Evidence of meeting #9 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was continue.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Catrina Tapley  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Philippe Massé  Director General, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
Louis Dumas  Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

When will that be? Will it be next week? It'll be 12 weeks then that we have been waiting for a response.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

We will be back to you next week, yes.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Before Friday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. central time, you will provide me with an answer for resolution for my constituent.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

We will be back to you before then, yes.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Thank you. Great.

That's all, Mr. Chair.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you.

Mr. Turnbull is next.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I feel a lot of gratitude for having the Minister of Immigration here. Thanks, Minister Mendicino, for being here. I also want to echo the sentiments of my colleagues who found your office and yourself to be accessible and responsive at this time, which is really great to see. It is much needed and much appreciated. I also want to say thanks to your team. I know every minister is backed by a very strong team and yours is no exception.

I have three areas of questioning. My colleagues have echoed some of my comments, so I may focus in other places.

My first question is about the settlement service agencies. Canada has a network of settlement service agencies that I think is very robust. This network plays an essential role in the successful integration process for both immigrants and refugees. What is being done to ensure that enough flexibility is given to those organizations at this time to support immigrants, refugees, international students, temporary foreign workers, non-status persons and any others who may be experiencing heightened vulnerability during the pandemic that we're in?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Thank you, Mr. Turnbull, both for your work in this area and for the very constructive conversation that we had recently with regard to the work that settlement service organizations are doing across the country, as well for your advocacy regarding vulnerable populations. Let me just say a few words about the latter, because I believe it's the gist of your question.

Our government has invested over $157.5 million to support municipalities in addressing people who are living in vulnerable situations. This is in addition to $50 million that we have provided to help women's shelters and victims of gender-based violence, to strengthen their capacity to manage throughout the course of the outbreak. In addition to that, we have provided $100 million to Food Banks Canada, which will again provide food security and the necessities of life that are required for our vulnerable populations. These are just a couple of the very concrete investments and initiatives that we have put into place to ensure that no one is left behind throughout the course of COVID-19.

I directly engage with our settlement service organizations routinely. I have been holding frequent calls with our umbrella organizations across the country, including the likes of OCASI and COSTI. I think we owe them a debt of gratitude. They too are adapting to the circumstances, and they are providing the essential support that is needed to our vulnerable populations throughout COVID-19. That's work that I look forward to continuing with them.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thanks very much, Minister. That's great. It's great to hear that there's a close working relationship with those organizations, because I think they play an essential role.

I want to go back to the temporary foreign worker program. We all know just how important this program is to our food system, and the food system is particularly vulnerable right now during this pandemic. I'm concerned about labour mobility and many temporary foreign workers potentially not being able to work in the jobs that were initially intended for them. I want to understand a little better how the program's been adapted to accommodate and support them in being able to find work elsewhere, hopefully relatively quickly for everybody's sake.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

As I mentioned earlier to my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, we are looking at and continuing to study options to create that flexibility within the closed work permit class, particularly for those temporary foreign workers whose visas have expired or for those who have lost their work. We are prioritizing the extensions of those visas and working very closely with those workers as well as the employers in the essential services sectors, such as the health sector, as well as those in the food sector and the agricultural and seafood sectors, to try to provide the continuity that they require.

I will also say that we have ensured that workers in this sector have implied status while they move on to that next position, and we'll continue to find ways to prioritize them, because we know that this is vital for food security for all Canadians.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Great. That means that if they have a new job offer and a labour market impact assessment, then essentially, I think, they're able to work right away. Is that right?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

It depends on exactly the kind of permit. Some permits are more restrictive than others. In some cases there is an ability to move from one job to another within the same organization or the same employer, but in some other cases it's very much restricted to the position itself.

Those are precisely the types of solutions that we are looking to create through some additional flexibility. In the meantime, I believe the resources and the expedited processes that have been put into place, not only by my department but also by my colleagues Minister Qualtrough and Madame Bibeau, will together ensure that we have the ability to move workers around to fill the gaps in seasonal agricultural work, because this is a critical time of year and the planting and seeding season has to continue.

As a matter of fact, we've made a lot of good progress, as I mentioned, Mr. Turnbull. We saw really good numbers in April and we're starting to see those numbers pick up in May as well.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Turnbull.

We will go to Mr. Kent. Go ahead for five minutes, please.

Noon

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, many rejections of approved TFWs at border entry points seem to be a result of inconsistent recognition or refusal by CBSA officers of the workers' approved status. How is this being resolved?

Noon

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

It's being resolved when those cases and those issues are brought to my attention, Of course, you and I have worked very closely on that. I thank you for your collaboration, and we will continue to do that work together. I'll just say there has been a real and renewed spirit of collaboration among all members in the House, and that is vital to resolving these issues.

We have tried in the interim to provide operational clarity and guidelines to our partners at CBSA. By and large, the system—both the travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the exemptions regime, which includes temporary foreign workers—is working very effectively. That was evidenced last month by the good numbers that we saw in the arrivals of temporary foreign workers in the seasonal agricultural sector. We are starting to see the same progress with those numbers picking up in May as well.

Noon

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

The Province of New Brunswick is the only province to have imposed a blockade, if you will, against approved temporary foreign workers. How has the government worked to resolve that difference?

Noon

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I'm not entirely sure that's how New Brunswick characterized it, Mr. Kent, but I will tell you that I have been engaged with my provincial counterpart in that province, and I know that all levels of our government have been engaged with our counterparts in New Brunswick. As with all provinces, New Brunswick officials are making decisions that they feel are the best in terms of the public health care interests of their people. It's a jurisdiction that we share with New Brunswick.

However, I'm also assured by New Brunswick officials that they are committed to the temporary foreign worker program in the long run, and that is a collaboration that will continue.

In the meantime, for the New Brunswick temporary foreign workers who are impacted, we have found new work for them in the region so as to ensure that we're taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to guaranteeing our food supply chain.

Noon

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you.

Can you provide an update on department operations with regard to economic immigration through express entry and the provincial sponsorship programs, as well as the pilot projects? Are any of these programs suspended pending the end of the COVID crisis?

Noon

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

As I mentioned, Mr. Kent, our operational capabilities have been impacted by COVID-19, just as all lines of business in government have been affected and, quite honestly, as all of society and all businesses have been. Notwithstanding those challenges, we have set up new alternative processes. We have equipped our personnel with the online tools and resources they need to continue landings. Those landings will continue in a variety of classes, including in the economic class and the humanitarian class.

As you know, we will be providing some additional numbers and an update in the fall, and I look forward to delivering more news at that time.

Noon

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Would it be prudent in the short term to assign more decision-making responsibility to provinces and municipalities with regard to immigration and refugee intake, given the very different needs and capacity-absorbing capabilities of different regions of the country?

Noon

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Kent, we always stand ready to receive offers of support from our provincial partners when it comes to landing refugees in the humanitarian sector. I will always accept a call from my provincial colleagues on that front.

In the meantime, we are collaborating very closely when it comes to the administration of the provincial nominee program, which is a program that has for many years been a tool used by the provinces in concert with the overall levels plan that we intend to continue to ensure is implemented. I'm looking forward to an upcoming FPT meeting with my provincial colleagues this summer.

Noon

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you. Thank you, Chair.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Kent, and thank you, Minister.

Mr. Vaughan, you have five minutes, please.

May 8th, 2020 / noon

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Thank you very much.

On the issue that was raised by my colleague from the Conservatives, I have a couple of questions about the refugee flow into the country during this time. You referenced that it hadn't stopped. How many regular refugees have arrived, and under which categories?