Mr. Speaker, before I go further, I want to take a moment to recognize that gender equality is still a daily fight and that this fight is deadly right now for women in Iran.
In a bloodthirsty dictatorship, women are at the front line of unspeakable abuses. They are being killed, raped and brutalized just because they are women. This needs to end, and the Canadian government must do more to end the killing.
While fear and killing escalate in Iran, for the Canadian women who are here and who have in the past applied to have their families come here to be with them, those visas have been rejected by the government. While visas are being granted for people bringing into this country enormous amounts of money, money launderers, women who have desperately wanted their parents and grandparents to come and visit and support them have had the door closed.
For the Liberal government, it appears that money talks and that entry into Canada is a pay-to-play system. This is wrong and it needs to be corrected. That correction involves more resources to IRCC
Wait times for IRCC are absolutely unacceptable. When it comes to the super visa process, it reflects a lack of compassion and understanding by the government of the importance of family reunification.
In my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, I have met too many young families that have not been able to overcome the barriers that the Liberal government puts in front of them to have their parents come and visit. Too many families in my community have had to go through an illness, a birth, a death, a marriage, a breakup and many other life events alone, because the government is without compassion and has not invested enough resources into the immigration programs. The lack of investment and the lack of compassion and understanding by the government manifests in stress and anxiety for families.
I want to share a few real situations that have caused undue financial and emotional stress in my community. More often than not, it is women who get hurt.
The first example I have is a community person who reached out to say that she had applied for a visa on June 24th for her mother to come and visit. The writer says, “I have given birth to her first grandchild and we were hoping to have her here with us to assist us with our first child. Having an additional set of experienced hands would be so helpful to me during this time, as my husband is back to work full time.”
The second person from my community said, “I have applied for my mom's super visa on Nov 08, 2021. I haven't received any response from IRCC on my mom's application. It's been five years and five months that I haven't seen my mom due to my schooling. I recently got engaged and want to get married this year and want my mom to be here.”
Last, this person wrote, “My mother and I came to Canada about three years ago and became refugees. Our refugee acceptance came in September 2020 and we are permanent residents now. We haven’t seen my father for over 3 years and my mom is getting depression and anxiety since her husband can’t be with her in this tough time.”
These stories highlight how imperative this super visa program is to the lives of Canadians. Although the bill before us seeks to enhance the current process by addressing the high costs with respect to insurance coverage and extending the period in which parents and grandparents can come to Canada, the government must address the lack of resources in IRCC.
There is no doubt in the minds of the New Democrats that ensuring family reunification for parents and grandparents is a laudable goal. It is a goal we support. We want to see this measure come to fruition. Let us reduce the costs of family reunification with loved ones and make it not something a person needs to buy into, but something that is accessible and something that we all honour and respect.
The NDP has always seen family reunification as a pivotal component of Canada's immigration system. All families want to be reunited with their loved ones, and they should not have to go through such hardships to be with their parents or grandparents.
Research has shown that when a family network includes parents and grandparents, it makes the settlement and integration process much easier for newcomers. It also confirms the essential role parents and grandparents play in supporting the healthy development of youth.
Families are particularly important in the maintenance of the well-being of racialized communities, members of the disability community and women.
Women and immigrant women are the core of the care economy in Canada. One in four jobs in Canada is a care job. With the current labour shortages in our country and the crushing weight of an overburdened health care system, immigration will continue to be a necessity to bring more workers into Canada.
Care is already a sector disproportionately represented by women and immigrant women who deserve to have a family support network to support them and their work.
HUMA recently studied labour shortages in the care economy and witnesses asked how they could be expected to attract and retain workers in this highly gendered occupation when the industry discriminated against them. The exploitation of care workers needs to stop. We must make every care job a good job and that includes reunification of the families of these workers.
A high proportion of immigrant women work in care. They provide the professional and emotional support patients need, yet they have no extended family support to help them with looking after their own children when this super visa becomes a barrier.
Witnesses told us during the HUMA study that their situations would greatly improve if they were able to bring family to Canada: better mental supports, child care supports and more security in their communities.
Canada will continue to rely on immigration in the coming years and a good, strong family reunification program will play a significant role in attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants who contribute to our success as a country, particularly as we work to through COVID-19.
When parents and grandparents come to Canada through family reunification, they contribute to the economy. They support the family, allowing parents to get out into the workforce, and they can help with child care. They help with the growth of children by teaching them their cultural and family history, language and more. All of that contributes to building a healthy, happy and multicultural Canada, one of which we are very proud.
With that in mind, I will reiterate that the NDP wants the government to lift the cap on parents and grandparents reunification so all those family members can seek permanent residence status in Canada in an expeditious way.
Of course, the NDP supports the super visa extension. It is a welcomed change that is a stepping stone to a more compassionate family reunification law.
In addition to the points I have already made, it is also essential that we bring back the appeals process for the parents and grandparents stream. As the member for Vancouver East has said many times in the House, she had a family that was rejected for the program in its third year of meeting the onerous financial requirements because it went on maternity leave for one month. As a result of that, the family's income dipped and its dream of reuniting with their parents vanished. This is wrong. An appeals process with some ability to provide flexibility would have accommodated that temporary change in circumstances.
Ultimately, our immigration system is in need of repair and the NDP would like to see long-term change. In the meantime, the measures in this bill would help people, and that is something the NDP supports.