Bill C-37 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Citizenship Act
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
Diane Finley Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Citizenship Act in order to
(a) permit certain persons who lost their Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to have their citizenship restored from the time it was lost;
(b) permit certain persons who, born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, did not acquire Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to become Canadian citizens from the time of their birth;
(c) provide that certain persons born outside Canada to a Canadian parent who was himself or herself born outside Canada do not acquire Canadian citizenship; and
(d) provide for a grant of citizenship, on application, to persons who have always been stateless and meet other specified conditions.
June 11th, 2009 / 9:30 a.m.
Lost Canadian Organization
They still have people who are stateless. The first second-generation born-abroad stateless person that we know of is coming up in Austria. Austria does not confer citizenship. I was behind the scenes in the implementation of this bill. We did not want the second-generation born-abroad issue attached to this bill, but it got attached, and it was take it or leave it. Now that it's there, the provision.... And the gentleman you'd want to call in, too, is a gentleman by the name of Mark Davidson. He's now a DG of another department, but Mark was in on this.
The issue was that if a child was born in a country that didn't confer citizenship, let's say, Greece, Japan, and so forth, Canada, or one of the countries, immediately would come in and give that child citizenship based on the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. What came out was quite different. It's now saying that you bring your child back to Canada--and it becomes quite an issue to bring a stateless child across borders--the child will live in Canada for three years, and then the child can have citizenship.
Although, wait a minute, that's making the child an immigrant Canadian: this is completely contrary to the United Nations convention. It's totally wrong. Basically, if somebody, as in this case, is stateless, you can make them a citizen in three weeks. The Prime Minister proved that with the last remaining World War I veteran. End of story: it should be done right now.
There are major problems. Let's say, for instance, that we have a mother whose father happens to be elderly and living in the United States. The father is dying. This mother has a stateless child in Canada and can't leave the child to go take care of the father, because the child can't cross borders.
These are major problems and there are easy, easy, fixes. There are ways that were introduced into this bill to take care of this problem.
I have one last thing. One of the big things that was promised was that the Senate said, “If we agree to Bill C-37, you will give us a new citizenship act and start working on it”. It was promised and it has not come through.
June 11th, 2009 / 9:15 a.m.
Naeem (Nick) Noorani
On April 17, 2009, a new law amending the Citizenship Act came into effect granting Canadian citizenship to certain people who lost it due to lack of provisions in the act. The citizenship is automatic and retroactive to the day the person was born or lost citizenship, depending on the situation. The recognition of these lost Canadians as citizens is overdue, and reflects well on Canada’s humanitarian reputation and traditions.
The new act draws the line of what constitutes a lost Canadian at second- or later-born-generation Canadians. While such grandchildren and great grandchildren of Canadian citizens would no doubt like to hold onto their rights to citizenship, we must draw the line somewhere as to who is a Canadian. We demean what being Canadian means by giving this privilege to so-called citizens of convenience, who wish to benefit from Canadian citizenship without offering this country anything in return, unlike those who were born here, reside in this country, or choose it as their adopted homeland.
Louis LaFontaine, the great co-founder of the union that would eventually lead to our Confederation, had this to say about being Canadian when addressing his electors at Terrebonne in 1848:
Canada is the land of our ancestors. It is our country as it must be the adopted country of the different peoples which come from around the globe, to make their way into its vast forests to build their homes and place their hopes. Like us, their paramount desire must be the happiness and prosperity of Canada. This is the heritage which they should endeavour to transmit to their descendants in this young and hospitable country. Above all, their children must be like us, Canadians.
This historic statement clearly outlines that the requirement for being Canadian is to have the paramount desire for the happiness and prosperity of Canada, and this heritage should be transmitted to future generations. To me, Canadian citizenship is not a family heirloom that can be passed on indefinitely from generation to generation. It comes with a price tag that increases its intrinsic value.
The granting of Canadian citizenship allows the holder access to Canada’s social and economic benefits, and should parents of the second generations have no links to Canada, they should lose this privilege. Canada is not a convenient safe harbour for someone who has tenuous links to this country. We have to draw the line for the future of our country, and people who do not have a connection to Canada should not benefit from the advantages that citizenship brings.
What is talked about in whispers in dark corridors is the rampant abuse of our citizenship by those who really don’t care about our home and native land; people who several generations later claim a right that is so tenuous, but want Canada’s socio-economic advantages as a right. I do not wish to point out any particular group, but I guess we have all heard of this happening. This marriage of convenience must stop or it will drain our country of our economic strength.
I support Bill C-37 with some caveats. My concern is the several countries around the world that, in spite of the fact they employ Canadians as temporary labour, do not bestow statehood on newborns, resulting in a generation that could be stateless in principle. This would be more critical if both the parents were Canadians. The fact that they have Canadian ancestry should allow them to have Canadian citizenship. This is the humanitarian engagement and compassion that Canada is famous for around the world. In the United Kingdom, the Home Secretary may register a child of parents who are British by descent as a British citizen under discretionary provisions if the child is stateless. However, I have been given to understand by a CIC spokesperson that in such a case, the parents can apply for a grant that would allow the child to get Canadian residency.
As a contracting state to the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Canada should make efforts to ensure that the provisions for stateless would-be Canadians are clear and not cumbersome for officers making decisions on such cases. Uncertainty around this issue could lead to inefficiencies and backlogs in the courts on such decisions.
The bill also states that government workers and Canadian Forces personnel are exempted from the second-generation clause. I propose that this be extended to people working with Canadian non-profit organizations, and charities like the Red Cross.
June 11th, 2009 / 9:05 a.m.
Lost Canadian Organization
We're going back to the year 1868, when the first form of Canadian identity came into play. It was called the Canadian Nationals Act. It was written by the British, and almost all British colonies had the same language. This is the language that we're working on today: “married women, minors, lunatics, and idiots, shall be classified under the same disability for their national status”.
Now, I want you to remember that citizenship didn't actually begin until January 1, 1947. It was the first time that women had the right of citizenship, but they had less rights than men.
You're seeing this with Mr. Neal and all of these cases of major gender discrimination, things that have been through the Supreme Court of Canada and are currently being ignored by the citizenship minister. These were unanimous Supreme Court decisions, saying that you can't do this—and we're doing it. In the case of Mr. Neal, his mother was not recognized as a Canadian for 44 years.
In testimony before the Senate five years ago, I mentioned the Benner case, which was Benner v. Canada. I mention this case in particular because it dealt with gender discrimination.
It said that the 1947 Citizenship Act was blatantly discriminatory and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that all foreign-born children of a Canadian parent had the right of Canadian citizenship. What was being done was that Canadian women could not pass citizenship on to their children, while Canadian men could. That is what happened to Mr. Neal.
So I made the comment that, based on the Benner decision, a unanimous Supreme Court decision that said all foreign-born children of a Canadian parent had the right of citizenship, therefore, had I been born outside of Canada, I would be a Canadian and so would my children. Every senator sat scratching their head, saying, “This makes no sense, because now we're discriminating against Canadian-born children.”
A week after I made that testimony, Patricia Birkett, acting director general of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, came to the Senate. She said they were terminating the Supreme Court decision.
That's something that's really interesting to me. For five years, you've gone completely contrary to the Supreme Court.
There was another court case, Babcock v. Canada, that came in after this. They upheld the Supreme Court decision.
At the same time, we have major gender discrimination going on today. So not only was he denied citizenship, but now his daughter is being denied citizenship based on gender. Jacquie's case is based on gender. Marcel was born in Canada to a Canadian mother and a U.S. father.
Now, we can go back to gender discrimination. The mother of Joseph Volpe, who was immigration minister, was stripped of her status because she married an Italian. That used to be the law. If we go around this table, I can tell you that in the 1940s, Asians, Indo, and native aboriginals couldn't vote in this country. There were a lot of bad laws, and we're operating right now with one.
Bill C-37 is a wonderful bill. I'm sorry I don't have the time to go into it. I'm the head guy behind this bill. I know all the ins and outs. I know where you have to go and how you can correct this bill, very simply, for second generations born abroad and everything else, but we don't have the time go into it.
Right now, this government and, in particular, this immigration minister, are not doing justice to the reputation of this country.
This magazine is two years old. It's the Refugees magazine. It comes from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It talks about the strange, hidden world of the stateless and the countries that make their people stateless. And every country in here is a third world country, except for this country, dead centre, called Canada. Did you know they compared Canada's human rights record with that of Zimbabwe, Vietnam, and Bangladesh?
We are the lost Canadians, and there are 10,000 of us. The Department of Homeland Security just came out and said there were 240,000 of us just in the U.S.—and that doesn't count the children produced by lost Canadians, or the children of children.
We know as a fact that there are upwards of 200,000 just in Canada. Marlene Jennings—I see her name over there--got questioned on whether she was a Canadian, and, I can tell you, probably she was not. She took out an Italian passport in January of 1977. That would cancel her citizenship.
What Ken was trying to say is that there are two little girls here, cousins. His daughter is being denied citizenship because his daughter's connection is through his mother, a woman. The cousin is being welcomed into Canada because the connection is through a man.
Marcel Gélinas was born in Canada in 1922. As I say, he took, if you will, his father's identity. The United States gave him citizenship. He didn't know this. He was a soldier in World War II. Although he happened to be in the United States, he went to war. He didn't care; he just signed up and went to war and fought. Apparently, today they're denying him citizenship, based on the fact, saying “You're not Canadian”.
This man, Guy Vallière, died just two or three months ago. He was a Canadian soldier born in Canada. He fought for Canada, and he was denied citizenship. He died disenfranchised from his own country, despite the fact that on camera with the CBC on April 10, just over a year ago, Diane Finley said we will grant subsection 5(4) citizenship grants to all these lost Canadians. She said, “It is the right thing to do for the right reasons.”
We have Jacquie, who's about to go to judicial review against the Government of Canada. Yet we have the Conservative government saying that in the Taylor case, which is the exact copy of Jacquie's case—we've already won it, and ended up settling before a Supreme Court decision—it would cost tens of billions of Canadian taxpayer dollars to settle this case. She's about to go to judicial review.
I've tried to meet with this minister; he won't call me. I tried to call Mr. Dykstra; no return phone calls.
I'm an airline pilot. We go into accident investigation, such as Air France's, as to why something happened. The minister or Mr. Dykstra need to meet with me. We can fix this in a matter of weeks.
One person, and only one person, was granted a subsection 5(4) citizenship grant as promised, and that was the last remaining World War I veteran. The reason he got it is that I met with one of the leaders...the former leader of the opposition, at the time the Conservatives, and he went to the Prime Minister and said, “This could really hurt us”, because, see, the Prime Minister took a lot of flak for not flying the flag at half-mast over Parliament when soldiers died.
Well, the last remaining World War I soldier is an American. He left Canada in 1920. When Bill C-37 was passed, so that this man would have a state funeral, there were 90,000 signatures from the Dominion Institute.
To make sure this would not be a black mark, with a Prime Minister saying we cannot give this man a state funeral, they did every bit of paperwork in 21 days.
In the meantime, we have 71 people remaining, of whom 65 were the wrong religion, so they were denied citizenship based on the religion. We were promised that these people would get in. I'm here to hold you accountable, to say, “Come on, folks.”
If you ever want the real history of this bill, I've been at it since I was 18, and I'm going to be turning 55. I am the guy behind this. I have worked with ministers all over the place in this, and I have never worked with a minister of this low quality.
June 11th, 2009 / 9:05 a.m.
Ken Neal As an Individual
Good morning. My name is Ken Neal, from Portland, Oregon. I'm here today to testify on behalf of my daughter, Casey, who is two years old. It was just a bit too much of a flight for her to make today.
I'm a very large proponent of the second generation of Bill C-37. I'm the first generation. My mom was recognized years after she was moved and stripped of her citizenship unrightfully. She has recently been brought back as a Canadian citizen, and my citizenship is going to be recognized by Bill C-37, on which there aren't forms yet.
That leaves my daughter out in the cold. Because she's second generation, Bill C-37 doesn't quite fit. Yet, under my uncle, who has a daughter and a granddaughter, the granddaughter is recognized--because of gender discrimination, we believe.The father can pass down citizenship through the family, and yet the mother cannot. I'm on my mother's side, and therefore I cannot pass it down.
June 11th, 2009 / 9:05 a.m.
The Chair David Tilson
This is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, meeting 22, Thursday, June 11, 2009. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are undertaking a review of the subject matter of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, enacted in the second session of the 39th Parliament.
We have quite a few witnesses before us today. We have a number who are present and one who is going to be giving testimony from Vancouver via the telephone.
We have Mr. Don Chapman before us of the Lost Canadian Organization. We have several individuals--Jacqueline Scott, Marcel Gélinas, and Ken Neal. We have, from Vancouver, Nick Noorani, who is the publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine.
I must say that I haven't had one of those where we are communicating by telephone, but we'll do our best. I hope that will work okay.
Ladies and gentlemen who are witnesses, you each have five minutes to make a presentation. Then members of the committee will ask you questions.
We will start off with Mr. Neal.
March 3rd, 2009 / 9:50 a.m.
Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON
I will in the fullness of time, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Then back again, once five years didn't happen, four years didn't happen, three years didn't happen, and 180 days didn't happen, he actually went to two years again. And in his words, “Therefore, I would like to move that we enclose in here a parliamentary review...to come back to committee two years from today”. Again, the committee turned you down at that time.
Here is something I thought was important, because as I was reading some of the Hansard of this and familiarizing myself with Bill C-37--and again, Mr. Chair, if you'll indulge me--I'll quote from the Hon. Andrew Telegdi:
I have listened to Lucienne Robillard, and she was committed. I have listened to Elinor Caplan, who sat on this committee, and she was committed. I listened to Denis Coderre; he was on this committee and he was committed. I listened to Judy Sgro; she was on this committee, she was a minister, and she was committed. I listened to Mr. Volpe, and he was a minister, and he was committed.
But nobody ever got the job done. Apparently it was our government and our ministers who actually got the job done on Bill C-37, with the unanimous support of the members who sat on this committee last year. It seemed to have proceeded through Parliament very quickly, I noted, in trying to reference some of the information, some of the debates back at that time. It sailed through Parliament quite quickly.
So I'm confused as to why we would review a bill that hasn't even come into effect and is not scheduled to come into effect until April 17. Now you're asking the committee to review something before it has come into effect. You've been all over the map with respect to when you want it reviewed. You've gone from 180 days to five years to three years to two years to now, wanting it done before we've even had a chance to see the bill come into effect.
What I'm suggesting is that with all the evidence and all the good work that was done--and it was done by many of the same members who sat on this committee the last time--I noted that many of the members, who were actually the members opposite, particularly those who served on this committee at the time, were very congratulatory of all the hard work they had done to bring this bill forward. And the representatives from the department also were extraordinarily complimentary to the members who had worked so hard in crafting a bill that was so good, in bringing forward something that was unanimously supported by all the members, including Mr. Karygiannis.
I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that we might want to have the bill come into effect first. We might want to give it some time, and then from there.... And I'm not suggesting anything, because I may not be on this committee in the years ahead and I won't suggest what the committee works on two, three, four, or five years from now. But perhaps we should give it some time so the committee can digest what has happened after the bill comes into effect. I think that would be a better use of the committee's time as opposed to undertaking a review of what was a superb piece of legislation spearheaded by the former Minister Finley and unanimously supported by the members opposite and brought through the House of Commons and through the Senate very quickly. I think that after the 17th, when this comes into effect and people have the opportunity to see how this legislation will help many Canadians, we could at that point, four years from now but certainly not at this time, undertake a review then, Mr. Chair.
March 3rd, 2009 / 9:45 a.m.
Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm sorry, but I'm just a bit confused. I know this bill apparently doesn't come into effect until April 17, 2009, so I did avail myself of some of the committee Hansard from the last time this came up, which was last year. It seems like we've gone down this road before with the member. It was passed unanimously at this committee. Many of the members opposite actually praised Bill C-37. I believe that at the time Mr. Telegdi discussed a whole litany of previous Liberal ministers who hadn't done anything with respect to addressing the lost Canadians issue.
More importantly, I know we also talked about this, and Mr. Karygiannis did bring forward a number of recommendations at the time with respect to review, which were actually turned down by the committee. They've truly been all over the map on this one.
If you'll just indulge me, in the committee Hansard of last year, he asked, “Can we have a parliamentary review of the bill in four years...?” I believe it was turned down. He then asked for a review in three years. He didn't get that. Then he changed his mind again and put forward a motion that a parliamentary review happen within five years of the adoption of the bill, which was turned down. Then there was a motion for a parliamentary review of this legislation, again within five years, and also for a sunset clause to be added, which again was turned down.
March 3rd, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
March 3rd, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON
Last year at about this time we wrapped up Bill C-37, the granting of citizenship to lost Canadians, the granting of citizenship to war brides and children of war brides. We heard testimony in this room from people who thought they were Canadians but who had lost their citizenship, and the department moved very quickly, and we had a unanimous report from this committee in order to move it ahead.
One of the recommendations made was that a year from then we come back and look at it. So in that view, Chair, I would like to move this motion and suggest that we also get stakeholders, a couple of people who were here, to testify and to give us their good news stories of how they got their citizenship, of how things are moving along, and to see if there's any glitches along the way that we might want to fix. For example, Mr. Don Chapman was among us last year, and he led the procession of people, so maybe we could start by inviting him to come back and have department officials give us an overview of what's happened in the last year.
March 3rd, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
May 30th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 116.
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 117.
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 118.
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 119.
Motion No. 5
That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 120.
He said—Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to the bill before us and the amendments I made to that bill.
First of all, I must apologize if my voice is a bit hoarse today. I am so shocked at the provisions in part 6 of Bill C-50 that I can hardly speak, which explains why I am having some trouble today.
But seriously, since this is a serious matter, part 6 of this budget implementation bill deals with immigration and will cause a major change in Canada's immigration system. We condemn the fact that this part has been included in a budget implementation bill when its clauses have nothing to do with financial considerations.
This is just a government trick to limit the debate on this major reform of immigration by burying these changes in a sort of omnibus bill that pertains to a number of completely different subjects. From a parliamentary point of view, we could see the absurdity of this manoeuvre by the government and how the work had to be done in committee. Since Bill C-50 is a budget implementation bill, obviously the Standing Committee on Finance was analyzing its content. But that committee did not have the necessary expertise, knowledge or time to study the immigration clauses.
We received a letter asking the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study that part of the bill. We hastily looked at part 6 of the bill, but in the end, we had only a week to hear witnesses and make recommendations. We then had to forward everything to the Standing Committee on Finance, which did not take our recommendations into account because the Liberals abstained once again.
This shows that there was no debate across Quebec and Canada. When the witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, what we heard most commonly and systematically was criticism of making such a major reform without taking the time to properly debate or look at the consequences this could have on the immigration system and on Canada's image abroad.
The committee concluded that part 6, the entire part on immigration, should be removed from the bill. That is the focus of the amendments I am proposing this morning in this House. It is the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I hope that all the parties will agree with this recommendation, especially since the committee stated in its report that it was available to sit down with the government and the minister to examine the issue and work with them to develop a real document. A consensus might even be found if we took the time to work together.
The committee did this with Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, which had to do with Canadians who had lost their Canadian citizenship. There were talks and debates. Everyone worked together, a unanimous report was written, and then came the bill. It was passed very quickly in Parliament and everything went smoothly. I do not see why we could not do the same thing for such an important immigration reform. Obviously, the short term solution is to remove this part of the bill. The proposed measures will be detrimental to our system.
Basically, the bill provides that the minister may decide of his or her own accord and with the consent of cabinet, to change the order in which immigration applications are processed. The minister may even decide which categories of applications will be processed and which will not. Currently, although there are a number of priorities, the general principle—which is about to disappear—is first come, first served.
Under our existing immigration system, those who apply can be sure that their applications will be processed eventually. Valid applications will be accepted. Even though wait times are too long because not enough money is being invested in case processing, the system is predictable. Applicants know that they will eventually get an answer. Under the new system, people will submit applications that may never be processed though they wait their entire lives.
Naturally, that is unacceptable. The minister says that the new system was created to prioritize certain categories of workers in fields in which Canada has trouble finding workers.
On the one hand, the current points system for applications takes into account post-secondary study, master's degrees, and doctorates—which are all worth extra points—but does not put enough emphasis on the technical skills and trades where more workers are needed now. Even though the department processes these cases, people can be no more certain than before that they will be accepted.
On the other hand, there are already so many priorities in the system that nothing will really be a priority after this. I have compiled a little list, which I would like to share with you. With respect to vertical priorities, we have inadmissibility, application of the law, refugees, visitors, students, work visas, spouses, children, and the provincial nominee program. Now we are going to have another priority. Clearly, this system is not working. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority in the end. We need something much better than this to fix the system.
Another provision in this bill is extremely problematic and involves people applying for permanent resident status on humanitarian grounds. Under the current legislation, the department absolutely must review those applications and if the person is eligible, he or she can obtain that status. If they are not eligible, they will be refused, obviously.
The bill is intended to change the word “shall” to “may”. In other words, the department “may”, if it feels like it, if it is interested, review an application on humanitarian grounds. It is hard to understand how a right could become conditional on the will of the department. A right is a right and if, under the law, one is eligible for such an application on humanitarian grounds, one should have the right to have one's file reviewed.
If not, if the right is subject to the arbitrary decision of immigration officers, then it is not really a right. What is more, a permanent resident application on humanitarian grounds is often used by a refugee status claimant whose case has been dismissed with no chance of appeal before the refugee appeal division—since neither the Liberal nor the Conservative governments have ever implemented it.
The Bloc Québécois has introduced a bill to that effect in order to correct the situation. The bill is currently before the Senate. We hope the Conservatives will stop obstructing it. They always complain about the Liberal senators obstructing work in the Senate; now they are doing it.
Nonetheless, I hope this bill will pass quickly in order to correct this shortcoming. In the meantime, people have been using this process to protect their lives, to be welcomed into Canada on humanitarian grounds, but the government is in the process of closing another door in their faces.
In closing, I hope at least that the parties who supported the report in committee will be logical and consistent and vote in favour of these amendments. Obviously I am counting on the support of the NDP, but more specifically of the Liberals who have been utterly inconsistent on this. They supported withdrawing this reform in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, but in the Standing Committee on Finance, they kept mum on the matter.
I hope they will have the courage to stand up and vote in this House.
May 13th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, honourable members.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, I appreciate the opportunity to address Bill C-50 on budget implementation, which contains our government's proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
As I said to our colleagues at the finance committee, I'm proud to serve as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in a government that recognizes that immigration is as important to Canada's future as it has been to our past. Our country was built on immigration, and our future prosperity and success as a country largely depends on it.
To put things in context, by 2012, all of Canada's net labour force growth will have to come from immigration, but at this time there are over 900,000 people in the queue waiting to immigrate to Canada. Many of them have to wait up to six years before their application gets looked at, let alone processed. The stark reality is that if we do nothing to address the backlog by 2012, applicants will face a 10-year wait time to have their applications processed. The lineup of people waiting to get into Canada could reach upwards of 1.5 million people.
Contrary to the previous government, we do not believe the status quo is acceptable or sustainable.
If we do nothing to address this problem, we risk having families wait even longer to be reunited with their loved ones, and we risk losing the people our country needs to other countries, which are in fierce competition with us for the skills and talents that immigrants bring.
The current immigration system is broken and desperately needs repair. The status quo on immigration is simply unacceptable. The current system is unfair to our country and it's unfair to those waiting to come here. Because immigration is so important to Canada's future, we need a modern and renewed vision for immigration, a vision that involves a new and responsive immigration system, one that would allow us to continue welcoming more immigrants while helping them get the jobs they need to succeed to build a better life for themselves and for their families. However, to realize this vision, changes must be made.
In our immigration system today, anyone can apply. That is a good thing, and we will not change that. It reflects the fundamental commitment to fairness that all Canadians share. However, the current system leaves us little flexibility in terms of what we do with those applications.
By law, we have to process every single completed immigration application to a decision, even if a person has moved on to another country or is simply no longer interested in coming here. Our obligation to process every single application to a decision remains, regardless of how many people apply or how many were able to accept.
Furthermore, we are generally limited to processing applications in the order that we receive them. So quite simply, the current system, if left unchanged, is on track to collapse under its own weight.
In the current context, Mr. Chair, we must realize that other countries are not sitting idly by. The fact is that we face serious international competition in attracting the people with the talents and the skills we need to ensure our country's continued growth and prosperity.
Put simply, inaction on the backlog will result in the people we need going elsewhere as wait times to come to Canada continue to increase.
In Australia and New Zealand, where they have the kind of flexibility we seek, applicants get final decisions in as little as six months, not six years. It's important to note that when compared with the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, Canada is the only country that does not use some kind of occupational filter to screen, code, or prioritize skilled worker applications.
So compared to other countries, Canada's system is just not flexible enough.
Urgent action is required so that we can welcome more immigrants and their families faster while ensuring that the workers we need get here sooner. To accomplish this objective, Mr. Chair, our government has proposed a three-pronged approach.
Number one, we have committed to investing more resources—$109 million over five years. But more money isn't enough. We also have to do things smarter, better, and faster.
So we'll make administrative changes as well, such as centralizing our data entry to free up resources in our overseas missions for more processing. We'll also code applications in the backlog by occupation so that we can refer applications of interest to the provinces and the territories for processing under the provincial nominee programs.
As part of our administrative changes, we'll also send in dedicated teams to our overseas missions to speed up processing in parts of the world where wait times are the longest, and we'll transfer resources from busy to less busy missions. For example, in October, when we lifted visa restrictions on the Czech Republic and Latvia, we transferred resources to the Philippines to help with the backlogs there.
But increasing funding and improving administrative efficiencies is not enough. Systemic change is needed in order to fix the system. That is why we have introduced legislative changes to give us the flexibility and authority to both manage the backlog and set priorities that would match Canada's needs.
Our proposed legislation will allow the minister to identify categories of occupations—not individuals—for processing on a priority basis; that is, the proposed legislation will allow for the processing of applications based on our country's needs, not on one's individual place in the line. To make sure that we get it right, there are several checks and balances on the minister. First of all, the ministerial instructions will have to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our immigration system will continue to be universal and non-discriminatory.
The instructions will also complement the objectives of IRPA, that is, to support Canada's economy and competitiveness, reunite families, and protect refugees. These instructions will also require broad input.
Prior to issuing the instructions, the government will consult with the provinces and territories and industry and government departments to shape the approach. In consulting with the provinces, we will seek assurance that when they say they need immigrants with certain skills, those immigrants can actually get their credentials recognized so they can work.
Finally, ministerial instructions will be subject to cabinet approval, ensuring government-wide accountability for the decisions taken. And to be completely transparent, the instructions will be published in the Canada Gazette, on the departmental website, and will be reported in CIC's annual report, which is tabled in Parliament.
Mr. Chair, let me be crystal clear on two key points about these proposals. First, contrary to the misinformation that is out there, we will not be placing any limits on the number of applications we accept; Canada remains open to immigrants and anyone can still apply. However, under the proposed legislative changes, we will not have to process every application. Those applications that are not processed in a given year could be held for future consideration or be returned to the applicant with a refund of their application fee—and they would be welcome to reapply.
The result will be that the backlog will stop growing and will actually start to come down. The flexibility in managing the backlog will accomplish three things: it will help reduce the backlog; it will ensure that immigrants have the jobs they need to succeed; and it will allow our country to continue to grow and prosper.
That is what these proposed amendments would do, Mr. Chairman. However, I should also clarify what the proposed changes would not do.
There are some who are suggesting that this legislation will put too much power in the hands of the Minister.
For example, there's a myth out there that the minister would be arbitrarily able to cherry-pick applicants in the queue and override immigration officers' decisions on individual cases. This is simply not the case, as the minister is limited to designating priority categories, not applicants; nor will the minister have the authority to select an application for processing or reject an application that has been processed and accepted.
With respect to concerns expressed about the impact of the legislation on family reunification and humanitarian and compassionate cases, any instruction from the minister will have to respect the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which include supporting Canada's economy and competitiveness, supporting family reunification, and upholding our humanitarian requirements.
To be clear, the ministerial instructions will not apply to refugees, protected persons, or humanitarian and compassionate applications made from within Canada. We would also continue to establish clear target ranges for numbers of immigrants that we intend to accept in each category. In the case of family class applications, this means Canada plans to accept approximately 70,000 applicants in 2008.
The instructions must also respect our commitments to provinces and territories regarding the Provincial Nominee Program and the Canada-Quebec Accord.
I know that time is running out, Mr. Chairman and I am looking forward to your questions.
In conclusion, let me just say that our proposed changes to the immigration system are ultimately about people. It's about a vision for our country to make sure that people who have gone through so much to get here succeed at building a better life for themselves and for their family. It's about helping newcomers get the jobs they need to succeed, because their success is our success. And it's about ensuring the future growth and prosperity of immigrants and their families while building a better Canada. These proposals would achieve that vision and would help immigrants continue to contribute to the future of Canada.
I'd like to thank this committee for the fine work you did on Bill C-37, in reviewing that, concerning the “lost Canadians”, and also on the unanimous report you submitted on which that bill was based. I was very pleased and proud of you and your efforts when that bill received royal assent recently.
Thank you for this opportunity to address the committee.
I am now prepared to take questions.
April 17th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
April 17, 2008
I have the honour to inform you that the Hon. Marshall Rothstein, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 17th day of April, 2008 at 3:01 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
The schedule indicates the bills assented to are Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)--Chapter No. 12; Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999--Chapter No. 13; Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act--Chapter No. 14; and Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Canada Student Loans Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter No. 15.
March 5th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Thank you, Chair.
Just so we have this in context, I would like to read clause 10:
10. (1) On or before May 31 of each year, the Minister shall prepare a statement setting out
(a) the measures taken by the Government of Canada to ensure that its commitment under section 5 and the targets set out in the target plan are being met, including measures taken in respect of
(i) regulated emission limits and performance standards,
(ii) market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading or offsets,
(iii) spending or fiscal incentives, including a just transition fund for industry, and
(iv) cooperation or agreements with provinces, territories or other governments; and
(b) the Canadian greenhouse gas emission reductions that are reasonably expected to result from each of those measures in each of the next ten years.
Then we have this amendment from Mr. Cullen:
(c) the level of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions in each of the following ten years to be used as a baseline to quantify the reductions referred to in paragraph (b).
We've seen, Chair, eight amendments from the NDP, three from the Bloc, and six from the Liberals. I reckon back to a comment made by the Bloc. When we heard the testimony of, I think, the last group of witnesses, I think it was Mr. Bigras--he can correct me if I'm wrong--who said that maybe this bill should be rewritten.
We heard testimony from Mr. Layton that basically he had help writing the bill, but he was basically setting targets. We heard clearly that there was no policy attached to it, that there was no plan, no costing; it was just wishful thinking to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
What we've seen resulting from that is witnesses testifying that there are some very serious constitutional issues with Bill C-377 and that it wouldn't stand up. We've heard that it would not achieve anything. Mr. Layton equated it to the impossible dream. He didn't break into song, but I was ready to join him if he did.
In all seriousness, through all the groups of witnesses we heard a common theme: the necessity of an impact analysis. What I shared at our last meeting was the commissioner's statement about how important it is--that in order to have successful action by government, you need to have conducted an economic, social, environmental, and risk analysis. That's all missing.
What I wish we would have heard from the NDP is an admission of what we heard through all the testimony from every group of witnesses, and from what I believe was the vast majority of the witnesses: that Bill C-377 is not going to accomplish what it says it would like to see, which is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
What I was hoping I would hear from Mr. Cullen is that he would.... With all these amendments--eight of them from the NDP--the bill is basically being rewritten. We don't know the results of the end product that we'll have. It doesn't have any critique other than debate around this table. I think it's important that it be critiqued.
I was hoping the bill would have been withdrawn, rewritten, and presented again to Parliament, because it was so badly written and so faulty. Now the same people who wrote the first draft are writing the second draft of amendments, with the assistance of the Bloc and the Liberals. I don't mean any disrespect, but neither one of those groups has a tremendous history in providing good action on the environment. We heard that also.
The committee has a responsibility to make sure the legislation that leaves here is good and that it's been critiqued. I don't want to repeat myself, but as I've mentioned, we've heard time and time again that it's very important that we have legislation that will take action.
The Government of Canada, with its Turning the Corner plan, has the toughest targets in Canadian history. It calls for 20% in absolute reductions by 2020 and 60% to 70% by 2050. Those are the toughest in Canadian history. What I particularly like about the Turning the Corner plan is that for the health of Canadians it also includes the quality of air that we breathe, both inside and outside. One Canadian death in 12 is directly related to the environment, to environmental causes, so we have a responsibility as parliamentarians to make sure the air we breathe is of good quality; otherwise, it means billions of dollars in health care costs. We also have a responsibility as parliamentarians to make sure we are doing our part globally to attack the issue of a warming climate, and this government is very committed to that.
That's why I take it so passionately that we need to have legislation coming out of this committee and going back to the House that is good. And Chair, because of the testimony we heard, I don't believe Bill C-377 is good.
I had just begun to share some of the concerns that I heard during the testimony yesterday. One of the people who shared at the committee was Mr. Peter Hogg. He was sharing with the committee the importance of the constitutional legitimacy of Bill C-377 and whether it would stand up to a challenge. He shared that he didn't believe it would. He shared that the Constitution Act of 1867 confers on the Parliament of Canada the power to make laws in relation to criminal law. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that a law will be classified as a criminal law if it has a valid criminal purpose backed by a prohibition and a penalty. As far as the valid criminal purpose is concerned, the court has held that the protection of the environment counts as a valid criminal purpose.
The purpose of Bill C-377 therefore qualifies as a valid criminal purpose. As far as the prohibition and a penalty are concerned, the question is whether Bill C-377 contains a prohibition and a penalty as those terms have been understood in the case of law. The courts have traditionally distinguished between criminal law and regulatory law, and the Criminal Code is a classic case of criminal law in that the act itself contains--
February 15th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip
Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I would like to thank all parties for the negotiations that took place that would allow this. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, be deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.