Evidence of meeting #108 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was border.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mike MacDonald  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Patrick Tanguy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Commissioner Gilles Michaud  Deputy Commissioner, Federal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jacques Cloutier  Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Shereen Benzvy Miller  Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Evelyn Lukyniuk
Jamie Solesme  Superintendent, Federal Policing, Criminal Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

That's right. I guess I'm getting back to your discussions about negotiations with the Americans. Both you and the minister have said that there have been informal discussions. With this problem.... This clearly is a problem when the agreement doesn't apply. Why wouldn't there be formal discussions? There's a problem. Do we just ignore it? This agreement is causing a problem, so why wouldn't there be formal discussions?

12:35 p.m.

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

Mike MacDonald

Chair, first I'd like to say that no one is ignoring this. As I mentioned, we've been having conversations, sharing the challenges, but again, there has to be a decision made to enter into and give a mandate to do formal negotiations—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Why wouldn't—

12:35 p.m.

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

Mike MacDonald

—by both countries.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Why wouldn't the Canadian government say “we want to have formal negotiations”? Nothing is going to get solved with informal negotiations.

12:35 p.m.

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

Mike MacDonald

Chair, I can't comment on the situation and the decisions the elected officials make. I'm sorry, Chair.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

All right.

Why hasn't the Canadian government asked for an amendment to the agreement?

12:35 p.m.

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

Mike MacDonald

Again, Chair, I refer to my previous comment just now about the authority for where that comes from to change the treaty.

May 3rd, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

You won't tell me.

Ms. Benzvy Miller, you've given some evidence today about the shortage of the number of IRB members. You've talked about the increased workload that's coming to the board. I'd like you to elaborate as to what you're going to do about that.

Are there directives given to the board members? I get the impression that the process is being watered down because there's been a great increase in the number of applications. Secondly, you have a shortage....

Sorry, Mr. Chairman, that's through you. You have a shortage of members. Are there directives given to the board members?

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board

Shereen Benzvy Miller

First of all, I really want to thank you for this question, because it's really important that people understand that every member actually makes decisions. There are no directives you could possibly give to an independent decision-maker about how they are to render their decision.

What we have control over as a management team is the way in which we manage the caseload. If in fact we were able to do what you are suggesting, we wouldn't actually have a backlog, because we would be—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I wasn't suggesting anything. I'm trying to find out what you're going to do about it, because certainly the percentage keeps increasing.

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board

Shereen Benzvy Miller

Yes, well, certainly the influx is increasing, so the number of cases that are referred to the board for our decision-making is also increasing. In fact—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I'm afraid I need you to end there. I'm sure you'll get another opportunity.

Ms. Alleslev and Mr. Thériault.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

I'd just like to be clear: do you feel that the process has been watered down?

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board

Shereen Benzvy Miller

No. The process remains the same.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you.

I would like to share my time with Mr. Thériault.

Do you have any questions?

12:35 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

Yes, thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You have five minutes.

12:35 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

That’s excellent.

We talked about the situation, its management, and the facts related to it, but we haven’t talked much about its causes.

Could you tell me, in point form, its three main causes?

12:40 p.m.

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

Mike MacDonald

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For the sake of accuracy, I will answer in my first language.

There are actually a lot more than three reasons that we've learned from individuals for why they cross the border.

First, it's very difficult to determine what drives people to have a fear of persecution, but we do know this, and people do share with us their feelings at times. Sometimes it's around the number of diaspora communities that are in Canada—family links. The role of social media has been very prevalent in terms of reaching out to people. Political instability in foreign countries, fear of persecution.... We've also heard people say to us that they have a general feeling that they're not welcome in the United States, that immigrants aren't welcome there, but we don't hear people telling us that it's the safe third. We just hear people telling us, “I have to flee my country because I am afraid. Quite simply, I am afraid.”

12:40 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

To solve a problem, we must clearly establish its causes.

I take from your answer that the main cause of the problem is that people who lived in the United States or had a visa for this country started to be scared and showed up on Roxham Road. That’s what you said.

Mr. MacDonald, this question is for Ms. Benzvy Miller rather than for you.

The Immigration and Refugee Board produces charts, in particular on the asylum claims and interceptions by the RCMP at air and land borders.

We want to understand and follow the situation as acutely as possible, especially with respect to the judgment.

In Quebec, at land borders — so at border crossings — there were 1,486 interceptions and 185 asylum claims in February. That’s an 8 to 1 ratio. This means that 80% of people go through Roxham Road.

I want to understand something. In Quebec, there were 1,884 interceptions made by the RCMP and 1,610 asylum claims at land borders in March. We’re really under the impression that the situation is deteriorating, but we might think that it’s now half and half and that we’ve improved the situation by at least 30%.

I would like to understand how you make your calculations and why you’ve changed your method.

12:40 p.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board

Shereen Benzvy Miller

It’s not really a question I can answer. I can discuss the cases that are referred to the Commission, but not the interceptions.

12:40 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

Who prepared that chart on interceptions and land borders? Can someone answer my question? I want to know why the number of asylum claims at land borders in Quebec went from 185 in February to 1,610 in March, while RCMP interceptions went from 1,486 to 1,884 during the same period. You indicated earlier that we could expect a rise in April.

What will we do to understand the percentage of entries by Roxham Road compared to those at regular ports of entry? Have you changed your method of calculation?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Your time is up, Mr. Thériault, but you can discuss the charts and numbers with our analysts.

12:45 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

Thank you.