CIMM#32: Addressing issues of processing delays and backlogs

Citizenship and Immigration Committee
Sept. 27th, 2022
4:10 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Thanks very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for their presentations.

I would like to follow up on the question around special immigration measures and the crises that are going on. I support having a dedicated team to deal with special situations so that they don't impact other immigration streams. That being said, it's a staffing resource question. The other component to that, which is absolutely critical, is the immigration levels numbers. Without these, every time the government adds a new stream, if it doesn't put in increased immigration levels numbers to go with that stream, it does nothing. It creates chaos in the system.

Mr. Thorne, to that point, would you also support the call for the government to increase immigration levels numbers as a companion piece to special measures?

Oliver Thorne
Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Again, I would focus my response to that specifically around those for the special immigration measures program. I think we've seen recently in the news the announcement that the cap has been reached on the special immigration measures program.

We know from veterans and from Afghan interpreters who we're speaking with that there are still interpreters and locally employed civilians who have not received an invitation to apply. They've expressed interest. Some have not yet received an invitation. Perhaps some have received an invitation and they've applied, but they have not received a confirmation. From our perspective as an organization supporting veterans and supporting these folks, it is unthinkable that we would not create a space for every Afghan who worked alongside a Canadian Forces member in Afghanistan. Their work and their knowledge helped our mission and saved Canadian lives, at a great risk to themselves and their families, and without it our mission would have been impossible.

If the answer to that question is raising the immigration numbers, then yes, I would support that.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much. You answered that beautifully, and I absolutely agree with you.

I'd like to ask you the same question, Mr. Allos, because you also mentioned the issue around levels numbers.

Whatever immigration measure it is—it could even be in the economic stream, for that matter—if the government brings in these measures, for it to actually work, we need to ensure that the immigration levels number is available to accommodate it. Would you say that is an essential component to address the processing of applications and to address the critical issue of backlogs?

Rabea Allos
Director, Catholic Refugee Sponsors' Council

Absolutely, and for the case of the Afghani interpreters, I believe the government should have negotiated with friendly countries like the UAE or Kuwait, moved the interpreters to a safe country and processed their applications before bringing them over here. Keeping them in Afghanistan was a big mistake.

For each situation, there are solutions the government can look at, and the government should be flexible on it.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much.

We've seen with the government that from time to time the minister will make an announcement to say that they're addressing the backlog, they're putting resources here and starting on a certain day they're going to get back to processing standards.

Of course when they do that, they're forgetting about the backlog that existed before and all of those people who did not apply at the date when they say they are now going to abide by processing standards. It's to the point where, for some applicants, when they inquire about the status of their situation, the officers and the agents from IRCC actually advise them to abandon their application and make a new one, because with a new deadline they'll be able to be processed within the timeline. Isn't this absurd? I mean, Jesus, talk about actually walking around in a circle and abandoning people.

Should the government, if they're going to truly address the backlog, make sure that those who are in the backlog also are processed expeditiously then, as well as the new ones who are coming on stream? Otherwise, the new ones will just become new backlogs, or, alternatively, they're abandoning the old ones in order to make sure the new ones are met with a standard processing timeline.

Mr. Allos, could you comment?

Rabea Allos
Director, Catholic Refugee Sponsors' Council

Yes, I absolutely agree. We were accepting 500,000 refugees every year. How many applications are coming in? If we're getting 600,000 or 700,000, of course we're going to have backlogs. We need to control that.

Back in 2011 or 2010, we used to have backlogs of eight years in Africa at the Nairobi visa office. There were 30,000 applications or 30,000 applicants who were waiting, most of them for eight years. The government back then introduced the caps on the SAHs and reduced the backlog to about a year and a half, and in some cases, one year, for the refugees. Yes, the government has to deal with it.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

To that point as well, shouldn't the government be completely transparent with what's going on? You can't just say that we're—

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