NUMBER 034 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Acting Chair (Mr. Rahim Jaffer): I would like to call the meeting to order. If all our colleagues could join us back at the table, I believe our witnesses are seated. I think we're just waiting on one who's coming right away.
The chair had to leave to do a bit of business himself, and he's going to try to join us again a little later, but he's asked me to sit in as the chair for this session.
I'd like to welcome all of our witnesses this morning. We have, from Ukrainian Canadian Social Services, Bill Diachuk, its president; from the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, Paulette Johnson, who is coordinator; from the Alliance Jeunesse-Famille de l'Alberta Society, Luketa M'pindou. It's good to see you.
We have added Patricia Foufas and Ahlam Balazs as individuals.
Obviously the list has grown, so we're going to ask you to keep your comments short so we can get to all the questions. Then you'll be able to follow up and expand on your presentations.
We'll go down the list and we'll start with Mr. Diachuk from the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services. You have five minutes for your presentation, Bill.
Mr. Bill Diachuk (President, Ukrainian Canadian Social Services): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of Parliament. It's a pleasure to be here.
I do want to acknowledge a colleague of mine from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Dave Broda, who is in the audience here. He's here to make sure I represent the Ukrainian community properly in my presentation.
As president of this organization, which I've been with now for some twelve years, I've been involved in a lot of settlement of people from eastern Europe. Back in 1993 I even spent five days in the refugee camps in Austria, and for someone who's Canadian born, I was really shaken up by the plight of people who were fleeing their homeland and wanted freedom.
Immigration to Canada from Ukraine over the last 70 years has been really very minimal, or even nil at times. In the 1980s our agency assisted several hundred self-exiled young people who were visiting relatives in Canada in their application for landed immigrant status.
Many elderly members of our community and many who are not elderly want to assist married children, brothers, or sisters. Applicants in Ukraine are only granted five points under the point system for being in the skilled worker class, which is truly too low, and we recommend that when there is family here in Canada, from whatever country it is, more consideration -- higher points -- be given, even as high as 20 to 25. For the settlement of new Canadians or immigrants in this country, having relatives here is very valuable; they're able to be met and assisted in the settlement stages of living in this new country. For many of them from eastern Europe, since they don't have one of the two languages in Canada to be able to communicate, their relatives are able to assist them very much.
As I indicated, immigration to Canada from any country occurs with the wish for a better life. I'm quoting from the Edmonton Journal dated March 4, 2005. I found a headline very touching: “Poor should be 'free from want,' says UN human rights head”. That was Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court of Canada judge. Her article was very timely and it really motivated me to make this presentation.
The Canadian government assists many countries through its agencies and programs. Some of the best help that people in Ukraine could receive and are receiving is from relatives in Canada, and there's much evidence of the generosity of Canadians of Ukrainian descent who are supporting their relatives and their programs in Ukraine. They know better than many of us Canadians what help is needed and how to provide that help.
Therefore, I have two points I want to make. Provide the opportunity for Canadian residents to sponsor family members, such as children or grandchildren over the age of 22, because that's not available now. Two, increase it -- as I touched on earlier -- from five points under the point system for skilled worker class applicants to around 20 to 25 points when they have relatives in Canada, applicants from whatever country it is.
Thank you, Mr. Jaffer.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Rahim Jaffer): I'm sure she's busy dealing with her own constituency.
Mr. Diachuk, please, go ahead.
Mr. Bill Diachuk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My only comment... and Madam Faille is welcome. What I have experienced in my some 16 years now of being involved in settlement is that.... Some of the speakers here who have joined me have indicated there's just no appeal to a rejection by a visa officer. In other words, a citizen in a foreign country may make another application and pay another fee, and that is not acceptable.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Rahim Jaffer): Thank you, Mr. Diachuk.