Evidence of meeting #6 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 applications.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hughes St-Pierre  Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Catrina Tapley  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Daniel Mills  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Marian Campbell Jarvis  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you, Minister.

Now we will move to Ms. Shanahan.

Welcome to the CIMM committee today. You have five minutes.

June 17th, 2020 / 12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Minister. I'm very pleased to be here with you today.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Châteauguay—Lacolle. About three years ago, in August 2017, we received a call regarding a large number of refugee protection claimants at the border. My constituents in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle were really on the front lines setting up tents. Many of them work at customs, at immigration or with the RCMP. It was truly an incredible collaborative effort, on Roxham Road, between the elected officials of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and the residents.

Since then, the number of people crossing the border has decreased. Can the minister give us an approximate update on the pre-COVID-19 pandemic numbers?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Are you talking about illegal immigration?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Yes. I'm talking about refugee protection claimants.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Do you want the pre-COVID-19 pandemic numbers?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Yes.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I think that, over the past two or three years, the numbers have decreased. I believe that this is the result of our investments at the borders to ensure that our officers have the necessary resources.

The short answer is that the numbers around irregular immigration went down for approximately two or three years in the lead-up to COVID-19. We can certainly verify precisely what those numbers are. They went down from approximately 20,000 to 19,000 to 18,000 year over year, or in that range.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Thank you.

In fact, we're also very proud in Châteauguay—Lacolle that we've received, I think, five families now, Syrian refugee families, and we're still waiting for a family. The people in my riding are very proud of their welcoming attitude.

It is going to be World Refugee Day on Saturday, Minister, as I'm sure you're well aware, and Canada has always been a global leader when it comes to the resettlement of people facing conflict and turmoil. Could you speak to some of Canada's actions, both domestically and abroad, in regard to what has been done to help refugees reach our country?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Thank you for the question and for foreshadowing what should be a happy day, because we should all be proud of Canada's contributions. Concretely, first and foremost, we have continued to help resettle refugees and asylum seekers, notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic.

I'll take a moment to highlight that we are looking at ways to strengthen our relationship with refugees so they can have an active voice in the creation of our policies, creating that space so there is real purchase into this effort by the refugee community. I can think of several examples, including Mustafa Alio, who heads up an organization called Jumpstart. The purpose of this organization is to help encourage refugees to be self-starters and entrepreneurs.

For me, and I hope all members share this sentiment, it's about combatting the discrimination and stigma we see far too often towards refugees, that somehow they're simply a burden on our society. They're not. Refugees are our neighbours. They are prepared to contribute and to sacrifice when we need it the most. We've seen that in some very visible ways in Quebec and right across the country.

I hope all members will be quite proud in celebrating World Refugee Day this weekend.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

You have 20 seconds left.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

I have a quick question on temporary foreign workers.

What were the biggest challenges? When COVID hit and we knew we needed those workers on our Quebec farms, what was the biggest challenge for you?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

It was making sure they could arrive in a safe and orderly manner in a way that was consistent with the restrictions we had to put in place.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Minister, your time is up.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I think I answered the question, though. It was concise, but I answered it.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Sorry for interrupting. Maybe someone else can raise it in their time.

We will now go to Ms. Normandin for two and a half minutes.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Before the crisis, the request for an immigration ombudsman had already been made.

Members' offices are currently receiving complaints, questions and comments regarding the lack of responses from the department. Now that the crisis has started to subside a bit, this issue keeps coming up in our offices. I don't see any money allocated to the creation of an ombudsman position.

Is this on the drawing board at the department?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

No, Ms. Normandin. It isn't on the drawing board.

However, we have an organization that exists to maintain confidence in the immigration system.

We are on the precipice of giving a college of immigration consultants all the necessary powers around maintaining a high degree of professional standards when it comes to giving advice to those who wish to navigate our immigration system. Certainly that will be one way we can maintain a high degree of integrity in the system.

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Okay. I have another question.

I know that we want to gradually transition to using digital technology to process files, particularly simple administrative files, such as work permits. However, I'm afraid that the current paper files are being somewhat neglected.

Is there any desire to digitize existing files, as part of a shift towards new technology?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

This is one of those questions where I'm wishing my deputy minister were here in person so I could see her smile. We might see her smile on the screen, but yes, COVID-19 has presented us with an opportunity to digitally transform the way we do business in IRCC, right from A to Z. Those are conversations we are embarking on in great haste so we can provide the best quality service to our clients, namely aspiring new Canadians and visitors.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

You have 20 seconds left.

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

This year, can we expect the implementation of a new technology tool for processing files, among other things?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Of course.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

We will now move to Ms. Kwan.

Ms. Kwan, you have two and a half minutes for your questions.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The parents and grandparents sponsorship program is supposed to be open for applications in January. It is now June and the government website still states:

Details and opening date for the 2020 parents and grandparents program will be posted on this site when details are confirmed.

When will this program be opened, and will the government still honour the quota for this stream this year?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Ms. Kwan, the general language on the website you referred to reflects that we are still in a period of great disruption within our work, as I've outlined. As soon as we have an update on the parents and grandparents program, we will provide it. I know it's an important priority for your community and many others.

As for achieving the level, I will have an update on that in the fall.