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May 11th, 2022 - The subject matter of those elements contained in Part 8 of Bill S-6, An Act respecting regulatory modernization - Various Witnesses

Senator Poirier: Thank you to both witnesses for being here with us. My question is for Ms. Fredericks, and it is similar or a follow-up to the questions that Senator Bovey asked at the very beginning.

In Bill S-6, there are two clauses to facilitate the information sharing in the context of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and if I remember correctly in your answer you mentioned that the processing time would be faster because of these amendments and the different status such as permanent residence and citizenship, if I understood right. But could you explain to me in a concrete way how it would make the process more efficient?

Ms. Fredericks: Sure. Going back to some of that process I described around what we ask of clients, when we ask them to apply at any point in that immigration continuum — whether it’s visitor status, a student permit they’re looking for or to be a temporary or permanent resident — we don’t ask them simply for their name, address and birthdate. There can be a great many questions around identity, around health, around economics, around their past experience. It’s very laborious for them to provide that information. It’s time-consuming. There are different forms. It sounds minor, but the developing of online forms and paper forms, the back and forth of sharing that information between offices — it all is time lost in the processing of those applications.

Ideally, if we can automatically share information provided to us the first time by a client for any of the programs that the department delivers, we speed things up.

Senator Poirier: Can you give me an example of what the time frame is now compared to what the time frame would be once this clause goes by and the sharing is available?

Ms. Fredericks: That is a great question. I don’t have a concrete number of hours to share with you. I could see if I could get some examples. If you were applying for permanent resident status, for instance, I could come back to the committee with details on how long that process is.

I can tell you there are significant backlogs and it does take more than a year, certainly.

Senator Poirier: If you could provide it to the committee, I’m sure we would appreciate it. Thank you.

The Chair: Ms. Fredericks, we expect to get the information on service standards that are currently put in place, and I think we’re all hearing you say that as a result of this amendment, you are hoping — and the nation is hoping — for a reduction in the backlog time and greater customer satisfaction.

Ms. Fredericks: Yes, absolutely. Thank you. I will get back to the committee.

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Senator Poirier: Thank you both for being here. Actually, from your comments, I seem to have a bunch of questions that have popped up. If Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada hasn’t done that, sir, why do you feel they are not willing to do that? Why are they not looking at this? We’re trying to fix the problem here. Why is this not happening?

Mr. Kurland: They are. It will take three to five more years, but I am aware that more than one minister and more than one deputy minister understood the problem and they are on track to fixing this. Eventually it will happen and will result in efficiencies, but it will take time. It was a fundamental design flaw. That’s why they’re less efficient than they could have been.

Senator Poirier: Okay. So this amendment that’s there now for the sharing, is that a positive step towards the solution in four or five years, or is that nothing to do with it whatsoever?

Mr. Kurland: No. It has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Senator Poirier: Okay. So then it’s kind of useless in a way?

Mr. Kurland: For that, yes.

Senator Poirier: Now my question is for the other witness. You said there were a lot of risks in the amendments that were there that are not going to be covered. Can you elaborate on these risks and how you see that being fixed?

Ms. Shazadi Meighen: One of the risks that I mentioned was the information sharing in an adversarial context for the enforcement arm of it. Another risk would be it poses further impediments to the regularization of individuals who are out of status or perhaps don’t have status. We know that in the minister’s mandate letter there is the goal of focusing on regularization programs, but these changes will make it more difficult for highly vulnerable individuals to come forward.

If I have a client who is undocumented or out of status and wants to put in an application for permanent residency, she may think twice. And, in fact, we’ve seen this in the context of provincial sharing agreements with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. She will likely think twice about filing a permanent residency application where that information is automatically shared with Canada Revenue Agency, for example, if she hasn’t paid her back taxes, or in addition also shared with the RCMP or the enforcement arms of the government, which can show up at her door the next day with a warrant because she is out of status.

So it creates a lot of disincentives for people to try to regularize. That’s what we want people to do. We want them to be in the economy and contributing to taxes. But if there is this risk of wide information sharing, that creates a disincentive.

It’s really important for applicants that I work with to really trust the system. In a lot of ways they’re able to do that right now. I can say to a client, “Try to regularize, and chances are that we can work on a looking-forward basis.” I can’t advise them of that in this context.

In terms of managing efficiencies, we can have a process where temporary residents select to opt in to have their information shared with the permanent residency portals or the permanent residency arms of the ministry. There is nothing stopping those efficiencies, but allow the trust to be put into the system so that individual is opting in.

Senator Poirier: Thank you.

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