Mr. Stanley Haidasz (Parkdale) moved
that Bill C-23, to amend the Immigration Appeal Board Act, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Labour, Manpower and Immigration.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the warm welcome which hon. members give to this debate on Bill C-23, which I reintroduced last February 25. I hope that they will give favourable consideration to the amendments to the Immigration Appeal Board Act which it contains. As one who took part in the debate on the Immigration Appeal Board Act when it was passed by the House in March, 1967,1 am convinced that the accumulated experi-
July 4, 1972
ence we have had of it over the past five years demonstrates the necessity for a re-appraisal of the legislation, and of amendments to make it more effective. I believe there is urgency to amend the act and to improve the existing regulations.
This need was recognized by the responsible minister in 1970 when he ordered a one man inquiry into the problems arising out of the act, particularly as a result of the large number of appeals against deportation. Today the Immigration Appeal Board is faced with a backlog of approximately 10,000 cases. Furthermore, the board is operating with only seven or eight members, instead of nine as provided by the act. One of the members resigned in April last and no appointment has been made to fill the vacancy. The board has a shortage of members and of staff. It sits in Ottawa and Montreal, and only recently began sitting in Toionto. As a result, it is able to hear just about 100 cases a month. Its 1971 budget of approximately $1 million and its staff of 68 people are not enough to clear the backlog of 10,000 cases. Some of the appellants have been waiting for three years to present their cases. Many hardships are experienced by these people during these long delays and due to the restrictive regulations and the lack of proper counselling.
We welcome the statement which the minister made last month that his department would re-examine its position, and take special measures to deal with the backlog of cases. My proposed amendments to the Immigration Appeal Board Act number only three, and are easy to understand.
My first proposed amendment is to section 3 and would increase the number of members on the board from nine to at least 14, but not more than 18, to be appointed by Governor in Council. This increase in membership would help the board to hear more cases. As I have already mentioned, there is already a backlog of 10,000 cases. Hearings at the present rate would take ten years to clear that backlog, and the backlog itself is increasing every year.
I also wish to amend section 6 to allow the board to sit in all of the provincial capital cities, and in other cities as required. People have to incur a lot of expense when travelling from Vancouver to Toronto or Ottawa in order to present their cases and make oral submissions to the board. They must also meet the expense of a lawyer, and travelling expenses for any witnesses that they wish to accompany them.
My third amendment concerns section 17. It would add another ground on which the board could quash deportation orders. Members of the board, when hearing an appeal, would also be allowed to take into consideration reasons of merit, not only legal facts, and reasons of a humanitarian and compassionate kind. This could affect exceptional scholars, athletes, and other people who would make good Canadian citizens. At present if they do not qualify under existing regulations, and there are no humanitarian grounds involved, such people are asked to go back to their countries of origin.
However, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the government should also improve its procedures and services in immigration matters. I believe it should broaden the categories of persons who can launch an appeal, or the category of
Immigration Appeal Board Act
sponsors who can launch an appeal. It should also provide better counselling services. At present we hear many complaints from people who are at the mercy of so-called immigration experts who charge exorbitant prices for their counsel. These people are in no position to pay such high fees, particularly for poor advice. I also believe that the government should inform appellants to a greater degree about their privileges. It should make this information available to appellants in their own languages, so that they may understand it. If the government does not inform people of their rights, then an injustice is done.
Only a few weeks ago we were all shocked by the tragic suicide death of Alicia Wiercioch of Toronto who tried to appeal her deportation but failed and lost all hope. I believe that if some of the measures which the government has already announced are adopted, and some of the amendments which I propose are accepted, many hardships will be eliminated. This afternoon I appeal to all members of the House to put forth their views, and with dispatch send this bill to the appropriate committee of the House for further study and the examination of witnesses if necessary, so that it can be passed, given third reading and sent to the Senate.
Subtopic: IMMIGRATION APPEAL BOARD ACT
Sub-subtopic: AMENDMENTS TO ENLARGE BOARD, PERMIT SITTINGS IN PROVINCIAL CAPITALS AND WIDEN GROUNDS FOR APPEAL