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

5:15 p.m.

Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge

Lisa Hébert

Chechnya is something that really has caught fire within our community. I think people are really interested in hearing about something being done about that. I think internally displaced is something that might be really uphill. I would say that there are a lot of cases the government could move on that are currently identified by the UNHCR, such as in the camp in Kenya. The government has brought in a handful of people from Saudi Arabia in the last year. In Saudi Arabia they hang 100 men annually in public, in Riyadh.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Mr. Tabbara, you have seven minutes, please.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Thank you to all the witnesses today. Thank you as well for the great work you're doing in changing the lives of so many people by getting them accepted in Canada, helping them with their processing. The great work you do is just invaluable.

First, do private sponsorship groups have criteria that they have to meet in order to participate in the rainbow refugee assistance program?

5:15 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

All the sponsorship groups that participate must include members of the local LGBTQ community. They must participate in a code of ethics orientation and process. Each member signs on to this code of ethics. There is an orientation session as well, which also works with the circles around their decision-making and conflict resolution processes and ways they are going to work together.

Once people have completed that, they officially become a named group. Only then are they matched with one of the cases we're working with.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

How do you determine if they're from the LGBTQ community?

5:20 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

Yes, this is obviously a complex question. There is no one single right answer. Many of the people we work with are referred through NGOs. There's sort of a trusted network. You heard how people had reached out to local NGOs, and they're the ones that reach out to us. People self-identify with us, and then we work through an interview process by Skype.

Rainbow Refugee has been doing this work since 2001. In the process, we've developed a great deal of knowledge on how to do this with some sensitivity, and we ask people to consult and corroborate their stories.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Okay.

Ms. Hébert, you mentioned processing times and that you want to see them reduced. I just want to give you some figures on what our government has done to reduce processing times.

They've ballooned in the last 10 years. For example, just looking at spouses, it took up to two years plus for you to bring over your spouse through a sponsorship. Now we've reduced that to 12 months.

Under the family class, in 2006 it was around 16 months, and that ballooned up to 35 months to process applications. There are a lot of initiatives put in place by our government to reduce processing times. That was the minister's mandate: to reduce processing times in all sectors, whether it be student applications or sponsorship of family class.

There are initiatives in place to reduce processing times. It takes a little while. We've had a year and a half, and it takes a bit more time. We've put in more resources within the department.

What areas of the pilot project funding can be improved to make the project more sustainable in the long term?

I open it up to any of you to answer.

5:20 p.m.

Board Chair, Rainbow Refugee

Sharalyn Jordan

The longer-term commitment would allow us to build fundraising capacity. It would also allow us to share what I call emerging best practices across groups. One of the benefits we've seen in this program is that the capacity in a local community increases, not just in the circles or groups themselves but also in settlement agencies. Many of our groups liaise with settlement agencies in order to access services for people they've sponsored.

In the process, we're kind of learning and growing together. This is a metric that isn't captured in the original plans or goals of this program, but we're seeing on the ground collaboration among faith, settlement, and LGBTQ communities, building the capacity overall. I would like to see us document and build on that over time.

Then the other, as we've been talking about here, is that we would like to focus on an area where there has been a very protracted and volatile situation. The Nairobi processing centre in Kenya has a very slow processing time. There are Ugandans and Congolese nationals who have escaped an incredibly deadly situation but have been stuck there for many years under very dangerous circumstances. We would like to build capacity across the country to do a committed resettlement of individuals from that area.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

My next question is for Mr. Soubhi.

I just wanted to ask more questions about your personal experience. You mentioned you went to Dubai, and that you were in prison there.

5:20 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Could you elaborate a bit on why you were in prison and under what...?

5:20 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

Soubhi M.

I'm sorry, I'm not going to go into details. Generally for who I am, for being homosexual, I was just called in one day and not to be told... that I had to go to a police station or something. I was trapped in a place which is non-governmental and found myself taken by governmental officials to a place which is not a jail, but jail-like, where I stayed for six days without being given any chance to go home or to pack or do anything.

Then my employer had to finish off all my papers, get my employment permit cancelled, and I was taken directly to the airport. That's briefly how it was.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

I understand. I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and there are certain people in the extended family who still have some conservative values, and I have a lot of debate with them.

5:25 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

They do not agree with some of my values.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

You have 20 seconds, please.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

I understand that you grew up in Syria and Lebanon obviously in similar circumstances.

5:25 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

Soubhi M.

Yes, it's similar.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

I'm glad to hear that when you went back to Lebanon that you were able to contact Rainbow Refugee and arrive here safely.

5:25 p.m.

Member, Rainbow Refugee

Soubhi M.

Yes, they helped me. They put me in contact with the LGBTQ organization in Lebanon that helped me get settled, because being Syrian I could only stay in Lebanon for two weeks. Then I had to fly to Malaysia two times in three days to get a one-year visa to stay in Lebanon, because I didn't know how long I would be staying there.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you, Mr. Tabbara.

I know I speak on behalf of all of the committee members when I express a heartfelt thank you to all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee today, the NGOs for the critical life-saving work that you do, and the witnesses for the courage that you've shown and the courage in appearing before this committee. I know that at least in one of the cases it took tremendous courage because it puts friends and family in your birth countries at potential risk.

I'm so glad that your adoptive country, Canada, is a place where you have found a loving home, where you don't have to hide in fear of who you are, where in fact we celebrate who each and every one of us is. With that, I'd like to say thank you.

Committee members, just before we adjourn I'd like to inform you that if there is agreement, the Atlantic Canada study witness lists need to be provided by the 12th to allow all the regular committee arrangements to be made. Are there any questions to that?

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Could you also let us know how many witnesses we would be entitled to?

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

We'd have to check the minutes, but it was agreed to on April 3. I'm not sure of the exact allotment.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I can't remember what the number is. I just thought you could remind us.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

We will provide you with that number.