Statement made on 01 May 2007 by Senator Grant Mitchell
Hon. Grant Mitchell:
Honourable senators, Canada is known around the world as a country that offers asylum to people fleeing persecution and seeking a better life. We can all be very proud of that.
However, I am worried about the application backlog. People who have applied for permanent residence in Canada for humanitarian reasons have to wait a very long time for an answer from Immigration. This is not just an administrative problem. It is affecting many people in a very real way.
As an example, I would like talk about a young woman who recently got in touch with my office. She came to Canada as a refugee from Burundi at the age of 12. Now an adult, she has applied for permanent residence. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has informed her that she can expect to wait 19 to 20 months before her application is examined, because the immigration services are currently looking at applications filed in 2005. This young woman would like to study at the University of Alberta, but she would have to pay tuition as a foreign student, which she cannot afford. As a result, she cannot start university.
I know that there are many even more striking examples of people who have had to put their lives on hold for too long while they wait for their application to be considered. I also know that our officials are working hard and doing their best to process the applications as carefully and expeditiously as possible. But this is April 2007 and officials are just now looking at applications filed two years ago.
Applicants have to live with a foot in two worlds while waiting for an answer. Canadians also lose out when they are deprived for too long of the contributions that new residents make.
The Government of Canada should look at the average time it takes Canadian immigration services to examine an application, especially one that is made for humanitarian reasons. If necessary, the government should hire additional resources so that Canada can maintain the international reputation it has so richly deserved to date.