Mr. Speaker, as we witnessed today in question period, indeed, immigration is an important issue, an issue that requires vision, and an issue that speaks to the future of our country. When we look at the years 2011 to 2015, approximately 100% of the net labour force growth will come from immigration alone.
We take these private members' bills very seriously. We analyze them. We see how, in a holistic manner, they can address key concerns related to immigration. There is nobody in the House who does not care about reuniting families or helping new Canadians or understanding the economic and social benefits of immigration.
We do this as a modern society that has seen this country transform itself, and this bill is debated at a time when the census report, the 2006 statistics report, was actually released. What do we see? We see that the 2006 census enumerated 6,186,950 foreign born in Canada, representing one in five, that is 19.8% of total foreign born population, the highest proportion in 75 years.
Between 2001 and 2006, the foreign born population increased by 13.6%, four times higher than 3.3% growth of the Canadian born population, 19.8%. It is higher than the U.S. at 12.5%, and lower than Australia at 22.2%.
The census also estimates that 1,000,110 recent immigrants arrived in Canada between January 1, 2001 and May 16, 2006. These newcomers make up 17.9% of the total foreign born population and 3.6% of Canada's population of 31.2 million.
I say this to paint a picture of the new Canada that is emerging and the resources that will be required by this government and future governments to address the key issue of immigration and immigrant settlements. However, as I reviewed Bill C-394 it was déjà vu, because the material in Bill C-394 is not exactly new. Bill C-272 resembled it very much and so does Bill C-436.
This bill would allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor once in a lifetime a relative who is not a member of the family class. It defines a relative as a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, first cousin or child who is 22 years of age or older and is not dependent on sponsors.
It mirrors some of the provisions which already exist in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act regulations to process relatives who do not normally fall under the family class.
The bill essentially could create an exponential influx of immigration applications that could result in delays in processing priority members of the family class that are spouses, partners and dependent children. That could happen. It would also further increase processing times for other members of family class, such as parents and grandparents.
Good intentions also have to be followed with proper analysis of numbers and resources that are available. After today's question period, it was pretty clear that the present government does not have enough resources to address the present issues that our immigration system faces. It simply does not make sense at this point in time, unless we are willing to engage in a broader review of the immigration system in Canada with brand new goals and of course greater resources, to look at this particular bill.
We already have a backlog of 800,000 applications. That is stretching the present resources of the government.
I am one of those who has said, as I asked today in question period, that in fact the proper resources need to be made available so that we can reduce the backlog to have an effective and efficient immigration system. A system where we are going to require, as a nation that is an aging society, to really tap for the future not only the obvious social and cultural benefits drawn from immigration. I believe that immigration is an economic imperative as we look at the competition that exists for skilled workers and labour force of the future.
The hon. member will have to answer many questions related to whether or not she has actually crunched the numbers, as we say, in relationship to her bill. My sense is that she actually has not and that in fact this would inflate the demand for applications abroad as well.
This, of course, would result in larger processing inventories for family cases when demand in family class has already exceeded government resources. This would hamper, also, the efforts to process priority family members, such as spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children, as quickly as possible. It would also add pressure to the processing of other family class applicants.
So, these bills cannot be just introduced ad hoc. The immigration system is a bit more complicated than perhaps the hon. member would believe. We need to look at it and balance the various needs.
It is clear, and it has been pointed out already by the parliamentary secretary, that in fact there are provisions that allow people obviously to come to Canada, that is how they get here, and this bill essentially would stress the already stressed resources of the immigration department at home as well as abroad.
Finally, I want to say to the hon. member that I have really not heard anything new from her that was not heard during the debates and presentations of Bill C-272 and Bill C-436. This is kind of déjà vu all over again.
It is a question that, once it has failed, we need to, as members of Parliament presenting private members' bill, present new evidence that in fact things can work better. With a government that is not willing to provide greater resources to immigration, that is going to be difficult.
However, I am one of those individuals who think that, given the challenges that we face as a country, as I said earlier, an aging population, skills shortages and reunification of families, we need to look at immigration in a broader scope. We need to redefine exactly what our targets are and redefine what it is that the government is willing to invest in immigration. Is the present government willing to make it a priority?
Because, quite frankly, what I have seen to date in the short time that I have been immigration critic is a government that has not made immigration a priority, although every indicator, social, cultural and economic, points to the fact that the future of our country largely depends on our ability to attract immigrants.
Whether we are talking about the 800,000 application backlog or whether we are talking about the $100 million shortfall with the Province of Ontario to help it deal with immigration issues, as well as the failure of the accreditation of foreign credentials, there is a lot of work to do in this portfolio.
I hope that the Prime Minister, as well as cabinet, begins to really realize that immigration in this country should not be an afterthought. Immigration is a key issue. It speaks to the future of our country and it should be taken more seriously by the Conservative government.