Madam Speaker, I know my riding of Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot is a bit of a mouthful but I have to say that I am the fault of that because I was the one who originally named the riding. I suspect, however, that it will be renamed very shortly to a somewhat shorter name.
I rise to speak to Bill C-436. It is an act that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act pertaining to the sponsorship of relatives.
What the act does or what it purports to do is it would give all citizens and permanent residents of Canada a once in a lifetime opportunity to sponsor a relative of their choice. What it does is it gets around the limitations that currently exist in legislation that restricts the sponsorship of relatives to direct relatives, like parents and grandparents, or to nieces and cousins who are in particular situations, like being orphaned or things like that, but it does not allow for the sponsorship broadly of distant cousins, uncles and other relatives.
The bill before the House, however, would get around that limitation that now exists in the Citizenship and Immigration Act and allow this one time sponsorship of any relative.
One can appreciate why the member for Vancouver East would bring forward a bill of this nature, because she comes from a riding that has a very large number of new Canadians and landed immigrants. Of course anyone who has come to this country from another land would naturally want to bring in as many relatives as possible.
I was on the citizenship and immigration committee when we dealt with this problem in the early 1990s and the difficulty was that the sponsorship program, as inherited from the Mulroney regime, was so broad that we were getting so many newcomers to Canada who could not be expected to contribute significantly to the nation, and it was felt that the sponsorship program should be limited in the way that we see in the legislation now.
There are some major difficulties with what is proposed by the member for Vancouver East. What she is saying is that every person in Canada ought to have the right to sponsor a relative. Well, there are 30 million people in Canada, so what the bill would do in effect is invite every Canadian and every permanent resident to sponsor a relative. I would suggest that basically would make it very difficult for Canada to control the type of newcomers who would like to come into the country, because every nation in the world has the right, and indeed it is a privilege, to want to have some say in who comes into the country to become a part of the nation's society.
There is another problem that is even more difficult and that is the problem that the bill would extend this privilege of sponsoring a relative once in a lifetime, not only to Canadian citizens but to permanent residents. Now the difficulty is that out of the 30 million people who are part of Canadian society, 1.5 million of them are not Canadians.
Indeed, we saw what happened late last year when the government introduced a program whereby people who did not have Canadian citizenship but were permanent residents were required to take a permanent residency card. There was a lot of conflict in our constituency offices over that. What was amazing was to discover in my own constituency office that many of those people who were captured by this requirement to have a permanent residents card had been in the country for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years. These people had come to the country many years ago. and many of them actually from the traditional countries that sent people to Canada, the United States and particularly Britain and Western Europe, but these people had come to Canada and they could not be bothered to take out citizenship and they could not be bothered to acquire the right to vote, even though they had been in Canada for many years. Often we had a situation where they raised their children under the citizenship of another nation.
What the bill would do is allow this type of person, who is not sufficiently attached to Canada, to acquire citizenship, to bring in relatives to become part of the country, to acquire the wealth and benefit of the country, to follow the same pattern and not bother about having a real attachment to Canada. I think this would be very unfortunate because Canada is a fine country and I think it is respected worldwide.
At the very least, we should try to attract people who want to be here because Canada is a fine country and who want to become part of Canadian society because they want to share in our values, our values that have to do with freedom of opportunity, freedom of speech, the respect for the rule of law and democracy and the respect for basic human rights. We do that when we become Canadian or when we at least hold it out as an option.
However to say to people who have chosen not to be Canadian, who have chosen only to take advantage of the material benefits of Canada, that they should have the right to bring in their relatives, just the absolute right to bring in their relatives to take advantage of the material benefits of Canada again, just like them, is quite unacceptable.
I would suggest that while I appreciate that the member for Vancouver East has proposed the legislation because she genuinely sees in her riding and among her constituency a desire for family reunification, which is very understandable, the legislation, unfortunately, as written, particularly because it includes permanent residents and provides for no criterion of adherence to the values of Canada, I regret to say it is legislation that I do not think the House should support.
I commend the member for Vancouver East for bringing it forward because I think the intent of the legislation is fine and we do want to be a country that welcomes people. However every nation ought to have the opportunity to screen people for their potential desire to come to this land to adhere to our values.