The following is a partial transcript from the hearings conducted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in Montreal, Friday May 4, 2001 on Bill C-11, An Act respecting immigration to Canada. Attorney Colin R. Singer appeared before this committee and provided the following opening statement:
Me Colin R. Singer (Law Offices of (xxx—à vérifier) Colin R. Singer, Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration):
Bonjour. Membres du comité et collègues,
my name is Colin Singer, and I’m an immigration attorney, a member of the
Barreau du Québec,
in my fourteenth year practising immigration law.
I thank you for extending an invitation to me today, this being my second time appearing before this committee in the past two years.
I apologize in that I, too, wish to begin my five-minute presentation by quoting a noted American politician. Adlai Stevenson was an author and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1960, who while governor of Illinois, said in a speech in 1952, he said, “Public confidence in the integrity of government is indispensible to faith in democracy and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight for”.
I submit to you that the administration and integrity of this Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration consultation process must not be compromised, or seen to be at best a mere exercise in formality. As duly elected members of Parliament, I urge each of the members of this committee to carefully and judiciously consider the 90-plus submissions made by a broad spectrum of entities form east coast to west coast, many of whom are highly respected stakeholders in the field and who validly question many, many aspects of Bill C-11. In so doing, you can maintain loyalty to your government and as well to the people of this great, great country.
I personally find it very questionable that the minister, who on March 1 before this committee, as well as on other occasions in the public spotlight, has suggested that Bill C-11 is balanced, while publicly stating her intention to report back to committee by the end of May, with the hopes of having this bill go through third and final reading before summer recess period.
I ask you, committee members, on your first and only day in the province of Quebec, which as you know represents 23% of this country, how can you possibly carry out your mandate effectively under such conditions?
Bill C-11 is being marketed by the department as getting tough on criminals. You can look at the mission statement and it is very pervasive throughout this particular process. Immigration is not about criminality. In the United States, immigration is under the justice department, but in Canada immigration does not fall under our justice system. Immigration in this country is addressing negative birth rates, declining death rates
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Immigration does not fall under our justice system. Immigration in this country is addressing negative birthrates, declining death rates, an aging population and devising effective policy to ensure our population increase, a major factor towards continued economic prosperity for a very small country and population covering a very large land mass. This department is marketing this C-11 as a getting-tough-on-criminality document, and I agree that it’s a sensitive issue and Canadians like to hear we are getting tough on criminals. Who would not want to be tough on criminals?
C-11, secondly, focuses on strengthening efforts to attract skilled workers. The mission statement of C-11 fails to address the equally important goals of keeping skilled workers in this country. As a practitioner, I am well aware that a significant portion of our clientele will inevitably and often become the brain-drain casualty, by looking to the south of us—the United States of America—at the very earliest opportunity. Many of such individuals never intend to utilize permanent residence and who merely comprise a portion of the statistical measure of the 225,000 landings that our department doesn’t let you forget how many people they are bringing to the country, but who really never establish residence in this great country. It is far too premature to be coining the phrase, as our minister has done, in her March 1 submission to you, she is now coining the phrase “inventory of people” wishing to come to Canada. Now she’s comfortable replacing “inventory of people” with the term that we have known so well
“backlog of applications in process”.
I think you have before you many concerns, and I’d call them flaws, that will serve, in my view, to diminish the “made in Canada” label of Canadian permanent residents. You have been apprised of flaws in the areas of compelled examinations, rights of permanent residents, the downloading of authority to regulations, which will be shielded from you in the future if you allow Bill C-11 to go through in its format. You will be taking away the role of your fellow parliamentarians to scrutinize future legislative enactments. The substance of C-11 is clearly in the regulations. It’s unprecedented. C-ll is merely a skeleton shell and we do not know where this department is going.
I am concerned with the judicial review of decisions which will be severely tempered under C-11. With some 800-plus judicial review applications out of many thousands and thousands of applications, why is the department doing this? Why do they want to shelter their internal workings from an impartial, judicial review process with such clear objective of making it difficult to question the workings of the decision makers? We need checks and balances. It’s a necessary part of our democratic process.
You know that there are 210 Canadian visa officers posted abroad and more than 1,000 locally engaged staff, many with the designation of “immigration officer”. These are non-Canadians. These people are making decisions on who comes to our country. They will be shielded. Their decisions will be shielded under C-11 with the severe removal of a fair judicial review process, or a temperament, their decisions will be shielded.
I find it very questionable that this department continues to engage non-Canadians. I can submit to you instances and instances of corruption and malfeasance at Canadian missions abroad. This department has
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that this department continues to engage non-Canadians. I can submit to you instances and instances of corruption and malfeasance at Canadian missions abroad. This department has great difficulty in managing its immigration infrastructure abroad. They have chosen to use the services of non-Canadians. I find you must take serious cognizance of these elements that are now before you in Bill C-11. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Singer. Let me just before I go to questions and I want to thank all of you for some great presentations. Some new information, some other some information has been repeated. I want to just address a couple of points, Mr. Singer, as it relates to our responsibility as a committee. First and foremost you’re absolutely right. The committee intends to take the time that is required and the due diligence that is required in order to make sure that we get the balance right, and the bill well, in good form.
There’s no doubt that our immigration bill twenty-five years ago and our refugee has served this country very well. Therefore, we’ll take the time that’s required. I can only tell you that this new immigration bill has been four years in the making. It’s been on and off, but it’s been four years in the making. There’s been a tremendous amount of consultation. In fact this committee will hear on C-11 or C-31 something like 154 submissions from across the country as you indicated. So people are engaged, people are very important. I would agree on this, and I’ll leave it at this, that it is unfortunate that perhaps may be the department, or maybe the media has tried to label this bill as tough on crime.
In actual fact I’d like to characterize it, and the government would like to characterize it is that we are opening our doors wider to more immigrants to come to this country. Based on what you’ve indicated are the values and the requirements of this country. While, and I’m sure that’s going to be part of the debate I just want to tell you from my standpoint the marketing of this bill is about more immigrants, more immigration, more protection for refugees, and yes we need to be concerned about criminality and security. But at the end of the day I think all of us might agree that in 99.99% of the cases people who have come to this country either by choice in terms of immigration, or by necessity through refugee claims have in fact brought great value to this country.
Sometimes the preoccupation of the media and others will focus on that .001% as opposed to telling about the happy stories and the great stories of the people who have made some great contributions over the hundred years to this country, and specifically even to this province. So I thank you, but I want to let you know that the process we’re going to take the time that we need. We’re hearing witnesses. We intend to start clause-by-clause study based on the input that we’ve had. There have been excellent suggestions so far, even by our own committee members, as well as the public as to how we might improve the bill. I can guarantee you that at the end of the day that I as the Chair and this committee are not going to pass a bill that I don’t believe will have the support, it will not have the support of the Canadian people. At the end of the day that’s who in fact are who our primary stakeholders are. I’ll move immediately to Inky Mark for a five minute round.