Bill C-18 (Historical)
Citizenship of Canada Act
An Act respecting Canadian citizenship
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Denis Coderre Liberal
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
April 18th, 2013 / 9:40 a.m.
Senior Honorary Counsel, B'nai Brith Canada
I was interested in your comments about the process, which relates to your question. I'll try to connect the two.
There's been a long history—over 10 years now—of various governments introducing amendments to the Citizenship Act to deal with revocation, for example, Bill C-16, BillC-18, and BillC-37, which have some good suggestions in them that we like. We've proposed that some of them be incorporated in here.
It's of some concern to us that all these proposed amendments—which would change the revocation process, which is not working now—are put aside, and instead we have this bill. There are some good things in the bill, and we support many of the components of it, but because it's a private member's bill—and this is a point your colleague Irwin Cotler has mentioned—it doesn't go through Justice charter scrutiny the way government bills do.
To answer specifically, yes, there's a charter right of citizenship, which is not limited necessarily to the way citizenship is defined in the Citizenship Act. It's open to anybody who loses their citizenship to say that this is a violation of their charter right to citizenship, regardless of what the Citizenship Act says.
I can't tell you whether a charter challenge like that is going to succeed or not, but it's certainly potentially there.
Opposition Motion—Citizenship and Immigration
Business of Supply
February 22nd, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to partake in the debate, particularly when a number of important dates come together. The important dates I am referring to are the 60th anniversary of the 1947 Citizenship Act, the 30th anniversary of the 1977 Citizenship Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms being 25 years old, and I am also celebrating the fact that 50 years ago my family and I came to Canada as refugees.
As a matter of fact, right about this time we were preparing to flee Hungary, which was undergoing a police crackdown. It was a police state where people who had anything to do with the revolution or who criticized the government of the day would be systematically eliminated. It was the end of this month in February that my family crossed through mine fields to get to Austria where we received a great deal of help and hospitality from the Austrian people. I would be remiss if I did not express my personal thanks and the thanks of all the Hungarian refugees at that time who ended up in Austria, and 90% of them did.
It was around the middle of June that our family, having spent time in different refugee camps, ended up in Canada. Our experience upon landing was to be placed with a host family, the Hay family. They had three kids, just as I had two siblings in my family. It was an amazing experience for us. Our family spoke Hungarian and we were living with a family that spoke English. My father spoke a number of other languages so it was kind of fun making communication work.
What struck me at the time was Canada's policy to bring in 38,000 refugees from Hungary, which was the biggest per capita of any other country in the world. The United States, with a population 10 times that of Canada, took in 47,000. So 38,000 was a huge number for Canada to bring in. What struck me was the reception we received from the Canadian people. It was the people of Canada who drove that change and wanted Canada to be at the forefront in their assistance to the refugees.
I mention that because part of the issue related to citizenship and immigration is private sponsorship and how important it is that we engage Canadians and the community in making that happen. Too often we do not meet our targets in terms of private sponsorship, which is an opportunity lost. It is an opportunity lost for new Canadians coming into this country and it is an opportunity lost for the government to ensure the people are settled and become contributing members of Canadian society as quickly as possible.
These experiences played a strong motivational role for me when we dealt with the anti-terrorism bill, which has become an issue. We had numerous debates in the last Parliament when we dealt with this. It was after the horrible events of 9/11 that I initially thought we could make legislation to make the country safer and that we should undertake a campaign against terror to accomplish that.
At the end of the debate, in my last speech to the House on that issue, I said, remembering what I remember, having had the experiences that I had, that I could not support the legislation because on balance we had a very good criminal justice system and one that was on the top tier in the world and that we also had a very good security system.
One of the things I have learned is that when a person experiences the unfortunate situation of having lived in a police state where police powers are not checked, it creates a kind of society that is alien to democracy. It creates a society where they are set up against us.
One of the strengths that Canada has is that no one group is a majority and everybody is a collection of minorities. It is important to understand that because we must never get into a situation where we stigmatize any part of our population. We all need to come together to ensure we have a secure country.
We saw the experience in the United States of America with the O.J. Simpson case where the jury refused to convict. It refused to convict because of the years and years of racism and how the whole thing played out. I mention that because if we are to have an immigration policy and a new Citizenship Act, we must be mindful that all Canadians, no matter what their backgrounds, are equal.
The suffering that has taken place in this country in terms of various minority groups coming together is incredibly well-documented in the book entitled, “Whence they came:...” by Barbara Roberts. It is a book that everybody who sits on the citizenship and immigration committee, the justice committee and whoever sits in Parliament should read because it chronicles some of the worst abuses in our history when it came to dealing with minorities.
It is exactly because of those abuses that we ended up in 1982 with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an atonement, so to speak, and a recognition that what we did in the past was wrong and that those mistakes must never be repeated. As we work together now and in the future we must ensure that we protect human rights and civil liberties.
One of the problems in terms of fighting terrorism is that we hear talk all the time about it being constitutional. The reason it is constitutional is because it is exempted from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A section in the Constitution allows that the guaranteed rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be put aside. It does not meet the test of the charter but just because something is constitutional does not make it charter compliant. However, any legislation we introduce should be charter compliant because then we create the kind of society that is so very important.
My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas proposed a number of amendments to the motion before us today. It would have been nice to have had them adopted because I think we could have worked collectively toward a revised Citizenship Act and Immigration Act that would meet the needs of Canadians. I despair at times about the kind of political rhetoric we get into when we are dealing with the whole issue of citizenship and immigration.
I wish we could tone down the partisan politics and put them aside to the extent of being able to say that it does not matter which political party is in power, that we need an act that works for all Canadians and how do we come together to make this happen.
In the last Parliament, I had the pleasure of serving as the chair of the parliamentary committee on citizenship and immigration. I put a challenge out to the members. I said that we were all parliamentarians who wanted to do our best for the country so we should try to leave our partisan differences outside the door and work together to come to a consensus and see if we can drive the consensus to actually change legislation.
I believe my colleagues will say that when the previous minister of citizenship and immigration was in front of the committee that I was probably his harshest critic. I wanted to make the process work and wanted us, in a non-partisan fashion, to contribute to legislation that would be a very important part of Canada's assets, which are the people, as well as immigrants coming to this country, because immigration has always been and will continue to be the lifeblood of this country.
One of the areas we worked very hard on was the Citizenship Act. We made it our number one priority. It often gets mentioned that the Liberals did not pass the Citizenship Act, and that is correct. In the 35th Parliament there was talk about the Citizenship Act. In the 36th Parliament, two citizenship acts were tabled; one was Bill C-63, which was followed by Bill C-16, which went through the House in the spring of 2000. It was properly held up in the Senate and never came back to the House, so the bill died. That bill needed great improvement. Bill C-18 was the next bill to come through and it had some very major flaws that we worked on. We made improvements to it, but it did not come to fruition.
In the last Parliament there were two ministers of citizenship and immigration. It is unfortunate that we had two. I think we would have been better served if we only had one, but the unfortunate circumstances around one of the ministers meant we had to substitute another one.
In that Parliament the citizenship and immigration committee came up with three reports dealing specifically with the Citizenship Act. We on that committee made it our number one priority. We undertook cross-Canada tours in 2003 and 2005. We had a great deal of input from the public as to what it wanted to see happen with the Citizenship Act and we came up with some very good reports. The reports were given to the minister to serve as guides for legislation that could have been quickly passed.
One of those reports was “Citizenship Revocation: A Question of Due Process and Respecting Charter Rights”. That report was unanimously adopted without debate in this chamber. All Progressive Conservative members on the committee voted unanimously in favour of it. We also came up with another report “Updating Canada's Citizenship Laws: It's Time”. I am pleased to say that the report received unanimous support from the committee. All Conservative members voted in favour of it.
That committee operated in a fairly non-partisan fashion. Once in a while we had flare-ups, but that was expected. We usually reserved those for the House.
The need for a new Citizenship Act has been highlighted by what has been happening with the issue of lost Canadians and the debate that has gone on. Every member of the committee knew we had a problem in this area. It should have come as no surprise that with the new passport requirements people suddenly found out they were not citizens. We heard extensively from various lost Canadians.
We heard extensively from people like Mr. Joe Taylor, the son of a Canadian veteran who fought for this country in the second world war to protect our democracy. The birthright of that veteran's child was denied because of discriminatory clauses in the 1946 Citizenship Act, which unfortunately were not corrected in the 1977 Citizenship Act. Mr. Taylor's case is really tragic because he is the son of a Canadian veteran and his birthright was being denied. Wrongfully, the department denied him citizenship, so Mr. Taylor took the department to court.
On September 1, Mr. Taylor won his case. A judge ruled that discriminating against people because they were born out of wedlock is not permitted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The judge also ruled that withdrawing citizenship because of an obscure notice in the Citizenship Act that the person would not be aware of offends section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
During that month the government got rid of the court challenges program. That led to people or groups who needed to fight for their rights under the charter could only do it if they could raise the money.
I am going to get very partisan about this. Access to justice should not depend on the size of one's pocketbook and whether or not one can afford a lawyer. Access to protecting one's charter rights should be available to every Canadian. It is a basic human right as far as I am concerned. Getting rid of the court challenges program means that those who want justice and need to go to the Supreme Court had better have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to get there.
Mr. Taylor's situation was so unnecessary. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Joe Taylor's father for fighting for this country and fighting for democracy in the second world war. That was just one of the cases.
There are Canadians who have lived in Canada all their lives but who were born in the U.S. because their parents happened to live close to the American border and their parents did not have access to a Canadian hospital. There are thousands of people in that situation.
There is a situation that I am aware of, and the committee will be aware of when it holds its hearings, where three siblings are getting citizenship under section 5(4) and the government is trying to deport the fourth sibling. Why? Because the individual has a criminal record.
Members know how hard I fought in this House against citizenship revocation because it does not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just as it is wrong for a minister and politicians to revoke somebody's citizenship, which is an incredible abuse of process, an incredible abuse of the charter, it is also wrong for a minister to be able to grant citizenship. Citizenship should be prescribed by law. It is in legislation. A person who meets the requirements should get it. The thought of a minister handing out tens of thousands of citizenship certificates boggles the mind.
We are not dealing with difficult legislation. Other countries have gone through it. Australia is going through it. Trinidad went through it. Trinidad made a simple amendment and, lo and behold, the sky did not fall. They were not sued for billions of dollars. They essentially said that if someone's citizenship was revoked by an essentially ridiculous, discriminatory piece of legislation, then it would be restored and it would be restored to the time that the person lost it.
We have a piece of legislation that discriminates against religious marriages. I find this passing strange coming from the Conservatives, but essentially that is what it is. There are Mennonites who married in religious ceremonies in Mexico or Paraguay and failed to have a civil wedding to go along with it. This involves thousands of people, and we will hear evidence on that. Their offspring are considered to be born out of wedlock. Do people find it shocking? I do. That has to be changed. Here we are, discriminating against religious marriages. Religious marriages are guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I am hoping that the government will come together with the rest of the committee and the opposition parties. In a very non-partisan fashion we can produce a citizenship act that will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the charter, the 30th anniversary of the 1977 act and the 60th anniversary of the 1947 act.
Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
October 21st, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC
Mr. Speaker, in this House, not a day goes by that the merits of democracy are not praised, and rightly so.
In the name of democracy, we exchange ideas, we debate social issues and we legislate. In this whole process, there are rules to be followed that our legislators have set out and that we must abide by. We can decide together to change some standards, since nothing is permanent. But this must be done in accordance with the system in which we live.
Can we decide to change the rules to accommodate just one person? I doubt that very much, and I will take the few minutes I have to show that the purpose of Bill C-49 is not to further the public's general interests, but only to look after the interests of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
First, for those who have just joined us, I want to say what the debate is all about. After each decennial census, the House of Commons reviews the number of its members according to the Canadian population. After numerous steps and consultations, a representation order is proclaimed to confirm the new electoral boundaries. However, the legislation provides that the coming into force of the new electoral map cannot occur less than a year following the proclamation date. Why this time frame? Although the government tries to pretend that this is just a formality to accommodate the Chief Electoral Officer, it is much more complicated.
When, as representatives of the people of our respective ridings, we have the interests of fellow citizens and respect for democracy at heart, we cannot proceed without the required formalism. We are the first ones to deplore the lower voter turnout, to deplore the lack of interest for politics.
Is it possible that we are prepared to effect major changes, so major that some people's ridings will disappear—as is the case for Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and Mauricie—without even taking the time to provide the public with proper information on the impact of these changes? This is where we have a major disagreement with the government. Here, as in many other areas, what is worth doing is worth doing right.
The present time frame in this bill makes it possible to do as I am doing at this time in my own riding, that is to inform people of the changes being made and what to expect when the next election is called. People need to feel that we have taken the necessary time to keep them informed and have not rushed to push through at top speed the election of the future crowned head of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals claim the purpose of what they are doing is to reflect as well as possible the new demographic realities. That is not where we have a problem; it is with the government trying to convince us of the urgency to do something. That is why we have no choice but to denounce this as false.
The last federal election was held in November 2000, which means that the government has until November 2005 under the law to call people back to the polls.
Since the order on the new electoral boundaries was issued on August 25, 2003, this leaves us until August 25, 2004 for the new electoral map to take effect. From August 2004 to November 2005 is more than a year. The government can very easily leave the legislation as it is, and call an election after August 25, 2004. That is, moreover, what logic would dictate, because it would allow Parliament to make progress on some very important matters that have, unfortunately, been at a standstill since the Prime Minister's announcement during the summer of 2002 of his intention to retire in February 2004. Everyone knows that the candidate for his position is the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, whose coronation, nothing more than a formality, will take place in November.
I will digress for a moment to talk about this famous convention to be held in November, and the way the government has been paralyzed for more than a year now. Hon. members are aware that rumours abound in the best of families, in the most respectable of circles. The Parliament of Canada is no exception.
Although I am aware that rumours must not be given more credence than they deserve, I would still like our audience to know about the most persistent rumour that is going around the Hill at this time. It is obvious that the government does not know which way to turn, with a present PM and a future PM both around.
The members opposite would have a hard time telling us with a straight face which one of the two caucus meetings is the most important: the one organized by the member for LaSalle—Émard or the one organized by the member for Saint-Maurice, the present and real prime minister. This is why it is rumoured that Parliament could adjourn as early as November 7 until February. That is right, February. Because of an ambiguous situation, a clear lack of leadership and a childish fight for power, Parliament could recess for several months, leaving a lot of work undone. And if an election is called after that for the spring, we might as well give the Liberal government's score for its third mandate right away. The result will be quite simple. Nobody will ever forget it. Efforts: zero. Work: zero. Listening to the people: zero. Accomplishments: zero. In short, the Liberal government's global score on ten points will be zero, four times over.
But let us get back to the issue at hand. We were saying that this future prime minister should take office in February 2004. Is it really that urgent to call an election right away? There is no doubt that this is what he wants to do, since his friends and supporters are already working to pave the way for him, for instance by promoting Bill C-49. Why does the government feel it has to adopt an act before the new electoral boundaries take effect? Did it get confirmation that the member for LaSalle—Émard intends to call an election for the spring, only three years and a bit into its current mandate?
Parliament is neither a place for reflection nor a portrait gallery of former prime ministers. We are here to legislate on important issues. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, of which I am a member, is currently considering Bill C-18 on citizenship. This is the government's third attempt since 1977 to modernize the Citizenship Act. Many witnesses have appeared for the third time before the committee due to the prorogation of work and election calls. This time, the committee has reached clause by clause consideration. Things are plodding along: slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes. However, there is nothing to indicate that we will be able to complete work on Bill C-18 once again, particularly since we have had to put it on hold to consider the thrilling idea of a national identity card.
If the future prime minister decides to call a spring election, Parliament will be prorogued, and all our work will be abandoned. What credibility will this Parliament have when we need to call witnesses for a fourth time and start all over again? Will they trust our wish to move on this? With Bill C-49, we risk once again playing the fools, and it comes down to this institution's credibility.
That is the danger with this bill. It is much more than simply advancing the effective date of the new electoral map. It is about respecting people.
By considering an election call in the spring of 2004, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard is saying that he is not bothered by such considerations. Voters who brought in a majority Liberal government in November 2000 expect more from him. The change in leadership will not change this government. It is the same party with the same members. Under the new prime minister, the government will still be formed by members of the Liberal Party of Canada, as per our democracy. It is and will be merely a continuation, no matter what that 65-year-old greenhorn would have us believe, in his attempt to personify renewal. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard should not count his chickens yet; everyone will remember that he was one of the key players in this government over the past ten years. We do not need to be fortune tellers to know that this is not the coming of the messiah.
We still have to wonder why the future prime minister is so eager to call an early election. Instead, he should use the next few months to show Canadians how his government would be different. If he were not afraid to show his true colours, he would not be concerned that a few months would cost him a lot of seats in the House of Commons.
He is also showing a total lack of leadership. He is trying to avoid setting up a ministerial team and, in doing so, alienating some of his partisans, and that could cost him dearly in the next election.
Election organization is usually partisan in nature. There is however one basic fact that is really crucial to proper elections. I am talking about the administrative structure that ensures the proper enforcement of the Elections Act, including the role played by the returning officers, the ROs.
Raising the number of federal ridings from 301 to 308 will not be done without some major changes to the boundaries. When the boundaries are changed, the mandates of the ROs are over. New returning officers will have to be appointed, based on their knowledge of the law and their judgment—meaning their respect for democracy. Once the ROs are appointed, they will need to be trained and given the necessary tools to properly enforce the law. Support staff will then have to be trained, polling divisions will have to be set up, polling stations accessible to everyone, including the handicapped, will have to be located, and the list of duties to carry out goes on and on.
Reducing the time set aside to complete the electoral administrative process is deliberately choosing amateurism and a “who cares” attitude. As a matter of fact, with Bill C-49, it is “who cares as long as we win as soon as possible”.
The opposition parties have grown accustomed to seeing the government call general elections after only three years and a bit, even though it is a blatant waste of time, energy and, mostly, public money. By the way, do you know that the last federal election, which took place in November 2000, cost taxpayers close to $250 million? As a matter of fact, in 2004, it will be the fourth election since 1993 for a total of about one billion dollars. With four elections in eleven years, when traditionally there is one election every four years, one does not need to be an accountant to realize that we have had one too many under the Liberal regime. It is high time we looked at fixed election dates.
We are all ready to face the music should the next election campaign take place in the spring of 2004. However, we are no fools and we know full well that an election campaign is not something you plan on a paper napkin between the aperitif and the crème brûlée. To be well structured and more than smoke and mirrors and a litany of empty promises, something the party in power is so good at, a campaign must be carefully orchestrated. The stakes are huge and the challenges many.
First, each party must have enough time to make people understand the true choices as well as the ins and outs of the various stakeholders' positions. To do this effectively, political parties must rely on a proven and well thought out platform. That is done in cooperation with party members and in consultation with a number of social players in order to clearly reflect the needs of the people.
However, it is an entirely different story when it comes to the Liberal Party of Canada, which is not in the habit of consulting the public, let alone listening to and following up on their concerns. Nevertheless, for anyone who truly has the public's interests at heart, this process should be given the time it needs and not be rushed in a moment of defiance for purely electoral considerations.
The other challenge is to have the opportunity to oppose ideas and hold real debates that rise above the ongoing partisan trench wars. To do so, political parties have to rely on the mobilization of their members and try to convince those less inclined to support them so that their view is at least considered. If the campaign is organized on a whim, or a power trip, then some groups risk being left out in the cold. What do we stand to gain as a society if our government represents only a very select part of the electorate? The answer is obvious.
The organizational side of things is nothing without the many people who become actively involved during the election. And most volunteers do not come knocking at the door.
Hundreds, even thousands of people across Canada have to be recruited for this undertaking to run smoothly. These are people who, through their work, foster the emergence of a political conscience and sense of social duty. If we want to have a higher turnout than in previous years, then we must ensure that these volunteers do not feel rushed by a last minute deadline. Without their invaluable support, rest assured that voter turnout will decline at an even more alarming rate than we have seen over the past few years.
Among all these challenges, the greatest remains that of convincing the public that politics is much more than what they read in the paper or see on television.
Beyond partisanship, political power is the source of the major policy thrusts are made. Is this an issue so insignificant that a handful of elected members can decide to call an early election to serve their own personal interests? I think that our duty goes way beyond such considerations. Can we accept a voter turnout of about 60% in a so-called democratic society such as ours? I for one am not satisfied with that; in fact, it is a source of serious concern for me.
Can we ignore the fact that people are losing interest in politics while major debates are taking place? Let us look at issues on which the involvement and interest of the public are crucial. Should same-sex marriage be allowed? Should we have a national identity card? Should abortion rights be challenged? Should the federal government recognize its responsibility in the fiscal imbalance experienced by Quebec and the other provinces of Canada?
All of these issues concern the public. Public participation is important at election time, so that these topics can be discussed and voters can make informed decisions regarding the party they want to put into office. It is up to us to ensure that the public feels concerned by these issues and by our work.
However, it is difficult to ask people to become actively involved and make themselves heard in an election campaign when at the same time we are trying to pull a fast one on them.
It has been demonstrated that Bill C-49 is futile. By moving up the effective date of the new electoral map, we are denying the pulbic the right to be properly informed about the changes that will take place at the next election.
In closing, allow me to make a final prediction: if under the guise of showing respect to the public the government gives it a slap in the face and shows it contempt, rest assured the public will remember come election day. Unfortunately, this could result in aneven lower voter turnout than in the 2000 election. No one will be a winner, especially not democracy.
Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
October 21st, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
We should make it perfectly clear that the bill is not about boundary changes for the upcoming election. It is about pushing the date for the boundary changes up to an earlier date, from August 25 of next year to April 1 of next year.
For our viewing audience, I would like to give some background information.
On September 15 the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons introduced legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries generated by the recently completed electoral redistribution process.
The new electoral boundaries were proclaimed on August 25, 2003, but, under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, they would not take effect until the first dissolution of Parliament occurring at least one year after proclamation, i.e., August 25, 2004.
As we have heard, the rumour is that the House may dissolve itself as early as November 7.
By virtue of the proposed legislation, this one year grace period would be shortened. The new boundaries set out in the 2003 representation order would now be enforced upon the first dissolution of Parliament occurring on or after April 1, 2004.
The April 1, 2004 date was selected following the public statement of the Chief Electoral Officer that he could be operationally ready to proceed with the new boundaries as of that date.
I raise the question, as other members already have this morning in the House, what is the rush? Why are we rushing ahead to move the date up to April 1, 2004?
There is no doubt that the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party is anxious and wants to call a quick early election, just like our current Prime Minister did in the last election in 2000.
Before the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party calls an election, Canadians need to find out who the man is. The only way that can be done is to actually have the next leader of the Liberal Party stand in the House and answer some very hard, serious questions. I am sure Canadians from coast to coast to coast would be interested to know what kind of person will be leading the Liberal Party in the next election.
As we know a lot of questions have been raised in the House about some of the past history of the former minister of finance and the dealings of his former company, CSL. People need to know whether he paid his share of Canadian taxes and whether his companies received grants that were really made up of Canadian tax dollars. We need to know whether he operated above board and in a transparent manner. The position of a prime minister is very important. He is the leader of the country. Besides that, there is plenty of time to have a fall election after the boundaries legislation comes into effect on August 25, 2004.
I came here in 1997, as did many members in the House, and since that date we have had two elections in the course of those six years. My understanding, according to the rules of operation, is that the mandate of any government is five years. Roughly, we have had a mandate plus one year and we have had two federal elections. Every time we have an election it costs the taxpayers a lot of money.
Maybe there is some rationale for fixed terms. Every four years on a set date the electorate would go to the polls so we would not have this manipulation of the system. Bill C-49 is a good example of manipulating the timelines and the dates as to when one can have an election. I do not think Canadians are looking for that. They are not looking for governments of the day to waste tax dollars.
This is not the first time that governments, certainly this Liberal government, have attempted to block riding changes. Just to recollect, this is not the first time the Liberals have moved to alter the date on which redistribution takes effect. Unlike their two previous attempts, this bill advances rather than delays the new boundaries. It is rather ironic. This one actually advances the changes; the previous attempts have wanted to delay changes.
In February 1994 many Liberal backbenchers objected when they saw the proposed new maps that followed the 1991 census. Their response was Bill C-18, which would have thrown out the work already done and suspended the redistribution process for two years. The end result would have been for the 1997 general election to be fought on boundaries drawn up after the 1981 census, some 16 years prior.
At the time, the Progressive Conservative Party had sufficient numbers in the Senate to amend Bill C-18. The suspension period was reduced to one year from two. The boundaries commissions were allowed to complete their current phase of their work. After one year the boundaries commissions could continue their work from the point where it was suspended. The end result was that Bill C-18 could not kill redistribution and that an election call in 1997 would have to be fought on boundaries drawn on the basis of the 1991 census.
The Liberals tried again in 1995 with Bill C-69. That bill died on the Order Paper when Progressive Conservative senators insisted on a proper examination of the bill and its related issues in committee.
While we are talking about boundary changes, let me make some comments about boundary changes. There is no doubt that boundary changes are always good news because the country changes, the population base changes and demographics change from province to province. The current change is good news for the west because B.C. and Alberta will get more seats. In central Canada Ontario will get more seats.
In other words, I guess it is an advantage to grow one's province on a population basis, to have more babies. Maybe we need to go back to the plan that Quebec used to have to give grants to families to have more kids. Maybe it would be a good program for all of Canada because we know that one deficit in our country is people. That is why our immigration numbers have increased substantially. Perhaps we could do more to increase our own numbers in the country through birth.
On the subject of boundaries, there are two issues I would like to bring up. They are the changes to the boundaries relative to size and population base. It is a world phenomenon that people are moving from rural areas to urban areas. Not only is it happening in this country but it is happening around the world. That is going to create problems for ridings in our country that are very rural in nature. I noticed that with some of the boundaries that have changed there seems to an access to large urban centres in most areas. I suppose that eventually the population base in the rural areas will be outnumbered and outvoted by the folks in the city. I suppose that is inevitable with the change in demographics.
One thing I would like to say is that there are also limits to boundary changes in terms of geography. I know that many of the rural ridings which are very rural in Canada have no option except to get bigger. My own riding of Dauphin—Swan River is going to annex, I believe, another two municipalities to the riding and it is already over 200 miles long and over 100 miles wide. The question that needs to be raised is just how much space and population can one member of Parliament serve?
Already my riding has five provincial constituencies in it. Whenever I leave home it takes literally half a day sitting in my vehicle to get from place to place. I am wasting half the day if I am driving. I am fortunate enough that during the summer I can hop in my airplane and fly around the riding, but most people do not have that access.
Again we need to look at service. In Dauphin--Swan River I have eight satellite offices. I have eight offices in the riding and a staff of 11, but most members do not do that. I am very blessed with good staff and they do a great job. In other words, it is about serving the public but there are still limitations to that, not only on the geographic side but also on the dollar side. It costs money to provide service and that is an issue that needs to be raised.
Another thing with which I have a concern, like many MPs in the House, is the names that will come with the changes in the boundaries. At House leaders meetings there have been lists of submissions from members of Parliament who want the names changed to reflect the ridings. I agree that the members do know best, not a commission that was established because of politics. Members know the history of their ridings.
For example, originally my own riding was two federal ridings. One was called Marquette and the other was Dauphin--Swan River. The problem with the boundary change was that they forgot about Marquette which is of huge historical significance to the riding. Marquette was one of the first French explorers to explore that part of the country. Southwestern Manitoba at one time was known by Marquette. I believe that Joliet and Marquette explored the headwaters of the Mississippi right down to the mouth of the Mississippi. It is very important to the folks who now encompass the south half of my riding. They want the name Marquette put back where it rightfully should be.
I hope that through Bill C-51 all the name changes that have been proposed will be put back where they should be.
Let me close by saying that we as a party support the bill. We do not support this great rush to change the dates to give the new leader of the Liberal Party the option of calling a snap election anytime he wishes after April 1. Canadians deserve better.
Canadians need time in the House to find out just exactly who this new leader of the Liberal Party will be. To be fair to Canadians, I believe that the date of August 25 should remain. In any case, Bill C-51 talks about the name changes submitted by the members of the House. We support the bill. We will certainly vote in support of the bill, but we are not very happy about the intent of this bill.
Private Members' Business
June 10th, 2003 / 6:50 p.m.
Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC
Madam Speaker, Bill C-343, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, will make it easier for lost Canadians to regain their Canadian citizenship, as they would no longer have to be established as a permanent resident in order to do so.
The bill deals with the resumption of citizenship for people who lost their Canadian citizenship as minors between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977, when the responsible parent ceased to be a Canadian by becoming a citizen of another country.
Let me remind hon. members that we are referring to people who were born in Canada and therefore by birthright are Canadian citizens. Bill C-18, the new citizenship legislation, proposes that the residency requirement be modified to give the applicant flexibility in the time available to meet the requirement, and that the applicant must be physically present in Canada for 365 days out of the two years preceding the application. This is the third attempt by the government to modernize the 1977 act. Changes to the Citizenship Act on February 15, 1977, such as allowing dual citizenship, were not retroactive to the already lost Canadians.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's press release on May 14 of this year stated “normal selection criteria for permanent residence will be waived for these individuals”. The press release went on to say that “an exemption from the medical inadmissibility requirement related to an excessive demand on the health care system be granted to these people”.
The point still remains that a minor child who was born in Canada, who was a Canadian citizen, who moved with the parent to another country between 1947 and 1977, and whose parent became a citizen of that other country, should not have lost his or her citizenship in the first place. It was the responsible parent who became a citizen of another country, not the child.
Lost Canadians still have to pay the same fees as others applying and have to reside in Canada for one year within the two year time frame. Why? They did not ask for, nor did they obtain citizenship in another country. Their parent did.
My Bill C-343 would correct an injustice that should have been resolved when the Citizenship and Immigration Act was replaced in 1977, which allowed dual citizenship. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, dual citizenship allowed in 1977 was not retroactive. Bill C-343 would amend the existing act to recognize Canadian-born children who left this country between 1946 and 1977 as still being Canadians.
In conclusion, Bill C-343 should be incorporated into Bill C-18, the citizenship of Canada act, to correct historic wrongs and bring the 2003 act up to current morals and standards of what it means to be a Canadian.
Let us please pass this bill and finally welcome home our lost Canadians and allow them to reclaim the birthright they should not have lost as children through no fault of their own.
June 5th, 2003 / 10:35 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to respond to the statements made by the Solicitor General on the question of national security, and the report that is being tabled in the House.
First off, the NDP has been a party in this Parliament that has stood up time and again to speak out and express what I think are the really very deep concerns of Canadians around issues of security as well as the increasing use of very substantive strong legislative powers, such as Bill C-36, which go far beyond the purview of dealing with security and which move us into the environment of fundamental civil liberties, a right to privacy and respect for the rights of individuals.
In our party, our former House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, our former justice critic, our current justice critic, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, as well as the member for Windsor—St. Clair, in fact all of us in our caucus, have really monitored and analyzed the government's performance and progress or lack thereof on the issue of national security.
Since the passage of Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation, in December 2001, we have had increasing concerns about what is happening as a result of this legislation, as well as other legislation that has been approved and is currently in the process of being debated, legislation such as Bill C-17, the public safety act which is currently before the House and Bill C-18, the new citizens act. What holds these pieces of legislation together is they all contain extraordinary powers that when used by organizations like CSIS or the RCMP, can fundamentally violate the rights of individual Canadians.
While the minister has said today that there is a threat against Canada in terms of terrorism, it is most important that we ensure the war on terrorism does not also become a war on targeted minorities, especially those Canadians of Middle Eastern background or from the Muslim community.
We have been monitoring various cases that have taken place in Canada. We are very aware of the fact that there has been an increase in problems at border crossings for Canadians. They are being held up, being fingerprinted, having mug shots taken and being turned back. We are seeing an increase of racial profiling take place.
The whole question of the harmonization of our borders with the U.S. under the guise of security is something that should be of deep concern to us. One of the fundamental problems is whether we have adequate civilian oversight in terms of what is taking place as a result of this legislation being implemented and others that are now about to be approved through the House.
Even over the last few days, in the House of Commons in question period, the Solicitor General has been questioned by members of the opposition, including our party, about the role that CSIS has played. While in his statement today the minister claims that this department acts in full cooperation with all other federal departments, clearly what is coming out of the trial which is underway in Vancouver on the Air India case are some very serious questions about the lack of cooperation and the territorialism between the RCMP and CSIS.
We have a very significant concern about the nature of the work of CSIS as it is implemented as a result of legislation like Bill C-36, and who is actually protecting the civil liberties of Canadians.
I notice that today in the minister's statement that he barely mentioned that element. It seems to us that this is a fundamental question which the government needs to monitor in terms of, as he himself has argued today in the House, legislation that has incredibly strong powers.
We want to know why the Solicitor General is not taking the necessary steps to ensure there is proper civilian oversight of Canada's secret police. We want to know why there is not adequate civilian oversight on legislation like Bill C-36. We want to know how groups can be added to lists and yet there is not adequate disclosure for the reasons behind it.
However the biggest concern we have and one which has been expressed by many Canadians is that the legislation would create a political and social environment where people become suspect on the basis of how they look, where they come from or what their religion is.
I see the Solicitor General smiling at this but this is a very serious question. We have cases in Canada, such as the case of Mohamed Harkat who has been in jail since December 2002. We have the case of Mahmoud Jaballah who has been in jail since August 2001 on the basis of security certificates. A couple of cases were recently shut down by a judge as not having merit.
Today I will be going to the citizenship committee where we are beginning clause by clause debate on Bill C-18 where the use of security certificates will now be extended into possible use against citizens. The net is widening and the powers are widening and it is done, we hear from the government, on the basis of protecting Canadian security.
What about the protections of our democratic rights? Who in the government, what agency, what body is providing that kind of accountability so Canadians can be assured that the legislation, which was previously approved, does not go so far down the road that we have fundamentally changed the nature of our society?
We appreciate the fact that the report has been tabled today but we want to say in response that we have deep fears and concerns about the report, about the powers that have been given to CSIS and other law enforcement agencies, and about the continual undermining and erosion of democratic rights and civil liberties in the country based on the guise of security. This is something that we will continue to speak out on in the House to ensure that the government is held to account.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 2nd, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
Julian Reed Halton, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud member of the Parliament of Canada, a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of Canada as the head of state. Today is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of our Queen.
It gave me no pleasure to vote against Bill C-25 last week, the proposed public service modernization act. I did so for one reason only and it was because the oath of allegiance to our monarch has been removed. I find the continuing erosion of our constitutional monarchy, the finest form of governance on the face of the earth, completely unacceptable.
I would like to remind the President of the Treasury Board that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has declared that the proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 will retain a pledge of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. In fact, it would read:
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.
I am in no way opposed to the idea of reforming the public service. I am opposed to the chipping away at the basis of our institutional framework. It is a slippery slope and I fear that, after one little chip here and one little chip there, in 20 or 50 years the bedrock of the Canadian system will be gone and we will pretend not to know how it happened.
The constitutional monarchy is part of our Constitution, history and heritage. I remind all members that the head of state of Canada is the Queen of Canada. When public servants swear their oath to the Queen, our head of state, they are swearing it to Canada. The oath does not involve the Queen in her personal capacity but rather as the symbol of our country, our Constitution and our traditions. Some might argue that the monarchy is no longer relevant, but I fail to see how it could not be relevant. As members of Parliament, we take the oath, which reads:
I [full name of member] do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Without taking the oath, we cannot even take our place in the House.
Public servants hold positions of public trust. By taking an oath, they are pledging to conduct themselves in the best interests of the country. It reminds the person taking the oath of the serious obligations and responsibilities that he or she is assuming. Not for a minute am I suggesting that Canada has some kind of backward colonial mentality. I would argue that the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty serves a useful function in three ways.
First, it reaffirms to the public servant that responsibility and accountability are vertical concepts. The authority of a public servant derives from the Queen. There is a vertical chain of command that must be respected in the form of advice that makes its way up through the ranks to Her Majesty or representative, and in the form of orders and instructions that must be executed that make their way down through the ranks. Public servants are ultimately accountable to the Crown, not just the public, the minister or their manager.
Second, the oath of office is an important initiation ceremony. Just as we ask new citizens to take the oath, we ask those who wish to join our legal and administrative institutions to make a personal commitment by taking the oath. Third, by removing the oath of allegiance the basic framework of our system of government is undermined. Only last year the Department of Canadian Heritage, through the golden jubilee celebrations, played a terrific role in filling the gaps in our knowledge and appreciation of our distinct constitutional heritage.
Allow me to remind the House what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said when she launched the federal golden jubilee initiatives. She said:
Fifty years after her accession to the throne, Elizabeth II remains a symbol of continuity, stability and tradition in a world that is under a barrage of constant change. Canadians of my generation have known only a single sovereign, faithful and loyal to our people.
The Queen and the heritage she gives to us is not just a part of our past but part of our common future. As a mature country, we do not need to break our ties with the past. The oath of allegiance fulfills an important function. We should take this opportunity to send this back to the committee so it can be reconsidered for the sake of consistency with the member's oath and with other government bills, like Bill C-18, which expressly mentions Her Majesty in the oath. It is unfortunate that that will not happen now.
The Ottawa Citizen is against dropping the oath of allegiance. An editorial on February 17 stated:
The monarchy is symbolic of the continuity of Canada's constitutional government, and the Queen is our head of state. It's not too much to ask that those who choose to serve the public be reminded of that by having to swear allegiance to Her Majesty.
Let me remind my Alliance colleagues across the floor what the member for St. Albert said:
At the same time, if our public servants are not required to swear to the head of state that they would execute their office to the best of their ability, then what are we as a country?
I would also like to remind the members of the fourth party in the House what their leader, who was then the member for Calgary Centre, wrote to a concerned Canadian, “I can assure you that I and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada remain firm in our support of the Canadian constitutional structure and our support for the monarchy. The Queen, and indeed the entire monarchy, represent an important foundation of Canadian tradition and heritage, and have contributed to our country's formation and development in countless ways”.
I expect then that they would be concerned with the dropping of the oath of allegiance from Bill C-25 and would support returning it to committee for further consideration.
In these politically fractious times it is important that our civil service remain beyond the fray, always providing Parliament with the non-partisan professionalism that is renown around the world. As my friend from the NDP, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said:
[The Queen] symbolizes for many the merits of a constitutional monarchy in which the head of state...is separate and apart from the ongoing political struggles of the day.
It is a significant reminder to us in the House that politicians will come and go, but Parliament and the public service will remain. Swearing the oath of allegiance is an important reminder to our civil service. It is a symbol of the requirement for serving to the utmost of their abilities in the best interests of Canada.
There is talk about adopting principles to provide a framework for the public service. There were amendments to make the values upon which human resource management is based more explicit. Amendments to commit to transparency, linguistic duality, and the strengthening of the merit principle are all good things, but in modernizing the public service let us not throw away things that actually work, like the oath to our head of state.
As the public service moves from a rules based system to a value based system, it is important to have an organizational culture that articulates and lives the principles that are the basis of its everyday work. At the same time, the oath is an important symbol of initiation into that culture, and a personal and moral obligation to work to the best of one's ability.
The House does not have the opportunity to act and take responsibility for the legislation proposed by the government because of the motion now on the floor by the member for Ottawa—Vanier.
I thank God there is the other place where amendments may be made in sober second thought and I pray that never again will we find our constitutional monarchy diminished or otherwise altered without full national debate. Let this mischief be now ended.
Statements By Members
May 13th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.
Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Madam Speaker, terrorism has struck at the heart of the Middle East once again. This time al-Qaeda is responsible for bombing four separate housing and commercial complexes in Saudi Arabia.
This is the type of event that distresses my brothers and sisters in the Islamic Canadian community to the core.
Just this morning I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Arab community concerned about the government's overreaction to these type of events here at home.
Since 9/11 Canadian Muslims have felt that they have been unfairly targeted by initiatives such as the Anti-terrorism Act and now Bill C-18.
The Canadian Alliance has tried to be responsive to those people in the Islamic community who have had their lives turned upside down by efforts to improve security. We recognize the problems that Arab Canadians have faced when travelling outside of Canada and we condemn all discrimination based upon country of origin.
We must all work together to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of race or country of origin, are treated equally and fairly under the law.
Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business
May 7th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON
moved that Bill C-408, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud Canadian member of Parliament. I have the pleasure to present Bill C-408 which aims to modify the swearing of allegiance by members of Parliament.
As we all know, when elected to the House of Commons, members must swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. The present oath reads:
I, ...., do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
I propose that henceforth newly elected members of Parliament be asked to add to the swearing of allegiance to the Queen the following affirmation:
I, ..., do swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly.
I am proud to say that I myself have made this added affirmation the last three times I was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1993, 1997 and 2000. I encouraged my colleagues from various parties to do the same. To my pride and joy a great number of newly elected members from various parties followed suit, and I wish to applaud and thank them today.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in declaring that the new proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 would include a pledge of allegiance by new Canadians, not only to Her Majesty the Queen, but also a pledge of allegiance to Canada. I find this to be an addition that depicts a more realistic view of Canadian values.
We as members of Parliament have an obligation to our constituents and to all Canadians to affirm our loyalty to Canada and, I would add, perhaps even to its Constitution. It is not just a principle of patriotism, it is a principle of accountability. I know of no members in the House who would deny their sense of obligation and accountability to the community they represent.
It is a matter of patriotism, pride, and accountability. We live in a country we are all proud to call home, one which, ever since its early days, has distinguished itself by an impressive series of achievements, both internationally and nationally. This is a great country in which to live, a country where hundreds of thousands of people looking for a new life settle every year.
I do not think it is necessary to point out the merits of Canada or the respect we owe to our country. I am sure that my hon. colleagues in this House share my sense of pride in being representatives of the people in the House of Commons.
The Canadian public itself certainly seems to feel this national pride. According to Statistics Canada's 2001 census, when asked to identify their ethnic origin, more than 11 million citizens indicated Canadian; that is more than any other possible nationality, and this of a total population of approximately 31 million.
This tendency on the part of citizens to identify themselves as Canadians has increased since the 1996 census, when 8 million citizens indicated Canadian. This is happening across Canada.
Until then, citizens were more likely to refer to their English or French, Irish or Italian origins, to give just a few examples. Clearly, the population of Canada is undergoing change and continuing to grow.
We must lead the way in reconciling modern and historical Canada. I insist that my bill in no way diminishes the importance of Her Majesty the Queen. To swear allegiance to Canada and its Constitution is consistent with today's reality and the current wishes of Canadians, without losing sight of our history and traditions. The new oath would simply be in addition to the oath of allegiance to the Queen.
This private member's bill in no way negates or removes our allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. Our parliamentary monarchy is part of our Canadian Constitution, our Canadian history, and our Canadian heritage. Even if I intended to remove the Queen from our swearing of allegiance, which is not the case, we in the House know that the Constitution cannot be amended by Parliament alone without the consent of the provinces and the territories.
It is not my intention to embark on such a course. My proposed oath of solemn affirmation to Canada would be but an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, not the Constitution, and is therefore in proper order. This affirmation comes as an addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen and is in no way an attempt to diminish Her Majesty's role in Canada.
The Canada of today has become a multicultural society, depicting citizens from all over the world and not just from Commonwealth countries. Amid this impressive mosaic, Canada, as a word, as a symbol, applies to everyone in the country regardless of geographic region, race or background. This is in large measure because Canadians feel an overriding sense of patriotic pride and a sense of belonging to this country of theirs.
Recently, while he was being sworn in, a new senator added the word “Canada”. This gave rise to a short debate in the other place, where it was decided that it might be desirable for everyone in Parliament to swear allegiance to Canada. This is interesting coming from the Senate.
I suggest to my hon. colleagues of the House of Commons that it is desirable that we go ahead, take the lead and not wait for the Senate to do so.
We can only benefit from an initiative showing our pride in and gratitude to a country that has given us so much happiness and good fortune.
The added affirmation that I am proposing today is not just a series of words or a patriotic cheer. It is a recognition of democracy and accountability. This is about what our actual form of government is all about. It is a representative democracy. We owe our allegiance and accountability to the people who elect us and who we represent. This is in accordance with democratic principles around the world.
Democratically elected officials in countries around the world swear allegiance to their countries and to the people they represent. Some will state that we are part of the British Commonwealth and that we should not include our sense of patriotism or accountability to our constituents when swearing allegiance. I would inform them that Jamaica, South Africa and India are but three examples of British Commonwealth countries that amended their oath to include their country. Many other British Commonwealth countries are also debating similar measures, such as Australia for example.
As members of Parliament, we have to recognize that we were elected by the people to represent their interests, their well-being and their concerns. We answer to Canadians at election time. We are accountable to the Canadians who elect us and who we represent. Let us make it official and further enhance the trust that Canadians have in their parliamentarians. As members of Parliament we owe our allegiance to Canada.
Vive le Canada.
Private Members' Business
April 7th, 2003 / noon
Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about some very important changes that the government is proposing to the Citizenship Act and to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-343, which was tabled by the member for Okanagan—Shuswap.
Our proposed Bill C-18 would give applicants, who want to resume their citizenship, flexibility in meeting the residence requirement. What is being proposed is that instead of being required to reside in Canada for a full year prior to application, as is the case in the current legislation, the applicant must be physically present in Canada for one out of the two years preceding application.
We in the governing party believe that it is very important to help people regain citizenship they have lost. From this perspective, we approve of the principles laid out in Bill C-343. They are the same as those found in the current Citizenship Act and in Bill C-18. It is perfectly natural that people who have lost their citizenship, especially if it happened when they were minors, would want to come back to our beautiful country and apply for citizenship. We have nothing against regaining citizenship; we support it. In fact, we believe that people who lost their citizenship when they were a minor and now want to demonstrate their commitment toward Canada by coming here and contributing to our society, should have the opportunity to regain their Canadian citizenship.
However, we cannot support the private member's bill before us today. It would require us to automatically grant citizenship, without taking into account the applicant's place of residence or commitment toward Canada.
Do members know what this would entail? Under Bill C-343, the government could be forced to grant citizenship to a person who left Canada at a young age and who has no intention of returning to live here. It could also force us to grant citizenship automatically, without taking into account whether or not someone has a criminal history, or the danger they could represent to public health here in Canada. And finally, Bill C-343 could require us to automatically grant citizenship to someone who may not have any other ties to Canada except for the circumstances of his or her birth.
I am pleased to report that our current and proposed legislation would allow us to carefully weigh commitment, health and security considerations while also facilitating the citizenship application process. Canada's current Citizenship Act allows former citizens to resume their Canadian citizenship. To qualify under the current Citizenship Act a person must demonstrate a commitment to Canada through residence. They must become a permanent resident under immigration law and must reside in Canada for one year immediately prior to making their citizenship application. Knowledge of Canada, the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship and one official language, however, are not requirements for resumption as they are for a regular adult grant of citizenship. The period of residence is also less; one year as opposed to three. Therefore the requirements are not onerous.
Furthermore, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows flexibility for permanent residents to retain their status while travelling and working outside of Canada. The residence requirement may be difficult for a person who must travel out of Canada regularly for employment or business purposes. Most former Canadians wishing to resume citizenship, however, intend to live in Canada and do not encounter difficulty with the requirement to live here for one year. Where a person is required to be away from Canada frequently, the legislation gives that person flexibility by requiring that he or she be present in Canada for 365 days out of two years.
The procedures in place are perfectly fair, and the courts have already confirmed this. We do not discriminate against anyone. By continuing along the course we have already laid out, we are guaranteeing Canadians a citizenship program that is just, effective and fair for many years to come.
I would like to state that the changes or modifications that are being brought to the Canadian Citizenship Act under Bill C-18, as it pertains to re-acquiring Canadian citizenship for those who lost it, particularly as minors, I believe is equitable, is efficient and addresses the fact that these individuals may have lost citizenship through no fault of their own. Therefore, they will not be put to the same requirement as a foreign national who wishes to come to Canada as a permanent resident and then wishes to become a citizen.
The requirements are much less onerous, much more generous and flexible.