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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

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We're over time. You're going to have to answer that in another round, I'm afraid.

Mr. Weston.

April 30th, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to thank our witnesses for being here today.

There is a lot of speculation when an analysis like this is begun. We just heard Ms. Sims speculate that the number of individuals in detention will increase if Bill C-31 is passed.

Mr. Linklater, is it possible that the number of detained individuals will decrease because the rest of the world will know that Canada does not admit people who are not true refugees?

9:25 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

I'll start, and Mr. Hill will finish.

The impact of unexpected arrivals on detention services is difficult to predict. For instance, when the two boats arrived in British Columbia, we didn't know how many people were on board, what condition they were in, if they had identification documents and if it would be difficult to establish their identity. If there are other arrivals like this, it would obviously have an impact on detention services. Right now, it's the agency that will resolve the situation with the provincial authorities to ensure that they can receive these people.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Linklater, you suggested that there is a global information network and that everyone is talking about the possibility of coming to Canada. If the regulations are more reasonable and more specific, is it possible that this network will spread the news?

9:30 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

The provisions of the bill will have an impact on the applications for refugee status. The fact that we are planning more serious penalties for human smuggling will have an impact on the smugglers' networks. People will rethink their intent to cross the Pacific if they are fully aware that the smugglers themselves will be imprisoned and punished more severely or differently.

For those who choose to make the decision to come to Canada through an irregular arrival, the fact that there will be conditional status for those who do need Canada's protection, I think, will also have an impact on behaviour. If people understand that, as the minister said on Thursday, they won't be able to reunite with close family members for a period of five years, they may look to reconsider their decision to be smuggled or to take part in these types of mass arrivals.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Hill, do you want to comment on the effect on either the increase or potential diminution of people in detention?

9:30 a.m.

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

Peter Hill

Yes. I would say that overall Bill C-31 has a number of measures that may well deter individuals from coming to Canada, but I would like to point out and try to underline that detention is not intended and is not designed at all to be a deterrent.

The purpose for a detention, which is in accordance with internal norms for immigration detention, is threefold. Detention is maintained to confirm identity, to ensure that the public is protected from danger so that dangerous persons are not released into the country. And, third, detention is maintained when there is a concern that the individual represents a flight risk and is unlikely to appear for their refugee or immigration processing. Those three conditions are the bedrock of the detention provisions that are proposed under Bill C-31.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Ms. James.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome back. Welcome to all of our guests today.

As I've been listening and we've been talking about the different aspects of Bill C-31, I cannot believe Canada is the only country that will process some claims faster than others. I'm wondering, Mr. Linklater, if you can expand on that.

Is Canada the only country that will actually do this, or are there other western industrial countries—that we're compared against— that will also be doing the same process and have the same system set up?

9:30 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

No, we won't be the only country. In fact, we're one of the few that doesn't have a differential regime now. Most of western Europe has expedited processing for certain types of claimants, and that's part of the analysis that we factored into the provisions that are in this piece of legislation.

I think Ms. Irish has much more detailed information, so I'll ask her to complement this answer.

9:30 a.m.

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

Jennifer Irish

Almost all EU countries have a safe country of origin procedure—it's called safe country of origin in most other countries. Australia and New Zealand also have such processes. In each case they operate a bit differently in terms of how countries are defined, but in most cases, they are processed within seven days. In some countries, it's as little as 48 hours. Some European countries also have the ability to do a paper review, which is not permitted in Canada because of our legal context.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

So basically we're in catch-up mode at this particular time.

9:35 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

You could say that, yes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you. I'm wondering if you could provide the committee—again, this is probably directed to both of you—with examples of countries similar to Canada that detain refugee claimants who arrive as part of a human smuggling operation. Surely we're not the only country that is proposing to do that or is doing it currently.

9:35 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

No. In fact, Australia has a long history of mandatory detention for all irregular arrivals, and has used a number of offshore facilities in the past to make determinations and to process individuals before allowing them into mainland Australia. Again, I'll ask Ms. Irish if she has more information on this.

9:35 a.m.

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

Jennifer Irish

Not many countries make the distinction between a mass arrival and mass irregular arrivals. In Europe, most of them get these mass irregular arrivals, but not necessarily by sea. Many European countries also have some form of mandatory detention. For example, the U.K. is one that provides mandatory detention for most of its safe countries of origin. It varies country by country.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

So it's not just the human smuggling operations or the large irregular arrivals. Other countries actually detain other refugee claimants who come in through regular modes. Is that correct?

9:35 a.m.

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

Jennifer Irish

That's correct.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Would you say that, even with Bill C-31 and the provisions that are outlined within it, Canada will use the detention of refugee claimants sparingly in comparison with other western countries? Is that true, or are we going to go beyond what other countries are doing?

9:35 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

It's fair to say that Canada's use of detention, even under Bill C-31, will be much less the case than is the norm in many other countries. Mr. Hill mentioned the average daily population in immigration detention across the country at about 500. When you think about the number of claimants we receive in any given year—last year I think it was around 25,000 and the year before about 23,000—it really does represent a small percentage of individuals who come to Canada to make a refugee claim.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I'm going to touch base very quickly on a question asked by Ms. Groguhé from the NDP. She started to say that we're violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the UN Refugee Convention, but in fact that's not the case. Under Bill C-31, we're still complying with all the regulations within the charter and the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Could you comment on that very quickly?

9:35 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

I think it is important to underline that Bill C-31 will continue to ensure that Canada upholds its domestic and international obligations towards people seeking protection. The principle of non-refoulement is, first and foremost, part of our analysis of the various provisions of this legislation. No one will be returned to a country where they face the risk of persecution or torture. They will receive Canada's protection if it's determined that they do require it.

What is different about Bill C-31 is that we will be able to move individuals through the system much more quickly than has been the case, to ensure that those who need our protection are given it much more quickly.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, Mr. Linklater.

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to follow up on Minister Kenney's comments from his last appearance. He says that detention and a five-year ban on permanent residency or family reunification are not penalties, and that they're merely not granting privileges to certain claimants.

Punishment is different from withholding privileges. Why does the minister say that it's not punishment when it is manifestly harmful to refugee claimants and intended, in the minister's words, to deter asylum seekers from arriving in groups? Do any of you want to comment?

Mr. Linklater.

9:35 a.m.

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

Les Linklater

The notion of permanent residence in Canada comes down to the according of a privilege by the government and by the country. Individuals who need Canada's protection under Bill C-31, as I just explained, will continue to receive that protection. I think the minister is right in saying that these new provisions under C-31 will probably strike a cord with individuals who are contemplating participating in a smuggling venture if they understand what the consequences could be to them in terms of their family situation, while ensuring that the penalties for the smugglers are enhanced to also try to further deter those types of networks.