Committees examine, in small groups, selected matters in greater depth. We report conclusions of those examinations, and recommendations, to the House. Committees undertake studies on departmental spending, legislation and issues related to the committees’ mandates.

As the NDP immigration critic, I am currently a member of the Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) and vice-chair of the Special Committee on Afghanistan (AFGH). I also participate in other committees, including the Special Committee Canada-China Relations (CACN) and Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA).

You can see my questions, answers and speeches in these committees on this page and the committee specific subpages.

CIMM#72: Exploitation scheme targeting certain international students

"Madam Chair, at this juncture I'd like to raise an issue as a question of privilege. As you will recall, I flagged the issue and discrepancy around the press release. It's very upsetting to me that this has occurred. I note that you have since sent an email to all committee members with your explanation. However, your explanation, frankly, does not resolve the issue, in my view.

Just by way of background, on June 5, I moved the following motion:

That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent ‘ghost consultants’ and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status...or a broad regularization program.

That motion was subsequently amended by MP Sukh Dhaliwal to add the following: “that the committee invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for one hour, the Minister of Public Safety for one hour, and department officials for one hour each to provide a briefing on the situation, for a total of four hours.” That amendment was passed unanimously.

Following that debate, a Conservative member, MP Brad Redekopp, moved an amendment to change the language of my motion from “provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted” to “provide a path to reapply for permanent residency for those impacted”. I objected to that proposed amendment. After some debate with the committee, that amendment was called to a recorded vote and it was defeated. There was some other ongoing discussion, but ultimately the motion that was finally passed unanimously incorporated my wording of the motion along with the amendment proposed by MP Dhaliwal. I won't belabour the point in terms of what that language is. I already put that on the record.

Then on June 14, one week following the adoption of that motion, committee members received a copy of the press release from the clerk. To my dismay, the release did not reflect the language of the motion passed. In fact, it misconstrued the motion that was passed. It contained information that was not part of the motion. Namely, it indicated that the committee will begin a study on the issue.

Moreover—and more critically, from my perspective—it omitted critical language, that being the call for the government to waive inadmissibility based on misrepresentation and to provide an alternate pathway to permanent residency to the international students. That language was not incorporated. There were clearly editorial measures taken with the drafting of that press release.

Madam Chair, after I raised that with you, as indicated, you sent committee members an email on June 19. We received your email, and your explanation is as follows:

The text was drafted with the intention of providing a coherent, accurate, and faithful news release based on the information available at the time and the motion adopted by the committee on June 7. As Chair, I approved this draft and instructed staff to publish it.

Then you went on to say, “It is regrettable that all members of the committee were not satisfied with the final form of the news release.”

What's clear, Madam Chair, is that you directed this press release to be issued and the press release does not reflect the direction from the committee. It omitted, as I indicated, critical information. It editorialized other information that you perceived to be valid for the press release.

To that end, I believe that all committee members' privilege has been violated. In the past, press releases have been issued. For example, I cite when my good colleague sitting next to me, MP Brunelle-Duceppe, moved a motion related to the Uyghurs. That motion and the intent of it were entirely reflected in the press release. It did not have editorialized language in it, as we do in this instance. The press release did not omit critical information, as we are seeing in this instance. That is to say that I believe a violation of privilege has occurred, and I am therefore seeking a remedy.

On the committee chair's role, the online “Privileges and Immunities” chapter states:

Unlike the Speaker, the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege. Should a Member wish to raise a question of privilege in committee, or should some event occur in committee which appears to be a breach of privilege or contempt, the Chair of the committee will recognize the Member and hear the question of privilege, or, in the case of some incident, suggest that the committee deal with the matter.

It goes on to say:

The Chair, however, has no authority to rule that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred. The role of the Chair in such instances is to determine whether the matter raised does in fact touch on privilege and is not a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate. If the Chair is of the opinion that the Member’s interjection deals with a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate, or that the incident is within the powers of the committee to deal with, the Chair will rule accordingly giving reasons. The committee cannot then consider the matter further as a question of privilege. Should a Member disagree with the Chair’s decision, the Member can appeal the decision to the committee.... The committee may sustain or overturn the Chair’s decision.

Madam Chair, I do believe—and I'm so sad to say this—that committee members' privilege has been violated. This is not something I enjoy doing today, but I am very upset about it. We debated the issue. I trusted that the process would follow suit, but the end result shows something different.

I have a motion ready and written out in both French and English, Madam Chair, if you find this was indeed a breach of privilege.”

CIMM#71: Exploitation Scheme Targeting Certain International Students

"With respect to the announcement that the minister made, I'd like to get a clarification on the issue around the inadmissibility based on misrepresentation. The minister said just now that the students who are victims would not be subjected to the five-year ban. Could the minister clarify whether that would mean the record of inadmissibility based on misrepresentation will be erased from their file?”
"Okay. I hope that when it comes to that, it would actually work that way for those students. What I'm worried about is that when you have that bad record, so to speak, that dark mark next to your name, sometimes an official who's processing the application will still say that there's misrepresentation on the record. I want to flag that as a concern, because we obviously would not want to have a second chapter to this issue down the road.

Now, there are students who are in a situation where they have been issued a removal order and they have filed to the Federal Court but, for example, have not yet had the hearing. They are waiting. There are those who have filed and who have been rejected, for example. There are those who have made an application to have their work permit extended, let's say, and they're now out of status but waiting to see what's going to happen to them.

Is the minister saying that with this new task force, those individuals should not worry about all of those outcomes and that their case will be assessed under the new task force?”

CIMM#70 - 3: Debating Bill S-245 and Motion on International Students

"I, too, would like to thank the staff, particularly for their patience and endurance with this bill.

Now I'd like to move two motions, Madam Chair. I will move them one by one. I'll let the first one be dealt with first, and then when we've finished with that, if you can come to back to me, Madam Chair, I'll move my second motion.

My first motion is:

That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent “ghost consultants” and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted, such as the humanitarian and compassionate application process or a broad regularization program.

Madam Chair, I'd like to move this motion first. I think it is important that this motion be adopted by the committee.

As mentioned previously, this is an issue that I wrote to the minister about, long before this matter became a topic for this committee. I called for him to take action in raising the concerns of how these students have been victims of this fraudulent scheme. The measures we need the government to take are staying the deportations; waiving inadmissibility based on misrepresentation by the fraudulent, ghost consultants in submitting doctored admissions letters, unbeknownst to the students; and then, finally, giving the students a permit pathway.

As we know, when students are faced with the issue of inadmissibility, it stays on their record for five years. That applies to all immigration pathways, so this is very significant to their future.

These students—I've met with many of them now—are in such a terrible state. They've lost money, and they are stuck in a terrible situation. Some of them have deportation orders. Others have pending meetings with the CBSA.”

PROC#80 Special Rapporteur David Johnston

“In the report, Mr. Johnston, you concluded that it was reasonable for the Prime Minister to take no action, even though in your own report you cited that there were irregularities and that there was well-founded suspicion.

From my perspective, I don't know how you can square that circle and how you can come to that conclusion when there was well-founded suspicion, and yet no action was taken. The common refrain from the report seems to be that no recommendations were made, so none were taken and none were ignored. Somehow, the notion is to say “I see no evil, I know no evil, so therefore there is no evil”, but in reality, there is much more and it's much deeper than what is going on.

My question, then, is this: Can Mr. Johnston explain if CSIS looked into nomination processes?“

CIMM#70 - 2: Debating Bill S-245 and Motion on International Students

"I'll be very brief and say that when Bill S-245 was tabled, I had a chance to meet with Senator Martin. I indicated to her my intentions of expanding the bill beyond the scope it touched on.

The senator made it clear to me that as long as I had the minister's support, I would have her support as well. That, of course, changed at the last minute, because later on, I was advised that she would no longer be able to proceed with that out of respect for her Conservative parliamentarians.

Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight on the process that I embarked on. We are where we are. We've gone through several rounds of this. I don't want to prolong this, but I want to get that on the record."

CIM#70 - 1: Debating Bill S-245 and Motion on International Students

"Before we get into Bill S-245, I would like to first put on notice the following motion:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by 700 Punjabi international students in which they were unknowingly defrauded by a “ghost” immigration consultant who used inauthentic admission letters for their student visa application; that this study be comprised of two meetings; and that the study consider:

a) how the situation was allowed to happen;

b) why fraudulent documents were not detected until years later when the students began to apply for permanent status;

c) the significant harm experienced by students including financial loss and distress;

d) measures necessary to help the students to have their deportation stayed, inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation waived, and provide a pathway to permanent status; and

e) that the committee also examine how to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

I'm putting this motion on notice, Madam Chair. I fully understand the precedence of the order is for us to finish Bill S-245, for bills to be dealt with. Then we can entertain other studies, so I've put that forward.

The other thing I want to note, Madam Chair, is that, at the end of the meeting today, I would like to move the following motion. The language is as follows—“
"Yes, I just want to let folks know so that they can anticipate this.

The motion would read:

That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent 'ghost consultants' and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted, such as the Humanitarian and Compassionate application process or a broad regularization program.

I just want to let people know that it is my intention to move that motion at the end of the meeting today, assuming we can finish Bill S-245.”

CIMM#69: Debating Bill S-245

"Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I just note that what's happening, of course, is that for every amendment the Conservatives move, we break for about 10 minutes and we lose 10 minutes. If the Conservative members don't want committee members to have these amendments in advance, certainly they can pass them on to the clerk, and as these items come to be debated, we could have them sent immediately so that we don't pause for 10 minutes every time."

CIMM#68: Debating Bill S-245

"I would also say that, for people who need, perhaps, an urgent recognition for citizenship, such as in the examples Mr. Kmiec has mentioned, there is of course a provision in which that could happen, and that is honorary citizenship, which the minister has the authority to grant as well. Because citizenship applications have a hardship component within them, in respect of which the minister can exercise that right to look at those cases for delays, I think that at this point we should focus on what is before us, which is the issue of lost Canadians.

I'm tempted to bring forward all manner of amendments that would be outside the scope of Bill S-245 but are something I really want to see through, such as, for example, an amendment to deal with statelessness. I recognize, however, that maybe I would not be doing that appropriately and would, therefore, be undermining the very people who are trying to get their situation addressed. That would be the families with lost Canadians, who have been waiting patiently to see what this committee does. To that end, I will not be supporting this amendment, and I'm hopeful that we can actually get through the entire package of all the amendments that are before us by 7:30 p.m. today."

CIMM#67: Debating Bill S-245 and discussing the issue of international students

"Not to belabour this point, but I hope this will give some comfort to committee members and to the public. On the issue of the 700 international students who have been mistreated by bad actors with ghost consultants, I wrote a letter to the minister about that early last week, to call on the government to take action, especially in terms of staying the deportation of these students and finding a permanent pathway for the students, whether that be through an H and C application process or a regularization process.

That's something I am working on actively with the minister's office, and I am hopeful that this will be addressed. That's definitely a big concern for people, and rightfully so.”

"I actually have a new NDP-8 to move. The new NDP-8 essentially collapses all the subamendments, the three subamendments from the government side, into one. That new NDP-8 is being shared with the clerk for distribution, and I will quickly talk a bit about what it does.

Effectively, NDP-8 ensures that the new connection test is also able to be applied to children adopted from abroad, and it also addresses what happens if the child is born before the death of the parent who must meet the connection test. How this new NDP-8 would differ from the previous one is that it does remove the grandparents component piece, so this is different in the sense that it—"

HUMA#69: Discuss with Federal Housing Advocate on the call for a moratorium on the acquisition of affordable housing from the private corporate sector

“ Yesterday, in the committee of the whole, in the questioning of the minister about this, he seemed to think that the 1% tax on the value of vacant residential real estate not owned by Canadians or Canadian residents, as well as the two-year ban on foreign investment in Canadian residential properties, is sufficient to address the housing crisis, especially as it relates to the financialization of housing.
The press asked him whether he would support and call for a moratorium on the acquisition of affordable housing from the private corporate sector or for a non-profit fund to be put in place, but he didn't answer any of those questions.

Can you advise the committee whether those two measures the government has acted on are sufficient?”

CIMM#66: Debating Bill S-245

"Yes, I'd like to move NDP-5. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

This amendment deals with a number of the issues. I want to particularly highlight the issue around those who don't want citizenship conferred on them. There was quite a bit of discussion, committee members will recall, about that concern. What happens to those who don't want it, for whatever reason?

To that end, written into this amendment is the opportunity to opt out. Those who don't want it could opt out. Upon notification to the government that they don't want citizenship conferred on them, then this would have no impact for them. It would not apply to them. Effectively, it is an opt-out provision. That is what it is aimed to do, Madam Chair."

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