THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL FINANCE
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 1, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met this day at 6:45 p.m. to study the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
Senator André Pratte (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: My name is André Pratte, I am the Deputy Chair of the committee, and I will preside over the first part of the meeting. Senator Percy Mockler is held up by other obligations.
I would ask senators to introduce themselves, starting on my right.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Eaton: Welcome. Nicky Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Forest-Niesing: Welcome. Josée Forest-Niesing from Ontario.
Senator Andreychuk: Raynell Andreychuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Duncan: Pat Duncan, from Yukon.
Senator M. Deacon: Marty Deacon, Ontario.
Senator Boehm: Peter Boehm, Ontario.
Senator Dalphond: Pierre Dalphond from Quebec.
The Deputy Chair: Today we continue our consideration of the expenditures set out in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
For the first part of our meeting we have invited three organizations that play a role in immigration.
First, from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, we welcome Daniel Mills, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Management; and Natasha Kim, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy.
From the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, we welcome Jason Choueiri, Executive Director, and Greg Kipling, Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch.
Finally, from the Canada Border Services Agency, Mr. Jonathan Moor, Chief Financial Officer and Vice-President, Financial and Corporate Management Branch; and Jacques Cloutier, Vice-President, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch.
Thank you all for being here tonight. I understand that each organization has a short opening statement. Mr. Mills will be the first to speak, followed by Mr. Choueiri and then Mr. Moor, and then we’ll proceed with a period of questions and answers.
On behalf of the committee, I thank you sincerely for appearing. Mr. Mills, the floor is yours.
Daniel Mills, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Management, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: Thank you. Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I’m pleased to be here once again, to present the 2019-20 Main Estimates for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
I’m Daniel Mills, Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Management and Chief Financial Officer at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Today I’m accompanied by Natasha Kim, Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy Sector.
The Main Estimates for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for fiscal year 2019-20 reflect total net resources of $3.19 billion. This represents a net increase of approximately $832 million in resources compared to the Main Estimates for fiscal year 2018-19.
This includes the impacts of initiatives recently announced in Budget 2019, which is approximately $339 million in resources in 2019-20.
I will now speak to the main drivers of this $832 million increase.
A substantial portion of the increase—$324 million—reflects funding for the Temporary Interim Housing Assistance Program. That funding builds on the $150 million previously announced in 2018-19, representing a total of $474 million that the government has made available to various provinces and municipalities.
As you know, the increase in irregular border crossers has placed extraordinary pressure on some provinces and municipalities, particularly with respect to providing temporary housing to asylum seekers who do not yet have housing solutions. We are committed to working collaboratively with our municipal and provincial partners to help alleviate the pressures they are facing.
A temporary Interim Housing Program facilitates financial support through a granting mechanism to provinces and, if necessary, to municipal governments.
This support will enable provinces and their municipal governments to continue delivering effective interim housing solutions for asylum claimants, as all levels of government working together to identify sustainable solution for the long term.
Mr. Chair, these Main Estimates also include $93.2 million for increased draws of the Passport Program revolving the fund’s accumulated surplus.
As the committee may be aware, the Passport Program operates on a cost-recovery basis and finances its activities through the fees it charged for its services. Program funds are placed in a revolving fund, which has a continuing non-lapsing authority from Parliament.
The increase in the amount drawn from the revolving fund is largely a result of a planned decrease in revenue of $113.9 million due to a lower volume of applications that we expect to receive this year because of the introduction of the 10-year passport in 2013.
Also included in these estimates is $69.2 million for increased entitlements to Quebec related to the funding formula in the Canada-Quebec Accord, which was previously approved under the Supplementary Estimates (B) in 2018-19, as well as the increased funding of $56.3 million related to the continued implementation of the multi-year Immigration Levels Plan.
With respect to Budget 2019 items that impact IRCC, the Main Estimates include separate votes for initiatives announced in the budget document.
As mentioned previously, these total $339 million and include Vote 15, $160.4 million for Enhancing the Integrity of Canada’s Borders and Asylum System. This will support the implementation of the Border Enforcement Strategy and facilitate the processing of approximately 50,000 asylum seekers per year.
Vote 20 represents $18 million for improving immigration client service. This funding will be used to respond to increasing volumes of client requests, including by increasing the number of call-centre agents in Montreal.
Vote 25, $24.3 million in funding for helping travellers visit Canada. This investment will ensure immigration officials are equipped to facilitate the efficient entry of visitors, given rising demand, while protecting the health and security of Canadians.
Vote 30, $11.3 million for Protecting People from Unscrupulous Immigration Consultants. This investment is to provide for the improved oversight of immigration consultants as well as the implementation of the new compliance tools and enforcement regimes.
Vote 35, $125.1 million to provide health care to refugees and asylum seekers. This investment will ensure adequate funding is in place to provide health care services, given volume increases.
To summarize, Mr. Chair, while IRCC’s Main Estimates include some year-over-year reductions for initiatives implemented in previous years, such as Syrian refugee resettlement, there is an increase overall as we see growing demand for our immigration programs.
Canada continues to be a destination of choice for prospective permanent residents applying and settling under the Immigration Levels Plan, including 330,000 new immigrants in 2019, and for visitors, students and workers.
That concludes my remarks. I trust that I have provided a general overview of IRCC’s Main Estimates. Thank you.
Jason Choueiri, Executive Director, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: Honourable members of this committee, I am pleased to appear before you this evening in my capacity as the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. I am joined here by my colleague, Greg Kipling, Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Main Estimates and the additional temporary resources that were earmarked in budget 2019 for the board.
The 2019-20 Main Estimates for the board amount to $223.6 million, an increase of approximately $90 million when compared to the 2018-19 Main Estimates, which were $133 million. This increase is primarily made up of two components. The first is Budget 2018 measures, which account for approximately $32 million; the second is for Budget 2019 measures, which account for approximately $57 million. Both of these measures are aimed to increase our capacity and accelerate the process of refugee claims and appeals, which I will touch upon later.
Before I do I thought it might be helpful to provide a bit of context on the board’s current operating environment. Over the past fiscal year, the board experienced the largest influx of refugee claim referrals since its inception in 1989. We received about 56,000 claims last fiscal year. Wait times for refugee claims have grown significantly over the past two years, peaking at 24 months at the beginning of last fiscal year.
Budget 2018 allocated $74 million to the board over two fiscal years to slow the growth of refugee claim and appeal inventories and wait times. The funding allowed for the appointment of additional decision makers both at the Refugee Protection and the Refugee Appeal Divisions as well as the hiring of required support staff.
As a result of the additional funding, the IRB finalized more than 32,000 refugee protection claims it was expected to do in the 5,200 refugee appeals, and we made significant progress toward eliminating the pre-2013 legacy claims.
The increase in capacity through Budget 2018 funding was also complemented by key initiatives that the board implemented to maximize the use of these resources. For example, we focused on managing our caseload more strategically while maintaining the quality and fairness of decisions, which included the use of task forces and dedicated staff to prioritize certain groups of claims.
These include, for example, the oldest cases in our inventory, the claims of those who have crossed the border from the United States between ports of entry as well as less complex claims.
These efforts enabled the board to concretely demonstrate the significant progress and improved results and have slowed the growth of the backlog which stood at 74,000 at the end of March 2019.
Without Budget 2018 resources, the board would have been expected to finalize only 26,000 refugee claims in 2018-19, which would have resulted in a pending inventory of 83,000 versus the 74,000.
Through budget 2019, an additional $208 million over two fiscal years starting in 2019-20 was allocated to the board to increase its processing capacity. This funding is incremental to the funding received through budget 2018.
The board has developed a strategic plan that goes beyond the measures it put in place in 2018-19 to help the organization achieve the desired growth while transforming the way we work to maximize the use of resources.
First, the board intends to hire additional refugee protection decision makers and seek the appointment of additional refugee appeal division members. We’re expecting about a 70 per cent growth in our decision makers over the next two years. This will allow the board to add capacity to finalize approximately 41,000 claims in 2019-20, which is an increase of about 9,000 over the last fiscal year. In 2020-21 to further increase claims processing to 50,000.
This is almost double the Refugee Protection Division’s current base-funded capacity of 26,000 finalizations per year before 2018-19. Should intake remain the same or similar to the levels of 2018-19, the board will be able to maintain an average wait time of about 21 months in 2019-20.
In addition, the board will also ramp up capacity at the Refugee Appeal Division, allowing it to finalize 11,000 appeals in 2019-20, which is an increase of about 5,700 appeals compared to the last fiscal year, and up to 13,500 appeals in 2020-21.
Second, the board plans to continue to pursue our transformation agenda centred on three strategic objectives.
One, sustaining and improving overall productivity through a range of measures including the re-engineering of our front-end intake processes as well as improved triage and scheduling to optimize the use of available resources.
Two, enhancing the quality and consistency of adjudicative processes through various measures including the establishment of quality assurance frameworks.
Three, strengthening management practices by fostering a culture of performance and results, investing in system enablers and working with immigration portfolio organizations to drive a systems management approach across immigration and refugee determination processes.
In summary, the next two years will be a time of growth and transformation for the board. We are committed to responding to the elevated levels of refugee claim intake that Canada is currently experiencing.
I hope this overview has given you a better understanding of the Main Estimates for our organization.
My colleague Greg and I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Jonathan Moor, Chief Financial Officer and Vice-President, Financial and Corporate Management Branch, Canada Border Services Agency: Good evening to all members of the committee.
My name is Jonathan Moor, and I am the Chief Financial Officer and Vice-President of the Canada Border Services Agency. Also with me today is my colleague, Mr. Jacques Cloutier, the agency’s Vice-President of Intelligence and Enforcement.
I will limit my opening remarks to an overview of CBSA’s Mains Estimates.
In 2019-2020, the agency is seeking approximately $2.1 billion in funding. This represents the net increase of $317 million, or 17.5 per cent over the previous year, to cover a range of different activities.
Of the $2.1 billion, $262 million will be allocated through Budget 2019, while the remaining $1.8 million is being requested through the main estimate.
In support of commitments made in Budget 2019, the agency is planning expenditures as follows: $135 million for sustainability and modernization of Canada’s border operations, which will help support effective border management and enforcement; $106.3 million to enhance the integrity of Canada’s borders and the asylum system. This will support implementation of the border enforcement strategy and the processing of 50,000 asylum claims per year, as well as to facilitate the removal of failed asylum claimants in a timely manner.
There’s $12.9 million to help travellers visit Canada by addressing the increased demand for visitor visas, work and study permits, and $5.6 million to help mitigate the risks associated with African swine fever. We will increase the number of detector dogs deployed across the country, helping to protect Canada’s hog farmers and meat processes from serious economic threats posed by African swine fever.
There’s also $1.5 million to help protect people from unscrupulous immigration consultants, improving oversight and strengthening compliance and enforcement measures.
And finally, $500,000 to enhance accountability and oversight of the CBSA by expanding the mandate of the civilian review and complaints commissioner.
In addition, through the 2019-2020 Main Estimates, the CBSA is seeking $79.1 million for compensation allocations to implement four collective bargaining agreements, $20.1 million in adjustments to the employee benefit plan and $20.1 million for irregular migration enforcement. This funding was announced in Budget 2018 and will support activities such as representation at hearings and conducting immigration enforcement activities, up to and including the removal of failed claimants.
As well, we are seeking $12.2 million to help take action against gun and gang violence, $10.7 million to cover the forecast growth in immigration levels plan, $10.3 million for postal modernization due to the reprofiling of funding from previous years, $7.2 million to help address the opioid crisis and $4.6 million to strengthen investigative and compliance capacity under the Special Import Measures Act.
These increases are partially offset by decreases totalling $109.2 million, which largely affect project life cycle changes covering a $27.9 million reduction in funding for infrastructure assets as a number of projects have now been completed.
A $21.2 million reduction in funding for biometrics screening. This project will successfully conclude in 2019 after which it will transition to a steady state.
A $20.7 million reduction to reflect the completion of the design stage for the CBSA’s assessment and revenue management project.
A $17.4 million reduction for immigration holding centres, which reflects the current profile schedule, and a $15.9 million reduction in the border infrastructure initiative in order to align the funding with the agency’s new port of entry renewal program also announced in Budget 2019.
Finally, a $6.7 million decrease to reflect the Budget 2018 decision to reallocate funding to Shared Services Canada.
In addition to the agency’s broad mandate to facilitate legitimate international travel and trade across Canada’s borders and provide strong border management 24 hours a day for seven days a week, the agency will continue to push forward on an ambitious organizational renewal agenda, helping to prevent threats such as African swine fever and illicit drugs from entering the country, and helping to address the complexities of the evolving migration landscape.
All of this is, of course, not possible without the funding I have outlined here today.
Thank you very much for your time this evening. I would be pleased, along with my colleague, Jacques, to answer any questions the committee may have.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Moor. We’ll now proceed with questions, beginning with Senator Eaton.
Senator Eaton: I don’t know who should answer this. Once an asylum seeker, whether irregular, comes through a port of entry to Canada, who picks up the tab? When does he go on the provincial tab? Does he stay on the federal tab as long as he hasn’t had his asylum hearing or does he go on the provincial tab as soon as he’s decided where he wants to live until his hearing?
Natasha Kim, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: Thank you, senator, for the question. I’ll start, and my colleagues can add anything if they like.
When they enter Canada they are intercepted by the RCMP and they can submit a claim. It will be determined whether or not they are eligible to submit that claim, and at that point they would be able to receive and be eligible for interim federal health assistance. That’s a federal program.
Senator Eaton: So for the next two years they’re on the federal tab?
Ms. Kim: That’s a federal program for health benefits, which would continue until either they’re removed from Canada or they qualify for a provincial health —
Senator Eaton: Sorry. I guess I am not being clear enough. If it takes an average 21 months for a hearing, so they go through the RCMP, yes ,you can make an asylum claim, they have 21 months. Who picks up that bill?
Ms. Kim: Right. So maybe I should start by saying obviously in general things like housing, social assistance, health issues are within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. But when someone comes in and they are submitting an asylum claim, once they are eligible to make that claim they are entitled to federal support through our interim federal assistance program for health benefits. We do provide that until they are qualified for a provincial program.
Senator Eaton: You provide health?
Ms. Kim: In terms of housing, we recently announced an interim housing assistance program where we are in discussions to cost share housing costs with provinces based on the extraordinary pressures that they have been feeling related to those increases in asylum claims.
Senator Eaton: Yes, because I see you have some money in your budget for this cost-sharing, but I don’t think either Montreal or Toronto are thrilled with what you’re offering. So it’s still in negotiation, is it?
Ms. Kim: It is. We have made some payments that are public. For example, Toronto has received $26 million, and we’re continuing discussions with them, as well as the Province of Ontario. Ottawa has also received a payment, and we’re continuing discussions with other provinces.
Senator Eaton: I don’t think they are very satisfied.
The Chair: Senator Boehm followed by Senator Dalphond.
Senator Boehm: I have two questions. This concerns something that has been prevalent in our history in this country since we started having an organized migratory program, and that is the immigration consultants, which are referred to as unscrupulous — or some are.
I see IRCC has $11 million booked, and then CBSA, you’re looking at another $1.5 million.
So I’m curious about a number of points: How you work together between your department and the agency, and how do you determine who is unscrupulous and who is not, and what sort of an oversight mechanism would you be looking at?
Ms. Kim: I’m happy to answer that question, senator. Budget 2019 announced an investment related to a strategy around immigration consultants, and that really has three components.
First, as part of the budget implementation act, we’ve introduced a new piece of legislation, which is a statutory framework for the regulation of immigration consultants, which hasn’t really existed before.
Currently there is a regulator, but they are established under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, which is a generic governance regime.
So for the first time they would actually have a statutory self-regulation framework where additional powers would be provided, but also additional oversight mechanisms for the government and additional transparency requirements and standards they would have to meet in terms of education of the profession, discipline and complaints mechanisms, the range of regulatory powers that an organization like that would normally have.
That would be the first component, improving the oversight through the regulator.
The second component is around compliance and enforcement. Under IRPA amendments are proposed where IRCC, for example, would have the ability to impose administrative monetary penalties where someone’s practice is not authorized or counselled misrepresentation, but it doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offence. Budget 2019 has also announced investments to increase criminal investigations by the CBSA so that they can continue to increase the number of investigations against people who are providing immigration advice unauthorized or fraudulently or unscrupulously.
The third pillar of that strategy is public education and outreach. As you know, our clientele can often be abroad and our jurisdiction abroad is somewhat limited when it comes to criminal enforcement. What we will be doing is funding more outreach positions and having multilingual products so that people can inform themselves of the need to have an authorized consultant to represent them if they are going to be submitting an application to IRCC.
Senator Boehm: Would your outreach positions be located in our missions abroad?
Ms. Kim: That’s right.
Senator Boehm: CBSA’s $135 million for modernizing Canada’s border operations. Is this an investment in human resources or in equipment? I have noticed in my travels that the electronic equipment has changed over time; it keeps getting better, but there may be some costs. Related to that, does this mean a change in NEXUS and the Trusted Traveller Programs in the work you are doing with CBP and Homeland Security in the United States?
Mr. Moor: This amount of money is specific around the sustainability or modernization agenda. The government has provided us funding for the last three years of $85.5 million to actually keep our operations up to date based on the increasing demand. That money has now been given to us for over two years and been uprated by an amount to take into account collective bargaining agreements. It does include some modernization money, but not all the modernization money we were hoping for. In particular, the funding is around data analytics and starting the work to develop data analytics across the agency to be able to target our interventions more effectively.
The final element includes some additional money around our efficiency and our revenue generation programs to make the agency more efficient and more ready.
Senator Boehm: What about joint programs with the U.S.?
Mr. Moor: There is no funding within the $135 million for joint programs.
Senator Dalphond: First, I would like to say that I represent the senate division of De Lorimier, close to the U.S. border. Roxham Road is in the centre of my riding.
A few months ago, I spent a day at the border. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration and Refugee Board for their work. I spent the day with them and was very impressed with the quality of the way we welcome refugees. Everything is done with compassion and efficiency. I was also very impressed with the system’s ability to process hundreds of claims per day. I feel very proud to be Canadian when, on some television shows, I see what is being done.
My question is for the officials from the board. Mr. Choueiri, on page 3 of your report, you say that you will increase the number of decision-makers by 70 per cent, both for the refugee protection division and the refugee appeal division. What percentage of cases are appealed? I may have a supplementary, depending on the percentage.
Mr. Choueiri: Thank you for the question. In regards to the percentage of refugee claims that end up in appeal, it is approximately 25 per cent of our intake in claims that, once decided, would be appealed. So 25 per cent.
Senator Dalphond: Is this 25 per cent increasing or decreasing or stable? Is it a sign that the first-line decision makers should improve their decision-making process to reduce the number of appeals?
Mr. Choueiri: I think it has been relatively stable over the years — and my colleague may want to add to that — but over the last few years it has been relatively stable at about 25 or 27 per cent. It’s not something you can automatically predict. It’s a case-by-case basis, and it obviously depends on the decisions rendered.
Greg Kipling, Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: I completely agree with my colleague. It is important to keep in mind that there are circumstances and new information that can be brought to the bear that were not available at the first hearing. These can be brought forward at the appeal level. I don’t think it’s fair to automatically think that just because cases are going to appeal it reflects the first-level decision maker.
Senator Dalphond: I heard 25 per cent. In the court system, you have 10 per cent appeal. What is the rate of reversal of confirmations? Will appeal confirm the first decision? Is it reversed most of the time? Is it 50-50?
Mr. Kipling: I don’t know if I have that information at my fingertips. Different kinds of outcomes are possible. The Refugee Appeal Division can confirm the first-level decision, it can substitute its own decision, or it can refer the matter back for redetermination.
In the majority of cases, it confirms the first-level decision. I don’t have the exact breakdown at my fingertips, but that’s certainly something we could provide.
Senator Dalphond: How much time does it add to the system when adding an appeal? Does it take a year or two years to process the appeal?
Mr. Choueiri: Right now the wait times for the appeals are about 13 months.
Senator Dalphond: Thirteen months.
Mr. Choueiri: It adds about 13 months.
Senator M. Deacon: When I looked at the Refugee Protection Division and the members of your staff that you are going to have there, and then the refugee appeal staff, I was actually trying to figure out which one is bleeding more. That was kind of my question carrying on from Senator Dalphond. I wonder if you would respond to that. I know we have some numbers here, but I’m actually trying to take it to boots on the ground and more practical than the numbers. Which one of those areas is bleeding more?
Mr. Choueiri: Thank you for the question.
The first-level decision, where the intake now is 55,000, or that was the intake in 2018-19, in our capacity, the number of decision makers we have now is not there. That’s why budgets 2019 and 2018 provided investments for us to grow and increase our capacity. In terms of where the needed decision makers are, they are there, but they are also needed in the Refugee Appeal Division. As you increase your capacity to process more claims on the first-level decisions, which is the Refugee Protection Division, as we just answered, about 25 per cent get appealed if they are negative decisions. Those then go into the Refugee Appeal Division.
It’s not a one-to-one ratio, but we need to increase our capacity at both ends. We do that in a planned and diligent way so that as we increase in the Refugee Protection Division, we are increasing by proportion the Refugee Appeal Division. It’s not one or the other; we need to invest in both. Otherwise, the wait times in the Refugee Appeal Division will get higher. We have to take that systemic approach.
Senator M. Deacon: It’s incredible what you are trying to achieve. There is certainly a lot pride in Canada and some of the services and support. I’m always in awe when we look at numbers and statistics and the number of folks we are supporting in this country. When you are sitting at the table with some of our colleagues — and this can come from all three parts of the house here — what other countries are dealing with the same intensity as Canada? Or what sort of practices or countries are there where you think we could do better in that area? When you have the chance, because I’m sure you do, to speak with the people who are doing the work internationally.
Ms. Kim: Thank you for the question. I guess I would say that while Canada has experienced quite an increase in what we are experiencing, certainly it’s not what some countries in Europe have experienced recently or our neighbours very close by. It is something we have been trying to manage very closely and carefully, and there are certain innovations that we have undertaken that I think have been done collaboratively among the three organizations. For example, there was an independent review of the asylum system back in June 2018. As a result of that, we have established certain things, such as an Asylum System Management Board, where the three organizations come together to do joint planning, reporting and monitoring of how things are going rather than doing it in silos.
As well, we established the Integrated Claim Analysis Centre pilot in Montreal, which we are planning, with Budget 2019 funding, to expand to Toronto, where about 55 per cent of the claims are overall. With that pilot, we are looking at how we can build efficiencies so that files, when they go to the RPD, are hearing ready rather than being rescheduled or delayed again and having to go back, or some document is missing and it causes delays in the system. We can actually work together to address that. Those are some of the things we have been trying to do.
Senator Andreychuk: I would like to ask a lot of questions, but maybe I’ll start with the Canada Border Services Agency.
We’ve been talking about human crossings, et cetera. One of the greatest concerns — and you pointed out you got money for opioid issues and, of course, cannabis. When we passed the law, we said if we can control, regulate and grow here, we would equally stop illegal coming in from other countries. We know where they grow it, and they could easily go into the ports.
A recent news item said 99 per cent, 99 point something — I have forgotten the rest of it — none of the cargo is screened or looked at for drugs of any kind. My concern, is it still the case that you have no control over what comes in with Canada Post unless it is signalled to you?
Are you responsible, then, for the border, or is it the port authority still? I’m concerned that the opioid crisis and illegal cannabis coming here, with all the synthetics, is a real issue. It seems to be the gap in what we are trying to do. Can you address that?
Mr. Moor: As I said earlier, we have received funding specifically to address the opioid risk and the swine fever risk and also to address other specific detection issues. Maybe my colleague Jacques could actually answer your question.
Jacques Cloutier, Vice-President, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, Canada Border Services Agency: Thank you for your question. Briefly, in order to help in answering it, when it comes to postal centres, every piece of international mail is presented to a CBSA officer and is inspected. That’s one layer of security. You will recall too that over the last several years, new measures have been put in place specifically to deal with precursors and the risks at postal centres.
With respect to your questions related to the assessment that’s done with containers and other commercial goods coming into the country, the CBSA has a number of different programs that include a trusted relationship with commercial partners who provide advanced information to the organization that helps us make decisions about what we inspect and what we don’t inspect.
For the most part, inspections are derived by targeting and intelligence measures, and as my colleague pointed out, some of the work we are engaged in now is working around better and stronger data analytics to inform the decision making in that space.
I can assure you that to the extent that we can, we mitigate the risk, but we are very much aware that there continues to be a risk mainly linked to precursors, such as synthetic drugs, guns and gangs, but these elements continue to be a significant priority of our border enforcement work.
Senator Klyne: Welcome and thank you to the panel. This question is probably more toward the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which Budget 2019 proposed to make some legislative amendments to, to prevent irregular migration and introduce amendments to the Federal Court to provide three more positions to accelerate the process of the judicial review.
I’m wondering what is being invested now or spent and what the increased costs will be around this. Also, how will this better manage, discourage and prevent irregular immigration? Will we continue to support Canada’s commitments to the international treaties organization?
Ms. Kim: Yes, Budget 2019 did introduce funding for the border enforcement strategy, including measures to make the asylum system fast, fair and final. The total funding was $1.18 billion over five years, and there are three pillars to that strategy. One is detecting and discouraging misuse of Canada and the U.S. visa system, including things like funding four more interceptions abroad, more trends and intelligence analysis so that we can better issue visas in a way that will be secure, as well as more communications, outreach and collaboration with the U.S. and others so that it’s clear that claiming asylum in Canada is not necessarily a guarantee of being able to stay.
The second part of that is about discouraging and managing irregular migration at the border. It’s contingency planning in case we need to ramp up measures quickly. It’s also things like efficiency measures, and one of those is a legislative amendment that maybe I’ll get to next.
Then the third one is really capacity within the asylum system. They are measures that my colleagues have talked about in terms of being able to process up to 50,000 claims a year in order to meet that capacity and ultimately keep wait times at a level so that we can remove those who have failed in the asylum system more quickly so that they are not doing things like needing the resources of provinces and territories and their social services.
In terms of the legislative amendments, there are a few in the 2019 budget implementation act. One that has gotten some attention is a new ineligibility to actually be referred to the RPD. That is, if someone has claimed asylum in another country, they can be found to be ineligible to be referred.
There are three important points that I should make about that. First, the intent is that it’s in line with the spirit of the Refugee Convention, which includes the principle that you should be claiming in the first country where you can have a durable solution rather than making multiple claims in the hopes of getting a different outcome.
Second, the provision is structured so that it’s incumbent upon the government to confirm that someone has made that claim in another country, and we can really only do that with the trusted partners we have an information-sharing agreement with. Those are essentially our M5 partners who have mature immigration and asylum systems as well as strong data-sharing practices with us.
The third point I would make is that someone who does not get referred to the RPD does not get removed without any kind of fair process. They are actually able to apply for what’s called a pre-removal risk assessment, and that’s where they can submit their application where if they were removed, they could be subject to persecution or risk. If it’s found that they would be, then they would not be removed from Canada. If it’s found they would not be, then they would be removed. There is an opportunity for a robust and fair hearing on that. We’re very pleased that the UNHCR has said they believe that is in line with our international obligations, which we believe as well.
Senator Eaton: I want to follow up on Senator Klyne’s question. We’re negotiating presently, I understand, with the United States to close the loophole of asylum shopping. Can we stop asylum seekers coming irregularly through the border from asylum shopping, or are they not subject to the same laws that we have now? Do we have to wait for our negotiation with President Trump?
Ms. Kim: To update the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is a bilateral treaty, would require both sides to agree on any changes. Canada has certainly expressed its view that we believe there is opportunity to modernize that treaty, but I would clarify that the provision in the budget implementation act that I just spoke about is a bit distinct from a Safe Third Country Agreement. If someone had previously claimed asylum in the U.S., this provision would say that they’re not eligible to be referred to the RPD. They would move into the pre-removal risk assessment stream. But we wouldn’t be returning them to the U.S.
Senator Eaton: Whether they walk through Roxham Road or go through a border point, they will be subject to that?
Ms. Kim: That new provision, yes.
Senator Eaton: Thank you very much.
Senator Klyne: Is there a broad definition of irregular migration? Is it a pretty narrow band definition? Are there a number of categories you would fall into to be categorized as irregular migration? What constitutes that?
Mr. Cloutier: The short answer to your question is that we use “irregular” to designate specifically people who cross in between points of entry.
Senator Klyne: I’m curious about the point here of the monies for funding to take action against gun and gang violence. That almost sounds like something proactive versus reactive.
I probably understand the gun side, I think, but I’m not sure about the gang side.
Mr. Moor: The funding made available to us for guns and gangs is specifically for detection at the border of illegal firearms. It is investing in technology, so for screening products at airports or at the border, and also for investing in dogs that are used to actually detect guns or parts of guns at the border.
Those are the two primary investments that are trying to stop the movement of illegal firearms across the border.
Senator Klyne: Do you anticipate anything different with Bill C-71 if it remains intact as it was proposed?
Mr. Cloutier: I can’t speak to that specifically.
Senator Andreychuk: We’re focused on immigration because of the high volume and the new problems with the U.S. border, and the irregulars coming through. There are also regulars coming through.
You’re getting a lot of money all through the system to address those problems. They’re directed at the irregular as opposed to traditionally crossing of the borders before.
Is there any breakdown? Is this money going to just the Canada-U.S. border, or are we looking to make it more efficient and faster for those who sit and ask for refugee status in all those camps that I continue to visit? Some have been waiting 10 years to somehow get on a list. There’s no possibility to go back to the country of origin because of continual civil strife.
Are they getting a fair chance of becoming a Canadian on the same basis as those who somehow come through the border? Is there any breakdown of statistics? Is the money targeted for what we traditionally have supported in UNHCR?
Ms. Kim: I’m very happy to answer that, senator.
You might be familiar with the multi-year Levels Plan. This is our immigration plan that we publish every year as to how many permanent residents we’ll be accepting in Canada.
In that plan, there are multiple categories. When it comes to resettled refugees, that’s a separate category from protected persons, which are those that go through the asylum system.
There’s no displacement between those categories. We work closely with the UNHCR when it comes to resettlement in meeting our resettlement objectives. In 2018, we received over 28,000 resettled refugees. That’s going up to 31,700 in 2021. That’s something we plan for. That’s something we work closely with UNHCR to do as well as other private sponsors and organizations who are looking to sponsor refugees to come to Canada.
Indeed, the funding is really about making sure that the asylum side of things is well funded to manage that process smoothly and efficiently. So no displacement would happen between those two categories.
Mr. Mills: The amounts in Budget 2019 are for all the refugee claims. They are not just for those who arrive between ports of entry, but also for those who arrive at airports or other standard ports of entry. The annual figure of 50,000 includes what we call the regulars and irregulars. That’s not just those who cross between ports of entry.
Senator Boehm: I’d like to follow up on Senator Andreychuk’s question about the UNHCR. In my previous life, we were looking at multi-year funding for UNHCR as a way to allow UNHCR to plan more efficiently and for us to work more closely with UNHCR. I’m wondering if that has enhanced the relationship, which I understand is pretty good.
I’m coming back to the unscrupulous immigration consultants. Some other countries are major receiving countries who have that experience, particularly the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as recipient countries.
Have you done any comparing of notes as you developed the policies? Because this is global, and countries are looking at just how to handle that.
Ms. Kim: Maybe I’ll answer the second question, and I don’t know if Dan wants to answer the first one.
On the second question, certainly we have done a comparative analysis with similar, like-minded countries who face similar challenges. Australia is an interesting model; they’ve actually gone from self-regulation to government within the government in terms of regulating the consultant industry.
They still face similar challenges as we do when it comes to extraterritorial jurisdiction and dealing with issues that are happening under the radar, so essentially unauthorized consultants providing advice.
It’s important to note that there’s a distinction we would make between consultants who provide immigration advice and labour recruiters or other intermediates that may be organizing movement and mobility across borders. That’s a distinction we would make.
For example, we work with the International Organization for Migration to try to see if there are ways we can improve the recruitment industry as well on a global scale. There are some pilot projects under way, but it’s a thorny issue and a global issue, which is part of why we entered into, for example, the Global Compact for Migration.
Mr. Mills: In terms of the funding that the UNHCR receives, if memory serves, it comes from Global Affairs Canada, not from our department.
Senator Duncan: I apologize. I was involved in a SENgage. The SENgage is our involvement with young Canadians.
We were discussing the 2019-20 Main Estimates for the Canada Border Services Agency. Could I draw your attention to expenditures or lack of expenditures on the border services in the Yukon?
The Yukon has four border crossings with Alaska; the Top of the World Highway is one. Little Gold Creek is a seasonal operation between Dawson City and Alaska. It’s a little-known model of shared services because it’s a shared building between the U.S. and Canada. It’s a partnership, and they share the same building. There’s Beaver Creek on the traditional territory of the White River First Nation and most westerly location in Canada. It’s the point of entry to the interior and the Alaska Highway. And there are two border crossings technically in British Columbia, although we service them in the Yukon, that provide support for the highway and the staff. They are at Fraser and Pleasant Camp, and they lead to the Alaskan coast. So all those folks who are doing the inland passage come up that way, and it’s the cruise ship traffic that travels then into the Yukon.
Statistics Canada figures tell us that the 2013-17 average of international border crossings into the Yukon in the peak tourism summer months, May to the end of September, are as many as 100,000 people. There are a few caveats to that number. There are a number of Yukoners going backward to Alaska, but our population is only 40,000.
The Q1 2018 statistics for border crossings are 13 per cent higher than 2017. Year-to-date crossings through the Canada Border Services Agency ports of entry are 10 per cent higher than the five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Also, not yet posted on the website, I’m advised that border crossings into the Yukon are up 15 per cent, year to date, at the end of Q4 of 2018.
The background information that I’ve just given you frames my questions.
There is clearly a need for additional resources in the Yukon at the border crossings. Is there a corresponding increase in the resource allocation by Canada Border Services Agency in the Yukon to deal with these increased numbers?
I have a follow-up question to that.
The Deputy Chair: I’m not sure you’ll have time for that follow-up.
Senator Duncan: I’ll be really quick, then, and just throw it out there. Obviously, there’s a significant amount of economic activity in the Yukon as well, and that is more truck and heavy commercial traffic crossings. That’s specifically at Fraser. I know we are experiencing long lineups at that border crossing. Also, the Yukon government has asked for longer hours. It’s been denied because of cost, in my understanding. There’s an alternative technological solution for the trucks, and I understand that’s also been denied.
The Deputy Chair: Leave it at that.
If you want to give them about five seconds to answer.
Mr. Moor: I will answer regarding the resourcing challenge, and then my colleague may answer on the Yukon in particular.
The challenge the agency has had across all of our activities is a 33 per cent growth in transactions in the last five years. That covers everything from over 100 per cent coastal from very significant increases in cruises and other activities. This is one of our real challenges around modernization: seeing how we can manage our services in a more efficient and more effective way. That’s one of the things we are committed to doing in the future.
Maybe my colleague to answer around the Yukon.
Mr. Cloutier: Briefly, I’ve taken notes of the points you’ve raised. I understand what the pressures are from the perspective in the Yukon. Resources are managed across the entire province with a finite amount of resources, and decisions are made on a regular basis with respect to allocation.
But I do take your point around technologies that could be introduced and alternative ways of delivering the services. I regret I’m not in a position to make any formal commitments at this point, but these are very much the types of discussions we’re engaged in within any agency. In line with some of the elements that Jonathan raised in his introduction, we are looking for ways to deliver our services differently in keeping up with technology and growth.
But those are not immediate answers.
The Deputy Chair: Maybe you could provide more detailed answers, regarding Yukon specifically.
Mr. Cloutier: We’d be happy to, yes. Also, British Columbia, the Western provinces — certainly we could talk about how the work is distributed.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
There are two senators left for the third round, and we have just a couple of minutes left.
Senator Eaton: I’ll be very quick. When you say you give a risk assessment for people whom you deem to be removed or want to remove, do you have a list of countries where there’s no risk? Do you consider Germany or France, the G7 or Five Eyes? Could somebody be at risk in those countries? Do you have a list of non-risk countries that cuts it down a bit, where you respect the justice systems?
Ms. Kim: Each claim would be assessed on its own merits.
Senator Eaton: If I came from France or Germany, I could come as an asylum seeker?
Ms. Kim: You could. You could come from the United States as an asylum seeker, as well. A United States national would be one exception under the Safe Third Country Agreement, for example.
Senator Eaton: I thought Jason Kenney put in a list of countries where we would not waste our time, because we respected their justice systems.
Ms. Kim: There’s something called the designated country of origin list, which is under the act, where the minister can designate a list of countries where slightly different timelines and rules would apply. I’d have to verify exactly what, but I don’t think it precludes anyone from actually claiming.
Mr. Kipling: I agree entirely. I would add that the designated country of origin differentiation is around timelines, primarily, as well as certain other recourse rights, but the determination is the same, whether you came from a designated country of origin or a non-designated country.
Senator Eaton: So I could go to New Zealand and claim asylum?
Mr. Kipling: I don’t know about that, but if you’re a New Zealander who came to Canada.
Senator Eaton: That’s what I’m asking you.
Mr. Kipling: If you were a New Zealander who came to Canada, yes, you could make a refugee claim.
Senator Eaton: But as a Canadian, I can’t go to New Zealand and claim asylum.
Mr. Kipling: I don’t know the answer to that question.
Senator Eaton: Exactly.
The Deputy Chair: Maybe you could try, senator. We’ll see what happens.
Senator Eaton: You might be happy if I did.
The Deputy Chair: I certainly wouldn’t.
Senator Klyne: I want to talk about African swine fever. There are some challenges making sure it never happens, because I don’t know that we have ever had a case of African swine fever, but what is the potential of that happening? What are we going to do, not to mitigate the risk, but ensure it’s never a risk, and for all intents and purposes eliminate it, not that there is one currently?
Mr. Moor: I think the CFIA may be better positioned to answer the question. Our role is to try to keep African swine fever out of the country by monitoring our borders and mitigating the risks. You can never eliminate the risks. African swine fever is in countries that do regular business with us — China and I think in Belgium as well now.
The money is being spent around increasing the number of detector dogs at our airports, postal facilities and ports in order to try to detect the illegal importation of pork products. This is really important for the economy of Canada because the export market is worth about $25 billion.
Canada wants to try and avoid African swine fever coming into the country because that would affect the export market.
Senator Klyne: That would be something processed, packaged and coming in?
Mr. Moor: We regularly detect pork products coming to the border, in particular through postal but also people carrying products across the border at airports. There’s a fine system that is actually variable depending on whether it’s concealed. We are working very closely with the airlines to raise awareness of this issue and to try and avoid people bringing this into the country.
Senator Klyne: Because we don’t have any incidents of that, we’ve obviously been doing a great job, or nobody is trying to bring it in.
Mr. Moor: People, every day, are trying to bring in pork products. Our job is to try our best to detect those instances and take action but to also actually create the deterrence so that people are aware of the risks of bringing pork products into the country.
Senator Klyne: Do you have any idea of the number of incidents where have you actually stopped it from coming in?
Mr. Moor: I don’t have great details, but I know we found a large commercial shipment in the last few weeks that was detected and was impounded. Whether that was associated with African swine fever . . . . I was in Montreal a couple of months ago at the postal facility, and about 20 of the packages they tested with a dog had pork products. That’s not to say they were infected, but they were definitely pork products.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for appearing tonight.
We now have before us representatives from two departments, familiar figures.
First, from Global Affairs Canada, we welcome Mr. Arun Thangaraj, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Planning, Finance and Information Technology; and Ms. Shirley Carruthers, Director General, Financial Resource Planning and Management Bureau.
Second, from Employment and Social Development Canada, we have Mark Perlman, Chief Financial Officer, and Jason Won, Deputy Chief Financial Officer.
They have a number of colleagues in the audience accompanying them if we need answers to specific questions. I believe Mr. Thangaraj will deliver his remarks first, followed by Mr. Perlman. We’ll then proceed to a question and answer session.
Mr. Thangaraj, the floor is yours.
Arun Thangaraj, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Global Affairs Canada: Good evening, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee. It is always a pleasure to be here.
I will start with a few brief opening remarks, after which I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, Canada continues to strive to be a leader in its efforts to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. Canada’s feminist international assistance policy recognizes that promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving this goal. Canada’s assistance focuses on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people and supporting fragile states.
Our Main Estimates for 2019-20 reflect our requirements to respond to these important priorities. This year we have sought approval for approximately $6.7 billion in total funding. This represents a net increase of $229 million over our previous year’s total Main Estimates.
Canada believes that to eradicate poverty around the world, we must address inequality and help make sure that women and girls are empowered to reach their full potential. You may recall that Budget 2018 committed a total of $2 billion over five years in support of our feminist international assistance and development goals. These 2019-20 Main Estimates includes $293.8 million towards these priorities.
The funding will be provided to international partners to help women play a vital role in governance institutions and participate in peacebuilding efforts. The funds will help increase the capacity of public institutions to close the gender gap, promote and protect human rights, and reduce gender discrimination.
It is estimated that, in 2015, about 39 million girls did not attend school because of wars and disasters. New funding in the Main Estimates will help to improve women’s and girls’ access to quality education, to invest in education systems and to support skills development. They will also help to improve access to education in crisis and conflict situations.
We know that the world is facing an increase in humanitarian needs. Food insecurity worldwide has reached record levels, affecting some 76 million people, the majority of whom are women and children, in need of emergency food assistance.
New funding is provided to help respond to natural disasters and conflicts. Contributions to humanitarian efforts will focus on responding to the unique needs of crisis-affected women and girls. It will help encourage their meaningful participation in decision making and help their capacity to respond to crises and emergencies.
I would also like to highlight the government’s commitment to support peace and stability in the Middle East through our Middle East strategy. Together with partners we have made significant contributions to the region. We have helped provide 8.5 million people with emergency food assistance, and training and support to 3,600 public schools in Jordan.
This year, the Government of Canada announced the renewal of its Middle East strategy to build on its progress. Global Affairs Canada will contribute a total of $926 million over two years, including $426 million from existing funding. Of the new funding, $250 million will be included in this year’s budget implementation vote, and $250 million will be included in next year’s Main Estimates.
This funding will help provide basic needs of those most impacted by the conflicts. It will also help partners with capacity-building efforts in the affected countries, including by providing education, health care and sanitation, improving infrastructure, promoting employment and economic growth and providing support to improve governance.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, these Main Estimates for 2019-20 reflect Canada’s ongoing and firm commitment to help build an inclusive world free from strife. They support peace and dignity and equal treatment, and they provide needed resources to respond to ever-increasing global humanitarian needs. We will continue to work closely with partners to achieve these goals.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I look forward to your questions.
Mark Perlman, Chief Financial Officer, Employment and Social Development Canada: Honourable members of the committee, I am pleased to be here today as Chief Financial Officer of Employment and Social Development Canada. Senior officials representing the major sectors of ESDC are also present and can help me answer some of your questions.
I would like to provide the committee with an overview, from ESDC, of the 2019-20 Main Estimates tabled on April 11, 2019.
First, I would like to provide short overview of the process changes that impact this year’s Main Estimates. In the past, parliamentarians have expressed concerns around the Main Estimates and the fact that they did not include budget measures because of timing and, as a result, did not present a complete picture of the government’s planned spending overall.
To address this issue, the 2019-20 Main Estimates includes Budget 2019 measures identified through individual budget implementation votes for each measure. ESDC has 16 Budget 2019 measures totalling $333 million in 2019-20. All of these measures are aligned with ESDC’s departmental results framework and are described in the ESDC’s Departmental Plan.
We have plans and expected results for each of the measures that will be refined over the next few months so that we can obtain Treasury Board approval before the funds are provided to the department. The amount of funding and implementation details are not included in the departmental plan to avoid assuming Treasury Board approval for measures still awaiting approval.
The 2019-20 Main Estimates for ESDC amount to $64.8 billion, an increase of $3.8 billion when compared to the 2018-19 Main Estimates. Of this, $61 billion, or 94 per cent, will directly benefit Canadians through the Old Age Security program and other statutory transfer payment programs.
In these Main Estimates, the department is showing an increase in statutory payments mainly explained by an increase to old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments resulting from the aging population and the expected increase of number of beneficiaries andthe average monthly benefit amount.
Other statutory programs such as Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds and Canada Student Loans and Grants have also increased by $98.6 million and $334.5 million respectively.
Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds increased due to a steady increase in total registered plans and participation in the program, and the Canada Student Loans and Grants are increasing mainly due to Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 measures that increased Canada Student Grants for low- and middle-income students, including those with dependent children eligible for the Canada Student Grants.
It should be noted that statutory items are included in the estimates for information purposes only as Parliament has already approved the purpose of the expenditures, and the terms and conditions under which they may be made, through other legislation.
A new statutory item of $194.5 million is included this year due to the Department of Employment and Social Development Act, which was amended to broaden the department’s mandate to include service delivery to the public for partners with a view of improving services to Canadians. The department will recover its service delivery cost from partners. Currently, most the statutory items are for ongoing arrangements such as passport services being delivered by Service Canada.
In addition to the statutory items, under vote 1, operating expenditures, the department plans to spend $702.8 million in 2019-20, an increase of $26 million from the 2018-19 Main Estimates of $676.8 million. The net increase is mainly related to additional funding approved for the Reaching Home program, formerly the Homelessness Partnering Strategy program, and the Canada Summer Jobs program.
For vote 5, grants and contributions, the 2019-20 Main Estimates level is $2.7 billion, an increase of $289 million from the 2018-19 Main Estimates.
Through grants and contributions, the department provides funding to other administrations and organizations in the volunteer sector and the private sector in order to support projects which meet the needs of Canadians in the workforce and in social development.
The increase of $289 million is mainly attributable to investments announced in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018 to the Youth Employment Strategy, the Workforce Development Agreements, the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training program and the Future Skills program.
There is an increase of $86.6 million to the Youth Employment Strategy as a result of Budget 2018 to fulfill the government’s commitment to support the continued doubling of the number of quality job placements funded under the Canada Summer Jobs program.
There is an increase of $75 million to the new Workforce Development Agreements. Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 committed to consultations which resulted in the consolidation of the Canada Job Fund Agreements, Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities and Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers.
There is an increase of $48.9 million for the implementation of the new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training program, ISET; and $47.7 million for the Future Skills Centre as a result of the Budget 2018 announcement.
You will note that employment insurance (EI) benefits and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits and administrative costs are excluded from the department’s Main Estimates. The EI operating account and the CPP account are two specified purpose accounts. The EI operating account is included in the consolidated data of the Government of Canada. The CPP is not incorporated into the government’s financial statements since it is under joint control of the federal government and the participating provinces and territories. EI and CPP benefits are reflected in the departmental plan which was also tabled in April.
I hope this overview has given you a better understanding of the Main Estimates for our department. My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer your questions. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Perlman.
Senator Eaton: Mr. Thangaraj, nice to see you again.
May I ask you about three line items you have in the department’s estimates? You have Protecting Democracy, $716,000. You have renewing Canada’s Middle East strategy for $250 million, and something that is dear to my heart, Enhancing Canada’s Global Arctic Leadership for $6 million. If you could just say a few brief words, because you know I only have three minutes.
Mr. Thangaraj: I will be brief. For the first one on protecting Canada’s democracy, this initiative is for Global Affairs, along with other departments, to be able to respond to increasing foreign interference in domestic elections worldwide. The funding will be used to strengthen our resilience to resist online disinformation through research policy development and building an international constituency with G7 countries.
What this will do is allow Global Affairs to establish a secretariat within the organization to analyze trends and what is happening in other organizations and coordinate with other G7 countries that will have similar secretaries to exchange information and best practices on that.
With respect to the Middle East, this funding is a renewal of the funding you see in the Main Estimates, a sunset of $239 million and a renewal of $250 million. This is to continue the work that was done with respect to humanitarian development and stabilization in those crisis-affected countries. The vast majority of that funding is for humanitarian.
Senator Eaton: All of a sudden we are not —
Mr. Thangaraj: It is to solidify the gains that were made, especially in stabilization. For example, in Iraq we are working with police forces to ensure stability in that area so that there is no return to previous instability.
We continue to work with humanitarian organizations to work with the displaced population. For example, we are increasing education in camps for displaced persons. We are doing more programming with women in those camps as well. There is no change in direction, but it is really to solidify the gains that have been made with the previous tranche of funding that you see sunset in the Main Estimates.
With respect to the Arctic leadership, this again is to really solidify our leadership in circumpolar Arctic issues and strengthen the international rules-based order. There are two elements here. One is to fund a secretariat in Canada for the Sustainable Development Working Group for the Arctic Council. The second element of this funding is to support the University of the Arctic in enhancing educational research opportunities for northern and Indigenous populations.
Senator Eaton: Thank you.
Senator Boehm: Thank you for being here. Following up on Senator Eaton’s questions, I would be interested to know, for the Middle East strategy, of the $250 million, do you have a multilateral and bilateral breakdown?
Related to that is a question I asked the last panel. For UNHCR, there were plans to go to multi-year funding to facilitate their planning and Global Affairs’ planning as well in moving forward. I’ll follow Senator Eaton’s example and throw my other question out because I know time is precious.
On Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, is there a clear breakdown again on what is bilateral, what is being done on the ground or how much is going into the international agencies, whether it’s the specialized UN agencies or others, and whether the burn rate is as expected? Sorry, I know I used to ask you these questions on almost a daily basis.
Mr. Thangaraj: For the breakdown of channels for the Middle East strategy, we don’t have the breakdown for the $250 million, but we can provide that.
For the multi-year humanitarian assistance, that is something that we’ve really piloted with the Middle East strategy. Typically our humanitarian assistance was in one-year increments. What we have been able to do with partners such as UNHCR is provide multi-year, stable, predictable funding. And for initiatives, for example, like education, that was really critical and one of the lessons we learned through the last tranche of funding.
I do have a breakdown for the Feminist International Assistance Policy. In that policy, there was a desire to work more with Canadian partners. What you are seeing is we are in the second year of that, so of the about 23 per cent of our assistance that is channelled through Canadian organizations, 62 per cent with multilateral organizations, you are starting to see that diminish as we are making that switch into Canadian organizations.
We still work with a lot of foreign organizations directly with governments for direct budget support, but we are also looking at dealing with local NGOs. We have an initiative called Women’s Voice and Leadership, which supports various women’s organizations on a wide range of issues — women’s economic empowerment, for example — and there we work directly with local organizations. That is the percentage of the budget that is increasing pursuant to the Feminist International Assistance Policy, and that’s up to about 14 per cent.
Senator Boehm: Will the office for the Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council be in our Arctic?
Mr. Thangaraj: I will have to get back to you.
Senator Andreychuk: I wanted to follow up on two areas with respect to foreign affairs issues. The $7 million you were talking about, the one with the G7 — I’ve forgotten the title — that is really looking at present-day threats, difficulties and emerging issues we should be looking at. Having it separate and working through the G7, how does it work with the security department and the intelligence department within Foreign Affairs? That would tend to build silos again rather than coordinate.
I’m sure you will assure me that you are coordinating and you talk to each other, but it gives me concern when we hive these things off and create more secretariats, and then when something happens, we spend more time determining whether it was in your bailiwick or in ours, whether it is within departments or many departments. How is it going to work?
Mr. Thangaraj: The secretariat that’s established is to coordinate the work among the G7 partners. The initiative is led by Canadian Heritage, with support from the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Global Affairs. So the coordination function is embedded.
What we have at Global Affairs is to ensure the international component of the work. There is a domestic component but also an international one, so the reason the secretariat feeds into that is to ensure that both the domestic and the international portions of that effort are aligned.
Senator Andreychuk: I have a question that I thought Senator Boehm was going to ask. In Foreign Affairs, we received the Auditor General’s report about the issues of safety and security for personnel on missions abroad. Not only the Cuban situation, but I was in Addis Ababa when the plane went down, and I watched the response, which was admirable. They had some training, but it led many of us to wonder if this is going around, the old threats were you don’t go to a country that is at war, and you reinforce your staff. Now it could be in France, in London or in Canada because of those international linkages.
Is there new money for that? We heard about the planning and the appropriate approach, but it seemed to me that if it’s going to be effective, you can’t do it with existing resources. Is it somewhere, or is it still at the planning stage?
Mr. Thangaraj: A couple of years ago in our Main Estimates you would have seen an increase for what we call the duty-of-care funding. That was to support the protection of our people, our infrastructure and our information abroad.
In these Main Estimates, the funding profile varies, but you see an increase of $19 million in our overall funding profile for the duty-of-care initiative. One of the key components of that is training of all personnel, and we do that through a pre-posting. Before someone is posted abroad, they go through what is called hazardous environment training. That is a five-day —
Senator Andreychuk: I think our committee will be reporting on that. The question was, to be effective, I don’t think you could do it with existing resources, particularly when we are getting new issues like the Cuban issue. It’s not the usual how do you protect the mission, et cetera.
There was money at the start of duty of care. The Auditor General’s report said you have a mile to go or a foot to go, I don’t know. Do we need more resources? We are putting Canadians at risk out there, and if there is one area that I don’t mind the increase in the estimates, it’s in that one.
Mr. Thangaraj: Yes. The duty-of-care funding does have incremental funding for additional training; it has additional funding for us to be more aware of the emerging and evolving threat environment. That allows us to adapt our responses.
So there is incremental and additional funding. The department could not have done that with existing resources absent the additional funding that we received.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you.
Senator Klyne: I’m trying to understand the social finance fund, and I’m maybe getting caught up in looking at it through the lens of social impact financing. But there is a bit of a movement out there, and there is private funding where I would say probably wealthy individuals have looked to place money into social impact organizations.
Are you using this to leverage up those types of funding to get some private participation? As I recall, there is something like 17 or 18 goals around social impact models. It’s kind of like boiling the ocean or trying to.
How is this working with you?
Mr. Thangaraj: There are two initiatives going on around that. One is the recommendation of the Feminist International Assistance Policy. And you have also seen the sustainable development goals. To achieve the outcomes by 2030, there has to be significant leveraging of not traditional donor funding but participation of the private sector and philanthropists in order to achieve the goals.
One of the tools that came out of the Feminist International Assistance Policy was new mechanisms that the department could use as opposed to traditional grants and contributions — but finding ways to work with the private sector through different types of contribution agreements. So we are starting the work of using those tools to leverage those funds.
What was announced in Budget 2018 was $1.5 billion in innovative financing approaches and also sovereign lending. The objective of that funding was that it’s a five-year pilot project, where we have the ability to use brand-new tools, such as guarantees, equity investments and lending. It’s having the appropriate tools to work with the private sector that we don’t have with traditional grants and contributions.
Budget 2018 and some of the initiatives out of the Feminist International Assistance Policy provided the department with the mechanisms to work more effectively to leverage those outside sources of funding to achieve broader development goals.
Senator Klyne: Do you have an idea that you want to put in a dollar to leverage five?
Mr. Thangaraj: The objective is to leverage more than one for one. For example, on the $1.5 billion announced in Budget 2018, there were changes to the International Financial Institutions Act that provided us new powers. We are currently going through the regulatory changes to support those. Once those are in place, we will identify initiatives where we can do that leveraging.
What you don’t see right now in the Main Estimates are funds for that, because we are going through the design process for those funds. It’s hard to know until you see what the pipeline is, or what the potential deals are, what that ratio of leveraging would be.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you very much. My first question is for Mr. Perlman around the Student Work Placement Program. Looking at the increase in funding in 2019 was looking at the funding outside of STEM. In program, what is the average length of employment for students who actually come in and work in the Student Work Placement Program? That’s my first question.
Mr. Perlman: I have a colleague who might be able to answer it.
Senator M. Deacon: Maybe I will bundle.
Mr. Perlman: Please.
Senator M. Deacon: I’m trying to get a sense of the length of the program, and then looking at sort of return of investment. Those who convert from program to job — subsidized position — and when we are looking at the end of it, is there a sense of how many new employment opportunities will be created as opposed to existing subsidized opportunities?
Mr. Perlman: Right now, the investments toward work-integrated learning are supposed to help create 84,000 work-integrated learning opportunities by 2023 or 2024. Is that one of items you were looking for?
Senator M. Deacon: Did you say 2023-24?
Mr. Perlman: By that time. A lot is through wage subsidies — up to 50 per cent of the wage cost, up to a maximum of $5,000 per placement. It is a formula that helps employers get there and helps students to get the experience they need.
Senator M. Deacon: I’m trying to get a better understanding — it’s a large scale. They come in, they are working for a chunk of time, and then perhaps a percentage — 33 per cent — remain and stay with the organization. Some will create new opportunities.
Maybe it’s too early for those analytics, but I’m curious about the trending in those three areas. But you don’t have to answer tonight if you don’t have it.
Jason Won, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Employment and Social Development Canada: Because the program is new, we finished the first year. There was a bit of a delay in the start-up in the first year. In the next couple of years, we will have better information about how long and what the ultimate benefits are — as they are complementary — and how it impacts other jobs and future employment. We can certainly get back to you on the number of placements completed to date with the organizations that have negotiated agreements, but I think it’s a bit early to actually determine what even the medium-term benefits are.
Senator M. Deacon: And it’s federally led, or are you dealing with a number of —
Mr. Won: They are service providers.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you. My final quick question: I think somewhere in your notes there was a list of different measures and how much each one was. One was $4 million, I think, related to disabilities, of which autism was one. For supporting employment for people with disabilities and autism, we know we are having some start-stop supports at the provincial level. I am trying to understand better with that number if that is also, through your service providers, equally distributed throughout the country, or what is happening with that $4 million related to supporting employment for people with intellectual disabilities.
Mr. Won: That is funding that would be provided to an organization called the Canadian Association for Community Living, in partnership with the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance to provide supports to individuals to help improve their prospects for employment.
I assume it is national, but we could provide more information on what their reach is.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.
Senator Dalphond: My question is for the human resources official. On page 4, you mention that the student and apprentice loans and grants budget has increased by $334 million. The Canada Student Loans and Grants and Canada Apprentice Loans Program shows an increase primarily related to measures in the 2016 and 2017 budgets that also covered Canada’s grants for low- and middle-income students. What exactly happened with Quebec? Did you transfer an envelope to Quebec as is, or did you create a special program for apprentices?
Mr. Perlman: I do have the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Canada Student Loans and Grants here who can maybe join us.
Alexis Conrad, Assistant Deputy Minister, Learning Branch, Employment and Social Development Canada: Good evening.
Every year, the money is paid out. We use a formula that determines the amount that will be transferred directly to Quebec.
Senator Dalphond: With no strings attached?
Mr. Conrad: The Government of Quebec must demonstrate that it essentially has the same program and objectives. If so, the formula applies to calculating the amount and the funds are transferred with no strings attached.
Senator Dalphond: Thank you.
Senator Klyne: To get back to the social impact, is this contributing to Canada’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
Mr. Thangaraj: Yes.
Senator Klyne: Are other departments or ministries are also lending to that agenda?
Mr. Thangaraj: It is across governments. The SDG goals for 2030 are domestic and international. You will see that my colleagues at ESDC will have a component for the domestic department. The various departments across the federal government will have a role to play. What you’ll see specifically with the repayable, or the innovative financial mechanisms meant to leverage, is that those are specifically targeted to international development outcomes.
Senator Klyne: Is it safe to say every ministry has an agenda to lend itself to Canada’s commitment to the 2030 agenda?
Mr. Thangaraj: Yes. The various government departments, to the extent they are implicated by the SDGs, will have —
Senator Klyne: Is there one that takes the lead or has the lead on this?
Mr. Perlman: That would be our department that takes the lead.
We have a sustainable development goals unit that leads the development of a national strategy through other federal departments, provinces and territories. Budget 2018 committed $49.4 million over 13 years to establish the unit to do that, and there are contributions from all the departments working together.
Senator Klyne: People who participated from outside to lever funds, do they have to have an agenda that addresses the 17 goals or a few of the goals?
Mr. Perlman: I believe it’s all the goals. There are six core departments that are helping to coordinate, including ESDC, Global Affairs, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, Status of Women and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. It’s all of us working in partnership.
Senator Klyne: Does your bonus depend on movement in achieving these goals? What gets measured gets done.
They are very admirable goals. I hope they become reality. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you to the witnesses for helping us to go through this. It’s very appreciated.
(The committee adjourned.)