Mr. Speaker, the minister brought forward Bill C-57 in order to distract attention from other problems the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is facing.
I am going to continue from where I left off when I asked my question of the parliamentary secretary. I am going to read a paragraph from an article from May 17 saying that people accused “the Conservatives of pandering to their morally traditional voter base by making much fanfare about a relatively redundant bill”.
This is a clearly a move by a Conservative government that wants to keep calling itself the new Government of Canada. If one buys a suit today, it is new, and after a week it is a bit older, but after a year and a half it is old. Those members can only brand themselves as being a Conservative government.
On May 24 an article in the Toronto Star said:
Talk to the skilled professionals driving cabs, the doctors working as orderlies and the lawyers making telemarketing calls. They need Finley's attention too....
Wouldn't it make more sense to focus our energy on the vulnerable people who need Canada's protection, rather than devising ways to keep people out?
Bill C-57 is a skimpy bill for a skimpy issue. I am sure that if the department looked carefully at this, it could administratively bring forth an issue that could certainly prevent strippers from coming to Canada.
The minister is bringing forward this bill in an effort to camouflage other difficulties the department is facing under the Tories, such as the length of time it takes to process a spousal sponsorship. For example, a Canadian meets someone who is visiting Canada, they fall in love, they get married, and the Canadian decides to sponsor his or her spouse inside Canada. Under the Liberal government, the process was finished in six or nine months. Under the Conservatives, proven by documents given to the minister, it is taking up to two years. This prevents a young couple from starting their lives.
Lo and behold, if it is the wife who is sponsored and she gets pregnant, it is going to cost that couple anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 for that child to be born, because that young lady would have absolutely no health coverage. This is going on while the Conservative government is dickering around with Bill C-57. Imagine that. I am talking about a Canadian citizen, an individual born in this country, and his or her father would have to pay $10,000 to $15,000. The Conservative government is putting people at risk by not working fast enough on spousal sponsorships.
There are other things that the Conservatives are trying to mask, such as the issue of lost Canadians. There are facts and fiction about lost Canadians. I would like to take that route.
There are thousands of Canadians who have lost their citizenship and are trying to get it back. There are thousands sitting in silence saying nothing, fearing that their family secret will be disclosed. Some just do not even know they are not Canadian citizens due to archaic and unjust legislation.
I have to admit that there are others more knowledgeable on the subject than I. However, I have become very familiar with this file. Some might say I have become too familiar with the effect this file has on Canadians.
Under section 8 of the 1977 Citizenship Act, unless children born abroad to Canadian parents reaffirms their citizenship by the time they are 28, they could lose their right to hold a Canadian passport and claim citizenship. They could end up being stateless and the Conservative government would not give a damn.
This was the case with my fourth daughter. She was born outside Canada. I quickly learned about the file of lost Canadians and of people like Joe Taylor, who has been fighting the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for the last five years. Joe Taylor wants his right to citizenship. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has appealed a decision, thus holding in abeyance a few hundred cases. The number depends on who we ask. The minister says 250, but departmental officials say 400.
Fact: the minister does not know which end is up.
Fiction: people born in Canada are Canadian citizens.
In January I wrote a letter to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration asking that she take steps to resolve the matter of lost Canadians.
Fact: four steps were suggested to the minister, among them that the department advertise to advise Canadians that they might have lost their citizenship.
Fiction: when she appeared in January the minister and deputy minister advised the committee that they indeed had advertised. The deputy minister later advised members of the committee that this was not the case.
As the committee on citizenship and immigration began hearings on the issue of lost Canadians, the members heard stories that astounded Canadians as to how the Department of Citizenship and Immigration was screwing around with people's lives.
Canadians heard horror stories of people who had been misled and given half information, people who had lost their citizenship for a variety of reasons, or never had Canadian citizenship, and people who had lost jobs because they could not get a passport to travel abroad. Many people have lost everything.
Fact: a lost Canadian who has to apply for citizenship has to wait for a long time to get the matter resolved.
Fiction: according to the Citizenship and Immigration website, those cases deserve immediate attention and the minister is making these individual cases a priority.
The minister has attempted to disrupt the work of the committee. The last time her officials were testifying before the committee, they were even giving half facts. When the department officials were pressed for answers, the chair of the committee adjourned the meeting. This was followed up by letter to the chair of the committee from the minister telling committee members how to carry out their work.
Fact: “--I will ask my Deputy Minister indicate that, if the witnesses have any doubt about answering a question put to them by the Committee members, they should not answer immediately, but provide a response, in writing, at a later date”.
Fiction: Joe Taylor, a positive response from the minister is in the mail. What a shame.
In order for people to receive citizenship, whether they are lost Canadians or naturalized Canadians, they must undergo background checks by RCMP and CSIS.
Fact: it takes six to eight months and the standard answer from the RCMP inquiry states that the processing time is currently in excess of 120 days from receipt of the application. Note that processing times can vary due to incoming workloads. I will be tabling such a letter that I have received a little later on.
Fiction: the minister stated in committee that she has a verbal agreement with her counterpart minister, the Minister of Public Safety, in which the cases of lost Canadians will be handled in two weeks. The minister further stated that she had a proposal for new legislation which would take care of the problem. Again, she is disrupting the work of the committee in putting forth a real ill-conceived plan.
Fact: the new act proposes anyone born in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, will have citizenship even if they lost it under the provisions of the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act.
Fiction: this part of the proposed legislation looks after the war brides and war babies. According to the minister and the proposed legislation, World War II happened after 1947.
The minister goes further in the proposed legislation and states that on or after January 1, 1947, Canadian citizens will have their citizenships confirmed if they are first generation born abroad, but no further. This means that second generation Canadians born abroad are not recognized by Canada. They will be illegitimate Canadians. They will be stateless.
Fact: we brought back a few thousand people from Lebanon last summer and the Conservative-Reform-Alliance Party, or CRAP, the base of this new government, is screaming that people should not have dual citizenship.
Fiction: the minister stated, “Despite widespread media coverage...the number of cases of individuals in Canada whose citizenship status needs to be resolved is still limited”. The minister simply does not know the file.
Time and time again, she tried very hard to convey a message that she knows what she is talking about and that the department officials, on her instructions, are working for our interests, and advertising and looking for every opportunity to contact lost Canadians.
Fact: the minister is playing to her Reform agenda that pits one Canadian against another. The real fiction is when the minister states:
My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this issue due to outdated laws that have been on the books for many years. While the previous government chose not to act, we are taking action and moving forward to help those whose citizenship is in question.
I would say to the minister the following. Get on with the facts and drop the fiction. Canadians want the facts. Canadians deserve the facts.
There is also another topic which the minister is trying to circumvent and it deals with undocumented workers. Undocumented workers are people that have come to Canada and have for many years tried to settle and work in Canada, and raise their families.
The past Liberal government was on the verge of doing just that, regularizing these individuals. We were on the verge of streamlining policies and working with stakeholders to make sure that these people found a home in Canada.
It was but a few days after the last election that Canada's new government, this heartless Conservative government, showed its true colours and started deporting thousands of people.
These were people who were doing jobs and filling positions which were badly needed. Stakeholders, community groups and unions have come forward and asked the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study this matter.
I am proud to have moved a motion that the citizenship and immigration committee study undocumented workers. In committee we went even farther and asked for a moratorium on the deportation of undocumented workers until the committee reports.
I sought unanimous consent last week on this matter to stop the deportation of undocumented workers. It was very unfortunate that the bastions of the worker class, the champagne socialists, the NDP, did not give consent. The NDP did that not because it does not believe in it, but because it wants to take political expediency.
We have seen very clearly that the government does not know fact from fiction. The fact is that it takes 120 days. The fact is that an individual who was born in Holland was granted--