Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the member for Mount Royal, but he spent his entire opportunity to speak to the bill, which he said he did not have enough time to speak to, in explaining why he needed more time to speak to the bill. I am looking forward to having my opportunity to speak to Bill C-10, which I think does much for the people across this country.
Canada is a land of opportunity and freedoms, and we should not practise anything different. Many come to Canada to seek a better life but instead find themselves vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Found in vulnerable situations, they have no one to turn to. We should not let the vulnerable be exploited. We need to stand up for those who are being exploited by others.
I am speaking about one part of Bill C-10, which deals with preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants. It is former Bill C-56. Our government is making good on the commitment we made to Canadians. It is our duty to hold criminals accountable for their actions and to do everything we can to make our communities safe for law-abiding citizens who work hard and play by the rules. It is our duty not to let people take advantage of our generous immigration system.
People in St. Catharines have said that cracking down on criminals and making their community safer is one of their top priorities. People in Niagara and across the country want and deserve to be able to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that means criminals need to be kept off the street. I have heard my constituents loud and clear, and I will stand up and support the bill because they have asked me to do so.
The bill will not only keep our communities safe but will also ensure that vulnerable foreign workers who contribute to many of our communities are not exploited. As my hon. colleagues know, some temporary foreign workers may have weak language skills and very little money. They may have no family or friends in Canada and they may also fear the police and any level of government. This often puts them in a vulnerable position. With no one to turn to, their situation can place them at the mercy of those who wish to abuse them or exploit them.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I have conducted consultations with employers who rely on the temporary foreign worker program. Almost all of them treat their employees with the respect and dignity they deserve, but some of them do not. When we talk to employers who use the temporary foreign worker program and entreat individuals to come from another country to work in this country to help provide for their families back home and earn a living, it is clear that there are those in this country who do take advantage of temporary foreign workers who come to Canada.
Whether it is New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec, employers who love and use and understand this program have developed it into something that is respected around the world. In my view and in many employers' views, the program is actually the best foreign support program we could offer workers because of what it allows them to do in terms of bringing home the revenue they are able to make here. It helps their families, it helps their children go to school, it improves their lives with respect to their homes, and it ensures that their children get a college or university education.
It is the same employers who support this program who want us to crack down on the employers who take advantage of those individuals.
That is exactly what the bill would do. It is what this portion of the bill would allow us to move forward on. The bill would help us protect vulnerable foreign workers by giving immigration officers the authority to deny work permits to those who are at risk of humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. The ability to deny work permits to vulnerable workers would enable the government to protect applicants by keeping them out of these types of situations.
Bill C-10 would actually alter the current objective in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 3. Instead of referring to protecting “the health and safety of Canadians”, it would refer to protecting “public health and safety”.
We are not just defining the bill anymore to Canadians. We are extending that obligation of employers and of our government to those who are here on a temporary basis to seek and find employment and work here on behalf of their families at home. We are doing this because the government believes that it is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of individuals who not only apply for Canadian citizenship and permanent residence, but apply to work here in our country legally.
We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system continues to have a positive impact on our economy in society and that everyone who enters Canada has a fair chance to find what they are looking for, which is hope, safety and a new start. It does not make sense for the government to knowingly authorize vulnerable foreign nationals to enter into a potentially abusive situation. As the government, we will work to ensure that people who come to Canada can pursue their new lives without fear for their own safety.
Bill C-10 is an important step forward to that goal. If members share this goal, I ask them to support this legislation.
Preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking. This is but one of ten, but a step in the right direction to accomplishing that.
I would also submit that we have seen the success of the program. Many employers across the country call this the best foreign aid program this country has to offer. We have temporary foreign workers who come here and are able to fulfill an obligation that they have to themselves and to their family to provide for a stronger future for their families in the countries they come from. Many of those temporary foreign workers who come here have told me about how successful this program has been and what it means to them. All of them feel that their employers treat them in a way that makes them feel they are part of the organization, part of the company, part of the extended family.
By putting this bill forward, we are not only suggesting to Canadians and to employers across this country that fair, humane and equal treatment is an obligation that we have, both under our Constitution and obviously under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is an obligation that we are now extending not just to Canadian citizens, not just to permanent residents, but to those who come here to work under the conditions of a permit that they have met the obligations of, and have a chance to work for their families and for themselves, to put their children through school and to build a better life.
With this bill, we would be putting in place a system that would actually improve a program upon which, since the 1960s, we have built on in this country, that has been successful and that has proven to be successful. In fact, with the enhancements in a small part of this bill, we would be preparing and providing for them in a much stronger and better way than we already are.