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House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Human Resources and Social DevelopmentOral Questions

Noon

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, we believe in choice in child care. We also are investing $5.6 billion per year in child care.

However, why is that party supporting Bill C-303, a private member's bill that is against funding to the provinces? That is the question.

Pet FoodOral Questions

Noon

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, half of all Canadians have a pet. They are wondering why their government does no testing on pet food, with no regulation, no inspection and no protection.

There are tales of kidney failure in cats, serious sickness in dogs, and massive recalls of pet food. No wonder ordinary Canadians do not trust the Conservative government.

How many more pets need to fall ill or, worse, even die before there is any real action from this government?

Pet FoodOral Questions

Noon

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the CFIA has had the responsibility for regulating food for human consumption. It is reviewing the regulations regarding pet food coming into this country and in due time will report back.

Pet FoodOral Questions

Noon

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

That brings question period to an end.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to nine petitions.

Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic representation)Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Thursday, June 22, 2006, be concurred in.

The deportation of undocumented workers in Canada continues to tear families apart, hurting entire communities and causing economic problems in industries like the booming construction industry in my riding in downtown Toronto.

In the last years we have seen children being used as bait in schools and families risking their health and well-being by going underground to escape deportation. Shamefully, this is being done in a country that needs immigrants and skilled workers.

The Conservative government is continuing the old Liberal tradition of failing to set the immigration target at 1% of the population, which is the figure that we need to replenish the workforce. The NDP has been pushing for the regularization of undocumented workers. We have been calling for an effective program, particularly for workers in high demand sectors, such as construction.

We believe that the government should allow people without status who have already been working in Canada for many years and who are calling Canada home, some of whom are paying taxes, to be given the opportunity to apply for legal status.

Canada needs an immigration target of at least 1% of the country's total population to enhance Canada's population. That would be about 330,000 new immigrants a year. Yet this year our immigrant target is 240,000 to 265,000. The target is much lower than the 1% that we need. We need to build up our base to benefit our economy.

It is estimated that there are as many as 200,000 undocumented workers in Canada employed in trades and low paying sectors such as the hospitality and construction industries. There may be as many as 15,000 undocumented Portuguese and Brazilian workers in the construction trades in Toronto alone. These workers, who have been contributing to the economy, are exploited because of their lack of status. The government is doing nothing to help.

These workers, while helping us alleviate the chronic shortage of skilled labour, do not necessarily contribute to the income tax base. According to the Ontario Construction Secretariat, the underground economy has cost $1.3 billion in lost government revenues.

The effect that deportation has had on the community, especially in downtown Toronto, has been devastating. I can give some figures. Between 1996 to 2000, 292 Portuguese citizens were deported. Between 2001 and 2004, 443 Portuguese citizens were deported. From 2005 to mid-year in 2007, already 727 Portuguese citizens were deported. Imagine how devastating that is to that community.

The Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario has asked the minister to implement a moratorium on deportations to allow the opportunity to discuss various options to regularize these undocumented workers. Unfortunately the minister has not listened. The Portuguese-Canadian Congress and the Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals stated in a letter:

We believe that the consequences of pursuing the current strategy of strict enforcement of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will be seriously detrimental to Canada's economy and would be contrary to our strong humanitarian principles.

We fear that this strategy...if pursued will deter other undocumented workers from coming forward and will drive them further underground which will ultimately be more costly to our society. These individuals are the most vulnerable living among us and they will continue to be further victimized.

As I have said in the House on many occasions, undocumented workers and their families live in fear today because the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has failed to act. The economic consequence of the minister's continued refusal to act in the best interests of these workers can be seen across Canada.

In July 2006, the Canadian Construction Association stated:

As the largest industry sector in Canada, the construction industry is facing unprecedented demand for labour. According to the Construction Sector Council, between 2005 and 2014, approximately 150,000 people will be needed to meet impending retirements. Furthermore, between 2005 and 2010, an additional 41,000 workers will be needed to meet expected demand.

Those are staggering numbers, almost 200,000 workers short of our need. This surely begs the question, what are the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration doing? Are they asleep at the wheel alongside the absentee Minister of National Defence?

It is outrageous that we would leave the vital construction industry shortchanged over the next decade. The government clearly has no plan to address this major issue. It seems that shortchanging the construction industry is only the beginning. The government has also failed to act to reverse the devastating trend begun by the former Liberal government with regard to the immigration point system.

In the early 1990s, the Liberal government prioritized educated professionals and business people over skilled workers and family class immigrants. Today that is still the case. In 2005, 55% of new immigrants were professionals, compared with only 17% in 1990. The two lowest skills levels for new immigrants went in the opposite direction. Skilled labourers only accounted for 10% of new immigrants in 2005, compared to 37% in 1990. No wonder there is a shortage of workers.

We want professional workers to come to Canada. Unfortunately, the government has treated these most educated, most skilled immigrants like eternal second-class citizens. The Conference Board of Canada has reported that our economy loses about $5 billion each year because of underemployment of new immigrants whose foreign training, expertise and experience are not recognized in Canada.

People come to Canada thinking that their degrees qualify and yet when they arrive in Canada, they discover their degrees are not being recognized. That is really difficult for them. It gives a false picture of Canada. It is not fair to immigrants who move here in the hopes of bettering their lives.

When immigrants come to Canada they have to go through lots and lots of hoops in the current process. They do not necessarily know where to apply. They do not quite understand the assessment process. It is complicated. Different levels of government are involved. There are professional bodies. Yet there are no national procedures in place.

Furthermore, when people apply at CIC centres and visa offices overseas, they are not being told that this will happen to them. It would not be very difficult for us to assess their credentials before they came to Canada, and yet Canada refuses to act.

Each year Canada receives between 220,000 and 245,000 immigrants. In 2005 over 130,000 skilled workers were admitted into Canada with numbers only expected to increase. Immigrants in the past decade have accounted for 70% of Canada's net labour force growth. This trend is going to continue. Far too many of these highly skilled new immigrants are driving taxis and delivering pizzas. We are drawing these skilled labourers out of their home country where they are needed and yet their talents are being wasted in Canada.

According to a University of Toronto study by Dr. Ritz, the underutilization of skilled new immigrants represented a $15 billion earning deficit in 1996. Imagine what that number would be today.

What is happening? There has been nothing from the government but empty promises from the ministers and the Prime Minister saying that a plan will be coming, perhaps later, maybe in the late spring, sometime. We have not seen any action.

The NDP and I have presented a plan to improve the lives of tens of thousands of new immigrants in Canada who are underutilized, underpaid and undervalued. It is about time that we deal with the issue of foreign credentials.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has issued a dissenting opinion to the report that is in front of us today. It states--

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 11th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning statements made by the member for Louis-Hébert during the period for statements by members.

In his statement, he referred to immigrants as imports. Soon, on May 18 of this year, in Montreal, former Haitian slaves will inaugurate Place de l'Unité in celebration of the harmonious relationships that have prevailed from the end of slavery to the present day. I find it unacceptable that in this House, a member should express the idea that immigrants are imports. I formally request that he retract his statement and apologize without delay.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to thank the hon. member for Papineau for her statement. The Chair will rule on this matter shortly.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued a dissenting opinion to this report. It states:

At the present time there is a growing concern with respect to the plight of undocumented workers all across Canada. This is a matter with no easy solutions and a number of competing concerns, all of which warrant careful consideration and study. There is no question this government and the Conservative Party of Canada recognize that a thoughtful and measured response is required before policy can be implemented to fully address this situation.

I have a question for the government. Should we be deporting hard-working families, families who have lived here in Canada for many years, families who have raised their children here, who have good jobs, who have established themselves in communities, and who have contributed to Canadian society?

Obviously, the answer is no. We should not be deporting these hard-working families. We need to see a new policy to address the plight of these workers and their families. That is why a moratorium is required and it is required now.

Beyond that, we have seen the government only dragging its feet on the immigration system and immigration reform. Where is the overhaul of the point system? When will we see a fair and just system for the sponsorship of families? How will our economy grow with our desperately growing need for skilled labour? How long do families have to wait before they can bring their loved ones, like parents, to Canada?

It seems that the minister has three choices. He could follow the Liberal lead and just turn a blind eye to the exploitation of these workers. He could order a witch hunt, a mass deportation of 200,000 hard-working, tax-paying people, or he could just do his job and find a solution.

The Conservative government has had the opportunity to address and improve Canada's immigration system, which is currently failing and broken, but it seems to be continuing the Liberal's record of failures in this area, a record of doing nothing at all for our new immigrants.

Therefore, I call on the government to do the following: first, stop deportations while new immigration policy is being put in place; second, establish an in Canada program which would offer work permits to law-abiding workers and their families, leading to the opportunity for these workers and families to apply for landed status; and third, create a long term solution for a fair program that permits skilled workers to immigrate into jobs in the construction and service sectors.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question to the hon. member.

Obviously, the report that came before the House was a report that went forward from the committee by the opposition without hearing a shred of evidence. I wonder if the member was aware of that. Indeed, there was an attempt made by the government to have a study conducted on this issue and to hear from all of the stakeholders involved in order that this problem and issue could be addressed. In fact, other agenda items were taken by the opposition, so that we will not be going into this comprehensive review until our next opportunity, which will be when we get back in the fall.

The second thing is the booming construction industry, of course, is taking place throughout the country. We have worked with the temporary foreign worker program and the provincial nominee program that provide a basis for skilled workers to attempt to fill the jobs that are available. As much as we are sympathetic with those who are here without going through those processes, what would the member say about the fact that we have a backlog of about 800,000 who are attempting to get in through a legitimate process?

What do we tell these people who are trying to go through the programs and avenues that already exist? Is there not some necessity to deal with the backlog, to provide a legitimate process through which people can come in, as we are doing now?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had 13 years to study and the Conservatives have had more than a year to look at the various options. There have been many options. Pilot projects have been suggested by the construction trade, immigrant working groups and different cities. I know the city of Toronto certainly had different suggestions. There have been options, reviews and studies on this issue.

If we have hearings, are we going to ask the undocumented workers to come to Ottawa to speak to the standing committee? That would not work. It is not as if we do not know what the problems are.

Construction workers appeared before us who said that we have serious shortages. Different immigrant working groups, whether from Brazilian, Portuguese or Filipino communities, said that more deportations are a complete waste of taxpayers' money. Why? Because we deport these workers after spending a lot of money in court and then about a year later, because the employer still needs these workers, after they return to their home country they bring the workers back to Canada.

It is wasting the employer's time, it is causing hardship, tearing families apart, removing kids who are already in school, some of them even born in Canada, and interrupting their daily lives. What for? They are not criminals. If they are good enough to work here, they are good enough to stay in Canada.

In the mid-1980s there were regularization programs that worked and Canada benefited from these workers becoming landed immigrants as they are now contributing as citizens.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member for Trinity—Spadina's speech concerning the motion.

She explained the problem the Portuguese in Toronto are having. I would like to know if she is also aware of the problem facing Mexicans who come here for seasonal work, such as harvesting produce in Quebec, and who have to pay deductions out of their paycheques even though they receive no benefits. Has she considered that?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. There are Mexican seasonal workers and workers from Pakistan. They are from all over the world coming to Canada and helping our farmers, our construction trade, working as nursing aides, nannies and domestic workers. Some work in restaurants and hotels. They are in all different sectors and they do contribute by paying taxes.

However, if they are injured in the workplace they do not get workers' benefits. When they are sick, they cannot get help from our medical health care system because they do not have medical coverage. Some of their kids are fearful to go to school. There are many tragic stories where kids are so worried about going to school that they are not in school. Every child should be in school.

In some cities, such as Toronto, they are beginning not to ask questions and have a “don't ask, don't tell” policy. They say that schools should not ask about the immigration status of these kids because every child should be able to be in our school system.

These serious problems have been with us for years and are getting worse. We have to act on humanitarian and economic grounds. We must do something now for all these workers that are being exploited.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have a provision in our system that deals with humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and that is always open and available. We need to be compassionate that is for sure. As the member indicates, we need to find a legitimate way to ensure that we can have skilled trades and labourers addressing our booming economy.

Let us assume that indeed we develop a system where people can legitimately come through the system to meet the economic needs and the skills shortages that we have throughout various parts of the country, in the eastern part of the country and the western part as well.

What would the member propose we do for those who then decide not to go through the temporary foreign worker program, the skilled worker program or the provincial nominee program or any other program and jump the queue that is designed for workers?

At some point would the member not say that we must expect that the process be followed. Although we use good judgment and compassionate grounds where obviously we do not go into schools and do those kinds of things, but at some point what do we do with those who decide they want to go past the queue in any event?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is really no queue to jump. There is the temporary workers program. If these workers are good enough to work, why can they not be landed immigrants?

In the present immigration system, the points system is stacked against them. Some of them may not be fluent in English or French. They may not have degrees. We do not need people who have a large number of degrees to work in the construction trade. As long as they are qualified electricians or bricklayers, they do not need a degree in computer science. The points system is completely broken.

There is really no way for them to apply to become landed immigrants to Canada. We need to fix the points system. There has been nothing done in the past. In fact, during the 1990s the system got worse. We have more people coming in with degrees and fewer labourers, and yet it is the labourers that we need.

We can look at the situation with nurses. We used to have a program with the Philippines where we recognized the credentials and the degrees of nurses that came from the Philippines. In the mid-1990s we changed the program. They are now coming in and working as nurse's aides and not as nurses. They are paid lower wages and occasionally they are deported because their work permits run out. If they are good enough to work here, they should be allowed to become landed immigrants.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am please to have the opportunity to participate in the debate and to speak with respect to a moratorium on removals for undocumented workers, as proposed by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

To frame the debate, I believe it is important to underline two principles the government has continually expressed in explaining its position from the outset, and that is fairness and respect for the rule of law. Fairness and the rule of law are two things Canadians expect to see in our immigration system. So fundamental are these two principles, that they have been enshrined in the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, sometimes referred to as IRPA.

The motion passed the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration without the opposition calling a single witness. Indeed, the process was flawed and was contrary to the rules of the House and committee rules. No evidence was given to explain why the government should overlook the limits of the IRPA, the act which governs immigration, which is not contained in provisions allowing for a moratorium. In fact, we will be studying this issue in a comprehensive, broad basis where there will be ample opportunity for all stakeholders, all those interested in this issue, construction workers, those who feel that there should be a new system, those who want to talk about the point system, to come forward.

What the member and the opposition party have done by proceeding with this motion, without the calling of a shred of evidence, is simply to try to make political gains, political hay out of a situation that requires our compassion and our direction. It is something that we should take into account in a sober and thoughtful way.

The committee did not hear from anyone, so it did not consider the evidence of how moratoriums have failed Canada in the past. It did not call anyone, so it has not listen to those who are concerned about the consequences a moratorium would have on applicants who have legitimately applied to come to our country following due process. It did not hear that legitimate applicants would have to wait longer to free up the resources needed to allow those who come here illegally to move to the front of the line.

The committee passed this motion, without thinking about its consequences and whether it was fair, simply and purely to try to take advantage of a situation to its advantage.

Earlier I referred to a principle that I believe Canadians and Canada's new government share. It is upholding and respecting the rule of law. For the record, there is no provision in the law that allows for a moratorium. To implement a moratorium without anything to enable it would be arbitrary. This is no way to apply the law or act as a government.

There is no question that the matter of undocumented foreign workers in Canada is a serious one to which we need to direct our minds and attention. As I mentioned, we will be doing so in a broader and more extensive way.

I can assure the House that our new government is well aware of the serious skills and labour shortages affecting the productivity and growth in a number of regions and sectors of our economy. One only needs to spend some time talking to employers across the country to hear first-hand the difficulties they are experiencing in finding people with the skills and experience they need to maintain their competitive edge. In fact, they go a long way out of their normal offerings to ensure they can attract people to positions. They provide training and so on to ensure they can stay open and do what is required of them.

That is why our government is working with all interested parties, provincial and territorial agencies, labour and industry organizations and community groups, to find ways to address our labour and skills shortage through legal means, through a process that is fair and open to everyone. True, we may need new electricians, but if we have a process for electricians to come forward, then we do not need to have somebody come in some other way to try to fill that position.

Part of the solution is to put Canadians in these jobs. One way of helping to create these jobs is through training and education. In budgets 2006 and 2007 and through our “Advantage Canada” plan, our government committed to increasing participation in the workforce.

To accomplish this, our government has made several commitments. These include reviewing systematically and eliminating barriers to labour force participation for underrepresented groups and improving labour market programming so it helps Canadians to develop the skills they need and the skills employers want.

That should be our first target, to try to get people trained in skills that already exist and encourage them to enter into the trades and skills which are much required in the building of our country.

We have committed to making improvements to the temporary foreign worker program to respond to employer needs and examining ways to make it easier for Canadian educated foreign students and temporary foreign workers to stay in Canada and become Canadian citizens. We have committed to supporting the removal of barriers to labour mobility across the country, ensuring people can cross interprovincial territories so they can go to work where the work is. We have committed to enhancing labour market information available to Canadians so they can make optimum choices for themselves, reducing taxes and creating a business environment conducive to business investing in training. We have done that in our budget. We encourage employers to have people trained to fill those positions that are much required.

Our economy and our country are growing. There is no question we will need more people to fill the positions that will be available as a consequence of this. We work with the provinces and the territories and the private sector to make training and skills development more widely available to Canadian workers and better aligned with the needs of the economy. While government plays an important role, business also have a role to play in helping and training workers for the current and future needs.

We recognize that immigration has a role to play as well. We are working with our partners in the provinces and territories and the private sector to enhance the capacity of our immigration program to respond to those needs.

We are taking other actions. While the Liberals froze settlement funding for over a decade and voted against providing $307 million in new settlement funding for immigrants, our government has committed over $300 million in new settlement funding over two years to ensure newcomers to Canada are equipped to enter the Canadian workforce as soon as possible.

While the Liberals stood idly by for 13 long years, we are taking real action to address the needs of immigrants. Budget 2007 announced the creation of a foreign credentials referral office. Its creation will fill a need clearly identified with the provinces, the territories, the stakeholders, while respecting provincial jurisdiction.

In this regard, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development have consulted with provinces and territories, as well as the full range of stakeholders involved in integrating immigrants into the labour market force and society. Stakeholders include regulatory bodies, provincial assessment agencies, post-secondary institutions, sector councils, employer associations and immigrants.

We will take a leadership role in helping perspective immigrants and internationally trained and educated individuals already in Canada find the information and access to services they need to put their skills to work. We want to ensure the people we work hard to attract to this country can put their skills to work for Canada as soon as possible after their arrival.

We are processing a record number of temporary foreign worker applications. Just last year, we took in over 100,000 temporary foreign workers. We have recently announced changes to the temporary foreign worker program to make it easier and faster for Canadian employers to meet their labour force needs. We have cut the red tape. We have ensured that the process goes quicker and smoother. We have ensured that we have the resources in place to help employers accept these workers and process them through so they can be a part of the workforce.

These changes will reduce the time that employers have to wait to get workers they need and to extend the time that workers can stay in Canada from one year to two years and, in fact, make application for permanent resident status. This will help bring more security and stability to workers and to employers.

We have also opened new temporary foreign worker units in Calgary and Vancouver to better serve these high demand areas. We have created regional lists of jobs where there are clearly identified worker shortages. We have made it faster and simpler for employers to hire a foreign worker for an occupation that is on one of these lists.

We are also making it easier for international students to stay in Canada and work off campus. In this regard, we have granted over 11,000 off campus work permits to international students. These students are young and motivated and they have a good feel for our country. Why not give them some Canadian work experience and do our best to have them stay, after their student visas have expired, to use their new skills knowledge in our country?

We will continue to explore other options in the future so as to ensure our immigration policies and our programs continue to make a contribution to Canada's prosperity.

To be perfectly clear, there is no doubt many undocumented workers are hard-working people. We recognize there are no easy answers. This is a serious issue, one involving families and children, but it is not fair to allow some to jump the queue while others who follow the rules have to wait in line. Those who are here illegally have violated the values of fairness and respect for the rule of law, which are not only the foundation of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, but the values that are the very foundation of Canada.

To offer a moratorium would be patently unfair to the thousands of people who seek to come to Canada every year and are prepared to follow the rules. We have these rules for a reason and far from the least of these is the need to assure the safety and security of Canadians and our allies.

That is why everyone who applies to come to this country must pass through a security and criminality check. They should recognize that a moratorium on deportations would almost certainly encourage foreign nationals to come to Canada illegally, safe in the knowledge that if caught working in Canada without authorization, they would be entitled to remain in the country.

To be sure, we are compassionate when it comes to specific situations. We know there is a great diversity in the circumstances of undocumented workers, including the reasons that left them without legal status here in the first place.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act includes provisions to address the issue of foreign nationals without status. For instance, in exceptional circumstances, a foreign national living in Canada without legal status may apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

That is what we do in Canada. We respect and apply the rule of law so there is fairness, certainty and transparency in decisions allowing people to come, to live and to work in Canada. We do not pick and choose when the law should apply and when we should look the other way. That is not the way to run a country or an immigration system.

The proposal to suspend the removal of undocumented workers and their families who pass security and criminality checks is not the solution to the plight of undocumented workers in Canada. The answer will be found in the context of Canada's broad immigration policies, which are widely regarded to be responsible, logical, humane and democratic, not in quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions. We need to analyze the problem, look at the situation, address what is happening in our country and then approach it in a logical fashion. However, it must be fair, it must be compassionate and it must allow those who respect the process and choose to enter this country through that means not to be hard done by.

We must therefore do what we now have commenced to do. We are hearing from a broad perspective of individuals, stakeholders and those who are interested, including those who have specific representations on the ground. We want to see how this issue can be addressed, how we can resolve what has happened to this date. We want to have a system in place on a go-forward basis that is fair and appropriate for all those who want to take part in this great country of ours, all those who want to help us grow our economy in Canada. We want to ensure the boom experienced in construction and other areas continues to the prosperity of all Canadians and those who come here on temporary or other basis.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the mid-1980s the government at that time introduced a regularization program. The program worked this way. People who had been in Canada for five years or more and who were working and did not have a criminal record could apply to become landed immigrants, which would qualify them and allow them to stay in Canada.

During the period when the program was in place, thousands and thousands of undocumented workers came forward. As a result, they were able to stay in Canada legally. They are now law-abiding citizens who pay taxes and contribute to Canada.

There is absolutely no reason why Canada should not reintroduce a program of this nature. What barrier would the member see that would cause the government not to have this kind of program, which we have had several times in the past 20 years?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is no question about it. A process needs to be made available to those who choose to fill, in a legitimate way, positions that need to be filled. The problem comes in if we design a system to react to the demands the country has, and then on the other hand say to those who wish not to go through the process, but want to come in some other way, that they can do that, and we will simply regularize them in the course of time. It would certainly have a great pull for people who would say that they do not necessarily need to come in through the process but will come here in some other way.

I think it is important to say this. We must have a process that is fair and equitable, a process that has an equal application for all those who wish to fill a particular position. They all should be allowed to go through that process as a group and then be selected from that process. We should not have systems designed that go outside or around that, or else why have a process in the first place?

I can appreciate what the member has said in that there are some compassionate reasons and grounds to consider for those who may be in that position, but this is an opportunity for the member and others who would like to propose solutions or put their options forward to the committee. The committee will be studying this issue comprehensively to see if there is a manageable way to deal not only with this situation but with what might happen on a going forward basis.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the hon. member's comments with respect to following a process and following protocol so that people coming to Canada are actually following the existing process and regulations and applying from their home countries. Everything stays nice and neat. I understand that.

However, we also have the reality in this country that thousands of people are in Canada who are undocumented, who are working and providing for our economy, and who are filling jobs in areas that are in crisis, such as the construction industry. We need to address those issues.

Would the hon. member have a proposal as to how to fast track, open up and change this system that actually prevented these people from coming in before? Would he have a proposal to make it more open and to allow in the skills the country needs, especially in the construction industry, in a more effective and faster way? They would certainly be needed.

In the meantime, we cannot ignore the human suffering and the human reality, and the economic reality as well, of these undocumented workers, most of whom have been here for decades. Most of them, if not all, have children here and raise their children here. Most of them, if not all, have businesses here and many of them, but not all, pay taxes. Sending them back home at this point would be undue hardship not only for them and their children, but also for industry, especially the construction industry, which is in crisis in its need of skilled workers.

It seems to me that we do not have deal with this in a one-sided way. We can deal with the reality that we have in the country, ensure that we have some humanity, and show that we are going to address both the social and economic needs at the same time, and then possibly begin to revamp the process, as the hon. member mentioned. Can the member not at least consider that?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, we do have a compassionate system in place. We have a process for considering humanitarian, compassionate applications in those unique circumstances.

However, we have designed programs and are continuing to have programs to address the very issue the member raises, with programs such as the temporary foreign workers program, the provincial nominee program and a program known as CREWS, for example, the construction recruitment external workers services. CREWS was created with stakeholders in the construction industry to manage, control and allow for the efficient processing by HRSDC and CIC of applications for the entry of temporary foreign construction workers. Certainly those are processes are in place to meet the needs of the booming construction industry.

However, we also have a backlog that was created when the member's party was in government. It has grown to 700,000 or 800,000 people who are applying legitimately through the system. If she is saying we should now process someone in addition to or ahead of them, what is she going to do with those who are in the queue?

Certainly one can design programs, have an intake of applications and have someone coming in the other way, but there needs to be some integrity in the system. In that integrity of the system, we have to design something that works for the stakeholders and for those who are involved in the industry, and they must work through that process.

Manitoba has used the provincial nominee program to a significant degree, more than any others have, and it has done a good job with that. The province of Saskatchewan has taken that initiative and has opened up offices in Saskatoon and I believe in Regina to deal with that. Similarly, the province of Ontario is being encouraged to do that. The province of Alberta has undertaken those types of processes that will allow it to meet those needs.

I would encourage us to use those legitimate types of vehicles for addressing the situation and proceed with humanitarian and compassionate grounds when we are looking at issues relating to deportation or those who are here. However, at the same time, we must do it in a measured way and with respect to the fact that we must allow due process to take place.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech and I was disappointed as I was thumbing through the dissenting opinion to the fourth report that we are moving concurrence in today, which was put forward by my colleague. I believe my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, raised a number of objections that would fly in the face of public opinion when it comes to the treatment of the deportation of temporary or undocumented workers in this country.

I am surprised at a lot of these arguments. I do not think his party would be proud of some of the positions he has taken, which to me border on intolerance. When we scratch the surface just a little bit, there is very little business case we can make for some of the objections raised. We all know about the difficulty of deporting anybody from this country. Under the current rules, frankly, only people who want to leave can actually be kicked out. It is an enormously costly process.

However, in the situation of this incredible need and demand for the work that is being offered by these undocumented workers, what is the business case for deportation? If there is no business case, what is the rationale?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. parliamentary secretary will want to know that he has 50 seconds to respond.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, one can hardly respond adequately in 50 seconds except to say that there are no massive deportations taking place, but there are processes under way to legitimately address areas of employment needs that can be met in a legitimate way and where wages, working conditions and so on can be monitored appropriately.

The member needs to understand that when a process is developed, that process needs to be followed. It is a matter of the rule of law. To have a report such as this one by the opposition, of which he is a member, filed in this House without hearing a shred of evidence is unconscionable. It is to make a decision without taking any consequences into account.