Senator Marilou McPhedran and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan will testify at the House of Commons immigration committee about what the government says were inauthentic Canadian travel documents sent to Afghans by the senator’s office in 2021.
Both politicians confirmed their co-operation after the committee passed a motion late Monday to probe the issue.
“I will be pleased to attend if a possible date and time can be found,” Ms. McPhedran said in a brief statement to The Globe and Mail.
Members of Parliament on the committee also called for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and former foreign minister Marc Garneau to testify.
Mr. Mendicino was immigration minister during the scramble to save Afghans vulnerable to the Taliban almost two years ago, when the fundamentalist regime came to power. On Wednesday, his office would not say whether he would appear, saying they were awaiting further details.
Mr. Garneau recently resigned his seat in the House and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The committee agreement to study the issue comes six months after Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner first called for a probe.
Some of the Afghans who received the inauthentic letters are family members of one of her constituents. Ms. Rempel Garner has previously said the Afghans were left stranded for more than a year because of the letters.
Ms. McPhedran has defended her actions, saying her office sent hundreds of Afghans the documents, called visa facilitation letters, in good faith. The letters were not themselves visas but said individuals named on them had been granted a visa. They were created by Ottawa to try and ensure access for eligible Afghans to the Kabul airport. In an affidavit filed as part of a related lawsuit, Ms. McPhedran said she believed she had been authorized to use the documents.
However, the federal government has said no official documents were sent by third parties and the immigration department launched a probe into their use, determined they were inauthentic and referred the matter to police.
The February affidavit from Ms. McPhedran said the senator’s office received a template of two visa facilitation letters from George Young, who was Mr. Sajjan’s chief of staff during the scramble in the summer of 2021 to rescue Afghans at risk of the Taliban. She said her office then issued approximately 640 of those letters to Afghans trying to leave the country.
The original motion from Ms. Rempel Garner included a summons for Mr. Young to testify along with Laura Robinson, who worked with Ms. McPhedran. But the NDP, with the support of the Liberals and Bloc Québécois, removed that section of the motion before it was passed by the committee.
Mr. Young has declined to provide any comment to The Globe about Ms. McPhedran’s allegations, citing the possibility of his being called to committee. On Tuesday, he again declined to comment, despite not being called as a witness.
NDP MP Jenny Kwan told the committee she believed they should start with the ministers who were responsible at the time and could revisit the witness list if needed.
Ms. Rempel Garner told The Globe the NDP watered down her original proposal. She said Mr. Young’s absence is particularly significant given that he appears to have been a “central figure” in the matter.
Mr. Sajjan was defence minister in 2021 and has previously declined to say whether he knew Mr. Young sent Canadian government travel documents to Ms. McPhedran’s office.
The immigration committee has set a deadline for all witnesses to appear by the end of April.
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