October 29, 1996 (35th Parliament, 2nd Session)

REF

Val Meredith

Reform

Ms. Val Meredith (Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, almost a year ago the previous Minister of Citizenship and Immigration rose in the House to announce the 1996 immigration levels. At that time he painted a very rosy picture of Canada's immigration situation.
This year the current minister paints a similarly rosy picture and says that this government will be staying the course. However, there are very serious problems with Canada's immigration system.
The minister is aware of her own department's surveys which show that over 60 per cent of Canadians have little faith in this government's immigration policy. Why do Liberal immigration ministers stand in the House and tell the country how wonderful things are when they know that there are major problems with our immigration system?
It is so typical of this government to put forth its don't worry, be happy philosophy instead of dealing with today's reality. The reality is our immigration system is in need of repair. The reality is that if Canadians are to regain their confidence and give their support to immigration, the government must act now to make the necessary changes.
The first issue that needs to be addressed is the type of immigrants Canada is accepting. Last year the previous minister of immigration stated that he wanted to see the percentage of economic immigrants and their families increased to 50 per cent of the total. However, to be precise, we must remember that the principal immigrant, that is the individual who actually qualifies under the point system, made up only 37 per cent of the economic class. This year, while the number of economic immigrants is higher, the percentage of principals in that total has dropped to only 25 per cent, which means that there are no more economic immigrants than there were two years ago. It is just that they are bringing more dependants with them.
This still means that Canada chooses only about 14 per cent of the newcomers to this country each year. Or, to express it in other terms, when we include the dependants of economic immigrants with a family class immigrant that means that over 85 per cent of all immigrants to Canada are dependant immigrants.
The ability of Canada to select immigrants based on their potential to contribute to our economy must increase beyond the current 14 per cent.
The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has reviewed a number of studies that have shown that economic immigrants have had a positive economic benefit for Canada. The statistics are there. The average incomes of these immigrants are 40 per cent higher than those of average Canadians.
In addition, over the last 10 years the immigrant investor program has attracted more than 13,000 business people who have invested over $2.5 billion to the Canadian economy. These investments have created over 17,000 jobs. This is the positive side of immigration and must be promoted.
However, there is a downside even to the economic immigrant portion of Canada's immigration plan. This past January my community of Surrey was faced with a tragedy of one such investor immigrant who killed his mother, his wife and two of his three children before killing himself. It was later determined that this individual who committed the horrendous act was over $200 million in debt in his native Taiwan. Despite the fact that this individual's financial woes were publicly known throughout Taiwan, he was able to immigrate to Canada on the basis of a $350,000 investment. Immigration officials apparently were unconcerned about the other financial situation.
While this may be the most tragic example of the investor plan going astray, there are other cases that raise even greater concerns. On May 25, 1992 Canada admitted Lee Chau-Ping and her family as investor immigrants, as she was supposedly putting money into a fast food chicken franchise in northern Saskatchewan. In reality, Lee Chau-Ping never made it past Vancouver as she continued to run her other more lucrative business of trafficking in illicit drugs.
Despite being under investigation by the royal Hong Kong police since 1986, Canadian immigration still accepted Lee as an investor immigrant. This case caused a Hong Kong crown prosecutor to make this statement: "Canadian immigration is very much a laughing stock of criminals and Canada is being used by criminals such as drug traffickers as a soft spot for the entry of drugs into North America and as an exit point for the laundering of funds".
If there is one thing this government should be concerned about it is its investors program and the likelihood that it will be used as a money laundering scheme. It is a concern of academics who specialize in immigration matters and it is especially a concern for law enforcement officials.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with members of the co-ordinated law enforcement unit in Vancouver. This unit contains members of the RCMP and other municipal police forces in the greater Vancouver area and specializes in organized crime.
These members informed me that the investor immigrant program is an absolutely wonderful way for organized crime to launder money, for once these investors cash in their investment no bank in the world is going to question large deposits that came from the Canadian government. I hope that this government is not so desperate for money that it would close its eyes to funds earned by criminal activity.
Notwithstanding these concerns, it is apparent that Canada has reaped the economic benefits from the independent class immigrant. Unfortunately, it has been equally apparent that when it comes to immigrants under the family class sponsorship breakdowns have caused Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nobody argues with the validity of family class unification. It is a valid reason for immigration. But the underpinning basis of family reunification is that such immigration is not to have an adverse economic impact on the country. In cases of family reunification the sponsor makes a 10 year commitment to provide for the immigrant.
In the past there did not seem to be any great effort to enforce these obligations. In 1993 a survey by the department found that 14 per cent of sponsorships were in default, costing the taxpayers some $700 million in social services.
This government likes to claim that it has made improvements in getting sponsors to honour their commitments. However, last year the previous minister made a big deal about setting higher financial requirements to ensure that sponsorships were honoured. And under this minister that announcement has gone where most Liberal promises have gone, absolutely nowhere, which means that this government will continue to ignore defaulted sponsorships.
Most sponsors and family class immigrants are honest people, but there are some who abuse the system. My constituency office became aware of a situation where a woman was trying to sponsor her fourth immigrant husband in four years. It is situations like this that create a great deal of cynicism among the general public about the validity of family reunification programs. Is the program there to reunite loved ones or is it there for some Canadians to earn a quick buck by marrying foreigners so they can enter the country?
Finally, we come to the area of refugees. This year the government is suggesting that Canada will accept between 26,000 and 32,000 refugees. Canada has long had a reputation as being a compassionate country that accepts its fair share of refugees.
The majority of Canadians have no problem with our accepting of genuine refugees who have been displaced from their homeland by war or other domestic disputes. However, the majority of Canadians also have a great deal of problems with a system that allows bogus refugees to remain in our country for years.
The minister herself experienced some of these scams this past summer when she observed the process firsthand at some of our points of entry. The minister was surprised when the immigration officer had to admit the Ukrainian refugee claimant who stated that his claim was not based on a well founded fear of government persecution but rather on the fact that he was afraid of his neighbour. The minister then observed a Chilean refugee claimant who admitted that his claim was based on the fact that he could not find work in his native Chile.
If this is the type of criteria that refugee claims are being based on, then Canada itself is home to millions of potential refugees.
It is precisely these types of ridiculous claims that have brought the whole refugee process into disrepute. We now have the trend where people come to Canada, claim refugee status here and then get smuggled into the United States.
We are being viewed around the world as a consolation prize by people smugglers. They might not get their clients into the United States but, at worst, their clients will be accepted in Canada. That is the problem with our refugee system. It rewards dishonesty and criminality.
Last April a Hong Kong man was stopped at the Vancouver international airport and was found to be carrying four additional passports to his own. Sure enough, the other individuals from the same flight were claiming refugee status at the same time. These four claimants paid the agent thousands of dollars to get to Vancouver. The presence of these four refugee claimants in Vancouver is going to cost the Canadian taxpayer thousands of dollars.
When we finally catch one of these people smugglers red handed, what do they get? One day in jail as a sentence. Won't that teach these people smugglers not to mess around with Canada? These guys must be laughing all the way to the bank.
As bad as the situation was, there are even worse things that take place. In July Dennis Garcia escaped from a Montana prison where he was serving a 20 year sentence for viciously assaulting a female store owner. The judge who sentenced Garcia also designated him to be a dangerous offender. When Garcia was arrested near the border of British Columbia, everyone should have been happy that this dangerous individual had finally been captured.
Unfortunately, that is not the way things work with the government refugee program. Instead of being immediately returned to the United States to finish his sentence, Garcia was sent to Vancouver and brought before an immigration adjudicator. Garcia claimed refugee status and, lo and behold, he was released pending his hearing; that is right, an escaped dangerous offender was released because he claimed refugee status.
Did Garcia show up for his hearing? Of course not. He is an escaped fugitive. Garcia is dangerous but not stupid. That is a label that is reserved for our refugee laws that allow such a travesty to happen.
As long as this government allows cases like Garcia to occur, the Canadian public will have little faith in our refugee program, much to the detriment of those genuine refugees who truly deserve our protection.
This country was built on immigration, which makes it all the more ironic that so many Canadians have so little faith in today's system.
The system needs to be made fairer. Perhaps the minister could start this fairness by renegotiating the Canada-Quebec accord. This accord gives Quebec a flat rate of $90 million a year for settlement funds. That is approximately one-third of the total amount that the federal government spends. Is Quebec receiving a third of the immigrants to Canada? Actually, the number of immigrants that Quebec is receiving continues to drop.
When the accord was first signed in 1991, Quebec received 22 per cent of all immigrants to Canada. Last year that figure dropped to 13 per cent and this year Quebec, which gets to set its own numbers, will be taking in almost 10 per cent fewer immigrants. Even those numbers are deceptive. By the Quebec government's own numbers, between 70 and 80 per cent of investor immigrants to that province have left Quebec for other destinations in Canada.
Yet despite these numbers, Quebec continues to receive over 33 per cent of the settlement funds, which means that the two provinces that receive the bulk of Canadian immigrants, Ontario and British Columbia, receive a significantly smaller amount for each newcomer they accept.
The current system is not fair and must be amended so that this government funds every immigrant and refugee at the same rate no matter what province they settle in. That is what Canadians are looking for in our immigration system: fairness. They want a system where everyone is treated in a fair and honest manner as quickly as possible. They want a system where dishonesty and criminality are not rewarded. Once the Canadian government can accomplish these goals, I am sure that Canadians will once again have confidence in our immigration system and will support it.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Immigration
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