Evidence of meeting #58 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 refugees.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Manicom  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Donald Cochrane  Senior Director, International Region, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Lisa Hébert  Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge
Shahina Perveen  Program Participant, Canadian Citizen, Capital Rainbow Refuge
Eka Nasution  Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope
Chad Wilkinson  Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope
Sharalyn Jordan  Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee
Soubhi M.  Member, Rainbow Refugee

3:55 p.m.

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

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Can you explain the vast difference in numbers from 2014 to 2016 and why we have end-users of the program saying that the Canadian embassy was directing people to the United States to apply as opposed to Canada?

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

It's difficult for me to comment on statistics from news organizations when I do not have those statistics from the department. There was never a program to resettle LGBTQ refugees from Iran. Because there was never any such program, I cannot speak to the preference of that program—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Just for the record to show, the article that I'm citing is a DailyXtra news article that was published on March 2. It says, “The department's data shows that Canada took in 1,022 Iranians through that process in 2014, 374 in 2015 and just 152 in 2016”. You do not have data to this effect.

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

We certainly have data on the number of Iranians resettled, yes.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

That is the question I asked you.

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

Sorry, I misunderstood your question. I thought your question was with regard to LGBTQ Iranians.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Quite.

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

With regard to Iranians, absolutely, the previous government announced a program on January 15, 2013 to resettle 5,000 refugees located in Turkey by 2018.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Is the assertion that people were being directed to apply to the United States as opposed to Canada correct?

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

To my knowledge that is incorrect.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Okay.

Certainly I would like to put on the record that I feel, and many of my colleagues feel, that LGBTQ refugees are, I would say, among the most vulnerable in the world, outside of genocide victims, and that they should be prioritized in most situations. Yet we're in a similar situation here, as we were with the Yazidi genocide, where we're hearing that we're using the UNHCR process to prioritize refugees, yet we know that many LGBTQ refugees cannot make it through the UNHCR referral process, given the persecution that they might face at camps or, certainly as the situation in Chechnya is right now, they can't escape the country.

Bridging into the situation in Chechnya, has the department received any political direction to date in terms of issuing special visas to assist in the resettlement of persecuted gay men in Chechnya?

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

We are working closely with our embassy in Moscow and other international partners such that, if urgent protection cases come to our attention, we would be able to respond appropriately, given the individual case. We do not have any cases identified to us at this time.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Okay. So there have been no cases of gay men from Chechnya being resettled through special visas to date?

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

No, we have not had contact with any individuals at this time.

May 3rd, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.

Donald Cochrane Senior Director, International Region, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

I can add that this is, as you can imagine, a matter of some sensitivity at present. I can say that there has been some contact made with our embassy in Moscow and with the department; however, I can't go into that.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Has there been a target set for the number of gay men who can be brought to Canada through this program from Chechnya? They are currently essentially being rounded up and tortured at the government's direction.

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

We don't have a program related to gay men from Chechnya. We are working with civil organizations in Russia to ensure that, if individuals come to our attention, we'll be able to assist as best we can in individual cases. It's very preliminary days.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Given that we don't track the number of LGBTQ refugees, to your assertion, again using the Yazidi genocide as a similar issue—I feel like we're retreading the same ground—do you believe that it's necessary for Canada to set targets for the number of LGBTQ refugees in our resettlement programs and then track that data to ensure success of resettlement programming?

3:55 p.m.

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

David Manicom

I don't think I can answer that question in a simple way. I don't have a yes or no answer to that.

A decision to begin to track refugees by reasons for persecution raises a very large number of complex operational and privacy issues.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Sorry, again, I hate to cut you off, but we have your answer on the record from the Yazidi genocide, so I'll leave it at that.

I think it's fair to say that the Rainbow Railroad program was a success. I certainly would like to see it become a permanent program.

In your answer to Ms. Zahid, you said that you would like to see more broad, system-wide changes rather than specific, targeted programming with regard to how we can best address the issue of prioritizing LGTBQ refugees.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

You have 30 seconds, please.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Do you believe that UNHCR actually has the capacity to prioritize LGBTQ refugees, given the persecutions they face and the low numbers that are referred to Canada through our resettlement process?

4 p.m.

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

David Manicom

I don't know that there are low numbers resettled to Canada through our resettlement process.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

But you don't know the number.