Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Chris Alexander  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things, update eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, strengthen security and fraud provisions and amend provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions.

Amendments to the eligibility requirements include

(a) clarifying the meaning of being resident in Canada;

(b) modifying the period during which a permanent resident must reside in Canada before they may apply for citizenship;

(c) expediting access to citizenship for persons who are serving in, or have served in, the Canadian Armed Forces;

(d) requiring that an applicant for citizenship demonstrate, in one of Canada’s official languages, knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship;

(e) specifying the age as of which an applicant for citizenship must demonstrate the knowledge referred to in paragraph (d) and must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages;

(f) requiring that an applicant meet any applicable requirement under the Income Tax Act to file a return of income;

(g) conferring citizenship on certain individuals and their descendants who may not have acquired citizenship under prior legislation;

(h) extending an exception to the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent to children born to or adopted abroad by parents who were themselves born to or adopted abroad by Crown servants; and

(i) requiring, for a grant of citizenship for an adopted person, that the adoption not have circumvented international adoption law.

Amendments to the security and fraud provisions include

(a) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who are charged outside Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament or who are serving a sentence outside Canada for such an offence;

(b) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, while they were permanent residents, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring those persons from acquiring citizenship;

(c) aligning the grounds related to security and organized criminality on which a person may be denied citizenship with those grounds in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and extending the period during which a person is barred from acquiring citizenship on that basis;

(d) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, in the course of their application, misrepresent material facts and prohibiting new applications by those persons for a specified period;

(e) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after having been convicted of certain offences;

(f) increasing the maximum penalties for offences related to citizenship, including fraud and trafficking in documents of citizenship;

(g) providing for the regulation of citizenship consultants;

(h) establishing a hybrid model for revoking a person’s citizenship in which the Minister will decide the majority of cases and the Federal Court will decide the cases related to inadmissibility based on security grounds, on grounds of violating human or international rights or on grounds of organized criminality;

(i) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after their citizenship has been revoked;

(j) providing for the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens who, while they were Canadian citizens, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring these individuals from reacquiring citizenship; and

(k) authorizing regulations to be made respecting the disclosure of information.

Amendments to the provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions include

(a) requiring that an application must be complete to be accepted for processing;

(b) expanding the grounds and period for the suspension of applications and providing for the circumstances in which applications may be treated as abandoned;

(c) limiting the role of citizenship judges in the decision-making process, subject to the Minister periodically exercising his or her power to continue the period of application of that limitation;

(d) giving the Minister the power to make regulations concerning the making and processing of applications;

(e) providing for the judicial review of any matter under the Act and permitting, in certain circumstances, further appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal; and

(f) transferring to the Minister the discretionary power to grant citizenship in special cases.

Finally, the enactment makes consequential amendments to the Federal Courts Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 16, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • June 10, 2014 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
  • June 10, 2014 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
  • June 9, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
  • May 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
  • May 29, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, because it: ( a) does not provide an adequate solution for reducing citizenship application processing times, which have been steadily increasing; ( b) puts significant new powers in the hands of the Minister that will allow this government to politicize the granting of Canadian citizenship; ( c) gives the Minister the power to revoke citizenship, which will deny some Canadians access to a fair trial in Canada and will raise serious questions since Canadian law already includes mechanisms to punish those who engage in unlawful acts; and ( d) includes a declaration of intent to reside provision, which in fact gives officials the power to speculate on the intent of a citizenship applicant and then potentially deny citizenship based on this conjecture.”.
  • May 28, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to open debate on third reading on what members across the room and Canadians across the country have concluded is a long overdue updating of a great Canadian institution: citizenship. It is a good bill with a huge number of positive provisions that are going to give better service to permanent residents on their way to citizenship, to citizens themselves, and literally lift up to an even higher level the sense of pride that we all take in our citizenship as Canadians.

I would like to begin by thanking many of my colleagues who have laboured long and hard on this bill. That work began long before I occupied this portfolio. I would like to salute my colleague, the Minister of Employment and Social Development, who really brought this bill, in most respects, to its current stage, along with the parliamentary secretary, who has done fantastic work in committee and in the House, as well as many members of Parliament. The member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country did very important work on the issue of lost Canadians and on citizenship generally. The member for Calgary Northeast tapped in to a particular facet of that pride that Canadians take in their citizenship in introducing measures in this bill that would make sure that gross crimes of disloyalty, when committed by dual nationals, result in the revocation of citizenship.

In the time available to me, I would like to cover four items. I would first like to respond to the critics, those who have misunderstood the bill or disagreed with the bill in one way or another. We are listening. Second, I would like to talk about where this bill takes our citizenship in the 21st century, about what is at the core of the value of Canadian citizenship that is reinforced by this act. Then I would like to remind the House of the main aspects of the bill before concluding with some forward-looking comments about the impact that this renewed pride in citizenship can have on all of us across the country, but above all on young Canadians.

First, I will discuss the questions that have arisen in the media, in the House, and elsewhere about the bill. There have been a few lawyers and a few voices in the House questioning the need to require those applying for citizenship to declare their intent to reside. Subparagraph 3(1)(c)(i) of the bill asks that the applicant be required to intend, if granted, to continue to reside in Canada. Some have misunderstood this provision to mean that anyone applying for citizenship or seeking to meet the requirements of citizenship, which would be four years of residency out of six, must declare an intention to reside in Canada for the rest of their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth and those who have perpetrated this misunderstanding have simply not read the further paragraph, which is (2)(1.1), on page 12 of the bill as I have it printed. It states:

For the purposes of paragraphs (1)(c.1) and 11(1)(d.1), the person’s intention must be continuous from the date of his or her application until they have taken the oath of citizenship.

The intention to reside that we are requiring, which we wish had been required in the flawed 1977 version of this bill, relates to the period of physical presence in Canada, residency in Canada, required to become a citizen. That has always been a requirement to become a citizen for 100 years. It was in June 1914 when a five-year residency requirement was formally put in place. That was watered down by the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau in 1977. We think it merits an increase to four out of six years, but with a declaration of intent to fulfill this requirement.

Why is it important that we secure that declaration of intent? It is because, not just in Canada but around the world, many consultants and lawyers have sought to misrepresent this requirement and to argue that residency in Canada did not require a physical presence here, did not require the intent to actually be here. Hence, we have this large backlog of abuse that the RCMP is investigating, which may lead to revocation of citizenship. We need to send a clear message.

Henceforth, with the passage of this bill, residency will mean a physical presence in this country for four years out of six. We will require applicants to declare it over the period from the submission of their application to the day when they take the oath of citizenship.

Let me remind this House, nothing in those provisions constrains the mobility rights of either a permanent resident or a citizen. Someone can have the intent to reside, but then their plans change and they move elsewhere, not fulfilling the residency requirements for citizenship. They do not become a citizen, perhaps until later in their life. After they obtain citizenship, of course Canadians are free to do whatever they want as citizens.

Second, on revocation, it is extraordinary to us on this side, and I think it is extraordinary to Canadians, that so many opposition members would have expended so much breath opposing the revocation of a citizen, only of dual nationals, for crimes like terrorism, treason, taking up arms against the Canadian Forces, or espionage when we already revoke citizenship for much lesser crimes, such as the crime of having concealed a criminal record or having obtained citizenship fraudulently.

We take our responsibilities with regard to revocation extremely seriously. Every one of these cases of revocation involves judicial oversight, recourse to a court. There is judicial review available explicitly in the bill to every aspect of this bill. If citizenship is to be revoked based on a conviction for terrorism, a file would be prepared for the minister. The minister would review it. The person would be given notice and invited to make written submissions. There is provision for a hearing.

This review does not begin until a court has convicted the person of this crime. I do not need to remind members in this place of how few convictions, fortunately, happily, there are in Canada or of Canadians for these very serious crimes. These additional revocation provisions in this act are well understood by Canadians and well accepted.

With regard to membership in an armed group fighting the Canadian Forces, the minister would not be able to take any action without going to the Federal Court at the very outset, bringing facts and evidence that the Canadian citizen in question had been engaged in armed conflict, and satisfying the court that that was the case. That is the only way to even start this process. If the rules of evidence, or the case, is not strong enough, then it will not make it through the Federal Court and revocation will not take place.

These measures are being undertaken within the framework of our very robust judicial institutions, the rule of law in this country. Everyone should celebrate the fact that they will constitute a very profound deterrent, not just to younger generations, but to all Canadians, and a reminder that allegiance and loyalty to this country require that these grave crimes be avoided at all costs. When they are committed, they will be punished.

These were the two grave weaknesses of the 1977 act: the failure to obtain a declaration of intent to reside from applicants, and the neglect of issues of loyalty and allegiance.

Liberals did not make this mistake in their 1947 Citizenship Act that actually provided for these measures. Conservatives did not make these mistakes in our 1914 Naturalization Act, 100 years ago, which set us on the course toward the strong citizenship we have today.

Certainly our NATO allies, our closest partners in war and peacetime, the other leading democracies of this planet, have not at any time made this mistake. I remind this House there is only one NATO country, according to our analysis, that does not have revocation provisions equal to or more severe than the ones we are proposing in this bill.

Second, where is citizenship today in Canada? What would this bill give us, what would it strengthen for us that perhaps was not there before?

Here the key provision relates to residency, relates to the attachment, the connection, the experience of Canada that we are promoting with this bill, which heretofore newcomers to Canada have actually told us in large numbers was not strong enough. The knowledge test and the language test are part of that, but there is no substitute. All of us have heard from immigrants, newcomers, those looking for jobs, and those who started careers here, and those looking back on what their forebears went through that there is no substitute for direct experience of this country and that four years is a legitimate minimum for what that experience should be.

What happens to permanent residents and future Canadian citizens over those four years? They discover this country. They discover 10 million square kilometres. They discover its diversity. They discover how the rule of law works here. They discover our institutions. They discover why our economy is prosperous, why our agricultural sector is the third-largest in the world and why we have manufacturing and technology burgeoning in all parts of this country. And they find their path into that workforce, which need not just involve natural resources, manufacturing, or agriculture; it could be cultural industries, one of our fastest-growing sectors in this country.

There are old adages about the Trudeau-era standards of citizenship, that citizenship was of convenience, as a former member of this House called it, and that Canada was just a hotel where people checked in and checked out, passport in hand. Richard Gwyn spoke about The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian. People could come and live here and benefit from citizenship, but they were not asked to do much more. We have been reminded at every stage of our eight years in government that new Canadians, new citizens, and new immigrants want more. They want to understand the history of this country. They want to understand where the success comes from. They want to belong in that deeper sense, and the value of Canadian citizenship as reinforced by this act would help them to do exactly that.

Third, what are the improvements that we would deliver in this bill?

The first is about service. Because of high immigration of almost 260,000 per year over our eight years in government, the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history, and because of our high rate of naturalization, because people who become immigrants want to become citizens and want to make the extra sacrifice of improving their language skills and mastering the “Discover Canada” guide and taking the test and literally discovering Canada by living here, we do have a backlog. The backlog is a bit larger because of the abuse and the residency fraud that took place that slowed down applications. We had to come to terms with which were legitimate applications and which unfortunately were not. With the measures in this bill and measures undertaken in previous budgets, we have the resources and we would have the decision-making framework to move through that backlog quickly, to take a processing time of two to three years for new applications today down to below two years in the course of next year, 2015, and to under one year by the beginning of 2016.

Second, we are reinforcing the value of citizenship, as I mentioned that the residency requirement would get longer.

Third, we are giving ourselves new tools to ensure that fraud is a thing of the past, if we can possibly make it that in our citizenship programs. We would be much less vulnerable to residency fraud. We would regulate citizenship consultants to ensure they could not lead applicants astray, as we have done with immigration consultants and increasingly with immigration lawyers. We would also raise the potential penalties from $1,000 to $100,000, and from one year to five years imprisonment, for the forms of fraud and misrepresentation that unfortunately have been all too common in our citizenship program.

Finally, we would deliver on our commitment across all of our programs to honour those who serve, who wear the uniform of the RCMP and military abroad, and those who work in embassies, as I had the privilege of doing. They would be able to pass on this citizenship beyond the first generation, even if their children were born outside of Canada. New Canadians, permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Forces, would have a slightly faster pathway to citizenship of three years instead of four.

What does our citizenship look like in the 21st century?

There would be less fraud. There would be more penalties. It would be a much more prized citizenship. Because of all these things, we would be properly able to say that Canadians were in a position to promote our citizenship and use it as never before. It would be something that those outside of Canada would seek to acquire with more determination than ever. It would be something that those of us in Canada who have it would seek to use as never before in the world, to do good in our country and in places not so fortunate.

It is our citizenship that lets us undertake the kinds of initiatives our Prime Minister has been undertaking for maternal, child, and newborn health. It is our citizenship that allows us to take action on child, early, and forced marriage. It is our citizenship that lets us be the second most prominent country in the world for refugee resettlement, accepting roughly one is ten refugees resettled every year in co-operation with UNHCR, including those now coming to us in ever greater numbers from Syria.

Our citizenship also lets us work toward building the economy of the 21st century. It was interesting that the OECD report released this week on Canada gave a prominent place to immigration reforms, to the naturalization rate in Canada and the citizenship program, which we consider part and parcel of our immigration programs. Without these kinds of programs, modernized to meet the needs of the 21st century, it would not be possible to match more specialized skills than ever to the needs of a changing economy. It is because of our prosperity that the Canadian economy is changing faster than almost any other.

It was interesting to read that the OECD saw immigration policy as an economic driver and spoke of Canada in relatively glowing terms because of the extent of our immigration reforms over the past year and as a pioneer and innovator in this field.

We have been citizens of our country from day one, from the day we arrived here, and from the day we met the requirements. It is vital for new generations of citizens to see this great institution of citizenship protected and to see where it comes from. It is important to understand what it was in the time of Nouvelle France, or at the time the War of 1812, or for those who stormed Juno Beach on D-Day, or what it was in 1914 on the eve of the Great War.

We will have many occasions to celebrate our citizenship in the next few years in the run up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation. I know all of us on our side look forward to celebrating with all Canadians.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech. Of course, the proposed bill contains some acceptable provisions. However, many others are simply not acceptable.

Let me come back to one of the minister's last comments: that we have been citizens of this country from day one, from the day we arrived here, and from the day we met the requirements. Not too long ago, the minister said in The Star that “citizenship is not an inalienable birthright”.

I find it very surprising that the minister believes that the right to citizenship can be taken away from a person born here in Canada and that he is putting this idea forward.

In addition, this bill also allows the minister to take away the right to citizenship as he pleases. There are very few criteria. Ministerial discretion comes into play both when citizenship is revoked and when it is granted.

Under what specific circumstances could the minister grant Canadian citizenship unilaterally and in secret? Will he disclose the list of people to whom he has granted citizenship? How will he disclose that information? Why does the minister think it is acceptable for a minister to grant citizenship in secret?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the special conditions for granting citizenship are very clear. The person must have a very hard time acquiring citizenship through the normal process, and there must be a national interest at stake. The conditions are clear and they are in the bill.

Citizenship has never been inalienable. Canadian citizenship was legislated in the House. Canadians born in Canada who have only one citizenship, like myself, have the right to renounce their Canadian citizenship if that is what they wish. It is therefore not inalienable.

Individuals born in Canada who have only one citizenship, not dual citizenship, cannot have their citizenship revoked under the criteria in our bill. However, a person who received citizenship illegitimately by hiding crimes can have it revoked, even before this bill is passed.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the minister first talked about making changes to the Citizenship Act, he made a point of emphasizing that it was going to be a legislative format and that there were going to be some other changes. One of those changes was a fairly significant jump in the cost of acquiring citizenship, not only in the application fee itself but also in the fees for the requirement of language testing results, IELTS. There would be substantially increased fees for individuals who want to acquire citizenship.

Could the minister explain why those changes were implemented, along with the idea of the knowledge tests? Does he have an opinion on whether a citizen should be expected to know more than someone has been born in Canada and has gone through all of his or her education from nursery school to high school? Should a new citizen have a better understanding of Canada than an individual such as that? I am interested in the minister's thoughts on those three issues.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope the member opposite is not implying that our school systems in the various provinces and territories are teaching less over the course of primary and secondary education than the “Discover Canada” guide teaches newcomers to Canada.

Those who have the benefit of going through that school system, whether they are immigrants or not, have great knowledge of Canada. It is equivalent to or greater than what the “Discover Canada” guide represents. The “Discover Canada” guide is a key for those who are new to the country to essential knowledge about Canada that will help them be citizens. It is as simple as that. The success of new Canadians in mastering that material is there for all to see. It is popular, and they are doing well.

On the question of cost, it would go to $300. We have a responsibility to recover the full cost. We have not been doing that up until now. It would be $100 for minors. Here is the good news. It is less than half of the U.S. cost. It is less than a fifth of the cost in the U.K., and that cost, under certain conditions, has to be paid annually. Even the cost in New Zealand is 50% more than it is in Canada. In that sense, Canadian citizenship would continue to be an extraordinary bargain.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Richmond Hill
Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for bringing this bill before the House. These will be the first comprehensive changes to the Citizenship Act in almost 40 years, and they are much needed.

One thing in the legislation which is of particular importance with the changing dynamic throughout Canada, given the record numbers of immigration at 1.4 million new Canadian citizens since we took government in 2006, is that some have decided to perpetrate fraud on those who seek Canadian citizenship. They are doing so under the guise of being citizenship consultants.

Could the minister elaborate on how, in the legislation, we would go after those who would prey on new Canadians seeking their citizenship?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for his hard work on this bill.

We will force them to be regulated, as we have done very successfully with immigration consultants. We will also prosecute any and all cases of fraud that lead us to unscrupulous citizenship consultants who may still be out there, with the help of the RCMP and the CBSA if necessary.

This is a smaller citizenship issue than it has been in our much larger and more complicated immigration programs. However, the need for integrity and to enforce the very high standards of behaviour is as strong here on the citizenship side as it is on the immigration side. Citizenship is a privilege that involves immeasurable benefits for Canadians, but it also brings with it responsibilities.

That is why we are absolutely determined to address abuse and fraud. That is why we do not think that terrorism, espionage, treason, and taking up arms against the Canadian Forces are compatible with Canadian citizenship, and we will revoke it for those who have dual nationality. They will have, in effect, withdrawn their allegiance to Canada by these very acts. The principle of allegiance has been an elementary principle behind citizenship. Those who show these gross forms of disloyalty have clearly forfeited their allegiance, and if they are dual nationals, they will forfeit their citizenship as well.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister once again for his speech. Unfortunately, the NDP will not be supporting this bill.

Some parts of the bill are sure to be challenged in court. Unfortunately, I expect that the Supreme Court will once again be called upon to strike down a bill that the Conservative government is forcing Canadians to accept. It is forcing Canadians to use up valuable resources to strike down bills that do not deserve the support of the House.

I just cannot understand why the government always expects the Supreme Court to fix its mistakes. The government is abusing the legal system, and I find it very discouraging that the minister has introduced a bill as badly written as Bill C-24.

There are some very good parts to this bill. For example, it finally addresses the problem of stateless Canadians, lost Canadians. Many of them are people who were involved in the Second World War. In 2007, the Conservatives came up with a bill to fix the problem, but they messed up again because they just do not take the time to draft their bills properly. They had to introduce this bill to fix the mistake they made in 2007.

Fortunately, it seems that the lost Canadians problem will finally be fixed. I should at least thank the minister for that, but the government should have taken its time in 2007 to fix the problem once and for all.

The Conservatives keep talking about how this is the first time in 25 years that there have been major changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Actually, the government has changed immigration laws and regulations several times, without ever solving the problems. What about the 320,000 people who are still waiting for their applications to be processed so they can become Canadian citizens? That is because of the Conservatives' cuts.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration does not have sufficient resources to process the applications. The Conservatives are saying that they will speed up the process, but they are the ones who created major delays. It is simply their fault. I would like this government to start learning from its mistakes, to admit them and be accountable for them, instead of always saying that everything is better. We keep going backwards. Every time we take one step forward, we take 12 steps back. According to the Conservatives, we should be celebrating this step forward and hiding the 12 steps back.

The government should admit that it is unable to manage the immigration file. The temporary foreign workers file very clearly shows that the department is out of control, and the minister is responsible for that. He missed his chance to solve the problems. Instead, he is hiding behind blacklists. More and more people are waiting to be admitted to Canada, while the Conservatives keep trying to make us believe that they are solving the problem. Unfortunately, Bill C-24 is their only proposal.

Let us get into the details of Bill C-24. The Conservatives keep saying that they are going to take away the citizenship of individuals who commit immigration fraud, the idea being to deport them from Canada. Are there so many people in Canada who have defrauded the system that we do not have the tools to fix the situation? We already have the Criminal Code, regulations and police forces that are fully capable of going and finding people who defraud Canada's immigration system. With the tools we have, we can crack down on people who commit crimes in Canada, and we can decide whether to deport them from the country. That is already set out. We do not need this bill to solve the problem that the government keeps on raising.

One of the alarming aspects of this bill is the fact that it is a mirage. The Conservatives would have us believe that they are going to solve a problem, when the problem stems from their inability to manage the file. In order to try to solve the problem, the government decided to give the minister additional discretionary powers.

The minister can now decide, based on a balance of probabilities, to revoke the citizenship of a Canadian, without that person having the right to appeal, the right to natural justice or the right to present evidence to a judge. Only the minister, in his little office, with documents in front of him, on a mere balance of probabilities, can revoke an individual's citizenship. It is beyond comprehension why the minister would want such a responsibility, because in our legal system people have the right to be respected. In this case, there is a risk of abusing that right. Once again, why create a situation where rights can be abused?

This bill will probably be challenged in court because it threatens the fundamental right of citizenship. There is nothing more fundamental in a free and democratic society than citizenship. How can the minister sleep at night? Quite frankly, I do not know.

The bill creates new residency criteria. The residency requirement will increase from three to four years. The person must remain and intend to remain in Canada for this entire period.

I would like to point out that the intent to reside is a vague principle that is difficult to prove. I invite the minister to go and see the people at the Canada Revenue Agency and ask them how successful they have been with respect to proof of residency in Canada. It is a very difficult thing to prove.

Under the bill, an individual must show proof of residency for four years. The individual bears the burden of proof. It is up to the applicant to prove this. How do you prove intent to reside? If a person encounters a problem and must return to their country of birth because a family member is ill and needs their help, does he still intend to reside in Canada? How can he prove this intent when he is abroad?

I would not want to see such discretionary items on the minister's table so that he can make decisions based just on a preponderance. We are well aware that the preponderance is in the minister's head and nowhere else. It is up to him to determine whether there is sufficient preponderance of evidence to revoke an individual's citizenship. That is completely unacceptable.

In terms of the bill, frankly, it is high time the government fixed the problem of lost Canadians. I agree with that and I am very pleased that the minister will be able to fix the problem of lost Canadians.

However, as for the other citizens whose citizenship the minister plans to revoke, there may be individuals who have always lived in Canada, who are deported and who find themselves in a country that they are simply not familiar with. I do not think that is very charitable on our part, regardless of the reasons why the minister thinks the person should leave the country.

Once again, if the minister is convinced, on a simple preponderance of evidence, that the person committed fraud to enter Canada, it is not enough.

Since 2008, 25 changes have been made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including a moratorium on sponsoring parents and grandparents, fewer family reunifications, punishments for vulnerable refugees and an increase in the number of temporary foreign workers. The Conservatives have made changes to the immigration system that fail to improve the efficiency and fairness of the system.

On the contrary, they created a system that is so rigid that penalties are being imposed that should not be.

Before the Conservatives, Canada was a country that was very welcoming to immigrants. Our country is basically built on immigration. My family is an immigrant family. My ancestors came from England and France. My great-grandparents, who came to Canada from France, would have come here today as refugees. They were Huguenots. That religion was frowned upon in France and they had to flee the country. They came to Canada, a safe haven.

Huguenots were considered terrorists in France at the time, and any who wanted to come to Canada would have been deported. They never would have been granted citizenship based on this government's way of thinking. At the time, we were a welcoming country. We would have let them come settle here. In fact, we did welcome them, and since then, they have built a good family life here in Canada. However, with the criteria set out in the bill before me, these people would never have been accepted. They would have been deported. That is not very welcoming.

The first time I realized that people living outside Canada do not have the same advantages as we do—advantages that we basically take for granted—was during the Prague Spring.

In 1967, Russia overthrew the government of the former Czechoslovakia by means of a military invasion. My family welcomed refugees from that country. Under the rules set out in this bill, those refugees would have been considered terrorists. They would have never been granted Canadian citizenship and they would have been deported.

We are supposed to be a welcoming country that abides by international law. Unfortunately, the bill before us transforms us into exactly the opposite.

The minister also stated, “In cases where citizenship was fraudulently obtained, it can already be revoked.”

Let us come back to the matter of people who would never have been found guilty elsewhere. Such individuals would not be considered terrorists in a country where there was a revolution, such as Czechoslovakia or France in the time of the Huguenots. These are simply people who came to Canada in good faith with good will, but who are found guilty because fraud occurred somewhere along the line. This fraud, which was perhaps unintentional, was committed in good faith or bad faith, but regardless, fraud occurred.

The minister himself said that we already have tools to deport people from Canada and strip them of their citizenship. If those tools already exist, I do not know why the government is forcing the House and Canadians to accept Bill C-24.

It would be nice if the government stopped wasting our time and resources, when we could simply be using the existing tools.

In my opinion, the Conservatives just like to play political games. They are not proposing these things because they think there is a need for them, but because they want to talk about their policies and ideology. It gives them the opportunity to be ideological and waste Parliament's and Canadians' resources for purely partisan reasons.

The Conservatives are trying to win more votes in certain ridings; that much is clear. They do not want to improve Canada's immigration system. If they wanted to improve it, 300,000 people would not be waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed. The Conservatives would have taken care of that. In addition, they would not have fired 28,000 federal public servants. Instead, they would have hired more people to process the applications.

The Conservative government keeps doing things backwards. It starts by creating problems and then it finds poorly designed solutions for the problems it created.

I am very discouraged by the fact that this bill was introduced in the House. It was discussed in committee. Some witnesses appeared before the committee. It is worth noting that the BC Civil Liberties Association sent a letter after it testified. On May 23, 2014, the association said the following:

In my view Bill C-24 will change a core principle of Canadian citizenship—that all Canadians have equal rights.

As was said during question period today, we are creating a two-tier citizenship system in Canada. This bill is creating another class of citizenship, and people could lose their Canadian citizenship, once again, on the mere preponderance of evidence and the minister's say-so. That is not enough, and it is not at all satisfactory that the minister should have such excessive power.

I want to go back to the intent to reside provision. I would like to talk about it again. In her testimony, the director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic stated that:

…not only is the new intent to reside provision unfair, as it only applies to people who are naturalized citizens, not people who are born in Canada, but it could lead to revocation of citizenship from Canadians who are deemed to have obtained their citizenship status by misrepresenting their intent to reside, even when they may have legitimate reasons to leave Canada, such as for employment reasons or family obligations. As well, this provision is potentially in breach of section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the mobility rights to all Canadian citizens, both native born and naturalized alike, as well as section 15 of the charter, the equality rights provision.

The file of someone who has to leave Canada unexpectedly could end up on the minister's desk with the apparently preponderant evidence that the person no longer has the intention to reside in Canada. Not only do we need to know whether or not this discretionary power should be given to the minister, we also need to know why we want to open the door to what would clearly be a legal challenge based on the charter.

There also used to be a fund so that people could make charter challenges, but the Conservatives cut off access to that program. Now there will be an additional difficulty: not only will people targeted by this legislation have to go to court to mount a charter challenge, but, if they are not well-off, they will not have enough money to hire a lawyer and make their case in court. Once again, we have two-tiered citizenship. There is one kind of citizenship for those who have money and another kind for those who do not. This is wholly unacceptable in a free and democratic society.

I would like to end by quoting Amnesty International on the subject of revoking citizenship:

...the Supreme Court of Canada said... “The social compact requires the citizen to obey the laws created by the democratic process. But it does not follow that failure to do so nullifies the citizen’s continued membership in the self-governing polity. Indeed, the remedy of imprisonment for a term rather than permanent exile implies our acceptance of continued membership in the social order.” In other words, the Supreme Court of Canada stated quite clearly that punishing somebody by depriving them of their constitutional rights, indeed, by denying them all constitutional rights and casting them out in the name of the social contract, is not constitutional.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore
Ontario

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech. He said that the minister already had the tools to revoke citizenship from dual citizens if they commit fraud. I hope he realizes that the minister is able to do that now.

Is the member defending the status quo and saying that it is acceptable to be able to revoke citizenship from dual citizens if they commit fraud, but not if they commit more serious offences such as terrorism, spying or treason?

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June 12th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his good question.

I want to point out that when I said that the minister had tools at his disposal, I was talking about natural justice. We have a legal process for revoking citizenship from someone in the case of fraud or other types of crimes. My problem with this bill is that there is no process of natural justice. It is a discretionary process. The minister has that discretion and can make decisions as he sees fit. It is up to him to determine whether he is satisfied on a balance of probabilities. This decision should be left to jurists, after all of the interested parties have had a chance to submit evidence. We need a system based on equality, not on inequality.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
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June 12th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, since January this has been a two-part phase. One is the legislative part, which we are debating now. Another is the implementation of a policy that landed residents now have to have English testing.

I am wondering if the member might want to provide some comments on that requirement.

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June 12th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is troubling that there are new language requirements in the bill. I would like to point out that the government does not believe that many in its own employ have to meet those kinds of language requirements. The government does not agree that Supreme Court justices have that kind of language requirement.

We should have some consensus. We should have language requirements in this country that are consistent for everyone. We should not expect immigrants to be held to a higher standard than people in this chamber or the people in high justice situations, such as the Supreme Court. We need to have some fundamental equality here.

If the government stopped cutting programs so that people could actually get that kind of language acquisition, maybe this element would make a little more sense. However, if the government keeps cutting back on all the programs and prospective citizens do not get the training they need, surely they could never respect the language requirements that the bill is presenting.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
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June 12th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, QED means what had to be demonstrated. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles clearly demonstrated that two types of Canadians were being created. There are Canadians and immigrant Canadians.

If we take the example of extreme cases of notorious terrorists or spies, those individuals can be tried in Canada if they are Canadian. However, if they are not native-born Canadians, they will be deported and their citizenship will be revoked. That is wrong. You are either Canadian or you are not. We do not have two systems. I would like to hear what the member has to say about that.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
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June 12th, 2014 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question. I would like to point out that the work she does in her riding is second to none. She is probably the best MP the region has had in quite some time. I would like to congratulate her on all the work she is doing.

As for her question, two-tier citizenship is definitely unacceptable. You are either a citizen or you are not.

Canada has constitutional guarantees that all Canadians should benefit from. According to many experts we saw, the bill has created an unacceptable situation in a free and democratic society. The Canadian Bar Association clearly stated that this bill would almost certainly end up before the Supreme Court. It is almost certain that many aspects of this bill will be deemed unconstitutional. Two-tier citizenship is one of those aspects.

It is unfortunate to have to move in that direction. If the bill is challenged in court, I hope that the Supreme Court will deal with this file quickly so that there is more fairness in this country.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
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June 12th, 2014 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister often compares Canada to other NATO countries. That bothers me because I think that an independent country should do things its own way.

What does my colleague think of the fact that the government is trying to standardize our practices with those of other countries? Does he think that is the right thing to do?