Evidence of meeting #71 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 seekers.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Patrick Tanguy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Commissioner Joanne Crampton  Assistant Commissioner, Federal Policing Criminal Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jacques Cloutier  Acting Vice-President, Operations, Canada Border Services Agency
Michael MacDonald  Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Paul MacKinnon  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Louis Dumas  Director General, Domestic Network, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you very much.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Co-Chair Liberal John McKay

Mr. Dubé, you have the final three minutes of this round.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Clouthier, you mentioned that the wait time has not decreased as a result of the reassignment of resources. However, wait time aside, there is an impact on the working conditions for customs officers.

What are the repercussions, specifically in terms of things like post-traumatic stress? The wait time may not be decreasing, but there is still a lack of staff at the busiest ports of entry.

9:55 a.m.

Acting Vice-President, Operations, Canada Border Services Agency

Jacques Cloutier

Let me start by telling you that the health and well-being of our employees is one of our most significant concerns. We are actively working in partnership with our colleagues in the union, in order to make sure that we really have our fingers on the pulse of the situation.

At the CBSA, just like our colleagues in the RCMP, we have the privilege of being able to count on an extremely professional workforce that is extremely committed to its work and that is fully supported. We do all that we are able to do, as the needs arise.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

In that case, what explains the contradiction between the union's position, saying that it does not have enough staff, and the fact that your agency says that it does not want to ask the minister for additional resources, so that you do not have to make assignments on a temporary basis?

10 a.m.

Acting Vice-President, Operations, Canada Border Services Agency

Jacques Cloutier

I do not believe that the agency has ever said that it does not want to make a request of any kind. The minister has been very clear. He has told us that he is waiting for the requests, should they become necessary.

In our current situation, I continue to feel that we have the resources we need to provide our services and to respond to situations such as the one that occurred at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you.

Mr. MacDonald, one of your comments was that, in terms of the figures and the countries of origin, there are a lot of similarities with situations that have arisen before. However, you also said that having asylum seekers concentrated on that one location was something new, something extraordinary.

In your opinion, and perhaps in the opinion of other witnesses, what explains the fact that there has been an increased presence of asylum seekers in that area?

10 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

As I mentioned, historically, different populations migrate into Canada through different corridors from the United States, largely because different diaspora communities are centralized in different areas in the United States. For example, in places like Minnesota and so on, you have a high degree of Somali and Djiboutians, whereas on the Pacific coast you have a lot of Chinese, Iraqi, Afghan individuals, and so on.

What is unique about the Lacolle situation is that, post-earthquake, Haiti has a significant number of individuals located in Miami and New York City. Plus, the French language draws a lot of the Haitian claimants into Montreal, largely for their children to go to French-speaking primary and secondary schools.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Co-Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Dubé and Mr. MacDonald.

The time remaining together I'll turn over to my joint chair.

September 28th, 2017 / 10 a.m.

Liberal

The Co-Chair (Mr. Robert Oliphant) Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We will now start the second round with the Liberals, but I would like to add something first.

I wanted to say that there have been many requests for information. I think it would be helpful to send it to the clerks of both committees at the same time, except for the Criminal Code, which is very thick, and we have it.

Thank you, Ms. Crampton.

Go ahead, Mr. Picard

10 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am going to share my time with my colleague Ms. Damoff.

Before I begin, I would like to highlight the professional work you have all done at this time, and I am specifically referring to the episode at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. I also acknowledge the respect that you have shown to the people arriving at the border.

Maybe I am a little naïve, but personally, I believe that this humanitarian operation had a much greater impact than simply setting up encampments and providing food. That said, we will see what effect the operation has in Quebec.

Mr. Tanguy, you alluded to the study that went on in the summer in order to better understand this experience, to learn something from it, and to be better prepared in the future. I do not believe that this year was the first periodic and concentrated wave of immigration or asylum requests. I believe that there have been others in the past. What are the factors you are looking at in order to improve your operations, if you have to?

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

Thank you for the question.

As my colleague from the Canada Border Services Agency mentioned, the Government Operations Centre supports all departments and agencies in order to plan for the future. In concrete terms, one of the most important things is to thoroughly go over the lessons learned from the past. For example, it is important to plan the sites and the facilities, to assess the potential need for a triage centre and a place to conduct checks, and to ensure that you have access to the site specifically to avoid travel.

The role of the Government Operations Centre is to provide tools to our colleagues in agencies and departments in order to accurately assess the measures that can be taken in advance, to provide resources, whether computer-related or anything else, so that the staff, as my colleagues have suggested, is even more prepared than before.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

I have a concern, which may also be shared by those listening to the debate outside this room.

My question is for both Mr. Tanguy and Mr. MacDonald. After their arrival, how do we keep track of people, how do we keep in touch with them? Since this has been a fairly regular movement over the course of history—I know we are making assumptions—studies are likely to show trends in rejections and refusals. What happens after the admission of those who are allowed to stay? Ultimately, how many will not be admitted and will have to return home?

10:05 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

Let me turn to my colleague, who is in a better position to answer.

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

Thank you.

The ability for us to keep in contact with people is really carried through our operation centre, our contact centre. When people are intercepted and then processed at the port of entry, we are taking their contact information, and so on, so we have the initial information in order to reach out to them. In addition, when people submit all of their forms to continue down the process, we are gathering more and more information with them.

That said, we also have been finding that in this particular situation in Lacolle, Quebec—as Monsieur Dumas has outlined—the outreach with the community organizations is key. We also have a very healthy relationship with the Canadian Bar Association and all of the immigration consultants who work with individuals.

So we have many ways to keep in contact with people and encourage them to keep in contact with us.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

With respect to the percentage of all those getting in, historically, how many do you expect may not be admitted?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

Do you mean those who may not be determined eligible by the IRB?

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Yes.

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

If one were to follow the IRB historical trends—which we can talk about more next Tuesday—for the Haitian population grosso modoit is around 50% acceptance/rejection rate, but it varies year by year. Sometimes it's higher, sometimes it's lower.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

I'll let Ms. Damoff ask the last questions.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you for your time, and thank you for being here today.

There are a number of myths about these asylum seekers, so I have some quick questions first.

My first question is for the RCMP and CBSA. I watched on CBC a report this week where it showed an RCMP officer standing at the border explaining to people the process that would happen. When they cross the border, do they just wander around and join society, or are they arrested?

10:05 a.m.

A/Commr Joanne Crampton

They are arrested as soon as they cross over, and they're advised of that in advance of crossing, so it's really clear to them that they will be arrested and detained.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

As a member of the public safety committee, we've had a number of dealings with the RCMP and the CBSA. I compliment you on the work you do to keep Canadians safe.

Is there a risk to Canadians from these asylum seekers? Is there a risk to Canadians' safety from the people who are crossing the border?

10:05 a.m.

A/Commr Joanne Crampton

In terms of people crossing, obviously their intentions are unknown to us at the time. That's why we have the processes we do. We verify their identity, verify status, and do an interview process before ever passing them to the CBSA. We clarify exactly what their intentions are and why they're there.

10:05 a.m.

Acting Vice-President, Operations, Canada Border Services Agency

Jacques Cloutier

I would quickly add that once we take custody of these individuals and they go through our process, no one is released if there is even a doubt that there could be a security issue or a risk to the Canadian population. All of those cases that present risk are dealt with at the border immediately in their entirety.