While the debate on the report recommending Senator Meredith be expelled was pending, Senate Question Period rolled around, with special guest star Citizenship and Immigration minister Ahmed Hussen in the hot seat. Senator Smith led off on the issue of Bill C-6, which seeks to repeal the provisions that would strip citizenship from those dual-nationals convicted of terrorism. Hussen starting off by remarking that this was an election promise, that they didn’t believe that the same crimes should have different outcomes based largely on where one’s parents came from, and additionally, revoking that citizenship would be tantamount to exporting terrorism, where they can return to hurt Canada abroad. He added that citizenship should not be used as a tool for punishment, which should be role of the justice system. On his supplemental, Smith mentioned two Canadians added to the US terror watch list, and Hussen reiterated that criminals should be dealt with using the justice system, and that it creates unequal treatment which devalues Canadian citizenship.
Senator Lang followed up, first dissembling on the terrorism issue, and when other senators got impatient, he wanted assurances that 17 permanent residents convicted of terrorism not get citizenship. Hussen assured him that there is no right to citizenship, and permanent residents who engage in serious criminality become inadmissible to the country.
Senator Jaffer asked about Yazidis in Iraq, and wondered about how many had been brought to to Canada, and what was being done with allied countries. Hussen initially noted the careful planning of the operation with the cooperation of Germany, and went on to talk about how we were exporting the notion of privately sponsored refugee programmes.
Senator McCoy was up next, worrying about the planned closure of the Vegreville, Alberta, immigration processing centre. Hussen noted that the centre was important, the issue was about the future, and that office had challenges with recruitment and bilingual staffing, which was why they wanted to move it to Edmonton while trying to preserve the jobs.
Senator McPhedran asked about problems with immigration case work around women claiming asylum, where there is a lot of indifference by decision makers. Hussen spoke at length about engaging with the IRB on policy matters but it was an independent body, but he was happy to take another look at the issue.
Senator Oh asked about citizenship laws unfairly discriminating against vulnerable children who can’t apply for citizenship due to circumstances beyond their control. Hussen said that the current laws do allow for a waiver to be requested, but he assured Oh that he would consider his amendment on the issue in C-6.
Note: Senator Oh is a slow reader. #SenQP
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) May 2, 2017
Senator Ataullahjan asked about the government evaluation of the integration of Syrian refugees, and the concerns raised by the Senate committee on that issue, particularly around employment and language training. Hussen noted that these new refugees are integrating at the same pace and in the same manner as previous waves, before he listed some of their financial commitments and praised private sector commitments to assisting.
Senator Downe asked about the visa requirement for Mexico and the number of asylum claimants rising. Hussen noted the importance of the visa lift for bilateral relations as well as economic benefits with both tourism and business travel, and noted that they are working with the Mexican government to monitor the situation.
Overall, it was a fairly slow and quiet proceeding, as Hussen is not an excitable speaker – much to the complaint of the other journalist in the gallery with me, who claimed she was struggling to stay awake. Nevertheless, Hussen gave full answers and wasn’t simply reciting talking points as others have in the past. At the same time, he didn’t really appear to be talking out the clock (though the same cannot be said of a couple of senators in their questioning), which meant that for the most part, there was decent flow to the exchanges, though there could have been a couple of shorter ones in order to get a couple more questions in.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Senator Salma Ataullahjan for a cream blouse with a long red jacket with military-style black button detailing down the front and half-sleeves with a pink print trim on the cuffs and hem, and to Senator Kelvin Ogilvie for a dark grey suit with a white striped shirt and a red tie. Style citations go out to Senator David Tkachuk for a medium blue jacket with a tan checked shirt and no tie, and to Senator Lucie Moncion for an off-white boxy jacket with a black forest print across it.