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Canadian Govt defends new bill

Parliament is to vote on the bill, which gives sweeping powers to the government to speed up or stop immigration from any part of the world.
IANS | By Gurmukh Singh, Toronto
UPDATED ON APR 02, 2008 09:05 AM IST

Even as Deepak Obhrai, the topmost Indo-Canadian in the current Canadian government, has defended the new immigration bill, former Canadian revenue minister Herb Dhaliwal has asked the opposition to bring down the government on the issue.

Parliament is to vote on the bill, which gives sweeping powers to the government to speed up or stop immigration from any part of the world.

Obhrai, who is parliament secretary (equal to minister of state in India) to foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier and international cooperation minister Bev Oda, said the opposition was spreading misinformation about the bill which was actually aimed at streamlining the immigration process.

"The amendment bill is designed to clear up the immigration mess created by the previous Liberal party government," Obhrai told IANS.

He said the Liberal government let the waiting list balloon from 50,000 to over 900,000 during their rule.

"Now what do you expect the Liberal party to say? There will make noises when they are told that they created this mess," said Obhrai.

The three-time MP from Calgary set at rest the fears among Indo-Canadians that the bill will affect immigration from India.

"India is the top source of immigration for us, and this process will continue. The bill is not against any community or country. All we want is to streamline it so that people don't have to wait for five to six years to come in," he said.

However, former Canadian revenue minister Herb Dhaliwal said the bill was "an attempt by the ruling Conservative party to change the immigration process in their favour."

Dhaliwal, who was the first Indian-origin person to become a minister anywhere in the western world when he joined the Liberal party-led Canadian cabinet in 1997, said: "The purpose of the bill was to destroy the regulatory process and put all powers in the hands of the immigration minister (Diane Finley) so that she can decide whom is let in and who is stopped."

The former Liberal party MP said: "At one time, the Canadian immigration system favoured immigrants from one particular part of the world. It was the Liberal party, which rectified it so that the process is fair and impartial and anyone can come into Canada. Now, the ruling Conservative party wants Canada to take us back to that period."

Calling for rejection of the bill by the opposition, Dhaliwal said: "Our immigration system is efficient. To clear the backlog, the minister needs to put more resources into the clearing process, not focus on accumulating more powers in her hands?

"They have hidden the immigration bill in the budget bill, but Canadians won't - and should not - stand for this kind of political trickery."

He urged the opposition to defeat the bill even if it meant bringing down the government and facing a snap poll.

"I urge the opposition to bring down this government on this bill so that the Conservatives are forced to explain it to people what they were up to," Dhaliwal said.

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