Response to Parliamentary Committees and External Audits

Response to parliamentary committees

Strengthening the Protection of Women in our Immigration System

In February 2014, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration decided to study how to strengthen the integrity of spousal sponsorship. In particular, the Committee agreed to examine

  1. ways to ensure sponsored spouses have the skills they need to succeed in Canada, including actions the Government has taken or plans to take to ensure vulnerable spouses are protected and have the skills they need to succeed independently;
  2. how to better prevent vulnerable women from being victimized by an abusive sponsor, and as a consequence any potential penalties to the sponsor; and
  3. what peer countries have done to protect women in spousal sponsorship programs. Areas of study included forced marriages, polygamy, proxy marriages, immigrant women in the work force and helping women break out of isolationism.

In February 2015, Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration presented its report and five recommendations. Generally, the report recommended that the Government take steps to:

  • increase the minimum age for sponsored spouses from 16 to 18 years;
  • expand pre-arrival orientation to ensure sponsored spouses receive information in a language they understand and to ensure that the topics covered include gender equality, women’s rights, their legal rights, what constitutes abuse in Canada and how to seek help;
  • evaluate conditional permanent resident status and monitor the number and outcome of abuse exception requests, percentage of tips that result in removal, and incidence of reported abuse within these sponsorships with a view to understanding the effect of this policy instrument on domestic abuse and its effectiveness in terms of addressing marriages of convenience;
  • amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, section 72.1(6) to include forced marriage as a ground for exception from the condition on permanent resident status; and
  • assess the CIC designated help-line for victims of domestic violence to ensure that victims have timely and efficient assistance in their usual language.

The Government of Canada response to the committee report was tabled on Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

Seizing the Opportunity: The role of communities in a constantly changing immigration system

In April 2013, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages undertook a study of the impacts of changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities. In particular, the study focused mainly on legislative or regulatory amendments, orders in council, reallocation of expenditures and ministerial instructions that were implemented by the end of 2014. The committee noted that in some cases, the changes had a direct impact on the language component of existing immigration policies. In other cases, the committee found that broader transformations may have affected official language minority communities or may affect them in the future.

Through its hearings, the Committee noted that the following key idea emerged from the public hearings: communities must seize the opportunities that arise in a constantly changing immigration system. The Committee observed that for its part, the federal government must fully implement Part VII of the Official Languages Act and section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. With this in mind, the committee presented a series of recommendations to urge the Government to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities and to support and assist their development.

The Government of Canada response to the committee report was tabled in the Senate on Friday, June 26, 2015

Response to the Auditor General (including to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled an audit report on October 7, 2014, entitled “Audit of Departmental Progress in Implementing Sustainable Development Strategies.”

The audit was government-wide and not specific to CIC. The audit objective was to determine whether selected departments and two central agencies have mechanisms in place to support compliance with important aspects of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals and its related guidelines, and to ensure that environmental implications and considerations are integrated into proposals submitted to an individual minister or to Cabinet for approval.

The Office of the Auditor General examined a selection of memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions from five departments during the 2012 and 2013 calendar years.Footnote 1 The audit covered the period between September 2010 and June 2014.

There were two recommendations that impacted CIC:

  • CIC should review its strategic environmental assessment processes to ensure that the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals and its related guidelines are applied to proposals submitted to ministers.
  • CIC should ensure that it is appropriately concluding on the need to complete a detailed strategic environmental assessment when assessing the environmental implications of each policy, plan and program proposal.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s response:

  • CIC has defined “proposals” as memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions, and has long-standing processes and mechanisms in place to ensure that proposals have been appropriately assessed pursuant to the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The Department will review its processes to assess potential situations where any other proposals would be subject to the Cabinet directive and will benchmark with other departments on their definition of “proposal” to ensure consistency with the Cabinet directive.
  • CIC has put a process in place to review all preliminary scans to ensure that there is sufficient documentation to support the decision to proceed or to require a full sustainable development assessment. This will support monitoring of departmental compliance with the Cabinet directive.

External audits conducted by the Public Service Commission of Canada or the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

No such audits were completed in 2014–15.

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