Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-283, a private member's bill. The bill touches all of us as members of Parliament and, indeed, as Canadians. All of us have heard the stories of individuals who purport to want to visit Canada but have trouble getting the necessary visa.
The bill before us today is essentially designed to help out in such cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed by allowing a Canadian or permanent resident to sponsor the applicant by posting a bond or guarantee.
The court challenges would likely come from many directions. Bill C-283 restricts access to the refugee determination process for this class of visitors, which could lead to violations of Canada's obligations under international law. It may also be contrary to section 7 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants everyone on Canadian soil the right to life, liberty and the security of the person. On one level I therefore find it difficult to understand why we, as a group of responsible legislators, are debating this item.
Today, the mechanisms we have in place that allow foreign nationals to visit, allow Canadians to be reunited with their loved ones from overseas for a brief time or allow people to welcome business associates or other visitors all work very well.
Canada's visa offices routinely issue more than 500,000 temporary resident visas each year in addition to processing many other types of applications. By comparison, just 150,000 applications on average are rejected each year, suggesting there are likely compelling and good reasons for doing so.
The central premise behind Bill C-283 is that these failed applicants could and should be allowed to obtain visitors' visas on the strength of a bond or guarantee that would also ensure they comply with all the terms of their visa and leave, as promised, when it expires. I find this logic flawed, at best. At worst, it could result in a system with excessive administrative costs and complexities, few benefits and new court challenges, judicial reviews and charter cases.
Under the terms of Bill C-283, any Canadian or permanent resident over the age of 18 would be allowed to apply to sponsor a foreign national as a visitor to Canada by posting a bond or guarantee, a bond or guarantee in an amount yet to be determined. It applies to cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed within the previous year and the sponsor has not posted a bond for a foreign national who subsequently failed to comply with the conditions of their visa within the previous five years. Such a system would require security checks, financial auditing, identity checks, exit control systems and much more.
Past experience, moreover, clearly demonstrates that bonds are not an effective deterrent to flight in today's world of human smuggling and highly organized crime syndicates. For example, back in 1999, four boatloads of illegal immigrants arrived on the British Columbia coast from the Chinese province of Fujian. Most of the immigrants from the first boat were released after guarantors posted bonds to ensure they would report for the hearing process. All, and I repeat all, subsequently fled and forfeited their bonds. What is also interesting is that all the bond guarantors virtually disappeared and everybody was been left holding the bag. It is believed, and investigators suspect, that most made their way to the U.S. with the help of human smugglers.
There is a very interesting new introduction to this. It perhaps introduces a likely opportunity for criminal elements to involve themselves in getting into this business. They could create businesses, bonding agencies, that would allow them to provide these guarantees and the moneys to bring these people into the country.
If they disappear into the Canadian or North American climate, what happens to the individuals who put up the collateral, whether it was their houses, or their personal holdings, or even worse, indentured themselves for labour purposes or illegal opportunities, or even sold their daughters into prostitution or white slavery, is something that concerns us. The implications of this bonding scenario has wide-reaching impacts.
We on this side of the House fully support the idea of making it easier for legitimate visitors to come to this country and bask in the warmth of our Canadian hospitality. The mechanisms currently in place help us to ensure that this is done in a fair, sustainable and balanced way.
I and, I would assume, a number of members on my side of the House are therefore opposed to Bill C-283 or any special provision that runs counter to our legal obligations as well as these principles.
Contravention of the charter, likely court challenges, the possibilities of indentured sweatshop labour and even criminal involvement, and an immigration policy that may favour the rich or even criminal influences, is not something we want. Is this the type of legislation that our friends on the other side would like to have passed today? It has not been well thought out. In fact, it should not even go to second reading and to committee for consideration.