Motion No. 1
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 116.
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 117.
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 118.
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 119.
Motion No. 5
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 120.
He said—Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to the bill before us and the amendments I made to that bill.
First of all, I must apologize if my voice is a bit hoarse today. I am so shocked at the provisions in part 6 of Bill C-50 that I can hardly speak, which explains why I am having some trouble today.
But seriously, since this is a serious matter, part 6 of this budget implementation bill deals with immigration and will cause a major change in Canada's immigration system. We condemn the fact that this part has been included in a budget implementation bill when its clauses have nothing to do with financial considerations.
This is just a government trick to limit the debate on this major reform of immigration by burying these changes in a sort of omnibus bill that pertains to a number of completely different subjects. From a parliamentary point of view, we could see the absurdity of this manoeuvre by the government and how the work had to be done in committee. Since Bill C-50 is a budget implementation bill, obviously the Standing Committee on Finance was analyzing its content. But that committee did not have the necessary expertise, knowledge or time to study the immigration clauses.
We received a letter asking the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study that part of the bill. We hastily looked at part 6 of the bill, but in the end, we had only a week to hear witnesses and make recommendations. We then had to forward everything to the Standing Committee on Finance, which did not take our recommendations into account because the Liberals abstained once again.
This shows that there was no debate across Quebec and Canada. When the witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, what we heard most commonly and systematically was criticism of making such a major reform without taking the time to properly debate or look at the consequences this could have on the immigration system and on Canada's image abroad.
The committee concluded that part 6, the entire part on immigration, should be removed from the bill. That is the focus of the amendments I am proposing this morning in this House. It is the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I hope that all the parties will agree with this recommendation, especially since the committee stated in its report that it was available to sit down with the government and the minister to examine the issue and work with them to develop a real document. A consensus might even be found if we took the time to work together.
The committee did this with Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, which had to do with Canadians who had lost their Canadian citizenship. There were talks and debates. Everyone worked together, a unanimous report was written, and then came the bill. It was passed very quickly in Parliament and everything went smoothly. I do not see why we could not do the same thing for such an important immigration reform. Obviously, the short term solution is to remove this part of the bill. The proposed measures will be detrimental to our system.
Basically, the bill provides that the minister may decide of his or her own accord and with the consent of cabinet, to change the order in which immigration applications are processed. The minister may even decide which categories of applications will be processed and which will not. Currently, although there are a number of priorities, the general principle—which is about to disappear—is first come, first served.
Under our existing immigration system, those who apply can be sure that their applications will be processed eventually. Valid applications will be accepted. Even though wait times are too long because not enough money is being invested in case processing, the system is predictable. Applicants know that they will eventually get an answer. Under the new system, people will submit applications that may never be processed though they wait their entire lives.
Naturally, that is unacceptable. The minister says that the new system was created to prioritize certain categories of workers in fields in which Canada has trouble finding workers.
On the one hand, the current points system for applications takes into account post-secondary study, master's degrees, and doctorates—which are all worth extra points—but does not put enough emphasis on the technical skills and trades where more workers are needed now. Even though the department processes these cases, people can be no more certain than before that they will be accepted.
On the other hand, there are already so many priorities in the system that nothing will really be a priority after this. I have compiled a little list, which I would like to share with you. With respect to vertical priorities, we have inadmissibility, application of the law, refugees, visitors, students, work visas, spouses, children, and the provincial nominee program. Now we are going to have another priority. Clearly, this system is not working. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority in the end. We need something much better than this to fix the system.
Another provision in this bill is extremely problematic and involves people applying for permanent resident status on humanitarian grounds. Under the current legislation, the department absolutely must review those applications and if the person is eligible, he or she can obtain that status. If they are not eligible, they will be refused, obviously.
The bill is intended to change the word “shall” to “may”. In other words, the department “may”, if it feels like it, if it is interested, review an application on humanitarian grounds. It is hard to understand how a right could become conditional on the will of the department. A right is a right and if, under the law, one is eligible for such an application on humanitarian grounds, one should have the right to have one's file reviewed.
If not, if the right is subject to the arbitrary decision of immigration officers, then it is not really a right. What is more, a permanent resident application on humanitarian grounds is often used by a refugee status claimant whose case has been dismissed with no chance of appeal before the refugee appeal division—since neither the Liberal nor the Conservative governments have ever implemented it.
The Bloc Québécois has introduced a bill to that effect in order to correct the situation. The bill is currently before the Senate. We hope the Conservatives will stop obstructing it. They always complain about the Liberal senators obstructing work in the Senate; now they are doing it.
Nonetheless, I hope this bill will pass quickly in order to correct this shortcoming. In the meantime, people have been using this process to protect their lives, to be welcomed into Canada on humanitarian grounds, but the government is in the process of closing another door in their faces.
In closing, I hope at least that the parties who supported the report in committee will be logical and consistent and vote in favour of these amendments. Obviously I am counting on the support of the NDP, but more specifically of the Liberals who have been utterly inconsistent on this. They supported withdrawing this reform in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, but in the Standing Committee on Finance, they kept mum on the matter.
I hope they will have the courage to stand up and vote in this House.