Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from the NDP for introducing this bill. It is very important, as she so ably pointed out, that we re-examine from time to time how effective and how friendly our immigration system is to the people who are dependent on it.
The member, like the Conservative Party, believes very strongly in immigration and supports immigration. The Conservative Party wants immigration to continue to be a building block of our country, both economically and in human resources terms.
The bill before us would allow each citizen or permanent resident in Canada to sponsor an individual who is a relation one time during their life. I applaud the member's generosity of spirit that motivates her to put this forward. As she says, and as my colleague from the government just pointed out, this is an idea which has been debated and brought forward before. It is always good to debate; it is always good to have new ideas put forward.
The member who moved the bill has told us that it is a straightforward bill to facilitate the reunification of families. I know from personal experience that it can be a real burning desire for families to be together.
When my parents came to Canada I was just a year old and all the family that I have followed me because I am the oldest. My mom had 13 brothers and sisters in the country from where she emigrated and she missed them very much. I know that in many instances she wished they would be closer so that they could visit and have the kind of family closeness that most families enjoy. However, my parents made the choice to move quite far away from their respective families and we did not get to see my aunts, uncles and cousins very often and still do not, but that was a choice they made. In my opinion it was a very good choice for me because I love Canada and I love being a Canadian. Although I enjoy visiting my relatives from time to time, my heart and my home are here.
The point is, how far does Canada want to go and how far does Canada need to go? What would be in the best interests of Canada as far as opening the door for people who have made the choice to come to Canada to bring in other family members who are not immediate family members, who are not spouses, or about to be spouses, dependent children, or parents or grandparents? That really is the issue before us.
I listened very closely to my colleague. I know she has given these concerns a great deal of anxious thought, but I would suggest that there are a lot of practical questions and issues that would make a thoughtful person very reluctant to move precipitously in the direction the member is talking about.
Canada is a country built on immigration. We are proud of that. We want that to continue. We want to continue to build our country by bringing in the most skilled, the most dedicated, the most able people in the world to help us build what we believe is the best country in the world. Because we are a country built by immigration, most of us have family members, aunts, uncles, cousins to whatever degree, in other countries of the world. I would venture to say there would be many millions of Canadians who are citizens or permanent residents who have family members in other countries.
If each and every permanent resident and citizen were able to sponsor a new individual, the question is, how would we manage this? There would be millions of people qualified to take advantage of this new level of generosity in immigration. This is not a small number.
I know that my colleague knows this because she has been on the immigration committee, and been a very fine and active member. I see a problem with millions of people who would now be qualified to make an application.
I do not see it as straightforward. I see it as an enormous difficulty simply because there are so many people right now in the queue who are having the most appalling time having their applications processed.
The member knows, and we all know, that many people seeking to bring in spouses, seeking to bring in children from different places in the world are facing backlogs of disruptive proportions.
I have a case in my riding at the moment where a family from Kosovo has been seeking to be reunited for 10 years. A husband and wife and their five kids have been separated because of the terrible situation in Kosovo. The children have had only fleeting visits with the father. They are not able to get the family reunited and it has taken an emotional toll on the parents.
More than that, the terrible result of children being raised without a dad is a burden on a mother who came from a desperate situation to a situation where she is without the resources and support of a family. This family is seeking to be reunited. There is a backlog and steps have to be taken. The appeals are consuming a great amount of time.
I am pointing out that there are cases where we have an immediate family which needs to be together and the system is not able to facilitate that as it is. If we add to that several million more applications, I just cannot see this being practical. With all the good heart and will in the world, we must be fair to people. We must be fair and not tell them to come, that we want them, that they are welcome and we are opening the door even further. It is a false invitation because the resources are not there to accommodate these people who are in the lineup. To make a longer lineup will simply hurt everybody.
The second problem that concerns me, and I have mentioned this before, is the resources available for the settlement of newcomers to Canada. The member will know this because we travelled across the country around this time last year. We heard over and over, from settlement service providers, how the lack of funds and how the restriction in what service providers are able to do has created hardship for many newcomers. There is a lack of programs such as English as a second language. There is a lack of networking to get jobs. There is a lack of resources to help the communities integrate, welcome and bring together newcomers and people who are established in the community.
I know the member argues that the sponsor would support these individuals. However, the member knows and we know, although I do not know how to fix it necessarily, that the sponsorship provisions do not work. They are not enforced much of the time.
I had in my office, just a little while ago, a man who had brought his mother over from their country of origin saying he could not support her and that she had to go on welfare. I asked him if he considered this when he agreed to sponsor her and did he not have an obligation to support her? He said that he just could not. Sometimes those sponsorship obligations do not provide the safety net for newcomers that they ought to and this is a tremendous problem.
It is not generosity to open the door to people to come into a situation where they are going to face dislocation and hardship in a magnitude they did not expect, where backlogs grow, where support systems flounder, where their foreign credentials cannot be recognized and they are forced into lines of work that they never contemplated.
There are a number of problems with our system that must be addressed before we throw other people at the mercy of a system that is already failing many of the individuals who are already in the lineup to come to Canada.
I know that the member is sincerely and generously inclined to Canada's goodwill toward people coming here, but I think in fairness to them and in fairness to those who are already in the lineup, this is not the way that we should proceed. I would counsel against moving ahead with this bill at this time.