Evidence of meeting #39 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was francophones.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Yves-Gérard Méhou-Loko  Vice-President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Peter Bhatti  Chairman, International Christian Voice
Shelley Gilbert  Coordinator, Social Work Services, Legal Assistance of Windsor
Alain Dupuis  Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Saint-Phard Désir  Executive Director, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership
Laura Schemitsch  Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, Race and Company LLP
Beth Potter  President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Thank you. That was just in time.

Have any provinces that you know of designated the tourism sector as a priority under their own provincial nominee programs?

4:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

Off the top of my head, I believe that.... Do you know what? I would have to get back to you on that.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

The other one is that I would agree with you on the temporary foreign worker program. The labour shortages in the tourism industry aren't new, but I look at the TFWP for permanent full-time positions as a band-aid rather than a solution. I never liked the terminology.

What's the best way for the IRCC to provide a pathway for permanent residency for those working in the tourism sector?

4:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

One is acknowledging that the tourism industry fulfills a needed position within the economy and that those positions that are filled through the temporary foreign worker program—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

I'm sorry for interrupting, Ms. Potter. The time is up for Mr. Maguire. You'll maybe get an opportunity in the second round.

We will now proceed to Mr. Dhaliwal.

Mr. Dhaliwal, you will have six minutes for your round of questioning. You can please begin.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My first question will go to Mr. Désir.

When we look at the B.C. francophone community, it is a very vibrant community. When we talk about strengthening the diversity of British Columbia, the diversity of Canada, 4.4% of francophone immigration outside of Quebec is very important. It's near and dear to me and the francophone community in British Columbia.

Government has ensured that we will be able to meet that 4.4% requirement. Would you comment on that? Also, what else can be done from the traditional ways of immigration to achieve those targets?

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership

Saint-Phard Désir

Ever since I returned to Canada in 2007, we've been working to increase the number of francophones in our minority communities. There's been talk of 4.4% for years, but we never manage to reach those numbers. I think one of the reasons is because most francophones are in sub-Saharan African countries and Canada doesn't have nearly enough offices in those countries.

My view is that the number of visa offices needs to be increased and efforts should be made to facilitate the arrival of those who are coming under certain programs, like the ones that enable francophones to come much more quickly to Canada when they have an employment offer. However, this program doesn't perform as well as it might because the slow processing of applications means that employers, after a certain time, cancel the job offer if people are unable to get their visa on time.

I believe one possible solution would be to increase the number of visa offices serving francophone regions. The processing time for francophone visa applications also needs to be shorter.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Thank you.

My next question is going to go to Ms. Laura Schemitsch.

You talked about the task force to address the immigration-related delays. The minister has taken action and will have hired 1,250 new employees by the end of the fall. What is your comment about that? Would it help to mitigate this backlog problem that we have?

5 p.m.

Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, Race and Company LLP

Laura Schemitsch

Yes. I definitely believe that hiring new IRCC staff will help and should help with this backlog. However, I believe that advocates and applicants need to be updated on the status of that progress.

It's one thing to promise to hire these employees. It's another thing to demonstrate to stakeholders how that is going to prevent further backlogs as well as address the current backlog. It's very important to improve transparency and demonstrate how these new hires will improve the current situation.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Thank you.

Madam Chair, my next question is for Ms. Potter.

Ms. Potter, we are facing a similar situation in British Columbia. I recently had an issue where one of the Punjabi filmmakers wanted to come here, so they applied for the work permit, and there were no issues. All these artists who are coming in get their visas under the work permits, but when they come to do the reconnaissance first, to see if the project is feasible and to see the locations, then the visas are rejected because they can only come on a temporary visitor visa.

Would you be able to comment on how this process can be improved so that we have more people getting approved, particularly when it comes to the tourism and hospitality industry?

5 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

Just for clarification.... You're asking about travel visas.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Yes.

5 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

With regard to the travel visas, there's a process that people go through that allows the government to vet them. If they have received a travel visa, then the idea of extending that travel visa, if they have a return ticket, is something that we can absolutely prioritize.

If they're looking to kind of transfer that travel visa into a work visa, again, there is a process in place that should allow for that to happen. As we were looking at them, we would like to see work visas extended. If people are coming in on a temporary foreign worker visa right now, they can come in for, I believe, one year. If we can extend work visas from two years to four years and provide options for renewal, that would certainly assist those individuals coming in with work in mind.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

My time is up. Thank you.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you.

We will now proceed to Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe for six minutes.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, you can begin, please.

5 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses who have joined us today, whether by video conference or in person.

Mr. Désir, your opening address was very interesting. Just for my own information, I'd like to ask you a question.

Has the federal government has ever previously met its francophone immigration targets?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership

5 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

So it has never happened. Okay. It's very important to make a note of that.

Now, can you explain to the committee how a minority language community, usually francophones outside Quebec, can be more affected by processing delays than majority language communities?

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership

Saint-Phard Désir

Of course, it's extremely important for the vitality of our francophone minority communities for us to encourage francophones to come to Canada. In reality, however, as I was saying, the majority of francophones come here from sub-Saharan African countries, and there are very few visa offices processing applications from these countries. So we never manage to receive all the people who could come and strengthen our francophone minority communities.

Sometimes people are confronted by serious problems. For example, students are told they have not proved that they intend to return to their country of origin, while at the same time we encourage them to do just that by coming to study in Canada and remain here. There is a mismatch in what we're asking for and what people at the visa offices are telling people who apply for a visa to study in Canada. It's a problem that needs to be dealt with, because people in the visa offices are only following the guidelines they are given. They have no choice about following the procedures.

November 1st, 2022 / 5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Don't worry, I'm working very hard to do something about this situation.

In addition, in a report prepared by this committee on the disparity of treatment for foreign students, there is a blatant inequity between the processing of study permit applications from francophone African students and applications from other foreign students.

In its response to this report, the government admitted that there was in fact racism at IRCC, that it caused inequity and that it was going to deal with the problem.

Do you believe this also affects the delays for applicants from places like sub-Saharan Africa or the Maghreb?

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership

Saint-Phard Désir

Definitely.

It has a considerable impact on the issuing of visas for students who are supposed to be coming, and on issuing visas for those who want to come and work.

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Désir.

Good afternoon, Ms. Potter.

5:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

Good afternoon.

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Many people in Quebec have told me that the situation is very difficult for temporary foreign workers, as you know. People tell me that if we were to remove the obligation from the labour market impact assessment, the LMIA, the process would be much faster, particularly in the tourism industry. Do you agree with these people?

5:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

I do agree.

The labour market assessment is prohibitive. It extends the time period that it takes to get the application through. The cost that's associated with it is challenging for a lot of businesses. Also, the 30-day wait on advertising the position, especially in this climate, seems redundant.