Evidence of meeting #18 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 housing.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brian Dyck  National Migration and Resettlement Program Coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Majed El Shafie  Founder and President, One Free World International
Leslie Emory  Board Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Erica Pereira
Aslam Daud  Chairman, Humanity First
Khim Tan  Senior Program Manager, Immigrant Service Program, Options Community Services
Jessica Ferne  Director of Programs, International Development and Relief Foundation

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

I've had the opportunity to meet many of them. They come from diverse backgrounds. I don't mean that your evidence is anecdotal—

11:50 a.m.

Rev. Majed El Shafie

No, I'm 100% sure of of my evidence. If you can prove me wrong, please do that.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you, gentlemen.

Mr. Saroya, for five minutes, please.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of the witnesses for giving us their side of things.

My first question is for Mr. El Shafie.

You mentioned countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, among other Sunni countries that are not taking people from Syria or Iraq, but Syria, especially. What do you think is the problem there?

June 7th, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

If I could interject for a second, we have strayed a little beyond the mandate of our committee, and we seem to be straying even further into foreign affairs at this point.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Chair, actually, the study's scope includes how to best help Syrian refugees and the government's response to the Syrian refugee crisis. There are many ways that this would be included, including how we respond to....all of the witnesses here today have talked about how part of helping the refugees is ensuring we're dealing with issues that are included in situ.

I think to say that this isn't part of the scope would be a gross mischaracterization, and I would think my colleague's question line would be allowed.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you, Ms. Rempel.

Could you please list where, within the scope of the study, you believe this fits?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Is this study not to look at the government's response to the Syrian refugee crisis? Is that not the core of this study?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

There are five points. They're quite specific, that the study—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Could you read to the committee what the first line in the scope is, the actual content of the study, like the—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Sure, and then it gets into the specifics. The—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

But what's the first line?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

It reads:

That the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration study the federal government’s initiative to resettle Syrian refugees to Canada. The specific focus of the study is as follows:

It says that the “specific focus of the study is as follows”, and I can read through the five points if you'd like.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I would just say, for all of my colleagues here, that we have witnesses who are here who are spending time resettling refugees. To say that we can't ask questions about how we are responding to perhaps dealing with issues in countries that they would be returning to, I think is just....

My colleague's question is not out of scope at all, and I think you're uncomfortable with his question, and that's why you're raising this.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

No, we have a specific scope of study. If the committee wishes to go beyond the existing scope that was agreed upon, that is a decision for the committee to make. Perhaps for clarity I should read through the points of the scope of study:

1. The engagement of Canadian individuals and groups in the resettlement effort; including programs funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in order to facilitate integration into Canadian society as well as how that funding was distributed;

2. Integration challenges facing the resettled refugees and how they could be addressed, including:

a) Proximity to family in Canada;

b) The availability of employment counselling and placement services, as well as the experience of...refugees attempting to enter the job market;

c) The availability and cost of permanent, affordable housing and the transition from temporary to permanent housing;

d) The access to and transition into appropriate educational programs for refugee children;

e) The need for and availability of English as a Second Language...and French language programs;

f) The type of medical support needed and the timeliness of what was provided;

3. Resettlement capacity of destinations for Government Assisted Refugees and Privately Sponsored Refugees;

4. The different federal programs (Government Assisted Refugees, Privately Sponsored Refugees, and Blended Visa-Officer Referred refugees) for refugee resettlement and any differences in resettlement support and initial outcomes as well as the programs in Quebec;

5. Opportunities for family reunification under the One Year Window.

That is what was agreed upon as the scope of our study, so I'm ruling that has moved quite a distance beyond the scope of study, and I—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I challenge your decision, and I would like a recorded vote.

11:55 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Ms. Erica Pereira

The question is shall the decision of the chair be sustained?

(Ruling of the chair sustained: yeas 5; nays 4)

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Don't ask about that, Bob.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Mr. Saroya, you have four minutes and 25 seconds.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. El Shafie, you talked about the most vulnerable. You mentioned a number of groups. Because they're the minorities, they don't go to the UN groups, LGBT and all those people, because they are discriminated in those UN groups.

What would you suggest to the government that it should do to put them back on the thing so that we can bring more of them to this country compared to the larger groups?

11:55 a.m.

Rev. Majed El Shafie

I think they should be in direct contact with their communities here and overseas, communicating with them.

One Free World International had a petition, and we met with the Minister of Immigration—he is a great man—and we presented to him a proposal to bring 400 Yazidi girls to Canada. Until now there has been no answer on our proposal, to the point that we had to have a petition signed in front of me in English and French in order to bring these 400 to 500 Yazidi girls, and until now they are not here.

What we can do is to start to listen to the NGOs, and start to listen to the people on the ground in order to be in contact with these groups to know their exact need and to bring them here.

When we are helping the non-vulnerable, I don't know why it's so bad to.... They keep saying that we have to be religion blind. Why? If they are persecuted because of their religion, why don't you want to see it? This is one thing I don't understand. There is nothing wrong with that.

Anyway, that's my answer. Thank you.

Noon

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you.

Brian Dyck, you mentioned that hundreds of groups want to get involved and want to help out. What is holding them back? Why can't they help out? In your testimony you mentioned there are hundreds of groups that want to get involved.

Noon

National Migration and Resettlement Program Coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Brian Dyck

There are some challenges in terms of this program that was landing a lot of people from November, January, and February. It was a big operation and was not sustainable. Now in this post-February 29 era, it's difficult for enough profiles to get to them. That's been the challenge. Our challenge has been to try to make sure they're engaged to connect them and keep them engaged with this. We'd like to see building on this moment when so many people are interested in being involved in refugee resettlement and thinking about international issues in this way.

Noon

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

What would you like to see the government do more to make sure?

Noon

National Migration and Resettlement Program Coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Brian Dyck

I think it's important for the government to build a sustainable program, one that doesn't just move 25,000 in a short period of time, but goes forward from this moment to put in resources to continue to build refugee resettlement. Humanitarian immigration is an important part of the Canadian immigration plan.