House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was date.

Topics

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is voting yes to the motion.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting no.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the motion.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make sure that I am included on this particular motion as voting in favour of it.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 6:17 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 12, consideration of the motion that Bill C-436, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I know my riding of Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot is a bit of a mouthful but I have to say that I am the fault of that because I was the one who originally named the riding. I suspect, however, that it will be renamed very shortly to a somewhat shorter name.

I rise to speak to Bill C-436. It is an act that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act pertaining to the sponsorship of relatives.

What the act does or what it purports to do is it would give all citizens and permanent residents of Canada a once in a lifetime opportunity to sponsor a relative of their choice. What it does is it gets around the limitations that currently exist in legislation that restricts the sponsorship of relatives to direct relatives, like parents and grandparents, or to nieces and cousins who are in particular situations, like being orphaned or things like that, but it does not allow for the sponsorship broadly of distant cousins, uncles and other relatives.

The bill before the House, however, would get around that limitation that now exists in the Citizenship and Immigration Act and allow this one time sponsorship of any relative.

One can appreciate why the member for Vancouver East would bring forward a bill of this nature, because she comes from a riding that has a very large number of new Canadians and landed immigrants. Of course anyone who has come to this country from another land would naturally want to bring in as many relatives as possible.

I was on the citizenship and immigration committee when we dealt with this problem in the early 1990s and the difficulty was that the sponsorship program, as inherited from the Mulroney regime, was so broad that we were getting so many newcomers to Canada who could not be expected to contribute significantly to the nation, and it was felt that the sponsorship program should be limited in the way that we see in the legislation now.

There are some major difficulties with what is proposed by the member for Vancouver East. What she is saying is that every person in Canada ought to have the right to sponsor a relative. Well, there are 30 million people in Canada, so what the bill would do in effect is invite every Canadian and every permanent resident to sponsor a relative. I would suggest that basically would make it very difficult for Canada to control the type of newcomers who would like to come into the country, because every nation in the world has the right, and indeed it is a privilege, to want to have some say in who comes into the country to become a part of the nation's society.

There is another problem that is even more difficult and that is the problem that the bill would extend this privilege of sponsoring a relative once in a lifetime, not only to Canadian citizens but to permanent residents. Now the difficulty is that out of the 30 million people who are part of Canadian society, 1.5 million of them are not Canadians.

Indeed, we saw what happened late last year when the government introduced a program whereby people who did not have Canadian citizenship but were permanent residents were required to take a permanent residency card. There was a lot of conflict in our constituency offices over that. What was amazing was to discover in my own constituency office that many of those people who were captured by this requirement to have a permanent residents card had been in the country for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years. These people had come to the country many years ago. and many of them actually from the traditional countries that sent people to Canada, the United States and particularly Britain and Western Europe, but these people had come to Canada and they could not be bothered to take out citizenship and they could not be bothered to acquire the right to vote, even though they had been in Canada for many years. Often we had a situation where they raised their children under the citizenship of another nation.

What the bill would do is allow this type of person, who is not sufficiently attached to Canada, to acquire citizenship, to bring in relatives to become part of the country, to acquire the wealth and benefit of the country, to follow the same pattern and not bother about having a real attachment to Canada. I think this would be very unfortunate because Canada is a fine country and I think it is respected worldwide.

At the very least, we should try to attract people who want to be here because Canada is a fine country and who want to become part of Canadian society because they want to share in our values, our values that have to do with freedom of opportunity, freedom of speech, the respect for the rule of law and democracy and the respect for basic human rights. We do that when we become Canadian or when we at least hold it out as an option.

However to say to people who have chosen not to be Canadian, who have chosen only to take advantage of the material benefits of Canada, that they should have the right to bring in their relatives, just the absolute right to bring in their relatives to take advantage of the material benefits of Canada again, just like them, is quite unacceptable.

I would suggest that while I appreciate that the member for Vancouver East has proposed the legislation because she genuinely sees in her riding and among her constituency a desire for family reunification, which is very understandable, the legislation, unfortunately, as written, particularly because it includes permanent residents and provides for no criterion of adherence to the values of Canada, I regret to say it is legislation that I do not think the House should support.

I commend the member for Vancouver East for bringing it forward because I think the intent of the legislation is fine and we do want to be a country that welcomes people. However every nation ought to have the opportunity to screen people for their potential desire to come to this land to adhere to our values.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased once again to have the privilege to speak to an issue that appeals to our judgment and requires careful reflection.

The purpose of Bill C-436, tabled by the member for Vancouver East, is to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The proposed amendment states, and I quote:

(1.1) Subject to the regulations, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may, once in their lifetime, sponsor one foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class.

This proposal reflects the humanitarianism of the member for Vancouver East and her great generosity. Although we agree with the principle of her bill, the current wording leaves us rather perplexed for the following reasons: the lack of clarity of the proposed amendments; the consequences of Bill C-436 on immigration priorities, namely with respect to Canada's role in protecting refugees; and finally the budgetary constraints and the resulting choices for the allocation of resources.

However, we are open to discussing this well-intentioned bill at greater length in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

When we say that the proposal by the hon. member of the New Democratic Party lacks clarity, we are referring to a certain vagueness. For example, what does our colleague mean by “a foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class”? What are the acceptable limits for the definition of a relative? Is she targeting a specific category of people who would currently be excluded from the family class? Does the notion of relative refer essentially to a genetic relative?

We easily see that there is a great deal of room for arbitrary decisions. If the hon. member wishes to broaden the family class to include other specific family members, she should state that in her bill, because without that, it is too vague and does not make it possible to determine which cases are admissible and which are not.

Not to mention the impact this could have on the time it takes to process claims since it is the officers who will have to determine which cases are admissible and which are not. The arbitrary nature of such decisions could provoke strong reactions from asylum seekers who are turned down.

The current list of persons admissible in the family class is already well defined. How could we justify an amendment this far-reaching without including some limits?

Another question arises. How many people would be affected by this new measure? For now, we can only presume that this kind of proposal would have allowed 229,091 additional sponsorship applications in 2002. The next question is obvious. Would this measure be accessible to all immigrants currently in Canada, no matter when they arrived?

In order to assess this plan and its possible repercussions, we must consider the current use of resources. So, 60% of immigrants selected are economic immigrants, meaning business people, and self-employed and skilled workers. The remaining 40% are family class immigrants, asylum seekers and so forth.

Of this group, 75% are family class immigrants, 25% are refugees, and a small percentage are other. If the number of individuals who qualify for family class is significantly increased, without an increase in the available resources, which has been the case for several years now, who will pay? Someone will have to pay the price of these new measures.

Since the total is split 60-40, there is a good chance that asylum seekers will pay the price of these new measures. Those who think the government might reducing the 60% should remember that, before family members of a permanent resident or Canadian citizen can be brought over, the primary applicant must qualify to enter Canada as part of the 60% in the economic class. So, this proposal, which would reduce that percentage, does little to improve the situation.

With respect to the 40%, the headlines show deportation cases for asylum seekers being dismissed almost every week. We need only think of the highly publicized cases of Mohamed Sherfi and the three Palestinians who have taken refuge in a Montreal church. There are numerous conflict situations and civil wars in the world, and the number of countries involved is on the rise: Columbia, Algeria, the Palestine-Israel conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan. All these realities oblige democratic countries to be more humane and more attentive to refugee claimants.

Every year, Canada turns away thousands of refugee claimants whose lives are in danger in their country of origin because of inadequate budgets. By refusing to increase budgets, Canada is deliberately choosing to decrease its obligations as a signatory of the Geneva convention on the protection of refugees.

Allowing more immigrants to sponsor distant relatives means making use of resources that could instead be saving lives by accepting more asylum seekers. Public policy must follow the same rules as everyday life, not be an exception to the rule; responsible choices must be made after examination of the various constraints. Which is wiser: allowing a distant relative to be brought to Canada, or offering asylum to Palestinians who are going to be deported to refugee camps in Lebanon? Unlike the present government, we must show some administrative rigour, some intelligent management.

The hon. NDP member's humanitarian objective is praiseworthy, particularly since her bill makes us re-examine the budgetary choices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Canada's ultimate objective as far as immigration is concerned is to attain a level equivalent to 1% of the Canadian population. That is 310,000 immigrants annually. There are two main goals here: to compensate for the demographic decrease and to fill skilled worker positions, particularly with economic class immigrants

In 2002, Canada admitted 229,091 immigrants, compared to the 2001 figure of 250,484. The drop was in part a result of the department's inability to process any more because of budget restraints and the costs related to settlement and integration. It is not enough just to admit people into the country; it is also important to ensure that they receive proper services for a smooth integration into the host society.

The quality of services to newcomers is as important as, if not more important than the number of newcomers. Currently, the small budgets given to Citizenship and Immigration Canada do not allow us to meet the numerous challenges related to the integration of newcomers. Why promote family reunification if we cannot provide adequate services to ensure the integration and settlement of these people?

This lack of resources is the major problem affecting immigration. This inadequacy in the immigration program and the humanitarian spirit reflected by Bill C-436 are the reasons why we support this legislation. Indeed, if the bill passes second reading, it will force a debate in committee and we will be able to show that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is unable to fulfill its responsibilities because of insufficient financial resources. Moreover, the review in committee will allow us to identify some essential points to be incorporated into the bill proposed by the hon. member for Vancouver East.

I will conclude by expressing to this House my profound disappointment in the current government. In its last budget, the word “immigration” was not even mentioned once. Despite persistent problems in the processing of immigration and refugee claims, despite the numerous months and even years of waiting for a simple sponsorship application—we are now talking about some 35 months—the government does not even deign to allocate a few dollars to correct this unacceptable situation. And Canada claims to be a land that welcomes immigrants. Imagine if this were not the case.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-436 which was introduced by my colleague from Vancouver East. It is a constructive proposal before the House to deal with a serious shortcoming in our immigration policy and legislation. At the same time, it provides the House with a pilot project.

It does not lock the government into any particular entrenched position. It offers a solution for the government to do something that Canadians have called for, for a long time. It is founded on and grounded in the notion of compassion and caring.

We are in the final hour of debate and I want to do everything in my power to persuade members of Parliament to support the bill and to join the efforts of my colleague from Vancouver East in making this a reality. Many people across the country are counting on us to do the right thing, to ensure that we in this Parliament find a way to recognize the importance of families and the ties that bind.

We heard from previous speakers who suggested this would open the floodgates, that the bill would attract people who do not have an attachment to the country, and that we would not have the resources to settle additional family members.

Those positions are not based on fact. The fact of the matter is that we are talking about residents in the country who would dearly love to bring in other family members not now eligible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

We are not talking about ineligible immigrants. We are not talking about immigrants who do not meet the normal standards in terms of security checks and health provisions. We are talking about aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, and not some undefined notion of family. We are talking about blood relatives.

The present law presents us with a very narrow definition of family based on the nuclear family. It does not recognize the fact that for many cultures there are different notions of what constitutes a family. The bill says to the government that here is one way to deal with that concern on a trial basis. Try it out. It is a once in a lifetime proposition. It does not lock the government to a change in policy over the long term. It offers the government a choice to try it out and see what the benefits are.

I would dare say that at the end of this pilot project we would see enormous benefits to our country. We would see enormous cost savings because the family that brings together other relatives from around the world has supports built in to that unit. It has a way to deal with loneliness and isolation that can otherwise present costly challenges for our society.

This is about family reunification which is the bedrock notion of our society. I want to reference the debate that we had in committee on the bill dealing with immigration and refugees.

The valuable role that the presence of family members can play in setting down new roots has also been undervalued.

We are attempting to change that today. Wanting to have family members close at hand to share in our lives is common to immigrants and non-immigrants alike. It contributes to our sense of community. As well, family members can provide familiar and trusted support, especially during a period of adjustment.

Expanding the family class definition to include more extended family members would ease some of the strain on immigration. Speeding up the family reunification process that sometimes can drag on for years would also reduce the stress of prolonged separation.

Members will know that currently under the present administration, there are enormous backlogs and problems in terms of family reunification, as it now stands. We can point to, for example, a country like the Philippines where people can expect to wait a year to 18 months for a spouse and up to three years for parents. There is already a lack of recognition on the part of the government to address what is a vital component of any reasonable immigration policy that makes us competitive on the international scene.

Our challenge to the government is to deal with those current administrative problems, those backlogs that prevent families from getting together as well as to apply a modern notion, a realistic concept of family that captures the meaning of all cultures around the world. Let us do it as soon as possible so we can deal with the loneliness, isolation and lack of supports in which many new Canadians feel and experience.

I was hopeful that we could convince the government to accept this bill until we saw today that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration put out a note to her colleagues saying that she would vote no to the bill. I am afraid once again we are in a situation where cabinet is putting down the law and expecting members to fall in line with this dictate. I hope that is not the case, but I am afraid we are confronted with a similar pattern on the part of the Liberals.

I was hopeful until I started raising this issue in the House with a member in my own community, the member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification. He did not seem to grasp the importance of the bill. In fact he said that this would be blanket bill that would allow once in a lifetime a non-eligible immigrant to come to Canada. That is wrong. We are not talking about a blanket bill. We are talking about a once in a lifetime project and about relatives who would be eligible under any other circumstance, except for the fact that we apply a very narrow definition in our legislation.

I hope the member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul gets a better grasp of this issue and realizes the importance of the bill from the point of view of the numerous ethnocultural groups in our community of Winnipeg today.

In fact I want to point out that in short order I received over 2,000 signatures on petitions in support of the bill. It is the tip of the iceberg in terms of indicating the support for the bill across the country. It is a policy that makes sense from the point of view of just plain human compassion. It is a policy that makes sense from the point of view of a cost effective approach to immigration. It is a policy that would help us address a fundamental problem with our immigration policy today, which is we are not competitive internationally for immigrants.

Our targets are never met. The government continues to fall short of our target by at least 50,000 a year. We cannot even get up to 1% of population as a target for this country. We have been unable to compete with other countries because we do not address the fact that people make a decision based on ties, based on feelings about a country and based on a sense of community.

What can be more important in that construct than opening up our notion of family and allowing just once in a lifetime aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins to come to Canada and join other family members, where they have the supports they need, are not a burden on society and in fact nourish and nurture the whole community?

I would urge all members in the House to look at the bill as a very positive suggestion for an otherwise difficult situation, and that is the need for the country to attract immigrants. Seven years from now the only growth in our labour force will be a result of immigrants. If we are concerned about preserving our population, or being able to support the baby boomer generation and or being able to fund programs for people in retirement, then we must seriously approach this proposition and support it wholeheartedly.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-436 which has been put forward by the member for Vancouver East.

The House should know that the member for Vancouver East has become quite a celebrity in my riding these days because she has been using her franking stamp to promote her leader throughout my riding. So it is wonderful now to not support this bill.

I am here, not as a current member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, but I did serve as a member on that committee last session.

I am pleased to talk about some of the ways the government is making it easier for Canadians to sponsor their loved ones from overseas. It is important that we set the record straight and not be misled, as I feel we have been by the previous speaker.

All of us understand the importance of strengthening families and the family reunification provisions that are found in the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Families have been a cornerstone of Canadian immigration for many years and the government is committed to ensuring they represent a growing and vibrant component of our immigration program for the decades ahead.

I too am a first generation Canadian, as my parents immigrated to this country. Today, Canadian citizens and permanent residents living in Canada, who are 18 years of age or older, can sponsor close relatives or family members who want to become permanent residents. The list of those who can be sponsored from abroad is quite extensive. It was this government that increased the list of members. It includes: opposite or same sex partners; parents; grandparents; dependent children, including those who are adopted; as well as brothers; sisters; nephews; nieces; or grandchildren who are orphaned.

Canada's immigration and refugee protection regulations also allow Canadians and permanent residents to sponsor foreign nationals who are not members of the family class provided they have no family residing in Canada or who could otherwise be sponsored from abroad. The act also has a way for individuals to apply to sponsor a non-family class relative on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

There are several avenues of sponsorship available to cover different individual circumstances or family arrangements. Many were introduced after extensive consultations with stakeholders across Canada as well as Canadians from every walk of life. All upheld the principles of fairness, integrity and balance.

Canadians have told us what they want. They want an immigration program that strikes an appropriate balance between economic and non-economic immigrants. They want a program that will help to spread the benefits of immigration across Canada. Most of all, they want a program that ensures that immigration will benefit the community where newcomers choose to settle as well as the immigrants themselves. This private member's bill under debate today deviates from all of these objectives, and therefore is not supportable.

The government is aiming to achieve its long term goal of reaching immigration levels equal to 1% of Canada's population. In order to do this we must have a balanced, sustainable and well managed plan. As immigration levels increase, so too will family class levels.

However, we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure this is done in a responsible manner after consulting with stakeholders, Canadians and local leaders. The vast majority of newcomers to Canada settle in cities. We, therefore, need to hear from them.

Bill C-436 runs counter to any consultative process by arbitrarily raising family class levels to indeterminable limits. It also runs counter to any principles of balance by leaving the term “relative” undefined. Under the provisions of this ill-conceived bill, the door would be wide open for nearly anyone to sponsor anyone else, regardless of their relationship to each other or whether they had even met.

Since the newly landed relatives could themselves sponsor any relative as soon as they qualified, the family class could potentially overwhelm the immigration program. This is clearly not in the best interests of all Canadians.

I think we can all appreciate the desire for some individuals to sponsor relatives from overseas who are not members of the family class. The current regulations make provision for this under certain circumstances.

All of us also support strong families and strong family class provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and regulations. The government's track record is impressive in this regard and will continue to be so in the future.

As I have said time and again, we also have a responsibility to ensure the integrity and stability of the immigration program for future generations. The provision in this private member's bill under debate would violate this trust.

I, therefore, strongly support the government's overall direction and I am completely opposed to Bill C-436 or any special provision that would leave us open to such chaos and to such abuse.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to speak to the bill, Bill C-436, sponsored by the hon. member for East Vancouver. The bill is entitled, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with respect to sponsorship of relatives.

First, I would like to commend the hon. member for her thoughtful and laudable efforts to fix some problems in the immigration system.

Of course there are various pros and cons with respect to the bill. Probably it is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be fine tuned. Some of the objections need to be carefully reviewed and brought to the attention of the authorities so they can be refined and reviewed and the con part can be tackled and the pro side can be highlighted.

I certainly believe the family is an institution which needs to be strengthened. With stronger families, communities are stronger and with stronger communities, then nations become stronger. Canada is a country of immigrants. Some people are first, second, third, fourth, fifth or whatever generation.

As we know, the definition of family could be by marriage, or by blood relationship, or by adoption, any of the three. When this sponsorship issue is dealt with, it is for family reunification. The intent is pro family, and I am very proud to support anything which is pro family. However, we have to deal with the con part, as I said.

Certainly the official opposition welcomes immigrants to Canada. I am sure everyone in this chamber wants legitimate immigrants to come to Canada. However, if they have a shady past or any of the characteristics which make them ineligible to come into Canada, no country wants those people. We welcome legitimate immigrants to Canada. Their legitimacy is defined by different criteria in the Immigration and Citizenship Acts.

I used to be a member of the immigration committee for quite some time and I am quite familiar with the immigration system in Canada, particularly because I come from a constituency which happens to be the largest constituency in population in Canada. More than 210,000 people live in my riding. Most of them are new immigrants, and they have problems dealing with immigration. Some of the problems are pretty reasonable and legitimate, and my staff works overtime on immigration issues. Why? The Department of Citizenship and Immigration is not efficient or effective and the system is clogged.

The caseworks related to different categories of prospective immigrants is entered into the system from one end. It takes a very long time before their cases are processed, then they come from the other end as finished products. Due to the inefficient and ineffective immigration system, the offices of members of Parliament are involved. In fact immigration is like any other department.

Why are members of Parliament not involved with other casework as much as with immigration? Because the immigration department is inefficient, particularly with different categories, whether it is landed immigrants, or family reunification, or other categories of landed immigrants, such as entrepreneurs, even visitor visa cases. All of them are so messed up that it demands there should be some sort of interference in the system from the elected officials on behalf of the constituents they represent.

So even the ministers' permits have been abused--not now but in the past--to give political favours to their constituents. They were politically oriented ministers' permits in the past, many years ago, but I believe there are less of them now. There should be absolutely no political interference in the immigration system or immigration cases. That would be the most preferred choice, but since the system is not working there has to be political interference under the present circumstances, which I believe one day will be eliminated.

It becomes very important because, as the hon. member from the Bloc pointed out, the word immigration is not mentioned even once in the whole budget. The government is completely ignoring the advantages and disadvantages of the system, particularly so with the past cuts in the budget which have meant that the immigration staff, the front end of the security lineup, are not properly trained and do not have proper resources. The system is naturally inefficient.

Many times, the system looks only at the black and white. There is no cultural aspect, no compassionate aspect, and there is no humanitarian aspect reviewed when the initial review of the case takes place outside the country. I can give so many examples, but I will not go there yet.

On the other hand, while we criticize the system, when we say that the system is inefficient, ineffective and clogged, it is also incumbent upon immigrants not to abuse the system. When people in Canada, as well as those outside who want to come to Canada, abuse the system, the system has to draw a line somewhere. When the system is abused, then we have to take hard measures to stop that kind of abuse. No one wants abuse of the system.

I have always given the analogy that Canada is like a home. If someone comes to our front door and rings the bell, we open the door and welcome our guests. On the other hand, if we are sleeping, someone enters through the back door and we wake up in the morning with someone is sitting on the couch, we do not like that. I wish that our immigration system would be such that the front doors are open but the back doors are closed; even the windows and ventilators should be closed.

Some of the delays that cause the abuse to occur are sometimes really very legitimate delays in this system which upset people. For family reunification at present, I think the waiting period is 42 months, which is a very long time. In other countries such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, the waiting time is not as long as it is in the immediate relative category of 42 months in Canada. Moreover, when these people are frustrated after applying for reunification with their relatives, they call the 1-800 number at the department and they are always told to check after three months. When they call after three months, it is another three months and so on until two or three years have passed. That is not fair either.

Certainly in the case of spouses, the criteria become that someone has not been wearing the traditional clothes for 45 days after the marriage, or that 700 people did not show up at the marriage, only 200 people showed up, or that the reception was held not at home but at a community hall or something like that. Those kinds of criteria become impediments in the selection or rejection of that particular case. Such arbitrary criteria really become a pain for people to understand, and in fact it becomes inappropriate to judge a case based on that kind of criteria.

I know of a case in my constituency where a husband and wife have been married for eight years. The husband is a Canadian citizen and sponsored his wife to come to Canada. They have a child who is about eight years old. They still have not been reunited in Canada. Such unnecessary delays cause serious problems in families.

On the other hand, in some cases with respect to spousal reunification, the system has been abused. Many cases have been reported recently of husbands or wives coming to Canada and then running away at the airport. They do not go to their intended family. They simply get married in order to come to Canada, which is a critical problem.

I want to summarize now by mentioning the visitor's visa case. There should be some provisions allowing people to either give a personal guarantee or post a bond so that they can bring in legitimate visitors, particularly in a situation like attending a marriage.

Canada's immigration policy has to be fair and competitive. Such issues should be reviewed so that we can be more efficient in judging immigration cases.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House to finish off the debate on Bill C-436, a bill that I have put forward. I appreciate the comments that have been made by members in the House today.

Bill C-436 has a very basic premise, and that is to assist with family reunification in Canada. As the member for Winnipeg North Centre pointed out so eloquently, when we talk to Canadians, particularly those in urban centres who have gone through the immigration system and know the frustrations and the flaws that exist within the system and the difficulties they have experienced in trying to bring a family member to Canada, they see Bill C-436 as a way to fix the system. For some members to blame family members for the lack of resources from the Liberal government is quite astounding.

I also was astounded to hear the member for Parkdale--High Park say that the bill would create chaos and violate government policy. Maybe she is not aware but it was actually her own former minister of immigration who first brought forward the idea of once in a lifetime. The minister came to Vancouver and put forward this suggestion which was hugely responded to by the local community. When the minister dropped the idea because she received a lot of pressure from her bureaucrats, I thought it was a terrific idea, which is the reason I brought the bill forward in the House.

The suggestion that somehow this would create chaos in the system is simply not the case. I believe it is really an attempt to scare people about what is taking place here.

The bill has had tremendous support across the country. I met with various groups in Vancouver. I know my colleagues from Winnipeg North Centre and Winnipeg Centre have held meetings in Winnipeg. The member for Windsor—St. Clair held meetings in his community. Meetings have been held in Toronto, Edmonton and other places. The simple proposition of allowing someone, once in a lifetime, to sponsor a family member who otherwise would not qualify has received strong support in the community.

I would argue that at this point Bill C-436 has a lot of merit to go to the next stage, which is to go to committee where it can be debated and we can look at the definition. As it exists now, as has been pointed out, the definition for family class is incredibly restrictive. It does not reflect Canada's cultural diversity, which is why we have such a problem with the system. The idea of examining the bill, looking at the definition of family class and hearing witnesses on that basis, is what this debate is about. It is about ensuring that the bill can go to committee.

I hope that members will support the bill with the idea that it is about family reunification. It is quite tragic that the Liberal government cannot meet its own established target of 1% immigration levels in Canada. We have to blame the government for that because it has not provided the resources to deal with the backlogs. For members to blame family members for that problem is absolutely unacceptable. If we were to go out to any community, I believe people would be quite horrified to hear that.

I thank the members who have supported the bill and who understand its principle. I even thank the former immigration minister who first proposed this idea because it is a good idea and it should be looked at. For those members who just see the bill as something they can shoot down for whatever political reason, that is unfortunate.

I hope that when the bill comes to a vote it will be supported so it can go to committee where it will get the examination that it deserves. We will be able to hear witnesses and maybe agree upon the fundamental principle that reuniting families in Canada is something that all members of the House should support.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is the House ready for the question?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.