CIMM#59: Government's Response to the Final Report of the Special Committee on Afghanistan and Obtaining Facts from Senator McPhedran

Citizenship and Immigration Committee on April 19th, 2023
Evidence of meeting #59 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session.
 


The Chair Salma Zahid

Thank you. The time is up.

We will now proceed to Ms. Kwan.

Ms. Kwan, you will have six minutes. Please begin.





Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you, Senator, for being here today.

I just want to get some facts on the record. Could you tell the committee how many facilitation letters were sent out from your office?

Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


I need to clarify—when you say my office—the process that happened. The template we were given by George Young was shared with a number of trusted advocates in different countries who then facilitated, as best they could, people hopefully being accepted by soldiers into the airport.

You asked me for a specific number, but I wasn't keeping track of the numbers. It was about getting as many people, as many women, as possible out.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'm sorry. I understand that the letter was shared with organizations and trusted advocates so they could distribute letters, but did you not keep track of how many facilitation letters came out of your office?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


I did not keep close track, no. It was about giving the template to trusted advocates and helping to get the names to create the letters that could be used.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Let me clarify, then. I'm understanding that your office did not send out any facilitation letters to individuals, but rather sent out these facilitation letters to organizations for distribution.


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


No, that's not correct. It's not an either-or situation, Ms. Kwan. I will give you a specific example of what I mean.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'm sorry. Can I just get clarity? Is it the case that your office both sent out letters and shared those letters with trusted organizations?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated

They were advocates and organizations.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay. They were advocates and organizations.

Do you have a list of the advocates and organizations that received these facilitation letters from you that you can share with the committee?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


Yes. It's a small list. I can tell you right now.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I think we will ask you to submit that to the committee, because there might be groups involved that will be put in jeopardy. I don't want to do that.

What is your understanding of these facilitation letters? What were they supposed to do, from your understanding?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


They were supposed to help people get to the airport and, when they got to the airport, to then get access, through the soldiers guarding the airport, and be processed, hopefully, for evacuation. That's what the letter says.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

It was to get them through to the checkpoint and then, hopefully, onto a plane for evacuation.


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


There's some processing that must have gone on for getting through the line.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I assume so, yes. Ultimately, your understanding is that it would get them out of Afghanistan to safety.


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


It's evacuation.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay, got it.

Was this exchange with George Young that was copied to GAC—I think you said Mr. Jungic—done through your parliamentary email, or was it done through your private email?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


It was done through my parliamentary email.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

With regard to Mr. Jungic, who was engaged by GAC and was copied on this letter, do you know what his position was at the time?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


He sent an email to me introducing himself on August 24, and he said he was a policy adviser for Minister Garneau.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

With respect to the period in which this was done, do you know if the people you assisted were evacuated under Operation Safe Haven?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


I do not.

They were evacuated in a number of ways. In truth, they were evacuated by a number of countries. We had situations where they got in with our assistance but the Australians helped them, or they ended up in the U.K.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

These were individuals who were seeking safety through the humanitarian stream and not through the stream where they served Canada. Do I understand that correctly, or is it both?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


It's both.

In terms of serving Canada, for the most part, these are women. These are women working in Canadian-funded non-governmental organizations, and some young activists, male and female, working in some of those organizations with funding from Canada.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

As to the people who received this letter, I read in the media that many of them are still stuck and unable, ultimately, to get to Canada for safety. What is their understanding of what that letter meant? Do you know?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


I can't speak to their understanding. I can certainly note for you that there is an application for a judicial review of IRCC and the Government of Canada by five Afghans at extreme risk, whose lawyers are arguing that the letter—

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Got it. Yes, I am aware.

In your testimony, you indicated that the former defence minister, Minister Sajjan, was copied on the correspondence. Can you explain clearly what he was copied on and what he was advised on?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


I could table it. It's a lot of emails. I have copies.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I think it would be very helpful to table it.

Since you received this authorization and believe you had authorization to act accordingly, who within government knew, who within government ministries knew and which ministers, more to the point? I don't believe that chiefs of staff act on their own without the authorization of their political master.

If you have correspondence to indicate that ministers were aware and knew this was all going on at the same time, that would be a pertinent piece of documentation we need to have—

The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

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

We will now proceed to Ms. Rempel Garner for five minutes.

Ms. Rempel Garner, please begin.
Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

Senator, you mentioned earlier in your testimony that former minister Maryam Monsef's staff and another colleague were aware of these facilitation letters. Can you advise us who this other colleague is?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


It's Laura Robinson.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Got it. Okay. Thank you. I thought so, but I wanted to be sure.

Now, given the current situation, there are many Afghans who have been left behind, including the ones you've been trying to assist. There are those who need a humanitarian stream, and then there are those who served Canada. In fact, people who served Canada through the military, through NATO and through various other activities to help Canada complete its mission did not even get their applications processed.

The government came in with a limit of 40,000, an arbitrary number that came from I don't know where. Do you think the government should be lifting that arbitrary limit of 40,000?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


Absolutely. This is essentially a promise. The minister's mandate letter says “at least 40,000”. It does not say, “Stop at 40,000.”

You've made some very powerful points on this, and I agree with you completely.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay.

Some of these applications came into the system in an email in which the government told people to indicate their intention to try to get to safety through...back in August, in the summer. By the way, I'm still getting emails and family members contacting me who have not even gotten an acknowledgement or a response from the government. What do you think the government should be doing about bringing individuals to safety, particularly those who are in crisis and being persecuted by the Taliban, those who served Canada and their family members?


Marilou McPhedran
Senator, Manitoba, not affiliated


First of all, I think the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Afghanistan identify a number of the actual practical steps that need to be implemented, but in addition to that, I have to say that when Mursal Nabizada was murdered on January 15, I actually thought that we were going to see an acceleration. I thought we were going to see at least women parliamentarians trapped in Afghanistan made a priority, and that has not happened. I and others have been working—for example, with the Inter-Parliamentary Union—with specific lists of women parliamentarians. It hasn't happened.


The Chair Salma Zahid

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

We will now proceed to Ms. Rempel Garner for five minutes.

Ms. Rempel Garner, you can please begin.

https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/59/jenny-kwan-1/

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