Reuniting Families Act
Private Members' Business
September 20th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise and speak to Bill C-242.
The heart of the issue of Bill C-242 is reuniting families. It is about ensuring that parents and grandparents can come to Canada to be with their loved ones. We know the value of that and cherish it as individuals. Like other people with children, I value the moments that my daughter and son spend with their grandmother and grandfather. Of course, my parents are immigrants here, so they get to enjoy that, but so many newcomers, so many immigrants who come to this country, are not in that fortunate situation. They did not bring their parents and grandparents here to Canada, and they cannot enjoy those moments. What Bill C-242 is trying to do is facilitate a process for those families to be reunited through the super visa process.
The super visa process is already in place, and the bill before us seeks to enhance it by addressing the high cost of the issue with respect to insurance coverage particularly, and then extending the period to which parents and grandparents can come to Canada under a super visa.
Interestingly, and because of petty politics, in my view, after the bill was tabled, we saw the government, through committee, literally in the ninth hour, bring forward ministerial instructions to try to kill the bill, which is exactly what happened. Despite government members saying that they have advocated for this for a very long time, the reality is that they did not act on it. I remember, because back in 2015 as a new member of Parliament, this was one of the issues that we studied. We studied parents and grandparents reunification, and there was a whole host of recommendations that were tabled, but then it just sat on a shelf and nothing happened. I express my congratulations to the member for actually pushing the government in this regard and getting this done.
With that being said, I do think there are flaws within the bill. Of course, my first choice would be for the government to lift the cap on parents and grandparents reunification so that all those family members could seek permanent residence status here in Canada in an expeditious way. Now, that did not happen.
However, the issue I have with Bill C-242 is that I was hoping, through the bill, to have an amendment so there would be an appeal process for rejections of super visas, which the member did support, but it did not get government support. It did not go through, which is very unfortunate, because as members can imagine, a person whose application has been turned down would actually have to go through judicial review, which is a very onerous and expensive process that should not, in my view, be required. There should be a simple appeal process for the review officers, the government and the minister to take into consideration the extenuating circumstances of why an application is being rejected and then make compassionate decisions.
I cited an example of one family whose application was rejected because they missed the income requirement in the final stages. Their child came early and they had to go on maternity leave. As a result, their income dipped every so slightly for a short period of time. After the child the was born, their income went back up, but then it was already too late, because they had already failed the program and they were rejected in the application. To me, that is a shame.
The government would say that they can reapply, which is true, but why make a family reapply? It is costly for the family. It delays the process, and equally important, it actually jams up IRCC and its staff, because they have to reprocess the same application yet again. Why go through that process when we could save the administrative cost on the government side?
That amendment, unfortunately, did not go through, but Bill C-242 would require the minister to report on it and review the issue around the review process, as well as report back on the income cut-off. I do think that reunification should not be based on one's ability to pay. Family reunification should be valued for what it is. Therefore, we should actually have a fulsome review of the costs that the government is imposing with respect to that and really examine whether or not we should be imposing it.
One thing that people often misconceive is the reality that when parents and grandparents come to Canada through family reunification, they contribute to our economy. They support the family, as both parents can get out into the workforce, as an example, and they can help with child care. They help with the growth of the children by teaching them their cultural and family history, language and so on. All of that contributes to building a multicultural Canada, one we are very proud of.
When we put up these barriers that block family reunification and only talk about their income, for example, saying that if their incomes dip ever so slightly, they are somehow disqualified, we are sending the clear message that family reunification needs to be bought. Just imagine that for one minute. If any one of us sitting in this chamber was told that we have to buy the ability to see our parents or grandparents, what would we say to that? I do not think that is who we are as a country and as a nation. I do not think that is who we are as people. Humanitarian actions acting on the basis of humanity mean that we cherish and value what we have and that we want to expand that to other people as well.
When it comes to family, I wish all families would be able to reunite. I wish that people would have the opportunity to be with their loved ones, create memories and then preserve those memories. The only way they can do that is for people to be able to reunite with each other.
I hope the government and the minister will take this to heart and examine the parents and grandparents sponsorship program and lift the cap to honour reunification in that way. In the interim, they should enhance the super visa program with an appeal process to ensure that there is an appeal process in place, and should lower the cost requirements. When we do that, we are respecting the families, and I think that is ultimately what we all want to see.
I will close by congratulating the member for bringing this bill forward. It is better to have legislation than ministerial instructions. It is petty for the government to play petty politics and bring in ministerial instructions at the last moment to usurp this bill. In the life of politics, at the end of the day what we all want to do, no matter which side we are on or which bench we are on, is make sure that policies are brought in to support and benefit the community.
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, at least in the interim as a super visa. Let us reduce the cost of it for families and say that reuniting with loved ones should not be something we need to buy, but something we all honour and respect.
The New Democrats are happy to support this bill, and I look forward to seeing its full passage through the Senate.