Evidence of meeting #62 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cases.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Janet Siddall  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Clark Goodman  Acting Director, Citizenship and Immigration Program Delivery, Operational Management and Coordination Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Rose Anne Poirier  Manager, Program Support, Case Processing Centre, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Rosemarie Redden  Manager, Citizenship Case Review, Case Management Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Margaret Dritsas  Nationality Law Advisor, Citizenship Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Eric Stevens  Legal Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Samy Agha

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

The meeting will come to order.

We have with us officials from the department and we're going to be talking about the issue of the lost Canadians.

June 5th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I have a point of order, if I can.

On the agenda, one item is missing. When we last broke from the committee, before the minister came to see us on Tuesday afternoon, I had put forth a motion regarding getting information on Mr. Taylor and for this committee to look at it, giving the department 30 days, and for us to look at in camera. That was put off until we heard from the minister. If that was not dealt with in the minister's speech, it was to be brought back. I'm sure that if you read the blues, it's in there. I'd like that to be put on the agenda, please--the motion that I deferred.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

Okay.

Go ahead, Barry.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

My preference would be, I think, to proceed with the agenda as stated. We have witnesses here today, and there's committee business at the end of the agenda today; when we get to that, I think it would be the appropriate time to hear Mr. Karygiannis's motion.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, that's exactly what I'm looking for--that the motion be dealt with in committee business--but it's not on the agenda, and I'm asking that the motion be brought back in, to be dealt with at the end of the agenda, as it was something we deferred.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

Okay, we'll do that five minutes from the end.

I'll call on Ms. Siddall.

11:10 a.m.

Janet Siddall Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm very happy to be here, and I thank the honourable members for their interest in this very important issue.

I have been following the deliberations of this committee very closely. As a public servant with 23 years of experience at CIC, and as the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for carrying out the Minister's instructions regarding Lost Canadians, I hope I can, along with my colleagues, answer any outstanding questions you may still have.

With me today are Margaret Dritsas, nationality law advisor; John Warner, analyst; Rosemarie Redden, manager, citizenship case review; Clark Goodman, acting director, CIC program delivery; Rose Anne Poirier, manager, program support; and Eric Stevens, legal counsel. Melba Hefferon and Hugh MacDonald, who live and work in Sydney, Nova Scotia, are not here today because of their responsibilities as primary caregivers.

As the minister was just here last week updating the committee about the question of lost citizenship and other issues, I will keep my opening remarks brief.

As you know, the minister instructed the department in January to dedicate resources specifically to dealing with these cases that have come to be known as lost Canadians.

And we have done that. Among other things, we have set up a dedicated line in our call centre so that those with questions about their citizenship would be served by operators trained to address those types of questions.

We also ensured that those cases that require further investigation are given prompt and individual attention. As an additional measure, we launched a public awareness advertising campaign last week. Since setting up our dedicated phone lines, we have been able to confirm to over 96% of our callers that they are indeed Canadian citizens. Since launching the public awareness campaign, we have received an increase in the number of calls, but again, in over 96% of the cases we have been able to confirm citizenship.

We have continued our concerted effort to resolve the citizenship status of those new and existing cases that have been brought to our attention. Today our inventory is approximately 300, which includes the cases on hold because of the Taylor decision. With the help of our legal colleagues, we have been able to limit, to the extent possible, the number of cases that must be held in abeyance because of the Federal Court of Appeal order. This number now stands at approximately 250, but this situation is not static. Our inventory of cases will continue to fluctuate as new cases are identified and existing cases are resolved.

As you know, Mr. Chair, the Minister last week told this Committee that she plans to introduce legislative amendments to the Citizenship Act in the fall, to address the most pressing circumstances the Committee has been looking at.

Once Parliament has tabled new legislation and amendments are in place, as the associate assistant deputy minister I am absolutely committed to ensuring that we will implement with the dedication and professionalism that we in the operations sector have always brought to our work. In the interim, my colleagues and I will continue to do our very best to help those who have questions about their citizenship status to resolve them with the best possible outcome.

Merci, monsieur le président.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

Thank you.

We're going to go to our seven-minute round.

Mr. Karygiannis.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Thank you all for being here.

Let me assure you that it's not the wish of the committee to put you under any difficulty. However, we need to get some questions answered. As we hear from people who are affected by this, they seem to want you to bear the brunt for this. As we ask the tough questions, I think you have to understand that some of the questions are from the individuals who are affected by this and they're asking them through us.

My first question is as follows. Ms. Hefferon and Mr. MacDonald couldn't be here today because of their responsibilities as primary caregivers. As an individual who has older parents, I understand their duties lie with their families first and foremost. However, if an individual whose case has been dealt with by the department officials and has dealt with one official and the individual sends a fax to that official, shouldn't it be the responsibility of that official to look at the fax? Shouldn't it also be the responsibility of that official to act on that fax and answer the individual?

11:15 a.m.

Clark Goodman Acting Director, Citizenship and Immigration Program Delivery, Operational Management and Coordination Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Chair, is this in relation to a specific case?

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Yes, it is.

11:15 a.m.

Acting Director, Citizenship and Immigration Program Delivery, Operational Management and Coordination Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Clark Goodman

Would you like to answer that?

11:15 a.m.

Rose Anne Poirier Manager, Program Support, Case Processing Centre, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Certainly, Mr. Chair, in general terms, I can assure you that when officials at the case processing centre in Sydney where Ms. Hefferon works are contacted by applicants, it is with great commitment that we respond to questions, correspondence, and faxes that come to us from our clients.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Could you also please advise this committee what the turnaround time is to a request from MPs? What's your guideline for members of Parliament on how fast you respond to them?

11:15 a.m.

Manager, Program Support, Case Processing Centre, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Rose Anne Poirier

We do have a process in place at the case processing centre that we will do our best to provide a response to members of Parliament within a 24- to 48-hour period.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Ms. Siddall, would you say that when a question goes to a member of your team in Sydney and is also copied to Mr. Smith and the deputy minister, the courtesy from one of those three should be to answer that e-mail and that request that was put forth to the member of Parliament by an individual that is affected and that they should answer back within 24 hours?

11:15 a.m.

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

Janet Siddall

I think, Mr. Chair, that our processing standards of 24 to 48 hours for members of Parliament are quite good. It is a very busy office in Sydney and elsewhere throughout our network but we do endeavour to give preferential treatment in turning around inquiries from members of Parliament. In other cases where there's complexity and more time must be taken in order to review the case and ensure that we're providing the correct information, then that would take more time.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

A week or two weeks?

11:15 a.m.

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

Janet Siddall

For the processing times in Sydney?

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

On the complex question?

11:15 a.m.

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

Janet Siddall

That could even take up to a month. What we try to do is provide an acknowledgement that we have received the request for information, but that we need more time to study the case.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Ms. Siddall, how long should the acknowledgement be in forthcoming—in a couple of hours or a couple of days?

11:15 a.m.

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

Janet Siddall

For the processing standards I'm going to turn to Rose Anne.

11:15 a.m.

Manager, Program Support, Case Processing Centre, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Rose Anne Poirier

Mr. Chair, what we attempt to do in responding to inquiries put forward by members of Parliament is to provide a response, to acknowledge the fact that we have received the questions. Depending on the individual case, if we are able to provide a pretty straightforward response, we will do so on the first communication back to the members of Parliament. We endeavour very much to do that within 24 to 48 hours. Sometimes, however, when we deal with a more complex case, and each case has to be evaluated on its own merits, it can be more time-consuming before we can provide a response with more in-depth information on the case, but we will have provided that information to the member of Parliament.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Let me be specific. There was a fax sent to Melba Hefferon, way back, by the case processing centre, to put a hold on everything. Mr. Joe Taylor has sent me that fax. I personally e-mailed it to Melba Hefferon about four weeks ago, with no response. I personally e-mailed it to Mr. Ernest Smith and to the deputy minister about a week ago, with no response. Therefore, what I'm asking is whether that is proper in terms of operational procedures.