An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Gurmant Grewal  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of March 9, 2005
(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.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I would like to inform the House that under the provisions of Standing Order 97.1(2) I am designating Wednesday, November 30, 2005, as the day fixed for the consideration of the motion to concur in the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Finance. This report contains a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-273, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service).

I am designating Thursday, December 1, 2005, as the day fixed for the consideration of the motion to concur in the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The report contains a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages, from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the 14th report, on Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and refugee protection regulations; the 15th report, on a motion regarding commemorative postage stamps; and the 16th report on motions regarding temporary resident permits.

The issue related to stamps is that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, in a unanimous motion, calls on Canada Post to issue a series of commemorative postage stamps marking significant refugee movements to Canada, and that the series begin by marking the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarian refugee movement, and including but not limited to those refugees from Uganda, Vietnam, Indo China, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, Yugoslavia and Macedonia to be considered.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his support for Bill C-49 and his great concern for human trafficking. He also has a private member's bill, Bill C-283, which proposes bonds for people wishing to come to Canada. With his new found interest in human trafficking and support for this bill, I am curious whether he would consider withdrawing his private member's bill.

As many analysts have said when they have looked at the details of the private member's bill, in the best case scenario bonds posted for people wishing to come to Canada would limit visitors to those who are very rich or have very well off families. In the worst case scenario, there are many potential visitors from countries where, unfortunately, circumstances are such that these source countries have large numbers of people willing to take risks and perhaps to take on loans required to pay for these kinds of bonds.

The illegal trafficking in human beings and women in particular is a multi-billion dollar business, a business that can provide financing in these poor countries to people who perhaps would not otherwise have a way of coming to Canada. Analysts are saying this and logic seems to say that this kind of bill would allow and help in the trafficking of human beings, particularly women.

With his support for Bill C-49, will he be withdrawing his private member's bill?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 28th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration which I tabled in the House yesterday concerning the request by the said committee for a 30 day extension to consider Bill C-283.

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, tabled in the House on Monday, June 27, 2005, be deemed concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 27th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on an extension of 30 days to consider Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Immigration and Refugee Regulations.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

May 3rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
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The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Tuesday, April 12 by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta concerning an accusation made by the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration during that day's question period that the hon. member was having constituents post bonds payable to him in exchange for his aid in seeking temporary visitor visas for family members.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter as well as providing additional information in the form of a letter dated April 20. I would also like to thank the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the hon. leader of the official opposition for their interventions.

In presenting his case, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta stated that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration had accused him of having constituents post bonds payable to him for his intervention on their behalf to acquire visitor visas. This, the hon. member claimed, was absolutely false, and neither he nor his staff had ever done so. The hon. member pointed out that the issue had been erroneously reported in the media and had been corrected. He then asked the hon. minister for an apology.

The remarks referred to had been made by the minister in reply to a question posed by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering during question period. The hon. member had referred to allegations that $50,000 cheques for bonds were being taken by a member of the House. He asked if the minister was looking into the matter and what he intended to do about it.

In his answer, the minister stated that those were not allegations, but admissions by the member for Newton-North Delta, that it was is a very serious misrepresentation of the immigration system, and that he had asked the ethics commissioner to look into the matter.

During his intervention on the point of order, the hon. minister stated that he had simply read from the transcript of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of March 24, wherein the hon. member for Newton—North Delta had admitted to the actions.

As I promised, I have reviewed the transcript of the committee meeting referred to. In his remarks in the committee during consideration of Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of which he is the sponsor, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta stated categorically that he took no money from anyone, and that in asking constituents to sign a guarantee bond document he was testing the genuineness of their promise to ensure that the visitor for whom they were seeking a visa would leave Canada as required.

Further to this, on April 21 the hon. minister rose in the House to speak to the matter. Noting the importance of conducting its affairs with civility, the minister said he wished to take the opportunity to respond to the point of order. He advised the House that while he felt his initial intervention was worthwhile and stood by his decision to refer the matter to the Ethics Commissioner, he was withdrawing remarks he had made during question period on April 13 in reply to a question from the hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona suggesting that the hon. member had profited personally from this type of action. I would like to thank the minister for doing so.

In raising this matter, the hon. member has had the opportunity to set the record straight. It seems to the Chair that this is not a point of order but a dispute as to facts. It is not for your Speaker to judge the accuracy of statements that are under dispute. Indeed, it would be inappropriate for me to do so even if I were to want to pronounce further on this case, since I am now in receipt of a communication from the Ethics Commissioner informing me that an inquiry into the matter has been requested.

May I remind the House of section 27(5) of the Conflict of Interest Code, which forms part of our Standing Orders as Appendix 1. It reads as follows:

(5) Once a request for an inquiry has been made to the Ethics Commissioner, Members should respect the process established by this Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter.

Accordingly, further consideration of this matter will be put aside until such time as the process established by our Conflict of Interest Code has run its course.

Once again, I wish to thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The Chair has notice of another question of privilege from the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-283 under private members' business.

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

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank all of the members who participated in the two hours of debate on Bill C-283, my private member's bill.

I would also like to thank the Liberal member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, the current chair of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, for seconding my bill.

I appreciate the support of and contributions made by all members during the debate.

There are serious problems with our visitor visa system and in fact with our immigration system: delays, corruption, inefficiencies, political interference and manipulation.

My office, like those of other members in large urban centres, is flooded with complaints and requests for assistance to help family members and friends visit Canada. I hear stories of mothers and fathers prohibited from attending weddings and sons and daughters stopped from going to funerals.

The federal government is keeping families apart. There is no compassion and no means of appeal. When someone is denied a visitor visa, all we can tell them through their family members here is to reapply and hope for a more favourable response. Even a letter from a member of Parliament is usually meaningless. In some instances, we can approach the minister's office for a permit, but that is a less than satisfactory option. We know how a minister's office abuses the permits for political reasons.

The solution I am offering with Bill C-283 is only a partial answer to the problems of the system. In fact, it is an effort to improve the immigration system and prevent abuse. It would help to open the front doors of the immigration system and close the back doors.

Sponsorship of a visitor backed by an enforceable guarantee or bond is not a prerequisite for applying for a visitor visa. Rather, it is an extra measure and hope after the refusal for those who were unable to satisfactorily establish their bona fides.

The measure I am suggesting is already working very well in Australia and has been since July 2000. At the very least, if people can be reunited with their families for important, once in a lifetime events, sponsorship is well worth implementing.

There were some concerns voiced regarding this bill, some of them by Liberal members. They were misleading due to the lack of research by the last minute speaker or maybe just malintended from a political point of view. Let us deal with these.

The first concern was discrimination against families with low incomes. The current system already discriminates against people with low incomes, but with Bill C-283, however, there would be no discrimination against sponsors with low incomes, because the amount of the deposit or guarantee would be flexible and fixed on the basis of the criteria set out in subsection 45(2) of the Immigration Act. Or it could be a percentage of assets or net worth so that the amount would not be punitive for the sponsors, who may be financially weak.

It is for this reason that I did not include an amount in the bill: so that it could be flexible and not punitive. This would prevent discrimination against low income sponsors and yet be effective in preventing abuse. On the other hand, if the amount of a bond were not satisfactory, poor people would never be released on bail in our judicial system.

The second concern was the added cost for the immigration department. The added burden on the immigration department would not be that large. In fact, sponsorship might result in less demand upon the department and its staff, both in Canada and abroad, because there would be less need for reapplying and for minister's permits.

The visitor visa in the immigration system is a cash cow and the department must reinvest some money in training and resources. Immigration is our bloodline to our economy, enhances diversity and is the first line of security to the country, so well trained resources are a must. We should not overlook the tremendous benefits that come from visitors.

Finally, there was an objection to clause 5 in my bill, about a sponsored visitor not applying for refugee status while in Canada. I am very flexible. I do not want to violate anyone's rights. Therefore, let the immigration committee determine if it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will be very flexible. I will take that measure out of that bill.

In conclusion, I will say that allowing Canadians and landed immigrants to sponsor foreign nationals applying to visit Canada on a temporary resident permit by posting a bond or a guarantee is an idea whose time has come. Members from all parties in the House have spoken in favour of this bill. Many have come up to me in person to voice their support and have said it is a good idea.

Therefore, I hope everyone will now vote in favour of Bill C-283, thus voting in favour of improving our visitor visa system and our immigration system, and send this bill to committee for further consideration. I thank the members who are supporting this bill and I hope other members will vote in favour of sending the bill to committee.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

The bill would have significant consequences not just for Citizenship and Immigration Canada but for many other departments as well. It is important for all of us to look very closely at its provisions and carefully weigh its potential impact before we move forward.

The notion of allowing someone to enter our country as a visitor on the strength of a bond or guarantee, of course, has been around in one form or another for many years. The subject is not new.

Bill C-283 would add a new wrinkle to this debate however by purporting to implement safeguards against potential abuse through provisions that restrict access to the refugee determination system for this class of visitor. As well, those who visit Canada under the terms of this bill would not be allowed to make an application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds should their circumstances change.

Canada is a signatory to the UN convention on refugees as well as the UN convention on torture. These conventions commit us to not return individuals to a country where they could face torture or have a well-founded fear of persecution.

Bill C-283 could therefore lead to violations of our international commitments and our humanitarian duty to help those in need of Canada's protection. Moreover, by requiring claimants to leave Canada regardless of whether or not the refugee claim has been heard, Bill C-283 on its face would seem to violate section 7 of the charter, which guarantees to everyone on Canadian soil the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The bill before us is not supportable on these grounds alone; however, there are many more reasons why I cannot support this flawed legislation.

The bill would essentially allow any Canadian or permanent resident over the age of 18 to apply to sponsor a foreign national as a visitor to Canada by posting a bond or guarantee. It applies to cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed within the previous year and the sponsor has not posted a bond for a foreign national who subsequently failed to comply with the conditions of his or her visa within the previous five years. The amount of each bond is to be determined in accordance with section 45 of the current regulations.

The hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges noted in the last debate that the bill's provisions are restricted to close family members. I suggest that on closer examination she will find that this is indeed not the case. The bill has no such limit. It applies to all Canadian and permanent residents over the age of 18 regardless of whether there is any connection to the sponsor or not.

It could apply, for example, to an adult surfing the net who sponsors a minor he or she meets online. It could also apply to people smugglers willing to spend the small amount of money required to pursue their illegal activities. The door is wide open.

The government has explored ways of allowing people to sponsor visitors through the use of bonds in the past and has rejected that idea for many of the same reasons that Bill C-283 is not supportable.

Bill C-283 would place an unsustainable administrative burden on an already heavily strained system and would likely produce few benefits. Visa officers are unlikely to be swayed in cases where they have already decided the application for a visitor's visa should be rejected.

Under the terms in Bill C-283, an officer would need time to confirm the identity and status of the sponsor in Canada after an initial application has been rejected. He or she would then need to determine the financial resources of a sponsor in Canada. This could involve credit checks, a review of assets and income, tax returns and many other documents. There would also have to be a review to ensure financial sources are not linked to organized crime.

A second application for a visa would then need to be filed and processed. Even with a bond, there is no guarantee the application would be accepted. Such a system is therefore not only cumbersome and slow, it also has the potential to exacerbate the levels of frustration many of our constituents might be feeling today. It would do little to these cases or even guarantee a satisfactory outcome for the applicant.

I listened with interest to the comments made by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta during the previous debates on the bill. I was particularly interested in his comparisons with Australia and his comments regarding Canada's high commission in New Delhi.

I fully understand the frustration he might have felt in talking to failed applicants outside the high commission. But the hon. member will also know that many applications for a visitor's visa are approved without an interview. Only those with tenuous applications are asked to appear at the high commission. I therefore find his unofficial survey rather inaccurate.

His comparisons to Australia are similarly so, since he takes no account of the social, cultural, and even geographic differences between our countries. Nor does he take into account the fact that Australia has no charter of rights and freedoms. Perhaps a more realistic comparison is within our own country and our own past experiences with bonds.

This is most troubling for me and my constituents as my colleague opposite has just referenced. Members will recall the 1999 four boatloads of illegal migrants who arrived on British Columbia's coast from the Chinese province of Fujan. Most of the migrants from the first boat were released after guarantors posted bonds to ensure they would report for the hearing process. All subsequently fled and forfeited their bonds. Investigators suspect that most made their way to the U.S. with the help of human smugglers. I therefore think it is safe to say that bonds are not an effective deterrent to flight in today's world of human smuggling and highly organized crime syndicates.

For all these reasons, I cannot support Bill C-283 or any other such deeply flawed system that would expose the government to an unsupportable strain on existing resources involving our international commitments as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Russ Powers Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-283, a private member's bill. The bill touches all of us as members of Parliament and, indeed, as Canadians. All of us have heard the stories of individuals who purport to want to visit Canada but have trouble getting the necessary visa.

The bill before us today is essentially designed to help out in such cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed by allowing a Canadian or permanent resident to sponsor the applicant by posting a bond or guarantee.

The court challenges would likely come from many directions. Bill C-283 restricts access to the refugee determination process for this class of visitors, which could lead to violations of Canada's obligations under international law. It may also be contrary to section 7 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants everyone on Canadian soil the right to life, liberty and the security of the person. On one level I therefore find it difficult to understand why we, as a group of responsible legislators, are debating this item.

Today, the mechanisms we have in place that allow foreign nationals to visit, allow Canadians to be reunited with their loved ones from overseas for a brief time or allow people to welcome business associates or other visitors all work very well.

Canada's visa offices routinely issue more than 500,000 temporary resident visas each year in addition to processing many other types of applications. By comparison, just 150,000 applications on average are rejected each year, suggesting there are likely compelling and good reasons for doing so.

The central premise behind Bill C-283 is that these failed applicants could and should be allowed to obtain visitors' visas on the strength of a bond or guarantee that would also ensure they comply with all the terms of their visa and leave, as promised, when it expires. I find this logic flawed, at best. At worst, it could result in a system with excessive administrative costs and complexities, few benefits and new court challenges, judicial reviews and charter cases.

Under the terms of Bill C-283, any Canadian or permanent resident over the age of 18 would be allowed to apply to sponsor a foreign national as a visitor to Canada by posting a bond or guarantee, a bond or guarantee in an amount yet to be determined. It applies to cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed within the previous year and the sponsor has not posted a bond for a foreign national who subsequently failed to comply with the conditions of their visa within the previous five years. Such a system would require security checks, financial auditing, identity checks, exit control systems and much more.

Past experience, moreover, clearly demonstrates that bonds are not an effective deterrent to flight in today's world of human smuggling and highly organized crime syndicates. For example, back in 1999, four boatloads of illegal immigrants arrived on the British Columbia coast from the Chinese province of Fujian. Most of the immigrants from the first boat were released after guarantors posted bonds to ensure they would report for the hearing process. All, and I repeat all, subsequently fled and forfeited their bonds. What is also interesting is that all the bond guarantors virtually disappeared and everybody was been left holding the bag. It is believed, and investigators suspect, that most made their way to the U.S. with the help of human smugglers.

There is a very interesting new introduction to this. It perhaps introduces a likely opportunity for criminal elements to involve themselves in getting into this business. They could create businesses, bonding agencies, that would allow them to provide these guarantees and the moneys to bring these people into the country.

If they disappear into the Canadian or North American climate, what happens to the individuals who put up the collateral, whether it was their houses, or their personal holdings, or even worse, indentured themselves for labour purposes or illegal opportunities, or even sold their daughters into prostitution or white slavery, is something that concerns us. The implications of this bonding scenario has wide-reaching impacts.

We on this side of the House fully support the idea of making it easier for legitimate visitors to come to this country and bask in the warmth of our Canadian hospitality. The mechanisms currently in place help us to ensure that this is done in a fair, sustainable and balanced way.

I and, I would assume, a number of members on my side of the House are therefore opposed to Bill C-283 or any special provision that runs counter to our legal obligations as well as these principles.

Contravention of the charter, likely court challenges, the possibilities of indentured sweatshop labour and even criminal involvement, and an immigration policy that may favour the rich or even criminal influences, is not something we want. Is this the type of legislation that our friends on the other side would like to have passed today? It has not been well thought out. In fact, it should not even go to second reading and to committee for consideration.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to enter into the debate on private member's Bill C-283 put forward by my colleague, the member for Newton—North Delta.

I will begin by thanking my colleague for bringing the bill forward and allowing us the opportunity to speak to this subject in the House of Commons.

I think I speak for most members of Parliament when I say our MPs' offices are inundated with this problem on an almost daily basis. If we need any evidence that it is urgent issue, we need look no further than our own MP offices. Our staff are more than likely dealing with one of these cases as we speak because that is how frequently they come up in my office.

Canadian citizens or other landed immigrants are being denied visitor visas for loved ones, friends and family members who may wish to visit Canada for a perfectly legitimate reason, but have not been granted these visitor visas, and they go to their MPs' offices looking for help. If there is anything we can do to alleviate the backlog, this is the right time and place to do it.

A second issue needs to be addressed and that is the whole issue of ministerial intervention. By the government's own figures, as many as 12,000 of these visas or ministerial permits are granted per year. Those are just the lucky people who manage to reach the minister to ask for special consideration. What about the people who come to a riding like mine, an opposition MP's riding, where there is no access.

We believe the ministerial visas are being granted more to Liberal ridings than they are to opposition ridings. Let me say it plainly. We have good reason to believe this and, therefore, it is an abuse of the system in that it is an uneven application of ministerial intervention.

I believe what my colleague from Newton—North Delta has put forward is a reasonable idea to give some avenue of recourse to families who have been unable to obtain a visa by the conventional means, a visitor's permit. Money will change hands, yes, and it is a fairly complex idea, yes, but it is not an insurmountable problem.

None of the things my colleague from the ruling party just raised are insurmountable. They can be dealt with at committee. If we allow the bill to pass at second reading and go to committee, I believe that none of the problems identified so far are insurmountable or things that we could not address through amendment in committee.

Yes, there will be money changing hands. I put it to the House that there is money changing hands already and it is at the foreign missions and embassies where some of the local staff are taking money to grant special privilege and access to certain visitor visas. I do not say that lightly and I am not accusing civil servants of anything dishonest, but we know for a fact there is corruption and bribery going on in the granting of visas at some foreign Canadian missions. If money is going to be changing hands, let us do it in the light of day instead of under the table where people buy entrance or access.

The dollar figure has been raised as a problem. I agree that the last thing we want to do is set up a system where if people have enough money, they can buy visas, but if they do not have enough money, they are out of luck.

I have already talked with the architect of this bill. He is willing to entertain a friendly amendment that would perhaps introduce some sliding scale that would accommodate income. There are many ideas.

There are other jurisdictions that we could look to for guidance. I believe Australia has recently introduced a similar program. We need look no further than other commonwealth countries that are faced with the same problem for reasonable answers to those problems.

I am excited by this idea simply because, for pure self-interests, it may alleviate some of the workload in my inner city Winnipeg MP office where immigration has become the overwhelming majority of what we are called upon to do.

The backlogs for visitors visas and permits from places like Manila in the Philippines, New Delhi and Nairobi are unbelievable. The foreign missions are buried with these applications. Some 600,000-odd visitors visas are in fact issued. We are doing a pretty good job as a welcoming nation. If 12,000 ministerial permits are being granted, that gives us some idea of those who are being turned down. We believe many of those are being turned down for arbitrary reasons.

Sometimes the local hires at these foreign missions make judgment calls about people which are not really based on the strict criteria set out in the act. They are judgment calls made by some bias or prejudice they may have against that person, their family, their race or who knows what. We do not believe there is a fair application of access for the purposes of visitors visas.

It is heart-rending to be the person at the front desk of an MP's office who has to listen to some of these stories. These are often very personal events, family events, weddings and funerals. In certain cultures weddings are more important than others.

I was talking with my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas who worked in an MP's office in Burnaby—Douglas for 18 years. He said that he had to keep a box of tissue at his desk because so many of the applicants who came to him had such heart-rending stories, and it was very emotional. People were breaking down and wondering why they as new Canadians were being treated as second class citizens and being denied visitors visas for their family members on such a widespread scale.

My colleague has brought forward an issues which is very pluralistic. It speaks to the efficacy of our immigration system as it pertains to visitors visas. It speaks to the issues of basic fairness and access to services about which new Canadians tell us they are frustrated. It speaks to the volume of immigration work that has been off-loaded from CIC to the offices of MPs. Whether it was due to budget cutbacks or the sheer volume of cases, for some reason the offices of MPs have turned into mini-immigration offices. We can barely keep up. We are treading water trying to keep our head above it with the volume of cases.

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta has come to us with a reasonable proposal. I urge my colleagues not to cast this aside out of hand. This proposal warrants serious consideration at committee. It is at the committee that we can fine-tune some of the irritants that have been identified.

If my colleague from the Liberal Party is worried about the dollar figure that may be assessed, then we should put his mind at ease. We can deal with that at the committee. It is rare that in the House of Commons we set the fees associated with any legislation. Usually that comes after the legislation is passed. At the regulatory stage, fees, the per diem or whatever the cost are set. We do not have to worry ourselves with those, other than to be guided by the basic principles and values that we do not want to shut anyone out based on ability to pay.

Once the NDP caucus is comfortable that our colleague from Newton—North Delta understands this and is committed to that principle, then we are comfortable in saying our caucus will vote in favour of the bill at second reading. We welcome the opportunity to help our colleague fine-tune the bill at committee. We think he has put forward a very worthwhile and legitimate idea.

The one element I should raise, as was raised as a caution with me by our immigration critic, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, is we will have to amend section 193.1, I believe, of my hon. colleague's bill which deals with the refugee status; that a person would not be able to claim refugee status while they were here on one of these permits. I do not think we can do that. I know my colleague is aware of the possible problems associated with that. He has expressed a very generous willingness to accommodate a friendly amendment in that regard.

I again want to thank my colleague from Newton—North Delta for his efforts to make our job simpler and his efforts to implement an element of fairness to the immigration system as it pertains to visitors' visas.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in the debate on Bill C-283, introduced by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

I want to start by reading a section of Bill C-11, an Act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger. Unfortunately, I only have the English text with me. I want to read subsection 24(1), which states in English:

A foreign national, who in the opinion of an officer, is inadmissible or does not meet the requirements of this Act becomes a temporary resident if an officer is of the opinion that it is justified in the circumstances and issues a temporary resident permit, which may be cancelled at any time.

I draw this to the attention of the House because in my opinion, the private member's bill that is being presented cannot be supported in that there are already mechanisms in place to allow visitors to enter Canada under the normal criteria. Let me deal with a few of the objections that I have with the bill.

The first one is that the bill discriminates against those who do not have the means to post a bond. Let us face it; the kind of bond that would have to be posted would have to be important enough in terms of money. We are thinking $20,000 or over. Anything under that would not be a deterrent for anyone. Who could afford $20,000 or more if that person was from a developing country and wanted to come and visit a member of his or her family here? The posted bond would have to be very high, $20,000 or more, and in case of default how would this money be collected?

More important, this is the beginning of what we on this side of the House see as a two tier system for immigration. God knows we have tried hard enough on this side of the House over the last 50 or 60 years to actually reform the immigration law in this country to make the immigration law as non-racist and as non-discriminatory as possible and as non-discriminatory against people who have little or no money.

This is a bill that discriminates for people who have money or who have a sponsor who has money. This would be a two tier system.

I also see a great danger here, namely the danger that consortiums, immigrant and refugee smugglers will take advantage. How? Money is put aside and a person who wants to come here, but was previously refused the possibility of coming to Canada, is smuggled in. Once the person arrives in Canada, he is forced to reimburse his sponsor with interest. And how would this reimbursement be made? It would be through years of poorly paid labour, as we have already seen. We saw it several years ago when a large number of people came here illegally by ship from southwestern China. These people just dropped out of sight. They arrived in Canada and were never seen again, even though money had been deposited. This sum will have to be high enough. At that point, it is the sponsored person who has to reimburse it, and at what price.

Another point is that people who have money and who have been refused, and I emphasize the point that they have already been refused entry into Canada, would be able to enter regardless of any reason for which they had been refused as long as they had the money. I refer to this two tier system which I mentioned before.

There are already a number of possibilities which are available to people wishing to enter Canada as temporary visitors. I have just mentioned section 24(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, but that is done without a bond. That can be done without the person asking for money.

In the case of a family emergency, a marriage or a baptism, or tragically there may be a sudden death in the family, I am chair of a caucus where we have made a number of simple recommendations to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration so that these requests can be quickly dealt with and people can arrive in good time for the ceremony for which they have asked to come to Canada. There are ways for these people to come without having to post a bond.

There is no reason to deny a request unless there are real serious reasons for it, and the bill does not even touch this matter. There may be some cases, and there are cases, where when a tourist wishes to come to Canada he or she is refused because there is not a strong attachment shown to his or her country of origin and the officials are afraid he or she might not go back. There are sometimes some very real reasons that person cannot enter Canada. Certainly this bill does not even touch this particular aspect.

Clause 5 of the bill adds subsection 7 to section 183 of the act and reads in part:

Despite any other provision—

(a) may not work or study while in Canada

(b) may not apply for an extension of their authorization to remain in Canada—

When tourists arrive in Canada and have a tourist visa valid for a few weeks or months, there is a real possibility for them to apply for an extension of their visa, not once but twice. In this bill, though, it would be impossible for these people to extend their tourist visa.

I would like to mention, notwithstanding anything that a member of the opposition might have said, that this bill really does run against the Geneva convention, the protocol on refugees of 1956. It is very important. Some of the people opposite might think that our charter is not important. They might think that the Geneva convention is not important, but on this side of the House we think it is fundamental.

Canada would be forced to ignore the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the UN convention for the protection of refugees and to return individuals to their countries because of the bond stipulated return. What would happen if while that person was here as a visitor to Canada a conflict erupted in his or her home country, as has been the case in Chile, Honduras or Iran? Does that mean we would send that person back to his or her home country in spite of a non-conflict over there? This is totally against our rules and regulations. This is against the kind of commitment that Canadians have made to those people who come and are on the international scene.

I would like to bring members' attention to some very recent changes to the immigration policy which show that the Liberal government has been very open to immigration and continues to be. The government is very open to the kind of difficulties that families may have when they want a family member to come here to visit. On February 18 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration changed the policy to allow family class members to remain in Canada while their applications are being considered. How could anyone say that we are against immigration? This is something that makes it even easier for family class members to be sponsored. This will go a considerable way to reduce any backlog and deal with administrative concerns.

Of course there is a large number of people who want to come, but through these recent changes the backlog will be reduced.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the fact that, in order to be eligible under Bill C-283, the applicants would have to have been refused entry into Canada. The reasons for this refusal would have to be examined first before these people could be told: “You have money, you can enter.” In no way does this bill analyze the reasons for the refusal.

Canada is a country to which people gain entry by having money. There are a certain number of neutral criteria.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-283 is a private member's bill which seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. The bill intends to allow a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant to provide an enforceable guarantee or post a bond while sponsoring a visitor.

Sponsorship would provide stronger evidence of the potential visitors that they would return to their country of origin before the visa expires. The Canadian sponsor guarantees with money that the visitor would abide by the conditions of the visitor visa and would return home before the visa expires.

This bill arises in response to a big problem. While the government and the immigration department acknowledge problems, they are not prepared to do anything to improve the situation. I make that assertion because I have been complaining about these problems since I first arrived in this House after the 1993 election.

Since then, completely new legislation has been introduced for this department, but the basic problems remain. The system is not competent to figure out who should be allowed to visit and who should not. The bill attempts to add an additional dimension to the existing rules and processes that are in place to protect Canada from any abuse from visitors.

Canada must have an efficient and effective visa system that is able to handle temporary visitors. The bill would not minimize a minister's permit or inject political interference into the system. It would enhance fairness, not diminish it.

I would have hoped that the government speakers on the bill would have accepted more positively the spirit of creative problem solving which the bill's sponsor intends. The bill would essentially allow Canadians or permanent residents over 18 to apply to be an additional sponsor guarantee for a visitor from overseas by posting a bond provided that they have not sponsored an individual within the last five years who has failed to abide by the terms of his or her visa. That sounds reasonable, does it not?

However, it does nothing to water down the current rules and protections that we already have in place. What it does is support the process and adds additional levels of trust, predictability and surety. The Liberals are wrong when they claim that the bill would make it easier for more people to visit this country. It would just help enhance the screening to ensure that the right people visit this country and fewer of the wrong ones do.

Many of us have friends or relatives in far flung parts of the globe. We often think about them and wish to see them, especially at times of crisis or family celebration. The same is true for many of our constituents who are often forced to leave behind loved ones, close friends and business associates when they choose to put down roots in Canada.

We know that these people, if they came to Canada, would not abuse a visitor's visa, but often they cannot get a visa because the system is poor, overstressed, sometimes biased and fraudulent, or just not capable with the available manpower to perform its screening job properly. Change begins with the recognition that a problem exists.

Canada's visa offices routinely issue some 500,000 temporary resident visas each year in addition to processing many other types of applications. By comparison, about 100,000 or more applications on average are rejected each year, suggesting that there are in fact compelling reasons to do so. Well, that is the government line.

However, talk to constituents and users who pay for this system and they will tell a different story. The system defenders say they are deeply troubled by aspects of this bill. Their main problem is that they might lose some of their complete and final control, and that the thought of community engagement, community accountability, and community reference is just outside the box of how system bureaucrats think. It is beyond them to think that a Canadian might know a lot more about who should come and visit than a foreign embassy worker who is often a foreign national employed by Canada just looking at a file.

Just because the department could not run a bond system before does not mean that the idea is unworkable. It is fairly safe to say that bonds alone do not provide safety. That is not what the bill is about. The bill is created in full light of the fact that we have a world where individuals are willing to pay smugglers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a chance to come to Canada to find a better life.

For a bond to be effective it would have to be high enough to prevent smuggling, but it also places demands of transparency about who is posting the bond and for what kind of an individual is wanting to visit. The bill does not seek to eclipse all the other factors which go into the balance of probabilities mix for a decision.

Bonds were said to discriminate against families with low income. The system already does that by making sponsors provide back copies of income tax returns to show that they have sufficient funds to support an invited visitor. The system already requires applicants to demonstrate sufficient financial status to show strong ties to their country of origin.

The financial game is much of what the system is all about. Consequently, complaints of financial discrimination from a Liberal just do not wash. That party is the origin of the great historical discrimination stories in Canada, and the current poor immigration system is one of the Liberals' recent design.

The claim that Bill C-283 would require more resources to deal with and investigate each sponsorship application to ensure that the financial resources were not linked to organized crime is absolutely spurious. It was said that it would require more resources to assess a sponsor's credit worthiness and to confirm his or her identity and status in Canada. It was said that more resources would have to go toward processing applications and that Canada would have to introduce an exit control system to ensure that persons complied with the bonds.

These arguments admit a lot about the poor system. If anything, providing additional levels of confidence by locals who are willing to put a lot of cash on the table helps the over-burdened system, not weight it down.

One of the most stupid arguments I have heard from a Liberal goes like this: “The bill creates an apparent lack of regard for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada's international obligations under UN conventions. Clause 5 would add a new subsection to the immigration and refugee protection regulations stipulating that a foreign national who comes to Canada under the terms of a visitor visa bond must leave the country at the end of that period authorized for that stay, even if the person applies for refugee status while in Canada. Such a clause could mean that the person would have to leave Canada before his or her refugee claim had been assessed on the merits of a fair and impartial tribunal. Such a provision appears contrary to section 7 of the charter which talks about the risk of harm to the person if he or she goes back and therefore the need to follow through on a refugee application. Moreover, it could lead to violations of Canada's obligations under UN conventions not to return anyone to a country where the person faces torture or where the person has a well-founded fear of persecution. We would therefore be in complete contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

What an argument. I must make the point that anyone who has a visa must obey its rules, which already says that the person must leave before the visa expires. That is already part of the rules and there is no charter violation. If someone makes a refugee application, it does not matter whether that person gets here legally or illegally because Canada has said that it will abide by the UN convention, and many legitimate refugees must come to Canada illegally in order to make their legitimate claim.

How many times have I heard Liberals mislead the House by saying something like the following, “Our present system works well and processes requests in an expeditious, fair and reasonable manner, but all of us still say we could do a lot better; we know we could do better”. That kind of talk is so disingenuous in view of the administrative history I have observed since 1993.

The next typical argument to facilitate doing nothing is that the change is piecemeal. This piecemeal argument is similar to what we hear about Senate reform and many other things. It goes like this: “We cannot cherry-pick pieces and fix the system by fixing the cracks. The way to solve the problem is to look at how we can make the whole immigration system, and the parallel system of refugee processing, work better. We have to look at the whole system and make that system more effective and efficient. Cherry-picking does not allow for that to happen”. I have been hearing that kind of shibboleth for years, but nothing changes.

The major problem with the bill is it reveals that the Liberals cannot manage even a basic system. The system defenders will never adjust because it would open the door to all the rest of the rot in the system.

We have to start somewhere. The first step down the road of repair and reform would be to pass the bill dealing with this narrow section and requiring the system to accommodate it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Member's Business

February 24th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight to Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. As we have heard, this bill proposes certain changes to the visitor visa process.

Specifically, it allows for the sponsorship of foreign nationals who wish to come to Canada on a temporary resident visa under the visitor class. This bill would add section 193.1 which stipulates that a person who meets the criteria for a sponsor, as already defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, can apply to the minister for the authorization to sponsor a foreign national as a visitor.

This foreign national must be coming to Canada under the visitor class on a temporary resident visa. This foreign national who is being sponsored must not work or study while in Canada, may not apply for an extension of the stay in Canada and may not apply for permanent resident status. Finally, he or she must leave Canada by the end of the allotted time. The bill also mentions that if foreign nationals marry or apply for refugee status during their stay in Canada they must also leave.

This bill provides for deposits and guarantees that could be sought by the minister, and the amount of the deposit or guarantee shall be fixed on the basis of the financial resources of the person or group, or on the cost that could be incurred to locate the foreign nationals and deal with them, or to the costs to enforce the guarantee.

The foreign nationals must also report to a representative of the Government of Canada within 30 days after leaving Canada in order to prove that they left the country. The bill proposes consequences if the conditions of the visa are not met. If the foreign nationals fail to comply with the conditions of their stay, then the sponsor's deposit or guarantee is lost. The sponsor cannot sponsor again for another five years, and the foreign national cannot enter Canada again.

As we have heard, this bill seeks to increase the options available with regard to the issuing of visitor visas, especially when an initial application has been turned down.

Bill C-283 is of huge concern to my constituents in Burnaby—Douglas and I am sure constituents of most other members of Parliament. Applying for a visitor visa seems like such a very simple act and simple request. It is to share a visit with family or friends here in Canada. However, this simple hope all too often seems to become a complicated, totally frustrating process for too many people.

In my many years as a constituency assistant to a member of Parliament, I dealt with many cases of folks who had been denied a visitor's visa for a very simple family visit. In fact, I kept a box of tissues on my desk because invariably the frustration of that denial led to tears and much emotion.

The requests are so very straightforward, for a relative or friend to visit for a wedding, to be present at the birth of a grandchild, to attend the funeral of a family member. These are all key moments of our lives, moments that we all expect to share with family.

Nothing is more difficult than telling someone that a close relative will not make it to a funeral, a wedding or a baptism. However, there is also the hope for others to extend simple hospitality, something that I do not think we can undervalue. This is the hope to return hospitality shown when a Canadian visited overseas, when we visited family members overseas or the hope that a friend or family member might have the chance to see firsthand what our lives are like in Canada and what our country is about.

The refusal of these simple, straightforward requests causes terrible trauma for families. I have often heard from people who have had a relative turned down for a visitor visa that they feel like a second class citizen in Canada because they cannot have their relatives visit them here, whereas other Canadians do not seem to have that problem.

Often it is hard for people here in Canada to explain to relatives overseas why they cannot visit. It can cause problems for families because relatives feel that the Canadian family member did not try hard enough or, for some reason, does not really want them to visit. Some people are refused time and time again and there seems to be no recourse. There is no appeal. Only a new application is a possibility and this leaves families in a state of despair.

I am interested in this bill because it seeks to make it possible for people who would not have been able to visit relatives in Canada, because they were refused a temporary resident visa, the chance to do so. Other aspects of the bill include upgrading the invitation process into a full sponsorship process, which increases the options that people have.

The problems that may have impeded the ability of people to visit Canada include insufficient funds or what are considered not strong links to their home country. If a Canadian citizen could formally sponsor them, then their application may be more successful.

It is important for families to maintain their connections, even over many thousands of miles. I am very concerned about the need for friends and families to be able to reunite for a visit, perhaps to celebrate important family occasions.

My concern for the maintenance of these bonds is evident in the bill that I have introduced in the House which would allow for the once in a lifetime expansion of the family class definition so that other relatives can be sponsored in an attempt to bolster family reunification. I am sensitive to the fact that in our increasingly global society we cannot always remain physically close to our families and friends, but these ties remain and must be supported and maintained.

We need to consider how we maintain our edge in a world that now competes for new immigrants. Australia and the United States are also working to attract immigrants to their countries. Canada needs new immigrants. The government's own studies show that by 2011 all growth in our labour force will come from immigration and by the mid-2020s all population growth will come from immigration.

We need to ensure that those who choose to come to Canada believe that our immigration policies will support them and their families, and the hopes for their future. We cannot afford to further a reputation that says Canada will not allow simple family visits from relatives of new immigrants.

While I support the intent of this bill, I have some concerns. I have concerns about the inequality of requiring a deposit or guarantee. I understand that the intention of this rule is to make foreign nationals more likely to comply with the conditions of their visas for fear of losing a sum of money or damaging the reputation of their sponsors. However, this possible monetary requirement limits the people who would be able to take advantage of this opportunity to have a loved one visit Canada. It may favour those who are affluent. Not everyone will be able to make the necessary guarantee.

By emphasizing this option, we could be making it even more difficult for families that are not wealthy or that are of more modest means from enjoying a visit from a family member. I am concerned that this may make it harder for those families to enjoy a visit from a family member if the option of putting up a guarantee always becomes operational.

We need to look more closely at clause 7(d) of the proposed bill, which indicates that persons may not stay if they apply for refugee status while in Canada. There is a possibility that something will transpire in their country of origin, such as a change of government or a civil unrest, that will affect them directly and make it important for them to make a refugee claim while they are in Canada.

I do not believe we can stipulate that such a refugee claim cannot be heard. I am very concerned about that and would certainly seek that kind of change should this bill come before the committee. I do not believe we can in good conscience require someone to return in that kind of situation.

There is a stipulation that requires visitors to report to an officer or other representative of the Government of Canada within 30 days after leaving in order to prove they have left. I have a slight concern about that in terms of the overload that we already face in the immigration system. The system is overloaded. We see that everyday. We need to address the funding that the department receives and the organization of the department in order to deal with that issue.

I do not want to see us in a situation where MPs are acting as the go-between for their constituents and the minister. We cannot afford another level of bureaucracy in the government. I think we need to address this issue in the context of the overall functioning of the department.

On the whole, I am very interested in this debate. I am interested in hearing from constituents and organizations about this proposal. On balance, any proposal which seeks to address the situation of visitor visas, the refusal of visitor visas, and the barriers that families see to making simple visits with their family members in Canada, I believe deserves serious consideration.

I would be pleased to continue this discussion at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and I hope this bill is referred to the committee.