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Wednesday, February 8th, 2023 - Bill C-242, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (temporary resident visas for parents and grandparents) - Various Witnesses

Senator Poirier: Thank you all for being here.

My question is a bit more straightforward. You received a ministerial instruction last July to facilitate entry for a super visa, which includes having a company outside of Canada providing this private medical insurance.

Is it the same clause as in Bill C-242? How long would it take your department to implement the ministerial instruction, and what are the current obstacles preventing the implementation of that clause?

Mr. Shankar: Thank you for the question.

I can speak to what we’ve been asked to do by our minister, which is to look at identifying a list of designated insurance companies. The work we’re doing, as I mentioned earlier, is to consult the landscape of what exists, and then we need to speak to relevant stakeholders.

I can’t give you a specific timeline on that. I can say that in the communications materials that went out accompanying the Ministerial Instructions, we did clarify that the designation of a foreign plan would come at a later time.

Senator Poirier: Have you done any risk assessment of that clause?

Mr. Shankar: That’s what we’re working on right now.

The first key piece is to look at what exists currently. We’re looking at what the Department of Finance and OSFI do to regulate plans, what kinds of enforcement mechanisms they have and how companies get into their designated list, et cetera. We’re assessing those things at this point.

Then we need to assess what we find from all of that, plus the consultations with the provincial insurance regulations and the industry itself, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, or CLHIA; we’re also planning to consult CLHIA. Once we get the full input from them, we will be able to do a fulsome analysis of what that looks like and then come up with a plan to meet the expectation that was put to us to identify a list of designated insurance plans.

Senator Poirier: Does that means that, at this point, we don’t know if the risk outweighs the intended goal, or the department probably needs more time to minimize the risk to the taxpayer, the health administration, the clients — everybody? Am I right?

Mr. Shankar: You are correct.


Senator Poirier: I want to follow up on the questions that some other people have been asking. The super visa is for five years, and at the end of the five years, we have someone who came here on a super visa and had insurance when they came. Obviously, like we were saying, some of these people are elderly, so the chances of needing more medical care is coming up. If there is no insurance for them after five years, what happens if they become ill and if they can’t afford to pay the health care themselves? Are they covered like other Canadians under medicare? Is everything covered? If yes, what is the cost? Do we have an idea of what the cost will be to Canadians and to the provinces? Does that mean that they are in limbo and if they can’t pay it’s too bad, so sad? Do we have an idea where we are going with this?

Mr. Shankar: Thank you for the question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that. For individuals, when the five years expire or end and they are still in Canada and they still need health care, that’s a matter between the health care system and the individual. That’s not something I am aware of in terms of what coverage options exist for them within the provinces or how the clients are able to pay or not pay.

Senator Poirier: Did you say that there has been no consultation at this point with the provinces on any of this yet?

Mr. Shankar: Correct.

Senator Poirier: So, since the ministerial instruction came out last July, there has been nothing?

Mr. Shankar: I can only speak on the health insurance aspect of this, and my colleagues can speak about provincial/territorial consultations and other aspects, but on the health insurance side, no, we have not consulted the provinces and territories yet. We are still in the process of developing our framework. Certainly, provincial and territorial consultations will be part of that. In addition, we would also be consulting industry stakeholders like CLHIA, who you heard from last week. We plan to do broader consultations, but that work is still under way.

Senator Poirier: So it is a concern not only for Canadians, but it is also concerning for the people who will be coming, the clients who are a part of this. Thank you.

The Chair: Are there no caps on super visas of this kind, as there are no caps on any other temporary resident programs in Canada? I see from your reactions that I am correct.

Regarding your service standards currently, for 17,000 applicants, how are you meeting the standards, and what do you expect this new ministerial designated list will — are you ready to meet more demand? My assumption is that there will be more demand.

Mr. Gionet: Thank you for the question, Madam Chair. Maybe I will turn to my colleague, Mr. Seyler, for the answer on the service standard, because it is here, but I don’t have it at my fingertips just yet.

If I may, I want to add a clarification to the previous question that was asked about what happens at the end of the five years if the person no longer has medical insurance. As I specified earlier, the applicant would need to apply to extend their status in Canada, and at that point, they would need to meet the requirement and demonstrate that they have the necessary health insurance at that point. If an applicant does not have the insurance to extend their stay in Canada, then presumably that would result in a refusal of that application.

Senator Poirier: To follow on that, would that be again just a one-year proof of insurance for the second time around?

Mr. Gionet: Correct.


Senator Poirier: A lot has already been discussed about what I was going to ask, so I want to ask two short questions.

What role do you believe the industry needs to play to help the success of this bill, if anything at all? Also, how much time do you believe would be needed for all the parties involved to get on the same page to make this legislation a success?

Mr. Sweetman: They need to be involved in the detailed discussions with the ministerial staff and other related bodies, like OSFI, et cetera, about the structure of what the minister in his instructions will require of the industry, both domestic and potentially foreign, for the purposes of this type of insurance. I think that’s clear.

They have a lot to provide. As the chair said, you need to interpret what they said, remembering that it’s both/and; it’s not either/or. In discussions, that “both/and” needs to be remembered.

In terms of how long it could take, it’s like everything: It could be done really quickly if there were some impetus to do it quickly, or it could take years and years.

Senator Poirier: What if we were dealing just with the nine or so Canadian insurance companies that are out there instead of dealing with companies internationally?

Mr. Sweetman: It would undoubtedly be easier, because otherwise it’s a lot more complex, especially if you’re thinking of true foreign firms and the need to think about the regulatory environment of each one of those firms. That adds a lot of complexity.

So if you’re requiring firms to have operations or some presence in Canada, even if they’re not primarily based in Canada, that makes the process easier, in my view.

The Chair: In other words, I hear you saying that if it’s Sun Life — I’m throwing a name out there — Sun Life has a big business division in India — it’s a separate business called Sun Life India — and Manulife has a big business presence in China as Manulife China. Would something like that give you comfort?

Mr. Sweetman: It depends on who is issuing the policy and who stands behind the policy. I’m not an expert on this, but my sense is that they are incorporated as different companies, even though there’s an overarching company. If Sun Life India is issuing the policy under its regulations under Indian law, that’s very different than Sun Life India providing a framework, backroom and maybe other types of services to Sun Life Canada. But at the end of the day, Sun Life Canada is offering it under Canadian laws.

Those are two very different things. I’m not sure which one of those two would actually happen.

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