The meeting will come to order.
We are here today to consider order in council appointments of Berto Volpentesta, Benjamin Dolin, and Dominique Setton-LeMar. Welcome here today. We also have Krista Daley, director general of operations.
We will examine the appointments between 3:30 and 5 o'clock, if that's okay with committee members. I'm allowing a half hour at the end here because we have a couple of things we want to do, and we also will consider the report of the chair on our planned committee travel. I went to the subcommittee on budgets yesterday, so I think we should have a chat about that.
For the benefit of the appointees and the committee members, I will read from Marleau and Montpetit, pages 875, 876, and 877. It says:
|| The scope of a committee’s examination of Order-in-Council appointees or nominees is strictly limited to the qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post. Questioning by members of the committee may be interrupted by the Chair, if it attempts to deal with matters considered irrelevant to the committee’s inquiry. Among the areas usually considered to be outside the scope of the committee’s study are the political affiliation of the appointee or nominee, contributions to political parties and the nature of the nomination process itself. Any question may be permitted if it can be shown that it relates directly to the appointee’s or nominee’s ability to do the job.
|| A committee has no power to revoke an appointment or nomination and may only report that they have examined the appointee or nominee and give their judgment as to whether the candidate has the qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed or nominated.
I will now go to the nominees. Is there a general statement by the nominees, first of all? Okay, I'll pass it over to you.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and committee members. My name if Dominique Setton-LeMar.
I'll give you a little bit of a brief background. When I was an infant, I immigrated to Montreal with my parents in the early 1950s. I was raised in Montreal and attended elementary, high school, and CEGEP at Sir George Williams before the CEGEPs were even built, and then attended McGill, where I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English. I then attended the Faculté de droit de l'Université de Montréal, because I knew I needed to improve my French, so I decided to do the law degree in French. I graduated in 1978.
While I was there I got married and I became a mom. So I decided to write my bar exams a little bit later. Then I had twins, and “later” occurred 17 years later, in 1994. In the interim, I went into financial services, where I learned about business and financial services, etc. I returned to law in 1994, when the twins were 12 or 13 years old. I wrote my Barreau exams and did upgrades in the Faculté de droit. They called it des cours de rafraîchissement. I articled in Montreal and was finally sworn to the Barreau du Québec in 1997.
I returned to Ottawa, where I was living at the time, and started a solo practice in Hull. At the time it was called Hull; I think it's now called Gatineau. I practised in family law and immigration, and that is how it started. I love the immigration part of my practice. I love the people, the issues; I was instantly drawn to it. However, I found it hard to be solely in private practice, so I looked for contracts or other projects to make a little bit of extra money. I wound up working in many areas, either on contract or however it worked out, in maritime law, trademarks, and aboriginal law. Finally I found myself in Hamilton as a compliance manager for TransUnion Canada, which is a credit bureau. Two years ago I was hired as an investigator for CSIC in Toronto. Since then I have worked in administrative law in the complaints and discipline department, investigating members of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, in the context of immigration.
At the CSIC conference last spring, a speaker mentioned that were 40-plus openings at the Immigration and Refugee Board. I made a note of it, and later on that weekend I went on the website and I decided to apply.
So here I am.
My name is Berto Volpentesta. I'm a first-generation Canadian. My parents emigrated from Italy in the early 1950s with their two infant daughters. My father was a skilled craftsman and was self-employed as a construction renovations repair worker of homes. My mother managed the household and raised the children, as well as working in a factory to make ends meet.
I was born and raised in one of the more ethnically diverse areas of Toronto. I have in fact been living the multicultural experience all my life. I attended high school along with adults and youth, and I think there were about 140 countries represented at the high school I attended. I made mention of that in my valedictory speech, where I pointed out that diversity might in fact be the strength we could draw upon as we moved forward in our lives.
When I was 16, my father suffered a serious illness, so I had to work while finishing high school and my two university degrees. I graduated from York University in 1988 with a specialized degree in public policy and administration. I focused on international relations, national policy, and defence. When I graduated there were few opportunities to enter that particular field, so I tried to gain some work experience. I worked for the Canadian Cancer Society as a fundraiser and a coordinator.
Around the same time, I was volunteering my time coaching a youth hockey team, and in that particular year we went to the finals. I could see the excitement on the kids' faces and I sensed their sense of accomplishment. This was in part what drew me towards teaching. I took employment as a curriculum coordinator with a youth newspaper. I became a mentor for the adult literacy program in a library close to where I lived. I also took volunteer positions as a teaching assistant in some of the schools around where I lived.
When I applied to teachers' college, I was selected as one of the 10,000 applicants who had applied during that year. I graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto. I was on the dean's list, and I was certified to teach politics and social sciences, and later I picked up law and English as a second language as my other teachable subjects.
As I graduated from teachers' college, a friend from university days, who was working for a social service agency helping immigrants and newcomers to settle in Canada, mentioned something about a backlog and the plight of some of the people in that backlog. He said it would fit the background I had in public policy and that I could help a lot of people; he thought it would be a good thing for me to do. It sounded very interesting, and that's how I started in the immigration business. Seventeen years later, I'm still practising immigration, and during that time I have found ways to combine my education with my business.
I became involved with the professional organizations that were around at that time, including the Organization of Professional Immigration Consultants, then later the Association of Immigration Counsel of Canada and, finally, when they merged, the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants. I participated on a voluntary basis in those organizations as a committee member for education, as a chair of the education committee, and as second vice-president responsible for national education. I became the first ever secretary of the merged association, and I became the first ever paid executive director of the new Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants. I also served in the industry, volunteering with the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, the regulator of the consulting industry, as a member of the exam review committee. I was also served on the disciplinary council of the society.
In March 2001, I was blessed with the birth of my daughter. By early 2002 my business partner was saying that he didn't want to do immigration anymore. It was a good time for me to re-evaluate where I wanted to go. I thought that being an IRB member would be a good thing to do, considering my experience and my goals, and all of those things.
So I reviewed the IRB website and then applied in August 2002. I went through the whole process at that time and made it to the list of those waiting to be appointed. But the term expired, and I reapplied in December 2006. I followed the application again on the IRB website, and by July 2007 I had received a notice that I had to be re-examined under a new process. I complied with all of that.
In late January or early February 2008, I received a phone call asking me if I wanted a position on the IRB. Of course I said yes, and I started turning my attention to how long I would need to wrap up my affairs. So I start my appointment on May 1, 2008.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, members, for this opportunity to appear before your committee.
As you perhaps know, I held the position of analyst at the Library of Parliament from 2001 to 2006, and I worked with this committee during that time.
Before coming to work on the Hill, I was a lawyer in private practice in Victoria, British Columbia, where I was called to the bar. I did a fair amount of litigation, but about a third of my files involved immigration and refugee matters. I did everything from refugee claims and deportation appeals to bringing in temporary workers for local high tech employers. In my time in British Columbia I appeared before all three divisions of the IRB's Vancouver office.
I came to Ottawa in early 2000 as a result of my wife's employment and soon found contract work with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where I prepared staff training materials on the principles of administrative law. I was hired by the Library of Parliament in May 2001.
I joined this committee just in time for the clause-by-clause consideration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and I was the analyst responsible for assisting the committee in its subsequent study of the immigration and refugee protection regulations. I've also assisted the committee in studies on border security, overseas immigration processing, the Safe Third Country Agreement, the provincial nominee program, settlement and integration, a proposed national identity card, and Canada's citizenship laws, among other topics. So I'm excited to be back here today on the other side of the table, as it were.
In my time with the Library of Parliament I also worked for other committees, but my main assignment, apart from this committee, was as a senior analyst for the Senate Special Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act. I was with that committee for its initial study of the bill in the fall of 2001, and then again when the committee was reconstituted for the review of the legislation, beginning in 2004.
In 2006 I was successful in a competition at the Department of Justice and joined them in May of that year as legal counsel with the security, terrorism, and governance team in the criminal law policy section here in Ottawa. I was at Justice until January 7 of this year, when I began my duties as a member of the immigration appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto.
I have a BA in political science from McGill, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Manitoba, and a Master's degree in international law from the University of Ottawa. For my LL.M. program my major research paper was entitled “The Harmonization of Asylum Policy in the European Union: Lessons for North America”. Incidentally, that was turned into a Library of Parliament publication that, although perhaps a bit dated now, should still be available.
I've also written or co-written other Library of Parliament publications, including background papers on Canada's immigration system and the refugee determination process. I also have some volunteer experience related to my long-standing interest in immigration issues. I was a board member of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society for over three years. VIRCS is a non-profit centre that provides ESL, job training, and other settlement services to newcomers.
After moving to Ottawa I also took part in the Catholic Immigration Centre's host program, where Canadians are matched with new immigrants to help with the acclimatization process. It's an excellent program and one that I highly recommend.
As I mentioned, I've now been with the immigration appeal division for just over two months. My time on the board began with three weeks of full-time training. After that I began sitting on three-member panels with a more senior member presiding. I was soon given the opportunity to preside over three-member panels myself. After a couple of times doing that, I began to sit and hear appeals on my own. I've been doing that for just over a month now.
As you may know, the bulk of the IAD's caseload involves sponsorship appeals, removal order appeals--for the most part criminal removals, and appeals by permanent residents who have been found not to meet their residency obligations. There are also ministers' appeals of immigration division admissibility decisions, but those are apparently quite rare. I haven't seen one yet.
I'd be happy to respond to any questions you may have about my experience as it relates to my appointment or about the process by which I came to be on the IRB.
Thank you all for coming.
I know leaving one's practice and going to join the IRB is certainly something that has to be considered very quickly. At some point in time when you move from one practice where you make x amount of dollars and there's an opportunity to make $112,000, I believe it is, certainly one jumps into it.
Mr. Volpentesta, sir, are you still a member of CSIC?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I carefully read your CVs. I had asked that they be submitted to us before you appeared before us. I recently went to visit an organization in my riding that helps people who are applying for jobs. There was a brief guide to preparing a CV, in which it was explained that you should try to do it as succinctly as possible, while highlighting each of the elements that could help you get a job. I was staggered by a sentence that I found in Ms. Setton-Lemar's CV.
Roughly halfway down your career profile, you write: “In spite of the highly politically charged atmosphere created by the Quebec Referendum of 1994, I returned to write my Quebec Bar exams in September of that year.”
I frankly don't see the connection between the two parts of that sentence, and I'd like you to explain to committee members how your political analysis of the situation at the time of the 1994 referendum qualifies you more for this position.
No. This is some technical information with respect to how the selection advisory board works. We have nine competencies, and they are the ones you would imagine for a decision-maker: ability to communicate, good judgment, analyze, make decisions, a results orientation, ability to organize yourself, information skills.
One of the other competencies we look for is called “cultural competencies”, which is the idea of working and being involved in a diverse situation. Diversity is very broadly scoped and defined, so it could be working in a diverse situation where you're dealing with other cultures, races, genders, etc.
When people file their applications--and I would argue whether it's to this job or to any job--you look at the competencies listed and then you reflect the competencies the people are looking for as you do your resumé. As I understood, and maybe Madam Setton-LeMar could clarify if I've interpreted correctly, this aspect of her career profile was an element of showing that she was in a diverse situation at that time, and this is how she expressed it.
We're getting dangerously close, again, to violating the intent of Marleau and Montpetit. Again, I say to members, refer to Marleau and Montpetit, pages 875 to 877. I don't want to take up the committee's time and repeat these things over and over, but the area considered to be outside the scope of the committee's study is political affiliation of the appointee or nominee.
I will continue to eat into members' time if they continue to get on the fringes of violating that particular section of Marleau and Montpetit.
Mr. Chairman, there are two elements.
First, I am only referring to the curriculum vitae, which, by definition, is a summary of an individual's professional skills. If an individual includes certain elements in his curriculum vitae, it's because he feels that refers to a professional aspect. It isn't a political curriculum vitae.
Second, I would like to emphasize—
I want to stop because you emphasized that my remarks were not proper.
Second, I'm saying, precisely, that this is out of place. This kind of political consideration should not be part of the debate. If it hadn't been in a curriculum vitae, it wouldn't be before this committee. That's what I'm criticizing.
You're telling me that, according to Marleau and Montpetit, we shouldn't be discussing politics, whereas I'm saying the same thing. This kind of political statement is out of place. I'm saying the same thing as Marleau and Montpetit, Mr. Chairman.
--when I think there's a reasonable point to it.
With regard to the question of whether one has an opinion on whether or not there should be an appeal board, that is a matter of policy, the kind of thing that governments might want to do. It's not for this witness to give her opinion. She's not here for that purpose. She's here to be examined in terms of qualifications for the job she's been appointed to do. Questions in that realm are appropriate, but this is outside that scope--like the attempt made by the previous speaker to try to get into an area that's not appropriate.
So that is the point of order, and I think there's a basis for it. The chair can rule however he wishes, but I think it's a matter of policy that has nothing to do with the competence for the duties required to be filled on the board.
Obviously at the board, and particularly if you look at the statute, the statute says...and I'm going to speak more from the legal community. I'm also a lawyer, so I'm a little bit more familiar with the law society rules, but I've also looked at CSIC regulations.
For example, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act itself says that a certain percentage of our decision-makers must be lawyers. Clearly, over the years, some of them have come from the immigration and refugee business. That has been their practice.
The law societies as well as CSIC, because they're the regulating body, have the duty that you just can't abandon your clients. You have your professional obligations, so you can't get appointed on day one and walk out the door and turn the key and leave. There's a professional duty to the clients, and in that context, therefore, there is a period of time in which there has to be a mechanism whereby those professional obligations are met. Finding other counsel to take over the practice, dealing with the accounting, dealing with blind trusts, etc.--this process is a fairly common one.
As I understand it from talking to the new member, this is the process he's now going through with CSIC. Because his appointment is not currently in place, he's not currently a decision-maker and will not be until May 1.
That's seven minutes of uninterrupted time, and I want to do the same thing as I did for Mr. Karygiannis and other members. We're going to cut it off at seven minutes.
There will be another round in which everyone will--
An hon. member: You still owe me a minute, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Okay.
I'm going now to Mr. Komarnicki.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
For the record, I think when there's an appropriate point of order it needs to be made, although from my perspective I think we should err on the side of giving the person speaking the time they would have to speak; otherwise, through a series of points of order, you could cut a person off from speaking at all.
Keep that in mind, and I would certainly encourage ample time to be given notwithstanding the point of order.
Having said that--
Having said that, I certainly appreciate all members appearing before this committee.
I have looked at Mr. Volpentesta's resumé and I see you were an executive director with the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, and I can see that the board's gain will be their loss.
Also, I see in the resumé with respect to Ms. Setton-LeMar that she was also a bilingual investigator with the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. Once again, the board's gain will be their loss. I have looked at your resumé, and certainly you have been involved in many matters relating to the immigration field. And in your case, Ms. LeMar, you have had legal experience, and I see you have worked on matters relating to alternate dispute resolution and so on.
In your case, Mr. Volpentesta, you've had experience on the disciplinary hearing side, the education standards review side, and certainly both those parts of the society's structure are important to ensure the consultants' area is enhanced.
So certainly if there's any argument, from what I can see, it's that you might be overqualified for your positions, but there are not any issues in terms of qualifications. From what I see here, I think you'll do an admirable job and you'll use your vast experience and background to advantage. We look forward to hearing the decisions you make as you go forward.
I realize there's been some question about whether or not you are involved in practice, your cases that are ongoing. But as lawyers or others would, you do have a practice that gives you the very experience that's necessary and therefore you'll wind down in some particular fashion--and it needs to be in a reasonable and constructive way--prior to the commencement of your term, which I understand is May 1, isn't it, in your case?
I received a call from a person who worked at the Ethics Commissioner's office, Ms. Plouffe. I had a conversation with her, and what she wanted to know in my particular case was whether or not I was aware that for a year after the end of the appointment I wouldn't be able to make representations to the board as a lawyer or to work in front of the board, and if that would present a problem. In my particular case it didn't present a problem, because I think I'm going in a different direction. I don't plan to be doing litigation again. So for me it's not a problem.
Then I got the package from the commissioner, which I'm filling out.
Yes, I think that's probably most appropriate for me to cover.
There are three steps to the whole process, the first being a regular application form, which is screened to see if people have the minimal requirements. Then there is a written exam that covers four competencies. Each of those competencies must be passed to pass the written exam, and that is a change in the process that came into place after the Harrison report in July 2007. If the person then passes all four of those competencies on that written exam, they go to the interview, at which point the rest of the competencies are examined, and finally reference checks are performed.
So that is the new system.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We on the committee have had a discomfort ever since Jean-Guy Fleury was shovelled out the door and forced to resign because they made a non-partisan appointment process partisan, which is really too bad, because it was one of the great accomplishments of previous parliaments to depoliticize the appointment process to the board. So while that process is in place, there will be people rightfully concerned about the impartiality.
Mr. Dolin, you were here at the time we passed the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and you were here when we put the immigration appeal division in there. You were here during all the years that the members of this committee fought to have that happen, including the Conservative members--until they got into government.
I remember when we were discussing it with the previous minister, Minister Volpe. He said that once he got the backlog down he would make that happen. Unfortunately, under this Conservative administration, the backlog has gone up, which really is a problem. Instead of fixing the system, they have created a crisis in the system.
Notwithstanding all that, Mr. Dolin, you are somebody we know, or that committee members at the time knew. I dare say you're probably the only member on the board who had a recommendation from the chair of the committee as well as all the critics and the members who worked with you to put you in that position. So it's the ideal situation of a totally non-partisan appointment, which is very gratifying.
My question to you is this. What is the backlog right now at the appeal division?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to take advantage of this meeting to learn a little more about your role, since I only recently became a member of this committee.
My question is for Mrs. Daley.
If I understand correctly, we're hearing from three new board members. How many members are there in your organization? How many of them are bilingual? Are they required to be bilingual?
I'm sorry, but once again, I just want to make sure I have the correct statistics.
The IRB is resourced for a complement of 164 Governor in Council appointees. In the whole of 2007, we had an average complement of 105 members. We were resourced for 164, and we had a complement of 105.
With respect to bilingual capacity, there is not a fixed figure for how many appointments need to be bilingual, but the IRB must be able to provide hearings in the language of the proceedings. So in each of the regions, there is the capacity to deal with hearings in both languages. And of course, in Montreal and here in Ottawa there are more.
French is one of the country's two official languages. But you don't know at all how many there are. That doesn't seem important. I would appreciate you answering me in a little while, if possible. My colleague and I come from the Montreal area. That's in Quebec, which is part of Canada. So this is an important factor for us. There are a lot of people in our ridings who tell us about their immigration problems and have to call upon your services.
Going back to the CV of Ms. Setton-Lemar, she is from the Montreal region, and that's why we are dwelling on this a little. Since Mr. Volpentesta is from Toronto, other committee members are interested in him.
I would like to know what Ms. Setton-Lemar meant when she wrote the following sentence: “[...] I felt it was necessary to move to Ottawa, Ontario, from Montreal, Quebec, in order to raise and educate my children.” What does that mean for a citizen of Montreal or for whoever might consider settling there? Is it preferable to move to Ottawa to educate one's children? Is that what this means?
If that's the case, that troubles me. The problem, when you put a lot of sentences in a CV is that it makes people think. I don't know whether management received this CV, but, personally, I would be asking myself some questions before hiring a person who will have to deal with people who must settle in a city of their choice and who says that she moved to Ottawa to raise and educate her children, as though Montreal were in the countryside.
I'd like to know what she meant in writing that.
In my capacity as executive director, I think—in fact I know—I used a number of the examples that I took from my duties: setting up educational events, communicating with members. All of the competencies were displayed in my duties as executive director. I think they were very relevant.
There's an interview process, which is called a targeted behavioural event interview. They actually have you go through picking an example that would describe the particular competency. I think all of them were used from my experience as the executive director.
If I can try to quickly recall, I can go over them again. One major thing, for example, is setting up educational or professional development seminars, and that means a lot of coordination, a lot of organization, making sure things are done at a certain time, making sure everyone knows the process. So it involves all the skills.
In my particular case, I was an investigator, who was in discipline. I was investigating the members in relation to complaints from the consumer of the immigration service, if I can use the term generally
How it led me to this position is that I was doing administrative law. It was the whole area of administrative law: the preparation of the file, the investigation of the different parties and finding the facts, analyzing the rules in relation to fairness or whatever the issue was, writing the report for the manager of complaints and discipline, finding out how it was going to work itself out, and then trying to find solutions or mediations or some way to deal with the issue. Sometimes it was very interesting, because it would wind up in the policy area, or we were able to make recommendations.
I had a very broad view of the practice and what was happening, from the consumer point of view, the practice point of view, and also the application of the rules.
I think it prepared me very, very well.
Plus 30 seconds for now.
Mr. Volpentesta, I looked over your resumé. When somebody makes a resumé they certainly list all their accomplishments, the boards they belong to, and if somebody owns a company or is part of a company, they certainly put that down.
Are you still part of Cannex, sir? Do you have interest in Cannex right now?
No, I don't believe it would be appropriate for me to commit to that today.
I think the steps are being processed right now, today, as they are supposed to be processed. Mr. Volpentesta is dealing with his regulatory body and meeting those professional obligations. He will be dealing with the Ethics Commissioner at that point.
What I can assure you and the committee is that the board takes very seriously the impartiality of its decision-makers, both from the individual's perspective and that of maintaining the integrity of the institution; and I am absolutely satisfied that on the first day when Mr. Volpentesta walks into our organization to hear cases, these matters will have been resolved, because it is very important to us that we maintain the integrity of our--
An hon. member: No disclosure is made that is going to Cannex—
Ms. Daley, Ms. Setton-LeMar, Mr. Volpentesta, and Mr. Dolin, it is reassuring to see you here, to hear your presentations. I'm sure everybody here realizes, as you realize, that you've been grilled pretty thoroughly, despite your exceptional resumés and your experience. I have no doubt that you will carry out your duties with due diligence. It is a crucial and important responsibility that you have. You'll be determining who stays and who doesn't and how this country is being built. These are such important decisions.
Ms. Daley, how many appointments have been made? Are there any reappointments to make? What is left to be done? In 2006, when this government took office, about how many of them were ready to expire? Do we have adequate board membership, enough people to take care of the backlog as it develops?
I actually wonder. This really is the interpretation of the law, and of course we have a board member....
Now, with all due respect, the statute itself uses the word “inadmissibility”, and once again, the drafting of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act merged the two words “removal” and “inadmissibility”. So if you look at subsection 64(1), it says, “No appeal may be made to the IAD by a foreign national...permanent resident if [they] have been found inadmissible...”.
“Inadmissible” is the phrase that is used to mean both trying to enter Canada and also being removed from Canada. That's part of what happened at the drafting of IRPA: a merging of those two words into one: inadmissibility on grounds of security, violating human rights, serious criminality, or organized criminality. Serious criminality is defined as being punished in Canada by a term of imprisonment of two years.
Thank you for appearing before the committee. As I said, I hope you found it to be an enjoyable experience as much as we enjoyed questioning you. Thank you again.
We're going to go in camera to discuss a couple of things we have to do on the agenda, so we'll just give a moment to people to dismiss themselves.
Pardon me? Okay, you want to do that publicly?
Mr. Chair, I'm seeking the committee's indulgence to address this for a couple of seconds.
There's a delegation that has come from Somaliland. Somaliland is part of the old Somalia. Somalia has gone through trials and tribulations. There was a civil war. The north part, which was a British protectorate, broke away and has been a country for which they've been trying to get international recognition for about 15 years. These folks have a lot of people who immigrated to Canada, and if the members at the end of this want to speak to them individually, they can, or if the committee wishes them to address us, by all means.
We have a member of parliament, Mr. Nasir Hagi Ali, from the Somaliland parliament, Mr. Ahmed Hussein Mohamed, who is the UCID party secretary of foreign affairs, Mr. Ibrahim Rashiid Axmed, Mr. Maxamed Ibrahim Aden, and Mr. Kayse Cali Geeddi. Should the committee want us to invite the individuals to give us a couple of minutes on what's happening in that country and the difficulties the folks face when immigrating from there, because we have absolutely no office there, by all means. If not, they can talk to them individually after this.
What I would like to say is that unfortunately the honourable MPs, except for Jim, don't know anything about Somaliland. That would be a debate for another day, and I won't say more than that.
I would like to comment on one thing. There are Canadians who originally came from Somaliland. Whenever they go back to Somaliland, either for summer vacation or to visit their relatives, they have a problem in Somaliland. Of course, if anything happens to them, there's no other way, or any other...[Inaudible--Editor]...from Canada in Somaliland. Either they have to travel to Addis Ababa or Nairobi, which is very far. At the same time, whenever there are Somalilanders who want to come to Canada, they meet with the same problem.
I would like to ask if there is a way for the Canadian government to organize an office in Somaliland, where there is peace and a functional government. That would facilitate Canadians or Somalilanders who need something from the Canadian government. That's my first comment.
My other comment is that when Somaliland officials--and I'm talking about those who are in Parliament, because we have an elected Parliament--or other government officials want to go outside for something that concerns the government, or when the Somaliland citizens need to go outside for trade or other agreements, they cannot go because our passport is not recognized.
Yes, I see your problem. I wish we had a little bit more time to talk to you about it, but we do have votes at 5:30 p.m., and we have another issue on the agenda we have to deal with.
But your point is well taken. I'm sure the members of the committee would certainly like to consider that and maybe, as a committee, make some representation on your behalf to government.
We do have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration here today. I'm sure he's taken note of your comments and will make the aware of them as well.
I want to thank you for coming, and I want to welcome you, on behalf of our committee, to Canada. I hope your stay here will be a very enjoyable one indeed. Thank you.