An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Libby Davies  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of May 15, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
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Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

This private member's bill would grant every Canadian citizen or permanent resident the opportunity to sponsor once in his or her lifetime one foreign national who is a relative but not a member of the existing family class. The existing family class is a spouse, a common law or conjugal partner, a child under 22, a parent, or a grandparent. In that sense, there is an opportunity to sponsor family.

All of us appreciate the importance of strengthening families. Family reunification has been a cornerstone of Canadian immigration for decades, and this government is committed to ensuring that families represent a vibrant component of our immigration program in the years ahead. Indeed, that is what Canadians expect. Canadians expect a government that is firmly committed to families and to strengthening the ways that families can be reunited with their loved ones from overseas should they choose to make Canada their new home.

The issue raised by Bill C-394 is not new. There is a considerable history to it. The bill was previously introduced on two occasions and was defeated by significant margins at second reading. Bill C-272 was previously defeated on March 23, 2005 by a margin of 167 to 76. Bill C-436 was defeated on April 18, 2004 by a margin of 149 to 40. It is worth noting that both our party and the then Liberal government were clearly opposed to the previous incarnations of this bill.

The bill defines a relative as a brother or a sister of the sponsor, an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin, or a child who is under 22 and not dependent on the sponsor.

The management and implementation of a provision for once in a lifetime sponsorship of a family member is problematic for a number of reasons, all of which apply to the private member's bill before the House today. Such a wide open expansion of the family class category would place an unsupportable burden on existing resources.

It is interesting that the member did not answer the question about the uptake, or how many people this might bring into the system. If, as she said, the targets were not going to be changed, where would those numbers come from, where would they be taken away from?

There is no doubt that it would increase inventories exponentially and likely result in substantial delays for processing other applications, including those from immediate family members or applicants from other family class categories. This clearly is not in the best interests of Canadians.

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park knows there are extensive family reunification provisions in the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the regulations and guidelines thereunder. These regulations, passed in 2002, significantly enhance the family reunification program and more closely reflect today's social and cultural realities.

It is easier today for Canadians and permanent residents to sponsor their loved ones from abroad in a well-managed and sustainable way.

These changes, for example, provide for equal treatment under the law for common law and conjugal partners. They expand the definition of dependent child to better reflect the new realities of children being reliant on their parents for longer periods of time. They lower the age at which Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible to sponsor from 19 years of age to 18 years of age.

Under the immigration and refugee protection regulations, Canadians and permanent residents can also sponsor any other relative, regardless of age or relationship, if the sponsor does not have a more immediate living family member.

These enhancements to the family class facilitate family reunification while ensuring an appropriate balance between economic and non-economic immigrants. In the absence of a significant increase in admissions and resources, the adoption of this bill would have significant impacts on the balance and on the overall inventory and processing.

While the previous Liberal government allowed the backlog to balloon to over 800,000, the ever-increasing number of applicants wishing to make Canada their home continues to put additional pressures on the immigration system which many say is already too cumbersome and slow. These pressures would be compounded exponentially by the implementation of Bill C-394.

Simply put, implementing this legislation would impede CIC's ability to ensure the program is balanced and responsive to government priorities, including the ability to meet labour market demands.

The proposed amendments would also have potential impacts on matters of provincial and territorial concern. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has consulted with other levels of government, partners and stakeholders to find a way to work on immigration issues in a more coordinated and cooperative way.

For example, under provincial and territorial immigration agreements, the government has removed the limit on the number of immigrants provinces can nominate each year, allowing the provinces a better opportunity to meet their unique economic, social and labour market needs.

We have also committed to find ways to help temporary foreign workers and students settle in the provinces. In recent years most have gone to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver because large, established ethnic communities in those cities have made them attractive to newcomers. This has been a major challenge for the immigration system. Therefore, we have aligned our system to make it more responsive to labour market and regional needs.

As all members know, part of the government's plan for the coming year involves introducing a new avenue to immigration, a new economic class that will help attract and retain certain skilled temporary workers and international students with Canadian degrees and work experience.

We must ensure that the immigration program continues to meet the needs of all Canadians in the future. It is how the government will move forward in the future.

We agree with the concept of making it easier for families to reunite with their loved ones. We agree with the idea of strengthening families in general. But, the government has also a duty to properly manage the immigration program and ensure the principles of integrity and balance are upheld.

It is worth noting that the previous Liberal government was vehemently opposed to this legislation when it was introduced in previous sessions. On November 3, 2003, a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration said:

Such a wide open approach would significantly increase processing delays and the size of existing backlogs for every immigrant category. it would place an unsupportable burden on existing resources, and it would help to undermine the integrity of the entire immigration program by increasing the opportunities for fraud.

This position was echoed by another former Liberal parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration, the current member for Vancouver Centre, who, on February 12, 2004 said that the actual effect of the legislation would be:

--anyone could sponsor nearly anyone else as a member of the undefined relative class without any thought to fiscal support or employability. The new person could then repeat the exercise, as could their sponsored applicant, and so on, creating a multiplier effect. The result would be an almost limitless chain of family class immigration based simply on loose associations.

If this proposal is adopted, not only will we need significant resources to deal with a larger number of cases, but we will also need proportionally more resources to deal with the family class applications, simply to maintain the existing ratio between family and economic class immigration.

Moreover, this could result in new frauds and it could undermine the integrity of the economic class immigration, since a significant number of economic class immigrants have distant relatives in Canada who could sponsor them.

The changes proposed...runs counter...to the principles of fairness, balance and consultation, and so we cannot support it.

That is what that member said. Those are not our words.

Implementing Bill C-394 would have far-reaching negative implications on the integrity of the current immigration system. Its specific proposals to expand the family class are both unsustainable and unmanageable. We therefore cannot support Bill C-394 and urge all hon. members to do the same.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 10th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition signed by a number of people from the Toronto area who call for family reunification. They point out that family reunification has long been and remains a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy. The petitioners support Bill C-436 that would amend the act to allow a family member to sponsor a family member who would not otherwise qualify under the existing rules.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 28th, 2004 / 6:20 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-436 under private members' business.

After the taking of the vote:

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 7:05 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 6:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2004 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Bryden Conservative 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.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 27th, 2004 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to present two petitions this morning. The first petition pertains to Bill C-436, the once in a lifetime legislation, which is again before the House today for debate.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to take this proposal seriously and to ensure that family reunification is again an important part of the government's immigration policy.

The petitioners acknowledge that nothing is more important than the family when it comes to the health and well-being of our society. They deeply regret that the government has failed to move on a more modern definition of family that allows for aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters to be joined together in one place and to support one another.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 21st, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to present a petition signed by hundreds of citizens in my constituency and residents throughout the province of Manitoba who are concerned about immigration policy. They are very concerned that the government has neglected to consider that the family remains a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy.

They call upon the government to amend our present legislation to ensure that members of families not now included in the family sponsorship category have a way to come to this country. They specifically call upon Parliament to endorse and support the legislation before the House, Bill C-436, once in a lifetime legislation.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 31st, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my second group of petitions deals with an immigration issue. The petitioners argue that new Canadians should be able to sponsor, once in a lifetime, one family member who would not normally qualify under the family reunification class; in other words, we would vote into effect Bill C-436, which would change the immigration act to broaden the family sponsorship category so that once during a person's life one family member could be sponsored who otherwise would not qualify.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 31st, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the other four petitions all have to do with immigration and family reunification. These are petitioners from all across Canada who believe that the federal government has fallen short of its own targets in recent years with respect to immigration and that family reunification is a cornerstone of our policy.

They call on the government and Parliament to support Bill C-436, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would allow people to sponsor, once in a lifetime, a relative not now eligible under the family reunification class.

I respectfully submit these petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 29th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition recognizes that family reunification has long been and remains a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy and that the current regulations are very narrow, excluding many family members, and that these concerns can be addressed by the swift passage of Bill C-436.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to speak about the commitment of our government to strengthen families and about the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on family reunification.

Families are both an anchor and a source of strength to newcomers. They represent the strongest possible foundation and roots for the health and prosperity of communities and of Canada as a whole. It is important to ensure that new families are vibrant and have the tools and resources needed to integrate, participate and feel a sense of belonging to Canada.

Over the past two years the government has achieved this objective through prudent management of the immigration program and a commitment to expanding and integrating the family class. From 1998 to 2001 the family class in Canada moved from 50,882 to 66,713. That represents an increase of almost 16,000 immigrants only in the family class in just four years.

However we felt this was not enough so the government introduced new regulations in 2002 to allow even more individuals to sponsor family members and to speed up the processing of family class applications.

We have expanded the family class to include common-law and conjugal partners of the opposite and same sex, and have increased the dependent age to 22. As well, we have reduced the age at which Canadian citizens are eligible to sponsor from 19 to 18 years and the period of sponsorship undertakings has been reduced in most cases from 10 to 3 years.

These are significant changes and they are designed to facilitate family reunification.

New application rules will assist in the faster processing of applications on behalf of spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children.

In making these changes, we took into account the need to increase people's ability to sponsor family members, while ensuring that the immigration program is managed in a balanced and efficient fashion. This approach clearly serves the best interests of everyone: Canadians, newcomers and our communities.

Currently the government is expanding the consultation process to ensure municipal leaders and other community stakeholders have a say in immigration matters. The overwhelming majority of newcomers to Canada settle in cities placing enormous demands on their resources, so their input is vital.

Earlier this week the minister met with municipal leaders in Ontario and over the coming months she will meet with other municipal leaders across the country. This dialogue will allow us to increase immigration levels in a way that benefits both the communities and the newcomers themselves.

Provincial stakeholders must be consulted before any changes are made that could radically change the balance between family class and economic immigrants since they could face insurmountable demands on health, educational and social services.

While government has met or exceeded annual immigration targets in the last three years, these targets are developed in close co-operation with stakeholders. We are determined to continue this trend of increasing family class over time but we must do so in a fair, balanced, sustainable and consultative way.

The changes proposed by the hon. member for Vancouver East in Bill C-436 runs counter to this process and to the principles of fairness, balance and consultation, and so we cannot support it.

Besides, Canadians or permanent residents who wish to sponsor someone not in the family class can already do so provided they have no family members living in Canada or abroad whom they could sponsor in the family class.

Bill C-436 would expand this concept to grant all citizens in Canada or permanent residents a once in a lifetime sponsorship opportunity, regardless of their circumstances, with little consideration given to their familiarity or relationship with a sponsored individual.

Under Bill C-436, anyone could sponsor nearly anyone else as a member of the undefined relative class without any thought to fiscal support or employability. The new person could then repeat the exercise, as could their sponsored applicant, and so on, creating a multiplier effect. The result would be an almost limitless chain of family class immigration based simply on loose associations.

If this proposal is adopted, not only will we need significant resources to deal with a larger number of cases, but we will also need proportionally more resources to deal with the family class applications, simply to maintain the existing ratio between family and economic class immigration.

Moreover, this could result in new frauds and it could undermine the integrity of the economic class immigration, since a significant number of economic class immigrants have distant relatives in Canada who could sponsor them.

We on this side of the House are committed to the principle of uniting families. I know the hon. member for Vancouver East's heart is in the right place but past experiences show that this should be done with appropriate intake controls in place to prevent abuse and to make sure that changes do not overwhelm the integration and immigration program.

We need to consult with local stakeholders to ensure increases in family class levels are achieved in a way that benefits everyone, and the minister plans to do that.

By following all of these processes, all Canadians can then be sure of a fair, efficient and equitable immigration program for many years to come.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2004 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in this debate on behalf of my colleague, the hon. member for Laval Centre, who could not be in the House today and asked me to speak for her. Here, then, is the message she would have wanted to present to the House at this time.

There are certain debates in this House that require making decisions in the light of a particular context and realities that cannot be ignored.

Today, I have the opportunity to speak to such an issue, one which calls on our judgment and demands thorough reflection, in order to determine our position.

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

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.

We are well acquainted with the hon. member for Vancouver East. This proposal reflects her humanitarianism and her great generosity. We commend her on the spirit behind this bill.

Unfortunately, we cannot support her bill as it is currently formulated. Three major reasons underlie our position: the lack of clarity of the bill; immigration priorities, particularly Canada's role in refugee protection; and finally, budgetary constraints and the resulting choices for the allocation of resources.

However, the Bloc is prepared to discuss this further before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The reason the Bloc is expressing its reticence about this bill is its lack of clarity. When we say that the proposal by the hon. member for Vancouver East lacks clarity, I wonder, for example, what she means by:

—one foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class.

What are the acceptable limits of the definition of “a relative”? For example, is a third cousin counted as a relative? Is there a requirement that they share a genetic ancestor and, if so, in what percentage? What is the dividing line between an acceptable relative and one who is not, if the list of admissible persons has not been defined?

We easily see that there is a great deal of room for arbitrary decisions. If the hon. member for Vancouver East 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.

For example, we know that certain cultures consider family much more broadly than blood relations. For some people, a very close friend or neighbour is like a brother or at least like a member of the family.

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?

The hon. member should be able to show how many people would be affected by this new measure. Has she any credible and relevant studies on this? For now, we can only presume that this kind of proposal would have allowed 229,091 additional sponsorship applications in 2002.

With respect to the priority given to asylum seekers, Canada's immigration plan is split 60-40. In other words, immigrants are selected as follows: 60% are economic immigrants, meaning businesspeople, and self-employed and skilled workers; the remaining 40% are family class immigrants, asylum seekers and so forth.

Of this 40%, more or less 30% are family class immigrants, 9% are refugees and 1% others.

Clearly, it is the asylum seekers who will pay for the new measures to increase the number of people who qualify for family class. Anyone tempted to decrease the 60% should consider the fact that before family members of a permanent resident or Canadian citizen can be brought here, the primary applicant must qualify to enter Canada first, 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. Clearly, the numerous conflicts and civil wars in a growing number of countries—Colombia, Algeria, Palestine-Israel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan—should make democratic countries listen more carefully to people seeking refugee status. Because of inadequate budgets, Canada turns away thousands of asylum seekers every year whose lives are in danger in their homelands. With larger budgets, Canada could better meet its obligations as a signatory of the Geneva convention with respect to protecting refugees.

By allowing more immigrants to sponsor “distant” relatives, we are using resources that could save lives by accepting more asylum seekers. Politics and public administration are no exception; as with daily life we have to make responsible choices while taking various constraints into account.

Would it be better to bring a cousin to Canada or offer asylum to a Colombian family whose members might be tortured or killed if they were returned to Colombia?

Now, to touch on the budget limitations. Last of all, although the humanitarian intent of the member for Vancouver East is praiseworthy, her bill does not take into consideration the realities of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's budget.

Canada's immigration objective is to admit the equivalent of 1% of the Canadian population, or 310,000 immigrants annually. There are two key reasons for this: compensating for the drop in population and filling the need for skilled workers, 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.

This is the major problem with the whole immigration issue. The virtual absence in the recent throne speech of any reference to insufficient resources for immigration is the reason we support this bill in order to have the opportunity to discuss it in committee. In fact, if it is passed on second reading, there will have to be a debate in committee and we then be in a position to prove that the Department of CItizenship and Immigration is incapable of meeting its responsibilities because of insufficient funds. What it more, an analysis in committee would enable us to propose some essential points to be incorporated into the bill of the member for Vancouver East.

By recognizing the humanitarian aspect of Bill C-436, and by accepting its referral to a committee, the Bloc Quebecois would help prove that common sense and responsibility dictate that we ask for sufficient funding to provide proper settlement services for those who are admitted, while not ignoring our humanitarian duty to asylum seekers. They must be given priority access to resources.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2004 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-436.

The bill seeks to amend Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by granting every citizen or permanent resident the opportunity to sponsor, once in the sponsor's lifetime, one foreign national who is a relative but not a member of the family class.

The concept of once in a lifetime sponsorship is not new. Governments and stakeholders have debated and analyzed whether such a provision would be workable for several years.

All of us believe in the principle of expanding the family class and making it easier for people to sponsor their loved ones abroad. However, the one time sponsorship option such as that proposed in Bill C-436 is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Past experience indicates that even with more resources, the increase in the backlogs and processing times for this and other categories of immigrants that could be generated by such an open ended system would seriously undermine the integrity and credibility of the whole immigration program.

Bill C-436 will have the effect of adding a new class to the immigration program and introducing new opportunities for fraud. Since relationships outside the nuclear family are often not well documented and usually are very difficult to verify, the government would need to significantly increase resources to investigate and confirm each claim for sponsorship made under this new section.

In 1988 family intake nearly doubled over two years, thanks to a similar arrangement to include all unmarried sons and daughters in the family class. The escalated number of backlogs arising out of this program, despite its termination in 1993, affected the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for many years.

Even putting aside the potential for huge backlogs, Bill C-436 would undoubtedly undermine our efforts to prevent marriages or common law relationships of convenience and adoptions of convenience since these persons could be sponsored without regard to the merits of their relationship with the sponsor.

It could also undermine the economic component of the immigration program, as many failed economic immigrants have distant relatives in Canada who could easily sponsor them.

We have already made provision for sponsoring individuals outside the family class under certain circumstances. There is little reason to duplicate this in a separate piece of legislation with such serious problems.

Canadians and permanent residents today can sponsor a foreign national who is not a member of the family class, provided that they have no family residing in Canada or abroad. Section 117(1)(h) of the new immigration refugee protection regulations defines a foreign national as a member of the family class with respect to a sponsor regardless of age if the sponsor does not have a spouse, common law partner, conjugal partner or any other immediate family member in Canada or abroad. Individuals can also apply to sponsor a non-family class relative under section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act itself which allows a minister to grant a foreign national permanent residence status or an exemption from any applicable criteria of the act on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

As well, the government passed a series of new regulations just last year to make it much easier for Canadians and permanent residents to sponsor their loved ones from abroad and significantly expand the family class in a well managed and sustainable way. These changes provide for equal treatment under the law for common law couples of the opposite and the same sex by expanding the family class to include the terms “common law partners” and “conjugal partners”.

They also expand the definition of “dependant child” to better reflect the longer child dependencies in certain instances. They also reduce the age at which Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible to sponsor from 19 years to 18 years old.

These enhancements to the family class reflect the government's policy intention of easing family reunification while ensuring that the immigration program itself maintains an appropriate balance between the intake of refugees as well as economic and family class immigrants.

We have expanded the family class in a well planned and responsible way. The government has made provision for individuals who wish to sponsor an individual not included in the family class without jeopardizing the integrity of the immigration program itself.

I therefore find it difficult to support the concept of a once in a lifetime sponsorship and will not vote in favour of the fundamentally flawed scheme set out in Bill C-436.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak to my bill, Bill C-436. In actual fact, we had an hour of debate on the bill before the House was prorogued, but under the changes that have taken place we are now going back to the first hour. I am pleased to have this opportunity to have another debate and to hear from other members about the bill.

Since we debated it the last time in that first hour of debate, I did want to let members know that I have had various meetings across the country in various communities. There has been tremendous support for this bill. We have received petitions, postcards and feedback from organizations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and other places that I visited. There has been tremendous support for the idea that is contained in the bill.

Just to briefly recap, this is a very straightforward proposal. It is a proposal that builds on a policy that already exists within our immigration system, and that is to support the reunification of families.

Under this bill, a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident would be provided with a once in a lifetime opportunity to sponsor a relative who would not otherwise be qualified or considered as a member of the family class as it exists now. What this bill would do is strengthen and assist family reunification in Canada.

We believe that the current family class sponsorship rules are very restrictive. In fact, in a question and answer paper that I sent around to members of the House, we laid out who it is that can be sponsored now under the existing rules, but there are many relatives that cannot be sponsored. Therefore, the purpose of the bill is to simply allow a permanent resident or a citizen to select a family member who does not qualify under the rules. A person could apply for it and bring a family member to Canada.

I do want to deal with some of the questions that arose during that earlier hour of debate. I think that while there was general support for the principle of what was contained here, there were questions such as, for example, would this not create a huge backlog within the immigration system? I would reply to that by saying that I think all of us know--and certainly members who have participated in the citizenship and immigration committee are very aware of the fact--that there are huge problems with the current immigration system. In fact, there are backlogs that exist now. The citizenship committee has, on a number of occasions and in a report just a few months ago, called for additional resources to be provided to deal with this chronic backlog.

This is a much larger issue around needing adequate resources within this department. I have said many times in the House and in committee that I always feel that the lack of resources in this department is one way that the government actually, through the back door, finds a way to not meet its own commitment of saying that the level of immigration would be about 1% of the Canadian population each year. That policy is on the books, but the way the government gets around it is by actually ensuring that this backlog exists.

My point in debating and seeking support for this bill is that hard-working families should not bear the blame of the problems that are plaguing the citizenship and immigration department. We need to fix those problems. We need to provide adequate resources to that department. For example, one thing we could do is make sure the money that is created through the landing fee is actually going back into the supports and services in that department.

So the criticism was made that we would be adding to the backlog. I understand that point, but I think we need to address that as an overall issue. In fact, bringing this bill to committee I think would allow us to open up the debate and to look at the issue of resources that are within the department.

Second, there were some questions about how many people we are talking about. If this bill were approved, what potentially would we be talking about in terms of people coming to Canada? That is something I cannot answer categorically, of course, because if this bill were approved it would allow a potential for permanent residents and citizens to sponsor someone.

However, I will say this. In 1993, the number of people sponsored under the family class provision was 110,000. Today, though, the projection for the arrival of family members is much lower. It is now at around 60,000. I think members can see that there has been a shift in the program and that the family class program has actually decreased over a number of years.

I feel that Bill C-436 would allow a bit more flexibility. It is not about a major overhaul of the system, which I could argue on other occasions desperately needs to be done. This is actually a very modest proposal that would simply provide more openness and flexibility under the family class rules.

I would also like to point out that the idea of doing this did not come from me, although when I heard about it I thought it was a great idea. It actually came from a former minister of immigration. When she was in Vancouver, this idea was put out to the community. It was not just floated; it was a fairly concrete idea that was suggested by the minister at the time. Of course it received tremendous support immediately, both within the local media and within the community. Within a very short period of time, a large number of petitions went around the community supporting the idea of a once in a lifetime bill.

Subsequent to that, the minister moved on and the idea was dropped. I thought it was a fabulous idea and asked myself why we should waste this kind of good, creative approach that would provide a modest change to the system. I picked up the idea as a private member's bill. I wanted to make that point because the bill actually originated from the government side.

I do think that Bill C-436 is related to larger issues around citizenship and immigration. Today I was very proud to be joined at a press conference by two of my colleagues, the member for Windsor--St. Clair and the member for Winnipeg Centre, where we spoke about this once in a lifetime bill. Also, today we introduced in the House a bill to ban racial profiling in Canada. We also introduced a new website launched by the NDP called Canadians4Justice.

We have done these three things as major initiatives because we are concerned about what is taking place in our society. There is more targeting of people of visible minorities or of different religious backgrounds. We have seen this particularly in the Canadian Muslim community and the Canadian Arab community. Even here in Ottawa an outrageous incident took place in a restaurant not far away from Parliament Hill where the police in effect raided the restaurant and were quite, I would say, over the top in their actions. They handcuffed all the black people in the restaurant and left the lone Caucasian white person alone. So there is the whole issue around the targeting of minorities, both in terms of individual incidents and also in a more systemic way in terms of how the system is functioning. For example, we are seeing an increase in refugees who are being put into detention. We are also seeing more people being stopped at borders by officials.

We are very concerned about this, so we launched these three proposals today. I think this issue is very much resonating in the broader community, because people are very concerned about the targeting of immigrants and visible minorities. Some are people who have been here for generations but happen to have a different colour of skin. This is something we should be concerned about.

I feel that Bill C-436 is a small step in making our system fairer and more accessible to people. I do feel that sometimes it is not very politically popular to talk about immigration or to be supportive of immigration--sometimes it is and sometimes it is not--but I feel that as members of Parliament we have a responsibility to make sure that the system is working and to point out its shortcomings.

Today this bill is really put forward in that spirit. It is about saying that we can support families in this country. It is about supporting diversity. I had a very tragic case in my own riding of Vancouver East that I think dramatizes what the bill is about. I am sure some people may be aware that a young Filipino boy was murdered by other young people near a park in east Vancouver.

The tragedy of the story is that the mother had come from the Philippines as a live-in caregiver, a domestic worker. She had three sons. She was only able to sponsor two sons because one of them did not qualify under the family class. One of her sons was murdered, the youngest one. There was a huge outpouring in the community about this situation. I attended the funeral. There were probably a thousand people at the funeral as well as all kinds of political representatives. There was just such an outpouring of grief about what had happened to this family.

We actually helped the family get the older brother from the Philippines to Canada on a special ministerial permit so he could attend the funeral and support his mother--this is the oldest son--and his middle brother. He came to Canada on a special ministerial permit which we luckily, with the support of the minister, were able to get in a day.

The irony is that this fellow will now have to go back because he came on a visitor's permit. He will not qualify. I feel that this is a very good example of where a policy such as this one, based on family reunification, would allow this mother to bring her oldest son to come to Canada to help this family make it through, because there he is, thousands of miles away. Because he is over 25, he would not qualify under the family class as it is now.

I know there are many other situations and really heartbreaking stories. I know that members in the earlier debate spoke about some of those stories.

What do we do about it? The system is not working properly. I hope very much that even if there are questions about the bill, members will support the principle here, the principle of family reunification and allowing this little bit of flexibility within the system to say that once in a lifetime a person could sponsor someone who would not otherwise qualify. All the other rules would apply. There are all kinds of screenings that people have to go through and so on. All of those things would apply.

I hope the bill can make it through debate and go to committee where it can have a thorough examination, as we do in committee. We can hear witnesses and all the rest of it. Then a decision will be made.

I seek the support of other members of the House for the bill, in particular members on the government side. I seek their support for the bill to allow it to go to the next step. When it was first debated the government was not that sympathetic to the idea, but I know that we have a new parliamentary secretary, the member for Vancouver Centre, who I know is very familiar with these issues. I know that she is very supportive and understands the importance of family reunification and what it means to people in our community of Vancouver and certainly in communities across the country as well.

I am hopeful. We have a new minister who I understand is very close to the issues and what is happening. Therefore I am being a little optimistic that with a new minister and a new parliamentary secretary we will get a little shot at this. Instead of them closing the door and saying, “It is a private member's bill, shut the door on that one”, I am hoping that we might have a good debate, that the principle of what is being put forward will be supported and that we can seek the support of other parties as well. I look forward to hearing comments and debate from other members of the House.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

February 11th, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus briefly on two aspects of the minister's speech. I would indicate to him that I appreciated his remarks with respect to the Winnipeg community.

I want to focus on his statement about strength from diversity and the celebration of our ethnocultural heritage, something that obviously we have in common in our Winnipeg constituencies.

Based on that, my first question is, is the minister prepared to give support to Bill C-436, which is before the House now and which has been sponsored by my colleague, the member for Vancouver East. It is about allowing every Canadian a chance once in a lifetime to sponsor a relative who now would not be eligible under the family class category? That is my first question.

My second question has to do with the need for urban renewal and for a new deal for a city like Winnipeg. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the north end of Winnipeg, where we have had a recreation facility sitting empty for over a decade and for which the community has actively sought federal funding.

I have written the minister myself on a couple of occasions and have yet to receive a response. I would like to know and the people of north Winnipeg like to know if once and for all the wellness centre in the north end of Winnipeg, which has a large aboriginal population and is a high needs area, will receive funding through western diversification?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are certain debates in this House that require making decisions in the light of a particular context and realities that cannot be ignored. Today, I have the opportunity to speak on a question that demands serious thought in order to arrive at our position. Here we see reason clashing with passion.

Bill C-436, sponsored by the hon. member for Vancouver East, seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The proposed amendment reads as follows:

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.

We are well acquainted with the hon. member for Vancouver East. This proposal reflects her humanitarianism and her great generosity. We commend her on the spirit behind this bill.

Unfortunately, we cannot support her bill as it is currently formulated. Three major reasons underlie our position: the lack of clarity of Bill C-436; immigration priorities, particularly Canada's role in refugee protection; and finally, budgetary constraints and the resulting choices for the allocation of resources.

What do we mean when we say that the hon. NDP member's proposal lacks clarity? What does she mean by a “foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class”? What are the acceptable limits of the definition of “a relative”? For example, is a third cousin counted as a relative? Is there a requirement that they share a genetic ancestor and, if so, to what percentage? What is the dividing line between an acceptable relative and one who is not, if the list of admissible persons has not been defined?

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.

For example, we know that certain cultures consider family much more broadly than blood relations. For some people, a very close friend or neighbour is like a brother or at least like a member of the family.

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?

That way, the hon. member should be able to show how many people would be affected by this new measure. Has she any credible and relevant studies on this? For now, we can only presume that this kind of proposal would have allowed 229,091 additional sponsorship applications in 2002.

This piece of the pie, which is Canada's immigration plan, is split 60-40. In other words, immigrants are selected as follows: 60% 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 40%, approximately 30% are family class immigrants, 10% are refugees, and 1% other. If the number of individuals who qualify for family class is increased, who will pay? Since the total is split 60-40, asylum seekers will clearly pay the price of these new measures.

Those members interested in 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%, headlines show deportation cases for asylum seekers being dismissed almost every week. Clearly, the numerous conflicts and civil wars in a growing number of countries—Colombia, Algeria, Palestine, Israel, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan—should make democratic countries pay closer attention to refugee claimants. Every year, small budgets cause Canada to turn away thousands of asylum seekers whose lives are in danger in their country of origin. With bigger budgets, Canada could further meet its obligations as a signatory of the Geneva convention with respect to protecting refugees.

By allowing more immigrants to sponsor relatives, we are using resources that could save lives by accepting more asylum seekers. Politics and public administration are no exception, as with daily life we have to make responsible choices while taking various constraints into account. Would it be better to bring a distant cousin to Canada or offer asylum to a Colombian family whose members might be tortured or killed if they were returned to Colombia? In an ideal world we could do both, but for now this is not possible.

Although the humanitarian intent of the NDP member is praiseworthy, her bill does not take into consideration the realities of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's budget.

Canada's immigration objective is to admit the equivalent of 1% of the Canadian population, or 310,000 immigrants annually. There are two key reasons for this: compensating for the recorded drop in population and filling the need for skilled workers, particularly with economic category 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.

This past spring, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration's trip across Canada gave us a good idea of the inadequate funds available for settlement of newcomers and the unfortunate consequences of this situation. The quality of services to new arrivals is as important as, if not more important than the quantity of newcomers. What is the point of bringing in distant cousins and neighbours, if we are not even in a position to properly service those already here in Quebec and in Canada?

It is important to clearly understand that the Bloc Quebecois recognizes the humanitarian aspect of Bill C-436, and if the hon. member agrees to take it back to the drawing board and fine tune her proposal, particularly by improving its focus and clarifying those who would be eligible, it is possible that we might support it when time comes to vote. For the moment, however, common sense and responsibility dictate that we instead favour providing proper settlement services for those who are admitted. As well, our humanitarian duty toward asylum seekers requires us to afford them priority when resources are being allocated. For them it is often a matter of life or death. As the old saying has it, “You should not bite off more than you can chew”. We are better to not bite off so much that we develop problems later.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2003 / 11:25 a.m.
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Brampton Centre Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, family reunification has long been a key objective of the Government of Canada's policy and legislation. It helps ensure the well-being of each newcomer we bring to Canada and it substantially contributes to community growth and prosperity. Debates on how to strengthen this important cornerstone of Canadian policy to allow more family members to sponsor their loved ones from abroad therefore have a long and rich tradition.

In June 2002 Canada opened a new chapter in this regard with the passage of regulations to significantly enhance the family reunification program, which more closely reflect today's social and cultural realities. These changes reflect extensive public consultation as well as the government's commitment to expand the family class and balance the number of family members we bring to Canada each year with a sustainable plan.

The new regulations allow individuals in a common law or conjugal relationship with a Canadian to be sponsored. They broaden the definition of dependent child by including children under 22 years old, up from under age 19 in the previous regulations. The regulations also reduce the age at which Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible to become sponsors from 19 to 18 years old, and they decrease the period of sponsorship undertakings from ten years to three years in most cases.

These changes are based on careful deliberations and reflect the recommendations of individual experts in the field as well as stakeholder organizations in every region of the country. They support our commitment to the family. They also help ensure that Canada maintains the appropriate balance of economic and family class immigration.

As part of the public consultations concerning the new regulations, the government gave careful consideration to a number of options to further expand the family class, including a suggestion that each Canadian or permanent resident should receive a one-time opportunity to sponsor a non-family class relative. The once in a lifetime sponsorship option was found unworkable for a number of reasons, all of which apply to the private member's bill before the House today.

Bill C-436 would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to grant Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to sponsor, once in a sponsor's lifetime, one foreign national who is a relative but not a member of the family class. The bill contains no definition of relative nor any apparent restrictions or limitations on intake beyond its once in a lifetime provision. Such a wide open approach would significantly increase processing delays and the size of existing backlogs for every immigrant category. It would place an unsupportable burden on existing resources, and it would help to undermine the integrity of the entire immigration program by increasing the opportunities for fraud.

Canada's recent experience with the removal of limitations on sponsorships clearly demonstrates the flaws in the private member's bill under consideration. In 1988 the government of the time changed the sponsorship rules to include all unmarried sons and daughters in the family class. Total intake in this category nearly doubled over two years, going from 53,033 in 1987 to 104,199 in 1989. When the government cancelled the program in 1993, it was after an eight year processing backlog had been incurred at some Canadian missions, and some of the effects are still being felt today.

Think of it this way. The increase from 1987 to 1989 consisted almost entirely of never married children of any age. If the proposal under debate today were limited to never married children, family class intake would at least double in the next two years. However, if all distant relatives are included with their spouses and children, family class intake could increase even more. Since the newly landed relatives could themselves sponsor any relative as soon as they were qualified to do so, the family class could potentially overwhelm the immigration program. This is clearly not in the best interests of Canadians or the newcomers we bring to our shores.

We agree with the concept of expanding the family class and making it easier for families to reunite with their loves ones in Canada. We agree with the idea of strengthening families in general. Our recent actions clearly support and reinforce this commitment, but the government has also a duty to properly manage the immigration program and ensure that the principles of fairness, integrity and balance are upheld. We therefore cannot support Bill C-436 or any other special provision that fails to take into consideration all that I have mentioned earlier.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2003 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to speak for the first hour of debate to my private member's bill, Bill C-436, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for supporting the bill. I know it is an issue that he supports very much. He has had a lot of feedback in his riding about the bill and I am very happy that he is seconding the bill today.

The bill before us would allow a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to make a once in a lifetime sponsorship of a relative who would not otherwise be considered under the family class sponsorship rules that exist today.

I brought forward the bill because one of Canada's key immigration objectives is to help families reunite in Canada. In fact we just received information from the minister a couple of days ago showing us that 28% of Canada's new immigrants are under the family class.

Upon examination of the current provisions, it becomes very clear that the current legislation defining the family class is quite restrictive, leaving many potential relatives ineligible for family reunification. I know in Vancouver East, my own riding, and indeed across the country, because I have heard from many people, many families are desperate to reunite with a family member who is still in the country of origin.

The bill is actually a very modest one. It does not change the system in any dramatic way. It lays out that a permanent resident or a Canadian citizen could sponsor, once in a lifetime, on a one time basis, a family member who would not otherwise qualify under the existing rule. It is that straightforward and it is that simple.

Just to give some context to this proposal, the Liberal red book has long put forward a goal to move immigration levels to 1% of the population, which would be about 300,000 people per year. However, as we all know, we have never come close to meeting this target. On average about 219,000 immigrants arrive each year in Canada.

In 1993 the number of people sponsored under the family class provision reached a peak of 110,000. Today the projection for family member sponsorship is around 60,000. We can see that there has actually been a decline from that peak in 1993.

The federal NDP and our leader, Jack Layton, have been very outspoken on this issue and very supportive of the bill. We do support the government target of 1% of the population for immigration. We consider immigration to be a powerful and positive contribution to the economic, social, cultural and political life of our country. We are a party that has always stood for supporting immigration.

We have seen too often a backlash against immigrants. I read a front page story in the Vancouver Sun last Thursday, the day I held a press conference in my own community around the bill, which linked immigrants to terrorists. We all know we are in an environment where there is increasing hostility toward immigration.

I am proud to say that in the federal NDP we have always supported immigration. We want to see the federal government meet its own targets. We know there are Liberal members who support those goals as well. We can help achieve the goal of 1% by supporting the bill without drastically changing the system.

Currently, under the family class section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, only the following relatives are eligible for sponsorship, and it is quite restrictive. For example, one can sponsor a spouse, a common law or conjugal partner who is at least 16 years of age. One can sponsor a dependent child who is under 22, is a full time student, is dependent on a parent for financial support or has a disability. One can also sponsor a parent or a grandparent.

My bill would allow a further step such that someone not eligible under those restrictions could be sponsored. A brother or a sister over 18 years of age could be sponsored. A first cousin, an aunt or uncle or a niece or nephew over the age that now provides the restriction could also be sponsored. A child over the age of 22 could also be sponsored. My bill gives more flexibility.

I want to make it very clear that my bill is not opening up the floodgates to family class sponsorships. Sponsorship would be on the basis of somebody being able to do this once in a lifetime.

I am sure that all members, based on their own experiences in their own ridings, have heard of heartbreaking cases of families spending years in the system trying to get a family member to Canada from their country of origin. I find it heartbreaking to see the psychological impact and sometimes the economic impact that hits these families that have been broken up. I feel that if my bill were supported and acted upon it would be a small step in helping to provide family reunification.

Bill C-436 has received tremendous support. When this idea first came up from the former minister of immigration in 2000, 15,000 signatures were collected in Vancouver alone in support of this policy change. Unfortunately, the then minister decided not to go ahead with the change.

Even today the bill is gathering a lot of support across the country from groups like MOSAIC in Vancouver, Storefront Orientation Services, Falun Gong members, the B.C. Latin American Congress, the Inland Refugee Society of B.C., members of the Fijian community, the Iranian-Canadian Community of Western Canada, the Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians, and well known writers like Lydia Kwa and Sook Kong, a writer, a poet and a teacher. There is also support from groups like SUCCESS, which is the largest organization in the lower mainland of Vancouver serving the Chinese and was one of the organizations that obtained those 15,000 signatures in 2000. Just yesterday I was advised that the all presidents' meeting of the Chinese Canadian National Council voted to support this once in a lifetime bill.

Word is now going out across the country that Bill C-436 is being debated in Parliament and in due course will be voted on. I think there is very strong community support. Groups and agencies that support new Canadians understand how difficult this issue of family reunification is. They understand families' desperation at trying to bring family members over. No matter how hard they try, the rules are so restrictive they are not able to accomplish it. I think this bill would help move us toward family reunification.

When we held a press conference in Vancouver on Thursday some local media were there, after which a story appeared in the Vancouver Sun. A couple of immigration lawyers were quoted as saying that the family class is “traditionally a net drain on public funds”. I was actually quite alarmed by these kinds of statements and by the fact that anybody who works with new Canadians and families would say that new immigrants and family class sponsorships are a net drain on public funds. We know that under the existing rules financial support has to be provided for anywhere from three to ten years. All kinds of existing provisions are in place to ensure that there is no financial drain on society generally. None of those rules are being proposed for change. All my bill would do is ensure that someone could sponsor one additional relative.

Other comments were made that if the bill were passed it would somehow trigger a backlash. I was very alarmed to read those kinds of comments, particularly from immigration lawyers who should be familiar with what we need to do.

It seems to me that as members of Parliament we should be supporting and advocating for family reunification. This is actually one of the core programs of the government's immigration program. It is something that is based on compassion and on the well-being and wholeness of families. Any of us could imagine what it would be like if we were here in Canada and wanted to have a relative who was a very important part of our family in this country yet were prevented from doing so.

I will be the first to say that clearly there have to be rules and regulations. My bill would not change any of the provisions around medical requirements or even the definitions of family in the existing bill. Based on the conversations I have had, there are many people who actually would like to change those definitions because they think they are too restrictive. However, that is another debate and maybe another bill for another day.

This bill is actually quite limited in that it takes in the existing definition of family class and the existing provisions for approval. It would simply allow someone, once in a lifetime, to sponsor an additional family member who would not otherwise be eligible under the sponsorship rules.

I hope members will consider the bill and look at it as a step toward actually accomplishing what I believe we all support and agree on, which is support of families and reunification. I hope members will agree that it should go to the next step, to committee. Then we would have a further discussion and there may be all kinds of suggestions about how to improve the bill, which I would certainly welcome.

One of the things I hope we can draw visibility to in putting forward the bill is the real difficulties people face in dealing with the immigration system. In our party we are actually setting up a website so that Canadians can tell us first-hand about the experiences they have had with the system. I know that many of us are familiar with that because of the cases that too often, unfortunately, we are compelled to take on.

We want to draw attention to the facts about just how difficult it is to deal with this system. Some of it is a question of resources. I think one of the reasons we do not meet the 1% target is simply that government offices overseas do not have the kind of staff resourcing they need to actually process applications. This is actually something that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has investigated and documented in a very thorough way. I think many of us are very concerned about the fact that while these goals exist, we are not able to meet them because we simply do not have the resources, particularly in some key offices, or we do not even have enough offices to make sure that these applications are processed in a timely way. This becomes a sort of backdoor way of keeping a gate closed on the system. I think members on that committee are very well aware of that systemic problem that exists now.

I will close by saying that I think the bill is a small step to help families with reunification. It is a very modest proposal. It would not dramatically change the system in any way. It was actually proposed by the former minister of citizenship and immigration at one point in 2000. It has tremendous support in the community. I think people see it as a practical and concrete step which they would be able to use. I look forward to the debate. I encourage members to think about the issue and to support in principle the idea of what is being put forward. I look forward to further debate at committee.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

May 15th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-436, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the Housetoday to introduce my bill. I believe it will help reunite families in Canada.

The bill, called “once in a lifetime”, would, simply put, allow someone to sponsor a relative to come to Canada who otherwise would not qualify under the immigration family class rules.

I know in Vancouver East and across the country there are many families desperate to reunite with a family member. The bill would allow them to do that in a reasonable and compassionate way.

I truly hope that members of all parties will support the bill to strengthen our multicultural diversity in Canada and to support families.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Transportation ActRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.
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The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that Bill C-314 standing in the name of the hon. member for Lethbridge, entitled an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, be deemed to have been introduced, read a first time and ordered to be printed, and reinstated at the same stage Bill C-436 would have been at had we not had a dissolution of the previous session?

Canada Transportation ActRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, due to illness, the member for Lethbridge will be unable to reinstate his private member's bill, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, formerly Bill C-436 from the last session, before the deadline pursuant to Standing Order 86.1. I request that it be deemed introduced by the member and that it enjoy the same status as it did in the last session pursuant to Standing Order 86.1.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second item has to do with a private member's bill in the name of the member for Lethbridge, Bill C-436 from the last session.