Evidence of meeting #148 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 program.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ramez Ayoub  Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.
Daniel Mills  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Finance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Marta Morgan  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Murray Rankin  Victoria, NDP
Harpreet Kochhar  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Paul MacKinnon  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Salma Zahid  Scarborough Centre, Lib.
Matt DeCourcey  Fredericton, Lib.
David Cashaback  Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Philippe Massé  Director General, Temporary Foreign Worker Directorate, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
Katie Alexander  Executive Director, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Program Operations, Service Canada, Department of Employment and Social Development

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I would actually take fewer people and say that it just makes sense that, if I've got 17 canned peach producers looking for people to work in processing, you stop evaluating it the same way and say that it's obvious they have a shortage, so let's fast-track them, like a NEXUS program. I don't think it takes money. I think it takes a different way of doing it. Is that a legislative change, a program change, a regulation change or a mindset change? I'm exasperated by it because I'm getting employers all the time saying that we have a labour shortage.

5:40 p.m.

Director General, Temporary Foreign Worker Directorate, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Philippe Massé

I understand. The labour shortage aspect is only one aspect we look at during the application process. We must assess the genuineness of the employer or whether they may be involved in a labour dispute.... There are some things we need to verify, regardless of what the labour market situation is; the labour market is only one factor. Those things take time. As I mentioned, there are efforts to try and streamline, including looking at recognized employers, for those that we see on a recurring basis. Can we assess them differently? It's not about bending the rules, but it's about expediting some of those assessments. Those are some of the things that we are working on currently.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You've been very good, so I'm going to give you more time.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Just a quick one, Mr. Chair. I've handed in about three pages of questions there. There's an urgency and I want to get a reply as quickly as I can because I believe we're starting to do the report.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Soon, yes. We'll try our best.

Go ahead, Ms. Kwan.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Mr. Ayoub agrees that I've been very good too, so I should get extra time as well.

If you have a recurring environment where these temporary foreign workers are required—in some instances, I've met workers who've come for the last 20 years for these positions— instead of making them temporary positions, why not make these workers into permanent residents on arrival, as opposed to going through a temporary process? Clearly, there's a need and there has been for the last 20 years. Is that something that the government or your department is looking at?

5:40 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

Maybe that's more for the immigration side of the house.

The short answer is that where we're managing volumes on the temporary side with the annual levels plan, it's setting out what the priorities are per category of immigration. Not to be trite about it, but it's a bit of a numbers game of who and what priorities exist.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I know it's a numbers game because the levels plan numbers are exactly that. Clearly, we've had witnesses who have come forward from the agriculture sector, the tourism industry and from other sectors who say they need these workers and they want them to stay. They don't want them to go away because they have to go back to retrain them, which costs them money as well. They are calling for permanent residence for these workers. I would urge that this be a priority for the government.

Maybe the way to avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul within the levels plan numbers is to increase the levels plan numbers. In fact, the former minister John McCallum did that study. Through that expert review, the business community and others are saying that we need to increase our levels plan numbers, and yet for some strange reason we are still struggling to get there.

I would urge that this be considered and that the department do a review of this policy to identify the pros and cons, what needs to be done and how to address this issue for both the economic aspect and the building of Canada as a nation aspect.

Has that work been done, or has it not been considered?

5:40 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

When I look at 2017, 50,000 former temporary foreign workers transitioned to permanent residents. That's the highest number ever, in terms of those transitions. If you look at the suite of programming that exists—from different work permit programs to the Atlantic immigration pilot, and the proposed rural and northern immigration pilot—how do we try to create those conditions to be able to either retain workers who are already there, or attract workers into communities where there's a labour shortage? A lot has been done, and things are being proposed now to try to address the issues.

March 18th, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I think the very fact that you have that high number of people seeking permanent residence only goes to show you that you should actually begin this process as a permanent resident status program, as opposed to a temporary program. You could save a lot of resources from the department side that you could reallocate to somewhere else to deal with backlogs. Wouldn't that be great for business, for Canada and for your department's workload?

I'm going to leave that for a minute.

I'm going to ask the question about the recent program for caregivers. It was announced that the caregivers will now be pre-vetted before they can come to Canada. Once they come here, after they fulfill their two-year work requirement, they would then be able to access their permanent resident status. For clarity, does that mean that once they have been pre-vetted and they've fulfilled their two-year work requirement, those caregivers will then be given their permanent resident status, or do they have to go through another application process or through another medical process? Can you expand on the procedures and policies that are required for these individuals with this program?

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

I'm happy to. A lot of the detail will be announced at a later date. In terms of the new pilots that will be introduced later this year, one thing that we heard about and the lesson that we're trying to learn with these programs—based on a lot of the input and the consultations that we've done with stakeholders and caregivers over the last year—is the pre-vetting.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I was part of that consultation process and worked very closely with the caregivers. I'm interested in what this means now that this announcement has been made. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at the caregivers meeting and they were asking me what this means now. Does that mean that, once they've been approved from the pre-vetting, after their two-year work requirement they will be able to stay in Canada and will not have to go through yet another vetting process—whether it be medical or otherwise—to get their landed status?

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

The medical exam.... I don't have that for you right now. We do intend to have language and education—everything but the work experience—assessed before they even come to Canada to create the clarity that once the caregiver is here and they've done their two years of work experience in the professions that are being considered for the pilots, then they're eligible for permanent residence.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Would they have to submit another application to get their permanent resident status, or is that assumed within the pre-vetting?

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

It's assumed in the pre-vetting. The application forms and all of the information will be made public later this year. I think, in terms of the actual nitty-gritty, it's something that we'd be happy to come back to the committee about. We'll be engaging with caregivers and stakeholders later this year in terms of the specifics of what that program will look like, but the—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

When do you expect to know the specifics? The government went and announced it, and you don't know what the specifics are. When will we know the specifics?

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

It will be later this year.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

It will be later this year, but you don't have a date, like a month.

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

I don't yet, no.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I see. With respect to the caregivers program, the people who are in the system at the moment, the people who have already arrived here but have not yet met their two-year work requirement, there's the interim program. Can they apply simultaneously? That is to say, they would still hold the place they are at right now with the program and then they would make an application under the interim program. Can they make two applications to see which one gets processed first?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Be very brief.

5:45 p.m.

Acting Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Cashaback

The best advice the department has provided to the caregiver community is to apply once. “Do not apply twice” has been the advice. If a caregiver qualifies for the existing pilots, right now those haven't reached their caps, and they are being processed in six months. For the interim pathway that was announced and that is now accepting applications, that application period will be longer; it will be 12 months. So if someone meets the criteria, they should apply.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You're at eight minutes.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I'm not asking a question. Mr. Chair, I think the entire committee would benefit from a briefing by officials on both the interim program and the replacement programs, because there was some sort of briefing offered to people to phone in, but actually my staff couldn't even ask a question in that process, and I think this would be of benefit to everyone.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I think it's a very good idea. It's outside of the study. I think we could do it as a stand-alone briefing. We could do it at a committee meeting, and I think it would be helpful. We'll note that and try to schedule that. I would consider that a motion. We'll take that as a motion. Are all agreed to that?