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Report of the committee

Thursday, June 6, 2019

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

THIRTY-SIXTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 of Part 4, and in Subdivisions C, K and L of Division 9 of Part 4 of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Thursday, May 2, 2019, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:

Division 15

Division 15 of Part 4 seeks to enact the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, which would create a new regulatory regime governing immigration and citizenship consultants. It would provide that the purpose of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants is to regulate immigration and citizenship consultants by maintaining a high ethical, educational and language standard among consultants.

Your committee acknowledges that, through these changes, the Government of Canada would be taking a significant step towards strengthening consumer protection and supporting those consultants who provide ethical and sound services in a growing industry. Your committee supports the creation of a fee guide to provide guidance to clients and consultants on the appropriate costs for consulting services.

Your committee recommends that the new proposed College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants work closely and collaborate with the Bar associations across Canada to clarify the scope of work of consultants.

Your committee urges the government to set a deadline by which current consultants who are grandfathered into the new proposed regime must obtain the same level of certification and education as newer consultants with the goal of establishing a standard level of qualifications within the proposed College.

Lastly, your committee recommends that an independent review be conducted within two to five years of the implementation of this new proposed regulatory regime governing immigration and citizenship consultants, with the goal of assessing its effectiveness at protecting the public.

Division 16

Division 16 of Part 4 seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to, among other things, introduce a new ground of ineligibility for refugee protection if a claimant has previously made a claim for refugee protection in another country with which Canada has a data-sharing agreement.

Your committee questions why the Government of Canada has embedded a substantive piece of proposed legislation in a budget bill, which limits Parliament’s ability to conduct a detailed examination of a legislative amendment that will have profound effects on a vulnerable population group.

Your committee welcomes the amendment made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, which would allow for a mandatory hearing at the pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA).  However, some witnesses expressed serious concerns that the PRRA is not equivalent to an independent refugee determination process.  A PRRA hearing is unlikely to be of the same quality, thoroughness and effectiveness as an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing (IRB).  Some witnesses suggested that instead of providing funding and resources to the untested enhanced PRRA, the Government of Canada should invest in the existing IRB.

Your committee is concerned that the new proposed ground of ineligibility for refugee protection could negatively affect certain groups of refugee claimants, including women who are escaping domestic violence, individuals from the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community, and individuals escaping gang-related violence.

Your committee recommends that the Government of Canada consider delaying the implementation of these proposed changes until the immigration and refugee system is properly prepared and resourced, including through the provision of appropriate and timely training to PRRA officers to conduct hearings.

Furthermore, your committee recommends that there would be an automatic stay on the removal of refugee claimants who receive a negative PRRA decision pending a possible leave for judicial review of the PRRA results by the Federal Court.

Lastly, your committee recommends that the Government of Canada conduct a review of these proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to be held one-year after implementation, with the goal of determining the impact on refugee claims in Canada.

Divisions 18

Division 18 of Part 4 seeks to amend the National Housing Act to allow Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to acquire an interest or right in a housing project that is occupied or intended to be occupied by the owner of the project and to make an investment to acquire such an interest or right. These amendments will support CMHC’s proposed First-Time Home Buyer Incentive outlined in Budget 2019.

Your committee is concerned that the details for First-Time Home Buyer Incentive are not yet clearly established, which makes it challenging for your committee to provide observations on Division 18.

Your committee asks that the following concerns be considered by the Government of Canada when establishing the final details for the proposed First-Time Home Buyer Incentive:

·  The incentive may not be available to many first-time home-buyers in regions with high average costs for housing. Based on some of the current qualifying requirements (maximum household income threshold is set at $125,000 or less per year and the loan to income threshold is set at 4 to 1), the incentive may not be useful for first-time home-buyers in housing markets where the average housing cost is above $500,000.

· The incentive’s qualifying conditions do not include individuals beyond first-time home-buyers who are also in need of assistance in purchasing a home, such as seniors who must downsize.

· The incentive may increase the number of home-buyers at a rate beyond the increase in housing supply, which could then lead to the unintended consequence of raising housing prices.

Division 19

Division 19 of Part 4 seeks to enact the National Housing Strategy Act. That Act provides for, among other things, the development and maintenance of a national housing strategy, the establishment of a National Housing Council and the appointment of a Federal Housing Advocate.

Your committee recognizes the significance of the proposed National Housing Strategy Act, which would provide a pragmatic and workable strategy to address housing need and homelessness in Canada while upholding Canada’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Division 20

Division 20 of Part 4 seeks to enact the Poverty Reduction Act, which would provide official metrics – including the Official Poverty Line – to measure the level of poverty in Canada; set out two poverty reduction targets; and establish the National Advisory Council on Poverty.

Your committee acknowledges that poverty affects people from every region across Canada, and that certain groups experience disproportionately high rates of poverty.

Your committee recommends that the metrics used to measure the level of poverty in Canada in the proposed Poverty Reduction Act include data disaggregated by both region and identity groups. Your committee heard that the poverty reduction targets in clause 6 should apply not only to the general population in Canada, but also to specific groups who are disproportionately affected by high rates of poverty.

Your committee acknowledges that while there are a number of population groups that are vulnerable to poverty, children are particularly defenseless because they are dependent on their parents, family and community. Your committee recognizes that children may experience long-lasting harmful effects when they grow up in poverty, which could lead to obstacles in attaining economic security and perpetuate the damaging cycle of poverty.

Your committee is concerned that, given their developmental requirements, the unique needs of children are not adequately addressed in the proposed Poverty Reduction Act. Your committee observes that the proposed Act would benefit from child-specific poverty reduction targets and from requirements to include metrics that are sensitive to child development.

Your committee is concerned that the proposed Poverty Reduction Act fails to provide a coherent path toward addressing poverty in Canada beyond 2030. The proposed target of reducing poverty by 50% by 2030 compared to the 2015 level would still leave an estimated one in 17 Canadians living in poverty.

Additionally, your committee believes that metrics complementing the Official Poverty Line should include a measure of income inequality in order to provide a more balanced concept of poverty. Your committee is concerned that those Canadians who are at the deepest levels of poverty are least likely to break the cycle of poverty and will fall further behind other Canadians.

As with Division 16, your committee questions why the Government of Canada has embedded a significant piece of proposed legislation in a budget bill, which limits Parliament’s ability to thoroughly examine the amendments.

Subdivision C of Division 9

Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4 amends the Food and Drugs Act to improve safety and enable innovation.  Your committee recognizes that the proposed amendments are a positive step forward. However, your committee would like to see ongoing evaluation of the new provisions to ensure proper implementation and identification of potential negative outcomes.

Subdivisions K and L of Division 9

Your committee does not have any comments on Subdivisions K and L of Division 9 of Part 4.

Respectfully submitted,

CHANTAL PETITCLERC

Chair