Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I have a limited amount of time. Specifically, from an opportunity cost perspective, the government is investing—spending—$51 million worth of tax dollars and assuming oversight and, ostensibly, liability related to an arm's-length profession that exists to interpret difficulties in an existing government system.
I'm wondering if there was any opportunity cost analysis done to apply that $51 million to ease service delivery specifically related to this particular expenditure?
Lori MacDonald
View Lori MacDonald Profile
Lori MacDonald
2019-05-06 17:04
Essentially, we looked at where we wanted to focus our attention, which was on things like addressing gap areas and addressing how we could make the process easier for the clients. We actually did costing around that, but not in relation to what gap analysis there would be in terms of spending.
Gemma Mendez-Smith
View Gemma Mendez-Smith Profile
Gemma Mendez-Smith
2019-05-01 16:23
On our funding level, we are funded to do our research at $280,000 a year, with three staff, and we have two training programs that we do for persons with disabilities and Ontario works, which is for people who need skills to enter the labour market, at about $500,000.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to share my speaking time with my colleague who has just arrived.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here.
My first questions will be for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dupuis.
You spoke a lot about access to French-language services, especially in airports. How important is it to also have access to legal services in French? Although Quebec is a francophone province, after the arrival of 25,000 irregular migrants in 2017, there weren't enough French-language legal services and health care. There was a particular lack of francization and interpretation services. Even in Quebec we need such services.
What is the situation in your area?
Alain Dupuis
View Alain Dupuis Profile
Alain Dupuis
2019-04-10 16:13
The francophone lawyers' associations wish to offer more specialized services to francophone immigrants. That is a perfect example of gaps in the immigrants' integration journey. That is one of the sectors that needs to be developed.
David Manicom
View David Manicom Profile
David Manicom
2019-01-30 15:53
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is David Manicom and I am the Assistant Deputy Minister for Settlement and Integration at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
I am joined by Corinne Prince, the Director General for Settlement and Immigration Policy, and by Laura Di Paolo, the Director General for the Settlement network.
We hope that our testimony will be helpful to your study.
Immigrants from every corner of the world have made significant contributions to all spheres of Canadian life, and they continue to make influential contributions to science, business, and technology.
Through new perspectives and diverse insights, immigrants also help to drive our country's intellectual and artistic capital. Many of our immigrants also bring with them an entrepreneurial spirit, creating jobs and becoming important drivers of innovation and investment.
Immigration benefits Canada's economic and demographic growth, our innovation and prosperity and our efforts at nation building. With Canada's aging population and growing labour force needs, I think we can all agree, Mr. Chair, that immigration will be vital to the continued growth and success of our country's economy and society. This statement is also supported by research.
Statistics Canada reports that the lion's share of national employment gains, 66% of gains between 2016 and 2017, was directly accounted for by immigrants.
And the most recent labour force survey for December 2018 shows that immigrants' employment rates are broadly in line with the national average.
The unemployment rate for core working-age immigrants stood at 5.7% in 2018.
This is the lowest unemployment rate for this group since at least 2006. This bodes very well for the future of immigration in Canada and suggests that our settlement program is doing a good job of helping newcomers to integrate. This is key, because ensuring that immigration remains advantageous to Canada in the future means that all newcomers are integrated and supported so they may contribute to various aspects of Canadian life.
Settlement services are a key to newcomer success, and investing in that success will be key to our nation's future prosperity and inclusiveness.
By the end of fiscal year 2019-2020, this will represent a 32% increase in settlement funding since 2015-2016.
In 2018-2019, our department has funded over 500 organizations and provided services to approximately 460,000 clients. Of these clients, more than 100,000 accessed language training services, reflecting the critical importance of English and French language skills for successful settlement in Canada.
Looking ahead, the ongoing success of our settlement programming will continue to depend critically upon our partnerships, which go well beyond the Government of Canada. This year we developed a shared national vision on settlement and integration with our partners, including the provinces, territories and stakeholders. That shared vision is that the successful settlement and integration of newcomers benefits Canada by building a more inclusive, diverse and productive nation. This is achieved through a shared effort that helps all reach their economic and social potential.
As you know, improving the delivery of settlement services is one of the commitments identified in Minister Hussen's mandate letter and is a priority that our department is intently focused on.
Our goal is to offer services that will best meet immigrants' needs and produce the best settlement outcomes possible. Our outcomes-based programming will be informed by our research, analysis, evaluation findings and the results of our new pilot projects.
To assess the effectiveness of our services, the department conducted a formal evaluation of the program, completed in May 2017. This incorporated a wide range of perspectives, including program clients, stakeholders and program officials, and comprised the largest-scale survey of newcomers ever conducted to that point, with almost 15,000 respondents. Overall, the evaluation found that our program has been effective at meeting a growing demand for settlement services. A clear majority of clients—96%—reported positive outcomes, such as improving their language ability finding employment, participating in their communities, and so forth.
We also conducted separate evaluations of the pre-arrival services and immigration to francophone minority communities.
The evaluations made several recommendations to improve our settlement program. The department has developed an action plan that is addressing those gaps. This plan will guide future program improvements, and inform the next calls for proposals with service providers, which will launch next month.
To date, improvements to our settlement program have included streamlining our pre-arrival settlement services for newcomers who are still abroad.
A number of projects are also under way to experiment with and assess potential new service delivery improvement projects. This year we will devote $32 million toward a dedicated funding stream for service delivery improvements and innovations.
One of the first of such innovative pilots is employing newcomers in stable, good-paying hotel jobs. This pilot will connect as many as 1,300 unemployed or unemployed newcomers with jobs in the hotel industry while they strengthen their language skills in the workplace.
Our program evaluation shows that combining employment and language training is effective and ultimately improves settlement and integration.
As such, the department is exploring more of these types of projects that combine workplace experience with language training and other supports. The Atlantic immigration program pilot is another example of this type of innovation.
IRCC is also launching other innovative settlement programs to target more vulnerable populations, such as refugees and women. We launched a pilot project this past December to support visible minority newcomer women in gaining access to and advancing in the labour market. Through this project, we aim to support the employment of visible minority newcomer women by increasing existing services, establishing new partnerships and testing the effectiveness of different combinations of employment services.
In addition, we are looking at improving the services that we offer to French-speaking newcomers who settle in francophone and Acadian communities outside of Quebec.
As announced in Budget 2018, and included in the official languages action plan, the department will invest more than $40 million over the next five years on a francophone integration pathway.
We are also looking at improving our settlement services for refugees, which have been especially important for Syrian refugees. This spring, IRCC will issue a major report on the 52,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada. We have already compiled much data from various sources. Most notably, 57% of Syrian refugees reported that they were employed, a marked increase since our 2016 rapid evaluation findings and, I think we can say, exceeding our expectations. What a wonderful collective effort from Canadians and these newcomers.
Once our report is complete, we expect the overall findings to the positive. More importantly, this will also help guide future improvements to our settlement services for refugees.
The call for proposals process that we will launch next month also will place an increased focus on key areas, including the integration of vulnerable populations, such as youth, refugees and LGBTQ2+, a greater focus on mental health supports and further enhancing our services for francophone newcomers.
The department recognizes that we must continue to assess what is working and what must be improved, and to continuously adapt our settlement programs to the changing needs of newcomers.
Going forward, with true co-planning with the provinces and territories and close co-operation with our partners and stakeholders, we can create a clearer picture of what newcomers need and determine how to collectively meet those needs. Our aim is to maximize the social and economic contributions of all immigrants to Canada, regardless of how they arrive.
As one of our service providers said today at a meeting I was at, it's about building a better Canada one newcomer at a time. With that in mind, Mr. Chair, we look forward to the findings of the committee's study.
Thank you very much.
View Salma Zahid Profile
Lib. (ON)
One more recommendation is that the regulatory body should establish qualifications for registration as immigration consultants and develop a tiered system as to the category of services individual consultants are permitted to provide.
Most consultants would be able to provide basic information and perform transactional work such as completing and submitting applications while a few qualified consultants should be permitted to appear before the IRB.
What's your input on this recommendation?
Michael MacDonald
View Michael MacDonald Profile
Michael MacDonald
2017-05-29 17:43
Again, I think that needs to be looked at in terms of the purpose of having a tiered model. I'm not sure, David, if you have anything more. I think it's worth assessing and seeing the value of a tiered model, and what more it gives you that perhaps doesn't exist today. What does it give to prospective and current clients?
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
I guess the question is what we do now. Do we get rid of them? Does the department take it over?
Maybe I'm alone, but my observation listening to the testimony is that it's not working.
In fact, maybe you could elaborate on this. What concerns does the department have with respect to the ICCRC and its tenure as a regulator over the last six years? You must have thoughts on whether it should continue, whether it can be fixed, and whether we should have something else.
Michael MacDonald
View Michael MacDonald Profile
Michael MacDonald
2017-05-29 17:48
Chair, that really comes down to three common areas where we've fostered the relationship and tried to move it forward.
The first area is around the complaints process. We have been having conversations with the ICCRC around the length of time it takes to resolve complaints, respecting the fact that things don't always have a perfect start and end date. That's understandable. But we feel there's more that can be done, and it needs to be done faster, and that's the message we've delivered.
The second area is around education. I think they can do a better job, and we're trying to help them do a better job, in ensuring that the consultants who are registered do have the best basis in understanding of the systems, including our forms and everything that's out there.
The third, which are the conversations we entered into not long ago, is really around the stability of the organization. Again, if there are areas where they need help ensuring the stability of the organization—the board or the organization itself—we are open to dialogue and to actively helping and sharing lessons learned and so on.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
If I can follow up, the public trust is the main thing. The public trust isn't there so far. I know that you are doing your level best, but it hasn't worked for the last number of years. Mr. Tilson asked if you—the government, the body—should take over, redo the whole thing, and let this ICCRC go and—
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2017-05-29 17:59
Great, thank you.
I'm going to move on to the next issue that has been brought to our committee's attention, and that is a graduated licensing process. That is to say that not all consultants are equal. They have to go through various training at different levels to be able to do different kinds of work. Is that an option that can be adopted—not under the current model but under any model? Can that be adopted as a practice for a graduated licensing process?
Michael MacDonald
View Michael MacDonald Profile
Michael MacDonald
2017-05-29 18:00
Graduated licensing could be adopted, and in fact it exists today in terms of student advisers at universities.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just wanted to follow up on Ms. Kwan's question. We've talked about a graduated licensing process in this committee at various times. In your response to her question, you talked about how currently university students have an advisory system. Can you elaborate on what you meant in response to her question?
David Cashaback
View David Cashaback Profile
David Cashaback
2017-05-29 18:01
In December 2014, the ICCRC adopted a bylaw that granted limited licensure to international student advisers. It was a conversation that took place within the independent body—we participated, of course—in order to find a way for these student advisers to be able to offer some degree of assistance to students, but it's not full membership in the organization.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do you have any information on some of the success that came out of it or some of the responses from students?
David Cashaback
View David Cashaback Profile
David Cashaback
2017-05-29 18:02
I don't have any from the student perspective. In the spirit of the conversation we're having today, Mr. Chair, this was an example of a situation where it was not clear what kinds of services these student advisers were providing, whether they were falling within or without the legislative and regulatory framework. This was a positive step at the time to address a need. Our understanding is that it has worked acceptably for students. It gives them a service where otherwise there would be a grey zone.
Michael Tutthill
View Michael Tutthill Profile
Michael Tutthill
2017-05-15 15:55
Starting 44 years ago in 1973, Gays for Equality offered a telephone information line, peer counselling service, and a resource library on the University of Manitoba campus. The group went on to become a leader and an important resource for the gay and lesbian community, providing community service, education, outreach, political awareness, and activism.
Today, known as the Rainbow Resource Centre, our mission is to provide support, education, and resources to foster a proud, resilient, and diverse LGBT2SQ+ community in Manitoba. This diversity includes refugees, asylum seekers, and other newcomers. We offer a newcomer-led social support group called New Pride of Winnipeg. The group meets twice a month, and it is a chance for gender and sexual minority newcomers to support one another and find community. Currently the group includes six claimants, two convention refugees, 23 permanent residents, one citizen, and 13 visa holders.
We provide support to newcomers in our counselling program. Currently we have five refugee claimants, one person considering a refugee claim, two under appeal, one facing a deportation order, three awaiting IRB decisions, nine with a permanent resident application pending, and two newcomers with unknown status.
Newcomer counselling clients may be newly arrived, have had a student visa and are making a refugee claim, have been sponsored through organizations like Reaching Out Winnipeg, or increasingly have crossed the border irregularly. Our counsellors provide support to prepare for the IRB hearing; follow up on the invasive questions faced by claimants appearing before the IRB; and begin to address the trauma experienced during the clients' journey in their home country or in the country of temporary asylum, which is almost never safe for sexual and gender minority people.
Often, our counsellors are the first people to ask the question, what's the best part of your LGBT2SQ+ identity? The answer to this question is the beginning of an assessment process to provide a letter confirming someone's gender or sexual minority identity or experience. Like many Canadians, many of the gender and sexual minority newcomer clients we see may not identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, but use language appropriate to their own culture and personal history.
I'd like to thank and congratulate the department for releasing the Chairperson's Guideline 9: Proceedings before the IRB involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression. The guidelines address many of the concerns we experience during IRB hearings, and acknowledge the complexities of sexual and gender minority experience and identities. In preparing for an IRB hearing, our staff and clients' lawyers spend significant time addressing inconsistencies on the basis of claim.
Often, asylum seekers might be out to some service providers, yet not to others. Sometimes clients would be advised by settlement service workers or other service providers not to come out at all. This advice is well intentioned, given the Canadian LGBT2SQ+ people often come in contact with heterosexist or cissexist service providers. However, it does create perceived inconsistencies in the basis of claim for newcomer clients.
It is common for Canadian LGBT2SQ+ people to not be out to all of the service providers. One of our staff members has been married to a same-sex partner for five years and just came out to his doctor a couple of months ago.
IRB members have also asked our clients how they can have a child if they are a lesbian. The answer: for any of same reasons a Canadian lesbian can have a child. The guidelines provide IRB members, service providers, lawyers, and claimants with a framework of accountability in assessing claims of sexual orientation and if adhered to, will address some of these concerns.
These examples highlight our unique expertise as a community in assisting sexual and gender minority newcomers and refugees. This committee will hear from many organizations across the country that support sexual and gender minority refugees through sponsorship and settlement services. For decades, LGBT2SQ+ people in communities have been supporting one another in creating spaces to understand our identities and navigate the heterosexism or cissexism that we encounter daily.
We will continue to learn about the realities faced by sexual and gender minority newcomers, and we are well positioned to help you settle these clients in Canada.
Many newcomer clients, as I mentioned, will choose to be out in some parts of their lives but not in others. Many may be out in LGBT2SQ+ spaces, but not out within their ethnocultural community. Clients may be out to some family members, but not others. We also live with this reality. LGBT2SQ+ organizations are well positioned to make appropriate referrals, educate existing settlement services on gender and sexual minority realities, connect clients to their local LGBT2SQ+ communities and support, and create safer spaces within our own communities for newcomers to settle in. We're also well positioned to assist newcomers to navigate their new reality in a country that celebrates the achievement of same-sex marriage, but where it is not always safe to be out, where sexual and gender minorities continue to face discrimination in areas of health care, education, housing, and employment.
Continuing the rainbow refugee assistance program acknowledges and supports the communities who are best positioned to settle and sponsor gender and sexual minority refugees. Sponsorship by Canadian LGBT2SQ+ communities, like a contact with our centre, helps to ensure that gender and sexual minority refugees are met with community support upon their arrival in Canada. While we encourage non-LGBT2SQ+ people to sponsor gender and sexual minority refugees, given the humanity urgency of a situation, we also acknowledge that many sponsorship agreement holders are busy with the important work of family reunification. The rainbow refugee assistance program encourages our communities to sponsor persecuted people—
Kimahli Powell
View Kimahli Powell Profile
Kimahli Powell
2017-05-15 16:21
It all depends on the different countries.
If you're talking about Canada specifically, one area of concern for individuals here, particularly for those who have not filed a case, is the length of time. I'm sure you've heard about the issues surrounding legacy claims, as far as individuals who have waited to actually get a hearing.
There is also the issue of access to support. In the Netherlands, for example, when you arrive, you have immediate access to support. In Ontario, if you file a claim, you have to wait up to six weeks to get Ontario Works.
There are some issues as far as access to services when those individuals arrive, and the quality of those services as well.
David Manicom
View David Manicom Profile
David Manicom
2017-05-03 15:52
This program is a funding program to a service-providing organization. We have no permanent funding arrangements under our grants and contributions programming. We have calls for proposals at regular intervals, to which we make Canadian funding available to those who are interested in providing the particular types of services that we have. To make the pilot project permanent would not necessarily mean funding one group on a permanent basis. The question I think would be, would we want long-term to have a program designed like this one with three months of support for one particular refugee vulnerability group?
We're looking at the various options for the best way to continue to meet the needs of LGBTQ refugees. The reason for the extending of the funding is that we can continue the conversation with the broader community to determine and provide advice to our minister on the best way forward to most fully integrate our support for LGBTQ refugees into our settlement programming. This is a relatively small pilot. Is making this sort of pilot as a separate envelope the right way to go, or is ensuring that we have across our settlement network appropriate supports, as we do in a number of service-providing organizations, unnecessary?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-05-01 15:57
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
I want to give a heartfelt thanks to all the presenters for their excellent presentations. Thanks for your extraordinary efforts in getting here today. I know there were some plane delays because of the weather.
I'm going to focus a bit on the comments by Mr. Eustaquio and the two Jasons, Mr. Ottey and Mr. McMichael, today.
I'm delighted, Mr. McMichael, that you let us know that you were in the immigration system for a while. That is very helpful.
One of the key questions I always ask myself is, “Why do people use immigration consultants?” Part of me wonders if it's just because the process is so difficult. Is it because we only offer it in English and French? I just want your thoughts on the number one or two reasons.
Mr. Eustaquio, maybe I'm going to start with you. Why do you think members of the Portuguese community use immigration consultants? I figure that if we maybe could address some of that we could eliminate some people going to immigration consultants and some of these issues.
I'll start with you, Mr. Eustaquio; and then we'll go to Mr. Ottey and Mr. McMichael.
José Eustaquio
View José Eustaquio Profile
José Eustaquio
2017-05-01 15:58
You've put the question. Obviously, when it comes to communities like the one I represent, everything seems to start with the question, “What do you feel comfortable with?” Language is paramount. Over the years—not so much in the last decade, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s—you would even hear of individuals back in Portugal attempting to create, through town hall meetings, access to immigration or work programs in Canada. I haven't heard so much of that in the last little while, because I think organizations like LiUNA have done a phenomenal job in trying to provide communication here across Canada, especially in the Toronto area with Local 183.
My community is very culturally based and very tight-rooted with traditions and culture. Our community centres.... This has been brought up. These not-for-profit organizations are usually the first step of someone being recognized and welcomed to a neighbourhood and a community. When someone new comes to Canada, that's where they go.
They don't go there only to find and meet people—family members, people from their home town—but to access these community centres as a means of employment. Then they are looking for assistance to legalize themselves, which some of these unscrupulous consultants understand. They are smart. They're intelligent. They're at the street level, at the grassroots, so they know where to obtain those individuals.
The language, as MP Dzerowicz mentioned, is pivotal. This should always be provided in the language that people are comfortable with. The accessibility of or process to go by to get a lot of these applications properly in front of the legal sources for immigration seems to be very vague. That is where some of these people have done really well in obtaining a salary, a life, a job for themselves by providing these services.
They are making ridiculous amounts of money for a legal process that you and I can do on the Internet. For an application that normally costs about $1,100, I've heard cases of some families paying $18,000, $20,000, or $25,000. A lot of these people are just looking for the right news, and the right news is, “Yes, I can make you Canadian in a short period of time. I can make you legal.” These broken promises have been alluded to in some of the presentations today. It's vastly dark, and it is so unfortunate that it's happening in a country like ours.
Hopefully that answers your question.
Jason Ottey
View Jason Ottey Profile
Jason Ottey
2017-05-01 16:01
It's a very good point. It's fundamental. The fundamental change has to come from a recognition that we actually do need immigration to grow our economy. If we look at it with the purpose of how to facilitate bringing these people in, that changes the nature of the interaction. Streamlining the processes and having more accessibility, as Mr. Eustaquio mentioned, are critical to that. Having it in a language that the applicant understands will assist with that.
There are so many different pathways for people to apply. That alone can be burdensome to an applicant. It would be helpful if there was a clearer line of demarcation as to what the application is for, how long the process could take, and what necessary documents are required in order to facilitate an application. That way, applicants would know from the beginning what is required of them.
On complex applications, I do think there will be a need for an immigration consultant or a lawyer to assist, because not all of them will be paint-by-numbers. You could apply a similar process to what it's like to get a building permit. In order to get a building permit, there is a lot of pre-work that is done in order to establish the necessary conditions for approval. That is a very rich ground for immigration consultants to play around, and I think they take advantage of that. The more we can make that information accessible and attainable to applicants, the easier it would be for them to apply on their own, therefore taking the need away from those less complex cases.
Richard Kurland
View Richard Kurland Profile
Richard Kurland
2017-04-10 15:31
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's indeed an honour and a privilege to appear before the committee. I'd like to preface my remarks with a description of the decades of intervention on this particular issue.
The immigration consulting issue encompasses the protection of people desirous of becoming Canadians and desirous of visiting our country. I'll distill the issues plainly and simply. When it comes to the issue of immigration consultants, the key is who can fix this and how to motivate the institution to fix this.
I've read the submissions of other witnesses appearing before the committee. What seems clear to me is that there is only one single entity capable of handling the immigration consultant issues and that is the department, not the provincial level and not the regulatory authorities, provincial or federal. Only our public servants, working within the immigration department, can truly and practically get to the bottom of this. Why? It is only the department that has the capability of identifying who accesses our immigration operational system. It is the department that controls this access. The department has the tools and mechanisms to prevent contact with the departmental systems, and the department has the means to allow access.
The two obstacles preventing resolution of the immigration consultant issue for over 20 years are basic. The first level is unseen. Our governance in Canada, for social engineering purposes, in terms of multi-year, long-term strategy, emanates from the Privy Council Office. Within that office, there is a directive to prevent the judiciarization of Canadian society. We do not want a litigious society as it appears in our neighbour to the south. Consequently, when it comes to dealing with immigration consultants, there is a hidden unseen directive to prevent the legalization, the judiciarization, of the issue.
On the other hand, there is the desire to offload client contact from the department, where possible. What does this mean? This means that the department prefers to have a three-tier delivery system. Tier one includes members of Parliament and senators, preferred service; tier two has the regulated professions, lawyers and consultants; and tier three has unrepresented members of the public.
Here's where I'll conclude my opening remarks. The cheapest, easiest, most direct way to resolve this is to require third party representation on every application for service. In this manner, the applicants are driven to publicly regulated individuals: licensing, insurance, protection of the public. It allows the applicants to pay for service.
It should not be mandatory, but a preferred service system for represented applicants would go a long way to preventing abuse and would save the department money by using trained officials—lawyers and consultants who are regulated. It is going to be up to the department to make this decision. It can do it now. It has the artificial intelligence mechanisms in the incoming application processing system to do this.
To sum up, all you've been hearing to date have been different sides of the elephant, how it got into the room, and individual concerns and group concerns. At the heart of all this is the key, the central decision, on the part of our immigration public servants to allow access to third party representatives, and reward applications with third party representation with preferred service times, or more reliability in terms of the product that's entering the system.
I hear the self-interest bell ringing, but over 20 to 25 years I have not come up with a better solution, other than hiving off ever greater chunks of the operational delivery system onto the offices of our elected officials.
Those are my opening remarks. Thank you.
Maria Esel Panlaqui
View Maria Esel Panlaqui Profile
Maria Esel Panlaqui
2017-04-03 15:57
No, I started in Thorncliffe. We have a secret online Facebook group. We thought we were already connected with a lot of them, but when they started going to the churches, I saw more workers there who were isolated and vulnerable, so we started assisting those people and referring them to settlement agencies in the particular neighbourhoods where they are located.
With the phone services, I was able to rescue a caregiver in Hay River over the phone—
Maria Esel Panlaqui
View Maria Esel Panlaqui Profile
Maria Esel Panlaqui
2017-04-03 15:58
—because there are no settlement services there.
I asked her if she could wait until the next day and she said, “No, because the employer is throwing things at me. I cannot wait.” We had no choice but to ask someone to take her from Hay River to a shelter there. The settlement agency that is closest to that worker is a four-hour drive from where she works. She was isolated inside the private home.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you again, Minister. Coming from the community, you and I worked with the community long before we became MPs. These are the habits we have developed over the years.
Regarding the client services, as you know, much of our money gets spent on the immigration files on a daily basis. If you talk to one client or to 50 clients, the answer is basically the same. They will probably tell you that the process is taking too long, unsatisfactory answers, dropping of phone calls, and the list goes on. What can you tell them, Minister? What have you done to improve this, and is there something coming soon?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you. That's a really great question.
Client service is not just about faster processing and reducing backlogs or eliminating them. It's also about how we interact with people. It's about how the immigration system deals with the client in terms of how they feel after going through a phone call, or how they find the complexity of the forms, the website, and so on. All those things are on the table with respect to client service, so it's not just the question of processing times and backlogs.
Client service is our focus and we meet frequently about this. I get weekly updates on the progress we're making with respect to client service.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, we have talked about the crooked consultants. We heard the horrible stories. I personally want you to watch one of the videos that I'm going to give you on how people get ripped off. They are talking about committing suicide and so on.
I think many of us believe that if the application were made easier to fill out, people could do it themselves. Because the application is a bit harder, they end up going to the crooked consultant and this is where they get ripped off. Is there any way we can shorten it? Can something be done?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Doing something with respect to lessening the complexity and making it easier to use forms, the website, the phone, and the 1-800 number is absolutely part of our focus, making sure that, not only is it easier to use the various aspects of the immigration system, but also having the client, once they interact with the system, feel much better than they did coming in. That means putting them first, putting the client central to everything we do.
Does that mean faster processing times? Absolutely. Does that mean reducing wait times? It also includes the fact that some people don't mind waiting a little bit longer if they know what the status of their file is. Therefore, that may also include communicating more regularly with the client and letting them know the progress of their file.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
From time to time—we hear this on a regular basis—people who fill out their own applications make a mistake. They're trying to save $1,000 or whatever the cost is.
We asked this question many times in the last committees. If there is a smaller issue, for example, data is filled out wrong, filled out in the wrong spot, or minor variances, why can't we call or email the client to tell them to fix it?
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2017-03-20 17:14
We're making real efforts so that we're not rejecting applications for minor issues of that nature. We're also getting better at communicating with our clients, be it by email, by phone, or face-to-face interviews, indeed.
We're also using technology more effectively. For many applications that are not electronically lodged, we now have a mechanism where people can register, and then they can submit supplementary material very rapidly. This is making the turnaround for applications much faster. It's growing, but we're seeing very positive results from that.
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2017-03-06 15:32
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to begin by noting that over the last number of years, the department has made significant strides in laying the groundwork for a modernized client experience that simplifies the application process while maintaining the integrity of our immigration system. Our hope is that these continuing improvements will make it easier for people to access our services without the use of a consultant.
That said, we recognize that many prospective immigrants to Canada seek the services of immigration representatives or consultants, both in Canada and overseas, for help in navigating the immigration process. Similarly, prospective citizens may enlist the help of citizenship consultants before they seek the final step of applying to obtain their Canadian citizenship.
In June of 2011 the House of Commons passed legislation designed to better protect prospective immigrants from unscrupulous or fraudulent practices by such representatives. At the heart of that legislation were changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requiring that a paid immigration representative used at any stage of an immigration application or proceeding be a lawyer or a paralegal who is a member in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society.
In addition, an immigration representative can be a notary who is a member in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec, or an immigration consultant who is a member in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, the ICCRC.
There are also provisions in the law for the government to enter into agreements with certain organizations who provide valuable services to immigrants and applicants for citizenship.
In effect, the 2011 legislation made it illegal for anyone other than those I've just listed to operate as a paid representative at any stage of an immigration or citizenship application or proceeding. At the same time as these amendments came into force, the government of the day also designated the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, or ICCRC, as the regulator of immigration consultants. In June of 2015, similar amendments were made to the Citizenship Act in regard to the laws governing citizenship consultants, and the minister at the time designated the ICCRC as the regulator for such consultants.
The ICCRC is a self-governing, not-for-profit organization that has an arm's-length relationship with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There are currently more than 3,700 active members of the ICCRC. The organization manages members' entry-to-practice standards, including training, testing, and accreditation, as well as professional requirements such as education obligations. The ICCRC is also responsible for ensuring that an effective complaints and discipline process for members is enforced.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is always prepared to take aggressive action against unscrupulous and fraudulent activities by immigration and citizenship consultants when we become aware of or suspect improper activities. These damaging activities can include acting as a so-called ghost consultant; that is, providing, or even offering to provide, advice or representation for a fee at any stage of an immigration application or proceeding without being a member in good standing of the ICCRC.
When Government of Canada officials believe that an immigration or citizenship consultant has contravened any professional obligations, they have clear authority to share this information with the ICCRC, in a manner consistent with the Privacy Act.
Examples of information that can be shared are allegations or evidence of false promises made to an applicant, providing false information about Canada's immigration processes, failing to provide services agreed to between the representative and client, or counselling to obtain or submit false evidence.
The ICCRC has a mandate to govern such consultants by employing tools such as their code of professional ethics and code of business conduct and ethics. It also has the authority to investigate allegations of unethical or unprofessional behaviour on the part of authorized consultants. The RCMP and the CBSA are responsible for investigating both authorized consultants who engage in fraud and ghost consultants who operate outside of the law governing immigration representatives.
The ICCRC and the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants have approached our department and the CBSA about making changes to governance frameworks for the regulator of citizenship and immigration consultants. According to documents we've seen, they're interested in having the council operate similarly to law societies, with increased powers of investigation and the ability to discipline members.
To give the council these authorities would require significant legislative changes and could also impact the mandate of our security partners who are currently responsible for investigating ghost consultants and authorized consultants who engage in fraud.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada remains committed to continuing to meet regularly with representatives of the ICCRC to discuss governance issues and the council's overall effectiveness.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Paul Aterman
View Paul Aterman Profile
Paul Aterman
2017-03-06 15:45
Thank you.
The Immigration and Refugee Board reports to Parliament through the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Through the work of its four divisions—the refugee protection division, the refugee appeal division, the immigration division, and the immigration appeal division—the board renders about 40,000 quasi-judicial decisions per year.
The people who are the subject of those decisions are among the most vulnerable consumers of legal services in Canada. Some of them may have been in Canada only a few weeks or months. Many are unfamiliar with our legal system. Many do not speak English or French. Access to justice—that is, being able to retain competent counsel at an affordable cost—is a concern for courts and tribunals across this country, and it's a concern that applies equally to the IRB.
We do design our processes in such a way that self-represented people can navigate them, but the fact is that many of the issues we deal with are complex and technical, because the law itself is complex and technical. About one in five cases before the board involves someone who is not represented by counsel. We would much rather deal with people who have competent counsel than deal with people who are unrepresented. We are able to do our job much more efficiently in those circumstances.
To give you a sense of the numbers, of the 40,000 cases in 2016, about 8,000, or around 20%, involved people who were not represented. Around 31,500, or 80%, had counsel. Of those 31,500, about 12% were represented by immigration consultants. Last year we saw around 3,800 immigration consultants.
Integrity and competence are crucial to consultants' capacity to make a positive contribution to the immigration and protection of refugees system. From the perspective of the IRB, the provisions on consultants adopted in 2004 marked an important step forward for access to justice, as they allowed for the setting of minimal standards, and brought in complaint and discipline mechanisms that did not exist prior to that.
However, there is always room for improvement. The changes made in 2011 strengthened the system. Currently the representatives targeted by the regulation must prove to the IRB that they are members in good standing of their professional association before they can appear before the board. We check to see if they are suspended or subject to disciplinary procedures.
I think it is important for the committee to be aware of the fact that the work done by immigration consultants before the IRB is quite different from the work done by consultants when they appear or represent clients before IRCC.
With IRCC, consultants are guiding their clients through an application process. In contrast, at the board, consultants represent their clients in hearings. The IRB is the main forum in which consultants can litigate, and litigating requires very particular skills. Counsel in a hearing needs to know the difference between evidence and argument. Counsel needs to know what the right legal test is, what the best litigation strategy is, how to examine or cross-examine a witness. They have to be able to think on their feet. They have to be persuasive.
The board supports the regulators' efforts to improve standards of practice, and we also support the regulators' efforts to investigate and act on alleged breaches of professional conduct. To that end, in July 2015 we revised our disclosure policy to take advantage of the legislative changes that now make it easier to disclose this kind of information to regulators.
The board now has a transparent process for reporting issues of concern to regulators. The policy applies not just to consultants but to lawyers as well. However, we refer cases to a regulator only when we think there has been a sufficiently serious breach of a code of conduct or ethics.
Since 2015, we've made a relatively small number of referrals, 10 to the immigration consultant regulator and two involving members of the bar. However, that should not be taken as an indication that there is not room for improvement—far from it. In the view of the board, there is considerable scope for the quality of litigation conducted by immigration consultants to improve. This is why we also support education and prevention whether by the regulator itself or through our own efforts. For example, the board holds sessions for immigration consultants that are aimed at improving their standard of practice, and if we receive invitations from professional organizations of immigration consultants to offer training, we gladly accept those invitations.
We hope to build on the relationship we have with the regulator and with groups such as the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, because we're aiming to improve the standard of litigation practice conducted by immigration consultants.
Thank you.
View Borys Wrzesnewskyj Profile
Lib. (ON)
Committee, I understand that Mr. Arnold has a commitment that he has no option but to leave for. I will allow Mr. Arnold the opportunity to quickly say a few words, and we'll then launch right into questions.
I understand you have to leave in about seven to 10 minutes.
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:29
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is David Arnold. I am the chief migration officer. I work for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as part of the Australian government. I'm a posted officer here at our high commission, just down the road on O'Connor Street.
We thank you for the opportunity to present today and talk a little about some of the client service modernizations that my department has been undertaking over the last couple of years, and certainly what we're looking to do into the future.
My department manages millions of entries into and departures from Australia of temporary visitors and permanent migrants, as well as Australian citizens. This includes the monitoring and resolution of their status, and the promotion of values and Australian citizenship.
Our visa system plays a key role in promoting Australia's economic and social prosperity. Australia has a universal visa system—that is, every single individual who wishes to travel to Australia for temporary or permanent purposes is required to have a visa before they board their method of travel.
The department already manages a significant volume of activities through digital channels. One such example is our electronic travel authority, which I know Canadians have introduced recently; as well as our ImmiAccount, an online portal for visa applicants; and SmartGate. Like Canada, we have traditionally had front-line officers doing a passport check and an admissibility check, like a border service officer here. We've moved that to more automation through SmartGate, using e-passports and biometric capture.
ImmiAccount, in particular, has been quite a success for us in moving clients away from higher-cost channels such as face-to-face ones and by telephone. Individuals who make application to travel to Australia are required to establish an ImmiAccount. It's not dissimilar from, say, setting up an Internet banking facility with your financial institution. It acts as our front door. Since its launch in 2013, it has grown significantly. Clients are able to access 41 forms, essentially 41 visa types to travel to Australia. It generates in excess of $1.1 billion a year in revenue through visa application charges.
Last financial year, we received more applications via ImmiAccount than we did paper applications. Applications lodged via ImmiAccount are 100% electronic. We have no paper files for those applications. Approximately 18 months ago, Australia moved away from the issue of foil; we refer to it as a “visa label”. There is no longer any legislative means to issue a foil to a visa applicant or visa holder to Australia. For example, in the very limited processing that some of my staff do here in Ottawa, we don't see passports. That has enabled the department to set up a rather agile and responsive service delivery network, where we can pick up visa applications and caseloads and move them very quickly depending on the issues—for example, post-natural disasters or generally big demand, such as during Chinese New Year.
We are moving our eLodgement to our biggest caseloads in the foreseeable future, which will be Chinese nationals and Indian and Indonesian applicants. We do partner with service delivery agencies, as Canada does. Those organizations at the moment accept applications on our behalf via paper. That will soon move to digital for those particular markets, which will enable us to move our most significant caseloads around our service delivery network.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for being here. We apologize that we had to quickly run to the House for votes.
As you know, for all of us MPs, most of our work is dealing with a lot of immigration files, so we're looking at ways to improve the system. With the advanced technology available now, are there better ways to improve client services through more online services or with technology? I'd like to hear from a couple of you.
If anyone wants to speak first they can, but maybe we can go around and ask that question.
Chantal Desloges
View Chantal Desloges Profile
Chantal Desloges
2017-02-01 16:34
I have a couple of comments about that.
First of all, in terms of use of technology, I think there are a lot of functions within IRCC that could be automated to allow for a greater client touch without necessarily generating more work for people by having to send handwritten emails.
For example, there are very simple software solutions that allow you to send autogenerated emails to people at various periods of time. One of the biggest complaints from clients is not necessarily about how long they have to wait but that they don't know what's going on; they're not able to find out what's happening with their case. Even just an autogenerated email that we'd send to them every once in a while just to let them know and reassure them that everything is fine, that their file is with us, and that we're working on it and we'll get back to them if we need anything, I think, would be an easy solution.
The other thing is interview scheduling. A lot of time is wasted calling people for interviews that they can't make at a particular time and then they have to be rescheduled through a manual process that is very time-consuming and labour-intensive. There are simple software solutions that allow people to choose their own interview time, which are fully automated and don't require any manpower whatsoever. Those would be two really simple ways.
Finally, there is the immigration e-CAS system, through which you can go online and check your case status. There is rarely any useful information in it. That system already exists and it could be used to much greater effect if officers could simply upload the information more regularly. People could go on and check their status online and not have to bother with phoning the telecentre or emailing Immigration.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
That was one of my other questions. A lot of our time is wasted just getting status updates. Clients come in and ask where their application is, at what step, and then we have to fill out a consent form and so on and go through all the steps and then call and finally deliver that message to our constituents.
Thank you for sharing that.
Would anyone else like to share?
Go ahead, Mr. Green.
Stephen Green
View Stephen Green Profile
Stephen Green
2017-02-01 16:36
I'll be very brief.
I think it's important to understand that immigration is a human endeavour, so while we can push a lot of stuff to technology, please don't forget that there is a human element to this. In the old days we used to have centres that people could walk into. I would submit that if you opened up some of those centres to a restricted audience who could attend there, 50% of your inquiries would drop.
My last comment would be that the call centre is a wonderful thing. It has helped a lot of people, but the problem, unfortunately, is that there's not enough information given out. If I call on behalf of my clients, it takes about four to five minutes for me to go through a process to identify myself. If you call the bank, you give them your client ID and you're in—one, two, three. Immigration actually goes through the application: is your client's address this? Is your client's telephone number this? What is your address? What is your name? And it must do this for each file. So if I have four files, I go through this four times. It's really not efficient.
Last, you can't tell the client on the phone that their application is in process; we know that. They have to be able to give more information. If that was released, and if these call centre people had more authority to give out information, your workload would drop with respect to the basic inquiries.
Arleigh Luckett
View Arleigh Luckett Profile
Arleigh Luckett
2017-02-01 16:38
I was just going to say that I'm from a private sponsorship group, and I know that one of the concerns our groups have had regarding delays in refugees coming here when we have applied for them is that some groups are very self-conscious about asking the MP for help but others are relying heavily on the office, which is very forthcoming in offering it. However, if access to the up-front information on the website—from the minute the group comes together and wants to sponsor and even before a group applies—were better and modernized and thought through from the point of view of a group of volunteers trying to figure out how to navigate this system and what the rules were, they wouldn't be calling their MP's office so often. The information is there, but the path through it is terrible; it's very hard to find the information, and it's not all up to date.
Vance P. E. Langford
View Vance P. E. Langford Profile
Vance P. E. Langford
2017-02-01 16:39
Our brief highlights a number of technical issues that the Canadian Bar Association's immigration law section believes could help. We've put those under the larger umbrella of program improvements that could be made. I think that's what the Government of Canada would like to achieve.
Some of our recommendations are around communication. They sound simple and they sound practical. Maybe it's trite, but in terms of updating clients on delayed applications, it's that issue of how “in process” really means nothing. They include perhaps making a more robust system of where processing status is actually at, with accountability for processing times that are published, and also requesting additional information before refusing applications. As we move to a more automated system, it's about not losing the human element and not forgetting that peoples' lives are affected by the system.
The example of that is express entry, with that sort of one-touch approach that was talked about. It wasn't an official policy, but if peoples' job offers didn't have specific language in the job offers according to the ministerial instructions, they were bounced. I had highly educated people come to me after failing three times in express entry. Simply, there could have been a request for the proper documentation before refusing.
Also in our suggestions is increasing transparency on decision making by giving better written reasons. A suggestion made was to attach the GCMS printout to the rationale for the decision. That isn't really hard to do, and that would make it no longer necessary to do an access to information request to get the reasons in order to understand whether this was just not a viable application or whether it should be appealed or redone.
Those are some suggestions.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, thank you.
Mr. Arnold, your country has a very organized immigration system. We know that. You have dedicated visa subclasses for skilled visa, family visa, parent visa, etc. I'm wondering if you could comment or maybe expand upon the effectiveness of implementing these specific subclasses for visas and how that has improved your client service delivery.
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:41
It would be fair to say that it has made the client journey easier, I think, to identify which particular visa they should be applying for in their particular circumstances. In saying that, though, it is an area of our business that's under continual review. About 18 months ago we undertook a fairly harsh cull of some of the subclasses that we did have. There is also another body of work around visa reform at the moment, which the government has commissioned, and that will seek a further reduction in subclasses.
 Yes, it has worked, but at the moment it would probably be fair to say that we have too many.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Could you expand upon that a bit? What are some of the experiences you've had? What is the impetus in terms of looking at condensing the number of classes as that relates to client service delivery? Where is the right balance? I would say that also having very vague characteristics makes it difficult to apply, too, so in your experience, where would you see that right mix?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:42
From an operational perspective, it's about maintaining knowledge and a centre to undertake processing of that particular visa, especially if it's not automated. If you have a particular subclass where application rates are relatively low because they were always falling into another category, having to maintain that becomes quite high cost. Rationalizing it and shrinking it down into what we term more “streams” of what activity they are undertaking under the banner of the subclass allows that concentration to occur.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Have you had to deal with instances where you perhaps have had one applicant apply through different streams writ large, even if it's for citizenship or whatnot? How has your country dealt with that?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
For example, let's say that in Canada you're applying for citizenship and you're applying under different classes or different programs. Sometimes that gums up the amount of resources it takes to process these applications.
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:43
We have a legislative framework for instances like that. If an individual lodges an application for, say, citizenship by descent—as the individual has a parent who's an Australian citizen—but is in fact not eligible for that particular part of our citizenship program, then that application is deemed invalid. We can't do anything with it.
The money is given back to the applicants and they're invited to apply for the most appropriate stream or component of citizenship, as an example.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
My next question, just before I had it over to Mr. Tilson, is for Ms. Desloges.
In previous studies that we've had at committee, you've talked very briefly about how current immigration laws already allow officials to apply discretion in exceptional circumstances, essentially talking about section 25. I just want to give you a quick opportunity to talk about this in terms of service delivery. Because it is such a nebulous process, could you see improvements in triggering that process from a service delivery perspective?
Chantal Desloges
View Chantal Desloges Profile
Chantal Desloges
2017-02-01 16:44
Section 25 gives officers the very broad discretion and ability to waive any requirement of the act or regulation. So to the extent that certain service delivery factors are regulated—they're actually mentioned in the regulations—then I suppose section 25 could be used, but I think most procedures and most things related to service delivery are not in the regulations. These are dealt with by policies, so it wouldn't apply.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. Langford, thank you for the brief that has been prepared, and obviously we have a time problem here today.
I wonder if you could tell us the top priorities of the Canadian Bar Association for recommending improvements to client service delivery.
Vance P. E. Langford
View Vance P. E. Langford Profile
Vance P. E. Langford
2017-02-01 16:45
Thank you, Mr. Tilson.
The Canadian Bar Association's immigration law section in our brief made submissions about two types of issues that we think are really important. One is structural. We don't think that you can deal with client service delivery by improving the IRCC alone, because Canada Border Services Agency, ESDC, and Service Canada with respect to the temporary foreign worker program, are part of the overall system in Canada. Some of the problems and areas of emphasis for improvement we would like to see would be with respect to ports of entry in particular, the mindset at ports of entry in dealing with travellers, and having the resources and expertise necessary to deal with immigration issues when people are primarily focused on enforcement and goods.
One of the recommendations in our submission is that there be immigration experts embedded at major ports of entry and available by telephone or otherwise 24/7 as experts for immigration matters. You really need to look at the whole system with ESDC and the temporary foreign worker program. It's almost like that's ignored as part of the cycle, but ESDC and the issuance of LMIAs affects people's work permits and applications for permanent residence. It's very important to the whole cycle, and so if you're not talking and looking at efficiencies there, then there are problems. That's CBSA, ESDC, and we've made a number of.... Those are structural issues, and the other area is sort of programmatic issues. You can see that we've made a number of specific recommendations there.
Probably the number one recommendation with respect to program is communication and remembering that these are people.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
I have about five questions to ask Mr. Arnold, so I'm wondering if it's possible to take time—
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:48
My colleague can run with it. They're probably not out of bed yet.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Since we have the opportunity to learn more about your system, I think it's a very valuable time for us.
Mr. Arnold, what is the approval rate and the average length of time to process, say, visitor visas?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:48
Globally, I don't have the figures to hand, but I'd happy to share those.
If I look locally here, I have a very low refusal rate. It would be in the single digits, and with our commitment under our service standard for a visitor visa—noting that the individuals my office sees here are often those who might have a health or character issue—given that Canadian citizens are eligible for eTA, we look to process about 80% of those within three weeks.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
One of the frustrations that constituents in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway have experienced when they've sponsored relatives to come over here to visit for a wedding or whatever, is that when they're rejected, there is no internal appeal process. The only option is either to apply again, brand new, or to ask for judicial review, which as a practical matter is simply just not done. The amount of time and money that it would take is simply not worth it in 99% of the cases.
I'm wondering if Australia has any kind of internal review process for an applicant who has been turned down for a visa?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:50
Not internally, but depending on their circumstances and the visa they've applied for, they can make application to the MRT, which is our migration refugee tribunal. They can make application to that. A good example might be an individual who is a citizen of country X who is married to an Australian but holds no permanent status. They apply for a visit visa, and the decision-maker who is not satisfied they have funds or ties to their home country may refuse that, but because they have a tie to Australia, they're eligible for that decision to be reviewed.
A visitor visa applicant, for example, who bears no ties to Australia has no right to review for their application made offshore or overseas.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you. We've already heard a reference to the reasons. I've seen many of the forms that a person will receive if they're turned down for a visitor visa in Canada, and it's just a series of statements with some boxes checked off. There's immense frustration among people because the form essentially tells them nothing. That person then comes to our office. We then have to contact the member of Parliament line and can often get someone on the line to read us the reasons in the file, and we transmit those reasons to the applicant.
I'm just wondering, how does it work in Australia? Were someone to be rejected, are they told the reasons and, if so, in what kind of detail?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:50
They are, in significant detail. The decision record for refusal for a visitor application is probably on average about five to six pages. My case officers are required to put in detail the basis for their decision and how they couldn't be satisfied that the individual was a genuine temporary visitor to Australia, or whether or not we're satisfied of their character or health requirement. It is detailed, absolutely.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks.
I joke with people that I don't have a constituency office, but an immigration law practice in Vancouver.
Another source of frustration for my constituents is that there's never anybody whom the applicant or the sponsor can talk to. It's very anonymous. You just get a case number. If someone has a pending application in Australia, is there anybody whom an applicant or a sponsor can actually talk to within your immigration structure to find out about the status of the case, or to discuss where it's at?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:51
Absolutely. As I said in my introduction, we're looking to push those types of inquiries to our online ImmiAccount, where clients can get an update of where their application is at. But again, if we use the region that I belong to, which is the Americas from Chile up, we offer a five-day call centre based here in Ottawa. We provide service in four languages between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those immigration officers can access exactly the same system as the decision-maker. So an applicant who has a spouse in our pipeline can ring that number for the cost of a Canadian call, and we'll give them as much information as we can.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Excellent.
Does Australia do interviews for “permanent resident” applications to Australia—I don't know if you use that terminology—and if so, what percentage of the applicants would have to go through an interview?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:52
I don't know the exact percentage, but again, with the situation locally here, it's very, very low. The decision-maker can decide to interview an applicant if they're not satisfied, if they're missing a piece of information, or if a bit of information just doesn't make sense. They'll invite the applicant or the sponsor for an interview, but it would be a single digit figure for my office, definitely.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
One of the most troubling areas that we deal with in my Vancouver office is Chandigarh, India. Our experience is that there's over 50% refusal rate for people applying for visitor visas, and it's a source of incredible frustration to the community of Vancouver.
Is there a place like that for Australia, a place that you focus on particularly? Is there a country or a place with a particularly high rejection rate? I'm always told by the government that Chandigarh is difficult because there's a fear of a high rate of forgery or fraud. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what we're told. Does Australia have a similar experience with a particular place?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:54
There's not one specifically that I can talk to, but depending on particular risk factors with the country of origin of the applicant, then that could very well result in a higher refusal rate. Again, it depends. Instances of fraud.... From the intelligence that we have available, whether it be previous refusals or just general factors within the applicant's country, with the applicant applying, say, for a student visa to undertake English, but who may not necessarily be a genuine temporary entrant because they're just trying to get out of their own country, could result in a higher refusal rate.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Finally, if there is a single innovation that Australia has brought in to make its immigration system more user-friendly or efficient, what would it be? What advice would you give us?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:55
Go to full eLodgement. In my experience, getting my diplomatic visa here, it was a matter of completing a fillable PDF, with a bar code on the back. That still required printing. Move to a fully agile solution, as we have, noting that you need to do that carefully for big markets like India and China, which we're yet to do.
Also move away from a foil, the label.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 16:55
Perhaps I could beg your patience also, just because I'm so excited that you're here, Mr. Arnold, as well as all of our guests. I just want to say a huge thanks to all of you for spending an extra hour waiting for us.
I'm going to ask a few questions, Mr. Arnold. If you don't have time to respond to them, I'd be very grateful if you just give us written responses.
One question I have is this. We have the issue of a huge backlog in a number of different categories, in terms of spousal applications, in terms of parents and grandparents, in terms of visas, in terms of different places in the world. Does a similar backlog exist for different classes of applications in Australia? I'll start with that question.
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:56
Yes, absolutely. Our minister will set an immigration planning level. For example, for our partner program, I may be allocated—these are just figures for the purposes of an example—50 places. I may get 1,500 applications.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 16:56
How's that dealt with? Do you just fill the 50 you have that might have existed from years before? How is that worked through?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:56
The minister sets our immigration program yearly. Once the year is reached, which for us is 30 June, those positions will need to be filled.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 16:57
Okay.
As you know, we're a multicultural nation. I believe we only offer services in English and French. Does Australia offer immigration services in any other language for anything? If so, could you explain that?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:57
Yes, we do. It's often demand driven. For example, my catchment includes Mexico and some Central American countries, so those forms are available in Spanish. Our eLodgement system was first designed in English, but simplified Chinese will be part of our build for the introduction of eLodgement into China.
The department also offers what's called the “translating and interpreting service”. It's a 24/7 service available to any individual. We service our 911 equivalent, as an example. It takes close to one million calls a year. It's an interpreting service offered over the phone. I have four languages here that I provide service in. For an individual, say, who might speak Farsi—we don't have any Farsi speakers—they'll use an interpreter on shore at no cost to them.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 16:58
That's helpful.
You talked quite a bit about your ImmiAccount. Could you provide a bit more detail in writing, not now, on what that is? That would be helpful. You said it was set up like a bank account.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 16:58
The thing I'd love to get a little more information about is what happens when someone is checking their ImmiAccount for the status of their application, whatever it is. What type of information would you give back? Often, what we say here is that it is just “in process”, which is a source of great frustration for us. If you could maybe provide something back to us on that, I think it would be of great interest to the committee.
That's my last question for you, as I have a couple of other questions for the rest of the panellists.
David Arnold
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David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:59
Do you mean in response to the ImmiAccount status?
Ms. Julie Dzerowicz: Yes.
Mr. David Arnold: Clients of my department may share some frustrations that clients of the Canadian department have. That's largely to do with our IT system requiring some changes that just say “processing”. In saying that, though, government has allowed for investment to improve that. We will have more status updates introduced this year in March, including that “you require a health assessment”. But it would be fair to say that we still need to mature on what status updates we do offer.
We have noticed a significant drop in client inquiries, though, since the introduction of ImmiAccount. Clients are able to upload information, as well, in response. A case officer might say, “I need an RCMP check.” They'll send that request to ImmiAccount. It tells the client there's something there. Once they upload it, that wakes the application up for the decision-maker to say that it's there. The application actually moves quicker, and therefore the need for status updates becomes less.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 17:00
I have a couple of questions for CBA as well as TD, if I can get to them.
Thanks very much for your prepared report.
One of the ideas from our family reunification study was to have something similar to a CRA number, system having one number for an applicant for whatever processes they go through. One of the points you make is that IRCC shares client delivery service for the temporary foreign worker program with Employment and Social Development Canada. Do you have some thoughts to share on that and whether you think that would be useful.
I'm going to ask my two or three questions and if you're able to get to the answers, that's great. If not, if you can give me a written response, that would be also very much appreciated.
The second thing I want to ask you about is the removal of red flags and the procedure for that. You were talking about ports of entry. I'm curious about that. I'm also interested in this because there are red flags on a number of the people I deal with. I've no clue. Some of them, I think, were fairly applied and some, and some not. So I wouldn't mind your talking a little about the issue and maybe making a recommendation on the process to remove that, and what you think is fair.
You also mentioned ports of entry. It is common knowledge among Canadian immigration lawyers the need to avoid certain points of entry, based on a history of lengthy delays, unwarranted scrutiny, and bad decisions. Could you highlight which ports of entry those might be? It would be helpful to us in trying to figure out how to help.
My last question for you concerns program and technical issues. You suggested that if we're evolving our client service delivery system, we might want to bring in the CBA at the design stage to test it with lawyers. In that regard, do you know what percentage of applicants to our system use immigration lawyers? This may be an unfair question. It's just a question that came up, and I'm curious to hear your response.
Then to TD, if we don't have enough time, I'd love a written response on this as well.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-02-01 17:02
The reason we've brought you here is that we're trying to use the best practices in service delivery that you would recommend. What are the one or two recommendations for our immigration system...?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Arnold, you talked about India, Chandigarh specifically. In my riding, that is the biggest issue for 80% of the immigrants. I have two full-time staff. They answer the confused questions. I'm not sure if it's a matter of confusion with the clients or on this side. What sort of rejection rates are there in Chandigarh? Would you know?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 17:03
I don't know much about that catchment at all. I'm sorry.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
I thought you said your rejection was in the single digits. Is this on the North American side?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
This question is for everybody. What can we do? For example, I got two emails this morning from dissatisfied customers. They are confused. What can be done to improve the system, the understanding between the applicants and headquarters?
Vance P. E. Langford
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Vance P. E. Langford
2017-02-01 17:04
One of the suggestions in our brief is that you give immigration program managers at visa offices greater resources both to handle client service and to be accountable for client service. If you have someone in that jurisdiction who doesn't understand the status of an application, they should be able to get an answer either through a 24/7 call centre or an immigration program manager, who would simply receive an email and action it through his or her office, rather than taking months to respond and then having that client or their representative have to refer to the case management branch and escalate it and do other things to preserve the person's status when it could have just been a routine inquiry.
Stephen Green
View Stephen Green Profile
Stephen Green
2017-02-01 17:05
I think you have to ask why it was refused. In many of the cases that I see, the applicants haven't been given the proper forms or they have been misinformed. I think it would be tremendously helpful if the consulate in Chandigarh reached out to the community, and the community here as well, and ask what they need to demonstrate for a visitor visa application. A lot of them are refused just because they don't understand the process, and not because the visa officer is making a wrong decision. The visa officer just doesn't have the documents because the applicant doesn't know what's needed.
Saima Malik
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Saima Malik
2017-02-01 17:05
At TD, we've introduced a couple of things. One of them is for our staff to access internal resources—so not just the call centre, but through internal chat. That allows them to share documents, browse documents in real time, and pull up applications and view them at the same time as the resource who is actually interacting with the customer.
In regard to being more transparent with customers, we introduced social media capabilities. Customers are allowed to ask questions of experts, and that information is then made publicly available. It goes through someone in audit or legal to make sure we can share that information publicly, but it is then posted so that information is then available to all customers who potentially have a similar question.
What's different about it from a typical FAQ or search answer is that they are questions that are very specific and unique to the customer. Other customers who are in those types of situations can then search for that information and get that response and use it at least as their first gate of information.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
I've noticed many times that well-educated people make mistakes on applications, simple mistakes, and cases are rejected.
Is there any suggestion from any of you for the application to be made much simpler than what we have out there?
Chantal Desloges
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Chantal Desloges
2017-02-01 17:07
Applications are sent back for very, very minor deficiencies, something like you missed a box or your photograph was the wrong size, things that could easily be rectified.
My recommendation would be to send an email or call the applicant and tell them to replace it, instead of sending the whole thing back. Not only does that result in delay and extra expense to the client having to do it all over again, but it also sometimes leads to a loss of substantive rights. That means that somebody may fall out and lose status while that application is been sent back, and now they're here illegally. Or, you could lose the right to sponsor somebody, for example, your child ages out in terms of the date for sponsorship.
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