Citizenship of Canada Act

An Act respecting Canadian citizenship

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.


Denis Coderre  Liberal


Not active, as of Nov. 8, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)


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.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 11:20 a.m.
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Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is very difficult to approach the business of the House today after weekend events that demonstrated so disastrously, yet again, the Liberal government's inability to provide peace, order and good government.

Teck Resources Limited withdrew from a $20-billion project that had passed a succession of environmental reviews; had the enthusiastic support of indigenous communities that would have shared significant economic benefits and 7,000 jobs in construction and 2,500 jobs in operation; and had the support of provincial governments, business and industry, given the $70 billion in economic stimulus it would have provided to the national economy. This took place because the Liberal government could not resolve its contradictory environmental and resource-development policies and provide certainty that the project would not be threatened by further lawlessness. This is a devastating blow to the Alberta economy, the national economy and to the concept of peace, order and good government.

With that, I will proceed to the legislation at hand.

It is an honour to rise today to speak to the importance, indeed the sanctity, of the oath sworn by all new citizens of our great country, Canada. The current oath of citizenship is a relatively short, compact and simple, but profound, promise of new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada. It is an affirmation of patriotism and loyalty.

As we consider Bill C-6 today, I believe a few moments of historical reflection are in order.

Canada may be 152 years old, but Canada only became largely independent of the United Kingdom in 1931, under the Conservative government of Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. Even after 1931, citizens of this country remained British subjects. Anyone coming to Canada from anywhere else in the Commonwealth was not required to take the oath of allegiance. However, by 1946, the Canadian Parliament, the MPs sitting in Centre Block, now under renovation next door, moved to enact the Canadian Citizenship Act.

I arrived in Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax with my mother, a Canadian army nurse, aboard a Red Cross hospital ship in convoy, the Lady Nelson toward the end of the Second World War, a couple of years before the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect in 1947. My parents were both Canadian: My father was a captain in the Canadian army and my mother was a nursing sister lieutenant assigned to the army medical corps plastic surgery team. I was born in a Canadian army hospital in Bramshott, Sussex.

With all of this combined, I grew through childhood and into my twenties believing that I was a Canadian citizen. I was sworn into the Royal Canadian Navy, only briefly, to my lifelong regret, and then into the Royal Canadian Army Reserve, taking the oath of loyalty to Queen and Canada each time, and I voted in two Canadian elections. I only discovered in 1966, when I applied for my first passport to travel to Vietnam as a freelance journalist, that I did not qualify to carry a Canadian passport: Because I arrived in Canada before 1947, I was not a Canadian citizen.

Fortunately in the 1960s, naturalization of this sort could be accomplished in very short order, and very quickly I was able to finally officially swear the oath of allegiance, officially becoming a Canadian citizen. I received a passport and was able to begin getting on with my life.

The actual Canadian citizenship oath only became law with amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1977. For the first time, Queen Elizabeth was cited as the Queen of Canada, consistent with Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy.

I assure you, Madam Speaker, I am moving steadily toward the proposed amendment to the oath before us today, changes that have been proposed a number of times since 1977 by Liberal governments. These proposed changes, in their time, were controversial and were either abandoned or died on the Order Paper.

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal citizenship and immigration minister, Sergio Marchi, commissioned a group of Canadian writers to compose a new oath that would have, outrageously, dropped all reference to Queen Elizabeth, our constitutional monarch. Fortunately, the Liberal prime minister, Chrétien, in a moment of exceptional clarity, told minister Marchi to park that proposed change and it was abandoned.

However, as members know, Liberals love tinkering with legislation, and a few years later another Liberal minister, Lucienne Robillard, tried to get rid of not the Queen this time but allegiance to her heirs and successors, which suggested to many that Canada's constitutional monarchy could end with her death. That bill, Bill C-63, died on the Senate Order Paper when an election was called. Two similar follow-on bills, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18, failed as well. As a matter of fact, Bill C-18 never made it past second reading in the House.

That brings us to Bill C-6, the proposal before us today to amend the Citizenship Act again.

The minister's mandate letter has directed him to achieve 12 specific tasks. Among these tasks are a number that stumped his two predecessors through the past Parliament.

The minister has been directed to effectively address the continuing flow of illegal migrants across Canada's southern border, more than 16,000 last year, and to engage the United States in closing loopholes in the safe third country agreement. As the backlog of asylum claimants, most of whom are likely to be rejected, approaches 90,000 and is still rising, the minister has been directed to reduce processing times. As well, the minister has been directed by the Prime Minister to advance reforms in the capacity of the asylum system and introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk. As provinces, communities, chambers of commerce, and business and industry across Canada appeal for more timely, more efficient processing of permanent immigrants, the minister has been directed to assist there as well.

There are other directions in the minister's mandate letter, but the first legislation brought to the House by the minister is far down the mandate-letter list. Bill C-6 is, for all intents and purposes, the same proposed legislation as Bill C-69, thrown into the legislative process in the final days of the last Parliament, in June. There was no time to debate it then or for a committee study. It had absolutely no chance of passing in that Parliament. It was simply a pre-election promise.

Now we have Bill C-6. The oath as it is today, and as I have heard it many times over the years attending citizenship ceremonies as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, is this:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is, as I suggested in my opening remarks, a relatively short, compact, simple but profound promise of all new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada.

The oath, with amendments proposed by the minister, would be:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The government tells us that these additional 19 words are a fulfilment of a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In fact, the commission only recommended that four words be added to the oath, which were “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples”. Whether four or 19 words are added to the oath, let us look at who would be speaking these words, the future new Canadians who would be swearing or affirming this proposed longer oath.

Let me suggest to colleagues in the House to close their eyes for a moment, if I have not already led them to a somnolent state. I am sure they can visualize a familiar scene. In a council chamber, a courtroom or an event room in a historic building, or at a site or national park, there is a group of 40 or 60 men, women and children, along with as many or more friends and family.

A citizenship judge enters, often accompanied by a Mountie or two, a handful of politicians and, in recent years, very often an indigenous representative of the region or province. Canada's national anthem is sung with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than in other circumstances. A few tears of anticipatory joy may be shed.

A smudging ceremony may be conducted, in which sage, cedar, tobacco or other plants are burned to cleanse and purify the event. Inspirational words will be offered by the presiding citizenship judge and other notables present. They will speak to the importance of the event, our country's history, perhaps their own personal experiences, and the words they are about to speak together.

Visualize again for a moment the expectant faces among the audience, faces from races, religions, cultures, communities and countries near and far who have come to Canada under a variety of circumstances. They may have come as economic migrants or refugees to join family members who came before, or as temporary foreign workers, or as international students who fell in love with this country and decided to stay and build their future lives here as citizens.

This ceremony is not a one-hour or a one-day event. One does not become a citizen overnight. This ceremony is the culmination of years of preparation, including accumulating the required residency years, learning one or both of Canada's official languages, and studying the many documents and data contained in the Discover Canada handbook or on the audio files connected to it and on the website.

This handbook is an abundant repository of Canadian history, citizen responsibilities and obligations, rights entrenched in the Constitution and the importance of the rule of law. This handbook is essential reading for new citizens, not only for the historic content, but also for the study questions provided to help them prepare for the citizenship test.

The handbook offers solid detail of Canada's first nations. As the section on aboriginal peoples explains, first nations' ancestors are “believed to have migrated from Asia many thousands of years ago.” It explains that aboriginal people were well established in Canada “long before explorers from Europe first came to North America. Diverse, vibrant First Nations cultures were rooted in religious beliefs about their relationship to the Creator, the natural environment and each other.”

The handbook also lays out in easily consumed detail the following:

Aboriginal and treaty rights are in the Canadian Constitution. Territorial rights were first guaranteed through the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III, and established the basis for negotiating treaties with the newcomers—treaties that were not always fully respected.

The handbook addresses the impact of European diseases on the native culture and how traders, missionaries, soldiers and colonists changed native lives forever.

In preparation, future citizens learn of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Loyalist military and political leader during the American Revolution; of Tecumseh and the Shawnees he led in support of British forces in the War of 1812; and of Louis Riel's fight for Métis rights as well as his trial and execution in 1885.

The handbook describes almost two centuries of injustice and abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools, physical abuse and cultural oppression. The handbook reminds readers that in 2008 in Ottawa the federal government under Conservative Prime Minister Harper formally apologized to former students. As well, the handbook defines the three distinct groups that compose Canada's aboriginal peoples.

The Conservative Party fully supports treaty rights and the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people. Conservatives support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Conservatives support action on clean water, safe housing, education, health and economic opportunity, and the Indian Act, which blocks many first nations from charting their own future.

The Conservative Party fully respects treaties, which are already among Canada's body of laws. The Conservative Party supports the resolution of unfulfilled treaty obligations in the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people.

In the week since these proposed changes were reintroduced by the government, I have received messages from constituents, and from far beyond, which contend that this amendment amounts to typical Liberal tokenism and virtue signalling, pandering and should be opposed.

I cannot speak to the Liberal government's motivation here, because when it comes to public policy, inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of legislative process and decision-making. However, I can say that I have spoken often in this House against proposals, very often from the Liberal government, to burden various sections of clearly written sections of law, of the Criminal Code, with unneeded specificities.

In this debate, I must be clear that I believe the existing oath of citizenship does not need to be burdened with 19 new words that I believe are redundant. If we are to add first nations specificity, why not official bilingualism, why not privacy, why not national security, why not anti-Semitism?

Therefore, I propose the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), since the existing Oath of Citizenship already includes the profound promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada and the bill does nothing to support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

March 4th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
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David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

People in Winnipeg...? There you go. Everything can be made better. That was 2001. Who was the government then?

Anyway, moving on to my third.... In the 37th Parliament, second sitting, the aboriginal affairs committee studied Bill C-7. Thirty meetings, thirty, and we can't get any. They got 30. From March 17, 2003, to March 26, 2003, and March 31, 2003, they went to 30 meetings. They went to 18 cities. Which ones you ask? I knew somebody would ask me which ones.

So that would be Red Deer, Alberta, lovely place; Nanaimo, B.C., good committee; Prince Rupert, B.C.; Prince George, B.C.; Fort McMurray, Alberta—you'd think there'd be some appeal from the other side there, they'd want to hear from Albertans but I guess not—Slave Lake, Alberta; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; North Battleford, Saskatchewan; Regina, Saskatchewan; Sudbury, Ontario; Thompson, Manitoba; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Fredericton, New Brunswick; Montreal, Quebec; and Val-d'Or, Quebec.

That is a serious consultation. It's also very relevant because if you look at those cities, they are either areas where there are first nations reserves and therefore first nations people, or they are communities, urban centres, where aboriginal Canadians are living, first nations people.

I'm sitting beside someone who is an expert compared to what I might know about this. However, the issues for first nations people on reserve and in cities, while there are some overlaps of concerns in terms of ID and some of the formula there, a lot of it has to do with their rights in two different geographical settings. If I live on the reserve, it's one set. If I leave the reserve and I live in an urban setting, the rules are very different. Certainly my society around me affects me in a different way.

So that's why they went there. They could have made the argument the government is making here and said it's aboriginal affairs but we can bring in Chief Atleo and we can bring in everybody else we need and get a video link. Why do we need to go there? Why? Funny, nobody made the...and if they did make an argument then it wasn't the prevailing thought. The majority of them said no, are you crazy? We have a bill here about aboriginal affairs. It makes all the sense in the world that we better go out and talk to the Canadians that this affects. That's what they did. My colleague says respect. I said that word earlier and that's what's missing. That committee showed respect to the Canadians they visited. The government right now is not showing any respect.

Am I done, you ask? No. There are more examples—and all need to be mentioned to support my motion—that go on to explain and hopefully convince my colleagues why there are times when it is good for democracy for committees to travel. This is one of them. Another one was in 2003, citizenship and immigration again studying Bill C-18 and they held 29 meetings. They visited a dozen cities.

April 18th, 2013 / 9:40 a.m.
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Senior Honorary Counsel, B'nai Brith Canada

David Matas

I was interested in your comments about the process, which relates to your question. I'll try to connect the two.

There's been a long history—over 10 years now—of various governments introducing amendments to the Citizenship Act to deal with revocation, for example, Bill C-16, BillC-18, and BillC-37, which have some good suggestions in them that we like. We've proposed that some of them be incorporated in here.

It's of some concern to us that all these proposed amendments—which would change the revocation process, which is not working now—are put aside, and instead we have this bill. There are some good things in the bill, and we support many of the components of it, but because it's a private member's bill—and this is a point your colleague Irwin Cotler has mentioned—it doesn't go through Justice charter scrutiny the way government bills do.

To answer specifically, yes, there's a charter right of citizenship, which is not limited necessarily to the way citizenship is defined in the Citizenship Act. It's open to anybody who loses their citizenship to say that this is a violation of their charter right to citizenship, regardless of what the Citizenship Act says.

I can't tell you whether a charter challenge like that is going to succeed or not, but it's certainly potentially there.

Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to partake in the debate, particularly when a number of important dates come together. The important dates I am referring to are the 60th anniversary of the 1947 Citizenship Act, the 30th anniversary of the 1977 Citizenship Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms being 25 years old, and I am also celebrating the fact that 50 years ago my family and I came to Canada as refugees.

As a matter of fact, right about this time we were preparing to flee Hungary, which was undergoing a police crackdown. It was a police state where people who had anything to do with the revolution or who criticized the government of the day would be systematically eliminated. It was the end of this month in February that my family crossed through mine fields to get to Austria where we received a great deal of help and hospitality from the Austrian people. I would be remiss if I did not express my personal thanks and the thanks of all the Hungarian refugees at that time who ended up in Austria, and 90% of them did.

It was around the middle of June that our family, having spent time in different refugee camps, ended up in Canada. Our experience upon landing was to be placed with a host family, the Hay family. They had three kids, just as I had two siblings in my family. It was an amazing experience for us. Our family spoke Hungarian and we were living with a family that spoke English. My father spoke a number of other languages so it was kind of fun making communication work.

What struck me at the time was Canada's policy to bring in 38,000 refugees from Hungary, which was the biggest per capita of any other country in the world. The United States, with a population 10 times that of Canada, took in 47,000. So 38,000 was a huge number for Canada to bring in. What struck me was the reception we received from the Canadian people. It was the people of Canada who drove that change and wanted Canada to be at the forefront in their assistance to the refugees.

I mention that because part of the issue related to citizenship and immigration is private sponsorship and how important it is that we engage Canadians and the community in making that happen. Too often we do not meet our targets in terms of private sponsorship, which is an opportunity lost. It is an opportunity lost for new Canadians coming into this country and it is an opportunity lost for the government to ensure the people are settled and become contributing members of Canadian society as quickly as possible.

These experiences played a strong motivational role for me when we dealt with the anti-terrorism bill, which has become an issue. We had numerous debates in the last Parliament when we dealt with this. It was after the horrible events of 9/11 that I initially thought we could make legislation to make the country safer and that we should undertake a campaign against terror to accomplish that.

At the end of the debate, in my last speech to the House on that issue, I said, remembering what I remember, having had the experiences that I had, that I could not support the legislation because on balance we had a very good criminal justice system and one that was on the top tier in the world and that we also had a very good security system.

One of the things I have learned is that when a person experiences the unfortunate situation of having lived in a police state where police powers are not checked, it creates a kind of society that is alien to democracy. It creates a society where they are set up against us.

One of the strengths that Canada has is that no one group is a majority and everybody is a collection of minorities. It is important to understand that because we must never get into a situation where we stigmatize any part of our population. We all need to come together to ensure we have a secure country.

We saw the experience in the United States of America with the O.J. Simpson case where the jury refused to convict. It refused to convict because of the years and years of racism and how the whole thing played out. I mention that because if we are to have an immigration policy and a new Citizenship Act, we must be mindful that all Canadians, no matter what their backgrounds, are equal.

The suffering that has taken place in this country in terms of various minority groups coming together is incredibly well-documented in the book entitled, “Whence they came:...” by Barbara Roberts. It is a book that everybody who sits on the citizenship and immigration committee, the justice committee and whoever sits in Parliament should read because it chronicles some of the worst abuses in our history when it came to dealing with minorities.

It is exactly because of those abuses that we ended up in 1982 with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an atonement, so to speak, and a recognition that what we did in the past was wrong and that those mistakes must never be repeated. As we work together now and in the future we must ensure that we protect human rights and civil liberties.

One of the problems in terms of fighting terrorism is that we hear talk all the time about it being constitutional. The reason it is constitutional is because it is exempted from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A section in the Constitution allows that the guaranteed rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be put aside. It does not meet the test of the charter but just because something is constitutional does not make it charter compliant. However, any legislation we introduce should be charter compliant because then we create the kind of society that is so very important.

My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas proposed a number of amendments to the motion before us today. It would have been nice to have had them adopted because I think we could have worked collectively toward a revised Citizenship Act and Immigration Act that would meet the needs of Canadians. I despair at times about the kind of political rhetoric we get into when we are dealing with the whole issue of citizenship and immigration.

I wish we could tone down the partisan politics and put them aside to the extent of being able to say that it does not matter which political party is in power, that we need an act that works for all Canadians and how do we come together to make this happen.

In the last Parliament, I had the pleasure of serving as the chair of the parliamentary committee on citizenship and immigration. I put a challenge out to the members. I said that we were all parliamentarians who wanted to do our best for the country so we should try to leave our partisan differences outside the door and work together to come to a consensus and see if we can drive the consensus to actually change legislation.

I believe my colleagues will say that when the previous minister of citizenship and immigration was in front of the committee that I was probably his harshest critic. I wanted to make the process work and wanted us, in a non-partisan fashion, to contribute to legislation that would be a very important part of Canada's assets, which are the people, as well as immigrants coming to this country, because immigration has always been and will continue to be the lifeblood of this country.

One of the areas we worked very hard on was the Citizenship Act. We made it our number one priority. It often gets mentioned that the Liberals did not pass the Citizenship Act, and that is correct. In the 35th Parliament there was talk about the Citizenship Act. In the 36th Parliament, two citizenship acts were tabled; one was Bill C-63, which was followed by Bill C-16, which went through the House in the spring of 2000. It was properly held up in the Senate and never came back to the House, so the bill died. That bill needed great improvement. Bill C-18 was the next bill to come through and it had some very major flaws that we worked on. We made improvements to it, but it did not come to fruition.

In the last Parliament there were two ministers of citizenship and immigration. It is unfortunate that we had two. I think we would have been better served if we only had one, but the unfortunate circumstances around one of the ministers meant we had to substitute another one.

In that Parliament the citizenship and immigration committee came up with three reports dealing specifically with the Citizenship Act. We on that committee made it our number one priority. We undertook cross-Canada tours in 2003 and 2005. We had a great deal of input from the public as to what it wanted to see happen with the Citizenship Act and we came up with some very good reports. The reports were given to the minister to serve as guides for legislation that could have been quickly passed.

One of those reports was “Citizenship Revocation: A Question of Due Process and Respecting Charter Rights”. That report was unanimously adopted without debate in this chamber. All Progressive Conservative members on the committee voted unanimously in favour of it. We also came up with another report “Updating Canada's Citizenship Laws: It's Time”. I am pleased to say that the report received unanimous support from the committee. All Conservative members voted in favour of it.

That committee operated in a fairly non-partisan fashion. Once in a while we had flare-ups, but that was expected. We usually reserved those for the House.

The need for a new Citizenship Act has been highlighted by what has been happening with the issue of lost Canadians and the debate that has gone on. Every member of the committee knew we had a problem in this area. It should have come as no surprise that with the new passport requirements people suddenly found out they were not citizens. We heard extensively from various lost Canadians.

We heard extensively from people like Mr. Joe Taylor, the son of a Canadian veteran who fought for this country in the second world war to protect our democracy. The birthright of that veteran's child was denied because of discriminatory clauses in the 1946 Citizenship Act, which unfortunately were not corrected in the 1977 Citizenship Act. Mr. Taylor's case is really tragic because he is the son of a Canadian veteran and his birthright was being denied. Wrongfully, the department denied him citizenship, so Mr. Taylor took the department to court.

On September 1, Mr. Taylor won his case. A judge ruled that discriminating against people because they were born out of wedlock is not permitted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The judge also ruled that withdrawing citizenship because of an obscure notice in the Citizenship Act that the person would not be aware of offends section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

During that month the government got rid of the court challenges program. That led to people or groups who needed to fight for their rights under the charter could only do it if they could raise the money.

I am going to get very partisan about this. Access to justice should not depend on the size of one's pocketbook and whether or not one can afford a lawyer. Access to protecting one's charter rights should be available to every Canadian. It is a basic human right as far as I am concerned. Getting rid of the court challenges program means that those who want justice and need to go to the Supreme Court had better have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to get there.

Mr. Taylor's situation was so unnecessary. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Joe Taylor's father for fighting for this country and fighting for democracy in the second world war. That was just one of the cases.

There are Canadians who have lived in Canada all their lives but who were born in the U.S. because their parents happened to live close to the American border and their parents did not have access to a Canadian hospital. There are thousands of people in that situation.

There is a situation that I am aware of, and the committee will be aware of when it holds its hearings, where three siblings are getting citizenship under section 5(4) and the government is trying to deport the fourth sibling. Why? Because the individual has a criminal record.

Members know how hard I fought in this House against citizenship revocation because it does not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just as it is wrong for a minister and politicians to revoke somebody's citizenship, which is an incredible abuse of process, an incredible abuse of the charter, it is also wrong for a minister to be able to grant citizenship. Citizenship should be prescribed by law. It is in legislation. A person who meets the requirements should get it. The thought of a minister handing out tens of thousands of citizenship certificates boggles the mind.

We are not dealing with difficult legislation. Other countries have gone through it. Australia is going through it. Trinidad went through it. Trinidad made a simple amendment and, lo and behold, the sky did not fall. They were not sued for billions of dollars. They essentially said that if someone's citizenship was revoked by an essentially ridiculous, discriminatory piece of legislation, then it would be restored and it would be restored to the time that the person lost it.

We have a piece of legislation that discriminates against religious marriages. I find this passing strange coming from the Conservatives, but essentially that is what it is. There are Mennonites who married in religious ceremonies in Mexico or Paraguay and failed to have a civil wedding to go along with it. This involves thousands of people, and we will hear evidence on that. Their offspring are considered to be born out of wedlock. Do people find it shocking? I do. That has to be changed. Here we are, discriminating against religious marriages. Religious marriages are guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I am hoping that the government will come together with the rest of the committee and the opposition parties. In a very non-partisan fashion we can produce a citizenship act that will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the charter, the 30th anniversary of the 1977 act and the 60th anniversary of the 1947 act.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
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Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, in this House, not a day goes by that the merits of democracy are not praised, and rightly so.

In the name of democracy, we exchange ideas, we debate social issues and we legislate. In this whole process, there are rules to be followed that our legislators have set out and that we must abide by. We can decide together to change some standards, since nothing is permanent. But this must be done in accordance with the system in which we live.

Can we decide to change the rules to accommodate just one person? I doubt that very much, and I will take the few minutes I have to show that the purpose of Bill C-49 is not to further the public's general interests, but only to look after the interests of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.

First, for those who have just joined us, I want to say what the debate is all about. After each decennial census, the House of Commons reviews the number of its members according to the Canadian population. After numerous steps and consultations, a representation order is proclaimed to confirm the new electoral boundaries. However, the legislation provides that the coming into force of the new electoral map cannot occur less than a year following the proclamation date. Why this time frame? Although the government tries to pretend that this is just a formality to accommodate the Chief Electoral Officer, it is much more complicated.

When, as representatives of the people of our respective ridings, we have the interests of fellow citizens and respect for democracy at heart, we cannot proceed without the required formalism. We are the first ones to deplore the lower voter turnout, to deplore the lack of interest for politics.

Is it possible that we are prepared to effect major changes, so major that some people's ridings will disappear—as is the case for Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and Mauricie—without even taking the time to provide the public with proper information on the impact of these changes? This is where we have a major disagreement with the government. Here, as in many other areas, what is worth doing is worth doing right.

The present time frame in this bill makes it possible to do as I am doing at this time in my own riding, that is to inform people of the changes being made and what to expect when the next election is called. People need to feel that we have taken the necessary time to keep them informed and have not rushed to push through at top speed the election of the future crowned head of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals claim the purpose of what they are doing is to reflect as well as possible the new demographic realities. That is not where we have a problem; it is with the government trying to convince us of the urgency to do something. That is why we have no choice but to denounce this as false.

The last federal election was held in November 2000, which means that the government has until November 2005 under the law to call people back to the polls.

Since the order on the new electoral boundaries was issued on August 25, 2003, this leaves us until August 25, 2004 for the new electoral map to take effect. From August 2004 to November 2005 is more than a year. The government can very easily leave the legislation as it is, and call an election after August 25, 2004. That is, moreover, what logic would dictate, because it would allow Parliament to make progress on some very important matters that have, unfortunately, been at a standstill since the Prime Minister's announcement during the summer of 2002 of his intention to retire in February 2004. Everyone knows that the candidate for his position is the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, whose coronation, nothing more than a formality, will take place in November.

I will digress for a moment to talk about this famous convention to be held in November, and the way the government has been paralyzed for more than a year now. Hon. members are aware that rumours abound in the best of families, in the most respectable of circles. The Parliament of Canada is no exception.

Although I am aware that rumours must not be given more credence than they deserve, I would still like our audience to know about the most persistent rumour that is going around the Hill at this time. It is obvious that the government does not know which way to turn, with a present PM and a future PM both around.

The members opposite would have a hard time telling us with a straight face which one of the two caucus meetings is the most important: the one organized by the member for LaSalle—Émard or the one organized by the member for Saint-Maurice, the present and real prime minister. This is why it is rumoured that Parliament could adjourn as early as November 7 until February. That is right, February. Because of an ambiguous situation, a clear lack of leadership and a childish fight for power, Parliament could recess for several months, leaving a lot of work undone. And if an election is called after that for the spring, we might as well give the Liberal government's score for its third mandate right away. The result will be quite simple. Nobody will ever forget it. Efforts: zero. Work: zero. Listening to the people: zero. Accomplishments: zero. In short, the Liberal government's global score on ten points will be zero, four times over.

But let us get back to the issue at hand. We were saying that this future prime minister should take office in February 2004. Is it really that urgent to call an election right away? There is no doubt that this is what he wants to do, since his friends and supporters are already working to pave the way for him, for instance by promoting Bill C-49. Why does the government feel it has to adopt an act before the new electoral boundaries take effect? Did it get confirmation that the member for LaSalle—Émard intends to call an election for the spring, only three years and a bit into its current mandate?

Parliament is neither a place for reflection nor a portrait gallery of former prime ministers. We are here to legislate on important issues. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, of which I am a member, is currently considering Bill C-18 on citizenship. This is the government's third attempt since 1977 to modernize the Citizenship Act. Many witnesses have appeared for the third time before the committee due to the prorogation of work and election calls. This time, the committee has reached clause by clause consideration. Things are plodding along: slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes. However, there is nothing to indicate that we will be able to complete work on Bill C-18 once again, particularly since we have had to put it on hold to consider the thrilling idea of a national identity card.

If the future prime minister decides to call a spring election, Parliament will be prorogued, and all our work will be abandoned. What credibility will this Parliament have when we need to call witnesses for a fourth time and start all over again? Will they trust our wish to move on this? With Bill C-49, we risk once again playing the fools, and it comes down to this institution's credibility.

That is the danger with this bill. It is much more than simply advancing the effective date of the new electoral map. It is about respecting people.

By considering an election call in the spring of 2004, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard is saying that he is not bothered by such considerations. Voters who brought in a majority Liberal government in November 2000 expect more from him. The change in leadership will not change this government. It is the same party with the same members. Under the new prime minister, the government will still be formed by members of the Liberal Party of Canada, as per our democracy. It is and will be merely a continuation, no matter what that 65-year-old greenhorn would have us believe, in his attempt to personify renewal. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard should not count his chickens yet; everyone will remember that he was one of the key players in this government over the past ten years. We do not need to be fortune tellers to know that this is not the coming of the messiah.

We still have to wonder why the future prime minister is so eager to call an early election. Instead, he should use the next few months to show Canadians how his government would be different. If he were not afraid to show his true colours, he would not be concerned that a few months would cost him a lot of seats in the House of Commons.

He is also showing a total lack of leadership. He is trying to avoid setting up a ministerial team and, in doing so, alienating some of his partisans, and that could cost him dearly in the next election.

Election organization is usually partisan in nature. There is however one basic fact that is really crucial to proper elections. I am talking about the administrative structure that ensures the proper enforcement of the Elections Act, including the role played by the returning officers, the ROs.

Raising the number of federal ridings from 301 to 308 will not be done without some major changes to the boundaries. When the boundaries are changed, the mandates of the ROs are over. New returning officers will have to be appointed, based on their knowledge of the law and their judgment—meaning their respect for democracy. Once the ROs are appointed, they will need to be trained and given the necessary tools to properly enforce the law. Support staff will then have to be trained, polling divisions will have to be set up, polling stations accessible to everyone, including the handicapped, will have to be located, and the list of duties to carry out goes on and on.

Reducing the time set aside to complete the electoral administrative process is deliberately choosing amateurism and a “who cares” attitude. As a matter of fact, with Bill C-49, it is “who cares as long as we win as soon as possible”.

The opposition parties have grown accustomed to seeing the government call general elections after only three years and a bit, even though it is a blatant waste of time, energy and, mostly, public money. By the way, do you know that the last federal election, which took place in November 2000, cost taxpayers close to $250 million? As a matter of fact, in 2004, it will be the fourth election since 1993 for a total of about one billion dollars. With four elections in eleven years, when traditionally there is one election every four years, one does not need to be an accountant to realize that we have had one too many under the Liberal regime. It is high time we looked at fixed election dates.

We are all ready to face the music should the next election campaign take place in the spring of 2004. However, we are no fools and we know full well that an election campaign is not something you plan on a paper napkin between the aperitif and the crème brûlée. To be well structured and more than smoke and mirrors and a litany of empty promises, something the party in power is so good at, a campaign must be carefully orchestrated. The stakes are huge and the challenges many.

First, each party must have enough time to make people understand the true choices as well as the ins and outs of the various stakeholders' positions. To do this effectively, political parties must rely on a proven and well thought out platform. That is done in cooperation with party members and in consultation with a number of social players in order to clearly reflect the needs of the people.

However, it is an entirely different story when it comes to the Liberal Party of Canada, which is not in the habit of consulting the public, let alone listening to and following up on their concerns. Nevertheless, for anyone who truly has the public's interests at heart, this process should be given the time it needs and not be rushed in a moment of defiance for purely electoral considerations.

The other challenge is to have the opportunity to oppose ideas and hold real debates that rise above the ongoing partisan trench wars. To do so, political parties have to rely on the mobilization of their members and try to convince those less inclined to support them so that their view is at least considered. If the campaign is organized on a whim, or a power trip, then some groups risk being left out in the cold. What do we stand to gain as a society if our government represents only a very select part of the electorate? The answer is obvious.

The organizational side of things is nothing without the many people who become actively involved during the election. And most volunteers do not come knocking at the door.

Hundreds, even thousands of people across Canada have to be recruited for this undertaking to run smoothly. These are people who, through their work, foster the emergence of a political conscience and sense of social duty. If we want to have a higher turnout than in previous years, then we must ensure that these volunteers do not feel rushed by a last minute deadline. Without their invaluable support, rest assured that voter turnout will decline at an even more alarming rate than we have seen over the past few years.

Among all these challenges, the greatest remains that of convincing the public that politics is much more than what they read in the paper or see on television.

Beyond partisanship, political power is the source of the major policy thrusts are made. Is this an issue so insignificant that a handful of elected members can decide to call an early election to serve their own personal interests? I think that our duty goes way beyond such considerations. Can we accept a voter turnout of about 60% in a so-called democratic society such as ours? I for one am not satisfied with that; in fact, it is a source of serious concern for me.

Can we ignore the fact that people are losing interest in politics while major debates are taking place? Let us look at issues on which the involvement and interest of the public are crucial. Should same-sex marriage be allowed? Should we have a national identity card? Should abortion rights be challenged? Should the federal government recognize its responsibility in the fiscal imbalance experienced by Quebec and the other provinces of Canada?

All of these issues concern the public. Public participation is important at election time, so that these topics can be discussed and voters can make informed decisions regarding the party they want to put into office. It is up to us to ensure that the public feels concerned by these issues and by our work.

However, it is difficult to ask people to become actively involved and make themselves heard in an election campaign when at the same time we are trying to pull a fast one on them.

It has been demonstrated that Bill C-49 is futile. By moving up the effective date of the new electoral map, we are denying the pulbic the right to be properly informed about the changes that will take place at the next election.

In closing, allow me to make a final prediction: if under the guise of showing respect to the public the government gives it a slap in the face and shows it contempt, rest assured the public will remember come election day. Unfortunately, this could result in aneven lower voter turnout than in the 2000 election. No one will be a winner, especially not democracy.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

We should make it perfectly clear that the bill is not about boundary changes for the upcoming election. It is about pushing the date for the boundary changes up to an earlier date, from August 25 of next year to April 1 of next year.

For our viewing audience, I would like to give some background information.

On September 15 the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons introduced legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries generated by the recently completed electoral redistribution process.

The new electoral boundaries were proclaimed on August 25, 2003, but, under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, they would not take effect until the first dissolution of Parliament occurring at least one year after proclamation, i.e., August 25, 2004.

As we have heard, the rumour is that the House may dissolve itself as early as November 7.

By virtue of the proposed legislation, this one year grace period would be shortened. The new boundaries set out in the 2003 representation order would now be enforced upon the first dissolution of Parliament occurring on or after April 1, 2004.

The April 1, 2004 date was selected following the public statement of the Chief Electoral Officer that he could be operationally ready to proceed with the new boundaries as of that date.

I raise the question, as other members already have this morning in the House, what is the rush? Why are we rushing ahead to move the date up to April 1, 2004?

There is no doubt that the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party is anxious and wants to call a quick early election, just like our current Prime Minister did in the last election in 2000.

Before the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party calls an election, Canadians need to find out who the man is. The only way that can be done is to actually have the next leader of the Liberal Party stand in the House and answer some very hard, serious questions. I am sure Canadians from coast to coast to coast would be interested to know what kind of person will be leading the Liberal Party in the next election.

As we know a lot of questions have been raised in the House about some of the past history of the former minister of finance and the dealings of his former company, CSL. People need to know whether he paid his share of Canadian taxes and whether his companies received grants that were really made up of Canadian tax dollars. We need to know whether he operated above board and in a transparent manner. The position of a prime minister is very important. He is the leader of the country. Besides that, there is plenty of time to have a fall election after the boundaries legislation comes into effect on August 25, 2004.

I came here in 1997, as did many members in the House, and since that date we have had two elections in the course of those six years. My understanding, according to the rules of operation, is that the mandate of any government is five years. Roughly, we have had a mandate plus one year and we have had two federal elections. Every time we have an election it costs the taxpayers a lot of money.

Maybe there is some rationale for fixed terms. Every four years on a set date the electorate would go to the polls so we would not have this manipulation of the system. Bill C-49 is a good example of manipulating the timelines and the dates as to when one can have an election. I do not think Canadians are looking for that. They are not looking for governments of the day to waste tax dollars.

This is not the first time that governments, certainly this Liberal government, have attempted to block riding changes. Just to recollect, this is not the first time the Liberals have moved to alter the date on which redistribution takes effect. Unlike their two previous attempts, this bill advances rather than delays the new boundaries. It is rather ironic. This one actually advances the changes; the previous attempts have wanted to delay changes.

In February 1994 many Liberal backbenchers objected when they saw the proposed new maps that followed the 1991 census. Their response was Bill C-18, which would have thrown out the work already done and suspended the redistribution process for two years. The end result would have been for the 1997 general election to be fought on boundaries drawn up after the 1981 census, some 16 years prior.

At the time, the Progressive Conservative Party had sufficient numbers in the Senate to amend Bill C-18. The suspension period was reduced to one year from two. The boundaries commissions were allowed to complete their current phase of their work. After one year the boundaries commissions could continue their work from the point where it was suspended. The end result was that Bill C-18 could not kill redistribution and that an election call in 1997 would have to be fought on boundaries drawn on the basis of the 1991 census.

The Liberals tried again in 1995 with Bill C-69. That bill died on the Order Paper when Progressive Conservative senators insisted on a proper examination of the bill and its related issues in committee.

While we are talking about boundary changes, let me make some comments about boundary changes. There is no doubt that boundary changes are always good news because the country changes, the population base changes and demographics change from province to province. The current change is good news for the west because B.C. and Alberta will get more seats. In central Canada Ontario will get more seats.

In other words, I guess it is an advantage to grow one's province on a population basis, to have more babies. Maybe we need to go back to the plan that Quebec used to have to give grants to families to have more kids. Maybe it would be a good program for all of Canada because we know that one deficit in our country is people. That is why our immigration numbers have increased substantially. Perhaps we could do more to increase our own numbers in the country through birth.

On the subject of boundaries, there are two issues I would like to bring up. They are the changes to the boundaries relative to size and population base. It is a world phenomenon that people are moving from rural areas to urban areas. Not only is it happening in this country but it is happening around the world. That is going to create problems for ridings in our country that are very rural in nature. I noticed that with some of the boundaries that have changed there seems to an access to large urban centres in most areas. I suppose that eventually the population base in the rural areas will be outnumbered and outvoted by the folks in the city. I suppose that is inevitable with the change in demographics.

One thing I would like to say is that there are also limits to boundary changes in terms of geography. I know that many of the rural ridings which are very rural in Canada have no option except to get bigger. My own riding of Dauphin—Swan River is going to annex, I believe, another two municipalities to the riding and it is already over 200 miles long and over 100 miles wide. The question that needs to be raised is just how much space and population can one member of Parliament serve?

Already my riding has five provincial constituencies in it. Whenever I leave home it takes literally half a day sitting in my vehicle to get from place to place. I am wasting half the day if I am driving. I am fortunate enough that during the summer I can hop in my airplane and fly around the riding, but most people do not have that access.

Again we need to look at service. In Dauphin--Swan River I have eight satellite offices. I have eight offices in the riding and a staff of 11, but most members do not do that. I am very blessed with good staff and they do a great job. In other words, it is about serving the public but there are still limitations to that, not only on the geographic side but also on the dollar side. It costs money to provide service and that is an issue that needs to be raised.

Another thing with which I have a concern, like many MPs in the House, is the names that will come with the changes in the boundaries. At House leaders meetings there have been lists of submissions from members of Parliament who want the names changed to reflect the ridings. I agree that the members do know best, not a commission that was established because of politics. Members know the history of their ridings.

For example, originally my own riding was two federal ridings. One was called Marquette and the other was Dauphin--Swan River. The problem with the boundary change was that they forgot about Marquette which is of huge historical significance to the riding. Marquette was one of the first French explorers to explore that part of the country. Southwestern Manitoba at one time was known by Marquette. I believe that Joliet and Marquette explored the headwaters of the Mississippi right down to the mouth of the Mississippi. It is very important to the folks who now encompass the south half of my riding. They want the name Marquette put back where it rightfully should be.

I hope that through Bill C-51 all the name changes that have been proposed will be put back where they should be.

Let me close by saying that we as a party support the bill. We do not support this great rush to change the dates to give the new leader of the Liberal Party the option of calling a snap election anytime he wishes after April 1. Canadians deserve better.

Canadians need time in the House to find out just exactly who this new leader of the Liberal Party will be. To be fair to Canadians, I believe that the date of August 25 should remain. In any case, Bill C-51 talks about the name changes submitted by the members of the House. We support the bill. We will certainly vote in support of the bill, but we are not very happy about the intent of this bill.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2003 / 6:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-343, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, will make it easier for lost Canadians to regain their Canadian citizenship, as they would no longer have to be established as a permanent resident in order to do so.

The bill deals with the resumption of citizenship for people who lost their Canadian citizenship as minors between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977, when the responsible parent ceased to be a Canadian by becoming a citizen of another country.

Let me remind hon. members that we are referring to people who were born in Canada and therefore by birthright are Canadian citizens. Bill C-18, the new citizenship legislation, proposes that the residency requirement be modified to give the applicant flexibility in the time available to meet the requirement, and that the applicant must be physically present in Canada for 365 days out of the two years preceding the application. This is the third attempt by the government to modernize the 1977 act. Changes to the Citizenship Act on February 15, 1977, such as allowing dual citizenship, were not retroactive to the already lost Canadians.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's press release on May 14 of this year stated “normal selection criteria for permanent residence will be waived for these individuals”. The press release went on to say that “an exemption from the medical inadmissibility requirement related to an excessive demand on the health care system be granted to these people”.

The point still remains that a minor child who was born in Canada, who was a Canadian citizen, who moved with the parent to another country between 1947 and 1977, and whose parent became a citizen of that other country, should not have lost his or her citizenship in the first place. It was the responsible parent who became a citizen of another country, not the child.

Lost Canadians still have to pay the same fees as others applying and have to reside in Canada for one year within the two year time frame. Why? They did not ask for, nor did they obtain citizenship in another country. Their parent did.

My Bill C-343 would correct an injustice that should have been resolved when the Citizenship and Immigration Act was replaced in 1977, which allowed dual citizenship. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, dual citizenship allowed in 1977 was not retroactive. Bill C-343 would amend the existing act to recognize Canadian-born children who left this country between 1946 and 1977 as still being Canadians.

In conclusion, Bill C-343 should be incorporated into Bill C-18, the citizenship of Canada act, to correct historic wrongs and bring the 2003 act up to current morals and standards of what it means to be a Canadian.

Let us please pass this bill and finally welcome home our lost Canadians and allow them to reclaim the birthright they should not have lost as children through no fault of their own.

TerrorismRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 10:35 a.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to respond to the statements made by the Solicitor General on the question of national security, and the report that is being tabled in the House.

First off, the NDP has been a party in this Parliament that has stood up time and again to speak out and express what I think are the really very deep concerns of Canadians around issues of security as well as the increasing use of very substantive strong legislative powers, such as Bill C-36, which go far beyond the purview of dealing with security and which move us into the environment of fundamental civil liberties, a right to privacy and respect for the rights of individuals.

In our party, our former House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, our former justice critic, our current justice critic, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, as well as the member for Windsor—St. Clair, in fact all of us in our caucus, have really monitored and analyzed the government's performance and progress or lack thereof on the issue of national security.

Since the passage of Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation, in December 2001, we have had increasing concerns about what is happening as a result of this legislation, as well as other legislation that has been approved and is currently in the process of being debated, legislation such as Bill C-17, the public safety act which is currently before the House and Bill C-18, the new citizens act. What holds these pieces of legislation together is they all contain extraordinary powers that when used by organizations like CSIS or the RCMP, can fundamentally violate the rights of individual Canadians.

While the minister has said today that there is a threat against Canada in terms of terrorism, it is most important that we ensure the war on terrorism does not also become a war on targeted minorities, especially those Canadians of Middle Eastern background or from the Muslim community.

We have been monitoring various cases that have taken place in Canada. We are very aware of the fact that there has been an increase in problems at border crossings for Canadians. They are being held up, being fingerprinted, having mug shots taken and being turned back. We are seeing an increase of racial profiling take place.

The whole question of the harmonization of our borders with the U.S. under the guise of security is something that should be of deep concern to us. One of the fundamental problems is whether we have adequate civilian oversight in terms of what is taking place as a result of this legislation being implemented and others that are now about to be approved through the House.

Even over the last few days, in the House of Commons in question period, the Solicitor General has been questioned by members of the opposition, including our party, about the role that CSIS has played. While in his statement today the minister claims that this department acts in full cooperation with all other federal departments, clearly what is coming out of the trial which is underway in Vancouver on the Air India case are some very serious questions about the lack of cooperation and the territorialism between the RCMP and CSIS.

We have a very significant concern about the nature of the work of CSIS as it is implemented as a result of legislation like Bill C-36, and who is actually protecting the civil liberties of Canadians.

I notice that today in the minister's statement that he barely mentioned that element. It seems to us that this is a fundamental question which the government needs to monitor in terms of, as he himself has argued today in the House, legislation that has incredibly strong powers.

We want to know why the Solicitor General is not taking the necessary steps to ensure there is proper civilian oversight of Canada's secret police. We want to know why there is not adequate civilian oversight on legislation like Bill C-36. We want to know how groups can be added to lists and yet there is not adequate disclosure for the reasons behind it.

However the biggest concern we have and one which has been expressed by many Canadians is that the legislation would create a political and social environment where people become suspect on the basis of how they look, where they come from or what their religion is.

I see the Solicitor General smiling at this but this is a very serious question. We have cases in Canada, such as the case of Mohamed Harkat who has been in jail since December 2002. We have the case of Mahmoud Jaballah who has been in jail since August 2001 on the basis of security certificates. A couple of cases were recently shut down by a judge as not having merit.

Today I will be going to the citizenship committee where we are beginning clause by clause debate on Bill C-18 where the use of security certificates will now be extended into possible use against citizens. The net is widening and the powers are widening and it is done, we hear from the government, on the basis of protecting Canadian security.

What about the protections of our democratic rights? Who in the government, what agency, what body is providing that kind of accountability so Canadians can be assured that the legislation, which was previously approved, does not go so far down the road that we have fundamentally changed the nature of our society?

We appreciate the fact that the report has been tabled today but we want to say in response that we have deep fears and concerns about the report, about the powers that have been given to CSIS and other law enforcement agencies, and about the continual undermining and erosion of democratic rights and civil liberties in the country based on the guise of security. This is something that we will continue to speak out on in the House to ensure that the government is held to account.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
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Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud member of the Parliament of Canada, a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of Canada as the head of state. Today is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of our Queen.

It gave me no pleasure to vote against Bill C-25 last week, the proposed public service modernization act. I did so for one reason only and it was because the oath of allegiance to our monarch has been removed. I find the continuing erosion of our constitutional monarchy, the finest form of governance on the face of the earth, completely unacceptable.

I would like to remind the President of the Treasury Board that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has declared that the proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 will retain a pledge of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. In fact, it would read:

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

I am in no way opposed to the idea of reforming the public service. I am opposed to the chipping away at the basis of our institutional framework. It is a slippery slope and I fear that, after one little chip here and one little chip there, in 20 or 50 years the bedrock of the Canadian system will be gone and we will pretend not to know how it happened.

The constitutional monarchy is part of our Constitution, history and heritage. I remind all members that the head of state of Canada is the Queen of Canada. When public servants swear their oath to the Queen, our head of state, they are swearing it to Canada. The oath does not involve the Queen in her personal capacity but rather as the symbol of our country, our Constitution and our traditions. Some might argue that the monarchy is no longer relevant, but I fail to see how it could not be relevant. As members of Parliament, we take the oath, which reads:

I [full name of member] do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Without taking the oath, we cannot even take our place in the House.

Public servants hold positions of public trust. By taking an oath, they are pledging to conduct themselves in the best interests of the country. It reminds the person taking the oath of the serious obligations and responsibilities that he or she is assuming. Not for a minute am I suggesting that Canada has some kind of backward colonial mentality. I would argue that the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty serves a useful function in three ways.

First, it reaffirms to the public servant that responsibility and accountability are vertical concepts. The authority of a public servant derives from the Queen. There is a vertical chain of command that must be respected in the form of advice that makes its way up through the ranks to Her Majesty or representative, and in the form of orders and instructions that must be executed that make their way down through the ranks. Public servants are ultimately accountable to the Crown, not just the public, the minister or their manager.

Second, the oath of office is an important initiation ceremony. Just as we ask new citizens to take the oath, we ask those who wish to join our legal and administrative institutions to make a personal commitment by taking the oath. Third, by removing the oath of allegiance the basic framework of our system of government is undermined. Only last year the Department of Canadian Heritage, through the golden jubilee celebrations, played a terrific role in filling the gaps in our knowledge and appreciation of our distinct constitutional heritage.

Allow me to remind the House what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said when she launched the federal golden jubilee initiatives. She said:

Fifty years after her accession to the throne, Elizabeth II remains a symbol of continuity, stability and tradition in a world that is under a barrage of constant change. Canadians of my generation have known only a single sovereign, faithful and loyal to our people.

The Queen and the heritage she gives to us is not just a part of our past but part of our common future. As a mature country, we do not need to break our ties with the past. The oath of allegiance fulfills an important function. We should take this opportunity to send this back to the committee so it can be reconsidered for the sake of consistency with the member's oath and with other government bills, like Bill C-18, which expressly mentions Her Majesty in the oath. It is unfortunate that that will not happen now.

The Ottawa Citizen is against dropping the oath of allegiance. An editorial on February 17 stated:

The monarchy is symbolic of the continuity of Canada's constitutional government, and the Queen is our head of state. It's not too much to ask that those who choose to serve the public be reminded of that by having to swear allegiance to Her Majesty.

Let me remind my Alliance colleagues across the floor what the member for St. Albert said:

At the same time, if our public servants are not required to swear to the head of state that they would execute their office to the best of their ability, then what are we as a country?

I would also like to remind the members of the fourth party in the House what their leader, who was then the member for Calgary Centre, wrote to a concerned Canadian, “I can assure you that I and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada remain firm in our support of the Canadian constitutional structure and our support for the monarchy. The Queen, and indeed the entire monarchy, represent an important foundation of Canadian tradition and heritage, and have contributed to our country's formation and development in countless ways”.

I expect then that they would be concerned with the dropping of the oath of allegiance from Bill C-25 and would support returning it to committee for further consideration.

In these politically fractious times it is important that our civil service remain beyond the fray, always providing Parliament with the non-partisan professionalism that is renown around the world. As my friend from the NDP, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said:

[The Queen] symbolizes for many the merits of a constitutional monarchy in which the head of separate and apart from the ongoing political struggles of the day.

It is a significant reminder to us in the House that politicians will come and go, but Parliament and the public service will remain. Swearing the oath of allegiance is an important reminder to our civil service. It is a symbol of the requirement for serving to the utmost of their abilities in the best interests of Canada.

There is talk about adopting principles to provide a framework for the public service. There were amendments to make the values upon which human resource management is based more explicit. Amendments to commit to transparency, linguistic duality, and the strengthening of the merit principle are all good things, but in modernizing the public service let us not throw away things that actually work, like the oath to our head of state.

As the public service moves from a rules based system to a value based system, it is important to have an organizational culture that articulates and lives the principles that are the basis of its everyday work. At the same time, the oath is an important symbol of initiation into that culture, and a personal and moral obligation to work to the best of one's ability.

The House does not have the opportunity to act and take responsibility for the legislation proposed by the government because of the motion now on the floor by the member for Ottawa—Vanier.

I thank God there is the other place where amendments may be made in sober second thought and I pray that never again will we find our constitutional monarchy diminished or otherwise altered without full national debate. Let this mischief be now ended.

Middle EastStatements By Members

May 13th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, terrorism has struck at the heart of the Middle East once again. This time al-Qaeda is responsible for bombing four separate housing and commercial complexes in Saudi Arabia.

This is the type of event that distresses my brothers and sisters in the Islamic Canadian community to the core.

Just this morning I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Arab community concerned about the government's overreaction to these type of events here at home.

Since 9/11 Canadian Muslims have felt that they have been unfairly targeted by initiatives such as the Anti-terrorism Act and now Bill C-18.

The Canadian Alliance has tried to be responsive to those people in the Islamic community who have had their lives turned upside down by efforts to improve security. We recognize the problems that Arab Canadians have faced when travelling outside of Canada and we condemn all discrimination based upon country of origin.

We must all work together to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of race or country of origin, are treated equally and fairly under the law.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

May 7th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

moved that Bill C-408, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud Canadian member of Parliament. I have the pleasure to present Bill C-408 which aims to modify the swearing of allegiance by members of Parliament.

As we all know, when elected to the House of Commons, members must swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. The present oath reads:

I, ...., do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

I propose that henceforth newly elected members of Parliament be asked to add to the swearing of allegiance to the Queen the following affirmation:

I, ..., do swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly.

I am proud to say that I myself have made this added affirmation the last three times I was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1993, 1997 and 2000. I encouraged my colleagues from various parties to do the same. To my pride and joy a great number of newly elected members from various parties followed suit, and I wish to applaud and thank them today.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in declaring that the new proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 would include a pledge of allegiance by new Canadians, not only to Her Majesty the Queen, but also a pledge of allegiance to Canada. I find this to be an addition that depicts a more realistic view of Canadian values.

We as members of Parliament have an obligation to our constituents and to all Canadians to affirm our loyalty to Canada and, I would add, perhaps even to its Constitution. It is not just a principle of patriotism, it is a principle of accountability. I know of no members in the House who would deny their sense of obligation and accountability to the community they represent.

It is a matter of patriotism, pride, and accountability. We live in a country we are all proud to call home, one which, ever since its early days, has distinguished itself by an impressive series of achievements, both internationally and nationally. This is a great country in which to live, a country where hundreds of thousands of people looking for a new life settle every year.

I do not think it is necessary to point out the merits of Canada or the respect we owe to our country. I am sure that my hon. colleagues in this House share my sense of pride in being representatives of the people in the House of Commons.

The Canadian public itself certainly seems to feel this national pride. According to Statistics Canada's 2001 census, when asked to identify their ethnic origin, more than 11 million citizens indicated Canadian; that is more than any other possible nationality, and this of a total population of approximately 31 million.

This tendency on the part of citizens to identify themselves as Canadians has increased since the 1996 census, when 8 million citizens indicated Canadian. This is happening across Canada.

Until then, citizens were more likely to refer to their English or French, Irish or Italian origins, to give just a few examples. Clearly, the population of Canada is undergoing change and continuing to grow.

We must lead the way in reconciling modern and historical Canada. I insist that my bill in no way diminishes the importance of Her Majesty the Queen. To swear allegiance to Canada and its Constitution is consistent with today's reality and the current wishes of Canadians, without losing sight of our history and traditions. The new oath would simply be in addition to the oath of allegiance to the Queen.

This private member's bill in no way negates or removes our allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. Our parliamentary monarchy is part of our Canadian Constitution, our Canadian history, and our Canadian heritage. Even if I intended to remove the Queen from our swearing of allegiance, which is not the case, we in the House know that the Constitution cannot be amended by Parliament alone without the consent of the provinces and the territories.

It is not my intention to embark on such a course. My proposed oath of solemn affirmation to Canada would be but an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, not the Constitution, and is therefore in proper order. This affirmation comes as an addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen and is in no way an attempt to diminish Her Majesty's role in Canada.

The Canada of today has become a multicultural society, depicting citizens from all over the world and not just from Commonwealth countries. Amid this impressive mosaic, Canada, as a word, as a symbol, applies to everyone in the country regardless of geographic region, race or background. This is in large measure because Canadians feel an overriding sense of patriotic pride and a sense of belonging to this country of theirs.

Recently, while he was being sworn in, a new senator added the word “Canada”. This gave rise to a short debate in the other place, where it was decided that it might be desirable for everyone in Parliament to swear allegiance to Canada. This is interesting coming from the Senate.

I suggest to my hon. colleagues of the House of Commons that it is desirable that we go ahead, take the lead and not wait for the Senate to do so.

We can only benefit from an initiative showing our pride in and gratitude to a country that has given us so much happiness and good fortune.

The added affirmation that I am proposing today is not just a series of words or a patriotic cheer. It is a recognition of democracy and accountability. This is about what our actual form of government is all about. It is a representative democracy. We owe our allegiance and accountability to the people who elect us and who we represent. This is in accordance with democratic principles around the world.

Democratically elected officials in countries around the world swear allegiance to their countries and to the people they represent. Some will state that we are part of the British Commonwealth and that we should not include our sense of patriotism or accountability to our constituents when swearing allegiance. I would inform them that Jamaica, South Africa and India are but three examples of British Commonwealth countries that amended their oath to include their country. Many other British Commonwealth countries are also debating similar measures, such as Australia for example.

As members of Parliament, we have to recognize that we were elected by the people to represent their interests, their well-being and their concerns. We answer to Canadians at election time. We are accountable to the Canadians who elect us and who we represent. Let us make it official and further enhance the trust that Canadians have in their parliamentarians. As members of Parliament we owe our allegiance to Canada.

Vive le Canada.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2003 / noon
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec


Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about some very important changes that the government is proposing to the Citizenship Act and to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-343, which was tabled by the member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

Our proposed Bill C-18 would give applicants, who want to resume their citizenship, flexibility in meeting the residence requirement. What is being proposed is that instead of being required to reside in Canada for a full year prior to application, as is the case in the current legislation, the applicant must be physically present in Canada for one out of the two years preceding application.

We in the governing party believe that it is very important to help people regain citizenship they have lost. From this perspective, we approve of the principles laid out in Bill C-343. They are the same as those found in the current Citizenship Act and in Bill C-18. It is perfectly natural that people who have lost their citizenship, especially if it happened when they were minors, would want to come back to our beautiful country and apply for citizenship. We have nothing against regaining citizenship; we support it. In fact, we believe that people who lost their citizenship when they were a minor and now want to demonstrate their commitment toward Canada by coming here and contributing to our society, should have the opportunity to regain their Canadian citizenship.

However, we cannot support the private member's bill before us today. It would require us to automatically grant citizenship, without taking into account the applicant's place of residence or commitment toward Canada.

Do members know what this would entail? Under Bill C-343, the government could be forced to grant citizenship to a person who left Canada at a young age and who has no intention of returning to live here. It could also force us to grant citizenship automatically, without taking into account whether or not someone has a criminal history, or the danger they could represent to public health here in Canada. And finally, Bill C-343 could require us to automatically grant citizenship to someone who may not have any other ties to Canada except for the circumstances of his or her birth.

I am pleased to report that our current and proposed legislation would allow us to carefully weigh commitment, health and security considerations while also facilitating the citizenship application process. Canada's current Citizenship Act allows former citizens to resume their Canadian citizenship. To qualify under the current Citizenship Act a person must demonstrate a commitment to Canada through residence. They must become a permanent resident under immigration law and must reside in Canada for one year immediately prior to making their citizenship application. Knowledge of Canada, the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship and one official language, however, are not requirements for resumption as they are for a regular adult grant of citizenship. The period of residence is also less; one year as opposed to three. Therefore the requirements are not onerous.

Furthermore, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows flexibility for permanent residents to retain their status while travelling and working outside of Canada. The residence requirement may be difficult for a person who must travel out of Canada regularly for employment or business purposes. Most former Canadians wishing to resume citizenship, however, intend to live in Canada and do not encounter difficulty with the requirement to live here for one year. Where a person is required to be away from Canada frequently, the legislation gives that person flexibility by requiring that he or she be present in Canada for 365 days out of two years.

The procedures in place are perfectly fair, and the courts have already confirmed this. We do not discriminate against anyone. By continuing along the course we have already laid out, we are guaranteeing Canadians a citizenship program that is just, effective and fair for many years to come.

I would like to state that the changes or modifications that are being brought to the Canadian Citizenship Act under Bill C-18, as it pertains to re-acquiring Canadian citizenship for those who lost it, particularly as minors, I believe is equitable, is efficient and addresses the fact that these individuals may have lost citizenship through no fault of their own. Therefore, they will not be put to the same requirement as a foreign national who wishes to come to Canada as a permanent resident and then wishes to become a citizen.

The requirements are much less onerous, much more generous and flexible.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2003 / 11:50 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-343, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. This is the second incarnation of the bill, which unfortunately on its first introduction did not make the draw. I am grateful that due to the reform in the manner we treat and vote on private members' bills and to the assistance of my colleague, the member for Okanagan—Shuswap, the bill can now make it to the floor of the House for debate.

Reform of private members' business has been a long-standing initiative of the Canadian Alliance. We believe that giving more power to individual MPs in the development of legislation would make this institution much more vital and more democratic. Allowing for all private members' bills to be votable adds further impetus and meaning to the role of a member of Parliament, ending the lottery approach to getting a worthwhile and enlightened bill before the House.

Let me point out that Bill C-343:

is designed to remedy the situation where a person has, as a child, been deprived of their Canadian citizenship as a result of the operation of section 18 of the Canadian Citizenship Act, chapter 15 of the Statutes of Canada, 1946. That provision, which was in force until February 14, 1977, provided that a minor child ceased to be a Canadian citizen upon their responsible parent becoming the citizen of another country. This enactment makes it easier for such a person to regain their Canadian citizenship as they will no longer have to be established as a permanent resident in order to do so.

Further, if Bill C-18, introduced in the second session of the 37th Parliament and entitled Citizenship of Canada Act, receives royal assent, then section 19 of that act is amended by adding the following after subsection 19(2):

The requirements set out in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b) do not apply to a person who ceased to be a Canadian citizen as a result of a parent of that person acquiring the citizenship or nationality of another country before February 15, 1977.

Let me put the intent of the legislation in more fundamental terms. Between 1947 and 1977, thousands of Canadian families left Canada, often in the pursuit of jobs south of the border. In many cases the father had to become an American citizen to get the job. Unbeknownst to many of the families, under the immigration law Canada adopted in 1947, wives and children were considered the property of the fathers. When the fathers renounced their citizenship, their wives and families automatically lost theirs.

The law was changed in Canada in 1977 to recognize dual citizenship, but the new rights were not made retroactive to those who lost their citizenship between 1947 and 1977 through no fault of their own and through no conscious decision of their own. I see this as not only unfair but discriminatory.

A person born in Canada today has the right to citizenship for the rest of his or her life, but there are thousands of older people who are caught in this 1947 to 1977 trap who do not have that same right. I believe it is time to recognize the wrong and make it right. I want to correct this injustice and thus I first introduced the bill in early 2002.

The issue and the injustice were brought to my attention by an individual who spent 30 years struggling to have his Canadian citizenship re-established. In 1961, Don Chapman, a Canadian who was then seven years old, forfeited his Canadian citizenship because his family moved to Seattle and his father took out American citizenship. In 1972, Mr. Chapman began applying to have his Canadian citizenship returned. He was rejected. In 1977, he tried again, only to be turned down. Here we have an individual whose family lineage in Canada goes back to the Fathers of Confederation. In fact, his family goes back five generations in Canada.

Here we have an accomplished and successful individual of impeccable credentials who has purchased a home in my riding, where he would like to settle his family as Canadians, but is deprived of this right because he lost his citizenship prior to 1977 through no fault of his own. He has no criminal record and is even prepared to pay Canadian taxes; that should indicate how serious this man is about having his Canadian citizenship returned.

I would like to add today that I spoke to Mr. Chapman last night. He is an airline pilot. He has been flying 747s and has taken time off his regular job with United Airlines in the last number of weeks to fly into Kuwait, taking soldiers to the war. I wish to congratulate him for doing such a great job and for heroic efforts on behalf of the country he is a citizen of now, but also he wants to be a Canadian. I am very proud that a man like that would want to become a Canadian citizen again.

Mr. Chapman is not alone in this plight. Since I took on this injustice, I have had the opportunity to meet and assist another individual who, through an even more bizarre twist of circumstances and interpretation of our Canadian Citizenship Act, not only lost her citizenship but may not even be a citizen of any country at all. To make matters worse, her two sons find themselves in the same situation despite the fact she, her parents and her sons all live in Canada.

In January of this year, before committee hearings on Bill C-18, Ms. Magali Castro-Gyr provided moving and compelling testimony on the injustice perpetrated on her and others who lost their Canadian citizenship between 1947 and 1977.

Since 2001, Magali spent $20,000 of her own money on lawyers trying to remedy this wrong. Last June her case made it to judicial review but the judge ruled that more precise work had to be done by both sides and she sent them back to their respective sides to prepare further, which, of course, means more legal expenses for Magali. The entire situation is not only unfair, I believe it would even be ruled unconstitutional if it made it to the Supreme Court. It is a shame we are putting people, who are obviously Canadians, through this unnecessary process by asking them to go through the landed status route.

Officials suspect that there are thousands of others caught in the citizenship morass, including another individual, Mr. Charles Bosdet, whose case was also brought to my attention by Mr. Chapman. I worked on this file for five years and made representation to successive ministers of citizenship and immigration on behalf of the grieved parties. I am moved by the passion and desire of these Canadians to return home. It is their diligence in this cause and their love of this country that prompted my intervention and my private member's bill. I believe their case for re-establishment of their Canadian citizenship is legitimate.

In January, following Mr. Chapman's and Ms. Castro-Gyr's testimony before the citizenship committee, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration indicated to me that he was sympathetic to the situation of these individuals and that he would consider using his powers to restore their citizenship. I am grateful for this acknowledgement by the minister and thank him for his consideration of these cases on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. The minister talked to me last Thursday and mentioned that he will be bringing something to the committee, I hope in the next couple of weeks, that could solve this problem.

I appreciate, and I know all members of the House do that maybe, once and for all, we can solve this problem. I remember hearing the Tory Party and I think someone from the government side talking about security checks. We have no problems with that. Issues like that can be discussed at committee. However if the minister brings something to the committee that will solve the problem we will all appreciate it.

Each year Parliament dedicates a week to recognize Canadian citizenship and what it means to be a Canadian citizen. It allows us an opportunity to reflect upon the values of Canadian citizenship and its rights, privileges and responsibilities. During that week all Canadians are asked to reaffirm our commitment and loyalty to Canada. This year will mark the 56th anniversary of the Canadian Citizenship Act. Since 1947 Canada has opened its arms to millions of immigrants and conferred citizenship on over 5 million people. Canada has recognized the talents and diversities these people bring to our nation. Last year's Canada week theme “We all Belong” is fitting testimony to the nature of our country and our people.

I believe the Don Chapmans, the Magali Castro-Gyrs, the Charles Bosdets and the thousands of others, who in my mind never really left the collective soul of this nation, also belong.

I thank all members of Parliament who have listened to this injustice at committee hearings and through the private members' process. We look forward to having a vote and moving this on to committee.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House and speak in support of Bill C-343. I would like to thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for bringing this bill forward. I believe it was previously introduced by the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast.

It is an important and pertinent issue today. The citizenship and immigration committee is debating and holding hearings across the country on a new citizenship bill. It is timely that this should come forward.

I, along with millions of Canadians, was not aware of the lost generation, the lost Canadians. It was in February or early March when I attended the citizenship hearings in Vancouver on Bill C-18 that there were a number of representatives, including Mr. Chapman, who came forward. They provided information that I found quite astounding in terms of the individual situations that they had managed to track through their website. The committee was informed about the impact of the changes made back in 1997 that everyone seems to have forgotten about.

It is important that we are debating the bill today and voting on it because it is something that needs to be rectified.

When we think about citizenship, it is not something that can normally be revoked unless a person makes some decision to do that. Here we have a bizarre historical situation. If during the period 1947 to 1977 parents moved to another country for employment, and in many cases in Canada it was to the U.S., their Canadian citizenship ended. The member for the Bloc pointed out that there was no dual citizenship at the time. Lo and behold, in many cases children and spouses unknowingly lost their citizenship as well. This is what is most astounding about this historical situation that exists in our country.

It is bad enough that it existed for so long that people went to tremendous financial expense, but they invested a great deal of time and energy in an emotional sense trying to get some redress. When they found out that they were not Canadian citizens, often by accident, they would seek some relief and redress.

What I find even more disturbing is the fact that Bill C-18 addresses issues around citizenship but does not contain anything that would deal with this historical situation.

We would think that the minister and the department would put this somewhere near the top of their list for an amendment that would provide relief in a pragmatic way for the people this affects. There is nothing in Bill C-18 that would deal with this.

We have delegations coming forward telling us that they feel aggrieved. I do not blame them. They have totally legitimate cases.

In fact, let us look at Bill C-18 and what it is trying to do. In the hearings that have been held so far across the country there is near unanimous opposition to the provisions in the bill. It would take us further down the road of taking citizenship away from people and revoking citizenship in a way that there would be no fair judicial process nor appeal.

We are not correcting the situation. We are actually making it worse. Potentially, many people in this country, if the bill were to be approved and I hope it would not be, would face very arduous circumstances if they were facing allegations under a security risk and so on.

At the hearing in Vancouver we heard stories of a number of people, including Mr. Chapman, Keith Menzie, Ron Nixon, and George Kyle.

One story that I found amazing involved Ms. Magali Castro-Gyr who was a natural born Canadian of Canadian parents. She had a valid Canadian passport and a social insurance number. When she went to register her two foreign born children, she was informed that she would not be able to do that. She was informed that she herself was no longer a Canadian. This lady had sponsored her husband who was from Switzerland and the government accepted that. Now the government was telling her and her family that they were not Canadians. It is truly a bizarre situation.

In debating this at the Vancouver hearing the chair and others agreed that this was a ridiculous situation and indicated that officials would be brought in and so on.

Some people think the bill before us does not go far enough, but at least it is a step in the right direction. The government member who spoke to the bill this morning did not make any suggestions as to what could be done. There is an acknowledgement that between 1947 and 1977 there was a lost generation of Canadians who are now faced with the trauma of what happened to them, but nothing has come forward from the government side in terms of how this would be addressed, either through the citizenship act or this private member's bill. There was even a bit of criticism asking why the creator of the bill had not thought about this step or that step. If the government is acknowledging that a problem exists, then surely it has all the resources within the department to figure out how the heck it is going to fix it.

I must wonder and question the government's intent here. Debating the bill today would give us an opportunity to test where the government is at on this issue. If it were committed to redressing what took place to an unknown number of individuals, then it would be helpful to have some information indicating what would be done. We have not had that indication in committee or the House.

I am now the immigration critic for the NDP. I will continue to press this issue as will other opposition members. My predecessor in this portfolio, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, also supported the bill in its previous form. She spoke out very strongly on this issue. We will continue to do that because Canadians have a legitimate grievance here.

I urge members on the government side to listen to this debate and when it comes time to vote on the bill, to either vote for it as far as it goes or make it absolutely clear that measures will be taken within the department to rectify this wrong that has existed for many years. People should be removed from this difficult emotional and financial situation of wondering who the heck they are and wondering if they are or are not Canadians.

The NDP supports Bill C-343 and we encourage other members to support it as well.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2003 / 11:25 a.m.
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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-343, which started out in February 2002 as Bill C-428.

This bill is intended to remedy a serious problem for those affected by it. The first Citizenship Act, in 1946, specified that a child of minor age automatically lost Canadian citizenship when the custodial parent became a national or citizen of another country. A child born here who would normally have Canadian citizenship lost it because his or her parents became nationals or citizens of another country.

It must be kept in mind that, prior to 1977, dual citizenship was not allowed. Now it is, and has been since 1977. However, when the 1946 legislation was amended, no measure was introduced to correct what might be termed an injustice to the children affected since 1946, because dual citizenship was possible from 1977 on.

The most that is in place in the 1977 legislation is a clause specifying that a person who once had Canadian citizenship may recover it once he or she has been admitted as a landed immigrant and resided in Canada for one full year before applying for citizenship. I would remind hon. members that we are referring here to people who were born with Canadian citizenship but lost it because of a decision by their parent or parents.

It is important to stress that citizenship by naturalization does not comprise exactly the same rights and privileges as that acquired by birth. A naturalized citizen can have his or her citizenship revoked, and can be declared inadmissible, while those born with citizenship cannot.

What I have just said is equally true for Bill C-18, which includes anti-terrorist clauses calling for the revocation of the citizenship of naturalized citizens through recourse to a judicial process including the use of secret evidence. There is no right of appeal and expulsion from the country is automatic.

How many people would be affected by Bill C-343? That is very hard to say. It is even harder to say whether all those affected would want to regain Canadian citizenship.

Some cases have come forward. For example, there is Don Chapman, who testified before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Mr. Chapman, who was born in Vancouver, Canada, found himself in this situation when his parents emigrated to the United States. Therefore, he lost his Canadian citizenship. All his adult life, he has wanted to become a Canadian citizen again.

He applied directly to the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to ask for special treatment, but to no avail. All he was told was that he had to follow the pre-established rules requiring individuals to apply for permanent residence and live in Canada for one full year before applying for citizenship. However, Mr. Chapman's problem is that he is an airline pilot, which would, according to him, make it difficult for him to fulfill these requirements.

I would add that the current minister, when consulted about another case, answered that he was open to these individuals applying for their citizenship and that each case would be considered individually.

However, in my opinion, this case-by-case approach, which may be the result of good will, runs up against the reality, which is that files are piling up on the desk of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. These files pertain to various matters, such as visas, applications for permanent residence, and so forth. All the members have submitted files to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. These files have been accumulating exponentially on his desk since September 11.

I would like to state that the Bloc Quebecois became very aware of the need to change these provisions. In fact, during a trip to Australia, the member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis—whom I will say hello to now, since she is recovering from a painful triple bypass—met a person from her riding who has to go through the same process as Mr. Chapman, which does not thrill him either.

Therefore, it was on the basis of information provided by the member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis that we in the Bloc began our research to clarify the situation and look at the ways we could modify the law. That is why, after completing this research and after meeting Mr. Chapman herself, the member for Laval Centre proposed an amendment to Bill C-18 to address this problem.

The proposed amendment read as follows:

That the bill, in Clause 19, be amended by adding after line 10 page 13 the following:

And I shall read the exact wording proposed:

The requirements set out in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b) do not apply to a person who ceased to be a Canadian citizen as a result of a parent of that person acquiring the citizenship or nationality of another country before February 15, 1977.

It seems to me that this would provide retroactive justice to these children who, if they had remained in Canada, would be Canadian citizens. If their parents had acquired another citizenship after 1977, these people also would have been able to keep their Canadian citizenship.

I hope that the government will be sensitive to this need for retroactive justice.