Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to be in the House today to listen to my critic, the member for Compton—Stanstead, as well as the member for Winnipeg Centre.
While I would say that I do not agree with everything they had to say, and I know they are not surprised to hear that, I wanted to take a moment to thank the member for Compton—Stanstead for acknowledging the hard work of the high commission and immigration officers.
I would also acknowledge the fact that I too had a chance to sit in on interviews in our posts abroad and I know the dedication of the staff. I think it was very important for that to be acknowledged in the House.
The hon. member made one point that I would like to comment on, and that is the fact that he has been waiting for a new immigration and refugee protection bill. He said that the Citizenship Act was not as important as the other and wondered why he had not yet seen an immigration bill.
I point out to him that the government has said that a new immigration act is a priority. A white paper was issued in January 1999. More than that, as a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, he would know that the committee tabled its report yesterday. I want to point out to him that I have been anxiously awaiting that report, because the committee's work in this area has been extremely important in helping to define the policy.
I understand that the member opposite made important and valuable contributions during the work of the committee on that report, and I want to assure him and all members of the House that I will be taking into consideration the recommendations of the committee in the development of a new bill, which I hope to see tabled in the House as soon as possible.
I agree that citizenship is at the heart of what it means to be a Canadian, and Bill C-16 is a very important bill to Canadians and to future Canadians.
I am pleased to comment on the members' speeches and to acknowledge the expertise and interest which they have had in this very important issue concerning citizenship and immigration and refugee policy.
The member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Compton—Stanstead, the member for Rosemont and even my critic from the Reform Party play a very important role on the committee, as does my parliamentary secretary and the other members. I appreciate their advice and I look forward to being at committee to defend Bill C-16 in the very near future, as soon as the House sees fit to send it to committee.
I have been listening very carefully to the debate. We will take into consideration the representations made by all of those who have taken the opportunity to speak to the bill and we will look very carefully at the representations of others when we are at committee. I expect the committee will hear witnesses.
It has been a long road for Bill C-16 and its predecessor Bill C-63. It is very important that this bill proceed. I am pleased to stand in my place today to acknowledge the important work that has been done on this bill. I hope to see it become a reality soon.