Evidence of meeting #5 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was back.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Harpreet Kochhar  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Catrina Tapley  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

When we launch this pilot project, I will discuss it with my counterpart in Quebec City and any municipalities that want to participate. We will continue to work with them.

9:15 a.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

If the municipalities in Quebec tell you that they want the program and Minister Jolin-Barrette tells you that he doesn't want it, do you already have an idea of what your position will be?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

That is why it is so important to continue to work in a spirit of collaboration.

9:15 a.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Fine.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you, Ms. Normandin.

We will now move on to Ms. Kwan.

You have six minutes.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair; and thank you to the minister and his officials.

My first question deals with the estimates component. In the overall spending from the minister, according to the government's website, the planned expenditure is $67.7 million. The actual spending is $48.3 million. That's a shortfall of close to $20 million.

On the FTE side, the planned FTE was 613, but the actual was 460, a shortfall of 153.

Now we go to the programs. On settlement targets, as shown on the website, it achieved one out of three of the desired results. Targets were not met on the percentage of clients who received language training services, yet funding cuts have taken place for NGOs in delivering of services in support of resettlement.

In my own riding, Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society's circles of care and connection program received a funding cut of close to $140,000. That funding shortfall would mean it cannot sustain the program. The number of outreach workers to the refugee community has been slashed significantly.

I'm very troubled by that. The NGOs had a discussion with officials prior to their funding allocation. In the webinar, officials told NGOs that the funding model from IRCC would be improved and resources would be redirected to support the small and local non-profits. This association that I mentioned is a very effective small, local organization, yet it received a significant funding cut.

Why is that, especially when your ministry actually underspent?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

First of all, I want to commend my colleague for her advocacy.

I recently had an opportunity to travel to her part of the country where I met with settlement service providers, and I want to take a moment to thank them for the incredible work they do.

With regard to the specific numbers, I will defer to my officials who will elaborate on that. Let me just say that, year over year, more than 800 projects were selected for funding through the 2019 national call for proposals process.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Sorry, Minister. I don't want to get into all those details. I have six minutes and I asked a specific question, so I want it answered specifically.

In the spirit of working together, back on February 4 I wrote you a letter on this. I have yet to receive a reply.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Yes. I was in the process of trying to be directly responsive to what I thought was a legitimate concern around what we're doing to fund front-line service providers. I was giving you some precise numbers to show the progress that our department has made: 800 projects have been selected for funding and 79 service providers. We have a very robust settlement service provider system, and I've seen the benefits of that system first-hand in my travels in my early months—

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Minister, with all due respect, I appreciate those lines, but the reality on the ground is that people are experiencing funding cuts. Some of those organizations that you visited actually received funding cuts. There are programs that have been eliminated.

In spite of all this grand talk, the reality on the ground is different. This is what I'm telling you right now, with these specific case examples, and I have more to come.

Therefore, I want to raise this issue and I would ask you to go back and look at those numbers and talk with your officials to see how it is that those organizations received a funding cut when your department underperformed on the resettlement services, and particularly on the language training component. This is a real issue for many people on the ground. If we want people to be settled successfully, they need to be supported. The funding cut is not helping that.

Your ministry actually had resources. There were resources within your ministry and you underspent by $20 million. I'm going to park that with you, and we can have a further discussion about that.

I want to raise another issue with respect to this. Your ministry mandate letter specifically outlines, “continued work with the United States to modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement”.

I want to get clarity. When the government said “modernize”, a word that has been used previously, does that mean to say that the government is looking for ways to extend and expand the safe third country agreement?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

First, let me just say a few last words on your previous question briefly.

This country sets the high-water mark for our resettlement work. We've been recognized by the UNHCR and other organizations, and we should always be proud.

Is there more that we can do? Absolutely, and I look forward to working with you on that—

March 12th, 2020 / 9:20 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

You have $20 million there.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

With regard to your question on the STCA, Canada and the United States enjoy the most secure border in the world. The STCA is an important instrument to ensure not only the safety of Canadians but also the due process that should be afforded to refugee claimants.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Yes. Minister. I just want to understand the mandate letter. When it says “modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement”, does that mean to say that the government is planning to expand the application of the safe third country agreement?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

What I would say in response to that is that my specific mandate is to support Minister Blair, who has been asked to move forward with the modernization of the STCA. We are in contact with our counterparts in the United States, and those discussions will continue.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

What does “modernize” mean? Does that mean that it's going to expand the usage of the safe third country agreement?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

It means to—

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

I'm sorry for interrupting, but your time is up.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I can provide a very short answer.

It means to continually reassess this agreement.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you.

We will now move on to our second round of questioning.

Mr. Seeback, you have five minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Thank you.

Minister, I'm going to try to be very quick and direct in my questions, so I'm hoping that you can give me very succinct answers.

Two weeks ago at this committee, we learned that visitor visas are no longer being processed in Chandigarh. On what date was that decision made?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I will defer to my officials for the exact date, but I will say that we are moving to a more integrated, modernized and centralized working environment in India. We are moving applications around the global network.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

That's great. That's not my question. I want to know what the date is. If the officials don't know, can you let me know what the date is after today?

9:20 a.m.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Chair, let me just mention that we gradually moved some of the decision-making out of Chandigarh because of capacity. It has not been completely moved out of Chandigarh. There is still processing happening in Chandigarh.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Okay. That's not what you said two weeks ago. You said that only complex cases are being processed in Chandigarh. Is this a different answer now?