Report of the committee

Friday, May 27, 2022

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to table its

SEVENTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, April 28, 2022 to study the subject matter of those elements contained in Part 8 of Bill S-6, An Act respecting regulatory modernization, now tables its final report.

Your committee heard from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that the proposed amendments in Bill S-6 would remain subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Privacy Act. However, your committee also heard from legal experts who shared concerns about the lack of limitations and restrictions in the proposed amendments to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contained in Part 8 of Bill S-6.

One witness recommended specific amendments to Bill S-6:

that the proposed new section 5.5 of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Act include language restricting it subject to sections 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Privacy Act, and limited to circumstances where such disclosure is in the public interest, considering the special circumstances faced by foreign nationals and permanent residents;

that the regulations in the proposed section 5.7 of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship be subject to sections 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Privacy Act; and

that the proposed amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also include language restricting it subject to sections 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Privacy Act, and limited to circumstances where such disclosure is in the public interest, considering the special circumstances faced by foreign nationals and permanent residents.

Witnesses also recommended additional language in the proposed section 5.5 (c) of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Act specifying that it applies only to documents showing the status or identity of an individual, and excludes the information and documents provided by an individual pursuant to section 10(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. For greater certainty, a witness also recommended adding this language into the amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, limiting the disclosure of information to identity and status of an individual.

Your committee suggests that these proposed changes to Bill S-6 be reflected upon as the bill is considered at committee and in the House of Commons.

Your committee heard that the provisions in Part 8 of Bill S-6 will provide for enhanced disclosure and information sharing between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and other federal and provincial departments, governments and agencies. However, your committee also notes concerns about gaps in the legislation, including with regards to privacy protections, informed consent and updates to disclosure and oversight mechanisms.

Your committee received a letter from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with his assessment of Part 8 of Bill S-6. In particular, your committee notes with interest the Privacy Commissioner’s perspective that disclosures of personal information under certain provisions of the Privacy Act be subject to written information-sharing agreements, which include a definition of the personal information to be shared as well as the specific purpose for sharing. Such agreements should also limit the secondary use and onward transfer of protected information, as well as outline other measures to be included in the regulations like specific safeguards, retention periods and accountability measures. Your committee therefore suggests that future consideration of Part 8 of Bill S-6 include how information-sharing agreements meeting the Privacy Commissioner’s standards be implemented.

Committee members and witnesses shared concerns with regards to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s application timelines and service standards. Part 8 of Bill S-6 is intended to streamline parts of the immigration and resettlement process by providing for enhanced information use and sharing. Your committee heard that while the proposed amendments may increase efficiency internally, these changes will not improve processing times, reduce backlogs or affect service standards.

Your committee therefore notes its continued concern for persons hoping to work, study, and live in Canada who are negatively impacted by ongoing immigration applications.

Your committee heard that the existing scope of the disclosure parameters contained in Part 8 of Bill S-6 currently exceeds the basic requirements for identifying individuals and their status. Your committee recognizes the importance of balancing public interests with individual privacy and therefore suggests that the scope of these amendments be explicitly limited to documents and information showing identity or status.

Your committee had requested additional information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to supplement their testimony but did not receive a timely response. Your committee therefore suggests that the continuing study of Bill S-6, particularly Part 8, take into account these questions.

Your committee suggests that the Government of Canada undertake a comprehensive review of issues and barriers within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and implement legislation correcting them in order to better serve its clients and Canadians.

Respectfully submitted,

RATNA OMIDVAR

Chair


Back to top