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

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Ms. Kwan, for seven minutes, please.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for your presentations. Particularly, I want to acknowledge the individuals who share your personal stories. It takes an incredible amount of courage for you to share your stories.

I tell you that you can't help but be moved by your stories, if you're human and you value humanity, in what you're striving to do. I can't thank you enough for the great work you're doing and for standing up for all of us and for humanity.

With that we have a few minutes to ask some questions, so I want to move in the direction of getting recommendations coming out of this committee for our report. I think I heard all of you say how much you value rainbow RAP, so can I simply get everybody on the record here in the affirmative that you're calling on the government to regularize the program so it's not a pilot any more, so that you have stable funding and know how you can plan ahead to do this important work and how to expand on it?

I can move it down the line, starting from over here, and if everybody can quickly answer that I will have another question to ask on that.

5:10 p.m.

Program Participant, Canadian Citizen, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Shahina Perveen

I would highly recommend that, because it will give some ease to the people who are sponsoring to come together, and also to people who are seeking such help. Yes.

5:10 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Lisa Hébert

Yes. We use the term “multi-year” as well in terms of funding. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope

Chad Wilkinson

We're saying yes. Every single sponsorship program we've given out has made use of it, so it's inextricable to our funding work.

5:10 p.m.

Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope

Eka Nasution

Let's recommend this program to be a multi-year funding project.

5:10 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

Yes, absolutely. It's what will allow us to build and grow at the program.

5:10 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

Soubhi M.

Yes, definitely, because there are a lot of people out there there like me who need this to be permanent.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Likewise, on the issue around expediting and processing and the issue around delay, as all of you have expressed, if there is a delay people's lives literally hang in the balance. Individuals have to escape from country to country and sometimes put themselves in an even more precarious situation from the home country they're in, aside from the fact that they have a lack of resources, financial or otherwise, to try to make ends meet.

In terms of expediting and reducing processing times, would you support then a call for the government to put in a special measure, a special initiative that targets the LGBTQ community in expediting processing times and sets standards on what the processing times should look like?

Again, I'll run down quickly to get everybody's response.

5:10 p.m.

Program Participant, Canadian Citizen, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Shahina Perveen

There are times we have to wait as long as from one to four years. This can be very stressful and can make somebody depressed to the point at which they may attempt to kill themselves.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Lisa Hébert

There's a backlog of 54,000 people that should be processed. I don't want to say that LGBT have to be the first ones there. Our community is clearly among the most vulnerable, but I don't think we should stand before other people. I think there should be fair criteria. If people face death threats or violence, then they should be expedited.

I think by that very criteria, the people we sponsor tend to be expedited, which I support, but I would also say that there could be a woman at risk who could also be expedited. I would just like to stand together with people who should be processed quickly. Canada has a backlog of 54,000, and it has to be dealt with.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Then would it be fair to say that we should have standardized processing times for all vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ communities? You're right that the processing times are unbelievable across all groups. For those faced with imminent danger, death threats and so on, we need to standardize the times and have a regularized approach.

5:15 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Lisa Hébert

Well, we do feel bad jumping ahead of the line. Sometimes the government has been quite responsive...to be able to do that. We had some cases recently that were processed quite quickly, and we were very, very grateful that they were.

At the same time, in this other case we have, where there's a seven-year processing time, I got woken up at three o'clock in the morning this week when they were taken into the police station and wrongly accused of something. The police interrogated them for five hours. How can you live for seven years in a situation like that?

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Perhaps I can switch the question. What would be deemed to be an acceptable time frame? Would it be one year, two years...?

5:15 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Lisa Hébert

It shouldn't take more than a year. Like, why would it take six years to read a brief?

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Okay, then, let me switch the question. Should it be one year to standardize the time in processing?

5:15 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

5:15 p.m.

Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope

Chad Wilkinson

On this I'd like to say that we sponsor the application process, and they have to have the funds available to get here. That's one milestone. Then it's an unknown. Then it can be up to seven years. We have to step outside of our ability to fund, because they have to get money from somewhere.

At Capital Rainbow Refuge, three of the four applications that they had put forward in a short period of time already have had their hearings in the visa office in the country of refuge. That's what we'd like to see as a measure of success. The faster the better, as far as we're concerned.

5:15 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

There are grave inequities across regions that need to be addressed. If we could get it down to one year globally, then it would be essential to have SOGI analysis—sexual orientation or gender identity analysis—incorporated across the board, in all of IRCC's operations, to remove systemic barriers against LGBTQ refugees accessing protection.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

To the other two witnesses, do have you anything else to add, based on what people have presented?

5:15 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

Soubhi M.

On the processing time, I would just add that life events happen. A lot of things can change in a month, so imagine in a couple of years.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Let me switch to this. We have a major problem with people being able to make applications, because we don't really take applications from people who are internally displaced. This is a major problem. Perhaps I could ask a couple of you to quickly share your thoughts on what Canada should do about this.

I'll start with you, Sharalyn.

5:15 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

We do need a specialized program for the internally displaced. Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression need to be considered in the vulnerability factors for that. This program should involve consultation and collaboration, resourced collaboration, with civil society organizations that have the know-how, the knowledge, and the connections to do this work.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Lisa.