House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was application.

Topics

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. The parliamentary secretary has to have some time to reply.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there needs to be an appropriate balance struck, and I am suggesting that this indeed is the case. Striking a balance would mean that we have to weigh the issues and then decide having regard to all of those issues. Simply filing an application expecting a result to happen, whether it is bona fide or not, is not weighing the balance. I think the member ought to know that.

With respect to the other issues she raised, I wonder why her particular party would choose to vote against $1.3 billion being set aside for settlement and integration to make the system work better and to have those who do come in succeed. Why would those members vote against that or against a foreign credential referrals office that would help those who need credentialling to take place? Why would they have voted against cutting a $975 immigration tax, as was opposed by the previous Liberal government--

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but the time has expired. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to engage in this debate.

I want to say to the parliamentary secretary it is really unfortunate that he had his speaking notes prepared for him for the chamber and that he did not speak with the same rationality he did in the committee, because the policy we are looking at does not make any sense.

Cutting this down to the bare bones, what we have is that somebody applies for inland spousal landing. It is legal. There is absolutely nothing untoward about it. That is how the system was set up to work. However, the processing starts on that application and since it does not get done in time, it is passed on to removal, for no reason other than the fact that the application is not processed. Where does that make any kind of sense?

Somebody takes the right step and makes an inland spousal application to be able to stay here, which is quite proper, but because the bureaucracy does not deal with the issue fast enough, we are going to remove that individual. Where does that many any sense at all? That is what this comes down to.

I am shocked, and I am sure all the opposition parties are shocked, because for years we listened to that party stand in this House and defend family values. How much more of a family value can we have than not splitting husband from wife, father from children, sons and daughters, or mothers from their children? That is what this whole issue comes down to.

If the case were that somebody was found to have a relationship that was not bona fide and it was a marriage of convenience, nobody is arguing that this person be allowed to stay here. What we are talking about is that when somebody makes an application to keep their family together in Canada the case must be processed before one of the spouses is removed.

Mr. Speaker, you must be wondering about it as well because I am sure you heard the same speeches on family values coming from the Conservative Party. This reminds me of the kind of family values where Mexico refuses to recognize religious marriages as far as derivative citizenship is concerned.

However, I mentioned that it really is too bad that the parliamentary secretary gets up in this House and reads notes prepared for him by the department, because when we had committee hearings on this issue, there was a sign in his questioning that he actually understood the issue and knew that this issue was not right.

I am going to refer to the meeting where this issue was discussed in committee and the parliamentary secretary asked the official:

I know there's a concern about multiple applications, but from what I'm hearing, if one application isn't determined in 60 days, you make it a point between the two departments to expedite it. If you removed the idea of multiple applications and just dealt with the particular case, is there any reason why, as a matter of policy, the removal couldn't be withheld until the expedited process on that particular application is completed?

This is what we all agree on. I think all of us in the committee agreed on it.

I have had a number of cases, like most members of Parliament have had, in dealing with this. There are two cases in particular to which I will refer. One involved a young couple who were married last summer. The husband was born in Canada. His father had emigrated from Guyana. The husband attended the University of Waterloo, where he met his future wife, who came from Guyana to go to Wilfrid Laurier University. They met and kept in contact.

While the young woman had status initially in Canada, she went back to Guyana. The relationship continued, she came up for a visit and the young couple decided to get married. They filed for inland application, which happened during the summer. While this was granted, the young woman could not get a temporary work permit to engage in her occupation. She happens to be a financial professional.

I come from the riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. We have a lot of insurance companies in the riding. It is the home of Sun Life, Manulife and a number of others. Her skills were in demand, but she could not get a work permit until she had approval in principle, which did not make any sense. When a young couple gets married, we want the couple to start off their life with both of them being able to work. We know the financial strains that can happen in marriages, especially with young people who are paying off students loans or whatever.

The work permit was not allowed until the approval in principle came through, which does not make any sense. We are a country that brings in well over 100,000 temporary foreign workers to work in Canada, yet for people who want to be future citizens and build a family in Canada, we deny them the right to work while the bureaucracy goes through the file.

Another situation I had was in Chilliwack. The son of a friend of mine, who is a teacher, was involved with a veterinarian who happened to be from Holland. When the couple decided to get married, and her status would expire, she specifically went out of the country to make application because that way she could continue to work.

We have two very similar cases being treated totally differently by our officials in the handling of immigration matters for spouses.

I am sure most members of the House, who were here at the time, will recall a former minister who was in trouble around the whole issue of giving ministerial permits to people who wanted to get married and maintain their partners in Canada so they would not be split up.

The problem was, instead of having it down as a matter of routine by the bureaucracy, which is the way it used to be done, the rules were changed to require a minister's permit. This was totally wrong, and the minister was in trouble for showing compassion. The case she happened to deal with spun out of control. It was referred to as “strippergate”, as members will recall.

The basic foundation of it was that a Canadian male married that woman and therefore she was allowed to stay because she got the permit. Given the problems associated with that, we changed the rules back to the way they were. The rules are, if people marry, they can apply to have them stay inland while the case is being processed. There is nothing difficult about this.

I heard questions in the chamber about the queue and about how the time spent in lineups to get into Canada might be harmful.

I would like the House to consider this situation. CBSA expends resources to get people out of the country. Because their application has not been processed, it will have to start to process the application out of the country once again, which will take a lot of time and will back up the queue. Instead of doing that, why do we not dedicate the resources that CBSA spends to go after people who have made legitimate applications to land in Canada to keep their family together, pass it to processing and ensure it gets done. This is not rocket science.

The way the rule stands is just not defensible. It does not make any sense. It is the height of ridicule of a bureaucracy to split up families. We know problems are created when a family is split up for a period of time. They suffer emotionally, financially and psychologically.

Too often our officials separate families for absolutely no good reason. They claim that children are not deported if they are born in Canada. However, the reality is when parents are moved out of the country, the children will be split from them. In the case of undocumented workers, the children follow their parents even though they were born in our country.

I do not understand the change in the approach of the parliamentary secretary. Why does he not go back to the common sense approach that he expressed in committee?

The Conservative government claims it is the pillar of family values, yet it is quite willing to split up families for no good reason. Why? The bureaucracy does not proceed fast enough. Why not? Money has been wasted on border services to round up people, which they never should round up, to send them out of the country. This ends up creating more work in getting people back into the country, and families are being split apart.

I call upon the parliamentary secretary to go back to the common sense approach he had in committee. I call upon him to persuade the minister and his colleagues in the Conservative caucus that keeping families together is a good thing. Splitting them apart unnecessarily is a bad thing. That should not be too difficult. I really am shocked that the Conservatives have not seen that point before, particularly the parliamentary secretary who understands the issues.

The money we spend to remove people from Canada, and I am not sure if it is 10% or 11% of the cases related to this, seems to be a real waste of resources. The government claims that we have to bring in more and more temporary foreign workers because of unfilled positions. To not issue a work permit to a spouse, while a case is being processed, also does not make any sense.

People who make refugee claims are allowed to have a work permit because we want to ensure they have a chance to support themselves. We also want to ensure that when people come to Canada, the first thing we do not say to them is that they have to rely on assistance from someone else, but rather they should come into the country and work. This is a good thing. I am surprised, from that perspective, why this does not make any sense to the Conservatives.

On one hand, the government is defending this policy. Essentially, the Conservatives are parroting the nonsensical evidence we heard from the officials at the citizenship and immigration committee. On the other hand, under the guise of Bill C-50, they really do not want to open up the debate to the extent it should be. Instead, they are saying that the whole system is wrong.

I ask the parliamentary secretary and the government to use a little common sense. Look at the policy, use some innate common sense and fix it. This is not rocket science. Somebody makes a legal application and then, because the bureaucracy does not process it in time, we remove that individual.

When I asked the officials in front of the committee if they could tell us what the percentage of approval of these cases was, they said it was 90%. Then I asked the officials if they could tell us how many people they got rid of because the department was unable to process the case in time and how many of those people came back in because their relationship was legitimate. The officials told me that they did not know and that they did not keep statistics on that, which surprised me.

Why not? Why would the department not keep statistics on something that simple? Then perhaps it could judge the quality of its decision making at the front end, instead of making these ridiculous decisions, removing individuals and making them go through the whole process of applying from outside, and splitting up families. How does this make sense? It does not. The only people it seems to make sense to are those in the Conservative Party, who are supposed to be the paragon of virtue by trying to defend family values. They quite lackadaisically will have families torn apart.

I do not think there is a whole lot more to say about this, except to ask the parliamentary secretary to do a better job to persuade his colleagues and the minister in caucus that it is worth keeping families together and standing up for family values.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member, which would indicate that our party stands up for families. Indeed, we do stand up for family values. In fact, our party ensures that every child under six years of age receives $100 per month.

I am disappointed that the member is not supporting this motion, ensuring it went forward. I know the member has worked hard to get to where he is. Will he support his leader when he supports Bill C-50? The bill would have some additional moneys that would go to reinforcing the system.

I ask the member to look at his rhetoric in terms of what he has said he wants and what the motion actually requests. They are two very different things. The member waxes eloquently, but when we look at the motion, it asks the government to allow any applicant, on filing an application to automatically be entitled to a temporary work permit and a stay of removal.

I think Canadians have an issue with this automatic business, where if applicants file, there are some automatic rights that follow; this particularly when they know applicants now who are in status after approval in principle do have a stay. Those who are out of status, and we are talking about those who have overstayed their temporary status, or working or studying without being authorized to do so, or entering Canada without a valid passport, visa or other documentation, and even to failed refugee claimants, could apply and, after approval in principle, have a stay that would take place in respect of the removal until the approval is done and any work permit issued.

I ask the hon. member to have a look at not what he says he wants, but at what the motion asks the government to do, and that is by filing a document, it automatically entitles a series of events to happen without regard to whether that is a bona fide application or without regard to the fact of whether the very principles or basic elements are established to the satisfaction of someone.

Why would the member not look at the motion and not what he proposes he would like to see it say? What is he asking? Does he seriously believe that simply filing an application, entitles an applicant to have things to happen without regard to any of the circumstances?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do find the comment passing strange. I will read the motion to the member so he can clearly understand it. I am surprised that he does not. The motion states:

The Committee recommends that the government allow any applicant (unless they have serious criminality) who has filed their first in-Canada spousal or common law sponsorship application to be entitled to a temporary work permit and an automatic stay of removal until a decision is rendered on their application.

An application is made. If the government says this application is bogus and makes a decision, the person is removed. There is no issue with that. Nobody is arguing that we will support a non-bona fide application. We believe in protecting the integrity of the system. We are saying that while we are in the process of dealing with the application, we do not separate families.

The member thanks me for saying that the Conservatives stand for family values. What I said was that they say they stand for family values, but they say one thing and they do something else. They are splitting families and they have no problem doing that, just like they have absolutely no problem in saying no to religious marriages in other countries and calling their children illegitimate. That is the Conservative Party's record.

I am amazed that some of my colleagues on the other side who happen to be Mennonites do not stand up and defend Mennonite marriages, and say that when we have a church wedding, we should not be discriminated against.

In terms of Bill C-50, I am afraid this is one member who will not support it. Bill C-50 very seriously undermines the objectivity of an immigration system that is being copied by all the countries they point to, such as Australia, New Zealand, Europe and England. The Americans are looking at it. Their senate is studying it because they want to have an objective system. The Conservatives would destroy ours so they could carry out their neo-conservative agenda.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the top news today is that the government's top economic problem is how to staff all the nation's companies. Apparently, finding more workers to avoid what Conservatives are saying is an economic time bomb is a very high priority. The Minister of Human Resources said our demographics are working against us in a speech yesterday to the Canadian Legislative Conference of the Canadian Building Trades.

Yes, we need workers. Apparently, in the next 12 years B.C. will be short 350,000 workers; Alberta, 100,000 workers in 10 years; Ontario 560,000 workers in 2030; Quebec, 13 million by 2016. We have a shortfall. Why would the Parliament of Canada not allow open work permits to be issued, so that these folks who are in Canada already can work because we need more workers, according to the human resources minister . He said that yesterday and we are out there looking for more workers.

Why are we then deporting these people who can work here, and not allowing them to work while they are applying to have their wives or spouses sponsor them in Canada? To the hon. member: It does not make sense, does it?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 6th, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Canada is facing a demographic crisis and to think that the government would discourage young families, break up young families, makes no sense. Further, the incredible reliance that the government puts on temporary foreign workers, instead of landed immigrants who will come here and build a country, also makes no sense. We need to start thinking more logically and not through the bureaucratese of the department, which I dare say could certainly use some modernization. It is very hard to try to explain the inconsistencies of the Conservative government.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose the same question to my hon. colleague that I posed to the parliamentary secretary and I heard absolutely nothing from the parliamentary secretary as far as family values are concerned.

We have known that there are families who have been broken apart. I have in my riding a family where the husband met the wife. She was a refugee claimant. They got married and had two Canadian children. CBSA knocked at their door and said, “We're sorry. You have to go”. When the mother left, she took her two Canadian children with her because obviously the father could not look after them. Someone had to go to work.

I am wondering if my colleague would share his views on this matter. Does he think this is appropriate? Does he think that the Conservative Party is going too far? Are we using the CBSA to divide families? Is this a humane aspect and is this a way to keep families together?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleague that it was one of the reasons we put the motion at committee. It was to try to make sense and try to be logical about a situation that in policy makes no sense. What really strikes me and I find incomprehensible is that the governing Conservative Party cannot see the stupidity of the present process. It is just illogical. Why split families up? Every one of us, as members of Parliament, have had situations--

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry but time has expired. On debate, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration because our immigration system is out of control and is facing serious difficulties. For the past few months, it has been my great pleasure to participate in this committee, in which I take great interest.

The purpose of the motion we are debating today, which was passed in committee, is to rectify this situation somewhat. This is a tiny contribution, a very small step forward. In my opinion, much more must be done because there are many other problems in the system, which probably needs to be redesigned.

With regard specifically to the issue before us, as the parliamentary secretary suggested, I would like to reread the recommendation before discussing the issue in detail. Here is what the report says:

That the Committee recommend that the government allow any applicant (unless they have serious criminality) who has filed their first in-Canada spousal or common law sponsorship application to be entitled to a temporary work permit and an automatic stay of removal until a decision is rendered on their application.

Basically, this refers to a person who is applying to sponsor a spouse. In Canada, an individual can sponsor only one person in his or her lifetime. Now, Parliament has to decide whether it is a good idea to remove a person who has made an application before a decision has been rendered on the application. In the meantime, that person would be able to obtain a work permit to earn a living, like most of us.

We must therefore study two aspects of this issue. The first is removal. I asked Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Canada Border Services Agency officials a number of questions, and I was told that in practice—although numbers were unavailable—officials almost systematically do not remove people in this situation and that the Canada Border Services Agency does not typically remove people awaiting a decision on a sponsorship application. Nobody was able to give me any numbers, but with few exceptions, people awaiting a decision are not removed from Canada.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned this earlier today, saying that we already had a balanced approach and that measures to avoid unnecessary deportations were already in place. Since this is what is currently done in almost all cases, I do not understand why the Conservative members would have a problem supporting this motion.

Another thing that seemed to bother the parliamentary secretary even more is the issue of granting a work permit to these people. I find that rather strange, since these people have the right to reside in Canada. They are here waiting for a response from Citizenship and Immigration Canada—a response that could take a long time, as the government itself admits. They are being told that they will have to wait, but in the meantime, they cannot work. They have to stay home twiddling their thumbs and doing who knows what. These people cannot help make Canada more prosperous, cannot pay taxes, cannot contribute to the economy or help their families survive.

This causes people to suffer unnecessarily, especially since, as the government often reminds us, Canada is facing a labour shortage. We are told that there are not enough workers to do the work, and we are not just talking about skilled workers. In fact, Canada is facing a labour shortage even for unskilled jobs. That is what the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration heard about temporary foreign workers when we recently travelled across Canada.

I think that this government, which opened the floodgates on temporary foreign workers by increasing the number of these workers admitted to the country and by stating that it intends to increase their numbers, is talking out of both sides of its mouth.

On the one hand, foreigners want to come and work temporarily in Canada, and we want the number of those people to increase so that we can meet our labour force needs. On the other hand, there are people who are already here in Canada whose spouse already has permanent residence status or Canadian citizenship. These applications will most likely be accepted, given the relatively high success rate of sponsorship. They have every opportunity to make a life in Canada. However, we do not allow them to work while they are waiting for the government's response. Yet, we are willing to bring in temporary foreign workers. That seems to me to be completely inconsistent.

The parliamentary secretary tried to justify his government's opposition to this motion. I have the feeling that it is just that: they wanted to justify their opposition and vote against the motion simply to vote against it. Personally, I do not see what is compromising for the government. They could have very well voted for this motion.

Some people believe that this method will lead to large-scale abuse. The procedure we are talking about is very particular: it is the sponsorship procedure. It would not apply to every applicant, whether they are applying for refugee status or something else. This is a question of people who already have a spouse in Canada who has legal status and can, once in their lifetime, sponsor someone. There is no reason to think that this technique will be widely used to gain undue privileges, especially since the privileges would only apply when the application is being reviewed.

Thus, someone who uses this ploy—a sham marriage—would be allowed to work legally in Canada for only a few months, that is, for the time it takes to process the application. I would also like to remind the House that, in Canada, a person can only get married once, or at least a divorce must be obtained before the person can remarry. One cannot get married over and over again. The parliamentary secretary already knows this. It seems to me that anyone who wants to break the law and cheat our system could do so in a much more straightforward manner by simply working illegally. Furthermore, during our tour, we found out that it is still easy to work illegally in Canada. So why would anyone bother going through such a bogus procedure, when one can simply break the law?

In short, I think the abuse argument falls short. As I said earlier, this sponsorship procedure has a rather low rejection rate. Anyone who applies and goes through this procedure has a good chance of being approved. He or she would not be granted any undue privilege. Basically, if that were to happen, that is, if an individual's application was rejected because it was unsuitable, false or misleading, after he or she had already been working here for a few months, the consequences for Canada would be rather minor. Indeed, if someone works for a few months, helps boost the economy, pays taxes and earns money for his or her family, I think this is inconsequential compared to the potential benefits of allowing that person to work while awaiting the government's response.

Obviously, the crux of the problem lies in the wait times. If the wait times were very short, we could reasonably assume that the motion would never have been introduced before this Parliament. But this problem exists because the wait times are much too long, as the government itself has admitted.

I find it rather interesting and ironic that the parliamentary secretary is talking about balance and integrity in the immigration system. Let us be serious. Any number of examples demonstrate that the immigration system is not working, and this proposal will certainly not create an additional weakness in the system. Quite the opposite, it aims to bring better balance and greater integrity to the immigration system.

Since the parliamentary secretary brought it up, let us talk about balance and integrity in the immigration system.

First, let us talk about the wait times. The government has introduced a bill in which it claims to want to reduce wait times. Anyone who knows anything about how a lineup works knows that allowing people to jump to the head of the line does not make the lineup any shorter. The length of the lineup stays the same, but some people do not have to wait as long. Those who are at the end of the lineup have to wait longer, which makes the average wait time the same for everyone. It is not rocket science. The only way to make the lineup shorter is to process more cases or limit the number of cases in the first place.

The best way to handle this would be to process more cases. To do so, there need to be more commissioners of oaths. The system is currently short about 50 commissioners. When this government came into power, there were roughly five commissioners short of the 150 provided for in the act. Today, the number varies. I have seen a few orders in council recently, but, basically, some 50 positions need to be filled. This is a big part of the wait time problem. If the right number of commissioners under the legislation were in place to process immigration cases, we would get results more quickly.

This would be more efficient for Canada. Our immigration system would be more attractive to people who can make a contribution to Canada.

We would also have a system with better security. Some immigration and refugee status applications are rejected for reasons of national security or serious criminality. That means the longer we take to process such cases, the longer a refugee, for example, stays in Canada. We cannot promote law and order and also allow people who may be a danger to Canada and whose files have not been processed to wait in line simply because we refuse to appoint commissioners and fill the necessary positions.

There is another fairly absurd situation where we can definitely say that the immigration system is not balanced and its integrity is questionable. I am referring to the assessment of applications for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds which, in many cases—I pointed this out to the House last week—are carried out by the same person who does the pre-removal risk assessment. I find that rather odd. I asked the minister this question in the House last week. Officials had pointed out some cases to my riding office and so I asked the minister to confirm whether it was true. She answered that the immigration system in Canada was good and that the Conservatives were great people, even though this was not what I was after.

My office, and surely many other offices in Canada, was informed of several cases of individuals who had applied for pre-removal risk assessment. This is what happens in such cases. The officer who assesses the file of an individual gives a negative response indicating that they are not at risk if they return to their country and then they are asked to go back there. The individual tries another procedure, an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. The same officer who told them they were not at risk will examine the new application. He will do so under another section of the act; however, the fact remains that the same person is conducting the assessment.

That seems to be government procedure and it does not bother anyone. When I asked the minister the question, it did not seem to bother her. However, this seems to be unfair. In speaking of law and justice, there is also the concept that justice must be seen to be done. How can an individual, who resorts to one procedure and is rejected, believe that he is treated fairly when the person examining his file is the same person who rejected his application at a previous stage?

This makes no sense. If the government wanted to have a balanced system that operated with integrity, it would not tolerate this sort of practice. What is more, in her reply last Friday, the minister pointed out that there were more than 4,000 officers in Canada who were all highly competent. To my way of thinking, if there are 4,000 officers, it should not be too difficult to find a different officer to examine an application being made on humanitarian grounds, because there are another 3,999 officers. It should not be too hard to find someone else.

I would like to point out that no member of this House would ever tolerate such a policy if it were applied to a Canadian citizen. None of us here would ever agree to take part in an appeal or a subsequent proceeding and be judged by the same judge who had already convicted us previously. Everyone would say that it was not a true appeal and that our chances were virtually nil, because the same person was evaluating our case. If the minister were serious, she would correct this situation.

The other situation that clearly shows the lack integrity of our system concerns the refugee appeal division. When the law was amended to reduce the number of board members who heard refugee claims from two to one—it used to be that two people heard each claim, but now a claim is heard by only one person—parliamentarians created the refugee appeal division, which is part of the law now, so that even though only one person would render a decision, claimants would have an appeal mechanism to ensure there were no errors or abuses, no major problems, no people who would be sent back to their countries to be tortured or killed.

The government has never instituted this refugee appeal division. Even though the law provides for it, the government is still refusing to put it in place. That is why the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill to force the government to give these people a right to appeal, as the law provides. It is ironic that the Bloc Québécois should have to introduce bills to enforce the laws of Parliament. I am surprised at this, because I thought it was the government's job to enforce the law, and I am especially surprised since this government claims to be the law and order government.

As it stands, this bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is being held up in the Senate. I hope that the Liberals and the Conservatives will hurry up and move this bill through quickly.

I have a good example from my riding of the problems caused by the fact that the system is not balanced and has lost its integrity because there is no refugee appeal division. This case involves Abdelkader Belaouni, who has sought sanctuary in a church in Pointe-Saint-Charles since 2006. He was in that sanctuary when I was campaigning during the last election. This man is blind and experienced terrible things in his home country. Now, the Canadian government is threatening to deport him if he leaves his sanctuary. When Abdelkader Belaouni applied for refugee status, his case was assessed by commissioner Laurier Thibault, who, at the time, was rejecting 98% of the applications he evaluated.

Mr. Speaker, if you were called before a court one day, and the judge was known to convict in 98% of cases, you might feel that you had no chance of winning. You would not believe that justice had been served. That is the case with Abdelkader Belaouni. He has never been able to appeal the decision because the refugee appeal division is still not in place. Canada should be ashamed.

I will end there so that I can answer some questions and perhaps give the parliamentary secretary a chance to take a call on his cell phone, to which he seems to be paying particularly close attention.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member is indicating that there should be a balance in the process. That is precisely what we are saying.

The previous speaker from Kitchener—Waterloo said of course we expect that they would be bona fide applications. That is exactly the point. He makes my point, which is that we need to establish that the application has some bona fides. In order to do that, one has to look at it and approve it in principle.

The motion does not have this. It simply says “any” application filed would automatically require certain events to take place. It is true there are many people here without proper documentation, but having said that, I ask the member if he would not agree with me that there are many processes in place that have made improvements for those who do want to come in through a legitimate process.

There is the provincial nominee program, whereby provinces can nominate people who come in, particularly in the category they desire, even if they are temporary workers.There is the in Canada experience class and the foreign credentials referral office that helps them along. Foreign students can work in Canada and apply for permanent resident status. Would he agree with me that those are good elements in the evolution of immigration which provide a legitimate means and a legitimate process to get in?

Would he support Bill C-50, which actually would allow additional people to come in? In particular, family members can be reunited more quickly--more, quicker and better--and those who want to apply for permanent resident status will be able to come in on a much faster basis. Would he agree with me that this is the type of thing that should happen? This is a means to legitimately come to this country and to be able to work, reunite with family and ensure this country is built, but to do it in a fashion that is a legitimate process.

Finally, would he not agree that this balance would require at least a certain underpinning or threshold to be met before one could be entitled to the various aspects that this particular motion is calling for?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question. For starters, I would like to point out that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said a little while ago that we should stick to what the motion actually says. Now he starts telling me about provincial nominee programs. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the Canada-Quebec agreement. We think that everything that can be handled by Quebec should be.

Our immigration policy in Quebec is different from the policy in the rest of Canada. Our approach to integrating immigrants is different. The agreements we now have are steps in the right direction, but we still do not have complete control over immigration policy. It is not perfectly suited, therefore, to Quebec realities. It can only be perfectly suited when Quebec becomes a sovereign country. In the meantime, we have to work on various proposals under the current system.

If I stick to what the motion actually says, we are not talking about the nominee program under the terms of the agreements with the provinces. What we are talking about are sponsorship applications within Canada.

I want to remind the House that a sponsorship application can only be made once in a lifetime. We would not be running any great risk if we allowed someone who is living here and has a family here to work, earn a living, help cover his family’s needs and pay taxes so long as his application is being processed. I should point out as well that these applications have very high success rates.

The worst that can happen is that, after a few months, the application is rejected and the person has to leave Canada. At least he will have worked during these few months and contributed to the economy at a time when the government itself says we have a labour shortage. I fail to see what the problem is.

The parliamentary secretary’s question actually rather confirms what I said in the beginning. There are not really any reasons to be against this motion. He is so afraid it could be taken as some kind of criticism that all he wants to say is look how great and clever the Conservative government is and what fine things it does for us. We should rise about this partisan approach and show a bit more humanity and compassion. The people who go through our immigration system, like Mr. Kader Belaouni whom I mentioned earlier, are not just numbers or statistics but real human beings. When a person is in the process of getting permanent resident status and is sponsored by a husband or wife, it is only showing a little humanity to allow that person to work while waiting for the government’s answer.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, a study states that by 2016 Quebec will need 13 million workers, so obviously we want more families to come to Quebec. We want more families that have started out in Quebec to be able to stay there and not be deported. We certainly want families to be able to work if they are in Quebec or to study when being sponsored by a spouse.

During discussion at the committee, we noted that stopping deportation for 60 days seems pretty arbitrary. Does 60 days make sense? A lot of applications take longer than 60 days and those people get deported. Does it make sense?

My last question is about cases considered under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. CIC, the Canada Immigration Centre, said that the average time for processing humanitarian and compassionate applications is 25 to 30 months. During that time, the CBSA, the removal agency, comes in and removes people while they are being considered within Canada. Does it make sense at all that we are processing these cases on humanitarian grounds and yet on the other hand the people are getting deported? Is it logical at all?