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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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
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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.

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Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

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.


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