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Results: 1 - 15 of 138
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair. It's always good to be back before you colleagues.
I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you from the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation.
Colleagues, the past months have seen unprecedented challenges and change in Canada's immigration system. Immigration speaks to who we were, who we are and who we hope to be, and where we're choosing to grow right now. That's why last October I was so proud to unveil our 2021 to 2023 immigration levels plan, an ambitious and responsible plan to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents this year.
Over the past number of months, despite all of the challenges that have come our way, we've shown that we're delivering on our plan. While implementing strong border measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians, we created pathways to allow families, essential workers, international students and others to continue to come to Canada. We conducted the largest draw in the history of our express entry system, inviting some 27,000 people who are already here and hard at work to apply for permanent residency.
We launched the guardian angels program, recognizing the incredible contributions of asylum seekers in our hospitals and long-term care homes, and as of May 1, I'm very pleased to report that we've received over 3,800 applications.
We've taken our citizenship processes online, welcoming over 60,000 Canadians at some 10,000 virtual ceremonies, and we've recently become the first country in the world to offer citizenship testing online. We've created pathways to help young Hong Kongers as they cast their eyes abroad to choose Canada. We've made major investments to help speed up processing, and we're becoming more efficient, including through hiring 62 new staff at our office in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
We've also shown compassion in upholding human rights by adjusting policies, including for the survivors of Daesh, which will help more Yazidi families reunite with their loved ones through our adjustment of the parameters of the definition of family. We've offered permanent residency to the families of the victims of flights PS752 and ET302. While those tragedies may have taken place far from our shores, they were also Canadian tragedies, and that's why it is important that we took those steps to give justice to the families.
Finally, we announced the creation of a pathway to permanent residency for up to 90,000 essential workers and recent international graduates. Their status may be temporary, but their contributions are lasting.
It is against the backdrop of this significant progress that I am here to discuss today IRCC supplementary estimates (A).
Madam Chair, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s supplementary estimates (A) include only a re‑profiled amount of $24.5M—
View Jasraj Singh Hallan Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
As always, Minister, thank you for coming, and, honestly, thank you for being so accessible to us here in this committee.
The estimates have come out. My immediate questions are the following. We have a dollar amount that's been announced, but we don't see real details on what kind of plan we're going to follow to get there. Have you started any consultations with stakeholders when it comes to how you're going to implement this and how many resources it's going to take, and does it cover cybersecurity as well?
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
First, thank you very much to my colleague, MP Hallan, for not only the question but also his ongoing collaboration in this space and his advocacy.
Indeed, my consultations have been ongoing throughout my tenure in this ministry. We routinely engage advocates within immigration. We routinely engage our settlement service providers. We routinely engage parliamentarians, and we routinely engage business leaders so that we can make informed choices, not only with regard to policy but also with regard to the financial resources that re necessary to give effect to that policy. That includes the supplementary estimates, which will ensure that there's $24.5 million set out for additional relief for asylum seekers in the event there is uptake.
In addition to that, budget 2021, as you know, sets in motion a significant down payment on the modernization and transformation of our immigration system, something I know we're all united in, because we know that immigration will accelerate our economic recovery and drive long-term prosperity.
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'll accept your remarks with respect to charm, but I'm afraid, with respect to looks, it's contrary to the evidence before us.
I'd like to thank the committee for the invitation today, and I'm pleased to present the 2021 supplementary estimates (C) and the 2021-22 main estimates for the public safety portfolio.
I'm very ably joined today by a number of my colleagues. Respectfully, in the interest of time, I will not introduce them, but I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge that, during these incredibly difficult and challenging times over the past year, they've all stepped up to the plate. They've been working diligently to keep our borders, communities and correctional institutions safe as well as to protect our national security.
Today, Mr. Chair, I believe these estimates reflect that work.
I'll go through the supplementary estimates (C) for 2021 in order to present these items chronologically. The approval of these estimates will result in funding approvals of $11.1 billion for the public safety portfolio, and that represents an increase of 3.3% over total authorities provided to date. I will briefly share some of the highlights here as they relate to how we manage our critical services during the pandemic.
The first is $135.8 million for the Correctional Service of Canada for critical operating requirements related to COVID-19.
The second is $35 million for Public Safety Canada, to support the urgent relief efforts of the Canadian Red Cross during the pandemic. Mr. Chair, as you know, the many volunteers and staff of the Canadian Red Cross have been there to support Canadians from the outset of this pandemic, including at long-term care homes right across the country.
I would ask this committee to join me in thanking them for all their service and for providing help where it was needed most. I’ll also note that this funding is in addition to the $35 million of vote 5 funding to Public Safety from Health Canada to support rapid response capacity testing being deployed to fill gaps in surge and targeted activities, including remote and isolated communities.
Included in these supplementary estimates is funding to enhance the integrity of our borders and asylum system while also modernizing the agency’s security screening system. This funding will ensure that security screening results are made available at the earliest opportunity under a reformed system.
I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight that CBSA employees have done a remarkable job in keeping our borders safe in response to COVID-19. I'd like to take the opportunity as well to thank them for their continued hard work in keeping Canadians safe.
We're also working through these supplementary estimates to increase funding to end violence against indigenous women and girls and to provide essential mental health services.
For the RCMP, we are investing significant funds through both the supplementary and main estimates to support improvements to the federal policing investigative capacity by bolstering its capability with additional policing professionals, investigators and scientists. This will be used to deal with federal policing initiatives, which include responding to money laundering, cybercrime such as child sexual exploitation, and national security such as responding to terrorism and foreign-influenced hostile activities.
Mr. Chair, if I may, I'll turn to the 2021-22 main estimates. The public safety portfolio, as a whole, is requesting a total of approximately $10 billion for this fiscal year. As I’ve previously noted, the portfolio funding has remained stable over the last few years. I will endeavour to break down the numbers by organization.
Public Safety Canada is seeking a total of $1.1 billion in the main estimates. This represents an increase of $329.9 million, or 45.5%, over the previous year. The bulk of this increase is due to the grants and contributions regarding the disaster financial assistance arrangements program, or DFAA. It’s an increase in funding based upon forecasts from provinces and territories for expected disbursements under the DFAA for this fiscal year. This represents a critical part of my portfolio as minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
In these main estimates, increases also include $15 million for incremental funding to take action against gun and gang violence. As this committee knows, I introduced Bill C-21 in the House not very long ago, a bill designed to protect Canadians from firearm violence and to fulfill our promise of strengthening gun control.
Mr. Chair, I know that this committee will have the chance to review that legislation at some future date, and I look forward to discussing it with them at that time.
I want to focus on a number of ongoing issues and our responses to them, starting with Correctional Service of Canada, which is seeking $2.8 billion this fiscal year, which represents an increase of $239.8 million or 9.4% over the previous year. This net increase is primarily due to a net increase in operating funding, which includes an increase for transforming federal corrections as a result of the passage of the former Bill C-83, which introduced the new structured intervention unit model.
That bill represents a major change in the way our correctional institutions operate, and recent reports have been clear that more work must be done. Funding is just one part of the solution. With the creation of data teams, efforts to replicate best practices nationally and enhanced support from independent, external decision-makers, I am confident we will deliver on this transformational promise.
I want to again acknowledge the troubling findings that were made in the Bastarache report, which I know this committee has examined and reviewed with concern. We are seeking funds to establish the independent centre for harassment resolution. This will be responsible for implementing the full resolution process, including conflict management, investigations and decision-making.
Mr. Chair, we know more work needs to be done. I'd like to conclude by noting the importance of our oversight agencies. You will see in the main estimates that we are seeking to increase funding for the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the CRCC and the ERC, the latter by close to 100%.
With that, Mr. Chair, I thank you and the members of the committee for your patience as I delivered my opening remarks. I'm happy to answer questions that members may have about these estimates and the collective work of our portfolio.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My next question is precisely about the Canada-U.S. border. The government opted to appeal the ruling on the safe third country agreement, which was overturned by the courts. The government has already said that Roxham Road would again become an irregular border crossing once the temporary agreement with the U.S. to curb the COVID-19 pandemic ended.
Minister, has any money been set aside to deal with the flow of asylum seekers and individuals into Canada that will resume once the pandemic is behind us and Roxham Road is open again?
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
This is an important issue.
I will tell you that the conditions do not yet exist for a lifting of the restrictions between Canada and the United States at the border. We did implement very effective measures to restrict the movement of irregular migrants at Roxham Road.
At the same time, we're working with the United States. We are in discussions with respect to the future of the safe third country agreement, and as you know, that matter is also before the courts.
We'll proceed with all of those important activities in order to ensure that we maintain the integrity of our borders, and at the same time, remain a welcoming country to those who are seeking asylum and refuge in Canada.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Is there any work being done right now within the department in looking at how to allow for asylum status or refugee claims by Hong Kongers who are abroad and would not be able to go through the UNHCR process?
Caroline Xavier
View Caroline Xavier Profile
Caroline Xavier
2021-03-10 18:33
There is more than the UNHCR process. One can also seek to be a privately sponsored refugee. We have more than one way in which you can seek refugee status.
As was mentioned by my colleague, Dr. Giles, if one needs urgent protection, there are other ways in which we can also assist as best as we can in knowing the—
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses.
My first question is for Ms. Eatrides.
The IRB, between January 1, 2020, and February 19, 2021, finalized 28 asylum claims from residents of Hong Kong and has fewer than 20 claims still pending. Could you advise how many were rejected or refused?
Roula Eatrides
View Roula Eatrides Profile
Roula Eatrides
2021-02-22 17:21
That's a good question. I would first caution, though, that some of those claims were from 2018 and 2019 as well. Every claim is unique and determined on its own merits.
We have been averaging around 85% in terms of positive determinations of our claims to date, but I would say we look at every single claim based on claim types. Not all claims from Hong Kong are around political opinion or democracy, but we are trending at over 80% positive.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm sorry, but could you give me a specific number as to how many for residents of Hong Kong were rejected for this period?
Roula Eatrides
View Roula Eatrides Profile
Roula Eatrides
2021-02-22 17:22
Approximately 15% were negative out of the 28 claims.
Joey Siu
View Joey Siu Profile
Joey Siu
2021-02-17 18:20
Yes. Thank you. I will continue.
Imposed in July 2020, the national security legislation criminalizes even the most trivial forms of protest and any kind of disobedience to the Chinese communist regime. It is not only me or Nathan or any other Hong Kong activists who are becoming subjects of the national security law; it is also any Canadian in Hong Kong or here in Canada who has ever expressed support for the pro-democracy struggle in Hong Kong.
Since the implementation of this national security legislation, more than a hundred Hong Kongers have been arrested—and most recently, there are 55 prominent political figures, including activists, lawyers and academics from the whole political spectrum—under the fake charges of subversion of state, simply because of their participation in the democratic primaries. All of these arrestees are facing not only a very serious sentencing but also the possibility of extradition back to mainland China.
The chief executive of Hong Kong is empowered to designate judges who will be handling national security cases, and Hong Kong's national security department itself can request the Chinese government's exercise of jurisdiction over cases that are considered to be complex or serious. As Hong Kong's judges rightfully dismiss the most ridiculous charges against protesters, the government will more frequently exercise these options to avoid them.
My organization, Hong Kong Watch, has been working very closely with partners across the globe, including from the U.K., the U.S., the EU and Australia, to call for a global lifeboat scheme. Since our founding in 2017, we have championed the rights of BNOs overseas. In July 2020, the U.K. announced its new policy to provide a pathway to citizenship for BNO passport holders, which came into effect last month. Up to 750,000 BNO holders from Hong Kong are expected to take up this scheme.
We applaud the Canadian government's decision of joining the two countries in November of last year to provide a safe haven for Hong Kongers, offering Hong Kongers the opportunity to relocate. Given the complicated situation that Canada is in with its two citizens being held hostage by Beijing, we recognize and praise the courage it took for Canada to live up to its historical relationship to Hong Kong.
However, a lot of people will still fall through the gaps in these policies. The young talents scheme, which partially came into effect on February 8 and expires in February 2023, requires top qualifications and a level of funding that excludes some of the most politically exposed protesters. The sunset nature of the open work visa permit policy leaves behind young protesters who are graduating after 2023. Also, the very complicated asylum procedures are preventing protesters without adequate legal support from applying, while family reunification only covers a very small number of Hong Kongers with close Canadian family members.
As Hong Kong's situation continues to worsen, it is crucial for Canada to continue to work alongside like-minded partners and to take prompt actions to improve the existing schemes. Below are a few recommendations that we believe could create a road map for improving the policy.
First, it was guaranteed that protesters arrested or charged under the national security law would not be deprived of the opportunity of filing asylum applications. However, among the 10,000 protesters arrested since 2019, most of them were charged under the public order ordinance about rioting or participating in unlawful assembly. We encourage the Canadian government to also promise that these arrestees and Hong Kong protesters will be guaranteed an opportunity to file asylum—
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you very much.
I'll turn to Mr. Law now. Do you believe residents of Hong Kong have access to the Canadian asylum system, and how do you think the government can expand access?
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
For the people who are trying to get to safety, you touched on some of the measures that need to be brought into place still. On the issue of asylum, basically we don't have an asylum measure, because unless they're in Canada, people cannot apply for asylum.
What do you think the Canadian government should do in terms of bringing in asylum measures for people who are still in Hong Kong at this moment?
This for Mr. Law and then Ms. Tung.
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