Bill C-16 (Historical)
Public Safety Act, 2002
An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
David Collenette Liberal
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament.
Transportation Amendment Act
March 19th, 2003 / 3:30 p.m.
James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to enact the VIA Rail Canada act. It was tabled in the House on February 25 at the same time as the document called, “Straight Ahead--A Vision for Transportation in Canada” was tabled.
The press release that came with the “Straight Ahead” package said:
This document provides the vision, the policy framework and principles that will guide the Government of Canada's decisions in the years ahead in key areas such as marketplace policies, strategic infrastructure investments and initiatives in support of the broader government agenda on competitive cities and healthy communities, climate change and innovation and skills.
Straight Ahead is the culmination of extensive consultations that began in June 2000 with the Minister's Millennium Conference on Transportation and continued with roundtable discussions across the country headed by the Minister of Transport. It includes responses to many of the recommendations of the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel and of the Independent Transition Observer on Airline Restructuring.
In initiating the second reading of Bill C-26 yesterday, the Minister of Transport told the House:
In our policy document, “Straight Ahead”, we talk of the culmination of an initiative that began in 2001 to review the transportation policy for the next 10 years and beyond. “Straight Ahead” proposes a vision to guide the continued development of a sustainable transportation system for the country. It also conveys the government's response to the 2001 report of the Canada Transportation Act review panel.
The amendments to the CTA that are introduced in this bill are an important step in moving the vision forward. “Straight Ahead”...
In the eyes of the minister, Bill C-26 is the implementation in part of the “Straight Ahead” document and that in turn is the government's response to the 2001 report of the Canada Transportation Act review panel. It is therefore helpful to have read the 2001 report of the Canada Transportation Act review panel.
On page 191 of that report, one finds a discussion of fuel taxes, something that is important in the country now, certainly with regard to the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the labour crisis that existed in Venezuela as well.
It is dealt with in the report on page 191 but the government does not deal with it here. The panel states:
Federal fuel taxes stand out as having no evident justification in the eyes of road users.
The Panel's proposal is that federal fuel taxes be recognized as part of the price paid for the use of road infrastructure.
The CTA review panel proposed that federal fuel taxes be recognized as part of the price paid for the use of road infrastructure. It recommended various ways that the federal fuel taxes could be used to fund Canada's highway infrastructure. Yet while the future actions section of the infrastructure chapter in “Straight Ahead” talks of making strategic investments in trade and passenger corridors, such as the national highway system, the talk is truly hollow when one looks at Bill C-26, or the recent federal budget.
It is important to understand the timing. We know the federal budget was tabled on February 18 and that prebudget consultations had been going on for months before that. We are also told that the “Straight Ahead” document is the culmination of extensive consultations that began in June 2000. If we assume that the Ministers of Finance and Transport are in contact with each other, it is a virtual certainty that the idea of dedicating a percentage of the federal fuel tax to building, maintaining and expanding our national highway infrastructure was discussed at some point around the cabinet table and lead up to the current budget.
Nonetheless, when the budget was tabled, it contained only an additional $300 million in annual funding for Canada's infrastructure, including highways and roadways. The $300 million seems like an impressive amount until we actually do the math. Statistics Canada estimates that there were 31,485,623 people living inside Canada in October 2002. This year the generous Liberals will spend a grand total of $9.53 per person next year on infrastructure and about two-thirds of that, or about $6.38 per person, will go into highways and roads.
While the government is spending some $6.38 per person on roads and highways next year, if gas stays around 85¢ per litre for Canadians, the Liberals will collect $4.8 billion in federal fuel taxes plus another $2.2 billion in GST on the gasoline and taxes as well. That is $7 billion this year, or roughly $222 for every man, woman and child in Canada.
Let me repeat those numbers so it sinks in on the Liberal side over there. The Liberals will collect roughly $222 in federal fuel taxes and GST on those taxes on fuel from every man, woman and child in Canada. At the same time, they will strategically invest, as is their code word, roughly $6.38 per person into roads and highways. If we wonder where the $215, the difference between the $222 they collected and the $6.38 they spend on roads, perhaps the statement contained on page 91 of the 2001 report of the Canada Transportation Act review panel will help us out. It states, “Federal fuel taxes stand out as having no evident jurisdiction in the eyes of road users”.
The biggest problem with the “Straight Ahead” document is that it proposes a vision to guide the continued development of a sustainable transportation system for the country without suggesting a funding formula for something as basic as roads. In my mind that is not a vision, it is fog.
To the extent that Bill C-26 is inspired by this “Straight Ahead” document, it is essentially empty rhetoric by the Minister of Transport.
I would like to turn my attention now to the specifics of Bill C-16. I have already dealt with what is absent, the commitment of highway funding, but now I would like to address what is in the bill.
Bill C-26 deals with two main themes: airlines and railways. In each case it is a mishmash of missed opportunities and dangerous initiatives.
On the aviation side, it is philosophically inconsistent. On one hand, we find several clauses arguing for a greater role for competition and market forces. Clause 3 recognizes that competition and market forces are the prime agents in providing viable and effective service in the air industry. That is a good start rhetorically, but then it starts to get confusing for those who read the bill.
In both clauses 18 and 24 we see the concept that under certain circumstances a non-Canadian company might offer domestic air service for “any period of time”. It is as though the minister is recognizing the idea that in certain situations foreign carriers might be seen as a last resort to spur competition. However at the very same time there is nothing in the bill that raises the limit on the number of shares of a Canadian carrier that a foreign airline might acquire. Thus the same type of problems that foiled the Onyx takeover of Air Canada remain and are part of the Liberal vision for the future of Canada's airline industry.
At the same time, Bill C-26 proposes a massive re-regulation of the domestic airline industry. For example, clause 11 gives the Minister of Transport new powers to review mergers even though the competition commissioner is already involved in the process. It also gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to ensure that merged corporation is “Canadian”. Right there, instead of one person examining the competitive implications of any proposed merger, we now have two. Bigger bureaucracy and slower service, that is the Liberal vision, and also having someone in the process who perhaps has no expertise whatsoever in the very issue that the minister may be dealing with.
We also see in clause 16 that it requires airlines to revise advertising to include all non-governmental fees and prices and to not advertise one-way tickets where a person needs to buy a round trip to get the exact price that is being advertised. However let us not forget that the Air Transport Association of Canada voluntarily agreed to this before Christmas, and that the sticking point is not the Canadian airlines industry but the need to get both Canadian and U.S. carriers to adopt similar advertising strategies for tickets on transborder routes. Clause 16 is essentially harmless but it is an attempt by the Liberals to take credit for something that the airline industry has already done voluntarily and has already done through the powers of market forces.
Clause 20 of the bill is just downright dangerous. It would give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to review and even set airline fares in cases where there was not true competition on a route. The concept of having a government agency tell a private for profit company that it has to provide service between two points on terms and conditions that the government decides is simply frightening.
Clause 26 of the bill goes further, mandating that carriers accept domestic interlining code shares and permit access by their competitors to their frequent flyer programs. This type of policy is a real re-regulation and is driven by a genuine anti-competitive spirit on the Liberal side.
The Minister of Transport keeps telling the House about WestJet, Jetsgo, CanJet and Air Transat, but I can tell him that none of them in fact will want to be in Aeroplan, Air Canada's program, and none of them want to be forced to interline with anyone else.
If one looks at Ryanair, an Irish airline similar to WestJet, a low cost service provider, it actually states that it is a point to point airline and, therefore, does not offer and cannot facilitate the transfer of passengers or their baggage to other airlines. That is a management decision by a private sector company called Ryanair, and it makes it on its own.
Under Bill C-26 it could be illegal for Jetsco, CanJet, WestJet, Air Transat and Air Canada to adopt a similar policy.
If the government wants to regulate the airline industry, it should nationalize Air Canada, turn it into a crown corporation and abandon any pretext of private sector competition that it claims exists in Canada. Otherwise, it should truly respect that competition in the market forces is the prime agent of providing a viable and effective transportation service and do what it can to promote it, as a government.
One way it may start doing that is to have the people who book civil service travel make sure that airlines, beyond Air Canada, are considered from time to time as potential service providers. If the government truly wants to stimulate competition, it could start by buying airline tickets on some competitive fare basis rather than just going straight to Air Canada, as it consistently and persistently does.
Speaking of crown corporations, I want to turn my attention now to VIA Rail.
Yesterday in the House, on this very bill, Bill C-26, the Minister of Transport said “Unlike the majority of other crown corporations, VIA Rail did not have its own legislation”.
In order for us to understand the impact of that statement, one has to understand the different legal structures that the government uses to deliver various services.
The first is a line government department, such as Transport Canada, that used to manage airports and provide air traffic services. There was no crown corporation. The government department played a direct role in managing airports and air traffic services.
The second is a crown corporation, such as Canada Post, where the company can borrow with government backing and the government owns all the shares, names the directors and has full control.
The third is a private company, incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, where the shares are traded on the stock exchange and the company follows free market rules, but the government owns a minority of the shares and names some of the directors. Petro-Canada is in this situation today and so is VIA Rail.
What the government wants to do in clause 67 of Bill C-26 is to take the private corporation known as VIA Rail and flip it over into a crown corporation.
It is important for us to understand what is happening here. VIA Rail, like Petro-Canada, is essentially operating as a private company right now. All the government needs to do to privatize it is to begin selling the company's shares on the stock market. Rather than doing this, the Liberals want to make VIA Rail a crown corporation, admitting, in effect, that it cannot compete without massive taxpayer subsidies. Let us not forget that this too is part of the Liberal vision for the future of rail travel in Canada.
Bill C-26 was sold as the implementation of a transportation blueprint, a blueprint that is not clear on competition in the airline sector, that proposes to make VIA Rail a crown corporation, and that is silent on the biggest transportation concern of western farmers who were rhetorically told that it would be in the bill. However, that concern of western farmers with regard to grain transportation, running rights and so on, is not in this whatsoever.
Therefore, rather than providing a real vision for Canada's transportation future, as the rhetoric of the package that was tabled by the finance minister says, the bill, which twins along with that, would not in fact accomplish that whatsoever.
I want to talk very briefly on another issue because of the reality of the situation in Iraq. Yesterday in his speech as well, the Minister of Transport talked about the issue of port security. I want to use an example of where I come from, in my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, which is half an hour or 45 minutes east of the city of Vancouver.
Prior to the Liberal government's reckless activities with regard to national security, Canada had the Canada ports police. The ports police in the City of Vancouver did a tremendous job and put tremendous effort forward in terms of securing our borders, helping with cargo freights, helping to stop people who basically sell people into indentured servitude in Canada in exchange for getting them here on rusty cargo ships.
Canada had a ports police that helped the police against those things and the ports police did an effective job. There was some debate on whether they were effective enough, large enough or it was cost effective.
However, the Liberal government, rather than addressing some of those concerns, rather than making some of the difficult decisions of raising the hood on the Canada ports police situation, looking at the engine and making sure that it was running properly, it decided to end the ports police.
Now we have a situation of drugs getting on shore in my riding in the City of Port Moody, which is part of the port of Vancouver that extends all the way from Delta in the south up to Indian Arm and Burrard Inlet in the north. It is a huge area for the port authorities to cover.
Since we have had the scrapping and elimination of the ports police, the City of Port Moody is now responsible for securing the port of Port Moody. It sounds good on paper but the problem is that the City of Port Moody and the Port Moody police do not own a boat. It is awfully hard to have drug interdiction, to stop smuggling into the cities and do an effective job of securing port security when the government turns over port security to the City of Port Moody and the Port Moody police and they do not own a boat in order to get those things done. The government offers nothing, no financing whatsoever, to help the City of Port Moody and other cities like it to combat smuggling.
The government brags about the fact that it is spending $172 million on port security but not a single dime of that federal Liberal money will go into my riding in the City of Port Moody to help it buy a boat in order to ensure security.
If the Liberal government took security seriously, it would re-establish the ports police, reorganize it so it was an effective mechanism to ensure that they could have an impact on drug interdiction and prevent the selling of human beings into indentured servitude, which is what is happening with the people smuggling on the west coast of British Columbia. They could establish a port security system that really works.
The scrapping of the ports police in the City of Vancouver was a tremendous mistake by the government, and there is nothing in Bill C-26 and nothing in the response to the realities of September 11, and nothing in the budget that we have been debating. There is nothing that takes real port security measures seriously.
The Liberals seem to think that the current infrastructure is fine. As long as some new technology is put in place and more money is put in place, this will work out all right. However, it will not be that way.
The City of Port Moody is hurting. It has had the keys to security turned over to it but it does not have a boat to put the keys in and get it started. Those kinds of examples are happening all over Canada, on the east coast, west coast, up and down the St. Lawrence where communities are being forced to take over the security responsibilities.
In closing let us not forget that the first responsibility of the government, above all else, is to secure citizens and make national security its top priority. It is Abraham Maslow's “hierarchy of needs”; the first thing is to protect citizens; second is to ensure their safety into the future with the basic provisions of life, and then build an economy on top of that.
The government's number one responsibility above all is to ensure the security of its citizens and yet it scrapped the ports police. The Liberal government's decision to scrap the ports police was a tremendous mistake and it has put a huge burden on the City of Port Moody, a burden that it should not have to bear. It is a disgrace that the government made that choice.
Private Members' Business
December 2nd, 2002 / 11:45 a.m.
Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB
Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot for his sincerity and certainly his passion, not only in bringing forward this piece of private member's legislation but also for his interest in and his passion about the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I am not a member, but I do know of his input into that committee. I know that is certainly agreed to by most members of the House, both government and opposition, so I thank the member.
I am not going to lecture the member, as perhaps has been done just recently with respect to Bill C-18 and other legislation and perhaps on some other deficiencies of the government. If that were the case, I would stand here for hours to lecture this member on the deficiencies of his government, but I would like to deal with the issue at hand, which is that of the oath of allegiance.
Before I get to the oath and to this resolution specifically, I do know that it is a non-votable item. I do know, from sitting on a committee that deals with private members' business, that there will be an opportunity to have votable items come forward in the future. Each member will have that opportunity, so perhaps this member may well wish to again bring forward a similar type of resolution or bill at a later date when it would be votable. I personally wish it were votable, but since it is not we will go from there.
I have had the opportunity of taking part, as have most members of the House, in citizenship courts in this country. I must say that the opportunity to attend is the most moving experience that I as a member of Parliament have had. To see citizens of other communities, cultures and countries coming forward, making applications to become citizens of our great country, giving up passports and citizenship in other countries and embracing the democratic rights of Canada is one of the most moving experiences that I have had. I have to say that after quite a number of these ceremonies, I too went through the process and reaffirmed my Canadian citizenship simply because I felt so strongly about it. In fact, I did take the oath of allegiance that currently is in the Citizenship Act.
I say that because it was not so much the oath of allegiance itself, but certainly the indication or the understanding of what it meant to be a Canadian and to have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at my disposal as a Canadian citizen. I was very pleased to be able to do that as an individual. I believe that we as a country would be much better off if all our citizens, each and every one of us who take for granted our citizenship in this great country, not only went and observed the citizenship court, but after seeing that had the opportunity and the ability to exercise this oath of allegiance or reconfirm our oath of allegiance to this great country.
The oath, as we recognize, goes back to previous legislation. As a matter of fact, it is worth noting that before 1947 all citizens of Canada were British subjects, a common status shared by all citizens of the British Commonwealth. Any person in Canada applying to become a British subject accepted without question the oath of allegiance and references to the sovereign Crown. After the end of World War II, immigration to Canada increased dramatically, mainly from the British Isles and continental Europe. Of course during this period the Canadian Citizenship Act had come into force.
Unexpectedly, many new residents applying for Canadian citizenship have over the years expressed their concern when it came to the point of swearing the oath of allegiance. British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth expressed surprise at being required to subscribe to the oath of allegiance. They believed that they already had given allegiance to the Crown and expressed their concern that they were required to take an oath of allegiance to the head of another country. Commencing in 1967, the government announced its intention of introducing revised citizenship legislation.
Among other things the legislators noted that the phrasing of the citizenship oath was a point of difficulty with some citizenship applicants. Following interdepartmental legal discussions with the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office, the title in principle was accepted, together with the proposal that the new oath clearly indicate, to avoid further misunderstanding, that Her Majesty, by title, is the Queen of Canada, hence the 1977 oath for affirmation of citizenship.
We would think that after three tries the government would finally get citizenship and immigration right. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hon. members may remember Bill C-63 and Bill C-16, which are no longer on the Order Paper and were put off. They have now been replaced by Bill C-18, which, I am told, not having been to committee, has its own difficulties, its own flaws and its own deficiencies.
The reason I mention it is that those flaws and deficiencies can now be corrected in committee if the government and the committee on citizenship and immigration are prepared to take open, honest direction, not only from members of the opposition but from members of the government.
I would ask the member who has tabled the bill, this change of oath, to go back to that committee and not only ask for, but perhaps even insist, that his changes to the oath be incorporated in Bill C-18 and also that other flaws and deficiencies of Bill C-18 be amended in committee so that it comes forward as a much better citizenship act for this country and for the people it is administrating.
We as citizens of this country should stand each day and be very thankful for the rights and privileges that we are given as Canadian citizens. I accept the fact that the member certainly believes very strongly in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I, as a Canadian and a part of the House, congratulate him for bringing this forward. Excuse me for my voice, as I do have a bit of a cold, and otherwise I could go on for a longer time and probably more passionately as well. If nothing else, the member has allowed us to stand and think about what our citizenship means to us. That in itself is worth everything that the member has done.
Mr. Speaker, thank you very much to the member and to the House for allowing me to speak.
Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period
November 8th, 2002 / 11:25 a.m.
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, yesterday we debated the government's new citizenship act, Bill C-18. The problem with the last two bills the government tried to introduce, Bill C-63 and Bill C-16, was that both created two classes of Canadian citizens: those who are born here and those who are naturalized.
Why does the new citizenship act, Bill C-18, continue to support two classes of Canadian citizenship?
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 4:35 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, although I had a lot to say already about Bill C-18 during questions and comments, this is the first time I have made an actual speech on this bill, which amends an existing statute, the Citizenship Act, one that has been around a very long time. It was introduced in 1977.
When examining a bill, it is important, particularly when it is a citizenship bill, to keep in mind what has gone before. We need to remember that Bill C-18 is, basically, an old bill first introduced in 1993. At that time it Bill was C-63. It then returned as Bill C-16 and today returns in virtually the same form, as Bill C-18.
The government has told us, and reminded us throughout this debate, of the importance of supporting this bill and passing it quickly. Admittedly, a bill dating back to 1977 needs to be updated, because there are imperatives and procedures that need updating and sometimes even simplifying.
The process I have just explained, and the historical background on the three bills, which died on the order paper, either because an election was called or because a new session started, demonstrate how little priority is, attached to passing a new bill and modifying the existing citizenship legislation.
Let us recall that, prior to 1947, there was no law setting out what might be called legal citizenship. Legal citizenship began with the advent of this act. What did the 1977 act allow? A number of things, but I will touch on two, one of which was reducing from five to three years the time required to qualify for permanent resident status, that is the length of time before one was eligible for Canadian citizenship.
The other important aspect of the 1977 legislation was that it did away with something which is completely unacceptable, the right to hold dual citizenship. Before 1977, a person with Canadian citizenship automatically lost citizenship in another country. The 1977 legislation provided a framework that we want to renew today.
What does Bill C-18 do? It reinforces the current citizenship legislation. Bill C-18 clarifies, according to the government, certain legislative provisions. Finally, it reinforces certain administrative procedures.
Apart from these amendments, it would be foolish to believe that the bill before us is only aimed at meeting administrative imperatives with regard to Canadian citizenship. Some fundamental elements will alter the way we do things in Quebec and the way we are planning Quebec's future, whether we talk about the citizenship oath or the lack of respect for the provisions of the civil code of Quebec dealing with foreign adoption.
We can only be critical--it is our right in this House--of this bill that is a far cry from the mandate given to us by our constituents in Quebec, namely to make sure that Canadian legislation meets future needs, but also to defend their interests.
Defending those interests means, among others, defending the civil code of Quebec. I am sure my colleague will do this in committee as I did when I was my party's critic on this issue, and as my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve did. In committee, we will defend the Civil Code of Quebec.
We will show that under the civil code of Quebec, only a Quebec court can finalize an international adoption through Quebec's Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale.
We will show that the provisions of the bill that would grant citizenship without having to go through the immigration process contravene something fundamental. To a degree, it could result in major constraints and distortions between two children adopted abroad who settle in Canada, more precisely in Quebec as compared to another province. The civil code is clear and must be enforced.
As Minister Rochon, among others, asked on March 6, 1998, would it not be better if the federal government would consider some bilateral arrangement between the Quebec government and the federal government when the time comes to grant Canadian citizenship to a child adopted abroad?
One of the fundamental principles recognized in several Canadian acts and enshrined in the Constitution is that the best interests of children should always prevail. If the federal government supports this principle, then it will agree to make some bilateral arrangement with Quebec to streamline the citizenship process for children adopted abroad.
We have several concerns about this bill. We also believe that the government is using this bill to do some nation building, as evidenced by the oath of allegiance to Canada. We would like the duties of the citizenship commissioners to be clearly defined to ensure that they remain neutral, efficient and non partisan.
Too many immigration commissioners have been appointed because of their so-called professionalism or other such qualities, but a look at their record makes one wonder. The appointment process for immigration commissioners has been called a patronage den, not only by us but by other independent organizations.
With this bill, the government has the opportunity to clarify the real role of the citizenship commissioners and ensure they are not partisan, but it refuses to do so.
This House and the study of this bill in committee will clarify the situation and the role of citizenship commissioners.
In addition, using the principle of a free and democratic society as a reason to deny citizenship is puzzling. The minister said “These are principles that will enable us to deny citizenship on rare occasions. They will apply only occasionally”.
One cannot assume that the legislative provisions of a bill will be used only on rare occasions. We cannot make such an assumption, first, because we do not know the state of affairs. Also, there is no guarantee that the government will not try to use this provision to deny Canadian citizenship to a number of people.
It is totally unacceptable, in light of these powers and the power of these provisions to deny Canadian citizenship, that the use of the principle of a free and democratic society as a reason to deny citizenship is not better regulated. As I said earlier, this is all very vague, fuzzy and inadequate in terms of direction with respect to a provision that has and could have such an impact.
Of course, we are not saying that citizenship should be granted to persons who committed violent crimes against certain ethnic or religious groups. However, we believe that these principles ought to be strictly set and regulated.
Another aspect is the citizenship oath. Each time Bill C-63 or Bill C-16 has been discussed since we came to this place in 1993, we in the Bloc Quebecois have expressed doubts about the real political will of the government regarding the oath of allegiance. We have condemned in the past oaths of allegiance that involved swearing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. Now, the government wants new Canadians to swear allegiance to Canada.
There is reason to express doubt about this government's real motives regarding the use of this oath. Is it trying to show Canada's uniqueness? Is it trying to show that the Quebec and aboriginal peoples do not exist? These are questions we feel entitled to ask at this stage of the consideration of the bill. I am convinced that, at committee stage, the hon. member responsible for this issue will have some genuine and tough questions for officials about what this allegiance to Canada really means.
The other fundamental issue to which I must go back is the Quebec civil code. Through this bill, the federal government refuses to recognize our civil code. Since March 6, 1998, Quebec ministers have made repeated calls—orally or in writing—to ask that the Quebec and federal governments work bilaterally to streamline the process to grant Canadian citizenship to children adopted abroad, while respecting the Quebec civil code.
Unfortunately, since 1993, and particularly since 1998, the letters sent by the Quebec ministers have been ignored. Today, we can only ask that the principle of the best interests of the child be applied in Canada. Because if we believe in the fundamental principle which says that the best interests of the child must be protected, it is with these interests in mind that the federal government must cooperate with the Quebec government. The Secrétariat sur l'adoption internationale has done an excellent job. In absolute as well as relative numbers, Quebec welcomes more adopted children from abroad than any Canadian province.
This shows that not only the civil code, but particularly Quebec's approach in this regard, work properly and are effective. What the federal government wants to do through clauses 16 and 17 is to create distortion in something that works just fine.
How can we accept that, as regards an approach that is working, an approach that has allowed Quebec to welcome, both in absolute relative numbers and more adopted children, the federal government is proposing a provision which, by virtue of clauses 16 and 17, could go as far as creating a form of discrimination toward children, and also toward Quebec parents. The government must be receptive to these repeated requests.
The government must heed these demands, because back in 1998, ministers Rochon and Boisclair explained that this bill raised various problems in Quebec, including how to reconcile the legislation and our civil code, and the health issue and additional costs that could ensue as a result.
To close, I would say that this bill contains a number of incongruities. Of course, the time had come to update the Citizenship Act, which goes back to 1977. Of course, certain provisions needed to be clarified. However, there are certain provisions that concern us on this side of the House.
First, there is the issue of foreign adoptions. Second, there is the issue of the oath of allegiance to Canada. Then there are the citizenship commissioners. Under this bill, their appointment could be seen as a plum patronage position. We have a golden opportunity to change this.
I would like to close with one of the more original ideas proposed by my colleague, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. There has been much talk of legal citizenship, but he spoke of civic citizenship. Why not have a copy of Quebec's Charter of the French Language, our Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms given out at the oath ceremony? I think that would be the honourable thing to do.
I am sure that my colleague will present amendments in committee to ensure that Bill C-18 could include this original idea.
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in the debate on Bill C-18, which deals with Canadian citizenship.
The Bloc Quebecois has always been in favour of a new citizenship act, since the current one dates back to 1977. Twice, the current government attempted to amend this act, first in 1998 with Bill C-63. A year later, in 1999, we had Bill C-16, aimed at modernizing the Citizenship of Canada Act.
The bill before us today, Bill C-18, contains 12 elements that I would like to list by reading the summary. It says, and I quote:
(a) the continued acquisition of citizenship at birth for most persons born in Canada.
The word most means that it will not be the case for everybody.
(b) residence requirements--
I will only make a few comments as I only have 10 minutes, but we agree with this. In the past, the definition was inadequate. We will certainly debate this in committee, but in our view, it is still inadequate although greatly improved.
(c) a new judicial process to revoke the citizenship of a person--
This is a new process. It is a judicial process. It says further:
(d) new authority for the Minister and the Solicitor General of Canada to sign a certificate that commences the proceedings--in which security information may be used--
This is a sure sign we are in the post-September 11 2001 era. The whole aspect of security is being beefed up. On the face of it, we cannot oppose that, but we must be careful, as is the case with other statutes, when trying to deal with people who might be a threat to Canadian security, not to infringe on the rights of other people who have nothing to do with the security of Canada.
Further on it says:
(e) new authority for the Minister to annul the citizenship--
Indeed, in some cases, when we realize that people are a danger for Canadian and Quebec society, we agree. But again, we must be careful. Sometimes, when trying to do something good, we do something bad, no matter how careful we are.
It also stipulates:
(f) new authority for the Governor in Council to refuse to grant citizenship where a person has demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society;—
We do not have a problem with that, except that the new authority is granted to the governor in council, meaning the cabinet. It might be an issue of concern to those who promote human rights. We will see how it goes when the bill is scrutinized, but some issues need to be raised.
The summary continues:
(g) new prohibitions and offences with more severe punishment in order to maintain the enactment's integrity;
Nobody can argue with that. It continues:
(h) restricting the transmission of citizenship to persons born abroad of Canadian parents to the first and second generations, with an automatic loss of citizenship at the age of 28 years to those in the second generation who have not resided in Canada;—
Of course, that seems reasonable. Why grant citizenship to someone who has not resided long enough in Canada? There may be a discretionary aspect to this process that needs to be addressed, though. It continues:
(i) lessening the distinctions made between adopted children and children born abroad of Canadian parents for the purpose of the acquisition of citizenship;
There are two categories of children: those who are born abroad and those who are adopted abroad. This is something we may want to discuss, but to which we are not strenuously opposed.
It also says:
(k) a new office of “Citizenship Commissioner”, to replace the former “citizenship judge”, with new functions related to conducting citizenship ceremonies, promoting citizenship and advising the Minister;—
We saw earlier that the government wants to take out some elements of the citizenship examination to bring it to an administrative level. Citizenship judges will now be called citizenship commissioners. There is a purpose for promoting people who used to be called judges to the position of commissioner. The government is thus freeing them from certain duties and is creating another type of duti<y to make it clear to immigrants who become new citizens what they have to do to become good Canadian citizens.
We, in the Bloc Quebecois, as Quebeckers, are saying, “We accept this, but here is a word of caution”. However, we noted that some improvements have been made, based on our past demands. Concerning immigrants who become Canadian citizens, in Quebec at least, there are now some documents coming from Quebec, particularly a letter from the premier. It must be pointed out that a portion of immigrants is chosen by the Quebec government, pursuant to an agreement between the Quebec government and the federal government. The portion chosen by Quebec includes so-called regular immigrants. The other portion, which is chosen by the federal government, includes mostly refugees.
Now, there is a twelfth element I would like to elaborate on. Since two colleagues from the Bloc have talked about this previously, I do not want to repeat what they said. This has to do with modernizing the oath of citizenship. Clause 34 refers us to the schedule. As a matter of fact, this is the only element in the schedule, and I will quote it:
From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.
We should compare this with what was said in the past:
I affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Obviously, nobody can be against the observance of the laws and the fulfillment of the duties of the ordinary citizen. What is new here is the word Canada, which has been added. Up to now, the oath used to mention only the Queen. But some Canadian citizens have been wondering about that. Even the Minister of Finance has asked if we should put that back in, but we can see the word successors has been left out. Maybe the finance minister will heave a sigh of relief.
The word I am concerned with right now is Canada. Why? I wonder why the word “Canada” is being used. Ever since the 1995 referendum, the government has had a policy of putting the word Canada everywhere it can. The names of a number of departments have been changed. For example, we now have the Canada Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec. The word Canada has been inserted. We also have VIA Rail Canada and Canada Post.
Many names have been changed in the same way. The Canadian government has advertised about health for example, using the word Canada systematically.
This is all fine and good, but there is a renewed emphasis by the constant repetition of that word. It should also be pointed out that a newcomer who wants to become a Canadian citizen is not treated the same way as other Canadians. People who were born in Canada, in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada, do not have to take the oath of allegiance to Canada.
Time flies, and I hope I get the opportunity to answer questions so I can complete my remarks.
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON
Madam Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to this legislation. I will be confining my remarks almost entirely to the oath of citizenship that is proposed in this legislation.
I had before the House, up until last week, a private member's bill proposing changes to the oath of citizenship which would reflect the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that bill has become non-votable as the result of the introduction of this government bill which also has a new version of the oath of citizenship. I would like to deal with the government's version that is before the House, my version, and just discuss some of the other oaths around the Commonwealth.
The oath of citizenship that is in this bill states:
From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.
Madam Speaker, you might be interested to hear the text of the current oath of allegiance of New Zealand, another former Commonwealth colony. It states:
I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfill my duties as a New Zealand citizen, so help me God.
You might note, Madam Speaker, that the words at the end of the New Zealand oath are exactly the same as those of the current Canadian oath, “to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen” or “as a New Zealand citizen”. The wording is exactly the same. The wording is taken from pre-existing oaths of allegiance that had been established in the Commonwealth going back quite a long time.
It is also interesting to the hear the text of the Australian oath of allegiance. Australia is an important country vis-à-vis Canada because our histories are very alike. We are both parliamentary democracies based on the crown. Indeed Australia just very recently went through a debate about retaining the monarchy and it significantly chose to retain the monarch. The oath of Australia states:
From this time forward, under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
I would submit, at the very least, that the Australian oath has a much better ring to it than either the New Zealand oath or the Canadian oath that is being proposed in this legislation. Madam Speaker, I also draw your attention to the fact that in Australia there is, in my view, a correct distinction made in that an oath of citizenship should be to the country and it does not necessarily have to be to the monarch of that country in a parliamentary democracy. This is relevant too, because the oath of allegiance in Great Britain runs thusly:
I swear, by almighty God, that on becoming a British citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, and her heirs and successors according to law.
Madam Speaker, you can see that the Canadian oath actually in the bill before us now is a combination of wording. The first half is the wording from the British oath and the second half is basically the wording from the Commonwealth oath that was used across the Commonwealth.
I should point out to you, Madam Speaker, that up until 1981, the British did not have an oath of citizenship whatsoever. The oath which I just read to the House is an oath of naturalization which was in response to the flood of immigrants that the United Kingdom has been experiencing.
I wish to provide a little history. The oaths of allegiance of New Zealand and Canada date their origins back to the 18th century when the British Crown felt obligated to require the people in its colonies, that it acquired by force of arms or by purchase because they were not British, to bear faithful and true allegiance to Her Majesty or His Majesty. The oath of citizenship that we have, that New Zealand has, and that Australia does not have, is wording that was derived from the United Kingdom as a colonial power.
The oath that I would like to put forward in the House--and I do so now--I would hope that people when they read Hansard can compare it to the previous oaths that I just read into the record. The oath that I offer the House for its deliberations would read:
In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by their solemn trust to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.
The important thing is not to have a citizenship oath that requires the new person to swear to obey the laws, because the laws of a nation can from time to time be wrong. There are many examples in Europe. In Germany, which was a democracy after the first world war, a government took power and changed the laws that deprived people of their civil liberties. It led, indeed, to the second world war.
Simply saying that one will faithfully uphold the laws of a country I do not believe is good enough. Indeed, I think it is very dangerous in this age when countries across the world are struggling to find balance between civil liberties and the new threats of terrorism that have been emerging across the world.
It is vitally important for Canada to send a message to the world, through its oath of citizenship, about what Canada really stands for in this world that has become such a dark and dangerous place. I would submit that what identifies a Canadian more than anything else and how Canadians are perceived around the world and why so many people around the world want to come to Canada is because of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is not just a document that is part of our Parliament. This is the way Canadians live and act. This is what defines us as Canadians.
Whether we speak French, whether we are aboriginal, whether our history is from the Far East, the Middle East or central Europe, whether we are new Canadians or established Canadians, what identifies us as Canadians is the fact that all of us uphold the five principles of the charter: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.
That is not just a commitment of newcomers to Canada. It is a commitment of the government, of Parliament, and of the people, that not just at this point in time but forever, as long as that oath of citizenship exists. And I hope that our oath of citizenship would exist as long as the country, it commits the country to uphold the rule of law, basic human rights, democracy and freedom of speech.
Another speaker was referring to the problems of revocation. He was very successful in changing the legislation because the previous bill, Bill C-16, actually created a second class citizen out of people who had their citizenship and who were accused of war crimes. A mechanism was inserted into that legislation that would have enabled the government to revoke citizenship without due process of law.
I submit that had we had an oath of citizenship that specifically committed the government to uphold the rule of law, then the government would not have been able to advance a bill that deprived a person of the due process of law, much less the basic human right of having that due process of law.
As times goes on I will be moving an amendment to the oath. The oath is here and I will be offering to the House the wording that I have just given. There will be two versions. One version will involve an invocation to God because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with an invocation to God. I am sensitive to the fact that some people would prefer an affirmation and it is important to offer that opportunity to them.
There will be some debate about whether the Queen should be in our oath of citizenship. I do not believe she should be. I had so many opportunities as a member of the citizenship and immigration committee, as we developed policy for this very legislation in 1994-95, to hear representations from newcomers to Canada who could not understand why they had to swear allegiance to the Queen. People from around the world understand that the Queen is attached to the United Kingdom and it is a puzzle to them as to why they have to swear allegiance to her.
I note that Australia, our near cousin as a Commonwealth country, took the Queen out of its oath a very long time ago. It had precisely the same oath as New Zealand and has gone to an oath that at the very least is better than the Canadian one before the House now.
We can improve the oath of allegiance. I would like to see us committed as Canadians to the five principles of the charter: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law. That is who we are as Canadians and we should say so.
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC
Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley for her remarks. I am pleased to note that she too has concerns about Bill C-18. I would very much like to hear her on what is missing in this bill.
In the previous citizenship bill, Bill C-16, clause 10 recognized the minister's right to grant permanent residency to a person who immigrated to the country at a young age and was still under the impression that he or she was a Canadian citizen. The minister had the authority to grant this person residency status. There is no such provision in Bill C-18.
I have a question and I would like her to answer it for me. In the case of a child aged two or three or a six month old infant who came with its parents to Canada, Quebec or elsewhere, grew up, went to school and developed in a Canadian or Quebec setting, and whose parents became Canadian citizens—it is therefore clear in the child's mind that he or she is a Canadian citizen—but did not go through the process of applying for permanent residency and citizenship, does she consider this child who grew up as a Canadian and was raised in a Canadian setting to be a Canadian or of a different nationality?
Would she be in favour of including in Bill C-18 this provision that enabled the minister to grant permanent resident status to children who came to this country at a young age, so that they can have full citizenship?
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 12:50 p.m.
Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.
I am pleased to be speaking on Bill C-18 regarding the replacement of the Canadian Citizenship Act. The bill covers a number of issues regarding citizenship: who is a Canadian citizen, especially those born outside Canada; how people can be denied citizenship or how they can be stripped of their citizenship; changes in the citizenship application process; and a new citizenship oath. The bill is certainly an improvement over Bill C-16 from the second session of the 36th Parliament and is the government's third attempt to revise the Citizenship Act.
The legislation introduces a number of good things, but I still have concerns about a number of areas and I know other Canadians have concerns about them too.
I will start by saying that citizenship is a privilege. Canadian citizenship is a privilege and not necessarily a right. Given the right of automatic citizenship for any child born in Canada, it can cause problems. I will raise the issue of what has occurred on the west coast of Canada. Foreign individuals come to Canada specifically to give birth. They are here for the amount of time that it takes to deliver the baby and then they depart.
Those babies are Canadian citizens and can return to Canada at any time under any circumstances because they were born in Canada. Even if they have spent only the first few days of their life here, if they as adults have committed serious crimes, if they have become well known criminals or even terrorists, they cannot be denied access to Canada because they are Canadian citizens. This may not be a serious problem, but we have had very few years in which to monitor the situation. The oldest citizens under this provision would be 25 now. We do not know what kind of long term implications this will have. I think there should be some consideration of these loopholes that still exist.
Another concern I have is that children born to Canadian citizens who live abroad automatically become Canadian citizens. Not only do they, as a second generation, become Canadian citizens, but their children, the third generation, become Canadian citizens even if they have not been born in Canada. The new law proposes that for the third generation those children must reside in Canada for three years in the six years prior to the application for the retention of their Canadian citizenship.The government's reason for introducing this concept is to ensure that future Canadians have a strong link to Canada. This is why the government has done this.
One has to wonder, though, about the second generation. When those children, born from Canadian parents who live out of the country, do not have to live in Canada for any part of their life and still retain their Canadian citizenship, we have to ask ourselves how this ensures that future Canadians will have a strong link to Canada. I would suggest that instead of having just third generation children having to spend three out of the last six years here, the second generation of children should also have to meet that requirement. The bill should be amended to include the second generation of children. If the goal is in fact to ensure a stronger link to Canada, then there should be some onus on that second generation, as there is, I believe, in the present legislation we are changing. There should be some onus on that second generation of Canadians to also spend some time in the country for which they hold citizenship.
The new legislation gives clear details and more details about how citizenship applications would be handled. One of the new ways is that the bill is more specific about the time somebody applying for Canadian citizenship would have to spend in Canada.
Now it is suggesting that for acquisition of citizenship new applicants would be required to live in Canada three years or 1,095 days during the six year naturalization process. I have a concern with individuals who meet the minimum requirements, receive their citizenship and then leave the country when there is no commitment to the country itself. They get a citizenship from this country with no expectation to live here or contribute to our Canadian society.
Specific days will make it easier for those who make the determination to say people do or do not meet the requirements. However I still have problems with the requirement itself. We are basically saying to people they can get Canadian citizenship for expediency's sake or for convenience but we do not have any expectation of them being Canadian and contributing to our society.
Cabinet now has the power to deny citizenship to persons who have demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying the free and democratic society. I know there are some in the House who have a problem with that.
I think there are examples of individuals who have shown that they have no regard for a free and democratic society and that they do not believe in the principles under which this country operates. If they chose to come to this country from somewhere else because of our free and democratic society and all those things that support a free and democratic society, then one has to question whether we should give citizenship to somebody who has chosen Canada for the very reasons that they refuse to accept, or even worse, work against?
I do not have quite the same concern that some of my hon. colleagues have. I do have a concern that they have just process and that they are able to address the charges and whatever through our courts. There needs to be some kind of an appeal but I do not like appeals that last for four and five years. There can be something that is more expeditious than that.
One of the bigger questions is to have individuals who we can prove have a serious disregard for the principles and values. If we are hesitant to give them citizenship, then we have to ask ourselves why these individuals are allowed to remain in Canada as permanent residents. If they cause this concern and if they are working against our free and democratic society, why are they here as permanent residents in the first place?
The revocation process that this bill would bring in is a good one. Revoking of Canadian citizenship would have to go through the courts. That is something about which we can feel good. We are taking it out of the political realm and putting it into a judicial realm. It is a very good change.
The act would allow an accelerated removal process for persons accused of terrorism or organized crimes. It would allow the government to utilize protected information which disclosure would endanger the safety of people or compromise our national security. These are deserved and good improvements. However there needs to be more emphasis on the need for this information at the immigration stages to be dealt with before it gets to the citizenship part.
There are some improvements. An oath to our country is something of which my constituents are very supportive. They think that if people get Canadian citizenship they should make an oath to Canada. That again is another improvement. I am glad to see the government moving on that.
There are some concerns I have with this new legislation and there are some improvements that we need to acknowledge.
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to debate the new citizenship act. I will try to put this in context of what it means to Canada.
We are a nation of immigrants who come from all over the world. We are a nation that in many ways represents the best in the world, having built a tolerant society that in many cases is the envy of the world.
The member who just spoke, the critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, myself as well as another 50 members of the House were not born in Canada. We came from elsewhere. We were debating recently in the House that the practice of the Americans trying to institute racial profiling on Canadians born in certain countries who were trying to gain entry into the United States was a bad thing and was something that had to be corrected. There are members of Parliament who originally came from some of those countries but who are Canadian citizens. Under those procedures they would be subjected to being registered and having their fingerprints taken. That is not right and the American government has recognized that it is not right.
I understand that in the context of 9/11 we do look at the world in a different fashion but practices such as racial profiling do not work. They require a great deal of resources and they are not effective. In order to be successful in combating things like terrorism, the efforts have to be focused and there cannot be scarce resources.
I have been in Canada since 1957 after fleeing a revolution in Hungary. In some sense 9/11 made me as a new Canadian, appreciate how hysteria can overtake us and lead us into making bad decisions.
As much as Canada should be a beacon to the world, and in many cases it is, it is imperative that we understand our history. It is imperative that we understand why on April 17, 1982, over 20 years ago, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted to enshrine basic rights and guarantees to the citizenry of the country.
In the charter, section 7 on legal rights states:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
I underline fundamental justice and security of the person. I say that because when we talk about the security of the person there are few things that would be as important to a person like myself, who is a citizen by choice or the six million other Canadians who are also citizens by choice, than the right to our citizenship and not to be deprived of it, except in the due process of law.
I will touch briefly on the history so we will understand why we need the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are cases before our courts right now where members of the Chinese community want compensation for the head tax. The head tax represents one of the darkest periods in our immigration history. At that time someone who came from China would have to pay a humongous amount of money, something like $5,000 at the turn of the century, which would be worth half a million dollars or more today, for the right to come into this country. The Asian exclusion act said that we did not want people coming to this country from Asia.
We have Project Roll Call going on right now that the critic on citizenship and immigration has spearheaded and spoken about. He has a private member's bill. Project Roll Call kicked off this week. It talks about Ukrainians. There are approximately one million Canadians of Ukrainian origin in Canada, or their descendants, who are living in this country. These people are looking for redress to a basic wrong where they were treated as less than human. They were classified as enemy aliens during the first world war; 5,000 were interned and another 80,000 were forced to register as enemy aliens.
We can go to other people who were Canadians living in Canada and who were forced to register as enemy aliens. We have members in the House from Italian backgrounds who have relatives who were forced to register as enemy aliens.
We had a law in this land that treated Canadians who fought in the first world war with great disrespect. We have had veterans of the first world war who were immigrants. Around 20% of the Canadian Forces who fought in the first world war were immigrants.
On May 28 we honoured the unknown soldiers by unveiling the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The person lying there could very well be one of those 20%. The practice we had in the country at that time was that if one was injured fighting overseas for Canada, then came back to this country and required relief and hospitalization, one could be deported. Surely we all recognize that this history has to be addressed.
During the second world war we had racist policies. The SS St. Louis , a ship full of Jews, travelled from Cuba to South America and past the coast of the United States and Canada. They were seeking refuge for almost 1,000 Jews who were fleeing wartorn Europe and persecution in Germany. What did we do? We turned them all down: the Americans, Cubans, South Americans and Canadians. We forced that ship to go back to Europe where many of those Jews perished in the gas chambers.
I bring that up because we also had a policy of “none is too many” for the Jews at the turn of the second world war. It was not until 1975 that we said it was not a consideration whether one was a person of colour trying to come into this country and we eliminated racial discrimination.
I say all those things because we are a nation of immigrants coming from all sorts of groups that have been discriminated against in their time. We have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was enacted by Pierre Elliot Trudeau and signed by the Queen on April 17, 1982. I cannot stress enough the importance of that.
With regard to the groups that have been looking for redress, we gave redress to Canadians of Japanese ancestry because of some of the horrible things that happened to them during the second world war. Not only were they subjected to the Asian exclusion act, but during the war they were interned and their properties were seized. They were dispersed to camps throughout Canada. What is so incredibly unforgivable is that after the war, 4,000 Canadians, many of them of Japanese ancestry and many of them born in Canada, were forcefully repatriated to Japan, a country that was devastated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a country that was obliterated.
It is imperative that we understand the fundamental underlying reasons why we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is in a way our day of atonement. The Ukrainian community and some Chinese communities are seeking redress right now for past wrongs. I can name all sorts of other groups that will also be seeking redress. I think to a large extent we have done that by enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would also suggest that we have a day of atonement, if for no other reason than for Canadians to understand the history of how we got to where we are. One only has to look at what happened to the Acadians.
It is imperative that we recognize the fundamental importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If we want to truly be a country that is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world as to how society should operate, we must ensure that fundamental rights are not violated.
As I mentioned, I came to Canada in 1957 as a refugee. My citizenship is important to me. I was greatly honoured by my constituents when they elected me for the first time to this House in 1993. I was honoured by the Prime Minister when he asked me to become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 1998.
Since I was not born in this country, notwithstanding the fact that I have been here since 1957, under Bill C-16, I and six million other Canadians, who like myself are citizens by choice, did not have the right to protection under the charter. When the government refused to give individuals those rights, I voted against the legislation and resigned as parliamentary secretary. I have been fighting the unfairness of that bill ever since.
I can tell the House that there are many more people enlightened about the Citizenship Act and what the revocation process is. I am pleased to see that in section 16 the government recognized the principle over which I resigned, which was basically that if one's citizenship were revoked, one should have the right of due process before the courts. One should have the right to appeal something as important as revocation of citizenship. One should have the right to go to the Supreme Court. One also should not be in the position where a political body like cabinet has the right to revoke an individual's citizenship. When I look back at the past injustices in this country, they were done by governor in council, by politicians.
With the institutions that we have built in our judiciary it is very important that we separate the mob that can exist because of 9/11. Everyone understands that because we lived through it. We should give that to the courts where the due process of law applies. Unless we do that, we do not really have a right to full citizenship. I am very pleased the minister put that section in.
I am not very pleased with clause 56. While we recognize that the law was bad and that it needed to be improved, clause 56 says that if a person is before the courts on citizenship revocation, the person will get the bad old process, not the new process. It seems to me that if we abolish capital punishment, we do not hang people on death row. That is a very fundamental principle. I look forward to working with the committee and the House to rectify that.
Clause 17 is totally new. It came in because of what happened on 9/11. We have to be very careful not to be stampeded into ruining what we accomplished in clause 16 by putting into clause 17 secret trials, no right to judicial review, a test of evidence, the rules of evidence do not apply and no appeal, not even a judicial review.
Clause 18 is also new. It would create a probationary citizen. For the first five years the judicial process would not apply. It would be done by the minister. The minister is good fellow and I like him, but the fact is that we all know it is not the minister who will make those decisions, it will be a faceless bureaucrat who does not have to answer for his or her decision. I think we can work with that, recognizing that 9/11 did happen to make it better.
One of the discomforts I have with the whole citizenship act is that it only deals with naturalization. It does not deal with all those other Canadians out there. Citizenship should be great news and something we should celebrate. I think a lot of that is lacking.
While there was an improvement in the citizenship oath, because it really put Canada first and foremost before the Queen, I can only say that my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, in a private member's bill, Bill C-203, proposed another citizenship oath. I do not agree with all his wording but he has a fundamental section in it. He talks about the five principles of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of the law.
I am pleased to be engaging in this debate and this process. I look forward to working with the committee, the minister and all my colleagues in the House collectively with our wisdom, in a non-partisan way, because citizenship is not something we should ever play politics with. I really learned to appreciate my colleagues from the other side, and of course some on my side, when I was going through this battle over two years ago. I know that if we work together in a non-partisan way we will come up with a bill that will answer the issues I have raised. As Canadians, all 31 million of us, can celebrate the joy of being Canadian citizens.
Citizenship of Canada Act
November 7th, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in this important debate on Bill C-18, the citizenship of Canada act.
First, let me congratulate the minister for borrowing ideas from Senator Noël Kinsella's Bill S-36, as well as my private member's bill, Bill C-417, which was tabled this past spring, the PC Party's version of the citizenship act of Canada.
I applaud and thank the member for Winnipeg North Centre for her kind remarks regarding the Ukrainian internment issue on which we had a press conference this past week. It was an educational process to inform Canadians of some of the bleaker moments in this country's history. We need to fix these things before we move ahead. The Ukrainian internment occurred from 1914 to 1920, where over 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians were interned and over 80,000 were made to register like common criminals.
There is a simple solution. The current Prime Minister wrote a letter to the Ukrainian community of Canada when he was the leader of the opposition back in 1993 telling the Ukrainian community that when he became Prime Minister he would deal with and resolve this issue. Unfortunately, the sad commentary is that the Ukrainian community, of which there are almost a million people in this country, is still waiting for this resolution.
It is simple to redress the issue. It will not cost the taxpayers any money. It will not even cost the government of the day an apology. It basically needs to recognize and acknowledge that the event took place. It was the first invocation of the War Measures Act which was passed in 1914. At that time the property of over 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians was confiscated, taken by the government of the day, and not a nickel has been returned to the rightful owners. It is time for this issue to be resolved.
As has been said this morning, this is the Liberal government's third crack at trying to pass a citizenship act. We heard about Bill C-63 and Bill C-16, both of which died on the order paper. If major changes do not take place regarding Bill C-18, I think it will end up in the same garbage container.
At this time I wish to thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo who, through his fierce opposition during the debate on Bill C-16, brought to the government's attention some of its gross inadequacies, which we still find in this bill. Bill C-18 was supposed to be better than Bill C-16. Upon reading the bill I wonder whether it is or not.
Nevertheless there are some improvements. The criticism of Bill C-16, Bill C-36 and the former citizenship bills, which I consider more like naturalization bills of the Liberal government, has been that those bills promoted two classes of Canadian citizenship: one for those who were born in this country, and another one for those who were born elsewhere and came to Canada by choice.
The member for Kitchener—Waterloo, and other backbench members of the Liberal government, vehemently opposed this theory that there should be two classes of citizenship in this country. Last week the member for Kitchener—Waterloo introduced his own private member's bill, which I seconded. This hon. member would remedy these two classes of citizenship by placing the citizenship revocation process under the judiciary, with appeal rights, where it would be administered according to the principles of fundamental justice. That is why Canadians believe we have equality in this country. Until that happens we will never have equality in this country.
That is exactly the problem with clause 17 of Bill C-18. The irony of this is that former Bill C-16 put in place the solutions to remedy the problems within it. However, clause 17 in Bill C-18 reverses all of that.
Former Bill C-16 talked about judicial review—that we, as Canadians, should have access to the courts—but clause 17 in Bill C-18 reverses it.
Subclause 18(1), regarding the issue of annulment orders states:
If the Minister is satisfied that a person has, after the coming into force of this section, acquired, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship in contravention of section 28 or by using a false identity, the Minister may, by order, declare that the acquisition, retention, renunciation or resumption of citizenship is void.
In other words the minister has the right to revoke a person's citizenship. We call it an annulment. Subclause 18(5) dealing with limitation states:
The Minister may not make an order under subsection (1) more than five years after the day on which the citizenship was acquired--
In other words whoever receives citizenship is not secure in the first five years of obtaining citizenship in this country. Is it less than full citizenship of this country after five years? The government has it in reverse. If we think that people need to demonstrate evidence before acquiring citizenship, that is a different issue. Perhaps it should move the three year waiting period to five years, not do it after the fact.
My own belief and the belief of most Canadians is that once a person becomes a citizen, that person is a citizen and has the same full equal rights as everybody else. It is unbelievable that the government would take that attitude and that approach.
What about the rule of law? What about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Does that not apply within the first five years of obtaining citizenship? It does not under this legislation.
A just society is based on the rule of law. It is so ironic that this country takes time and effort into teaching other countries. For example, we have Canadians abroad in China teaching the Chinese how to operate under the rule of law because it is something that is missing in their system of politics. Yet at the same time at home we seem to fudge the whole area of the rule of law and the right of access to the judicial system.
We are still saying that government ministers, orders in council and governors in council can dictate whether one should have access to the courts when one is already a citizen of this country. We cannot do that. Either we are full fledged Canadians or not Canadians at all. Otherwise we will have two classes of citizens, which we have today.
In my private member's bill, Bill C-417, clause 17 clearly describes the loss of citizenship. It states:
The right of citizenship may be revoked only by the due process of law and on the grounds prescribed by law.
That is the kind of statement and clause we need in Bill C-18.
Earlier this past spring Senator Noël Kinsella tabled the same bill in the Senate that I did in the House. We considered our bill to be a citizenship bill whereas Bill C-18 is seen more as a naturalization bill.
What is lacking in Bill C-18? We should be excited about citizenship in this country. What is missing in Bill C-18 is a preamble. It should create an atmosphere of passion and commitment to this country. I will give the House our ideas of what should be a preamble to create this air of excitement when one becomes a citizen of Canada.
Our preamble would read:
Whereas Canadian citizenship is a special treasure of inestimable value to be nurtured and promoted;
Whereas the heritage of Canadian citizens speaks to their ancient and beautiful lands which they inhabit in peace with nature;
Whereas Parliament is mindful of the dignity and worth of all Canadian citizens and the rich contribution that each can make to the growth of Canada; whereas the Constitution Act, 1867, the common law, the Civil Code, the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Constitution Act, 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other enactments trace the relationships among Canadian citizens over the years;
Whereas active citizens, through their labours, their democratic institutions and their laws, have built a peaceful nation where they may enjoy the harvest of nature and exercise their enterprises throughout Canada and the world community, while safeguarding the land, its creatures and resources;
Whereas the citizens of Canada enjoy the benefits of peace and prosperity, and they should be given an opportunity to make a contribution, each according to their talents and abilities; and
Whereas it is desirable to enact a measure to celebrate, protect and codify the riches of Canadian citizenship.
In other words, our version of the Citizenship Act, Bills S-36 and C-417, deals with the broad concept of citizenship as it applies to all Canadians and would replace the existing Canadian Citizenship Act which deals principally with the naturalization process. It states in positive terms the status, the rights and obligations of Canadian citizenship, encouraging all citizens to participate fully in the life and growth of the nation. It provides a modern form of oath of loyalty to be taken by new citizens and allows existing citizens to take the oath to reaffirm their loyalty to Canada if they choose to do so.
The Canadian citizenship commission would be established with a duty to promote an understanding of the nature of citizenship and respect for its value. We have heard the idea of values spoken about this morning; Canadian values, values that we believe in, such as the right to judicial process, the right to be treated equally in this country.
The commission would also advise the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of proposed programs and events that would promote and celebrate Canada and Canadian citizenship.
Citizenship councillors would be appointed to continue the work of the former citizenship judges. They would preside at citizenship ceremonies, promote citizenship and may advise the minister on applications for citizenship. Members of the commission would be appointed from among those who hold the office of citizenship councillor.
The enactment would confirm the principal rights and responsibilities of citizens and would set out the manner in which citizenship is acquired. It would provide for the continued acquisition of citizenship at birth for everyone born in Canada. The residency for immigrants and refugees to obtain citizenship would be based on actual presence in Canada.
The distinction made between adopted children and children born abroad of Canadian parents is lessened for the purpose of acquiring citizenship. A right to transmit citizenship to persons born abroad of Canadian parents would be limited to the first and second generations, which I know the government borrowed from us in Bill C-18.
The enactment would continue the authority of the minister to annul the citizenship of persons who obtain their citizenship by using false identity or who were subject to prohibitions. It would allow the minister to refuse to grant citizenship on the advice of a review committee when national security required it. That is understandable. This is pre-citizenship, but the idea of the minister having the right to revoke or annul citizenship after one obtains citizenship goes against the belief in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It goes against the grain of equal treatment in this country.
Our enactment would establish a new Canadian citizenship tribunal which would consider whether an application for citizenship should be refused on the basis of public interest. If in such a case the tribunal so advises, the governor in council may refuse to grant citizenship. Again, this is pre-citizenship not post, as we would have by the Liberal government's Bill C-18.
We would also establish a process for dealing with applications for citizenship that is administrative rather than judicial. That would certainly streamline the process and would also standardize the process even further.
Prohibition and offences related to citizenship and its acquisition would be established in order to maintain the integrity of Canadian citizenship.
Many of the points that I raised may be found in Bill C-18. I applaud the minister for taking an open-minded approach and borrowing good ideas when he sees them.
At this point in time the PC Party of Canada certainly cannot support the bill in its present state, based on that one principle that we still have a scenario in the bill under clause 17 which creates an air of two classes of citizenship. We agree with many of the points and with many of the changes that have occurred in Bill C-18. However, until that one scenario changes, my recommendation is that the PC Party vote against the bill.
I look forward to seeing the bill go to committee where we will listen to witnesses and make some major changes. Hopefully we will come up with a draft that is reasonable and supportable.