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

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Go ahead, Mr. Stewart. You have 10 seconds, please.

5:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Neil Stewart

If you go back and look at the economic results for the province of Prince Edward Island over the last two years, the growth rates for GDP and manufacturing exports have generally been in the top one, two, or three positions in Canada. Our economy is growing well right now, and we need a workforce to sustain that growth.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Thank you, Mr. Stewart.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Mr. Casey, you have five minutes, please.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

It will come as no surprise, my being a Prince Edward Island member of Parliament, that I will focus my questions on the Prince Edward Islanders here, with the greatest of respect to Minister Arseneault.

I want to start with the very last bullet in your very last slide, Mr. Gallant, and when you talked in your opening remarks about the decision of the Conservative government to make Prince Edward Island the only province in Canada that does not have face-to-face service for immigrants. We see in the briefing note from the Library of Parliament that the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council also talks about lengthy processing times.

I want to ask this question a couple of ways. First of all, what's in your slide is a recommendation from a parliamentary committee that talks about regional immigration offices. I'm not sure that this would solve the problem that only in Prince Edward Island can an immigrant not get face-to-face service from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Can you talk about the impact this decision has had over the four or five years since face-to-face service in our province was terminated?

5:30 p.m.

Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Sonny Gallant

We may not have mentioned the exact date, but the immigration office in P.E.I. closed in 2012. With no office there, it makes it very difficult for immigrants to get services. They're less likely to stay if they can't get the services when they need them. They have to leave the province.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Minister, just this week Premier McLaughlin issued the population strategy for Prince Edward Island. I expect you saw the local newspaper today, where there was a critique of that population strategy. Part of their critique is that this is something we heard about during the provincial election and this is something we heard about in the throne speech; there's not a lot new in it.

Now, you probably were not interviewed in advance of that article being published, so this is your chance to tell your side of it. What can you tell us about the population strategy that was released this week in terms of the progress that has been made along the population strategy in recent years?

5:30 p.m.

Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Sonny Gallant

This population action plan was initiated by our premier. It had three high points: recruit new Islanders, retain our youth and immigrants to P.E.I., and repatriate the thousands of Islanders residing elsewhere. Work with partners, employers, municipalities, and post-secondary institutions to help us create more employees and immigrants. Rural areas will be given special focus in the report in this regard.

The biggest thing is that most of our rural areas are losing their population to the urban areas, so that's a big part of the action plan.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Now, Minister, I'm happy to have you answer this question, but if you want to delegate it to Ms. MacPherson, we've met on this subject before. Her technical grounding on this subject is extensive. I'll leave it up to you.

I wonder if you could give a bit of an explanation for the immigration pilot process within the Atlantic growth strategy. You use a bunch of terms: designations issued, endorsement applications received, endorsement issued. Can you walk us through the steps and tell us just exactly where we stand in Prince Edward Island in terms of getting to that 120-family target?

5:30 p.m.

Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Sonny Gallant

Mr. Stewart.

5:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Neil Stewart

Since the pilot was started in earnest, I guess in March, we have held sessions across Prince Edward Island to inform employers of the requirements for them to participate in the pilot. That's where we talk of designating an employer to be an eligible employer under the pilot. Through those sessions the employers learned that they were going to be required to provide enhanced settlement services if they wished to participate in the pilot.

We have designated 62 employers. We have 21 applications from immigrants to immigrate under the pilot. We've endorsed 14 of those immigrants so far to come through the pilot.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

I'd like to thank our panellists for coming to Ottawa from Atlantic Canada to provide insights on the challenges they face.

With that we'll suspend for a couple of minutes to allow the next panel to assemble.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

The meeting will resume.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motions adopted by the committee on October 4, 2016 and April 3, 2017, the committee will resume its study on immigration consultants.

From the department, we have before us Mr. Michael MacDonald, director general, immigration program guidance; Mr. David Cashaback, director, immigration branch; and Mr. Chris Meyers, director general, finance.

Welcome, gentlemen. There will be no opening statements. We'll move immediately to questions.

Ms. Zahid, I believe you're splitting your time with Ms. Dzerowicz.

Ms. Zahid.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair. Thanks to the officials for coming out. I know it has been delayed a few times.

As we conclude our study on immigration consultants, we have heard a lot of testimony and a lot of recommendations.

Should the Government of Canada abandon the current self-regulation model for immigration consultants and replace it with an independent government regulator, empowered, mandated, and resourced to investigate complaints against immigration consultants and to refer complaints to law enforcement forces when appropriate?

What is your view on this?

5:35 p.m.

David Cashaback Director, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thanks for the question, Mr. Chair, and for the opportunity to appear before you today.

Were the government to go in a different direction, to regulate this directly rather than the current arm's-length relationship we have now, I think the first step from our perspective is there's definitely a bit of policy tension that has to be explored about whether and how to address the tension between the department's primary function, which is assessing and making decisions on clients' applications, and that of regulating and setting the conditions for consultants whose function would be to assist applicants to put that best case forward.

Once that is set out, I think we're in a world to assess the steps to get to that outcome. Definitely from our perspective that's consultations with provinces and territories, but there's also a lot of work to design what would be core elements of the program.

Mr. MacDonald.

5:40 p.m.

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

Thank you.

Chair, part of the response to this is trying to look at the options around what such an organization or entity would be doing. Exactly what is it you would want to work on with consultants and what type of activity?

Part of the answer to that question will clearly rub up against other departments' current mandates so there will be some machinery of issue changes I would think that would have to be contemplated and advice given on that.

You would also have to look at any scope in the nexus with the territories and provinces around what power would such an organization have: for example, powers to enter premises, to undertake certain types of investigations, to subpoena documents, and to compel individuals.

Operationally, some key questions would have to be looked at around how and what the government of the day would want this organization to be doing on the ground and working with consultants.

Then of course there's the age-old problem we've talked about, which in any organization is how do you get at the ghost consultants, those who are unreachable many times, be they overseas or what have you?

May 29th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Do you think the ICCRC model should be finished?

5:40 p.m.

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

Michael MacDonald

I think at this stage it's fair to say the department is 100% committed to working with the current construct of the ICCRC, and we have shown that. I just met with them two weeks ago, for example. We talked in a very open and frank way about how we can make the ICCRC even better, what more it could do, and how the department could help in that regard. Are there more types of sharing we can do around trends and patterns? Are there more conversations we could have with the board of governors, still respecting the legislative framework that establishes the ICCRC?

We feel, and I think so does the ICCRC, that a lot of space can be done there to help improvement, as any organization needs to be improved.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

One more recommendation is that the regulatory body should establish qualifications for registration as immigration consultants and develop a tiered system as to the category of services individual consultants are permitted to provide.

Most consultants would be able to provide basic information and perform transactional work such as completing and submitting applications while a few qualified consultants should be permitted to appear before the IRB.

What's your input on this recommendation?

5:40 p.m.

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

Michael MacDonald

Again, I think that needs to be looked at in terms of the purpose of having a tiered model. I'm not sure, David, if you have anything more. I think it's worth assessing and seeing the value of a tiered model, and what more it gives you that perhaps doesn't exist today. What does it give to prospective and current clients?

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Ms. Dzerowicz, you have two minutes and 40 seconds.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thanks so much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks again for coming back.

We heard testimony that settlement agencies and NGOs are not able to provide immigration support as they fear they are barred from doing so under current section 91. They are particularly worried about the word “consideration”.

Was this the intention of the current section 91?

5:40 p.m.

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

Michael MacDonald

Section 91 was designed to help get at the problem—as the committee I'm sure is aware—of people who are operating in the fashion of ghost consultants. Getting at that was the objective of the day, and it was around making a framework that was the best way to get at it.

I want to point out that there is also subsection 91(4), which allows IRCC to enter into agreements with organizations so that they don't run afoul of subsection 91(1). We do that in the oversees refugee selection process, for example with the IOM and the UNHCR.

We have a framework, but we also have explicit abilities to allow for those that really help the immigration system in a certain way—and we did it on Syria, for example, with the UNHCR.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

You have 30 seconds.

5:45 p.m.

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

Michael MacDonald

Again, we've tried to give as clear guidance as possible on our website around the dos and don'ts of section 91. We've tried to explain to NGOs and service provider organizations what it means to assist a client; to translate something for a client; to help the client navigate the Internet, our webs, our forms.

We're finding that more education and more clarity is the best way to work with the organizations.