AFGH: Jenny attends a mid year Afghanistan Committee

Through you, Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister this first question. She indicated that 3,700 Afghans were evacuated during this critical period. Could the minister advise on whether all the flights were full in the evacuation effort?

Anita Anand Oakville, ON
Liberal
Of course, I was not the minister at the time, but I'd like to say something very important on this topic. The limiting factor at the airport was not the fact that there were our planes there. The limiting factor was the fact that we had only one slot per day to evacuate Afghan nationals. To me, that has to be recognized every single time we talk about the evacuation.
Chief, do you want to add anything?
Afghanistan Committee
May 9th, 2022, 6:55 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP


Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the minister and to the officials for coming before the committee, with a special thank you, of course, to our military for the work you do each and every day to keep Canada safe and the incredible work you're doing abroad as well, with so many crises around the globe.

Through you, Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister this first question. She indicated that 3,700 Afghans were evacuated during this critical period. Could the minister advise on whether all the flights were full in the evacuation effort?


Anita Anand Oakville, ON
Liberal

Of course, I was not the minister at the time, but I'd like to say something very important on this topic. The limiting factor at the airport was not the fact that there were our planes there. The limiting factor was the fact that we had only one slot per day to evacuate Afghan nationals. To me, that has to be recognized every single time we talk about the evacuation.

Chief, do you want to add anything?


Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, thanks for the opportunity to add some more detail to the minister's statement.

I think we need to look at this in two periods—pre-August 15, before Kabul fell to the Taliban, and then post-August 15. Before August 15, yes, there were some flights that were not at full capacity. The reason was quite simple. Late in the game, the Government of Afghanistan imposed a requirement for all those leaving Afghanistan to have valid Afghan passports. Those Afghans could not get through Afghan government security at the airport to board those flights. That was the reason that a number of flights before August 15 were not at capacity.

After August 15, shortly after we re-established the air bridge, a number of the initial flights were not at full capacity, because we were just getting ourselves established with our troops on the ground. Finding sufficient numbers of Canadian entitled personnel, in the very, very small window that we had, was a challenge. 

I will say, however, that in the latter part we certainly made up for those flights that weren't filled to complete capacity by putting many more on the flights than the planes were designed for. There were 534 Afghans in the back of a C-17 that was designed for 200. That's the type of measure our members on the ground took to get out as many Afghans as possible.


Anita Anand Oakville, ON
Liberal

I'll add to that, if I may.

You have to remember that there were a number of factors that the Canadian Armed Forces had to take into account in loading those planes. These included weather, fuel, cargo and weight considerations, which all fluctuated with the different types of aircraft that we had on the ground. We had the CC-130J Hercules, the CC-150 Polaris and the CC-177 Globemaster.

It is, again, a testament to our Canadian Armed Forces personnel that they were able to do an exceptional job. The fact is that they're highly skilled professionals who were operating under extreme pressure in a fluid and unpredictable environment, and I'm very proud of their work. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

The empty seats were a result of people not being able to get the passports that were required, because of the changed rules. Subsequently, the flights were over-subscribed to make up for those numbers. That is the gist of what I understand. 

At the time of the evacuation, did Canada evacuate any Afghans who made it through the airport gates, but were not on the GAC-referred lists or on the IRCC lists?


Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, the answer is yes. The situation on the ground was fluid. One of the lessons we've taken away from this is the delegation of authority to the lowest levels.

Our commanders and our young leaders on the ground made decisions at times to take Afghans who weren't on the list because they were part of a vulnerable community or there was sufficient evidence to believe that, yes, there was some link with Canada. Those are the types of decisions that our people on the ground were making very successfully.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Do we know how many of the folks fall into that category?


Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, the simple answer is no. I will ask Vice-Admiral Auchterlonie if he has those stats.



Vice-Admiral J.R. Auchterlonie Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, 
Department of National Defence

Thank you, chief.

I don't know them off the top of my head. 

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for allowing me to join.

I'll echo the Chief's comment there and to reinforce the Minister's point, just to get back to that, there were two different phases. The fact is—


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'm sorry. Can I suggest that maybe we could get those numbers submitted to the committee? I would appreciate that.


Gen Wayne D. Eyre

I'm not sure that we have those numbers with any degree of accuracy.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I see. 


VAdm J.R. Auchterlonie

To clarify, we were part of a coalition air bridge at the time. So, not only were we bringing Canadian-entitled personnel, we were also bringing cargo and allied-entitled personnel. Therefore, in terms of those numbers, we were not only bringing Canadian-entitled persons, but also the coalition air bridge.

In those early flights after Kabul fell, we had Canadian-entitled personnel and allied personnel on the plane, as well as Afghans if they were proceeding to our nation. It wasn't only our personnel.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Yes. We have heard that from witnesses who were particularly concerned from the perspective that many of the folks Canada had identified did not make it on the flight, so I was trying to get clarity on that.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/afghanistan-s/44-1/12/jenny-kwan-1/
—————
7:20 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Could the minister advise us on how many Afghans your department identified as people who have an enduring relationship with Canada and should be evacuated to Canada?
Anita Anand Oakville, ON

As I said, we evacuated 3,700—


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Sorry. The question was on how many you have identified that you want to evacuate, not how many you actually evacuated.


Anita Anand Oakville, ON
Liberal

I will ask my deputy minister to provide more specifics.


Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

The last numbers I have—Chief, please correct me if I'm out of date—were that 3,800 were validated by DND and forwarded to IRCC.

The chief may have more current information.



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, those numbers are accurate. We received somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7,500 inquiries, or Afghans who were interested, but we were able to validate about 3,800 who had an enduring relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

So 3,800 were validated, but on the 3,700 who were evacuated, how many of those 3,700 were the ones the department identified?



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, I don't have those numbers in front of me. The numbers we're talking about are as of April 1 of this year. It's important to note that after the evacuation efforts ceased, requests still kept coming in. In fact, they come in to this day.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I wonder if the officials, then, could table with this committee the numbers for the entire period. How many were identified before the fall of Kabul? How many were identified after the fall of Kabul? How many were evacuated during the two periods in 2021—between August 4 and 15 and between August 15 and 26—and then thereafter? Can we get that breakdown? Could we also get that information tabled to the committee?

I'm also interested in knowing how many have been left behind. Do the officials or the department track the numbers of those who were referred to IRCC? How many of those who were referred to IRCC have subsequently been evacuated or made it out of Afghanistan to safety ?


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Thank you very much, Ms. Kwan. Your time is up, but I will give a few minutes to Mr. Matthews.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/afghanistan-s/44-1/12/jenny-kwan-7/
—————
7:55 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Could the officials advise us how many Afghans and their family members the department identified as having an enduring relationship with Canada. Could I have an answer to that first question?


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Deputy Minister, do you want to respond?


Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

Maybe I'll start, and the general can correct me if he has better information.

My understanding is that 3,800 were validated by National Defence and CAF, and forwarded to IRCC. Of that 3,800, 900 were accepted by IRCC, and that would imply that they were accepted along with any family members who met the criteria. That's the most current I have.


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

General Eyre, do you want to respond?



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

I have the same figures, Mr. Chair. 


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Thank you.

Madam Kwan. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

In terms of the information that 900 were accepted by IRCC, can you advise us what that means?



Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

I would assume it means—and we will have to confirm it—that it's then in the hands of IRCC to make contact and start the process. 

Effectively, the role of DND would end once the validation is done and forwarded to IRCC.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

What happened to the other 3,100, then?


Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

I would assume—but, again, it is a question for IRCC—that they are still being processed or assessed, or have not been accepted. That, again, is in the hands of IRCC. 

The process would be that the Afghan individual would contact the department and look for validation. DND provides what they have and can confirm, and then it's over to IRCC.

Chief, do you want to add to that?



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

I have nothing further to add. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Sorry, I meant 2,900 earlier, not 3,100. 

I have individuals who have contacted me who have received confirmation from your department as persons who have been verified as having an enduring relationship, and an email from your department indicating that they have been referred to IRCC since November. It appears that IRCC may not even have any verification that they have received this documentation.

We heard the same thing from GAC last week. GAC made referrals to IRCC, and then this week, I found out that officials are asking those individuals to ask GAC again for another referral. 

I am quite concerned that these folks who have been identified by your department as having an enduring relationship with Canada and should be brought to safety in Canada are now just lost in the wind. I don't know what IRCC has done with it, and they don't even know whether or not IRCC has their file. They have no way of knowing what the decision is.

Are you concerned about that, and is the department doing anything to follow up with IRCC on what is happening with those files that have been left behind?


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Deputy Minister Matthews. 



Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

All I can offer at this stage, Mr. Chair, is that once DND and CAF have done their validation, it goes into the IRCC process. I can't comment on how that process is or where a particular file is in their process. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

I am a bit distressed about this because what we heard from GAC it is that they've made their referral, and then, when applicants contact IRCC, IRCC is asking, “Can you ask GAC to make the referral again?” You have to wonder what's happened to the file.

Now I am wondering, on the referrals that have been made by your department, DND, whether or not those actually even made it to IRCC or have been lost within IRCC. 


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Deputy Minister, do you want to respond?


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

My question, then, to the department is: Will you undertake to follow up with IRCC, to make sure that the referrals you've made are files that are not lost in the system?



Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence

I think, Mr. Chair, that this is an IRCC process, and it's best left to IRCC to answer the question on how they are processing these. 



The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Thank you, Madam Kwan. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much.

I am quite distressed about that, I have to say, because on all accounts it seems to me that IRCC.... I don't know what's happening at IRCC with those files, and people have no way of knowing whether or not they are going to be able to have issuance of an invitation if IRCC is not following up. 


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

IRCC is not here, Madam Kwan. Certainly if they were here—


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

All right, I'm going to ask a different question.

Since the evacuation, at the current time, is your department engaged with your counterparts in allied countries in an ongoing discussion on how we can continue to work together to bring Afghans to safety?


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

General Eyre, go ahead, please.



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, no. This is a GAC lead, so we are in support of GAC if the request comes.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

To be clear, GAC has not asked you to engage.
Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay. I'm distressed by that answer as well.

Maybe you can give me a quick answer. If you were asked, would you be able to engage and provide support to bring further Afghans to safety?



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, it depends on the nature of the ask, where it would be, the numbers, the security situation—


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Third countries.



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

What third country?


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Pakistan.


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Madam Kwan, one person at a time, please. This time is up, almost. Let General Eyre finish the conversation.

Please, go ahead.




Gen Wayne D. Eyre

As with any request for assistance, we would have to do an assessment. What is the nature of the request? What is the security situation? What is being asked of us, and then what options could we provide?


The Chair Sukh Dhaliwal
Liberal

Thank you, Madam Kwan.

We'll go to Mr. Hallan for five minutes.

Please, go ahead.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/afghanistan-s/44-1/12/jenny-kwan-11/
—————
8:15 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you. 

I wonder if the department would have any concerns if Canada were to conduct biometrics of Afghans either in third countries or in Canada after they've arrived in Canada.



Gen Wayne D. Eyre

Mr. Chair, I would have to get advice on that question. Any collection of biometrics would be in support of another department. Unfortunately, I don't have a good answer for you on that. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I would love to get your answer in writing to the committee at a later time.

The reason why I ask is this: IRCC will say it's not up to them, that because of national security it's up to Defence and others to make that decision. So we consequently have a situation where everybody is passing the buck to someone else, and I'm interested in knowing what can be done and how it could be done, and can Canada work in collaboration with allied countries to help to get this done? Because, if based on the numbers we have received, the 3,800 which you referred to IRCC, only 900 have been processed—hopefully, here, but maybe not.... The rest of them, I don't know what's happened to them.

With respect to documentations, because of the collaboration that's required, there are situations where people literally are hiding right now and they're burning their documents at the moment, so to require them to submit those documentations is almost an impossible task.

I understand national security, but I also think we need to step up to try to figure out what to do here and how we can proceed, so I'd love to get your advice on what Canada can do to help bring more Afghans to safety.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/afghanistan-s/44-1/12/jenny-kwan-23/
Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates