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Evidence of meeting #46 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 program.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claudette Deschênes  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Amipal Manchanda  Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Neil Yeates  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Minister, as you know, many of those do get accepted as refugees. Let's even take the example of Hungary: 160 asylum seekers from Hungary were accepted as legitimate refugees.

Let me give you this example. A pregnant woman fleeing legitimate persecution goes to see her doctor. She's here as an asylum seeker. Unfortunately, her country of origin is likely to be on the designated safe list. She is then informed that she would have no prenatal and no birth coverage as of June 30 if this list is announced. She ponders whether she should have an abortion now, because she cannot imagine going through a pregnancy without basic health care.

How do you feel about putting a woman in a situation where they have to choose—

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Excuse me, Ms. Sims.

Mr. Dykstra, on a point of order.

4 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

I appreciate that we are trying to deal with estimates here, but I fail to understand what a question like this has to do at all with the subject matter at hand.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You know, really, Ms. Sims, you're asking the minister a hypothetical question, which is really unfair. I think Mr. Dykstra has a point. Could you just calm it down a little bit?

4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Okay, I will calm it down a little bit.

I have to be hypothetical at this stage, because the bill hasn't been enacted yet. But under the new legislation, women could be put in this situation, or men and women could be put in situations where they have dire health care needs, and they will be denied services.

What happens to a woman if she is pregnant, and she needs the prenatal health care to have a safe delivery of her baby, and she is still considered an asylum seeker? She doesn't quite have the designation of a refugee yet.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

With respect, again, to asylum claimants coming from designated safe countries, let's put this in perspective. In 2010, for example, we received, to be precise, 2,298 asylum claims from Hungary, 22 of which were deemed positive. That's less than 1%. And 2010 is one example. Over 99% of the claims from that country were abandoned, withdrawn, or rejected.

Now, I would point out that under the new, faster system we are adopting, hopefully, through Bill C-31, asylum claims coming from designated countries will be dealt with within 45 days. That's about six weeks' time.

I would suggest to anyone coming from Hungary, let's say, to Canada, whether they're a visitor or whatever their category is, that they should ensure that they come here with health insurance. They have health coverage in their country of origin. They have full mobility within the European Union, which is a full-service collection of welfare states. And I would submit that it is not an obligation of Canadian taxpayers to finance comprehensive health care for visitors from the European Union, including the 99% of asylum claimants who end up being rejected.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Minister, just to follow up, as you know—

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

But if they get protection, then they would receive health coverage.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have 30 seconds.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

What will be happening is that legitimate asylum seekers, while they're waiting for their forms to be processed, are going to be denied health care. And they are legitimate, both under the UN conventions and under humanitarian and compassionate grounds as accepted by us.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

I would point out that we receive millions of visitors from around the world every year. They do not come here with an expectation of having, and we have no obligation to furnish them with, comprehensive health care. We will provide comprehensive health care to people who are deemed refugees by our system. The only people who will not get comprehensive health care, in terms of asylum claimants, are those coming from designated countries. I just gave you an example of one where 99% of the claimants from that country did not need our protection in 2010.

By the way, this is about ending the abuse of our generosity, and I think we should show some concern, as well, for the limited means of Canadian taxpayers.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, Mr. Minister.

I'm sorry, you're way over. You'll have to go to the next round.

We'll go to Mr. Lamoureux.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

I'm sure that the minister or members of his staff might be familiar with the organization known as Lost Canadians. My first question is related to that.

Has any part of the operating budget been allocated to deal with the issue of individuals who deserve Canadian citizenship but did not receive it under the flawed Bill C-37? And is the minister looking at any specific solution to this issue?

If you can keep it under 30 seconds, I'd appreciate it.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

I think you mean Bill C-37 two Parliaments ago. Is that what you meant?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Yes.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

First of all, I don't accept the premise of your question. I don't think it was flawed. We did manage to restore citizenship to, we estimate, 95% of those who inadvertently lost it as a result of changes to the Citizenship Act, which is something the previous Liberal governments never did. Nevertheless, we have added additional resources to process applications for what are called subsection 5(4) grants of citizenship. I don't know how much we've added to that.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

You don't have the exact number.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

We'll get back to you on the exact number. We have added resources. The number of subsection 5(4) grants we've been approving through my recommendation to cabinet has gone up very substantially, from a few a year to several dozen a year.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

I wonder if the minister can provide my office with a list of those health care services under his new system that refugees—I'm thinking of refugees from the continent of Africa, as an example—would not be able to receive. And can you correlate that to those same health care services the average Canadian on social assistance...?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

That information is available on our website. We'd be happy to provide that to the committee.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Wonderful.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

It would go to the clerk, Mr. Minister.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Having said that, the biggest concern that I have with this particular budget is related to something the minister spent a great deal of time on, and that is the whole issue of the federal skilled worker program. I've addressed this issue inside the House of Commons in the forum of question period, believing that the minister is wrong to delete the applications. I think it's a serious mistake. This committee needs to be aware of that mistake, and it's something that should be debated, Mr. Chairperson.

What I'm going to do at this time is propose a motion. I would move that the committee request that the finances to be allocated for the refund of pre-February 27, 2008 federal skilled worker applications, as outlined in Bill C-38, not be expended and that those applications continue to be processed.

I have copies in both English and French I could provide the committee members with.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Do you want to debate that and take up the rest of the time? That's the risk you run.

We can debate it for the rest of your time, and if we haven't finished we'll have to vote on it another time. Or if we have time, we'll vote on it. I'm not going to stop this meeting just to take up that motion.

So you can explain your motion and we'll see if there's debate, Mr. Lamoureux.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Sure, I would welcome that. The most important thing, I believe, Mr. Chairperson, is that we recognize that this is a motion that is meant to correct an injustice.