MP Michelle Rempel Announces Conservative Solutions to Trudeau's Immigration Failures

This post is from MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose-Hill, and Conservative immigration critic)

May 2, 2019

Last August, Canada’s Conservatives launched a tour to consult Canadians and stakeholders on immigration policy. Our Pathway to Canada tour has heard from industry groups, resettlement services providers, refugees sponsorship groups, provincial officials, newcomers themselves, and more.

These extensive consultations have concluded, and what we heard from Canadians and newcomers was clear:

The principles and policies announced by our party in August of last year were sound.

 We heard that Canadians want their immigration system to be managed in a fair, orderly, and compassionate manner. 

We also heard that Canadians overwhelming accept immigration when the system is functioning in this way, and that the debate on immigration should not be about “if”, but rather about how, who, and why.

We heard that Canadians want to know that every measure is being taken to ensure that the integrity of our borders is maintained. 

They want a system that ensures Canada’s economy has the labour that it needs to grow, while ensuring that Canadians have the first crack at jobs.

And, they want Canada to remain a safe and welcoming place for the world’s most vulnerable.

We’ve also heard loud and clear that Canada’s immigration system has been broken by Justin Trudeau’s fakeness and incompetence.

We heard concerns about:

The failure to ensure that processing standards are met for immigrants who want to come to Canada through legal channels;

About backlogs and delays in the system for legitimate refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution; 

About ballooning costs to manage the ongoing situation at Canada’s border with the United States; 

And about the need to fix the temporary foreign worker program.

These are just a few examples of the problems that have arisen under Justin Trudeau.

These are legitimate criticisms of Justin Trudeau’s record on immigration that many Canadians have expressed.

However, every time we try to raise valid criticisms on policy, instead of being met by a Prime Minister that accepts criticism and uses it to fix policy, Trudeau has chosen to use debate about the immigration system to level thinly veiled accusations of racism.

This is a dangerous, cynical, political tactic - one that has born fruit of real consequences for Canada’s immigration system and for those who unfortunately experience racism.

We should be able to have a debate in this country about how the immigration system works without Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party calling people who ask questions, racists and bigots.

This approach is cheapening public debate in this country – both on policy related to immigration and to addressing real instances of systemic racism experienced by many groups in Canada.

To be crystal clear, racism is a real issue that needs real solutions. Its not a topic to be shied away from, flirted with for votes, or tolerated. As our leader Andrew Scheer has made clear, there is no home in the Conservative Party of Canada for anti-immigrant or racist sentiment. Anyone who harbours those beliefs does not have a political home in our movement, because Canada’s Conservatives will always vigorously defend a pluralism based on Canadian freedoms, compassion, understanding, self sufficiency, and rule of law.

Canadians deserve an honest debate on immigration, and that is what Canada’s Conservatives will continue to fight for.

This is why in the launch of the Pathways to Canada tour, Canada’s Conservatives clearly stated the principles by which a Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer would address immigration policy. 

We would oversee an immigration system that is fair, orderly, and compassionate.

We would seek to ensure that newcomers to Canada, like so many who have already done so, integrate into the Canadian economic and social fabric. The Conservative Party believes this principle is key to sustaining Canada’s pluralism, and that the best way to do this is to encourage and enable newcomers to become self-sufficient, learn one of Canada’s official languages, and have a deep held understanding and respect for Canadian rule of law.

We would ensure our humanitarian immigration system prioritizes the world’s most vulnerable, and that our intake numbers reflect the cost reality of supporting the integration of those who have fled extreme persecution.

And, we would directly link the number and skills of people seeking to enter Canada for economic reasons, to the needs of Canada’s economy.

These principles have already been demonstrated in our time in Opposition during this Parliament.

In the last four years, despite Justin Trudeau’s rhetoric, three immigration and border Ministers, multiple Parliamentary Secretaries and two Liberal Chairs of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Conservatives have been consistently effective in exposing and correcting unfairness and injustice in the immigration system.

We forced the government to finally help Yazidi genocide survivors.

We made Justin Trudeau reverse his decision to remove female genital mutilation from Canada’s Citizenship Guide.

We made them admit that policies related to caregivers and temporary workers are unfair and abusive.

We ended the disastrous lottery system created by Justin Trudeau for the parent and grandparent sponsorship program. 

We exposed the massive cost and failures of their #WelcomeToCanada Roxham Road express entry program.

These are only a few examples of how Conservatives have affected positive change in the immigration system in the last four years. 

For the remainder of this session, we will focus on several immigration issues Justin Trudeau has yet to address.

First, cracking down on predatory immigration consultants.

For nearly three years, Conservatives have been trying to get action to address the mismanagement of Canada’s immigration consulting system.

Across governments, stories of abuse and exploitation of newcomers at the hands of unscrupulous immigration consultants have shocked Canadians. Conservatives forced a study on the issue, and a vote in Parliament, to recognize this issue and change the current mismanaged self-regulating system that has done little to address these concerns.

In the Liberal’s recent omnibus budget, they announced a new self-governing body to manage immigration consultants, which will do little to fix the systemic problems raised in multiple studies on the issue.

Second, we’re making sure that newcomers are actually helped.

We know from the Immigration Department’s own documents that Liberal support services aren’t working. 

For example, while the goal is for 100% of permanent resident business lines to adhere to service standards, in 2017-18, only 43% met the bare minimum service standards. 

From the same report, we learnt that for those who use federal language training programs, the number of newcomers who improve their official language skills is actually declining. 

Also, self-sufficiency has been removed as a value for Privately Sponsored Refugees, and the overall financial support system needed to sustain many refugees has not been budgeted for or addressed, with costs being shunted down the line to provincial governments, without any thought to Canadian taxpayers or refugees themselves.

This must improve.

Third, the ongoing lawsuit over visa centres.

We have learned that Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have once again interfered in a government contract.

The Liberal government now faces a $195-million lawsuit by bidders accusing the Liberals of acting in bad faith by rejecting a bid for the operation of Canada’s Visa application centres around the world at no cost to Canadian taxpayers. 

This is just the latest example of what appears to be a pattern of Liberals failing to follow the rules, with allegations that evidence and documents have been destroyed or withheld.

Finally, last but not least, the crisis caused by the ongoing illegal border crossing issue at Roxham Road.

After spending the last three years demonizing and personally attacking Conservatives over this issue, the Liberals still don’t have a plan to fix the problem. Their officials have told us in a Committee that the Liberals have not given any direction to implement processes that would close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement. The welcome centre at Roxham Road remains, and millions of dollars are being spent on social welfare programs for people who have illegally entered Canada from the United States to claim asylum in our country.

Their inaction has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and the backlogs this delay has created will have lasting impacts on the immigration system for years to come. 

In fact, the backlog at the Immigration Refugee Board has ballooned to multiple year wait times, with a 72,000 case backlog, and system changes to the IRB process that threaten the integrity of our review process and have actually created pull factors into our system.

Conservatives are the only ones with a plan to restore fairness, order, and compassion to Canada’s immigration system that puts the world’s most vulnerable people first. 

I also look forward to the Auditor General’s Report on this issue next week.

In closing, I want to talk about the Conservative vision for Canada’s immigration system.

Again, we believe the system must absolutely work in an orderly, fair and compassionate manner, because we know this is the only way Canadians can continue to have confidence in both the immigration system, and Canada’s reputation as a welcoming place for newcomers seeking a better life. 

We know how important it is for newcomers to be able to bring their families to our great country in an orderly and planned manner.

They have a right to expect that if they play by the rules this will happen in a fair and quick manner. Canadians also have the right to know that our asylum system is not being abused or exploited.

We also know how important it is to welcome newcomers who want to contribute to the Canadian economy. Again, this needs to be done in a transparent way that is underscored by strong labour market data and tied directly to the needs of the Canadian economy, while ensuring that Canadians have the first crack at jobs.

Many parts of our country desperately need new talent and additional labour, and our immigration system should be able to respond to these needs in a transparent, efficient and predictable manner, while ensuring that Canadians have a crack at these jobs.

Finally, Conservatives believe that Canada has a duty to help and assist the world’s most vulnerable refugees. 

Those are the principles that we will continue to fight for in the coming weeks.

In addition, we will fight for the policies we announced in August.

We will end the politics of setting immigration levels. Instead of treating immigration levels like an auction for votes, either on the left or the right, we will set the number of people who can enter Canada based on the needs of the Canadian economy, and our capacity to integrate humanitarian immigrants. We would do this in a transparent fashion on an annual basis, in consultation with resettlement services providers, industry groups, and provincial governments. This will prevent processing backlogs, provide honest information to newcomers and Canadians alike, allow industry groups to accurately forecast labour supply, and allow us to budget for resettlement services while ensuring the needs of Canadians are met.

We will completely revamp Canada’s low skilled temporary foreign worker program to ensure that Canadians get the first crack at jobs in our country while ensuring that wage distortion and worker abuse are prevented, and also ensuring that industry groups who have a legitimate need for the program face reduced barriers. Most importantly, to allow those to enter Canada as low skilled workers as justified by concrete labour market data are offered a permanent path to residency. We feel this reform is needed to allow those who are currently using Canada’s asylum system to enter Canada for economic reasons, a clear alternative path to enter Canada that is focused on integration and self-sufficiency, and to allow our asylum system to be focused on those who are facing legitimate persecution.

We will dissemble the permanency of Trudeau’s express entry system at Roxham Road, by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, and going further by entering Canada into discussions with G7 countries onto a global safe third-country system. This is already happening, to a certain extent, in Europe with the Dublin Agreement renegotiation.

We will revamp Canada’s resettlement services system to better support immigration and manage integration outcomes, because dollars spent isn’t a metric for measuring integration into Canada’s social and economic fabric.

We will establish a program of more formal ties with provincial governments to ensure that immigration meets provincial labour needs and doesn’t provide unbudgeted strain on provincial social programs.

We will reform Canada’s refugee resettlement programs to prioritize government sponsored spaces for victims of the four atrocity crimes and to encourage and facilitate greater use of the Privately-Sponsored Refugee Program. We would also push for reform within the United Nations to allow better resettlement response to internally-displaced persons to prevent the failure of the global community to the Yazidis of Iraq from occurring again, and we would ensure that Canada uses its legislative authority to do so within our own programs if the international community won’t do so.

We will examine programs to expedite the reunion of genocide survivors who have resettled to Canada, such as the one we have advocated for with the Yazidi community.

We will establish a new mechanism to oversee the immigration consultant profession to better prevent fraud and abuse of newcomers.  

We now only have six weeks left in Parliament before the summer. 

We will continue to ask questions and point out Liberal incompetence and poor judgment on this file.

And I call on Justin Trudeau today to stop exploiting this issue for political gain by deliberately inflaming tensions that exist.

Canada’s Conservatives will continue to lead a positive, constructive debate on immigration – one that brings and restores order, fairness and compassion to our system – and we will leave identity politics and cheap, dangerous rhetoric to the other parties.

Thank you.

Greg McLeanComment