Mr. Speaker, last fall the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced, effective immediately, a moratorium on new applications to sponsor parents and grandparents to immigrate to Canada. This unfair punishment for new Canadians and Canadian permanent residents is compounded by new measures recently introduced in the punishing refugees act, also known as Bill C-31, which will place a mandatory five-year wait time for refugees to become permanent residents and apply to reunite with their families.
The last time I asked the minister about this issue, he blamed the problem of the backlog of applications on the Liberals. We continue to hear the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism claim that his department is increasing and speeding up the reunification for family members, but with this moratorium on family reunification and a five-year bar for refugees, the Conservative government is making it harder for families to stay together. The Conservative government has to take responsibility for that.
Parents and grandparents wait an average of seven years to come to Canada. One family in my riding has waited over 16 years. Now, people will have to wait an additional five years on top of an already lengthy separation. But wait, this excruciatingly long countdown for parents to see their children, and grandparents to see their grandchildren will not begin until 2014. The government will not be accepting new applications to sponsor parents and grandparents until 2014, if at all. While we know there is a substantial backlog for family class applicants, refusing to reunify families is not the way to deal with the backlog.
Working as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Rouge River, I have spoken with many families who have been waiting years and years to have their parents and grandparents join them here in Canada. We all know the benefits of having our parents and grandparents here with us. We understand the value of reuniting families. I am lucky enough to have had my grandparents join me here in Canada from Sri Lanka. They have added so much value to my life.
We need to address the existing inequities in the system and develop a balanced and equitable approach to dealing with the backlog. This includes raising the overall level of immigration and the number of immigrants that we accept each year to approach approximately 1% of the population.
When will the Conservative government start putting families first and help those who have waited so long to be reunited with their loved ones?