Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be given an opportunity to speak on this motion today.
This motion is intended to refine Bill C-14, an act that proposes to amend the Citizenship Act to extend automatic citizenship to children who are adopted and were born abroad.
This legislation seeks to minimize the difference in eligibility for citizenship between adopted and natural-born children of Canadian citizens. Under the current system, parents of children adopted abroad must first apply for a permanent residency for the children and ensure that they meet the residency requirements before they can apply for the children's Canadian citizenship.
There are countless Canadians who are choosing to adopt children who were born abroad, and they are choosing this route for a variety of reasons. Many are building their families. Others choose to adopt abroad to rescue children from very difficult situations in order to provide them with a hopeful and promising life. Canada should work to reduce any existing obstacles that adoptive parents may be facing in their attempts to build upon their family. The very act of adoption and welcoming a new member to a family is a noble act.
While the federal government should refrain from interfering with the family's decision regarding who they adopt, the same government should work to eliminate any barriers that families may face in fully integrating their new son or daughter into the community once an adoption has been approved by the welcoming province.
The process of adoption is a provincial jurisdiction, as my hon. colleague just explained. Once an adoption is finalized at the provincial level, the passage of this bill would ensure that Canadian citizenship automatically would be granted to the adopted child.
Bill C-14 is good legislation. Its objectives are meant to help Canadian families welcome their newly adopted children. This House supported Bill C-14 at second reading and forwarded the bill to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for a thorough examination. Last year the committee approved the bill, but in good faith added three amendments that were intended to improve it.
One of those amendments is the amendment that this motion before us intends to exclude. This amendment would provide the opportunity for failed citizenship applicants to appeal the decision to the Immigration and Refugee Board.
As I mentioned, this amendment was tabled in good faith. That is why it was supported by the majority of the committee members. However, upon further examination and consultation, it has been revealed that this amendment may create several problematic and unintended consequences. Many provinces have already expressed concerns that this amendment may result in an infringement of provincial jurisdiction if a province has rejected an adoption application for one reason or another.
The Bill C-14 legislation instructs the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to grant automatic citizenship to the applicant if the applicant has met all of the provincial adoption requirements, thus leaving no discretion where an error of judgment could occur. As such, the necessity for an appeal mechanism is almost non-existent.
The fear is that some may use this proposed appeal process to pressure provinces in their adoption decision process. Some provinces are concerned that if this legislation were to pass as is, an adopted child may enter a province or a territory as a citizen without first having the province formalize the adoption.
If this were to happen, it could cause serious legal and financial implications with respect to child protection. Several provinces have written to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration voicing their concerns about the unintended consequences that may arise if this bill is adopted in its current form with the amendment.
After thoughtful examination of the feedback I received and a detailed discussion I had with departmental officials from Citizenship and Immigration, I believe that it would be prudent to support this motion and agree to remove this amendment.
This is an important piece of legislation. I think many Canadians have been following it with great and keen interest. I think that working with the government to ensure that we have a good bill, one that both respects provincial jurisdiction and fulfills federal responsibilities, is critical. We in the Liberal Party never place politics ahead of good policy and we are determined to perform our duty of delivering good legislation.
I look forward to voting on this motion as quickly as possible so we can get back to the business of passing Bill C-14 in this chamber. I sincerely hope that once this motion is adopted the government will move quickly to bring the bill back to the House for its final reading.
In closing, I want to express my grateful thanks to the officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada for taking the time to brief me on this motion. The information session they provided was pivotal in helping me conclude that supporting this motion is the right thing to do for this bill and for Canadians.