Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-35 at third reading. Everyone knows that our country was built on immigration. People came from all over the world to try to build a new life. In some ways, it was easier to come to Canada in the past. There was certainly less paperwork 100 or even 50 years ago. Now, the process is complicated and strict. We want to ensure that the people we welcome into Canada are the best and that they have a lot to offer to help build a good, strong society.
That is why it is so disheartening to have seen that, for so many years, there have been immigration consultants who have been taking advantage of vulnerable people who want to improve their lives, who want to travel across the seas to start a new life and instead end up defrauded and taken advantage of by unscrupulous consultants.
That is why the bill and various projects around cracking down on unscrupulous consultants have come through various committee studies and we finally arrive at this point where we are bringing forward a framework for the minister to pick a new, and hopefully more effective, governing body around immigration consultants.
As my hon. colleague mentioned, this was a model of co-operation among all parliamentarians. There was a clear desire on behalf of Canadians to see Parliament work together to create a more robust structure that was going to care for these vulnerable people, people looking for help in a very big decision and process, that of coming to Canada.
We agreed in principle across the House that something needed to be done. On this side, we are still a little bit worried that the establishment of the recommendation from the immigration committee upon which Bill C-35 was built, which talked about creating a stand-alone regulator, was not entirely followed and is instead still just done through regulations.
However, I think the intent of the bill is clear and the effectiveness of what we have in place will move forward to protecting Canadians.
The essential part of the bill is that it gives more power to go after people who are consulting and offering advice at the earliest stages of an application process. The larger scope of the bill will allow us to protect people even before they have submitted a firm application, which was an important loophole to close.
On the other issues we brought forward as amendments, the Liberal Party was pleased to present the amendment that actually doubled the fines to $20,000 for a summary conviction, and up to $100,000 from $50,000 for anyone convicted of being an unregistered immigration consultant.
There was an excellent discussion in committee around the role and the responsibilities of immigration consultants in Quebec.
We concluded that, without taking anything away from the federal government's power, any immigration consultant working in the province of Quebec who wants to recommend an immigration opportunity in Quebec must be familiar with the immigration system in that province. The primacy of the federal government in this area in maintained, but we recognize that in Quebec, it is extremely important to be able to speak French to interact with the Quebec government. In addition, the consultant must be familiar with the particularities of the process in Quebec to be able to give good advice to those who would like to become citizens of this country.
We also managed to get rid of the short title. In consultations, it came back time and time again from consultants that they were actually offended and felt that naming the bill around the problem, which is the crooked consultants, actually demeaned and belittled the work of legitimate consultants. So we depoliticized the short title of the bill, which was a victory.
In general, the bill puts forward more powers of accountability for, and better relationships between, the minister's office and the eventual regulator. It provides for the sharing of information.
Unfortunately, one of the concerns we have, which is beyond the scope of this bill, is that in our mind there are still not enough resources for the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP to go after those who are not registered consultants and are still operating as, as we call them, ghost consultants, without being qualified or being able to guarantee that they are offering proper services to these vulnerable people who want to emigrate to Canada.
Ultimately, Bill C-35 is just an initial step in allowing the minister to create a new governing body for immigration consultants. It provides a very general framework. It provides a few important key issues. However, push is going to come to shove in the coming months when the government and the minister actually settle on who is going to be the next governing body for immigration consultants.
We have to make sure that we do not just end up with the same problems once again. We have to make sure that there is going to be a strong governance framework around this new consultant body. We have to make sure, if we stick with the same organization that will be articulated in a new way, that the same problems do not come back. We have to make sure that if we have a new and completely different governing body than the one existing right now, we do not fall into the same old traps and have the same ineffectiveness and problems that we have right now.
That is going to be where the opposition parties will watch closely what the government and the minister do and hopefully will engage and help shape the decision in such a way that people will truly be protected by this set of regulations governing immigration consultants.
The members of the committee worked together. We had differences and concerns that were hammered out. It was, as the parliamentary secretary has said, a model of co-operation and of trying to do right by Canadians on this important issue. It is something that I was very pleased to be able to be part of, and it is something that I know we can be proud of as parliamentarians, that on important issues, from time to time, we are able to work together.
I think the spirit of collegiality and co-operation is important and I certainly hope it extends to other bills and other issues on which we can find agreement in principle and not just tweak in committee but improve in committee, as my hon. colleague has said.
For all of these reasons, the Liberal Party is very happy to support Bill C-35 at third reading. We hope that it will be quickly passed by the other chamber so that Canadians will be protected when we have our new regulator for immigration consultants.