Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the staff for being here.
I think it's fair to say that all members of Parliament appreciate the work that you do in your department. I can tell you on a personal level that the more I've learned about this file since I joined this committee, the more I appreciate the complexity of what this department does and the importance of this issue to the people who are involved.
You said that for the people who call in about 96% can be assured that their citizenship is fine, that they are Canadian citizens. So I guess it's really the 4% that we're talking about, and if you've been following this committee, you'll know that in the past many weeks we've heard people from the 4%, so to speak. We've had many compelling stories told here that quite frankly sound like no-brainers to us, that the stories that we're hearing ought not to be a problem and yet they are. So that's what I think we're trying to dig down into in this committee and deal with.
There is one concern we've heard this morning, and I share this as well. We appreciate the fact that the department is advertising that this hotline has been set up. I know that advertising is a bottomless pit that you can just pour endless resources into and still not everyone will hear what you've done. But I think that's one concern—whether there's been enough. And I look forward to seeing some of the documents that get tabled in terms of the amount of advertising and how it has gone.
The increase in the number of calls per day suggests that the issue has a higher profile than it did before, and I imagine part of that is due to the advertising. I suspect part of it's due to the media coverage of the story that has taken place over the past couple of months.
One of the issues that come up when we've heard witnesses has to do with the way that information is conveyed to people. We've heard stories regarding people coming into one of your offices. Quite frankly we've heard stories about people coming in to MPs' offices and asking a question about their citizenship and they get told almost casually, or have been told almost casually, “Oh, by the way, you may not be a Canadian citizen”. This shakes people to their foundation if they've been in Canada for decades and all of a sudden someone drops this on them like a bombshell.
As I listened to that testimony what struck me, as an analogy, is if you went to a doctor's office and you had some tests done, you wouldn't show up two days later and have the receptionist say, “Oh, gee, I think I heard you have cancer, but I'm not sure, it could be somebody else”. The notion is that in the medical profession or community there are strict protocols in terms of how information is conveyed back to people, recognizing the sensitivity of it. Certainly having listened to the testimony, my sense was that we haven't dealt with this information maybe as carefully or as sensitively as we have in the past.
So both in terms of the 4% of the people who call in whom you cannot tell right off the bat there's no problem, but also in terms of the people who may walk into one of your offices or just call a general number rather than your hotline, are there protocols in place? Have new protocols been developed to ensure that your staff are dealing with people in a sensitive way, recognizing the way that this information may hit somebody? Can you bring us up to speed in terms of what you've done in that area and whether you feel that you've done enough?