Former Director says Ministers’ many visa recommendations was no big deal

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Updated: January 25, 2017

In her report, the Auditor General revealed that ministers such as the then Immigration Minister, Elvin Penner, were submitting a substantial amount of visa recommendations and nationalities. Even recognizing that fact, Meighan said she did not see it fit to establish a procedure to prevent ministers from making those questionable recommendations.

Senator Elena Smith

“We were told by your deputy in the time Ms. Marin that she had thought important to keep a record and she had sent us a listing of those ministers and she sent I believe two or three sets, one I think had about 191 names on it and the other had about 200 plus names on there where she had kept those numbers to show how many times Ministers or drivers or CEOs were going into the office and I’ll just give you an example. We saw where Minister Penner had made 51 requests, the first time of the 191, 51 requests and in the second batch of 248 he made 92 request, a total of 143. Minister Castro made a total of 80. 35 came from Minister Saldivar and the list goes on. Do you think that having something of that sort would have enabled you to make some sort of additional recommendation or maybe put in place additional policy to strengthen what was going on at your department? “

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I didn’t see the need to keep a record of those recommenders so I really can’t comment on it because at the time I just didn’t keep a record of it. I don’t know whether there was any check done for a person who recommends an individual to say that they know them for x amount of years, I don’t know if any further check was done on that.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Why would a minister write you with respect to a Chinese individual who obviously the Minister doesn’t know?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“My impression was that the Minister was writing on behalf of a person that he knows to say that he is supporting somebody from his constituency.”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“So if you saw somebody that was not an immediate family making a recommendation shouldn’t you have done something about it? Or were you allowed to break your own rules?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“As I said before that the basis upon which the approval was given was based on the recommendation from the officer stating that a person meets the requirement for them to be issued…

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“We’ve heard that a million times already but where I’m going is, your officers knew that it has to be immediate family, you knew it had to be immediate family so are you saying that besides the ministers letter of recommendation there would be a letter from the persons for whom they were making that recommendation on that person’s behalf ?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t know if there were any other letters, I cannot say that.”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“So then certainly the Minister is not related to these people.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“The minister couldn’t be related to everyone that he wrote a recommendation for.”

Meighan says she did not see it important to inform the Minister of Immigration about the very concerning pattern within the Immigration Department.

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“We’ve heard Ms. Elena make reference to those lists that Ms. Marin saw it fit, because she saw a red flag, she thought that the ministers that were constantly in the office, promoting and pushing papers or bringing papers and carrying papers and making recommendations that that was a red flag for her but you did not see that as a red flag? That did not concern you in any way.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“As I said before, the application comes to me with…”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“I understand that and I’ve heard that.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

But I’m saying to you that whether.

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“That’s not what I’m asking you. I’m asking you whether when you saw the Ministers that it did not raise a red flag for you, you were not concerned about it?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Because that was not the basis upon which I made my decision not the recommendation of the minister. They do make recommendation for visas and they follow up on applications for nationalities but I am saying to you that that was what it was.”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“I’m talking about the raising of this red flag that is what I’m talking about, I’m talking about your level of concern. In other words, Ms. Marin has told us that when she came to the department she saw this culture, she found this culture. She is your deputy and she became the director, one of the first things she saw it fit to do was to start keeping track of ministers who made these requests and recommendations but yet you were there during the period under audit, because remember this audit is very limited and only about 25% of the records were audited or three months’ worth in any given year so it’s only a small fraction of what was actually taking place yet you did not see it fit or concern to make any recommendations to improve because you said you made none. This did not raise any red flags to you because you sat behind your desk and you said “well once somebody else say that everything is there I’m going to sign it.” but you accepted responsibility. You were the person that was in charge of this department, your job was not a checker, you should not have sat behind your desk and checked that all the ticks were in and all the signatures were there and sign. Your job was to make sure that the place was properly managed and administrated, am I correct?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Yes.”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“And yet you did not make one single recommendation to improve that department when you were there.”