Evidence of meeting #2 for Health in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was china.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul MacKinnon  Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency
Heather Jeffrey  Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Patrick Tanguy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Aaron McCrorie  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport
Denis Vinette  Vice-President, Travellers Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Tanguy, can you tell us how long the Government Operations Centre has been in place and operating 24-7?

4:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

I don't have that exact information at this time, but I can get back to you on that.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Very well.

Mr. MacKinnon, you said that, from January 22 to February 2, a total of 791 travellers answered yes when asked whether they were coming from Hubei province, and that 18 of them indicated that they felt ill.

Where did those people end up?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Paul MacKinnon

With regard to the 791 people, we don't know exactly their end destinations, but they're released—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

I mean the 18 who said they had some illness. Where are they?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Paul MacKinnon

Those 18 went to PHAC for further examination. At that point, it's up to PHAC to decide. If they are ill enough to go to a local public health provider, they would do that, but—

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

I see, but when those people arrive and report feeling ill, does the current protocol dictate that they be referred to a doctor, that they be examined or that they be placed in quarantine? Are they simply told to go see a doctor in their area?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Paul MacKinnon

No, they do not at all.

From our perspective at the border, if somebody comes in, the first question we ask is, “Have you been to Hubei province?” That's really the first tranche that's important to us. If they say yes to that, with our front-line border officers there is more questioning. What we're really focused on at that point is, are they ill or do we see signs of their being physically ill? If the answer to that is yes, we will refer them to a PHAC quarantine officer at that point. They make the determination whether or not the person should go for a medical examination, or if the person is so ill, from their perspective, they should immediately go to a health care provider.

I should say also, Mr. Chair, that if our officers notice, upon arrival, that someone is so ill that it's obvious and there's no need for extra questioning, they too will send that person immediately to the local health care provider.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

All right.

Can you tell us which sections of the Quarantine Act are currently applicable? Sections 12 to 33, for instance, pertain to arriving travellers. Are those sections of the act being enforced?

4:10 p.m.

Denis Vinette Vice-President, Travellers Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Thank you for your question.

The Quarantine Act authorizes us to perform our role as screening officers.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Do you know exactly which sections of the act are currently applicable? As you know, the act gives additional powers to officers on the ground. Are those powers officially being used?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Travellers Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Denis Vinette

The measures we are applying at this time are the same ones we apply all the time.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

It's voluntary.

February 3rd, 2020 / 4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Travellers Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Denis Vinette

Under the act, people have an obligation to inform us. Our officers are trained to observe people and question them.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

The act includes provisions allowing officers to force an individual to submit to an examination in situations where a person isn't willing to co-operate. Are those provisions being enforced?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Travellers Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Denis Vinette

It's a medical examination. I'm not sure which section of the act that falls under. Our role would be to refer the individual to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which would then make the appropriate decisions.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ron McKinnon

Thank you, Monsieur Paul-Hus.

We go now to Ms. Sidhu for six minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you all for coming here today, and for all the hard work you do for all Canadians.

My first question is for Global Affairs. The evacuation of Canadians from China impacts Canadians in many ridings across the country. I have been contacted by a number of residents from my riding of Brampton South who are presently in China seeking evacuation and return home. Can you describe the consular services and supports that are available to Canadians who remain in China?

My second question is, what services are in place to ensure the safekeeping and well-being of Canadian minors with non-citizen parents?

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

Heather Jeffrey

We have a network of consulates, along with our embassy in China, that provide consular service. They have teams of consular experts who are available to solve problems, work with local authorities, refer to medical services and deal with the issues that come up, in this case related to the quarantine and the health crisis. We also have, on a 24-7 basis, an emergency watch and response centre based here in Ottawa, with consular officers responding to requests at night. It's open to our missions around the world. Since the beginning of this outbreak, it has been staffed by a very large number of officers who are there to respond to questions, exchange information, and determine what the needs of Canadians are.

Our response to consular cases is really done on an individual basis. Every family has a different structure, a different need, different concerns, and so we try to address those.

You referenced the case of Canadian minors. Obviously, any vulnerable population, in particular young children, is a top priority for us. In any prioritization, they're at the top of our list. We understand that those children need and require their guardians and caregivers to be with them. We understand that, in China, there are a number of families with very complex structures—Canadian citizens, Chinese citizens, permanent residents.

The Government of China has a particular approach to dual nationality. It does not recognize dual nationality. However, in this case we have been working very hard, in our interactions with the Government of China, to emphasize that in difficult humanitarian contexts like this one, it's very important to not separate family units and to keep people together. The Government of China has indicated, as our minister indicated earlier today, that where there are direct family linkages with Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of Canada—who are parents, for example, of a Canadian citizen child—they will work with us in our efforts to keep those families together.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

My understanding is that for the first contact, they can contact Global Affairs. I heard there are 1-800 lines already set up. Do they have to consult with the consulate over there?

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

Heather Jeffrey

Our recommendation is that they call our 1-800 number, which is 24-7, and/or contact our email mailbox, which gets you into direct contact with consular staff here in Ottawa. Due to the high volume of calls, the staff will be receiving and providing advice to everyone who calls. They are working with the local consular officers on the ground where direct intervention is required with local authorities for a particular context.

We use our capacity here in the call centre to really supplement the local resources overseas and to cover during hours when those missions are closed and so on, but we are in contact with them 24 hours a day.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

My next question is for Public Safety. Can you describe what steps your organization is taking to ensure that border measures implemented in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak do not promote stigma or discrimination?

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

I missed part of the question.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

To ensure that the coronavirus does not promote stigma or discrimination, any kind of discrimination, what kind of measures are in place?

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

I thought I heard the border angle of the question, so I would invite my colleagues from CBSA to comment.