moved that Bill C-566, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
We know that about 1,000 young people leave Ireland each week in search of work. Most of them are young and educated and about 50,000 of them are expected to leave this year alone. A large number of them are going to Australia and many other countries. We know they are highly skilled. Some of them are coming to Canada as temporary foreign workers. One reason they are leaving is that the youth unemployment rate in Ireland skyrocketed from 10% to 30% between 2008 and 2010. Ireland is not the only country young people are leaving.
In Spain, youth unemployment doubled from 20% to 40% between 2008 and 2010. In Greece, youth unemployment is over 25% and 40% of young people are actively looking for jobs abroad.
I am talking about these young people because some of them are coming to Canada as temporary foreign workers. As New Democrats, we see immigrants as nation builders, not just economic units. We want them to come as landed immigrants so that one day they, too, can bring their families to Canada.
This once in a lifetime bill would allow Canadians to sponsor nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters to come to Canada. It would be Canadians' choice as to who they want to sponsor. They may want to sponsor a niece who is looking to leave Europe because she is in search of a job and Europe is having a hard time.
This bill would allow Canadians to sponsor relatives to come to Canada. They would need to have enough financial resources to support a landed immigrant coming to Canada. If we look at the history of Canada, that is in fact what has been done in the past.
In 1847, 38,000 Irish immigrants came to Toronto because of the famine in Ireland. At that time, Toronto's population was only 20,000. These Irish immigrants were welcomed with open arms and went on to help build Toronto into the city that it is today. In my riding just a couple of years ago, Ireland Park was opened to honour the 38,000 Irish immigrants who overcame difficult hardships and suffering. It speaks to the kindness and generosity of Canadians at that time.
These young people are highly-educated and they need jobs and to begin their lives. If they come to Canada, they can travel, visit, study or work but they cannot come here as landed immigrants. Most of them would not be able to turn their temporary status into permanent status in Canada.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine, Jonathan Kearns, with whom I worked very closely during the establishment of Ireland Park in Toronto. He has an architectural firm and is doing well. He has received new contracts and is looking for workers. Jonathan was able to bring a few young people over from Ireland but he had to go through a lot of red tape to make sure they were able to work in Canada. When their temporary work visas expire, they will have to go back home where they will have to wait for a long time before coming back here. It is very onerous. They still have temporary status.
The New Democratic Party wants people who come to Canada to be able to establish roots here and eventually bring their families here. That is why we are pushing this once-in-a-lifetime bill. My former colleague, Peggy Nash, was able to get this bill to second reading stage but unfortunately, the Liberals across the way were badly split on it and by a narrow decision the bill was not passed. As a result, many Canadians who want to sponsor their loved ones, a brother, a sister, a son or daughter over 22 years of age, a cousin, a niece or nephew, are not able to do so.
That has not always been the case. Other than family class, Canada has always had an assisted relative class. A Canadian would be able to sponsor a brother, sister, cousin, or a child over age 22. That person would get five points and if they qualified would be able to come to Canada. Unfortunately that provision in the immigration act was eliminated in the late eighties or early nineties.
As a result, Canada has been treating immigrants as economic units. We now have 180,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada. They come and work but they cannot stay. They can only work here for a few years and after that they have to leave.
That is not our vision of Canada. The Conservative government has said that it values families, yet it is taking much longer now to sponsor a parent. The waiting list has mushroomed. There is a much longer waiting period.
In the last 10 years family reunification has become less important. Canada benefits greatly when families come together. That is a Canadian value. That is how Canada was built. Irish immigrants were able to sponsor their relatives. During the sixties, seventies and eighties Portuguese immigrants were able to do the same. They were able to sponsor their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters over age 22. It was the same with the Italians. Many Europeans who came to Canada brought all of their relatives with them. That is no longer the case with the present immigration act.
St. Patrick's Day is next week. In Toronto this coming Friday the Ireland Fund of Canada will be holding its annual celebration. It reminds me again of the role that the Irish have played in building our city.
It is about time that we say to young people across Europe that they should consider coming to Canada and not just to Australia because a large number of them are going there.
We note that they are coming here on a study travel work permit. Last year 4,229 people were granted a visa to come here. The number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada from Ireland has doubled since 2004. These are highly skilled young people. Many of them have relatives in Canada and they want to stay in Canada because their loved ones are here.
Jonathan Kearns tells me he has a cousin that he would love to sponsor to Canada. Jonathan and his brother Robert have never sponsored a person into this country. They think it is important that they be given the chance, if they so choose, to give a family member the chance to start a career and put down roots in Canada.
The bill has an impact more on the older immigrant groups that are more established in Canada. Most of them have not sponsored anyone, whereas the more recent immigrants have been able to sponsor their father, mother, spouse or their children, which is fine, but in this time, especially with the young people of some European countries having a hard time, it is important to consider this bill.
We could still keep the immigration quota to 1% of the Canadian population. We know that we could use the labour force and we need these young people in this country. We need their work, their drive, their enthusiasm and energy. I know they would be successful.
According to Ireland's Economic and Social Research Institute, 70% of the unemployed youth 18 to 25 years old are set to emigrate from Ireland to Australia this year. We know that the education system in Ireland is extremely successful since university education is almost free. They are highly educated and we can use their talents. The same thing may be said for Spain, Greece and Portugal. With such high unemployment, it is a good opportunity for people to connect with their relatives here in Canada.
The bill would expand the family class definition and would allow a Canadian to sponsor loved ones into Canada. This is what Canada has always done. This is what our immigration system should be about. It is about building our nation. It is about uniting families. It is about giving people the opportunity to build a better life here in Canada. We have the history to show that it is successful and this is an opportune time for us to enact this once-in-a-lifetime bill.
I do hope that I have the support of both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. In the past the Bloc members have been supportive of this bill to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and bring these young people to Canada.