Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister and General, for being here today.
I want to continue the questioning from my colleague Ms. Ludwig with respect to women veterans.
We heard from the veterans ombudsman earlier this week. He said to our committee that he had had the chance to speak to a number of women veterans and women advocates, and it's clear that a number of the programs and services they have access to were not designed specifically with women service members or women veterans in mind.
I know that our government has talked about running government policies, programs and services through gender-based analysis plus. Can you speak to how GBA+ may have been used to evaluate current programs for women veterans and how we can improve those services so that women can have greater access and be better included?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Wonderful.
I also want to thank the minister and the general for their work in supporting the Highway of Heroes. Highway 401 runs through my riding of Scarborough North. Earlier this year, on January 31, I wrote to Finance Minister Bill Morneau to encourage the government's support of this very important project that will see two million trees planted honouring our veterans, our brave servicemen and servicewomen, 117,000 of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice. That investment is incredibly helpful. I want to highlight your comments, Minister, when you said earlier today that the best way to learn history is to ensure it lives on, and this initiative certainly does that.
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to be blunt because this is a report card, and to me, this is a failing report card.
I want to thank the ombudsman for making these recommendations, but I just find it very disheartening to see that—I'll give credit where credit is due—50 out of 63 have been implemented or partially implemented, but in the category of health care and support for veterans, eight out of 10 are not implemented. To me, that is incredibly tragic. Our veterans, our service men and women, put their lives on the line, put their physical and mental health at risk to serve our country. We need to make sure that we are doing better.
In looking at some of the areas where improvement is needed, Mr. Ombudsman, you said earlier that you believe it's the capacity to manage the change at the department. That is partly why some of these things that seem incredibly simple and logical lead me to ask this question. We see so many other parts of this report being addressed adequately. Why is it that when it comes to health care and support, we are lagging behind? Why is that not a priority in terms of making sure that, for example, veterans don't have to wait in the 40,000 backlog of cases. Why, for example, are they not getting the same access to dental care as they would under the public health care plan? Why is this not being prioritized?
To me, it's one of the most important things, to make sure that veterans and their families get the supports they require when it comes to their health and well-being after they have served.
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
How does the accountability work? The ombudsman issues a report, addresses certain areas and highlights issues and problems that you have identified based on input and experiences of veterans. Is that simply just provided to the department, and then it's up to them where, how and when they address the concerns you have raised?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that's very key because, if these recommendations are being made, the first step is to determine whether or not the department agrees with the recommendation. The second piece is, if they do agree with it, what is their plan. Where is the action plan? What steps are they going to take? What are the achievable targets and where is the accountability? To me, these things are extremely important.
You're the connection to veterans who are upset, who are frustrated and who are not getting the service that they deserve and should be entitled to, and they need to know what the answer is. It's one thing for them to raise the concern, but there has to be a response and it has to be formally communicated so that there is accountability and transparency with respect to these recommendations and what specific actions the department is going to take to address them.
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much to our witnesses for being here today.
Ms. Tait, I know that you were appointed to the CBC in 2018 and that what I'm about to raise is something that happened before your time, but it's important because there's the saying that we can always learn from the mistakes of the past.
In 2012, the previous government cut $115 million in funding for the CBC. Although I know you were not at the helm of the organization at that time, what would be the consequence if that type of cut were made to CBC? How would that affect your organization?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
One of the great services—
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Our government chose to do things differently, and in 2017, for the very first time, individual applications were accepted by an independent advisory committee on appointments, which was then tasked with making recommendations for new board members. You did raise in your testimony a concern about partisan appointments to the board. Can you speak to whether or not this new process has made a difference? It sounds like you might have other suggestions as to how to improve that process.
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all the witnesses for being here.
I want to echo the comments made earlier by some of my colleagues, and to thank and acknowledge Mr. Christopherson for his contributions. He will leave an incredible void of knowledge and experience on this committee, and I know he will be missed.
I am not feeling well today, but I did manage to make it to committee, and I'm not feeling much better reading some of this in the report. Paragraph 1.13 from the Auditor General, the call centres “sent millions of calls back to the automated system or told callers to go to the website or to call back later”. If any of us as elected officials did that to our constituents, we'd all be out of a job. We really would. It's unacceptable. Imagine constituents calling our offices and we have an automated message telling them to check out a website or to call back later. Then they call back and they're put on a wait-list. That is unacceptable.
Paragraph 1.48, “At the end of our audit, five years after the federal government began to modernize the technology for all of its 221 call centres, the initiative was rolling out to only 8.” Really? I was on a travel website and a box kept appearing on my screen saying they had a live agent who could help me. In the world out there, people are being proactive, making sure there is good customer service and that people can get correct information and talk to somebody, whether it's on a website or on the phone.
Here we are talking about a call centre, which I do agree for a lot of Canadians is still the most accessible way, yet we can't even get the technology up to speed.
Mr. Benay mentioned earlier that the IT policy in the department had not been changed for 14 years. I find that incredible. Can you share some of the changes that were made to the policy?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm very happy to hear that. The road is moving ahead with technology, be it private sector or other institutions, and their success really depends on it. The success of companies depends on their ability to adapt to change in the information world in which we exist, so I'm happy to hear that some progress is being made.
I do have another question for Ms. MacDonald regarding the web content that is written in plain language at a grade 8 level. I know from my constituency that a lot of folks who are trying to access services and understand programs within IRCC are potentially newer immigrants, those who may not have the grade 8 reading level. Can you speak to the rationale for that level? Also, how did that decision get made?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As our witnesses very well know, in 2012 fundamental changes were made to the asylum system. These changes included new legislated timelines that forced a hearing to be scheduled within 30 days or 60 days. However, these rules did not apply to claims that were submitted prior to 2012. As a result, this created a backlog of 32,000 people, the so-called legacy backlog, some of whom have been waiting for a hearing for seven to eight years through no fault of their own. It's my understanding that a special task force was set up in 2012 to help clear this backlog. Can one of our witnesses update us on the progress of the work of that task force?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
In this year's budget there was an even greater investment, with $208 million going to IRB over the next two fiscal years. How will this money be used? How many new staff will be hired with this money that's being committed? How do you see these resources helping to address the current number of claims in the system?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are we still scheduling hearings within the 60-day time period?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
It sounds as if we have been working to improve and invest in the system, and you've mentioned increased productivity at IRB. Do you have any specific numbers that can speak to how that productivity can be measured in a quantitative way?
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