House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.

Topics

Income Tax Act
Private Members Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to the order made earlier today, every question necessary to dispose of the motion is deemed to have been put, and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Tuesday, May 30, 2000, at the end of Government Orders.

Income Tax Act
Private Members Business

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, perhaps we could suspend briefly and commence Government Orders at noon as usual.

Income Tax Act
Private Members Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

Income Tax Act
Private Members Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:57 a.m.)

The House resumed at 12 p.m.

Business Of The House
Private Members Business

Noon

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and I think you would find agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to further defer the recorded division on Motion No. 30 scheduled for Tuesday, May 30, to the end of Government Orders on Wednesday, May 31.

Business Of The House
Private Members Business

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to proceed in such a fashion?

Business Of The House
Private Members Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, be read the third time and passed.

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2000 / noon

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to take part in the debate surrounding Bill C-16, our last and final opportunity to debate the bill before it proceeds to its final vote.

The NDP caucus feels strongly that Bill C-16 has merit and does meet the needs of Canadian citizens. We are comfortable and satisfied that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration listened to numerous representations. In fact 37 groups and organizations came before the committee. We are satisfied that the concerns brought forward by the experts in the field and by the many advocates who made representations were incorporated into the final bill. In other words the committee heard Canadians. The committee listened to them and the committee instilled what it heard into what we now know as Bill C-16.

The bill started out in its first incarnation as Bill C-63. It was dealt with, at length, under that name. We brought forward many concerns and recommended amendments at committee stage. We are pleased to say that the government when it reintroduced the bill as Bill C-16 took into consideration many of the shortcomings we pointed out with respect to the original bill.

The 37 presentations to the committee is an indication of the broad interest in this subject. I have sat on other committees and dealt with other pieces of legislation when we did not have nearly as many groups coming forward. People feel strongly about the issue of citizenship. Canadian citizenship is to be valued. Canadian citizenship is to be treasured. Most of us feel very passionate because most Canadians are fiercely proud Canadian nationalists.

The reason the particular bill generated so much interest is that many of us are looking at citizenship in a whole new light, given the global economy we currently live in. We have been forced to re-evaluate and revisit the whole concept of citizenship.

Given the globalization of capital we are seeing borders disappear. Many say we are probably witnessing the beginning of the end of the concept of a nation state. Free movement of goods, services, investment and capital does not pay attention to international borders. These things are happening all around us. The only way we can define ourselves and maintain our identity as Canadian is to ensure that the nation state of Canada survives as a entity and that the personification of that or the way it affects citizens is by virtue of our citizenship.

We are very concerned when we see international trade agreements that do not recognize nation state boundaries. For instance, we saw the MAI, the multilateral agreement on investment, which recently failed. The people of the world voted that idea down. The people who were promoting the MAI were actually quoted as saying that there was a surplus of democracy in the world which was interfering with the free movement of capital, meaning that freely elected governments were getting in the way of what businesses wanted to do.

This is why I raise the issue that people are concerned about the concept of citizenship. They are concerned about the concept of the nation state and ultimately about the future of democracy if we have corporate leaders of the world saying that there is a surplus of democracy in the world that is interfering with the movement of capital. It makes us wonder what is the next step.

These are some of the reasons people are concerned with the idea of citizenship and why we had so many groups come forward to the committee. It is not just about the practical aspects of how one achieves citizenship in Canada or how citizenship can be revoked within the country. Those are the technical elements. There is a larger more philosophical issue regarding the very concept and nature of citizenship. Many of the groups that came forward and made representations dealt with the much bigger picture of what it means to be a citizen.

In being a citizen of Canada I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in many senses. It is a feeling of camaraderie. It is a feeling of togetherness that Canadians enjoy, being part of the greatest country in the world. It is something we treasure and value but we take very seriously.

We have to take note that citizenship is not a right. It is a privilege. With citizenship comes responsibilities. With citizenship comes many benefits, but it also carries with it the burden of responsibilities. We have to conduct ourselves in a certain way or frankly our citizenship can be revoked.

There are parts of Bill C-16 that deal with the revocation of citizenship. Some of those who made representation to the committee felt very strongly that it gave the minister far too much power in terms of the revocation of citizenship.

The NDP is satisfied that on that subject Bill C-16 is balanced, in that there are options for appeal at every stage of the revocation of citizenship. This can ultimately wind up in the highest court of the land and we do not believe anyone needs any more avenue of recourse than that. I am glad to see we have broad acceptance of that idea.

We are comfortable that Bill C-16 gives the avenue of recourse of appeal to the federal courts. We are satisfied that Bill C-16 is not too heavy handed in dealing with the revocation of citizenship. We are comfortable now that the terms of gaining citizenship are clarified. Some of the changes we asked for in the early stages of Bill C-63 have been incorporated in Bill C-16.

We found great fault with a change which recommended that when people take their citizenship tests they would have to know one of the official languages of the country. They would not have access to translators. They would have no access to interpretation. We did not think that knowledge of one of the official languages and any kind of a test for what kind of a good citizen a person would be related whatsoever.

We are glad to see that under the current incarnation of the bill people will be allowed access to translation services if their working knowledge of either of the official languages is inadequate to carry them through what can be a very complicated test.

Another issue we commented on and brought forward at the early stages of Bill C-63 was the concept of being physically present for a certain period of time in order to qualify for citizenship. We pointed out that many landed immigrants, many new Canadians who come here, still have interests offshore. Some may be business people. We can use the example of a new Canadian from Asia who may have a number of different business ventures throughout that region. That person would have to travel to take care of those interests. We also do not believe that physical presence in the country is any kind of a test or an indication of what kind of citizen the person will ultimately be.

We felt it was being unnecessarily rigid to demand that a person be physically present for x number of days within a certain timeframe in order to qualify for citizenship. We are comfortable that the government listened to these concerns and tempered those measures somewhat along the lines we asked.

A number of groups came forward and spoke about citizenship rules as they pertain to disqualification due to criminal activity. We believe we should not be providing safe refuge or sanctuary for international criminals. We have every right. We do not believe it is a violation of any of our international obligations under human rights conventions of the United Nations to say to some people that we will not allow them to be citizens of Canada.

We value our citizenship too much and it trivializes my citizenship to allow people into this country who would abuse the system or who would take refuge and sanctuary in order to carry on criminal activity. We will not tolerate it. Canadians want tough rules to make that abundantly clear.

Canadians are incredibly tolerant in terms of their attitude toward immigration per se. We want the front doors opened even wider when it comes to inviting new Canadians to come to this country, but we also want the back doors shut soundly so that we are not allowing any undesirables, international criminals, terrorists or people of that type to take sanctuary or refuge in Canada. We do not need them and we do not want them here. Bill C-16 in a very soft way speaks to that somewhat when it deals with the revocation of citizenship.

The New Democratic Party caucus is comfortable that Bill C-16 meets the needs of Canadians in terms of acquiring citizenship. It sets fair rules for both the acquiring of citizenship and the revocation of citizenship in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary.

We are comfortable that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration listened to the concerns brought forward by a number of Canadians, by some 37 groups that made representations, and by members of the committee like myself who moved amendments at committee stage. We are satisfied now that those concerns have been addressed under Bill C-16.

We will be looking forward to voting in favour of the bill to move it through the House so that we can spend more time addressing the larger issue of immigration and refugee protection found under Bill C-31, another citizenship and immigration bill that deals more with the meat and potatoes of the immigration rules and how we attract and retain more people to come to Canada to help us grow the economy.

We are looking forward to moving on from Bill C-16 satisfied that it is adequate and to getting into the much larger debate of immigration and refugee protection under Bill C-31.

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell us one of the many groups that made presentations on revocation of citizenship which was satisfied with not having a right to appeal a decision of one federal court judge?

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, people are satisfied that it has been illustrated and demonstrated quite clearly that there is a right to appeal at every stage of the revocation of citizenship, all the way to the highest court in the land.

I indicated that people are satisfied and comfortable with that. When it came forward that there may be an alteration in Bill C-16, or an amendment to the act that would change the access to the appeal process, a number of groups were concerned. The issue was raised.

It was clarified by the department heads of citizenship and immigration that nothing in Bill C-16 threatened the right to appeal in the case of revocation of citizenship. In fact there is a right to appeal at every stage of the process. It is an exhaustive, some would say even ponderous, appeal process that can take years. As we well know, there are classic cases in Canada that went on five, seven or nine years before people were ultimately issued a deportation order or had their citizenship revoked.

Having looked at the charts, graphs and tables of how the appeal process would take place, we are comfortable that there is an exhaustive appeal mechanism inherent in Bill C-16 and inherent in the citizenship and immigration acts. I do not think there is any cause for concern. Those groups that did come forward with those concerns have had them allayed.

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that it is a great honour to speak today to Bill C-16 and what it means not only for the country but especially people who want to make Canada their country, and certainly those who have been here.

I listened with great interest to the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. He made many valid points. Certainly the one which I wanted to echo was that the committee, having listened to and heard witnesses, has now been able to make decisions which are appropriate to the matter at hand.

Citizenship, as all members of the House and all Canadians know, is of great value to individuals and their families. It bestows upon them great honour and responsibility as well as rights which are inherent under the charter and the constitution of this great country of ours.

I think back to my great-great-grandparents. They came to this country in 1827 via Bucks County, Pennsylvania having first come from Europe. Over the years we have cherished those things which we hold near and dear, that is, being citizens of this great country of ours.

By way of history it is amazing to think that prior to 1947 Canadians were still not Canadians as we know them but rather were British subjects. It is interesting that the Prime Minister himself was 12 years old before he actually had Canadian citizenship given to him. We were British subjects until that point. Having said that, citizenship and all that goes with it is something which Canadians now value greatly in terms of what it means to be a Canadian. It is important that we celebrate and cherish that which we hold near and dear to us. In 1947 the Liberal government of the day under Prime Minister Mackenzie King ensured that Canadians would have a status which we cherish to this day, being a citizen of Canada.

Citizenship is a concept in our culture which goes back to the city states of the ancient Greeks. For them the life of a citizen meant deep involvement in the life of a city. It meant the widest possible rights and privileges. It was also a very restrictive status, something which we no longer have. For example, no woman or newcomer could hope to be a citizen in those days.

While that restrictive status continued over the centuries, it has finally been washed away. In a sense we still see it today in countries which restrict their citizenship and those people who are part of a traditional ethnic group. Unlike Canada there are many countries where citizenship is not an opportunity to welcome people. It is not an opportunity for newcomers to declare that they are ready and willing to become a full part of their communities as citizens.

The point is clear that Canada has been different in that regard. We welcome newcomers. We grant full citizenship to all our people in a manner consistent with the charter and the constitutional prerogatives, as well as the rights that Canadian citizens no matter where they live in this great country of ours have come to expect and deservedly so. It is important that we keep that in mind.

When Canadians travel abroad it becomes apparent how great our citizenship is and what a great country Canada is. It is important that we value and cherish all that goes along with what it means to be Canadian.

Let me be clear in terms of what that 1947 act did. I offer that by way of background because it is important. That act treated men and women differently when it came to issues such as marrying a non-Canadian and keeping Canadian citizenship if they lived abroad, passing citizenship to their children if they lived abroad, and finally, how soon the spouses of men and women could become citizens. That was part and parcel of the 1947 act, yet for all the faults we have seen in retrospect, that act was an important starting point. It set us on the course which had led us to where we are today with Bill C-16.

It is important to note that what has never changed is a sense that citizenship is about joining the Canadian family, and a great family it is. It is about sharing in the values, traditions and institutions which define us as a people and unite us as a nation and which have made us the finest country in the world according to the United Nations Human Development Report for six years in a row. That is no coincidence. It is because of who we are and what we represent and the citizenship of Canadians is part of that greatness that is ours.

When new Canadians take the oath of citizenship outlined in the bill, they will speak about what it means to be Canadian. They will pledge their loyalty and allegiance to Canada and to our Queen. They will promise to respect Canada's rights and freedoms and uphold the constitution. They will vow to uphold the democratic values that allow us to debate some very important issues in the spirit of openness, transparency and accountability which we do in this great democratic system of ours in Canada. They will promise to do what we should do, to observe our laws and fulfil the duties and obligations of what it means to be a true citizen of this country.

These are not just words. Those words get to the heart of what citizenship is all about. They are about agreeing to accept the basic rules of how our society operates. They are about agreeing to play a full role in the life of our society in terms of what it means to help others to care and to share and to use the kinds of values in a meaningful way for Canadians wherever they are in this country. It also means acting at the ballot box, on a jury or just in the day to day debate among fellow citizens. It means ensuring that we vote, that we fulfil our duties as citizens in meaningful and tangible ways and in a way consistent with the values that are part of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, at this point I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Cambridge.

There are countries in the world that essentially sell their citizenship. People in parts of the world actually do that for money. They buy passports which can be used to go elsewhere. Some travel documents might be part of that as well. It is selling hope, false hope in many cases, in volatile parts of the world, and it is most unfortunate. But it will never, never give a person what Canadian citizenship does, and that is what we have here. Those passports of convenience that are sold never announce to the world that a person is part of a great family the way our citizenship does. A person is never linked to the men and women from all over the world who regardless of birth share in the pride of being citizens of this country.

That is what citizenship is all about. That is what it means to be Canadian. That is what it means to have the kinds of values that unite us as a people in that sense and ensure that we carry on in a meaningful way consistent with that which our forefathers and foremothers did, including that which newcomers to this country also add. That is important so we can build on the foundations of the past with vision, insight and foresight. We project into the future with confidence knowing that we have one of the finest, and I would argue the finest, country in the world. We need to celebrate that.

In closing I state simply that Bill C-16 helps to reinforce that which we take for granted so many times in this great country of ours and especially our citizenship. Having said that, I move:

That the question be now put.

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question I have is why would the hon. member pull such a sneaky manoeuvre to try to ride over the former parliamentary secretary of this particular portfolio? The former parliamentary secretary put his position on the line because he took a stand on principle. The government, by going ahead and trying to pull some of the sneaky manoeuvres as it has done, is punishing and restricting his ability to do the duty that his constituents have given him.

I would like the hon. member to tell us why he is sticking a knife in the back of the former parliamentary secretary who has been working very hard on this bill.

Citizenship Of Canada Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I need not take lessons from the member opposite when it comes to being sneaky and sticking knives into backs. He is the expert on the reformed alliance side of the House. He is part and parcel of what those people over there repeatedly do in terms of the kinds of things they are prepared to do every which way. I am speaking of some of the egregious things that I have witnessed the hon. member do. I think of the debate about Mr. Thompson and the Senate when the member was leading members of his party with mariachi bands and sombreros and tacos were dripping in the marble halls of this great institution.

When it comes to those kinds of things, I need not take a lesson from the member opposite. He should hang his head in shame, quite frankly, in terms of the kinds of things he has done.

This is the normal process in terms of the kinds of things we are doing to expedite the government and what we need to do in the great Parliament of Canada. We are moving the government agenda along and I am pleased to be part of it.