CIM#43: Study on the conditions faced by asylum seekers

 If the Canadian government suspended the safe third country agreement, for example, people would not have to go through irregular entries. In fact, they could go through the official ports of entry without any fear. Right now, because of the safe third country agreement, they are not allowed to do that. When they do, they will be rejected automatically.
This is why I ask the question of whether the government should suspend the safe third country agreement.

I'm going to turn to Mr. André regarding the same question.”
Citizenship and Immigration Committee on Nov. 22nd, 2022
Evidence of meeting #43 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session
 
November 22nd, 2022 / 4:30 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses.

I'd like to ask the representatives from The Refugee Centre to put on the record their recommendations for the committee, after which I have one very specific question.


Pierre-Luc Bouchard
Refugee Lawyer and Head of Legal Department, The Refugee Centre


The last recommendation, that we didn't have time to finish explaining, concerns extending the validity period of the refugee claimant document.

We witnesses are trying to convince you that there are a lot of administrative formalities. As Mr. André said, these are people who have a lot of trouble with computers and all that.

We therefore recommend that the validity period of the refugee protection claimant document be extended to four years from its current length, two years.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

I'd like to ask all the witnesses this one very specific question. Given the situation that we know and the dangers that asylum seekers are in, should the Canadian government, at the very minimum, suspend the safe third country agreement?

Could I get a full round of responses from everyone, a clear answer and maybe a short bit on why that should be done?

I will start with Mr. Daoud.


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


Yes, they should suspend the safe third country agreement.

Basically, we're forcing asylum seekers to go onto terrain that's very dangerous. We've already established that these are legitimate claims and that what they're going through is very unfortunate. In order to regulate the matter and ensure that the government and community organizations can service them correctly, we need to suspend it.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Do you have anything to add to that answer, Mr. Bouchard?


Pierre-Luc Bouchard
Refugee Lawyer and Head of Legal Department, The Refugee Centre


No, I think he summarized it well.

Excuse me.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay. Thank you.

I will move on to Ms. Rududura.


Eva-Gazelle Rududura
Vice-President, Unis pour une Intégration Consciente au Canada


In view of what our community reports to us, we have to make sure that the people experiencing these odysseys are received with dignity. That is what we suggest. I don't think that agreement has anything to do with what these people endure. I think Canada can only control the way it allows people to get back to a normal life and contribute to society. Otherwise, for the rest, I think people go through all sorts of situations even before taking that route. We therefore have no recommendations on that point.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

If the Canadian government suspended the safe third country agreement, for example, people would not have to go through irregular entries. In fact, they could go through the official ports of entry without any fear. Right now, because of the safe third country agreement, they are not allowed to do that. When they do, they will be rejected automatically.

This is why I ask the question of whether the government should suspend the safe third country agreement.

I'm going to turn to Mr. André regarding the same question.


Frantz André
Spokesperson and Coordinator, Comité d’action des personnes sans statut


I would reiterate that in my opinion, we have to eliminate the safe third country agreement. I think people would be much less afraid of migrating, knowing they are able to enter at a port of entry whose role it is to admit people with dignity. Taking a route where you are told that if you continue, you will be arrested, means enduring more stress and a form of aggression after being refouled by so many countries. That is why I strongly suggest that the safe third country agreement be eliminated.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you for that.

The Canadian government says it's “modernizing” the safe third country agreement. That's the term it uses. It won't actually tell us what that means and what its plans are in the negotiations with the United States. 

What we've seen, of course, is that the government, in a hidden kind of way, expanded the use of the safe third country agreement. In the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-97, a 379-page document, the government snuck in there the safe third country agreement application to the Five Eyes countries. That automatically turns people away if they try to seek asylum here in Canada.

Do you think that's right? 

This question is directed to The Refugee Centre. I don't know who wants to respond to that. 


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


Going along with what we said, that's not right.

Given what these refugees are going through and given the legitimacy of these claims, we should not be rejecting them. We've already established that the alternative is not good and they would be facing danger otherwise.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. André, I have the same question for you, please.


Frantz André
Spokesperson and Coordinator, Comité d’action des personnes sans statut


Thank you for your question.

Expanding that agreement with the United States to include the other member countries of the Five Eyes, instead of suspending it, would be an indication that Canada is increasingly closed to immigration and is ending up creating many more restrictions in the world for people who would like to come and experience our Quebec and Canadian values. Yes, I think the Canadian government is plainly not showing that it intends to cancel the safe third country agreement. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

With the process around the brown paper and the delay, the government added this “entry for further examination” document. Is that new?


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


Yes. We started seeing this in January 2022. They've always had the right to do it, but we've only seen that being established in January 2022.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

As a result of that, how much time has been added to the processing period?


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


It's an additional 12 to 24 months, depending on the CBSA officer or IRCC agent who wants to issue the document.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting. Your time is up.

We will now proceed to our second round.

Mr. Redekopp, you will have two minutes for your round of questioning. Please begin.
4:45 p.m.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We will now proceed to Ms. Kwan. 

Ms. Kwan, you will have 90 seconds. You can please begin.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

On the question about the brown paper, which is so vital, would you recommend that the government issue that to the asylum seekers on arrival, Mr. Daoud?


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


Yes, they should, as they have before.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. André, what do you think about that?


Frantz André
Spokesperson and Coordinator, Comité d’action des personnes sans statut


I think it is essential, certainly.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Ms. Rududura, go ahead.


Eva-Gazelle Rududura
Vice-President, Unis pour une Intégration Consciente au Canada


I would agree with that.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Canada used to have an exemption for the safe third country agreement, a second one, which would exempt individuals who are faced with a return back to their country of origin when it was not safe to do so. There was a moratorium for that to be in place. In 2009, the Harper government took that away.

To all the witnesses, should Canada be reinstating that in the face of the fact that they are not going to suspend the safe third country agreement, at least for those who are faced with gender-based violence, for example, or those who face gang violence?


Abdulla Daoud
Executive Director, The Refugee Centre


Yes, I think it's pretty clear.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. André, go ahead.


Frantz André
Spokesperson and Coordinator, Comité d’action des personnes sans statut


Certainly, yes.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Ms. Rududura, go ahead.


Eva-Gazelle Rududura
Vice-President, Unis pour une Intégration Consciente au Canada


I would agree with that as well.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

On the question around the United States.... Right now, given the change in administration, some people would say that the U.S. is a safe country for these asylum seekers. Is it?

Mr. André, go ahead.


Frantz André
Spokesperson and Coordinator, Comité d’action des personnes sans statut


No, the United States is not a safe country. Every day, I hear about people who, like in Canada, are afraid of getting caught, of getting lost in the black hole, or being victims of abuse. So I think we have to put an end to the safe third country agreement.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

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

With that, on behalf of all the members, I really want to thank all the witnesses for appearing before the committee. Thank you for your time and important testimony. Some of you are coming for the second time. Last time, we were not able to accommodate you because of the votes. I really want to thank you for taking the time once again and appearing before the committee.

With that, this panel comes to an end. We will suspend the meeting for a few meetings so that sound checks can be done for the second panel.

The meeting is suspended.

Thank you.
5:30 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I thank all the witnesses for their presentations.

My question is for Ms. Silcoff. On the issue around the United States, whether or not it's a safe country for asylum seekers, many people will advance that it is a safe country. I'm very interested to know what has been presented in the legal case to indicate otherwise in the current situation as it stands. Why is it not safe for asylum seekers?


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


Here again, I think it's really useful to look at the very specific categories or classes of people who are experiencing lack of safety and serious deficiencies in the system. If the system doesn't function properly, people are at risk of refoulement, which means that they would be sent back to their country of origin to experience further persecution. 

I was trying to speak before about the one-year bar. People who don't make an asylum claim right away can't enter into the asylum system. There are lots of reasons why people may not come forward—because they're traumatized, because they're ashamed, because of cultural reasons—so this particularly impacts gender-based claims.

We know that people may not come forward with their claim, and then if they turn up at the border and they're rejected because of the STCA, then they really have a problem in the U.S. because then they're in a system where they can't access the U.S. asylum system. So that's another category.

Also, there are people facing detention. We know that Canada treats detention very differently from the U.S. In Canada, detention is seen, both according to the case law and the policies, as a last resort. The UNHCR specifies that people seeking protection should only be detained as a last resort. The United States sees detention very differently. They see it as an immigration management tool. This was exacerbated during the Trump administration, but it pre-existed the Trump administration and it exists today. When somebody is in jail in the U.S., they're experiencing very serious difficulties, and that's very different from Canada, so that's another category of people who are vulnerable.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

I want to get to gender violence asylum seekers, who are being rejected in the United States. In those instances, if people were to try to make a claim in Canada and Canada turns them away, they will be deported back to their country of origin to face the violence from which they are trying to flee. Is that not correct?


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


That's exactly correct. In the example I gave of the woman who hung on to the back of a freight train, that was her dilemma, because she knew that if she stayed in the United States, there was a strong likelihood that she would be deported to face renewed gender-based harm.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

On that basis, the safe third country agreement is actually putting people at further risk in terms of refoulement. For Canada to apply deportation to such individuals, Canada would be actually in violation of international law on refoulement. Is that not the case?


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


Right. Canada is responsible for turning people back at the border, so Canada is not an innocent party in this, but there are fixes that—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting. I've stopped the clock.

So many side conversations are going on. The witnesses are here, so please provide them the opportunity to answer the questions, and please avoid side conversations. Thank you.

Please continue.


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


I think when people are turned back from Canada, Canada does bear a responsibility, but we can do something about it. We can end the agreement or we can suspend it, but we can also look at the public policy discretionary exemptions, which this committee was concerned about in 2002 and UNHCR was concerned about in 2002. Now is the time to take these seriously and have a really serious look at what we can do with them.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Your first recommendation for this committee is for the Canadian government to suspend the safe third country agreement, at the very minimum, or to get rid of it altogether. Short of that, it's to bring back those exemptions, the public policy exemptions under article 6, to include gender-based claims, for example, and other vulnerable classes of people. 

Is that your recommendation?


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


Exactly. We have only one exemption in place now, for people facing the death penalty. It's rarely used. There was one for people from countries that Canada doesn't deport to—that's gone. Gender-based claims are a perfect example. People who would return to face jail in the United States simply because they want protection, that's another great example. People who are barred from the asylum system because they've passed the one-year mark, that's another great example. 

These are all discretionary public policy classes that Canada can put in place.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

On the issue around people arriving and the delay in the processing, we just heard from the previous panel that people were not able to access what they call the brown paper document in a timely fashion, and as a result they're living in poverty and they have to apply for income assistance. 

What do you think the Canadian government should do in the processing? Should they be issuing the brown paper document on arrival for individuals so that they can access all the services that come with that very important document?


Maureen Silcoff
Lawyer and Past President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers


I think we have to look at the reality of the situation. We know that budget 2022 put in place $1.3 billion for the CBSA, the IRCC and the IRB. There are finances there, available for resources, and I think people shouldn't be suffering. People should be getting access to settlement resources as soon as possible.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I want to ask Mr. Desbiens the same question about the brown paper document. Should the government be issuing that on arrival so that people can actually seek the kind of support that they need to survive and to then look for employment?


Perla Abou-Jaoudé
Lawyer, Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association


Sorry, I'm going to take over.

Yes, we think it should be delivered as soon as possible. Another way of doing it is by having a point at IRCC where a claimant could go right away because—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting. Time is up for Ms. Kwan.

With that, our panel comes to an end.

I want to thank all the witnesses for appearing before the committee today. Thanks a lot for your important testimonies. If there is something you would like to bring to the committee's attention, you can always send written submissions to the clerk of the committee. They will be circulated to all the members, and we will consider them when we come to the drafting stage.

With that, we will suspend this meeting. All those members of Parliament who are participating virtually will have to log off and then log in to the in camera meeting for our committee business.

All the witnesses can leave the meeting.

Members, please log off and then log in for the in camera portion of the meeting. We will have a few minutes for committee business.

[Proceedings continue in camera]
https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/43/jenny-kwan-1/

Latest posts

CIMM#93: Closed Work Permits and Temporary Foreign Workers and Briefing on Recent Changes to International Student Policy and Plans for Future Measures

On the question around student housing, I absolutely think that it is essential for institutions and provinces do their part and I think that the federal government should show leadership and perhaps initiate a program wherein the federal government contributes a third of the funding, institutions provide a third of the funding, and the provinces and territories provide a third of the funding towards the creation of student housing, both for international students and domestic students. That way you can have a robust plan to address the housing needs of the students.

I'm going to park that for a minute and quickly get into the students who were subject to fraud. We have a situation in which students have now been cleared and found to be genuine by the task force, but they have not gotten their passports back yet. I don't know what the holdup is, and I wonder if the minister can comment on that.

Second, there are students who are still waiting to be evaluated by the task force, and the task force work can't proceed because they might be waiting for a date for the IRB to assess the question on their permit on whether or not it was genuine or whether or not there was misrepresentation. They are consequently in a situation in which people are just chasing their tails and they can't get to the task force.

On that question, will the minister agree that instead of making people go through that process with the IRB, the task force evaluation can move forward first so that they can be found to be either a genuine student or not a genuine student?

 

CIMM#92: Closed Work Permits, Temporary Foreign Workers and Committee Business

I want to thank the special rapporteur for joining us today at committee. I also very much appreciate your coming to Canada and looking into this issue.

As many of the witnesses have said to us, the issue around the immigration system as it's set up, with the closed work permit approach, is that it actually sets these workers up for exploitation. From that perspective.... It's not to say, as the Conservatives would suggest, that you were alleging that all employers abuse workers. I don't believe you said that at any point in time; rather, I think the issue is about the immigration system that Canada has.

Instead of having this closed work permit situation, what would you say is the remedy to address the exploitation that many of the migrant workers you spoke with directly experienced?

 

Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, United Nations, As an Individual
Tomoya Obokata

My recommendation is, certainly, to modify the closed nature of the program. If the workers are able to choose their employers at their own will, that reduces the instances of abuse and exploitation.

More importantly, whether it's closed or not, employers have to comply with the relevant legal obligations. I accept that a large number of employers already do. It's those others who do not who require further attention from the provincial and federal governments to see whether they can take appropriate law enforcement actions against those who breach labour standards legislation.

 

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

With respect to exploitation, one of the issues that migrant workers are faced with is that they don't have full status here in Canada; they have only temporary status. One issue that has been identified is the closed work permit. The other issue is in terms of having rights. Being able to have their rights protected also means that they have to have status here in Canada.

How would you suggest the policy side of things should be amended to ensure that these migrant workers have their rights protected?

CIMM#91: Government's Response to the Final Report of the Special Committee on Afghanistan and Committee Business

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I thank the committee members for supporting the last motion.

I have another motion that I'd like to move at this point. Notice has been given for it. It reads as follows:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities and relevant officials together for two hours, or invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship with relevant officials for two hours, and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities to appear separately with relevant officials for one hour to update the committee on:

(a) the work of the task force addressing the exploitation scheme targeting international students as many students are still reporting that they are in limbo and have not heard back from officials about their status;

(b) the measures taken by IRCC and institutions to help prevent and protect international students from fraud schemes;

(c) the justification to increase the financial requirements for international students by more than 100% to $20,635;

(d) the justification for putting a cap on international study permits; and

(e) the plans to address the housing crisis for international students and efforts made to collaborate with provinces, territories and post-secondary institutions.

I think the motion is self-explanatory on all elements, and I think we would benefit from having the two ministers appear before our committee. We've also deliberated this issue at length at another meeting, so in the interest of time, I won't revisit all of those points.

I hope committee members will support this motion.

 

Are you ready to take action?

Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates