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Proposed New Canadian Immigration Act Passes Second Reading
Same sex sponsorship not an issue

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Canada Introduces New Immigration Act
CANADA'S proposed new immigration act, entitled C-31 or An Act Respecting Immigration to Canada and the Granting of Refugee Protection to Persons Who are Displaced, passed second reading in the House of Commons yesterday.

The bill, which proposes to grant the right of Canadian gays and lesbians to actually sponsor a same sex binational partner for immigration, was voted 172-63 to be forwarded to committee stage.

To date, a same sex partner of a Canadian has had to apply on 'Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds,' which, although generally effective for partners residing in Canada, has been reportedly less effective for partners residing in some foreign countries.

The bill will replace the existing Immigration Act of 1976 if passed.

It was introduced and first read on April 6th.  Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Elinor Caplan had been under pressure for some time to make changes in the laws concerning immigration in general and in particular the handling of refugee claims, 'human smuggling,' entry gained by people with questionable criminal and human rights violation backgrounds, and yes, same sex couples.

The bill also proposes reducing the period of spouse sponsorship provisions and requirements from ten years to three, and "to eliminate the bar on admission for sponsored spouses and dependent children who may be considered to impose excessive demands on health and social services," according to Ms. Caplan.

The same sex provision of the bill was not debated.

The three instances of debate focused generally on the proposed Act's ability to reconcile the values and ideals of Canadian immigration with the measures proposed to address the problems of human smuggling, large processing times, and other.

Bloc Quebecois MP Real Menard raised the same sex provision briefly on May 9th in making comments concerning the factors involved in verifying such a relationship when partners are living in separate countries.

The bill now moves to committee stage in the House where it will be analyzed by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration with recommendations - if any - made back to the chamber.  Committee meetings began today, and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan and her senior staff are scheduled to present testimony tomorrow.