Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in this debate to speak in support of Bill C-283. This is the last hour of debate on this bill introduced by my hon. colleague from Newton—North Delta. This is a bill to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and it has been moved that it be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
I am speaking in support of this bill because it would permit the sponsorship of a foreign national who is not a member of the immediate family or a relative, neither close nor distant, but someone who had already unsuccessfully applied for a temporary visitor visa.
The beauty of this is that amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would, for instance, allow individuals previously denied entry, but whose sponsor can vouch for them, to come and visit. This could involve a person coming from a country like China.
We know it is not always easy to get to know people in a visit of only a few days. Because I lived there myself for a few years—there are people from all over the world who ask to come and meet us in Quebec, establishing more ties of friendship lasting longer than a visit of just a few days. So, the person who stands as guarantor would have that responsibility.
I would like to give a brief history of Bill C-283 of the hon. member for Newton—North Delta. It was first presented to the House a few years ago, in 2002. Then it was broadened a bit in 2003 and brought back to the House again, as often happens. The bill is essentially the same today.
It makes it possible for a resident, a citizen, to sponsor a visa applicant, subject to a deposit or guarantee. It is important to say something about the deposit; it is a form of guarantee, a condition for admission which is not given to all comers. In brief, the sponsor can be a permanent resident who is not a member of the family, a citizen for example, as often happens.
The practice has been seen in other countries such as Australia. The members of parliament are inundated with applications to bring in people they know. To facilitate the process, however, Australia instituted a reform in 2002. A system was established, and a bill similar to the one before us today was introduced. After four years, they noticed that more than 26,000 visitors had come to the country, had found it to their liking, and afterwards, not right away, applied again.
That means, in fact, that they were not only tourists but visitors of economic significance. For the economy of Quebec or Canada or any country at all, that is very fortunate; that is very good. It is not just an exchange of post cards, it is an economy in action.
And that is part of what this bill would do. The Bloc Québécois sees it as an interesting initiative to ease some of the congestion in the immigration system. Often the power is given to the minister. The minister has many powers, many decisions to make, and the officials in Citizenship and Immigration Canada also have many responsibilities.
With this new initiative, the measure applies only if the foreigner has made an application in the preceding 12 months and has been refused; that is the beauty of the thing.
There are other criteria. You will understand that a bill such as this cannot be based simply on the strength of someone we see and consider appealing. Foreign nationals cannot work, study, apply for a visa extension or for permanent resident status during their stay. They must leave the country when the period comes to an end. This is a protective mechanism provided in the law, one that has more than one advantage.
The individual must report to an officer or other representative of the Government of Canada outside Canada within thirty days of leaving Canada before the guarantee will be reimbursed. The guarantee is a very important item, being an amount determined according to certain very precise criteria.
The sponsor is answerable for the foreign national. This means that it is in the best interests of whoever is sponsoring another to ensure that the person is respectable in every way. That is part of the beauty of this bill, and also of its subtlety. The person is responsible for the other's actions and cannot make another application for five years if all conditions are not met.
The amount of the guarantee is determined according to criteria set out in the present legislation, that is to say according to the financial resources of the individual or group, the obligations relating to the conditions imposed, and the costs that would likely be incurred in locating, detaining, referring for investigation or expulsion the person or group of persons.
There are, as you can see, even costs involved in administering the guarantee. So that is what my colleague's bill is about. The system has proven itself in Australia, and there is no reason it would not be the same in Canada and Quebec, or indeed any other country with a concern for opening itself up to others.
The Bloc Québécois believes that there are sufficient guarantees in this to justify our being in favour of it in principle. We feel that it is a measure that will enable people who do not have immediate family members in Canada to obtain a visa after they have been refused one. Often there is no other recourse or process for appeal
This is a worthwhile measure and one that the Bloc does not find abusive. It supports openness to others, and also makes monitoring of people's exiting the country easier. That is one very useful aspect of such a bill.
Visitors will not be allowed to study or work. This measure is for those travelling for pleasure. But these visitors could also be potential investors coming to visit. Often, in a country's history, people travel, go somewhere and watch visitors while abroad. Travelling creates this opportunity to meet people and say, “Where I come from, we have extraordinary resources which we would be happy to share with you”. So, while providing all the proper guarantees, this bill would allow for this kind of adventure in the host country.
It will also circumvent the problem with the minister's broad discretionary powers. The Minister of Immigration has a lot on his plate. He has many matters and cases to deal with. There are many cases; there are thousands. This bill empowers individuals, by allowing ordinary citizens to sponsor someone they have come to know over the years. They may have met in Vietnam, China or somewhere in Japan, but let us bear in mind that there is always a possibility of meeting others and there might even be economic interests at stake.
In other instances, there might be health considerations involved, such as people who cannot visit their relatives because of poor health or because they are far away. Relatives who were denied visas will be able to come back with this opportunity to visit.
All in all, Bill C-283 gives a better chance to visa applicants. It curbs the discretionary power of Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials, and empowers individual citizens.
The Bloc Québécois may have some concerns and reservations. Will it be possible to sponsor one or more persons at a time? That has not been specified. Very pointed questions could be asked about that during the clause by clause study. Why not the family? Why not include couples? All this to say that there are concerns and some reservations. Can the enforceable guarantee vary from one person to another? If so, what would be an appropriate way to calculate? It can get pretty complicated. We will have questions to ask about that sort of thing.
This measure will require greater control over flows and arrivals. We know that Citizenship and Immigration Canada already has difficulty staying on top of the many applications it receives. Is this not going to clog up the system a bit? There are a few concerns, but they are rapidly compensated for by the numerous advantages in the bill introduced by my colleague from Newton—North Delta.
I had mentioned Australia's experience. In fact, the legislation is similar. Already, after four years, it is clear that it is a solution, because some temporary visitors to Australia later settled after applying to stay. They liked the country they were visiting. It is word of mouth. Here is a very positive economic solution for this measure we are applauding.
In closing, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-283, and I will paraphrase a great singer and poet, Gilles Vigneault:
Inside my four walls of iceI set my time and my placeTo make a fire, the placeFor the people of the horizonAnd the people are of my race
This bill draws its life and inspiration to some extent from the spirit of this piece.