Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-467, brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.
This private member's bill stems from the passage, in the 39th Parliament, of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born to or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel and federal and provincial public servants, as children born in Canada such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.
First of all, I would like to commend the member for Vancouver South for his commitment to this issue, and I would like all hon. members to know that the government supports the intention of Bill C-467. However, we have some technical concerns with the bill in its current form, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have, as the member points out, some unintended consequences.
Nevertheless, I am confident that we can address these concerns together, with the co-operation of our parliamentary colleagues. The bill will have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants and our military serving abroad.
I would like to share with my hon. colleagues a very brief overview of Bill C-37 and the reasons that led us, as a government, to restore citizenship to lost Canadians and to include a clear limit on citizenship by descent.
Members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will recall many witnesses who testified three years ago this spring as they shared their love for this country as proud citizens. They shared their dismay and their frustration when they described how it felt to discover that their citizenship was not, in fact, recognized by the law.
The public outcry was enormous, and that is why the government corrected the legislation. When Bill C-37 came into effect a year ago, it restored or gave citizenship to most people who were known as lost Canadians. Changes to the law restored or granted citizenship to the vast majority of those who lost or did not have it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.
The changes meant that people who became citizens when the first Citizenship Act came into force in 1947, and people born or naturalized in Canada after 1947 and subsequently lost their citizenship, would reacquire their citizenship unless they formally renounced it or had it revoked because of fraud. Foreign-born persons adopted by Canadians between January 1, 1947 and February 15, 1977 would also be eligible to apply for citizenship. Complex rules that required some citizens by descent to take steps to apply to keep their citizenship were simply eliminated.
The new law also set a limit on citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was done to uphold the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring a real and concrete connection to Canada.
Hon. members will also recall debate of Bill C-14 in 2007 and the steps Canadians adopting foreign-born children had to take before their children could become Canadian citizens.
International adoption is a complex process, as we all know, involving many layers of approval by both provincial and territorial governments in Canada and by the federal government of the country where the child lives. In many cases, adoptions must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
With the passage of Bill C-14, parents of foreign-born adopted children were able to apply directly for citizenship for those children without first having to go through the steps of applying for permanent resident status. It was a clear and bold reaffirmation of the values and principles that define our identity, our country, and the notion of the Canadian family.
The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of Bill C-37 and Bill C-14 was essentially to simplify the complex rules on Canadian citizenship.
The private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned, and we once again praise the member for Vancouver South for his constructive efforts. In the coming weeks, we look forward to addressing the technical issues that would otherwise prevent this bill from achieving its rightful objective.
The government recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that Crown servants and their families posted abroad make to this country.
I am sure that hon. members would also agree that any children born to Crown servants working abroad should not be penalized by not being able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or they may adopt abroad as a direct result of their parents' service to this country.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no question that Crown servants abroad, including our military, have a connection to this country and we are confident that the changes proposed by Bill C-467 are consistent with the intent of Bill C-37.
There are a few issues with this bill that need to be examined. For example, the bill attempts to extend access to citizenship to the grandchildren of Crown servants by adding a new provision for children born abroad or adopted by Crown servants.
At the same time, it proposes to repeal a section of the act that currently allows all children born to a Crown servant outside Canada to be Canadians, regardless of the generation in which they were born outside Canada.
Similarly, right now, anyone born abroad or adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, may apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions. Under Bill C-467 as it stands now, children adopted by Crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, which could indeed be problematic.
Nevertheless, I am sure that all members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective and that, as Canadians, we should support our Crown servants posted abroad, especially and including military families, and recognize their sacrifice, their commitment and their strong connection to Canada.
That is why I am confident the intent of Bill C-467 can be achieved by expanding the current exception that exists under the law to ensure that the children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside our country.
To ensure that the good intentions of Bill C-467 are achieved, I look forward to working co-operatively in the coming weeks with the member for Vancouver South, and all members, toward some constructive amendments.
We have a committee that is currently working on Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act. We are working our way through it. As members know, it is never easy at committee to come to a consensus on absolutely everything. I believe that bill is going to come back to this House, is going to be supported and is going to be passed. For the first time in decades we will have strong and positive change to our refugee act.
At the same time, I think the committee, with all four parties represented there, can come to some common agreement on the bill. The member has a critic who certainly has an open ear and a colleague who has an open ear to ensuring that we do what is right at committee.
I anticipate that we can do the same with this bill. I look forward to the day the member has the opportunity to present at committee and work with us on what I think will be amendments, necessary amendments nonetheless, that would ensure there are no unintended consequences with respect to this bill and the impact it would have on Canadians born abroad.