House of Commons Hansard #300 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the hon. member for that really important question. Reuniting families has always been a priority in our immigration system, and one of the first things we tackled was to reduce the processing time for spousal sponsorship applications and to eliminate the backlog in that immigration stream.

When we took office, spousal sponsorships took 26 months or more. Sometimes it would take many years, depending on the country the spouse and the children were being sponsored from. We made it a point to dedicate resources and created a tiger team to attack that backlog and make it a priority to reduce that processing time. I am proud of the fact that we have eliminated the backlog in the spousal sponsorship program and have brought down the processing time from 26 months to 12 months for the vast majority of cases.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, to build on the issue of the safe third country agreement, the minister said that they are looking at modernizing the agreement, although official discussions have not yet taken place. His officials at committee actually confirmed that suspending the safe third country agreement is off the table. Will he confirm that applying the safe third country agreement to the entire border of Canada is also off the table?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the safe third country agreement is an agreement based on a principle, supported by the UN Refugee Agency, that asylum seekers should claim asylum in the first safe country they land in. This is a principle the UNHCR supports. It is a principle that we believe in, and that is the principle that underlies the agreement.

The agreement, I must say, is really good for Canada as well as for the United States.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, the minister did not answer my question. My question was this. Will he also confirm that at unofficial discussions with his U.S. counterpart, applying the safe third country agreement to the entire border of Canada is off the table?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, transforming the whole border into a port of entry would be impractical in terms of providing border and immigration services along its entire length of 9,000 kilometres.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, will he confirm, yes or no, that it is off the table?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, Canada continues to monitor developments in the United States, and not only Canada but also the UNHCR has determined that the United States' domestic asylum policy remains in place and is a safe country for asylum claimants to seek protection.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, the minister refuses to answer the question. Does he not realize that when he does that, he is only fuelling the fire the Conservatives are trying to spread, and that is that somehow, applying this safe third country agreement to the entire border is a feasible idea? Will he simply just say that it is off the table?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that the UNHCR is the UN refugee agency that has the expert knowledge for monitoring the domestic asylum systems of both Canada and the United States. The UNHCR, as well as our own analysis, continues to indicate that the domestic asylum policy of the United States continues to offer opportunities for asylum seekers to claim asylum and continues to offer due process, fair hearings, and appeal processes for asylum seekers.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, I ask that we monitor the responses to be equivalent to the time of the question asked. The minister refuses to answer the question. He needs to take responsibility, then, for the fallout that will happen from the misinformation being spread by the Conservatives.

I am going to move on. A number of community groups and NGOs are challenging the government. In fact, they are taking the government to court on the constitutionality of the safe third country agreement. What resources are being used to fight this court case?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the safe third country agreement is based on the principle that is supported by the UN Refugee Agency. The UN Refugee Agency supports the principle that asylum seekers should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in. They also conduct analyses on both Canada's and the United States' domestic asylum policy. We do the same thing. Both those analyses indicate that the U.S. domestic asylum system will accord due process to asylum seekers.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, my question to the minister is, what resources are being used to fight this court case?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the government will defend its position in court cases on all issues brought before the Federal Court, and this is no exception.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, this is a budget debate. My question is, what resources are being used?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the government is in the early stages of engaging in litigation. The government will, of course, vigorously defend its position in these cases.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, does the minister not know what the cost and the budget for it is?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the litigation is in its early stages. The government will defend its position. No figures are available at this time.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, the government does not know and the minister does not know.

What staff resources have been assigned to it from IRCC?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, we are engaged in the early stages of litigation on this issue. The government will, of course, vigorously defend its position. No figures are available at this time.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, so the minister does not know how much it costs, and he does not know which staff have been assigned to it. Does he know anything?

Let me just ask this, then. On the asylum seekers issue, we have seen the influx in Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia. How much money has been provided to Quebec for measures regarding the asylum seekers crossing irregularly into that province?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, as the hon. member would know, asylum seekers access provincial social services, which are funded through the Canada social transfer. Those are the transfer payments that deal with those costs. The federal government provided $13.7 billion to provinces and territories in 2017-18 under the Canada social transfer for post-secondary education, social assistance, social services, and early childhood programming.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, after the most recent negotiations with Quebec, is the minister saying that no additional dollars are being provided to Quebec?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, we engaged with Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and NGOs through the intergovernmental task force on irregular migration. Quebec has put forward a figure for our government's consideration. We asked for a detailed breakdown of those numbers, and our officials are actually discussing those numbers as we speak.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chair, what is that figure?

Department of Citizenship and Immigration—Main Estimates, 2018-19Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, the Government of Quebec has proposed to us that it has incurred costs in the amount of $146 million, and it has asked the federal government to reimburse some, if not all, of that figure. We have asked for a breakdown of those costs to ensure that we know the different lines of costs associated with that number.