This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #32 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Les Linklater  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Peter Hill  Director General, Post-Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency
Jennifer Irish  Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Michael MacDonald  Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Public Safety Canada
Alexandre Roger  Procedural Clerk, House of Commons
Joe Oliver  Director General, Border Integrity, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Marie Estabrooks  Manager, Biometrics Policy (programs and projects), Emerging Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency
Chuck Walker  Director General, Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Alain Desruisseaux  Director General, Admissibility Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Sean Rehaag  Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Representative, David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights - University of Toronto
Audrey Macklin  Representative, Professor, Faculty of Law and School for Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto, David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights - University of Toronto
Barbara Jackman  Lawyer, As an Individual

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Ms. Irish, you can give it to the clerk.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Linklater, I'm wondering if you can tell me why it is, given the seriousness of the problem, it has taken the bureaucracy to raise the profile of this particular issue with the ministry. How long has this particular minister been aware of the seriousness of the backlogs?

9:15 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

I think we have to take a step back and look at the amount of time that's invested in terms of doing the policy work to support certain legislative initiatives such as this.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I'm sorry, we've run out of time.

Mr. Leung.

April 30th, 2012 / 9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Chair, what I want to do is continue on with this line of thought. If it costs about $230 per day and that's about $84,000 per year, so wouldn't it be more expeditious if we, within a 30-day period, deemed the person inadmissible to Canada and deported that person?

9:15 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

Our estimates are that with the provisions contained in Bill C-31 that's generally what will happen. The claims will be heard on a much faster basis. Those who need protection will then be channeled in to the permanent resident stream much more quickly, and we wouldn't be removing those individuals. Those individuals who are found not to need Canada's protection would then be moved into the removal stream with the view that removal would take place within one year from their last negative decision at the IRB, whether that's the RPD or the new appeal division. With new tools like the assisted voluntary returns program, which Mr. Hill mentioned in his opening remarks, we feel that this is going to help incent individuals to depart Canada voluntarily as well, and will allow CBSA to focus on high-profile and serious cases for removal within that one-year period.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Could you walk me through the decision path that happens when an individual comes in one of these mass arrivals, irregular arrivals. What is your first step? If he comes in and says, “I'm a refugee claimant”, what is our first step to identify his identity, and how do we communicate with the country of origin to confirm that? Then the next stage would then be to ask if he is a true refugee, and does he pose a threat to Canada. Could you walk me through that process also in terms of time and so on?

In my opinion I think it would be much more expeditious if we can have an earlier decision to deport these people.

9:15 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

I will ask Mr. Hill from the agency to walk you through the screening process.

9:15 a.m.

Director General, Post-Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Peter Hill

Operationally speaking, when a vessel arrives with several hundred individuals aboard, the first concern is health and safety. To ensure that the passengers are not suffering from some kind of communicable disease, the health issue is addressed. That's the first step.

The second step is to determine identity, which can be challenging. Individuals often arrive either undocumented or they have discarded their document overboard during the voyage. They may have attempted to destroy their documents. So it is quite a laborious and time-consuming process to confirm identity. If there is evidence, it then needs to be matched with individuals. Documentation needs to be assessed on whether it is fraudulent or was fraudulently obtained.

The agency will not attempt to communicate or exchange information with the country of origin because there are concerns about ensuring that the identity of asylum claimants is not revealed. Therefore, the agency relies on cooperation with like-minded countries and other partners, to determine whether they have information that would help confirm the identity of individuals.

The third step is then a question of admissibility, on a case-by-case basis. Once identity has been established, further checks with respect to security and database checks in partnership with Canadian agencies and international partners, confirm whether or not an individual has been associated with organized crime or crimes against humanity, or if there is any association with organizations involved in terrorism.

This process is time-consuming. It may extend over a number of countries in view of concerns about human smuggling. Generally, this is the process followed when we have a mass arrival.

I would say that it presents tremendous pressure on the CBSA to maintain the detention review schedule, which happens at 48 hours, 7 days, and 30 days. Currently, the agency is moving flat out to bring the required information to the IRB at the detention reviews, to confirm that there are concerns with respect to identity and admissibility, and to maintain detention.

That process does not serve the agency well. It was never designed for mass arrivals. One of the key proposals in this legislation is to deal with that, so that CBSA and RCMP, for example, have the time to conduct the necessary checks.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Have we learned any lessons from either the state of Israel or Taiwan? Both countries have faced issues similar to this in the past. How do you prevent potential terrorists from slipping through the net? Sometimes this information is not adequately documented anywhere in the world. On a worldwide basis, how do you prevent terrorists from slipping through the net?

9:20 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

Could I ask Mr. MacDonald to respond?

9:20 a.m.

Michael MacDonald Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Public Safety Canada

You're correct about this being a global phenomenon. All countries face this, and as Mr. Linklater mentioned, for example, the Arab Spring that happened not long ago posed certain challenges to all border authorities around the world, certainly to those in Europe.

The way you have to prevent terrorists from slipping through the net goes along with what I was talking about last week—working with our key allies, having a robust prevention strategy that operates overseas, and sharing information appropriately with key allies. Oftentimes, it comes down to very strong intelligence work.

Then, should a mass arrival happen at your border, what we've learned from the MV Sun Sea and MV Ocean Lady is the key aspect that Mr. Hill just talked about—ensuring that the border authorities have the time to do the proper checks, and the time to go out and work with their international colleagues to exchange information, if necessary, to help establish identity and admissibility.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We're way over. I'm sorry.

Madam Groguhé.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank the witnesses for being here today.

I would like to ask a question about Bill C-11.

For that bill, a committee was appointed to designate safe countries of origin. With respect to designating these safe countries, the minister considers it important to have some flexibility to be able to act quickly.

What do you think about the idea of imposing a delay on the committee, rather than taking away its authority to designate countries of origin safe?

9:20 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

If I understand the question correctly, Mr. Chair, you want to know whether we will consider a delay…

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

I would like to know what you think about the idea of imposing a delay on this committee that was set up so it can act and make a decision as quickly as possible, rather than completely taking away its responsibility for designating countries safe.

9:20 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

The current bill sets out that certain factors included in the regulations will be taken into account with respect to the trigger of an assessment of conditions relating to countries that could be designated by the minister. It's the minister who does it, while it was based on a recommendation from the committee in the previous bill.

As for maintaining some flexibility and the work of the departments involved in the refugee protection process, we think that, based on the information available, we will be able to make recommendations to the minister more quickly on the designation of countries and that there will not be immediate decisions based on the legislative criteria. An aspect of qualitative analysis will be added to the quantitative factors.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees highlighted the importance of adopting a mechanism that would make it possible to revise the list of safe countries in order to respond to the gradual or sudden changes that arise in a given country. Could you please explain the planned procedure for reviewing, updating and issuing designations by departmental order?

9:25 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

I'll ask Ms. Irish to explain to you how it will work.

9:25 a.m.

Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Jennifer Irish

The UNHCR indicates that you can have a designated country of origin process as long as it's based on verifiable and objective information. It does recognize that one consequence of designation can be expedited processing.

In order to meet the criteria as outlined by the UNHCR, we have set up a system that involves two stages. The first is to hit a quantitative trigger. We will set that trigger by ministerial order to be a 75% rejection rate or higher, or a 60% abandonment rate or higher. There will be no requirement for there to be a certain volume of claims coming in.

For fewer than 30 claims, there will be a separate test. Basically, it will be a checklist of verifiable qualities associated with the country, including its ability to have basic democratic freedoms, freely operating NGOs, and an independent judiciary. Once those triggers are hit, there is an analysis. The analysis includes the system of government and also the ability of the state to provide recourse and basic human rights. That will be done by an interdepartmental panel. That panel will be getting information from independent actors, including the UNHCR. That's how we will meet the test provided by the UNHCR in its recommendations.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Would it be possible to provide the committee with the information you are referring to?

9:25 a.m.

Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Jennifer Irish

Yes, of course.

9:25 a.m.

Alexandre Roger Procedural Clerk, House of Commons

It would have to be sent in writing.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Would you send that to the clerk, please?

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

In the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the legislator made it possible to hold the refugee claimant on limited grounds, particularly to verify the person's identity while complying with Canadian legislation on detention in Canada. In Bill C-31, we are introducing provisions that seem to depart from the act and the charter.

I'd like to know what you think about this and what these new provisions are based on.