Evidence of meeting #72 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 irb.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael MacDonald  Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Shereen Benzvy Miller  Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Paul MacKinnon  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Greg Kipling  Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
André Baril  Director, Asylum Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

That's good.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Michelle Rempel

Ms. Kwan.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to carry on this safe third country agreement discussion.

As we now know with the current information that we have from the IRB, approximately 50% of the cases that have been processed were successful here in Canada. That is to say that 50% of those people in the United States were rejected, or at least felt that they needed to come to Canada to get to safety.

In light of that information, does the government or the department still think that safe third country is safe for the United States, because for at least 50% of them, it didn't work in the U.S.?

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Paul MacKinnon

It's hard to know if the 50% were rejected in the U.S. It's not necessarily the case that the folks who arrive between the ports of entry have a failed asylum claim in the U.S. We'd have to dig into those details a little more.

The other piece that's interesting is that if you look at approval rates across different countries, you find that the approval or rejection rates in asylum seeking between Canada and the U.S. are fairly comparable across the board. That's another thing we look at. If we saw big discrepancies in approving asylum claims in either country, that could be of concern, but you see fairly common numbers across the board.

9:50 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

Chair, if you permit, I can add a bit of statistical analysis to this that may be helpful to the member.

We did a snapshot. We looked at over 8,000 actual claims. Out of those, 194 were found ineligible. Of the ineligibilities, 176 were for a prior claim, probably largely in United States. The safe third agreement represented only 10 of those numbers, so the numbers are, in fact, quite low.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I guess I'll point this out, because we don't actually know how many people were rejected. I know of one case, for sure, who was rejected, and that was Mr. Seidu Mohammed. He actually had to cross over in the dead of winter. He lost digits as a result of that. His claim was rejected in the United States, and then he was successful here in Canada, so we actually don't know.

What we do know, though, is that 50% of the people felt they had no choice but to make the irregular crossing, risking life and limb to get here, and then to have been successful in that process here in Canada. I would ask the department to reflect on that and what that really means in terms of the safe third country agreement. I'm going to leave it at that.

I'll go back and ask a question to the IRB on legacy cases. As we now know, some 5,300 legacy cases are still outstanding. Before the task force was put in place, how many cases were there?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Shereen Benzvy Miller

Yes, 5,300 is what was left after the legacy initiative was finished in 2012.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

How much progress has been made with the special task force?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Shereen Benzvy Miller

Since they started...?

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Yes.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Shereen Benzvy Miller

There are 600 on the docket now to be heard.

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Greg Kipling

Yes, but they've only finalized fewer than 50.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Shereen Benzvy Miller

Right. They've finalized 50. They have 600 scheduled. They started to do hearings on September 18. Between May and September they were ramping up to find former members who could....

One thing I would like to clarify is that it is a highly specialized field to be a member, a decision-maker in this, like being a judge or a quasi-judicial adjudicator. It takes about 10 months of training to actually be a member, and then to really ramp up to be able to do the number of cases and to be ready to hear cases on a regular docket with scheduling takes probably another 10 months. It's well over a year, so that's why simply finding people who already had the experience was essential to the success of that particular initiative.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you. We'll leave it there.

Monsieur Dubourg.

October 3rd, 2017 / 9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. MacDonald, we have talked about several initiatives that have been undertaken, particularly outside the country. The term outreach has been used in that context. The Prime Minister had to meet with leaders of the Haitian community regarding this issue. In addition, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship went to the United States. The Library of Parliament gave us a document where we learned that, for the sake of immigration, you even translated some documents into Creole, so as to be able to reach community members and inform them of the immigration process.

Trips were taken to the United States, including to Los Angeles and Miami. I would like to know how much those trips cost and whether, in your opinion, it is effective to have so many outreach activities to raise awareness.

Should we continue with those activities if they are useful to the commission and to various partners involved in immigration-related law?

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

In terms of the cost of activities, we are currently figuring it out, but a trip to the United States normally costs $2,000 per person.

That's just a round figure. For the IRCC officer we sent down to Miami and/or to New York to assist with outreach efforts, the cost is extremely minimal. Granted, there is a cost.

The goal of the outreach overall, as has been said—and you are correct, sir, in describing the outreach—is really to inform people. It's about giving people information to help them make a life decision. People will make their life decision as they see fit at the end of the day, but as immigration officials, we want to make sure that people make the best informed decision.

Our outreach is extensive. It involves media platforms, social media platforms, print platforms. It involves face-to-face conversations with people. It involves members of Parliament and ministers meeting with individuals. It even involves individuals like us and our decision-makers talking with people. It also involves outreach with organizations—lawyers, consultants, non-governmental organizations, workers in the communities, and so on. It also involves our provincial colleagues.

Outreach is also about providing something to individuals in the language of their choice, in the language they are comfortable with.

Immigration is a very complex system. So it is of the utmost importance for the information to be clearly stated, so that everyone can understand it. We are talking about those people's mother tongue.

That's why we chose to translate a lot of the products into various languages, not just Creole. We have translated things into other languages.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Okay, thank you.

You have created teams to help accelerate the process, be it on Peel Street or at the Guy-Favreau Complex.

Have you found ways to really accelerate the eligibility process for refugee claimants?

10 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

We have come up with systems that we feel are from our lessons learned, which were described before, and to be frank, from a lot of ingenuity on the part of some of our officers.

Mr. Dumas, who appeared last week, is an extremely seasoned foreign service officer with over 25 years overseas. He was one of the architects of the design establishing Complexe Guy-Favreau, including the current director who's there. I talked about grassroots innovation. It was the local Montreal staff that came up with the idea of the dedicated service counter, the express desk, and also what we call the drop zone, which is where lawyers can come in and drop off hundreds of applications or tens of applications at a time.

We feel at this stage that the design of the Peel Street second floor and the design of Complexe Guy-Favreau are, in fact, very much successes.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, will you give my colleague the floor?

Thank you.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

With respect to the outreach we're doing in the United States, can you tell us if there is a correlation between the numbers in the last couple of months and the actual outreach, and if so, what additional outreach you're intending to do, and whether the current levels of outreach will continue for the foreseeable future?

10 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

There are about three parts to the question, so I'll be brief.

The measurement of the success of the outreach is largely qualitative, I would argue. We do feel the outreach has been very much a success, because we have reached populations we haven't reached before. When MP Rodriguez talked to the Latino community in Los Angeles and others have talked around the United States, we feel that has been effective. Our 13 consulates have also reached out across the United States. We have reached a large number of people.

We are planning additional outreach measures. We will continue down this track, I can guarantee that. We have planned another round of various types of media—social as well as print as well as radio types of outreach. We will take whatever trips we need to take to talk to any diaspora communities. Our consulates down in the United States are going through another round of outreach—in Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and so forth. We have just had conversations with our Global Affairs colleagues about what more can be done.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you, Mr. MacDonald.

Ms. Rempel.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Thank you, Chair.

Just to clarify my colleague Bob Saroya's question, how many people entered the country through unofficial points of entry in September 2017?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Operations Sector, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael MacDonald

I have a number from September 1 to September 17, which is just over 2,000. September saw a decline compared with August, a significant decline overall, largely because of the Lacolle decline.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

In response to a question that my colleague Mr. Maguire asked, there were figures that were presented to the end of September, September 29. Can you clarify why you don't have the data for this period? You presented a response to committee that says “all asylum claims between January 1, 2017 to September 29, 2017”, so how come you can't give me the number to the end of September right now?