Mr. Speaker, I for one could not be more proud or honoured to be a seconder for the bill introduced by the member for Vancouver East regarding family reunification.
Her idea of once in a lifetime, where new Canadians who would otherwise be unable to sponsor a family class member would, under the bill, be able to do such a thing. The bill meets a need that I am certain has been brought to the attention of virtually every member of Parliament in the House. Who among us has not had people come to our offices who wish to reunite with a family member but who find the rules so restrictive that they are unable to do so?
I believe it is the position of the hon. member for Vancouver East, and I concur, that the current rules under family reunification fail to recognize the reality of many traditional cultures from source countries, from immigrants who have extended families who perhaps live in a far closer network than we are used to in North America.
I can use, as an example, one case I know of quite well where a non-married aunt in a family unit actually was the primary caregiver for the children when both of the parents were out of the house scraping by to earn an income. This reference is from the Philippines. The aunt raised the children in that case. It was very important for those children, who now reside in Canada, to bring that family member to Canada to join them as she was reaching her senior years. That would be one case in point where the current rules do not accurately address the reality of the family structure in the source immigration countries. The hon. member's bill is sensitive to that issue.
Other members from other parties have raised details as to why this may be a problem in terms of resources. I do not accept that by allowing the hon. member's bill to go forward it would open the floodgates and cause a rush of immigration that our system would not be able to handle, for the simple reason that her bill does not change anything else in terms of who would be eligible and how a person would qualify. The sponsoring family, or the sponsoring new Canadian, would still have to meet the very onerous issues regarding income and the financial aspects to the current system.
One of the biggest barriers to more family reunification into the inner city of Winnipeg is that we are held to the same standard in terms of the amount of annual income the sponsor must have in order to sponsor another person. It, more than anything, is the barrier to more family reunification sponsorship.
I believe, as I think all members here recognize, that the family reunification aspect of our immigration system is one of the key pillars on which our system is built. I would wholly support this measure which I believe would enable more families to sponsor more immigrants without putting an undue burden on the current system or adding to what I do accept is an unreasonable backlog.
I have often heard the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration deny that there is a backlog in the system. That is simply putting one's head in the sand. The previous minister said, in a very creative way, that it was not a backlog but a waiting list. Whether it is a backlog or a waiting list, it has the same net effect that people are waiting years.
I will point out one other basic unfairness in the existing system that the hon. member's bill would recognize. While people are waiting in this country to get their earnings up to a sufficient point to sponsor, for instance, a child from the Philippines, that child may pass the age of 18, or the current age of 22. As the years tick away, this family has to make the most gut wrenching choice of their lives, which child to sponsor at which time, while the child is getting older. Ten years can go by before the new Canadian can get the earning capability to sponsor enough of their family members to truly reunify that family and by then the person may be over 22 years old.
In the case of this simple rule change, that family could now sponsor that 25 year old adult child who was no less valued but was forced to be separated from the family unit for whatever reason in terms of the way that the family came to this country.
This is an issue of basic fairness. It creates opportunities. It does not create an undue burden, I believe, on the system. I wish more members would realize that.