Evidence of meeting #93 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 migrants.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

William Lacy Swing  Director General, International Organization for Migration

11:45 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

I think it's a good suggestion, if they wish to do that. I would see no problem with it at all.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Excellent. Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

It would save your government money too.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Another issue that the 2015 audit report found was that the structure of the IOM made if difficult to navigate and that in addition to some scope creep issues that were identified by department officials, there was no single point of contact that the CIC, our immigration department, could reach out to if it had an issue.

Have the necessary structural changes taken place to address this issue? As you mentioned, we have many projects and contribute significantly to your organization. Our department essentially said that you didn't have a central point of contact for our department officials to contact. What structural changes have you made to address that audit finding?

11:45 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

When I arrived on the scene in 2008, we did a structural review reform, and we restructured it because we had things that were called regional offices that had absolutely no capacity and were actually competing with the countries they were supposed to be supporting.

We reviewed the structural reform in 2013 and found that it was working more or less as we thought it should. We—

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

This was 2015, and the audit found that our department officials had no central point of contact to contact you—

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I'm afraid I need to end that questioning there.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

I will come back to you on that, because I think I owe you an answer on the 2015 audit. I'm not familiar with it.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Go ahead, Ms. Kwan.

February 1st, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ambassador Swing.

Before I get into the questions, I would like to put a notice of motion on the record, Mr. Chair. The motion reads as follows:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) complaint process; that this study examines the procedures in place to make a complaint, the complaint review process, transparency and accountability measures within the complaint process, and the impact of complaints against IRB members on the federal court system in terms of the filing of appeals to decisions made; that this study should also examine the training provided to Board members regarding cultural sensitivity, gender, LGBTQ2+, and other vulnerable population issues; that this study should be comprised of no fewer than four meetings; that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship and IRCC department officials be in attendance for at least one of the meetings; that the Chairperson of the IRB and IRB officials be in attendance for at least one of the meetings; that the Committee report its findings to the House; and that pursuant to Standing Order 109, the government table a comprehensive response thereto.

With that, I would like to get into the questions.

Thank you again, Ambassador, for your briefing and update on the work you have undertaken, as well as on the global environment. I particularly want to acknowledge and say thank you for your acknowledgement of Canada's role in what we are doing.

In 2016, it's true that Canadians—or Canada, if you will—played a significant role, I think, with respect to the refugee crisis. In actual numbers, we brought in 23,523 government-assisted refugees. When you add the privately sponsored and the blended sponsorship, we were at 46,000, not an insignificant number in the context of our country.

However, in 2017, in 2018, and in 2019 going forward, those numbers reduce significantly. The government-assisted refugee numbers diminished from 24,600 as a target to 7,500 as a target for 2017 and 2018, and for 2019 it's 8,500. When you add up all the categories, the total number is almost half of what we had committed to in 2016, so there's much more work to be done.

I thank you for your acknowledgement, but I think Canada needs to continue to step up in that regard. Do you have any comments about that?

11:50 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

I honestly have no fault to find with the Canadian policy. I have come here, as I said, primarily to express appreciation to the government at all levels, both here and in Parliament, and yesterday with the various ministries, because I think you are a role model in a world that is not very receptive to migrants or refugees. I think I will continue to use you as an example.

Sometimes when I use Canada, people in other areas say, “Yes, but Canada's a vast country.” However, migration is an urban affair. Most of the migrants coming to your country are settling in five or six major cities. They are not in the outlying areas, so I will continue to use it.

Obviously, there will be times.... You have to determine how many you can bring in every year, but certainly the last two years have been extraordinary in terms of the numbers you have brought in and the manner in which you have received them. You have welcomed them, you have embraced them, and you have integrated them. I have no fault to find at this point.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you. I don't expect that you would find fault, but in the context of the global crisis out there, my point is that I hope Canada is worthy of your comments. In light of the fact that we reduced our numbers significantly, I think we can do more.

With that, I'm going to move on to another area, the issue around internally displaced people. I'm particularly interested in the lessons that perhaps we can learn from other countries on how Canada can shape our immigration stream to address the internally displaced situation.

11:55 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

I'm glad you raised that, because as you know, the largest group of forced migrants are the internally displaced persons. They are not included either in the global compact on refugees or the global compact on migration. The 200 people we have inside Syria are doing nothing but trying to keep IDPs alive and trying to give them support. In Libya, apart from the 700,000 migrants in Libya, there are 300,000 internally displaced Libyans and 250,000 recent returnees to Libya.

It's a major issue. It's been bracketed out. IDPs are extremely sensitive politically. Governments don't want to admit failure, admit that they have their own displaced persons. We have something called the displacement tracking matrix. We can tell you more or less accurately how many IDPs there are in a country, but the governments always dispute our figures because they want a lower figure. It's extremely sensitive politically, and we have to come to grips with that.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I would fully anticipate that it would be very sensitive. I wonder if you can share with our committee the information you have in terms of the internally displaced people and their numbers in the different countries. We don't have that much time at the committee, but if you can send us in writing some suggestions of what role Canada can play in that context, particularly within the immigration stream, and also best practices that some of the other countries are doing that we can learn from, it would be very useful for the work we may undertake.

I'm interested.... You mentioned the work that you have done, and I hope you will table that and the budgets and how it was allocated previously, as well as the work that you're undertaking going forward, so that we can see what the work plan is, where that funding is coming from, and how much is allocated to each of those streams.

I want to get into a little bit about northern Iraq and Erbil. I know the IOM plays a role in assisting in bringing refugees here, because we had difficulty. Can you just give us a quick synopsis of what you did?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I'm afraid I can't let you. I'm being put on a tight leash today, which I am going to respect.

11:55 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

These are the Azeris. I'll have to leave that.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Maybe we can get that in writing.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Go ahead, Mr. Whalen.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Actually, I'll allow the ambassador to answer Ms. Kwan's question, if he can do so briefly.

11:55 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

We've tried to support you on the minority groups like the Azeris, who have been very persecuted. I think we were able to play a role to help on that. The major role we played in Erbil, however, was to establish 200,000 shelters for Azeris and others fleeing Mosul. We did all of the shelters there in that period. The others, but not the Azeris, are mostly going back to Mosul slowly. In the case of the Azeris, I think we were able to help you get them out and get some of them here. I can give you a more accurate reading when I get back to Geneva. I'll send it to you. Maybe I'll get your card after this.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Thank you very much, Ambassador Swing.

We've recently completed a study about medical inadmissibility in Canada and some internal rules we have that deny people entry to Canada on the basis of excessive demand on our health care system. My understanding is that your organization helps facilitate or provides a list of doctors who help us do those international exams and make those determinations. How does Canada compare on that front with other international partners of yours that use your network of international doctors? Are there other countries that do a better or worse job in taking advantage of those services or denying access to their countries on the basis of medical conditions?

11:55 a.m.

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

Migrant health has become a major activity for IOM. We do about 400,000 medical assessments per year—not only for Canada, of course, but also for the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other refugee resettlement countries.

I don't think we've had major problems. I think Canada is as good as any on the list there. I don't know of difficulties we've had, but that will continue to be a major activity.

Increasingly, we've been able to integrate migrant health into WHO's work. They now have a significant interest in this, and with Dr. Tedros, we're working very well to strengthen that.

We also responded to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. We put 200 people in there to set up the first Ebola treatment centres outside the capital, Monrovia, but I think that overall, migrant health is doing well.

Noon

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

In terms of the scope of this problem, you say that Canada is doing well, but we take maybe 0.1% of our population as refugees each year, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall problem.

Is there a sense that our money would be better spent in accepting refugees and transporting them to Canada, or in helping people remain healthy where they are, either in camps or resettled in their countries? What's the right mix there?

Noon

Director General, International Organization for Migration

William Lacy Swing

I think you have to do both.

I think you have to do three things. You have to do refugee resettlement, improve the conditions where they are, and try where possible to get them to return. It's a very sensitive issue. Return is very sensitive always, because there will always be someone who will say that the situation is not right for them to go back.

The criteria for us are three: it must be voluntary, safe, and with dignity. This is where we hope to do a pilot project eventually with UNHCR to have some of the Rohingya return to northern Rakhine State, but it's very tricky. There will never be full agreement as to whether the conditions are right to return or not, but many of them want to return. They don't want to return now, but when the conditions are right.

I think the World Bank will probably play a major role in rebuilding those villages. Whether they do it as a project or provide the money to the Rohingya to rebuild their villages themselves is not clear to me.

Noon

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Ambassador Swing.

I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Sarai.