CIMM: Jenny addressing immigration processing delays and ways to regulatize undocumented migrant workers

With regard to the processing delays that are happening pretty well in every single stream within IRCC, you made some suggestions on how to enhance the system. I really liked the idea of having specialized agents on various streams. 
The other issue is that we also have over 500,000 people in this country who are temporary foreign workers or undocumented individuals. At the same time, we also have industry clamouring for more workers, and we tend to then turn to more temporary foreign workers. 
Should the government be looking to regularize the people who are already here for a variety of reasons as well as to meet the immigration needs caused by the labour skills shortage?

House of Commons Debate
Citizenship and Immigration Committee
October 21st, 2022 / 1:35 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for their presentations. 

First I'd like to ask Ms. Long a question.

With regard to the processing delays that are happening pretty well in every single stream within IRCC, you made some suggestions on how to enhance the system. I really liked the idea of having specialized agents on various streams. 

The other issue is that we also have over 500,000 people in this country who are temporary foreign workers or undocumented individuals. At the same time, we also have industry clamouring for more workers, and we tend to then turn to more temporary foreign workers. 

Should the government be looking to regularize the people who are already here for a variety of reasons as well as to meet the immigration needs caused by the labour skills shortage?


Elizabeth Long

Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
Yes, absolutely. We have a ready and available labour force in Canada. Many people who are out of status are out of status because of issues in the system. It took too long—for example, over six months—for a work permit to be evaluated in Canada. 

When the Conservative government was in place before, it had a law that said workers had to leave Canada if they'd been working here for more than four years. Many people couldn't leave, and they had to stay.

Many of these workers are good workers. A system that allows them to go back into the system will provide us with taxpayers, and it will allow families to stay in Canada and finally be able to live their lives peacefully.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Along those lines, if the government were to regularize these individuals, would it need to also address that with a companion piece to address the immigration numbers accordingly?


Elizabeth Long
Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
Yes, it would. Immigration levels need to be raised in accordance with labour shortages. We are in competition right now with the rest of the world for labour. It's not just for high-skilled labour, but what the government says is low-skilled. It's across the board. If we don't increase immigration levels, we are going to lose out.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I have the same two questions for Ms. Dench.


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
We would like to see people who are in Canada regularized, and that includes people who have refugee status. As I was saying, even with refugee status, people are waiting a very long time for permanent residence, which causes great hardships.

At the same time, it's important for us not to do that at the expense of other people who are in need. The number of people in need of resettlement and refugees in need of resettlement around the world is extraordinarily high. Canada needs to do more to be responsive to them, as well as to respond to emergency situations in an equitable way. That would include emergencies in Africa, for example, which have always been neglected.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Yes. Hence the immigration levels need to be adjusted accordingly. Otherwise, you will be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Did I interpret that correctly?


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
Yes, exactly.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Thank you.

In a similar vein, with respect to regularizing people, what suggestions do you have for the government to streamline that process? Right now, the red tape is very burdensome.

Ms. Long, for people whose work permits have expired because they couldn't get them renewed in time, should the government streamline those individuals, regularize their process, do away with some of the red tape to save work and efficiency, and maximize efficiencies built into the IRCC?

I'll hear from Ms. Long and then Ms. Dench. 


Elizabeth Long
Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
Yes, absolutely. Right now, we have some very stringent timelines. For example, you have only 90 days to restore your status. Some people didn't get their decisions back, or they may have submitted something and it was returned after 90 days, so it made it impossible for them to do so. There are so many easy ways we can allow people to regain their status.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Go ahead, Ms. Dench.


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
I would say that, obviously, digital offers the opportunity to do things much more quickly and efficiently, but we haven't necessarily seen that paying off. Instead, what we've seen is that more and more, the applicants have the burden of doing all the paperwork, often with online tools that are very difficult to use, and the processing times don't seem to improve as a result. We don't seem to be benefiting as fully as we would expect.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
One of the witnesses at our previous meeting, Ms. Desloges, suggested that streamlining the process may well mean there could be situations where some people would be able to get through without having met all the requirements. However, for the purpose of trying to streamline the process, she thought it was worth the risk, as long as criminality was not an issue.

Would you agree with that?

Please go first, Ms Long, and then Ms. Dench.


Elizabeth Long
Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
Yes, absolutely. We have the mechanism of the temporary resident permits right now to allow people to right their status. The problem is that right now, to apply for temporary resident permits, it's two to three years or more—


Salma Zahid, The Chair
Liberal
Sorry for interrupting, Ms. Long, but time is up for Ms. Kwan. You can come back in the next round of questioning. 

We will now proceed to our second round.

Ms. Rempel Garner, you will have five minutes for your round of questioning.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/37/jenny-kwan-1/
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
2 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'll let Ms. Long quickly finish her thought and then I want Ms. Dench to answer that last question that I put to her.


Elizabeth Long
Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
When refusal rates go up like that, it's untenable. We certainly need to take a further look at the system before we implement it throughout immigration.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you. 

Go ahead, Ms. Dench.


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
I'm sorry; I'll need a reminder of the question. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Okay. With the regularization process to streamline the red tape, the government may need to forgo some of the stringent eligibilities. For example, it was put to us by a previous witness that some people may not be able to pass a language test to the high level that the government has required and that we should forgo that in order to streamline the processing.

Would you support the idea of the government looking at those kinds of measures to streamline the process?


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
I think there are two ways in which things can be streamlined. One is in terms of the criteria, and certainly things like language testing or proof of language are a big barrier for people. Often people do speak English or French, but it's hard for them to provide the proof.

The second thing is around the kinds of documentation that people require and the ways in which they are sort of second-guessing.... We see this, for example, in the refugee family reunification. Somebody has declared that they have a spouse all the way through—they have documentation for it—and yet the immigration department is still asking them for all kinds of extra paperwork and justifications and so on. That slows down the process and is extremely burdensome for people. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Thank you.

With regard to processing delays, oftentimes the government will make an announcement that going forward, these applications will meet the processing standards, yet they don't put resources into processing the people who are already in the queue and are delayed.

Do you think the government should establish a separate process to ensure that applications that are in the queue are also processed and not just sitting gathering dust?


Elizabeth Long
Barrister and Solicitor, Long Mangalji LLP, As an Individual
Yes, absolutely. We're supposed to follow a first-come, first-served situation. It becomes really unfair when people are waiting for three years for an application to be decided, and then new people come in and their applications are decided in a few months.


Janet Dench
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
Yes, absolutely. There's a lot of frustration. People compare and ask why this person is being processed ahead of them.

It's hard to understand why it isn't first in, first out, because with the digital tools, it should be easy for the immigration department to see which applications have been waiting the longest. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

On digital tools, a lot of times—


Salma Zahid, The Chair
Liberal
I'm sorry for interrupting, Ms. Kwan. Your time is up.

With this, our first panel comes to an end. 

On behalf of all the members of this committee, I want to thank the three witnesses for appearing. If there is something you would like to bring to the committee's notice, you can always send a written submission to the clerk of the committee.

With that, I will suspend the meeting for a few minutes so that we can bring the second panel in.

Madam Clerk, you can do the sound checks and then we can begin.

The meeting is suspended. Thank you.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/37/jenny-kwan-8/
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
2:40 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
Thank
 you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for their presentations.

I'd like to first ask a question of Mr. Rai and his colleague, who have CBSA experience. A lot of my constituents are faced with delays in processing because of the criminality checks. It's stuck in the system. We have no way of trying to find out where it is, and sometimes it's just stuck there. There is no information.

Can you provide any insight into that process within the CBSA and how that can be more transparent? It's not to try to influence the decision; it's just to get information on where things are.


Shervin Madani
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Regency Immigration Solutions
That's a very good question.

Unfortunately, the government is very tight-lipped about this. I can tell you that previously when we, as CBSA officers, were using the system to do security checks, it was very.... Back in the day, they had this system called FOSS. It's a similar system to CAIPS, the global entry system where they prepare the files.

For the CBSA, when we have refugee claimants or typically for work permit applications that show up at the border, this process is actually not done, the security checks. A lot of times you can ask the applicant to show up with a police certificate to satisfy yourself that they don't have any criminality, but on the security check itself, the government is very tight-lipped.

Even at the officer level.... There were two boxes that we had to click to ask for security checks. One was to CSIS and one was to the RCMP—sorry; there was a third one to go to the CBSA. We, even as officers, didn't know exactly how this process worked. Eventually we would get an automated message on these ones, saying “security passed”.

I couldn't shed any further light on those, especially for the PR process and what the background checks look like. However, at the border when somebody comes to do their work permit application, this is not actually part of the regular process. The extent to which you can go is a police certificate, and that should satisfy you about criminality, if not security clearances. There could be somebody, let's say, from a terrorist organization who shows up. Unless for some odd reason they show up in some sort of a system that the CBSA would have access to, you wouldn't actually know.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP
I see. Thank you very much for that information. It is interesting to note.

In terms of the processing backlog, one issue raised is that often the government will make an announcement and say that going forward, these new applications will be processed within processing standards. In the meantime, the people in the backlog are stuck in the system and often just left languishing there.

Mr. Rai, do you have any suggestions as to how the government should deal with the existing backlog? Take, for example, the suggestion of some witnesses that the government should have two separate bodies to process the new and the existing applications in order to clear the backlog.


Roger Rai
Director, Regency Immigration Solutions
Yes, I think I touched upon this a bit in my opening, definitely. 

I wouldn't say we need to have two separate bodies, but perhaps two teams within the same organization. There's no point in trying to reduce a backlog if you're going to keep having more applications come in. They're going to keep piling up.

Let this one team come out with new criteria for assessing files, then have them deal with the new stuff. When it comes to the existing backlog, have a second team of more experienced officers, because usually some of those backlogs are due to complicated cases, so the files get stuck in limbo. Have the more experienced officers, as a special task force, work on those specific cases to clear the backlog.

Shervin has a good example. He used to work for CRA, and they had a similar problem. Do you want to elaborate on that a bit?


Shervin Madani
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Regency Immigration Solutions
I know that this process, as far as it goes, is not actually service-standard-friendly, because people say, “This person's file got processed faster than mine.” However, at some stage, there have to be some sacrifices made in order to catch up.

If we have a queue and stuff is being added onto the back of it constantly, we're never going to be able to catch up. We have to take some of these, put them in a bundle and say, “Hey, we are very sorry, and we are going to get to you, but we're going to put this as a priority and dedicate officers to this backlog to make sure it gets cleared.”

Right now, with what we are seeing, the time frames keep changing. TR to PR was supposed to be finishing by 2022. It moved to 2023. Now, all of a sudden, it's 2024. There is no consistency. This is what leads to frustration for people. The policies coming up are sometimes so poorly designed that they shoot immigration in the foot.

I'll give you a perfect example. This 40-hour work for students—

I'm sorry. I just want to give you a quick example.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'm sorry. I'm quickly running out of time, so perhaps you can send the examples in to the clerk for distribution.


Shervin Madani
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Regency Immigration Solutions
Yes.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

What I heard from Mr. Rai is that there should be two separate streams in terms of staffing to process these applications. With regard to the processing of the applications, it really doesn't help unless the immigration level number is also adjusted to accommodate it, so—


Salma Zahid, The Chair
Liberal

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

We will now proceed to our second round. We will have Mr. Redekopp. Mr. Redekopp, you have four minutes for your round of questioning. Please begin.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/37/jenny-kwan-13/
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
3 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. 

I want to go back to my last question to Mr. Rai and his colleagues. 

In order to facilitate processing in the different streams, what is also required with the adjustments to the immigration levels? Sometimes with [Inaudible—Editor] level numbers there, people's files just sit there and collect dust. Do you have any comments about adjusting the immigration level numbers every time measures are introduced? How can we facilitate the processing of the backlog?


Roger Rai
Director, Regency Immigration Solutions
I think this will continue on from your answer from the previous question.


Shervin Madani
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Regency Immigration Solutions
Obviously, adjusting the numbers definitely needs to be implemented. 

There is obviously a reason the government is capping these numbers. Are we saying we are not able to process enough applications? Is that why we have only 400,000 people per year? Is that what we are saying, or do we have the capability to do up to a million people, but we just don't want to because there's not enough staff?

Yes, those numbers should be increased to be able to facilitate and add additional routes for people that are here in Canada. 

Going back to the previous point I made, we have a huge pool of people already here. We are turning our backs on these people, and they are leaving. They are leaving because they don't have paths. If we have increased numbers and actually add people who are qualified, that will definitely help people. 


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

One of the issues in terms of the backlog and the delays is that often when IRCC processes an application, someone might omit some information or forget to submit a document. IRCC will then reject the application. Individuals will then have to start the whole process all over again, which is a waste of resources for everyone. It puts them at the back of the queue, and they have to work their way up. It just—


Salma Zahid, The Chair
Liberal

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

With that, our panel comes to an end. On behalf of all the members of this committee, I want to take a moment to thank all the witnesses for appearing before the committee. You have provided some important input in regard to our study on processing times. If there is any information you would like to provide to the committee, please feel free to send a written submission to the clerk of the committee, and that will be circulated to all the members. 

I want to let all the members know before we end that on Tuesday we will have a subcommittee meeting from 3:30 to 5:30. Only members who are on the subcommittee will be attending the meeting. 

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you on Tuesday. 

The meeting is adjourned.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/37/jenny-kwan-17/

 

Latest posts

HANSARD: Foreign Interference and Alleged Reputational Harm to Members of Parliament

Outside this chamber, just yesterday, there were individuals shouting, questioning and jeering about who the traitors may be. Members of Parliament had to walk past these individuals on the members' way to the House to do their work. I believe we must find a way to disclose which MPs are knowingly, intentionally, wittingly or semi-wittingly engaging with foreign states or their proxies to undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions. I believe this can be done in a way that does not compromise national security.

If there are no consequences for MPs who knowingly help foreign governments act against Canadian interests, we will continue to be an easy target. This will further erode the trust and faith Canadians have in our democratic processes. If allowed to continue, it will further impugn the integrity of the House. Revealing any member of Parliament, former or present, who is a willing participant in foreign interference activities would have the effect of deterring this kind of behaviour. Moreover, it would send a clear message to those foreign states that this cannot continue and that they will not be able to continue to use parliamentarians in this way. This will further reassure the public of the integrity of the House.

I strongly believe that the House should refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee. A possible way to deal with the issue would be for committee members to undergo the necessary security screening to examine the unredacted report and look into the allegations about parliamentarians who were “‘witting or semi-witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.” We could allow the named parliamentarians to be informed and to come before the committee as witnesses; we could then explore options on how to disclose the named parliamentarians without compromising national security or police investigations of the matter.

Are you ready to take action?

Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates