Canada’s Auditor General hammered our MP this week. Ahmed Hussen’s department took fire for a very poor response to refugee claims and an increasing backlog of claimants. Hussen, however, said that the situation was the fault of the Conservative government of three years ago, due to an increasing number of refugee claims, and being dealt with by new processes.
The AG said that immigration bureaucrats were unprepared for the surge in claimants that started in 2017. Bureaucrats use paper files and faxes instead of electronic records, and they hold hearings inefficiently, she said. As a result, wait times increased from 60 days to two years.
Ahmed Hussen said in response that they have new processes in place. He also said:
We have inherited an asylum system that was seriously underfunded by the Harper conservatives. That system was inefficient, and it simply wasn’t funded…. In addition to that the scheduling changes and and some of the measures they put in place actually made things worse. Some arbitrary timelines that they imposed on the Immigration refugee board resulted in thousands of people being held in limbo for many, many years. For years and years, the previous government didn’t fund the system… they actually put together some half-baked reforms in 2012…. So we had to deal with that in addition to rising volumes.
The AG disagrees.
- She said that the funding problems were the Liberals’ alone.
- The Conservatives belatedly gave their departments enough money to cover the claims they faced (s. 2.24) and were dealing with the backlog (s. 2.15) that worsened under the Liberals (s. 2.18).
- Funding is still not sufficient, and “the backlog and wait times will continue to grow”. She expects wait times to reach 5 years if the number of claimants remains steady (s. 2.26).
- The “arbitrary timeline” was a 60-day mandatory timeline to hear asylum claims, and it was developed in response to a backlog of claims less serious than the Liberals face now (s. 2.15).
Hussen also said “Last year the … board processed 32,000 claims, the highest they’ve done since 2012.” That is good news—but 55,000 claims were made. The backlog, in other words, wasn’t solved; it worsened.
Michelle Rempel, Hussen’s Conservative critic, said, “I cannot believe that six weeks left in parliament after four years that they are coming out here and saying it’s Stephen Harper’s fault…. it was only under this government that those timelines were abandoned. This government should be taking responsibility for that issue.”