House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizens.

Topics

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, this is going to be strange for a politician, a short answer, which is yes.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to this legislation. I will be confining my remarks almost entirely to the oath of citizenship that is proposed in this legislation.

I had before the House, up until last week, a private member's bill proposing changes to the oath of citizenship which would reflect the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that bill has become non-votable as the result of the introduction of this government bill which also has a new version of the oath of citizenship. I would like to deal with the government's version that is before the House, my version, and just discuss some of the other oaths around the Commonwealth.

The oath of citizenship that is in this bill states:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

Madam Speaker, you might be interested to hear the text of the current oath of allegiance of New Zealand, another former Commonwealth colony. It states:

I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfill my duties as a New Zealand citizen, so help me God.

You might note, Madam Speaker, that the words at the end of the New Zealand oath are exactly the same as those of the current Canadian oath, “to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen” or “as a New Zealand citizen”. The wording is exactly the same. The wording is taken from pre-existing oaths of allegiance that had been established in the Commonwealth going back quite a long time.

It is also interesting to the hear the text of the Australian oath of allegiance. Australia is an important country vis-à-vis Canada because our histories are very alike. We are both parliamentary democracies based on the crown. Indeed Australia just very recently went through a debate about retaining the monarchy and it significantly chose to retain the monarch. The oath of Australia states:

From this time forward, under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

I would submit, at the very least, that the Australian oath has a much better ring to it than either the New Zealand oath or the Canadian oath that is being proposed in this legislation. Madam Speaker, I also draw your attention to the fact that in Australia there is, in my view, a correct distinction made in that an oath of citizenship should be to the country and it does not necessarily have to be to the monarch of that country in a parliamentary democracy. This is relevant too, because the oath of allegiance in Great Britain runs thusly:

I swear, by almighty God, that on becoming a British citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, and her heirs and successors according to law.

Madam Speaker, you can see that the Canadian oath actually in the bill before us now is a combination of wording. The first half is the wording from the British oath and the second half is basically the wording from the Commonwealth oath that was used across the Commonwealth.

I should point out to you, Madam Speaker, that up until 1981, the British did not have an oath of citizenship whatsoever. The oath which I just read to the House is an oath of naturalization which was in response to the flood of immigrants that the United Kingdom has been experiencing.

I wish to provide a little history. The oaths of allegiance of New Zealand and Canada date their origins back to the 18th century when the British Crown felt obligated to require the people in its colonies, that it acquired by force of arms or by purchase because they were not British, to bear faithful and true allegiance to Her Majesty or His Majesty. The oath of citizenship that we have, that New Zealand has, and that Australia does not have, is wording that was derived from the United Kingdom as a colonial power.

The oath that I would like to put forward in the House--and I do so now--I would hope that people when they read Hansard can compare it to the previous oaths that I just read into the record. The oath that I offer the House for its deliberations would read:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by their solemn trust to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

The important thing is not to have a citizenship oath that requires the new person to swear to obey the laws, because the laws of a nation can from time to time be wrong. There are many examples in Europe. In Germany, which was a democracy after the first world war, a government took power and changed the laws that deprived people of their civil liberties. It led, indeed, to the second world war.

Simply saying that one will faithfully uphold the laws of a country I do not believe is good enough. Indeed, I think it is very dangerous in this age when countries across the world are struggling to find balance between civil liberties and the new threats of terrorism that have been emerging across the world.

It is vitally important for Canada to send a message to the world, through its oath of citizenship, about what Canada really stands for in this world that has become such a dark and dangerous place. I would submit that what identifies a Canadian more than anything else and how Canadians are perceived around the world and why so many people around the world want to come to Canada is because of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is not just a document that is part of our Parliament. This is the way Canadians live and act. This is what defines us as Canadians.

Whether we speak French, whether we are aboriginal, whether our history is from the Far East, the Middle East or central Europe, whether we are new Canadians or established Canadians, what identifies us as Canadians is the fact that all of us uphold the five principles of the charter: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

That is not just a commitment of newcomers to Canada. It is a commitment of the government, of Parliament, and of the people, that not just at this point in time but forever, as long as that oath of citizenship exists. And I hope that our oath of citizenship would exist as long as the country, it commits the country to uphold the rule of law, basic human rights, democracy and freedom of speech.

Another speaker was referring to the problems of revocation. He was very successful in changing the legislation because the previous bill, Bill C-16, actually created a second class citizen out of people who had their citizenship and who were accused of war crimes. A mechanism was inserted into that legislation that would have enabled the government to revoke citizenship without due process of law.

I submit that had we had an oath of citizenship that specifically committed the government to uphold the rule of law, then the government would not have been able to advance a bill that deprived a person of the due process of law, much less the basic human right of having that due process of law.

As times goes on I will be moving an amendment to the oath. The oath is here and I will be offering to the House the wording that I have just given. There will be two versions. One version will involve an invocation to God because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with an invocation to God. I am sensitive to the fact that some people would prefer an affirmation and it is important to offer that opportunity to them.

There will be some debate about whether the Queen should be in our oath of citizenship. I do not believe she should be. I had so many opportunities as a member of the citizenship and immigration committee, as we developed policy for this very legislation in 1994-95, to hear representations from newcomers to Canada who could not understand why they had to swear allegiance to the Queen. People from around the world understand that the Queen is attached to the United Kingdom and it is a puzzle to them as to why they have to swear allegiance to her.

I note that Australia, our near cousin as a Commonwealth country, took the Queen out of its oath a very long time ago. It had precisely the same oath as New Zealand and has gone to an oath that at the very least is better than the Canadian one before the House now.

We can improve the oath of allegiance. I would like to see us committed as Canadians to the five principles of the charter: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law. That is who we are as Canadians and we should say so.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I thought the hon. member was going to deliver a wonderful speech. He was going in the right direction until he got into some interesting sidebars where I had to wonder where he was going with the issue.

It was interesting as he went through the various oaths and held up the Australian oath as a model. I also found it interesting when he talked about the recognition of Canada as a sovereign nation and not a colony. We as citizens pledge our allegiance to this country. That is who we are.

The member made an interesting observation when he said that our laws could be wrong. He also said it was not good enough to simply pledge our allegiance to obey the law. What kind of citizen would actually take on the responsibility of trading his or her own laws which would supercede those of the government that was running the country? I agree with the hon. member that laws could in fact be wrong, but the fact remains that those are the laws of the land. However there is a way to change those laws. Is the member advocating civil disobedience as a way of handling this situation?

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question because it is important to clarify it.

Basically, what I am saying by these five principles is that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the law above the laws of Parliament and, indeed, it is in our Constitution now. Theoretically, we should not be able to pass laws in this place that are contrary to the principles of the charter which are summarized in the five principles I gave.

The difficulty is that sometimes in this place, and the previous citizenship bill is a classic example, legislation goes through this House that is contrary to the charter simply because members of Parliament and the bureaucracy are perhaps not as sensitive to the principles of the charter as they should be because the charter is a document of some length.

I tried to capture in the five principles of the charter the ultimate law that governs being Canadian, and that ultimate law is expressed in the five principles: the commitment to uphold democracy, freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, basic human rights and the rule of law.

Madam Speaker, that is the ultimate law of being Canadian.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I have another question for the hon. member. It is all very nice to talk about the rights and freedoms that we have in the charter. It is wonderful. We do have rights and we want fundamental rights. What does the hon. member do with the sense of responsibility? When we have all these rights and freedoms, what happens to responsibility for the actions that we take?

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, that is precisely what the wording says. It says that a Canadian has a “solemn trust to uphold”. A solemn trust to uphold is a responsibility. The responsibility is to defend democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights. It is to ensure equality of opportunity and to guarantee freedom of speech. These are the ultimate responsibilities of being Canadian. That is what being Canadian is all about and that is why we should spell it out in our oath of citizenship.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I must admit that it is quite interesting to see that a member of this House is so passionate about an oath of allegiance.

I have listened to him closely, and he has spoken, of course, of recognizing fundamental values, including freedom of speech and the freedom to have fundamental rights.

Given all that he has said, I would like his opinion on certain clauses found in Bill C-18, particularly clauses 16 and 17, under which a judge has the right, in certain circumstances, to use evidence that would not normally be admissible, and to decide based on such inadmissible evidence. He is in no way required to reveal to the accused what led him to make the decision. Furthermore, this decision is final and may not be appealed.

This, in my view, is nothing like the oath of allegiance he is proposing, in which, of course, there does not appear to be much evidence of this fundamental right to justice, in the situation that I just described.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is pointing out something that is very relevant.

One of the reasons for putting in the commitment to uphold the rule of law and basic human rights is to ensure that legislation always reflects that. The committee must carefully consider the sections that she has alluded to. I am not convinced that they are the ultimate answer for national security. It is really a national security issue for which the government has brought in these changes. It is concerned that it will receive information from foreign security and espionage agencies and not be able to divulge it in open court.

I would suggest that if it becomes absolutely necessary to have those sections, then it becomes all the more important to stress in the oath that we do believe in upholding basic human rights and the rule of law. When judges come to consider those cases, they will have those principles of the charter uppermost in their minds. Whatever they decide and however they decide, they will strike the finest line between the need for national security and the need to respect human rights and the rule of law in the broadest sense.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

This debate interests me a great deal. This new bill on Canadian citizenship is the third attempt since 1993 to add new elements to the legislation. During the previous two attempts, as we know, the bills died on the Order Paper at various stages, without being passed. I think that everyone hopes this will not happen again.

I think it would be good to remind those listening that, prior to 1947, Canadian citizenship did not exist. Prior to that, we were British subjects. Canadian citizenship was created in 1947. Canadian citizenship was reformed in 1977, but the same legislation has applied since then.

Having worked on this issue and given it some thought, I would like to say that citizenship, for anyone who lacks it, is a precious thing. When people are born into their citizenship, without knowing it, or thinking about it, they do not understand its importance. However, if we have the opportunity to travel abroad and to see to what extent the fact of having citizenship and having a passport is the way to exist and have one's rights recognized internationally, then we understand just how precious citizenship really is.

It is only normal for a country to monitor its citizenship and impose requirements. For example, it is perfectly normal to require applicants to know the laws of the country and at least one of its two official languages. The level at which these requirements must be met has yet to be defined. As we know, blunders were sometimes made in that regard.

It serves no one's interest if new citizens are not adequately prepared to make a useful contribution to this country and vote. In Quebec, as in other regions of Canada, it goes without saying that Canadian citizenship allows these new citizens to make a full contribution.

We understand the minister's intentions; he wanted to correct certain things which, in his mind and in other people's minds, needed to be corrected. I will mention a few of these things, and also the problems that we anticipate at this stage of consideration of Bill C-18.

The Bloc Quebecois supports the underlying principle of Bill C-18. However, and this is a general statement, a number of its provisions pose a problem and could easily generate controversy, particularly clauses 16 and 17. This means that many amendments will have to be proposed and, we hope, adopted, so as to correct a number of problems with Bill C-18.

The purpose of this bill is to require permanent residents to actually be in Canada during a total of three of the six years immediately preceding their application for Canadian citizenship.

There were two different bodies of case law, one based on the current requirement of actually living in Canada for one year, and the other to the effect that, assuming there were strong ties, there was no requirement to actually be in the country.

The bill is intended to clarify this requirement by making it necessary to have spent three of the past six years in the country. This seems a normal requirement. The only problem is that is it not easy to monitor permanent residence, and there are no means for doing so.

The second change I want to address is the introduction of a totally judiciary mechanism wherby a judge would decide whether a person's citizenship is to be revoked. The intent of this change is commendable, because until now this was a cabinet decision, except that the secrecy surrounding the current legal process and the means available to the judge in this connection make the minister's intended reform unworkable, because it ends up almost back to the old approach of secrecy and discretion.

There is reference to authorizing the governor in council—and everyone knows this means the government—to refuse citizenship to those who are in flagrant disregard of democratic freedoms and values. We can be in favour of this in principle, right off, except that there are no definitions for this flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society. Hence the possibility of discretion, which would mean potential abuse of the use of this procedure by the government.

The minister may swear that his intentions are good. But even if we believe him, there could be another minister, in another government, who could use this provision, which might open the door to numerous violations of what could be called a basis right.

Another change that would have a big impact on Quebec and should be changed again to avoid being unfair to Quebeckers is the fact that children adopted abroad by Canadians could become citizens before first becoming permanent residents. Adopting a child is costly and time consuming. Parents prefer a procedure whereby they can adopt in a foreign country as long as they follow the rules of their province, since adoption falls under the responsibility of the provinces, Quebec in our case.

The problem for Quebec is that the Civil Code, which was unanimously passed, as we know, provides that international adoptions must be finalized in Quebec by a Quebec court. If the bill as it currently stands is not amended, Quebec parents would be heavily penalized. If I may, I would like to point out that when it comes to international adoption, Quebec parents are way ahead of parents in other provinces. Indeed, of the 2,200 adoptions in Canada, 950 were in Quebec.

Finally, since I am running out of time, I will add that the government intends to change the oath of allegiance to allow for a direct expression of allegiance to Canada, without removing the allegiance to the Queen. We believe this should be changed. I am happy to hear that members on the other side believe that the oath of allegiance to the Queen belongs to another era.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

It is an anachronism.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

My colleague is whispering to me it is an anachronism. Therefore, it should be changed. In conclusion, I will say that this new statute must allow all new citizens to exercise every right they are entitled to in this country, be it in Quebec or in Canada.

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member for Mercier what she thinks of the new procedure whereby, in order to acquire Canadian citizenship, an applicant would have to pledge loyalty, and I mean loyalty and allegiance, not only to the Queen, but also to Canada. The hon. member alluded to this earlier, and this is something that I personally object to, for all sorts of reasons.

I would like to know what the hon. member thinks of the government's intention to include in our political and constitutional context the word “Canada”. By including only the term “Canada”, the Canadian government is once again denying the existence of the Quebec nation within Canada.

So, I would like the hon. member to tell us where, in her opinion, we stand. As we know—and this is what I am concerned about—there is no right to appeal the decision made in secret by a judge. There is no right of appeal in this whole immigration process.

What would happen, and this is what I am worried about, if a new Canadian citizen has pledged loyalty and allegiance to Canada and then, realizing the existence of the Canadian and Quebec realities, and the merits of the claims made by Quebec sovereignists, becomes a sovereignist in Quebec, lives in a region or in Montreal, joins the Bloc Quebecois, the Parti Quebecois, the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal or a national society, and becomes persona non grata in the eyes of the Canadian government, which closely follows this whole thing? The current minister of immigration made extremely harsh and unfair comments about our former colleague, Osvaldo Nunez, when he referred to deportation.

So, what would happen to an immigrant who becomes a sovereignist in good faith, under our democratic rules? Is there not a danger that a witch hunt will begin and that the government will invoke futile reasons, in secret, to revoke that person's Canadian citizenship, under the legislation, simply because that person is a sovereignist? Is there not a danger that the person could be sent back to his country, because he unfortunately became a sovereignist in Quebec, that is a good citizen of Quebec?

I would like to know what the hon. member for Mercier thinks of the government's intention to include the term Canada in the bill?

Citizenship of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, many other Quebeckers will surely have concerns about the question my hon. colleague just asked.

What I have to say is quite simple. Canadian citizenship gives new Quebeckers the same rights as those enjoyed by all Quebeckers, whether they are native born or new immigrants.

The law makes it possible, legal and even legitimate--as the Supreme Court ruled in answer to a question put by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs--to seek sovereignty.

So, if the minister's motivations are not all above board, legislation in Quebec and in Canada gives new citizens full access to the protection provided by our legal, judicial and legislative tradition. I do hope that the minister's motivations are pure, because, as I have said previously about another part of this legislation, other ministers will be appointed after him.

We will then have to fiercely protect the rights of new and native born Quebeckers.

Senior of the Year
Statements By Members

November 7th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, retired general surgeon, Dr. John Moffat was recently named senior of the year by the City of Cambridge.

Dr. Moffat is chairman of the Cambridge and North Dumfries Community Foundation, a former chairman of Wilfrid Laurier University and a founding father of the annual Can-Amera Games.

Never one to seek the limelight, Dr. Moffat's generosity, kindness and tireless community involvement has touched the lives of many people in my riding of Cambridge.

I join all members of the House in congratulating Dr. Moffat on receiving this award. I wish him all the best and I encourage him in his volunteer efforts to make Cambridge the best city in Canada.

Afghanistan
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, we all know how important it was for Canada to join the coalition that broke the grip of terrorist and repressive forces in Afghanistan. However our responsibility cannot stop there. A year ago the fresh breezes of freedom began to blow in Afghanistan. Now, a year later, ominous clouds are on the horizon.

The school programs for girls, which sprang up due to the courage and conviction of many people, are now literally under fire. Last week alone, four of these schools were hit by the rocket attacks of Taliban related forces who want to crush the newfound freedom of this new generation of the Afghan people.

Valiant Canadians, like Sally Armstrong and the women's groups working with her, are alerting us to the need of a Canadian presence in Afghanistan to visibly work with agencies there to restore and protect these school programs to see young girls and boys educated and given the tools to help them work for a future of hope.

Canada was there shoulder to shoulder with our allies to liberate Afghanistan. We must now be there heart to heart and person to person to help build and maintain the programs that will make liberation in Afghanistan a reality for generations to come.