Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-566, which was introduced by the member for Trinity—Spadina. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of this bill but reserves the right to examine its full implications in committee.
The Bloc Québécois believes in the importance of family reunification for immigrants and refugees who come to Canada to rebuild their lives. This is part of the integration process. Being reunited with their families makes it easier for them to integrate into the country and helps to ensure their social and economic success. This is something that we believe in and that we want to encourage. Under the current act, only immediate family members can be sponsored—father, mother and children. This bill broadens the definition of relative to include brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, first cousins and adult children.
In order to limit what this could mean in terms of volume, a person could only sponsor a relative who is not a member of their immediate family once in his or her lifetime. In theory, this appears reasonable and that is why we are going to support this bill. Now, we must determine in committee whether it is also reasonable in practice. Will we be able to meet the demand? Everyone in the House, particularly the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, knows that there are currently huge processing delays in our immigration system. We will have to determine whether to increase the quota in response to the additional applications or, if we decide to maintain the quota, we will have to determine who will be penalized and who will be processed more quickly.
There are already different priority levels. Family class applications are processed faster than others. Children, for instance, are brought over faster than parents. Thus, this could have repercussions on the categories that already exist. All of this needs to be examined. Wait times in our immigration system have become a real problem. I have been the Bloc Québécois critic for citizenship and immigration and a member of the committee for over three years now. I am following this file very closely and I strongly believe that wait times are used as a tool to manage our immigration system.
In any bureaucratic system, wait times are to be expected. With just about any service, even in the private sector, there are often wait times, which are caused by the fact that not enough resources are available to meet the needs.
For example, in the health care system, we want to treat and heal people as quickly as possible but, given the lack of doctors and funding, we have difficulty keeping up with patients as they come in, hence the wait times. Wait times in health care, for example, are the result of an insufficient allocation of resources, albeit involuntary.
That is not what is happing with immigration. Wait times are used to limit the number of newcomers coming into the country. It is as simple as that. Family reunification is a case in point.
Annual quotas are set, as are the number of files that will be processed and the number of people who will be accepted within the scope of family reunification. According to the law, anyone is fully entitled to family reunification, unlike economic immigration. In that case, a grid is used to determine whether people meet the requirements. They are given a score and if the score is high enough, they are eligible to immigrate. In this kind of situation, the score can always be adjusted and the requirements can be raised or lowered. That means that the number of people accepted can be controlled somewhat.
When it comes to family reunification, with the current law and the way the department currently works, there is no way to restrict the number of people applying to immigrate. Generally speaking, if you apply, you get in. There are some requirements that must be met. If someone sponsors his son and has the economic resources to do so, he is eligible. The only way the government can control the flow is to deliberately choose to allocate insufficient resources in order to stem the tide.
It is important to understand that. All applications for immigration and family reunification—except refugee claims—come with fees that generally cover the costs associated with the system. Unlike the health care system, for instance, which is underfunded, the government would have no problem funding the processing of all applications as soon as they come in. However, if it did that, its objectives and quotas would of course be shattered.
That is the core of the problem. On top of that, there is the regional aspect of immigration. Although Canada does not have an official policy concerning quotas for any given countries, in practice, in terms of management and the allocation of resources to various Canadian missions around the world, there are in fact regional quotas. For example, if the government wants to slow down immigration from a particular region of Africa, for instance, it will simply allocate fewer resources to that mission. Thus, wait times will increase and the number of people arriving from that region will go down.
That is how Canada's immigration system is being controlled. I think it is sad. Human beings are expected to wait for years in uncertainty and in the dark. Everyone here in the House probably knows of someone who wants to bring over their parents, who die of old age before anything ever happens. I am sure that every MP in this House knows of at least one case where that has happened. It is very sad to see.
We will not be able to do so with this bill, obviously, but we will need to look at the whole issue in committee to find a way to control the flow of immigrants, through various programs, without using wait times as the only tool to manage the situation.
I want to come back to the bill before us, after that lengthy aside, which I felt was important. In committee, the Bloc Québécois wants to look at how this bill will affect wait times, the people who are already in line, the people who are already filing applications. We want to see what the government's intentions are. Will it increase quotas accordingly? Will it keep quotas at the same level? What repercussions will this have on individuals?
The wise thing to do in this case is to refer the bill to committee. The Bloc Québécois will support the principle of this bill. I hope we will have the opportunity, in committee, to look at all the implications in greater detail in order to make a fair assessment.