of 300 applications in already. Those are people who have submitted their application for a work permit, as well as the web form for this particular public policy to be able to be authorized to work within those 10-day periods.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

With respect to the seasonal agricultural workers program, I know how complex it is to coordinate the whole thing. Not only are there groups from the agricultural sector, but also representatives from foreign governments.

As for the process announced on May 12, which groups were targeted in the decision-making process?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Your time is up. Mr. de Vlieger may be able to answer you later.

Mr. Perron, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

That will be Ms. Desbiens, since I took her turn in the previous round of questions.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

All right.

Ms. Desbiens, we're listening.

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you also to Mr. Perron.

Good afternoon, everyone.

I thank the witnesses for being here. We worked with them to urgently repatriate Quebeckers during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are grateful for their cooperation.

I'll get back to the complexity of the situation. "It's an ill wind...", as they say. It wasn't all drama, it was a time for us to reflect on the future.

In this regard, what would your priorities be for streamlining the system? What would you do now to make the temporary foreign worker program more effective on a permanent basis?

3:45 p.m.

Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Louis Dumas

Thank you for the question.

My first thought would be about the need to move towards a more digital system. We are still very dependent on paper-based information. As you can imagine, we need to have access to certain files, and that presents some pretty big challenges.

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

In another connection, the Internet should be accessible to all if we opt for digital.

My question is about closed versus open permits. Couldn't easing the rules be a permanent solution? Think, for example, of the people who pick strawberries on Île d'Orléans in July, beans in August and apples in October....

May 22nd, 2020 / 3:45 p.m.

Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Louis Dumas

Mr. Chair, my fellow politicians could answer that question better. So I'm going to give the floor to Ms. Campbell Jarvis or Mr. de Vlieger.

3:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Marian Campbell Jarvis

I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch the question.

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

I was saying that there was a desire to lighten the rules on open permits and employer-specific permits so that people could move from one employer to another, no matter what work they do, because the skills are similar.

In the event of a recovery after the COVID-19 crisis, would it be possible to make these measures permanent?

3:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Marian Campbell Jarvis

We have put several measures in place. One of my colleagues has already described the situation with respect to public policy on the transfer of permits.

This initiative allows people to start a new job, whether they're switching between employers or they've lost their job. It's this kind of measure. Whereas in the past they would have had to wait for a new work permit before they could start, they can now apply under the public policy and have an exemption and can begin to work while they're waiting for their work permit to be processed.

This kind of—

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you. I'm going to have to move on to the next one.

Mr. MacGregor, you have two and a half minutes. Go ahead.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you so much, Chair.

What I want to ask our witnesses—we're running out of questions here, so I guess that's a good thing—concerns the funding announcement that was made with regard to the $50 million allocated to help employers with the costs of putting their workers into the 14-day isolation period. I believe each employer is entitled to $1,500 per worker.

Can you provide the committee with an update on how the budgeting for that particular program is going, how much of the funding has been used, and whether it looks like it's going to be an adequate amount going forward in the weeks and months ahead?