CACN - Minister opening remarks - Nov 16, 2020

To the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations (CACN)
November 16, 2020
840 words (8–9 minutes)
Appearance following announcement

Introduction

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for asking me to join you today. I am delighted to be here.

Accompanying me are Dr. Nicole Giles, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations Sector, and Natasha Kim, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy Sector.

Canada remains deeply concerned about the imposition of the new National Security Law on Hong Kong, including recent developments in the legislative council. This country shares many close ties with Hong Kong and we continue to stand with the people there.

Accordingly, as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I continue to work with my Cabinet colleagues, especially Minister Champagne, to address this situation and coordinate any responses we may consider.

Levels

We’ve recently announced our new levels plan for the next three years, which will continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world to help spark our recovery, and drive Canada’s economy forward.

Over the course of Canada’s history, immigration has not only helped us to grow, but also to create jobs—one in three businesses with employees in Canada is owned by an immigrant.

And as we’ve fought back against the pandemic, Canadians have been grateful for the service and sacrifices made by newcomers who have played an outsized role in our response: a third of health professionals in key roles—like family doctors and pharmacists—come from abroad.

So as we look to recovery, and building the workforce that Canada needs for a prosperous future, we will continue to look for highly skilled people from around the world.

Measures

In this context, I recently announced a number of measures for students and youth from Hong Kong, as well as a number of enhancements to Canada’s existing immigration programs, which remain available to those living in Hong Kong and can provide pathways to settling in Canada.

These measures support the objectives of our new levels plan, as we seek to attract the world’s best and brightest.

To attract Hong Kongers from abroad, we are going to fast-track work permits for those with recent graduate experience who wish to come to Canada to work or continue their studies.

This will allow recent graduates in Hong Kong to apply for an expedited open work permit, valid for up to three years. Eligible applicants must have graduated from a recognized Canadian or overseas post-secondary learning institution in the last five years.

If approved, their spouse or partner, as well as children, will also be eligible to apply for a study or work permit.

Of course, we don't just want them to work or study in Canada temporarily. We want them to consider staying on, which is why we will create two new permanent residence pathways under this initiative.

Once eligible under the open three-year work permit, Hong Kongers may then qualify under either stream one or two, or existing PR programs.

These measures represent an exciting opportunity to welcome Hong Kongers who can help to build our country going forward. We plan to welcome the first recent graduates under this program in early 2021.

PRRA / Asylum

Foreign nationals including Hong Kong residents in Canada continue to have access to the asylum system.

All eligible asylum claimants are afforded due process and the opportunity to make their case for needing Canada’s protection.

In addition, due to changing conditions in Hong Kong that could put some individuals at risk, we have implemented an exemption to the 12-month bar on a pre-removal risk assessment, or PRRA, for Hong Kong nationals.

Under normal circumstances, individuals who received a negative decision on their refugee claim, or on a previous PRRA application, would not be eligible to apply for a PRRA for at least 12 months.

Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution who have fled to another country may also be eligible under Canada’s existing resettlement programs, including the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and the Government-Assisted Refugees Program.

Admissibility

Canada supports the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. Taking part in peaceful protests is not considered an offence in Canada.

As such, arrests or convictions outside Canada for taking part in peaceful protests are not grounds for inadmissibility to Canada.

No one will be disqualified from making a legitimate asylum claim in Canada by virtue of having been charged under the new national security law. Neither will they be hindered in any way from availing themselves under any other immigration route.

Conclusion

As you know, the Prime Minister has committed to a whole-of-government response to China’s national security law in Hong Kong. The measures I recently announced complement measures the government previously announced.

By introducing new immigration measures that also complement those of our international partners, as well as building on our existing programs and pathways, we are providing options and opportunities for Hong Kong residents that support Canada’s economic growth.

We will continue to support the many connections between Canada and Hong Kong, while also standing up for its people.

Thank you for asking me to join you today. We would be happy to take your questions.

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