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

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

That would be helpful, just because you've indicated that individuals who are persecuted based on their gender or sexual activity fall within that category, and that would give us at least some sort of idea.

Second, you mentioned on page 6 that the main reason for this pilot was to build capacity. What metrics do you have in place to determine success?

4:10 p.m.

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

David Manicom

As I mentioned, this was designed to be a temporary program, so we haven't done a formal evaluation of it. We hear both from the Rainbow Refugee Society and from a number of the sponsorship agreement-holding organizations they are working with that this has led to a significant increase in both sensitivity in certain communities where there wasn't previously a good understanding of the particular needs of LGBTQ individuals and also a lot of community connection work about the specialized needs of these refugees in a number of our service-providing organizations.

I don't have a metric in the sense of a number. This program was not designed to be ongoing and has not been the subject of a formal evaluation in that way.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Just to pursue that slightly, typically when you do a pilot you're trying to say that these are the purposes of our pilot and this is how we would determine whether or not it's successful.

What are the determinants that would make you say that this has or hasn't been a successful pilot? I'm not looking for a number. I'm looking for the factors, the determinants, the things that would allow you to determine success. Do you have any of that in place?

4:10 p.m.

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

David Manicom

I've spoken to them. The attempt was to build these community supports, build these bridges, enhance sensitivity, and ensure the specialized support needed. Again, through our conversations with Rainbow Refugee Society and with stakeholders across the country, we think there has been an improvement in this regard. This is quite small pilot. The funding is quite modest. It is by no means the only work we are doing with the communities to develop specialized resources for LGBTQ individuals.

I have quite a large amount of material here, but certainly we could provide details to the committee of all the different initiatives across the country that are specifically targeted toward the needs of this community.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay. I'll leave that for now.

You indicated that there have been conversations with UNHCR in Geneva. In your conversations, have they in any way indicated that more should be done to support the LGBTQ community globally? Have they indicated in any way that more needs to be done and that countries like Canada have to step up more? Have there been any of those types of discussions or those types of call to action at the international level?

4:10 p.m.

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

David Manicom

Yes. I think there's certainly a broad understanding. I served as Canada's representative in Geneva for several years, and I know that in many fora Canada was at the forefront of ensuring that the needs of the LGBTQI community were highlighted in the programming of UNHCR.

There are a number of special UNHCR initiatives to help various vulnerability categories, including this one, including what they would describe as mainstreaming knowledge of the particular needs of LGBTQI individuals in the camp settings, identifying where inside camp settings and urban settings there are particular vulnerabilities, and ensuring that their own staff are sensitive to the needs of these individuals and making resettlement referrals when appropriate. It is not the case that LGBTQ individuals will have particular vulnerabilities in all settings. In many settings they do. In other settings the vulnerabilities of religious minorities may be more acute. You will have individuals who are members of both the LGBTQI community and religious minorities and so forth. It's complex.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

So there is a recognition globally, and you're saying that they are taking certain steps to try to address that or to—

4:10 p.m.

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

David Manicom

Yes. UNHCR programming certainly is alive to this issue.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

My last area is this. You mentioned a number of times that you don't track vulnerabilities for a number of good reasons, but logically one would ask why it is we don't track the LGBTQ2 refugees. Can you explain, even just for my own purpose, why it is we don't track them and why that's an issue?

4:10 p.m.

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

David Manicom

Yes. We get asked this question by members of this committee with regard to every group that is and should be a priority. It was a very acute question under the previous government, and it remains one now. It would be a very major undertaking, with considerable consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, if we were to get, in every interview, a categorization of every individual on the file against a number of indicators. Regardless of the reason for persecution, should we or should we not ask every refugee if they identify as a member of this community? Should we in every instance ask individuals what they consider their religion to be and whether they consider themselves to be a religious minority, store this information in databases, and capture that information systematically so that we can produce statistics? Even when we have some numbers, if your statistics aren't global and comprehensive, you can't use them. They are just sophisticated anecdotes.

It would be a major decision point for government in terms of the operational overhead and in terms of the consultation with the Privacy Commissioner, who would generally say that you have to explain a reason to keep data on individuals in government databases. It's a very complex issue.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

You're saying basically from a human rights perspective, from a privacy perspective, those are the reasons why we can't track—

4:15 p.m.

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

David Manicom

If we're interviewing a refugee who has fled the civil war in Syria for whatever reason, at the interview should we be asking the person, “Oh, and by the way, are you a member of community A or community B? What's your religion? Are you LGBTQI?” That's the—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Ms. Rempel, you have five minutes, please.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I think your response is predicated on the assumption that we would only rely on the UNHCR for referrals, so that the interview process you just mentioned is predicated on that tracking system being overlaid with the UN referral system. Would that be correct?

4:15 p.m.

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

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Okay, so building on your answer to that—

4:15 p.m.

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

David Manicom

I mean, in all referral refugees, privately sponsored refugees, or—

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Okay. For example, on the problem we saw earlier this year when we were asking you how many Yazidi genocide survivors had been sent to Canada through the government-assisted refugees program, you also gave the same answer in terms of lack of tracking, saying, “It's very bureaucratic”, and “We couldn't do this”, and that sort of thing.

But we were able to do that. After a lot of political pressure, the government decided to prioritize Yazidi genocide victims, and you are, in fact, tracking those statistics because you're managing a program that's directly related to responding to a specific instance of extreme violence against a certain group of people. As a sovereign nation, we have said that we are prioritizing these genocide victims. I would argue that there is a great degree of congruency with what's happening in Chechnya right now.

The article that Ms. Kwan referred to earlier, as well as many of the accounts that we're seeing come out of this particular group, should have every Canadian lighting their hair on fire at the atrocities that are happening there.

In that situation, do you think, first of all, that it is feasible, from a bureaucratic perspective, given the situation with the Yazidi genocide, for Canadian politicians to provide political direction that, when there are instances of either genocide or programs, as we're seeing against the LGBTQ community, that we actually can and should be tracking how many people we're bringing in under, let's say, the issuance of special visas? Should there be a political direction to do so?

4:15 p.m.

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

David Manicom

Yes, I think it's a very good question, and there is a distinction between globally and permanently collecting data on individuals under a number of these characteristics and collecting program data. For example, because of our program codes, we do know how many refugees the Rainbow Refugee Society has brought in because we have a program code for sponsors. We know who the sponsor is, so we can count them.

Similarly, for the victims of Daesh, we have developed a program code. But if you asked us, “How many Yazidis has Canada brought in over the last five years?”, we still could not answer that question—

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

But it is possible, and it hasn't been as much of a—

4:15 p.m.

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

David Manicom

—because there would have been individuals meeting that description who came in in previous years and who will come in in future years.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you've just illustrated that it is possible, and it's not a giant monstrosity, privacy, human rights breach—

4:15 p.m.

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

David Manicom

—to identify the number of gays and lesbians that Canada has brought in?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

If we—