Evidence of meeting #62 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 brunswick.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Laurie Hunter  Director, Economic Immigration Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Ümit Kiziltan  Director General, Research and Evaluation, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Corinne Prince  Director General, Integration and Foreign Credentials Referral Office, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Donald Arseneault  Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick
Sonny Gallant  Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island
Charles Ayles  Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick
Neil Stewart  Deputy Minister, Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island
David Cashaback  Director, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Michael MacDonald  Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Christopher Meyers  Director General, Finance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Mr. Tilson, you're splitting your time with Mr. Saroya?

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I am.

Mr. Chairman, the internal governance of the ICCRC, from the evidence that we've had so far at this committee, is a disaster. It's really not working well. I'm normally a supporter of self-governance, and this is a form of self-governance. I don't know whether Ms. Kwan is winning me over—maybe she is—but I'm concerned that this impacts their ability to be an effective regulator.

How informed is the department on the daily running of the affairs of the ICCRC? Do you know what they're doing?

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

The question of “how informed” comes down to not only the relationship that we've struck, but also, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that we're pushing the boundaries on how much we can work with, share with, and try to help the ICCRC and have new ways of looking at things.

We have regular exchanges with the ICCRC management structure. I've met with some of the board members. I met with some of the senior management and executives within the organization two weeks ago. We had a very frank and open conversation around issues, but then we talked about ways to move forward and where we could help, where the ICCRC could help, the organization.

The exchange is robust, and we are in collaborative communication. We still respect the boundaries of how they need to operate, though.

May 29th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I guess the question is what we do now. Do we get rid of them? Does the department take it over?

Maybe I'm alone, but my observation listening to the testimony is that it's not working.

In fact, maybe you could elaborate on this. What concerns does the department have with respect to the ICCRC and its tenure as a regulator over the last six years? You must have thoughts on whether it should continue, whether it can be fixed, and whether we should have something else.

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

Chair, that really comes down to three common areas where we've fostered the relationship and tried to move it forward.

The first area is around the complaints process. We have been having conversations with the ICCRC around the length of time it takes to resolve complaints, respecting the fact that things don't always have a perfect start and end date. That's understandable. But we feel there's more that can be done, and it needs to be done faster, and that's the message we've delivered.

The second area is around education. I think they can do a better job, and we're trying to help them do a better job, in ensuring that the consultants who are registered do have the best basis in understanding of the systems, including our forms and everything that's out there.

The third, which are the conversations we entered into not long ago, is really around the stability of the organization. Again, if there are areas where they need help ensuring the stability of the organization—the board or the organization itself—we are open to dialogue and to actively helping and sharing lessons learned and so on.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Mr. Saroya, please.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for coming.

Mr. MacDonald, have you seen this CBC article?

5:50 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

No, I have not.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

As you know, we need immigrants and vice versa. We need them, and we want them to come. For the past six years—I could even go back 31 years—the system hasn't worked. We all know this. According to the CBC investigation:

The council that oversees thousands of immigration consultants in Canada is in the midst of what many describe as a crisis, beset by resignations, infighting and harsh criticism from lawmakers and lawyers.

This is how Jennifer Bourque replied to CBC:

The department is following this issue carefully. We remain confident that the ICCRC will resolve any internal issues. The department is in regular contact with the ICCRC and there are reporting requirements that the ICCRC must follow. The department will continue to monitor and will provide support as necessary.

What is the department doing? What department is going to bring them back into line?

I also understand that five of the 15 directors quit in the last six months. It's like you're trying to run a company but 33% of the management quits.

With respect, how would you fix it?

5:50 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

Again, I'll go back to my previous response around what we have been doing, and what we've committed to do going into the future with the ICCRC and being very open about that. Again, it comes down to them creating an environment of stability on the board and within the organization itself. I think the recent appointment of the new CEO to the board of directors is a very good sign of that. He should bring a certain level of stability as well as knowledge, having been working for many years in the profit area as well as the not-for-profit area.

Again, it comes down to the quality of their services out to their membership. That's my comment around the educational aspect. We have offered to assist them with those types of packages. We have offered, in addition, to represent ourselves more at their events. I've appeared at several of their events, their national training forums.

Again, to go back to the complaints process, I think public confidence is enhanced if you have a robust, active, and quick complaints process for the—

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Twenty seconds, please.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

If I can follow up, the public trust is the main thing. The public trust isn't there so far. I know that you are doing your level best, but it hasn't worked for the last number of years. Mr. Tilson asked if you—the government, the body—should take over, redo the whole thing, and let this ICCRC go and—

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

A quick yes-or-no answer is all we have time for.

5:50 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

I'm not in a position to answer yes or no, sir, unfortunately.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Kwan, you have seven minutes.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the officials for coming back.

Let me start my questions with this. How much is the government providing to the ICCRC for them to do their work? What's their annual budget in all the various different contracts that you sign with them to carry out their work? How much is it?

5:50 p.m.

Christopher Meyers Director General, Finance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

The government is not currently providing any funding to the ICCRC.

When it was created in March of 2011, there was a contribution agreement that was signed between the department and the organization to help fund start-up expenditures that the organization was incurring. That was in the amount of $1 million. That was paid over three fiscal years. The contribution was a repayable contribution, so after a period of time, ICCRC was to—and is—repaying the government the amount of that assistance.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

You're saying that your department provides zero dollars to ICCRC to carry out their work and that your department has not entered into any contracts with them.

5:50 p.m.

Director General, Finance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Christopher Meyers

In March 2011, there was a contribution agreement that was signed to help fund the start-up of the organization. It was a million dollars payable over three fiscal years. That was paid and, since that time, the organization has been repaying the amount of that contribution. By the time the final payment is received, that amount—the million dollars—will have been fully recovered.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Are there any other departments from the government that have contracted ICCRC to carry out their work?

5:55 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

I don't have a definitive answer. I think you would need to ask them. We are not aware of any other government department that has contracted with the ICCRC for their services. I leave it to ICCRC to answer that.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Maybe we can get that information from the analyst or the library or somebody, because that seems to contradict some other information that was presented to the committee at different times.

At this committee, we've heard from witness upon witness about the disastrous situation with ICCRC, on so many levels. I won't rehash all the issues that were brought to our attention. I think it's fair to say that committee members walked away thinking that the days of self-regulation by that industry are done, and that we need to go to a different model, perhaps a governance model to be regulated by the government.

One of the issues people have raised and brought to our attention is that complainants are afraid to even come forward, because they fear they will be penalized. One suggestion would be to find a mechanism to ensure that those complainants are protected in that process. Is that something the department can look into and see how we can actually materialize that option to protect the complainants if they were to come forward with a complaint?

5:55 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

There are two parts to this. One is that we agree that if something is not working, you work to make it better. If that is looking at wholesale policy advice to the government of the day around different models—and I think those are key words—we are and always have been committed to having those types of analyses and exercises—

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I'm just going to interject for a minute here.

This model, the ICCRC, is the second iteration, by the way. The other self-regulatory model was also a colossal disaster, and we're back at it again, so we've been trying for some time now. My view is that the days of self-regulation have come and gone, and that the industry must earn back the privilege to self-regulate. I think we have now moved in a different direction. I certainly will be calling for the committee to move a recommendation forward to the government that there be a government-regulated model with respect to this industry.

I'm running out of time, so let me go to the specific question of the complainants and how best to protect them.