An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Devinder Shory  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Dead, as of Feb. 26, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to require the Minister, on application, to reduce by one year the required years of residence in Canada to grant citizenship to any permanent resident who is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who has signed a minimum three-year contract and who has completed basic training.

It also amends section 9 of the Act to provide that an individual is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship or is deemed to have withdrawn their application for Canadian citizenship, if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian Armed Forces.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Feb. 27, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Calgary International AirportStatements By Members

June 17th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, Calgary International Airport, located in my riding, is the third busiest airport in Canada, contributing $6 billion to the economy.

Last weekend, I joined 12,000 Calgarians to celebrate the opening of the longest commercial runway in Canada. This is the only runway in Canada that has a 100% eco-friendly LED lighting system. It will save 60,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is the equivalent to a saving of 41.3 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

Calgary airport is an economic driver for western Canada, and I congratulate the Calgary Airport Authority on this historic milestone.

Before my time is up, I would like to thank all of my colleagues who supported the passage of Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, yesterday, especially our hard-working Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for including provisions from my private member's bill, Bill C-425.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 9:30 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-24. Before I go on, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

As we know, this bill was studied in committee. Unfortunately, even though we proposed good amendments to address the major problems in the bill, the government decided to reject those amendments.

We are concerned about the constitutionality of this bill, and that is a big deal. Immigration is a significant part of our government system, and when the government brings in a bill, the least it can do is ensure that it is constitutional and will not be struck down. Nonetheless, there are some good measures in this bill and we encourage those. Unfortunately, there are also some very worrisome measures as well.

First, during the speech by my colleague from Winnipeg North, I talked about the fact that part of Bill C-425, a private member's bill, was added to this bill. The part that was added has to do with shortening the time requirement for becoming a Canadian citizen for members of the armed forces who are permanent residents.

That is a good measure and we support it. When someone provides a service to society, like a member of the Canadian Armed Forces does, then we can only encourage that. Unfortunately, this good measure probably applies to fewer than three people a year. To become a member of the Canadian Armed Forces you have to be a Canadian citizen unless you have permission from the Chief of the Defence Staff. That only happens when there is truly a shortage in a trade and someone has a specific skill. Then that person can be recruited. It happens very rarely.

When I was preparing my private member's bill, I was told it would affect only 5% of all volunteer firefighters, that that was not enough and that it did not apply to enough people. In this case, the government is bringing in a legislative measure that will apply to three people. I am glad that the government is supporting the Canadian Armed Forces, but it is still troubling to see that the government is implementing good measures that will apply to almost no one.

Now that I have talked about a good measure that applies to few people, I would like to talk about other specific aspects of the bill. What worries me the most is the possibility that the minister can revoke a person's Canadian citizenship in a rather arbitrary manner. There is no court or process, and he decides whether to revoke someone's citizenship. It could be someone who has dual citizenship, because of family ties, for example, and who has actually never set foot in the country where they hold the second citizenship.

It seems to me that this makes no sense and also does not comply with practices. When some other countries apply a similar measure, it is done in accordance with a very comprehensive process. That looks much more like a process where there are detailed explanations of the reasons why it can be done.

There is another measure that I find particularly troubling and that is the fact that people will now have to declare their intent to reside in Canada. If they make this declaration, they will obtain their citizenship, but it could be revoked.

Citizenship could be revoked if the person does not comply with the requirement of remaining in Canada. However, there are special cases. I was thinking of students, for example. Take a young person who obtains his citizenship and who intends to remain in Canada. Then, by a stroke of luck, he is accepted at Harvard or Oxford, which are renowned universities.

It would be very tempting for someone who has an opportunity to go to one of these universities, especially if they were offered a scholarship. His intent to reside is still valid, but he has an opportunity. His intention is not to leave Canada permanently; he simply wants to take advantage of the opportunity he is being given at a certain point in his life. This could give rise to a real sense of insecurity that is truly untenable for people who would have to decide between an extraordinary opportunity and perhaps losing their citizenship.

There is also the example of professional athletes, people who are here in Canada and have dual citizenship. They may have obtained their citizenship when they were young and then become high-performance athletes. If they go abroad to train and are successful at their sport, they could ultimately lose their citizenship because they did not comply with the requirement to reside in Canada, even though they said that they wanted to. In that case, they might be presented with an opportunity that they might not be able to take.

I am also very concerned about another aspect of this bill and that is the fact that it prohibits people who are convicted abroad for crimes punishable in Canada from acquiring citizenship.

We understand that a person who is accused of homosexuality in a foreign country, for example, would not be affected because that is not a crime in Canada. However, many countries have fairly corrupt justice systems. The actual guilt of a person who was accused in a foreign country may be in question. We have to be careful.

This bill does not take into account the fact that the justice systems of many countries are often lacking. The system of evidence is lacking. We may therefore be dealing with people who have been falsely accused or who may have been persecuted at some point. That is likely why they chose to leave the country that this government would be trying to send them back to.

There are some very worrisome measures in this bill. The government is talking about changing the age for language testing. The fact that the Conservatives are increasing the upper age limit to 64 is fairly reasonable, but the fact that they are lowering the age for children and adolescents is particularly worrisome.

Our immigration system currently has an unbelievable backlog. Some people wait months or even years. They come to see me in a complete panic. They say that nothing is happening with their file. They are wondering what is going on and they ask me to call to find out.

It is completely ridiculous how many people are waiting for their immigration file to be processed. The government's priority should be dealing with these excessive wait times, which make the immigration process more complex. I have seen some unbelievable cases.

The immigration file of one of my constituents was frozen because he did not have a criminal background check for his two-month-old baby.

I believe that there is cause for concern when the immigration system requires paperwork that does not make sense. The government should address many of these problems, decrease wait times and try not to make an already flawed system even more problematic.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 7:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question.

If we go to the Canadian Forces website, it says that one has to be a Canadian to apply. The question is why we would allow the residency requirement to be reduced for someone to become a Canadian. There are very few this would actually apply to.

The member is quite right. Generally speaking, there may be individuals outside of Canada who might be recruited by the hierarchy within the military, brought to Canada, and offered something of this nature. There are very few. I had the opportunity to question the military directly on the issue, and I can confirm that it is a very low number.

This goes back to Bill C-425, if that is what the member was trying to get across. It is only meant as a gesture of symbolism to try to give an impression. It is not as if there is going to be a Canadian Forces recruitment banner at the airport as new immigrants come walking in.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know the former minister of immigration has been waiting in great anticipation of what I might have to say, because he knows full well that when I get the opportunity to talk about immigration and citizenship, I like to reflect on not only the current minister but the past minister. I like to take a holistic approach in dealing with the issues as I see them and as many of my Liberal colleagues see them. The government often chooses to use immigration and citizenship in an inappropriate fashion, if I can put it that way, maybe putting politics ahead of what is in the best interest of good, solid, sound immigration and citizenship policy. I would not mind talking a bit about that, being afforded the opportunity to again share my thoughts.

I come to this issue because, over the last 20-plus years, I have had the opportunity of representing in a very real and tangible way a community in Winnipeg North that has allowed me to deal with immigration and citizenship issues, at one time maybe on a weekly basis. That has evolved into dealing with numerous immigration cases on a daily basis. Depending on who we might talk to and depending on the week and the time of the year, it could be anywhere from 200 to 300 or 400 cases.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in working with people and helping them on immigration files and citizenship files. I could provide the House with endless examples that will give an indication of just how off base the government of the day has been in regard to immigration policy. The government has fallen short, not in one or two areas but in a number of areas. I am hoping, by being able to provide direct input to those who are ultimately responsible, both the former minister and the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, that they will recognize that they need to start working on behalf of our immigrant community. When I say immigrant community, I am talking about the wider grouping of individuals who live in Canada, call Canada their home, and do so in a very proud fashion.

I was very pleased to have been appointed immigration critic when I was first elected after the general election, and I enjoyed it immensely. When I think of immigration policy, I can say that there has not been that much change in the government's attitude in terms of policy and the direction in which the department is going. This is something that I would like to highlight.

There are so many things I could be talking about. Let me start by commenting specifically on a bill known as “425”. Bill C-425 was a private member's bill that was introduced last year by a backbench Conservative member of Parliament. What was that member of Parliament hoping to be able to do through that legislation? He came up with an idea that we should give citizenship out to individuals who have been here for three out of four years. His idea was to allow for military personnel to acquire their citizenship after two years. This is something that was proposed by a Conservative member of Parliament, and it actually received fairly good support from all members of this House. Maybe he did not have the green light from the Prime Minister's Office. The bill passed the House and went into committee, and the arguments that were brought forward at the time were that three out of four years was a good overall policy, that it would work, and that there was nothing wrong with it.

What the member and others around the table were talking about was, in fact, reducing it for certain individuals who decide to serve in the Canadian Forces. I remember the debate well, because I was the critic at the time.

Listening to the comments in this chamber, I did not hear one member—not one Conservative, not one New Democrat, and definitely not one Liberal—make the suggestion that we needed to increase the residency requirement. No one was talking about that, not even the then minister of immigration.

When it came time to provide comment on Bill C-425, what did the then minister of immigration choose to talk about? He chose to talk about the dual citizens. He chose to talk about how important it is to be able to deport or take away citizenship from individuals who commit a crime of treason, and he cited a couple of other things. That was the minister's concern. He not once mentioned that we should be increasing the residency requirement from three years to four years.

Something happened over that late fall from October to November that triggered a thought. I do not know what triggered it, but the thought was to make it more difficult, or increase the requirements, for someone to achieve citizenship. I question why the government made that decision, because it definitely was not an issue. We know that. If it had been an issue, if MPs or the government were being challenged on the issue, it would have been brought up at the immigration committee. The minister of immigration back then would have raised the issue. However, they chose not to, because it was not an issue then. It is only the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who decided this was an issue.

I will put one caveat on that. I suspect that someone within the Prime Minister's Office might have had a say on that issue. Maybe a new minister, being eager and wanting to please the leader, decided he would do that even though there was no need. There was no need. This is what I believe has actually taken place. It is a change that is being dictated from the Prime Minister's Office, which wants to make it four years as opposed to three years, even though it was not an issue. I suggest that is bad policy.

I was not surprised when the government made the decision it would double the cost of the application for citizenship, because it hinted about that in the immigration committee. We could tell by some of the questions Conservatives were asking. We anticipated that the government was considering an increase. That was not a surprise. The surprise was the fact that it wanted to increase the residency period.

June 11th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Quickly, Minister, I want to thank you once again for having my portion of Bill C-425 adopted into Bill C-24.

There was a question today on why we did not introduce this kind of bill before, and I want to remind everyone that it was the opposition who stalled the portion of this bill that I introduced last year. It's the government or individual members who have been trying to fix the broken system.

Thank you, Minister.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2014 / 9:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-425 it was very clearly said that those who would join the Canadian Armed Forces would be given credit for one year toward their residency requirement to be a Canadian citizen.

To answer his question, yes, it would be the same principle that would be applied. Those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and want Canadian citizenship would be given one year's credit toward that.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2014 / 9:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the member's private member's bill, Bill C-425, and ask the member to reflect on what he was proposing there. It was to ultimately allow for a landed immigrant who chose to join the Canadian Forces to wait two years instead of three years to qualify for citizenship. Would that principle apply with the current legislation? Would a member of the Canadian Forces who is a landed immigrant only require two years to be able to apply for citizenship? That is what his bill was all about last year.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2014 / 9:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver South.

I am honoured to rise in the House tonight to speak to our government's Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act. This legislation would be the first major overhaul of the Citizenship Act in nearly a generation.

While Bill C-24 touches on a variety of areas, all of which would make important changes strengthening the integrity of the immigration system and preserving the value of Canadian citizenship, there are several areas I am particularly passionate to be speaking to tonight. Those areas of the bill encompass the entirety of my former private member's bill, Bill C-425. When I first introduced my bill, I gave the reasons for tabling that legislation. My intention was to reward permanent residents for their service in our Canadian Armed Forces and to underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship by revoking it from those convicted of terrorism or treason.

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to our hard-working Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and member for Ajax—Pickering for keeping those provisions of my bill alive by drafting them into Bill C-24. I would also like to thank each and every one of my current Conservative colleagues on the citizenship and immigration committee for their diligent work, and also those who have contributed long hours spent keeping these ideas alive in the face of unrelenting opposition filibustering last year.

I believe the importance of this legislation cannot be overstated. It is good news for new Canadians, good news for settled Canadians, and good news for those hoping to become Canadians, and I will tell members why.

Bill C-24 would honour our Canadian Armed Forces by fast-tracking citizenship by one year for permanent residents serving Canada in our military who have stated their intention to become citizens. As members know, service in the Canadian Armed Forces is unique. We call on our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice, to risk their lives in faraway places away from their families in some of the worst conditions imaginable, and they do it gladly. They are willing to lay their lives down for their fellow Canadians. That is what makes service in the Canadian Armed Forces unique and deserving of the highest possible respect.

Bill C-24 seeks not only to support these brave men and women but also to strengthen and defend the values they stand for and protect. To do this, we must act to address one of the biggest threats facing Canada today: terrorism. Bill C-24 would allow for the revocation of citizenship for any dual citizen who is convicted of a terrorism offence, treason, or waging war against the Canadian Armed Forces as part of an armed group. This measure would bring Canada into line with virtually every other western democratic nation that has similar revocation laws.

Strangely enough, the opposition Liberals and New Democrats continue to strongly oppose this measure. I know what I am about to say is not new, but it seems to me that those members on the other side of the House need to be reminded once again, perhaps again and again, that the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports revoking citizenship from convicted terrorists.

If the members were to survey their own supporters or Canadians in general, they would find the following, according to a national poll conducted by NRG: over 83% of Canadians from coast to coast to coast support the idea of stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists; of those, 80% of people who identified as NDP supporters support this measure; and, 87% of those who identified as Liberal supporters also support this measure. Also interesting to note is that among those who were polled, when it comes to those born in Canada versus those not born here, 83% of immigrants support stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists versus 82% of settled Canadians.

I would like to know why it is that the opposition Liberals and New Democrats continue to choose to ignore the will of Canadians and the international community.

Some people might be surprised by the last figure I gave, but as an immigrant myself, and as the member of Parliament for the hard-working riding of Calgary Northeast, the most diverse riding in the country, I know that new Canadians as well as settled Canadians understand the need for this measure.

Canadians understand that when a dual national willingly decides to radicalize and participate in terrorist crimes, to carry out bombings, to plot the murder of his or her fellow citizens, this is damaging to the value we attach to Canadian citizenship.

We cannot wait for the terrorists to submit an application to renounce their citizenship. We must read into their actions a deemed renunciation of that citizenship. This measure is entirely consistent with our sister jurisdictions among western democracies.

I have spoken to many ethnic organizations, groups, and constituents in my riding and across Canada. The overwhelming majority support revocation of citizenship for convicted terrorists.

For example, Salma Siddiqui, president of Muslim Canadian Congress, had this to say while testifying on my private member's bill on March 26, 2013:

Canadians who are opposed to the values of our society should not be allowed to abuse the privileges that come with holding Canadian citizenship. We must act to strip Canadian citizenship from those who seek to exploit it for violent and illegal activities.

She also conveyed similar thoughts recently when she appeared at the committee to discuss Bill C-24.

Just last night I read an article in the National Post. Fawzi Ayoub, a dual Lebanese Canadian, was recently killed fighting in a terrorist group in Syria. He was a senior member of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

In fact, he has been on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list since 2009. His crimes include attempting to enter Israel in order to carry out a terrorist bombing and attempting to hijack a passenger aircraft in Romania.

Ayoub lived in Toronto for several years and mused about returning to Canada one day. Just imagine, if he had returned to Canada, what might have happened.

This illustrates precisely why we need Bill C-24 to become law. Canadians are angry that terrorists are using Canadian citizenship simply as a convenient way to fly under the radar in order to commit terrorist acts. In doing so, they are eroding the value of Canadian citizenship.

Under the provisions of Bill C-24, those convicted of a serious terrorism offence in Canada or in jurisdictions Canada recognizes as having an equivalent judicial system would no longer be able to use a Canadian passport to facilitate their terrorist activities abroad.

Revocation is not a provision I hope to see used regularly. Ideally, it would never be used. However, Canadians are increasingly concerned about the threat of home-grown terrorism. Terrorism is closer to home than we may think. Radicalization is happening in places we least expect: our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods.

Our security services are sounding the alarm bells about the dangers of home-grown terrorism. CSIS has reported it is tracking at least 80 Canadians who have gone overseas to participate in terrorist activities.

They will return to Canada further radicalized and armed with knowledge of how to carry out terrorist activities. We cannot allow radical terrorist ideologies to thrive in Canada. We must condemn these dangerous practices and give them no safe place to hide and absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever.

If we allow terrorists to keep the Canadian citizenship they have abused, we are sending a message that our citizenship is not about shared values, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, or loyalty. It sends the message that our citizenship is simply an entitlement.

I believe Canadian citizenship is much more than a piece of paper used for identification purposes. It does represent our shared values, and its value is something we need to vigorously defend.

We must let Canadians know where their elected representatives stand. I implore members opposite to set aside their politics and join me to unanimously support Bill C-24.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2014 / 9:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it was June of last year when the government brought in legislation through a private member's bill, Bill C-425. We found out then that the government wanted to hijack that particular bill. I see the member across the way who was the sponsor of Bill C-425.

The government was prepared to hijack the bill by bringing in this whole revoking of citizenship and establishing a two-tier citizenship. That was when the bill ran into serious problems. It ultimately failed and was not able to get out of committee.

We need to recognize and be very clear that it was saying if one had Canadian citizenship, and no other citizenship, and committed a certain type of offence, it would be okay and one would be allowed to retain that citizenship. However, if one had dual citizenship, and the example I used back then was the leader of the official opposition who has dual citizenship, and if he committed the same sort of act, he would be deported and lose his citizenship.

I wonder if the member might want to comment on Bill C-425.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2014 / 8:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was a rant from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. That was not really a speech full of any facts. I wonder whether the minister has borrowed his facts from Kijiji because we have seen that before with the Minister of Employment and Social Development with regard to the temporary foreign worker issue. However, I will leave that for today and speak to the bill.

There are quite a few holes in the bill. One of my constituents said that the holes were big enough to drive a truck through. I will try to lay it out and I would ask members to pay attention, because there may not be that many holes to drive a truck through. Maybe we could make some sensible changes to improve the legislation.

I am pleased to stand in the House today on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North to address Bill C-24, which intends to strengthen the Citizenship Act.

We in the official opposition, along with many experts and Canadians from across the country, are very concerned about a number of aspects in the bill.

We agree that changes to the Citizenship Act are greatly necessary and long overdue. This act has not been revised since 1977 and some elements of Bill C-24 would create clear injustices.

In addition, Canadians continue to face ridiculously wait times for citizenship applications.

Even though some changes are necessary, the bill is another example of the Conservative government's use of power to make secretive, arbitrary decisions by cabinet ministers.

I will first speak to a couple of good things in the bill. There are not a lot, because as I have pointed out, we could drive a big truck through the many holes in the bill.

I will be splitting my time with the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, Mr. Speaker.

The bill would do a couple of things that I do agree with and they should have been addressed a long time ago. The issue of so-called lost Canadians is addressed in the bill. The NDP has fought hard for many years to get this matter resolved. We are happy the Conservatives are bringing this forward as a result of pressure from the opposition.

The other positive aspect of Bill C-24 is the part dealing with expedited access to citizenship for permanent residents who serve in the armed forces, which the NDP supported in the last session with Bill C-425. However, for a bill that is over 50 pages long, it completely fails to accomplish what it is supposedly intended to do.

Instead of addressing the current problems, Bill C-24 would arbitrarily attribute more unnecessary powers to the minister, prolong naturalization, treat many Canadians like second-class citizens and create more injustices.

Our citizenship and immigration system is flawed. We need a bill that would actually strengthen Canadian citizenship, not one that is not even constitutional. I say that because we have heard from many experts. We have heard from the Canadian Bar Association and from lawyers. They point out the unconstitutionality of many parts of the bill, and yet the Conservatives are not willing to hear all of that.

I pointed to some of the good points of the bill and now I would like to take a look at some of the points that are really worrisome. Let us take a look at the aspect of intent to reside.

Basically, under Bill C-24, if granted citizenship, a person must declare his or her “intent to reside”. The goal of this provision is to ensure Canada's expectation that new citizens live and work in the country after completing naturalization. However, this change would empower officials to speculate on an applicant's future intentions. It portrays the image of immigrants as deserving of suspicion and mistrust, and also treats naturalized immigrants as second-class citizens.

The vagueness in this provision will severely create travel restrictions. International mobility will be imperative. It allows Canadians to study abroad, see their families and become globally aware. If Bill C-24 passes, naturalized citizens will lose this fundamental right.

Citizens who travel abroad for honest reasons may face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented their intention to reside in Canada when they were granted citizenship.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration could revoke citizenship under the false pretence of fraud. There would be no appeal, no hearing and no public knowledge of this, which brings me to another concern, and that is the powers of the minister. The bill would grant the minister more powers.

Bill C-24 would place unnecessary powers in the hands of the minister. If the bill is passed, the minister will have the authority to grant or revoke citizenship without public knowledge or any form of judicial process.

I am really worried about this aspect of the bill, because the minister will get to decide whether to revoke somebody's citizenship. There is no process, no hearing and the public will not even know about it. That is really worrisome.

Peter Edelmann, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who sits on the executive of the Canadian Bar Association, said:

What’s happening here is they’re proposing that citizens could lose their citizenship on a paper-based process with no hearing at all and no independent tribunal--forget about going in front of a judge to make the decision; you may not get to speak to or even see the officer...

This is clearly unconstitutional. The Canadian Bar Association is saying this, yet the government is not listening to some of the top lawyers in the country who point to the unconstitutionality of this power grab by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

It is not surprising to me, because I have been here a number of years now, that the Conservatives are using bills to grant themselves more discretionary powers. We have seen this in many other bills in the House where they are consolidating the power.

A Conservative member is chirping at me, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to ask those members to pay attention and maybe they will learn one or two things, oppose the bill and actually work for Canadians rather than chirping away when another member is speaking.

The Conservatives love power, even if it is at the cost of Canadian democracy and justice. By giving the minister these new powers, Canada is taking a step backward and opening the doors to decisions that are subjective and politically motivated.

Instead of providing solutions to the issues Canadians face every day, the Conservatives are using the legislative process to give themselves even more power than they already have. Unfortunately, they are not worried about the process because they have a so-called small majority, and they are ramming these changes through.

There are many other issues I could discuss such as the unconstitutionality of a number of things in the bill. There are fees and language testing issues. It seems that the only consultations the Conservatives have done in drafting the bill is among themselves or they have gone to Kijiji, as they have done before. We see time and time again Conservatives are not willing to take any sort of advice from neither the opposition, nor from the experts who testified before committees.

Along with my NDP colleagues, I will continue to fight for a fair, efficient, transparent and accountable immigration system. I urge the Conservatives to stop battering democracy and start listening to Canadians.

May 14th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you, Mr. Gupta.

Ms. Siddiqui, now I'm going to ask you something on the same line, on the provisions in Bill C-24 that would revoke the citizenship of a convicted terrorist who had chosen to seek the destruction of Canada and Canadian values.

When you testified on my private member's bill, Bill C-425, on March 26 last year, you said, “We cannot be politically correct in everything and it's not about political correctness, because at the end of the day, by being politically correct we are not doing service to the immigrants who have come here and are working in an honest manner.”

I would like you to expand a little on the impact homegrown terrorism has on the vast majority of honest, hard-working immigrants who share our values and who come to Canada seeking a better life and seeking to make Canada even a better place.

May 14th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To our witnesses, thank you once again for coming here and enlightening the committee with your views and your opinions.

Mr. Gupta, once again, I feel sorry about your loss a long time ago and the grief you've had to go through in your life.

I am very happy to hear from you that you know about the bill and you know that in Canada Nelson Mandela was never considered and would not have been considered a terrorist, because also under this bill, you talked about our judicial system and equivalency, so I won't put in much time on that.

But talking about lawyers, by profession I'm a lawyer. I will tell you this: lawyers have different interpretations. Different lawyers will have different interpretations, and lawyers are not judges. Judges have to decide. When they talk about this fearmongering and also the charter, lawyers said this and that. I'll leave it there, because this bill, as the minister told us already, has gone through our justice system to have a look at it about the charter challenge.

I want to be straight. I also want to put on the record that the opposition has to understand the bill. When we talk about revocation, the minister may revoke the citizenship of an individual who has already been convicted and already is either serving or has served. What this means is that when the individual is convicted or going through the court process, that individual has the right of the judicial process to go up to the Supreme Court of Canada. So when they talk about how there is no process, I just laugh.

Anyway, Mr. Gupta, let me ask you this. Actually, both of you know that part of this revocation specifically and the armed forces credit were part of my Bill C-425. Mr. Gupta, I'll quote what you said when you appeared in front of this committee on April 16 last year:

By waging war against the Canadian Forces, such persons clearly demonstrate that they have no loyalty whatsoever to Canada and attach no value to the Canadian democratic system. Thus, they do not deserve Canadian citizenship, which they are using as a matter of convenience to further their criminal and terrorist activities.

I would like you to expand a little bit on why you feel that loyalty and citizenship have a connection and why it is important to prevent citizens of convenience from using a Canadian passport to more easily carry out terrorist acts—crimes.

May 7th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Prof. Elke Winter

Yes, okay. I have my third point, and then I'm complete.

Regarding those who aim to commit terrorist attacks against Canada, is it doubtful that the proposed law contains anything that would deter them from their actions? Research suggests that perpetrators seldom refrain from heinous crimes due to drastic penalties, not even the death penalty.

Further, the discourse of fear and the raising of suspicion against dual nationals have detrimental impacts upon some communities, particularly upon Muslim and Arab Canadians. With a team of researchers at the University of Ottawa, we're currently investigating the public debates that were kick-started by the honourable MP Devinder Shory's Bill C-425. While our investigation is ongoing, I can already tell you that it led to numerous rants against Muslims in Canada in the print media, online fora, and social media. Bill C-24 extends and amplifies these negative stereotypes.

I will conclude here and send you my notes.

Canadian CitizenshipStatements By Members

March 6th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to join our hard-working Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Toronto and Calgary a few weeks ago to announce our Conservative government's Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, which will strengthen the immense value of Canadian citizenship and ensure that a Canadian passport remains highly regarded around the world.

I also want to personally thank the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for working with me and transferring the contents of my private member's bill, Bill C-425, into his new act. Once this bill becomes law, Canada will fall into line with virtually every other western democratic nation. It will have the ability to strip the citizenship of convicted terrorists. According to a national poll, this measure has the support of over 85% of Canadians from across Canada, including 80% of NDP supporters, 87% of Liberal supporters, and 83% of those who immigrated to Canada.

I call upon the opposition to represent the will of their constituents and support this bill.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

The NDP agrees that changes to the Citizenship Act are badly needed. This act has not been revised since 1977, and some elements of our Citizenship Act create injustices. The NDP has fought a long time to correct some of these injustices. I enthusiastically welcomed the news that the government was preparing a bill to amend the Citizenship Act.

There are a number of good elements in this bill that the NDP is happy to see. We would be happy to support some of these changes that have been needed for a long time. However, true to form, the Conservatives have introduced a bill that is over 50 pages long and that amends all kinds of things and affects several aspects of citizenship.

There are so many things in this bill. Some are very positive, while others are worrisome. Civil society organizations, legal experts and other Canadian experts have already expressed some legal and human rights concerns. The public is very upset about some aspects of this bill, and I hope to explain why certain parts of this bill are worrisome and very problematic.

First, I will talk about what I am happy to see in Bill C-24. The NDP certainly supports the fact that this bill resolves the issue of people whose citizenship has been dispossessed, the so-called lost Canadians. I would like to give a practical example to show why it is so important to address this injustice.

John is two years old. He lives in the Eastern Townships in Quebec. His father is Canadian and his father's father is Canadian. Is John Canadian? No, he is not. Little John is here in Canada and lives with his Canadian father, but has only a temporary visa that will expire in May. The family's situation is rather unstable. Why does John not have citizenship? It is because his father, who is a Canadian and was born to a Canadian father, was born outside the country while his father was serving in the Canadian Forces. Instead of being proud to have a grandfather who served in the Canadian Forces, John is being penalized because his grandfather was serving outside the country when his wife gave birth to their child.

This deprives little John of medicare and day care, which is an enormous burden for the family. Little John is not the only one in this unfair situation. In fact, there are approximately 80 lost Canadians. These people are often in a tragic situation that also adversely affects many people who are close to them. The NDP fought for a long time for the government to resolve these unfair situations. From critic to critic, MP to MP, from motions to news releases, the NDP fought this battle, and we are pleased to see that, today, justice will be served for these people who should already be Canadian.

The other positive aspect of this bill is the expedited access to citizenship for permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, this aspect, which the NDP already supported, is found in Bill C-425 from the last session. I would like to raise one issue, however. This bill will not affect hundreds or even dozens of people. It will affect only a few, perhaps five or 10. It is very rare for permanent residents to be accepted into the Canadian Forces. Usually, a person must already be Canadian to be accepted. Only in very exceptional cases are permanent residents allowed to serve in the Canadian Forces.

That being said, these people serve our country in an exemplary way. They meet important needs that only they can meet within our armed forces. In our opinion, it is therefore completely reasonable, acceptable and desirable to reward these individuals by expediting their access to Canadian citizenship, if they so desire.

The NDP also fought hard for the implementation of measures to train immigration consultants and to fight more effectively against fraudulent consultants. The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina spoke out loud and clear, as she called on the government to take action in this regard. In a news release made public in 2010, she called for the creation of a regulatory body to enforce the rules and protect the public. It was not until today that practical measures were proposed to better train immigration consultants. That is positive aspect of the bill, because many people are victims of immigration consultants who betray their trust—although most consultants are honest individuals. These are the good things I wanted to say about Bill C-24.

I would like to point out some parts of the bill that should be the subject of consultations with experts and the public because they are worrisome in some way or because people have differing opinions on them. The first is the longer term of Canadian residency required to obtain citizenship. The longer term is not necessarily a bad thing, and I understand the goal of it. It is a good idea to make sure that people with citizenship have lived in Canada for a certain period of time. This is good, but I also want to point out that this particular measure adds clarification that was not in the act before, making it very clear to people how many days they must reside in Canada before being eligible for Canadian citizenship. This measure makes sense.

However, we should talk about the ridiculously long processing time for citizenship applications. If the government is asking people to reside in Canada for a longer period of time, then it really must ensure that their applications are processed quickly and efficiently, which is what they might expect.

Increasing application fees is also a contentious issue. I will explain why. People certainly understand that the fees need to change. Fees for citizenship applications have not changed in several years. Now the processing fees will be higher than the fees people have to pay to submit their application.

However, why are these fees jumping from $200 to $400? What justifies that amount? So far, nobody has provided us with all of the information justifying that specific amount. Why not $50 more or $50 less? Does this amount really just cover the costs, or is it merely a way to get money from people who want citizenship? I would like a lot more information about that. If the government charges more, people are naturally going to expect better service.

This brings me back to the processing times, which are unacceptable. They have more than doubled under the Conservatives. Asking someone to pay more for a service is one thing, but providing a service that gets worse and worse is another. The government needs to make sure that higher fees go hand in hand with better service.

Furthermore, changing the age at which people must take the test in one of the official languages has upset many communities across the country. In the past, people aged 18 to 54 had to take the test in one of Canada's official languages. From now on, people aged 14 to 64 will have to do so.

I understand the importance of learning one of Canada's official languages. However, many people are worried. For instance, people aged 54 to 64 might have a harder time learning one of the official languages, studying for an exam or managing the related stress this could bring. Many people live within a community and could very easily get by in Canada without necessarily mastering a certain level of language. Such a change could cause a lot of stress, especially regarding the lower age limit at which people will have to take the test. Indeed, children as young as 14 will now have to take the test, and this could determine whether they get to become citizens or not.

What happens to a child who does not pass the test for some reason or another, while the rest of his or her family passes? Will that child be the only non-citizen in the family? Could this cause problems when the family wants to travel, for instance? Why impose a test with such serious consequences on children as young as 14, when we know that young people living here in Canada have to go to school in one of Canada's official languages and learn the language day in and day out? Why put that kind of pressure on a 14-year-old child? This is highly questionable. As I said, we had many discussions with a number of groups and individuals who all questioned this.

Another aspect worth debating that is upsetting people is the elimination of the use of the length of stay in Canada as a non-permanent resident. This measure is really troubling for many foreign students and temporary workers who have been in Canada for a few months, or even a few years, and who were planning on applying for citizenship in the near future. They now see that they might have to wait for many more years. This really changes their plans.

I have gotten a number of emails from my constituents and from people across Quebec and Canada. I think it is worth sharing some of them. For example, Abdoul Haseeb Awan said:

I chose and moved to Canada three years ago after being offered admission in world leading universities. I have won various prizes, grants and awards during the last three years. After graduating as Master in Engineering, I chose entrepreneurship. I was promised a PR status within 12 months, which took 19 months. [Yes, the delays are very long. I will have to wait] 2 more years for citizenship.

That person contributed, studied here, worked here, created jobs here, and does not understand why we would deny him consideration for the time he has lived and contributed in Canada.

Another example is an email from Andras Korinek. I will quote a few sentences from his email. He said:

The second issue I see with this bill is the new method of counting residence days. I personally came into Canada through a work permit and it took me 2 years to finally become a permanent resident. I think the intention of the bill to make sure applicants are supporting Canadian society and sharing Canadian values are honourable, however, the metrics used to measure this are flawed. I am contributing to Canada by working here and paying taxes. I have a Canadian spouse, Canadian friends, I joined a local sports team. I would like to be officially welcomed into Canadian society as a proud citizen.

One last example, though I have a lot of them, is from Sultan Ali Ahmed, a McGill University student, who arrived in August 2007. He says:

...there should be recognition given to students graduating from canadian universities, who were initially on study permits, started working after graduation and then applied for their PRs.

As members can see, many people are worried about seeing their plans change and are urging us to review this measure. This subject is worthy of an honest debate.

I would now like to talk about the elements that I do not even think are worthy of debate. I think they are extremely worrisome for several reasons. First, Bill C-24 increases the minister's discretionary power. Under this bill, the minister will now have the right to grant or revoke citizenship in special cases.

We have seen a lot of this from the Conservatives: using bills to grant themselves more discretionary powers. The NDP disagrees with this measure. This kind of discretionary power opens the door to turning our citizenship system into a political tool. The minister has said that he was not necessarily prepared to say to whom he would grant citizenship.

That a member of a political party could do such things behind closed doors is unacceptable. These are great powers. The citizenship process must be part of a system that people can trust because of its impartiality and transparency. I am very worried that by granting such powers to a minister we are moving in the opposite direction.

The bill raises another concern. According to the provisions of this bill, the minister can revoke citizenship—in the case of a dual citizen—when there is a suspicion of fraud. The key word here is “suspicion”. In fact, the minister has the power to revoke citizenship or to authorize a person to revoke it in his name if he is “satisfied on a balance of probabilities” that the person obtained citizenship fraudulently.

The problem is that the person will no longer be able to appear before an independent tribunal that would determine whether or not the allegations are true. That is important. A person with Canadian citizenship is a Canadian and should have access to a fair and just process under our justice system. It is worrisome in this case, and also in the case of someone who is accused of terrorism abroad and who must spend a few years in jail. Because of this charge, a person's citizenship can be revoked.

In a question to the minister, I mentioned earlier that the main concern in this case is that people can be accused of terrorism without having the right to a fair and just process in a country where the justice system is not immune to political pressure, for example.

We have already seen a number of such cases, even in Canada. People have been charged, spent several years in prison and then may have become heroes because they were imprisoned for political and partisan reasons. Someone behind me whispered the name of Nelson Mandela and, indeed, that could be one example. These are serious concerns.

In closing, this bill does not tackle the main problems with our citizenship system at present—the wait times and the backlog. The wait times are horrible. They have more than doubled under the Conservatives, who waited all these years before pretending to take an interest in the problem.

The government says that this bill will resolve the situation, but I am not so sure. Nothing in this bill can prove to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will be significant changes. On one hand, we are adjusting certain administrative measures to help the process run more smoothly or more quickly than before, but on the other, we are increasing the use of the residency questionnaire, which is extremely long to compile and analyze. Other criteria, such as a declaration of intent to live in Canada, are being added.

What is the point in making the system more efficient if we are asking the people who have to review the files to do extra work? How will that really help? People are fed up with being told to wait when they apply for citizenship and are entitled to it. They should get a response quickly and efficiently.

For a number of the reasons that I mentioned, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, because it:

(a) does not provide an adequate solution for reducing citizenship application processing times, which have been steadily increasing;

(b) puts new significant powers in the hands of the Minister that will allow this government to politicize the granting of Canadian citizenship;

(c) gives the Minister the power to revoke citizenship, which will deny some Canadians access to a fair trial in Canada and will raise serious questions since Canadian law already includes mechanisms to punish those who engage in unlawful acts; and

(d) includes a declaration of intent to reside provision, which in fact gives officials the power to speculate on the intent of a citizenship applicant and then potentially deny citizenship based on this conjecture.