Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Wednesday, February 25, be concurred in.
I am speaking to a motion that had been approved by the immigration committee not just at the beginning of this session, but also last session.
Canada's immigration policy has a devastating impact on many Canadians and their loved ones.
A situation that happens quite regularly is that thousands of Canadians fall in love with their classmates, co-workers or friends whom they meet at university, in the workplace, or at a park. After a few months or years the couple decide to get married, start a life together and sometimes have children. If the spouse that the Canadian meets happens to be a foreign student, a temporary worker, someone who has declared refugee status or has precarious immigration status in Canada, the Canadian will have to sponsor his or her spouse. That is no problem. The person can stay in Canada while the sponsorship takes place.
The sponsorship process in Canada can take six months, one year, two years, sometimes even three years. One would think that while the sponsorship application forms and paperwork are being processed, the wife or husband would be allowed to stay in Canada. After all, he or she has married and has possibly started a family. There may be children involved. The couple may have been together for 5 years, 10 years in some cases.
Canada has a very strange policy. Canada will deport the spouse. That is hard to believe. Canada will actually deport the person with precarious status even though the person is married to a Canadian. Even though a woman could be pregnant, breastfeeding a baby or has a one-year-old child, she could be deported. Sometimes it is the mom who is deported and sometimes it is the dad. It completely breaks up the family.
This policy is absurd. It does not make sense. Why? Because we are cruelly separating members of a family. It causes human suffering. The breadwinner in the family could be the one who is deported. When that person stops working, the family may become destitute. If the mom who just had a baby is deported, the baby would probably be deported also, even though the baby was born in Canada. The baby and the mom would be deported back to wherever the mom came from while the husband is desperate in Canada.
Once the person is deported, he or she will have to wait maybe a year or two years, sometimes a shorter period, sometimes longer, to come back to Canada. Imagine a couple who has just gotten married or has been married for a few years and has to face this kind of separation for several years. That is grossly unfair.
On top of that, the couple may have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars on lawyer fees and flights. For example, if the person is from China, the couple will have to pay for the flight to China for the mom and the baby and then for their return to Canada. The couple could be looking at spending $10,000 before the whole situation is finished and they get back together.
Not only is it hard for the couple, but it is hard for the Canadian public. Why? Because the case has to first be processed through the Canada Border Services Agency. Then the person is deported, which consists of court documentation. Then, the application that started in Canada has to start all over again. All of that is swept away. The applicants have to put in the application overseas and the sponsors sponsoring it here in Canada. Then the immigration department here in Canada and the embassy overseas, let us say it is in Beijing, have to start the application all over again. Think about the staffing costs, the paperwork and how much taxpayer money is wasted on this absurd policy. I am not just talking in abstraction. I will mention three situations that have hit the media.
On May 21 on ctv.ca, I saw the story of a Dutch woman in Halifax who is facing deportation. She said that her ex-husband will kill her and her children if she is sent back to the Netherlands. Lillian Ralph said that Canadian officials want to deport her family next week, even though a decision on her application for permanent residency is expected soon. She is married to a Canadian. She came to Canada in 2000. She has been in Canada for nine years. She married a Canadian. She said her ex-husband has put a number on their heads. She said:
“Literally, he has threatened to kill us many, many times... He has explained how he would do it, where he would put our bodies... he will definitely go after us.”
She is 39 years old. According to her, her ex-husband smuggled weapons. This woman said that her two young children are having nightmares about being sent back to the Netherlands.
We are not just sending back one person. We are sending back three. Think of the cost. Her Canadian spouse would have to bring them back to Canada, if she survives. Apparently, her permanent residency application is supposed to be decided within 90 days. The right hand, which would be the Canada Border Services Agency, is not talking to the left hand, which would be the Canadian immigration department. The process at the immigration department is slow. It is taking 90 days. In the meantime, the Canada Border Services Agency will deport the person. That is hard to believe. It is absurd. It is a bit Kafkaesque.
Another situation occurred in December 2008. In this case, I know the family really well. This occurred on December 23, just before Christmas, a time for families to celebrate. The family is Catholic. They go to a church in my riding near St. Patrick and Dundas. This young woman has been in Canada for quite a few years. She is married to a Canadian. Her spouse, Mr. Wu, is a factory worker. His wife is expecting a baby. Not only is she pregnant, but she and Mr. Wu have a 10-month-old son.
Imagine telling a pregnant woman with a 10-month-old son just before Christmas that they will be deported in the new year. Imagine getting news like that. Mr. Wu, who is the factory worker, put in the application years ago to sponsor this woman. They have been married not just for a few months; they have been married for quite a while. They have a kid and are expecting a second one. Mr. Wu is very sad because his family will be broken apart. He said that if his wife could stay, it would be very good.
Chen, who is 28 and three months pregnant, is being deported by the Canada Border Services Agency. Her application to allow her to say in Canada is being processed. It is being reviewed. Even though it is being reviewed, that does not stop the deportation. She does not know how long it will take for this application to be processed, even though she was told that perhaps the application would be approved in a matter of a few months. It is absurd that she would be deported while her application may be approved.
They filed their application in November 2007. This was two months after they were married, before the first baby was born and before she became pregnant with the second baby. In November 2007, they were told it would be six months or a year. In November 2009, the application still had not been approved. It took two years plus several months for the approval. To sponsor a spouse within Canada, in this case, it took two and a half years. I have heard of situations which have taken even longer.
Imagine putting a family in this kind of heartbreaking limbo. They do not know what to do with their lives. They face deportation. After waiting for more than two years, instead of an answer, this family received a letter from the Canada Border Services Agency that ordered Chen to buy a one-way ticket, not a two-way ticket, to China. She was told she could leave her son, the 10-month old baby she was breastfeeding, in Canada if she wanted to. The baby did not have to be deported. Imagine a mother leaving the baby she is breastfeeding behind. This is completely cruel and absurd.
On top of that, they have to book a non-refundable flight, and the husband is to start a spousal sponsorship process which could take two to three years. Imagine this, they have already waited for two years, they are being deported and then have to wait for two years. So this family is looking at more than four years of uncertainty. That is not the Canadian way. That is not how we should treat Canadians who happen to fall in love and marry a foreign student, worker, or someone in that kind of situation.
At the end of the day, in this case, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism did the right thing and allowed the family to stay. They are very appreciative. I think the minister understands that to send a pregnant mom with a 10-month old baby overseas makes no sense. I am glad that did not happen.
It should not be a case-by-case situation. We need to change the policy. It is not as if it was determined to be a marriage of convenience. Be my guest, if the immigration department found there were marriages of convenience, deport those people. That is fine.
This is before the decision is made. These cases I am talking about were not determined to be marriages of convenience. What kind of marriage of convenience would we be talking about when they have two kids? We are not talking about that very small percentage that may be cheating. Deport them after it is decided they are cheating, but do not leave these Canadians in limbo.
There are several things that need to be fixed. First, it should not take two or three years to have a sponsorship application approved. Second, we need to change the policy, so that while the immigration department is taking its time to make these decisions, these people are not deported.
I have one more situation. When I first started this little campaign of mine to change this policy, I came into contact with Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen came to Canada in 1995. He began a relationship with a woman who is now his wife. They worked together. After a two-year courtship, they got married. He was the main person who was working. Not only was he working, he was a very successful businessman. He managed and owned a food store, which opened in 2001, and he was a part shareholder of this company. The gross revenue was $13 million last year. This was a very successful businessman. He was married to a Canadian spouse. The spouse started the sponsorship application after they were married and two years later, he faced deportation.
Imagine deporting a business owner. In the last situation I talked about, it was a factory worker. This man was a businessman who owned two businesses and managed one of them. He was the head of the household, the main bread earner for his wife and child, and he faced deportation which meant that his wife and child, who are Canadians, would have no means of supporting themselves. They would probably eventually have to go on welfare while this father was deported back to his home country to await sponsorship to return to Canada. That is just absurd. There is no criminal case. They are ordinary, hard-working people. And yet, in this Canada, we have this absurd policy.
If we were to ask any Canadian, “Do you know that if you married, let's say, a foreign student, you would have to wait for several years to get it approved?”. They would say, “My gosh, how could that be possible?” Then, we would add, “And by the way, that person will face deportation”. They would say, “That is even hard to believe”. And if we were to say, “And then if that person is deported, it can take two or three years to return to Canada”. No one would believe that.
In fact, I am often stopped at Tim Hortons, and my colleagues like to tell me that I can collect all types of stories at Timmy's. Just a few weeks ago at Tim Hortons, I came across a young woman. She has a master's degree. She is working full-time. She fell in love, in the park, Christie Pits Park, with her husband to be. They got married. But he got deported. They decided not to fight it. He left to go back to, I think it was either Cuba or Mexico. I do not remember which Latin American country.
She has been desperately trying to bring him back to Canada because they have been together for quite a few years and have been separated now for two years. He is still waiting in Latin America to return and join his wife. He is a professional. She is a professional. She is spending a huge amount of money to hire lawyers. He is spending money to hire lawyers so that he can return to Canada. Imagine the hardship that is being created by these cruel regulations. This is a young couple. She wants to start a family with him. She travels to Latin America every three or four months to continue their relationship. She told me about the phone bills, the flights costs, and the legal costs that she is incurring because she is separated from her husband because of the deportation.
When her husband was first deported she was told, “Oh, don't worry, he will be back in six months”. No, many years later they are still separated, so--