Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

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

Sponsor

Chris Alexander  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things, update eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, strengthen security and fraud provisions and amend provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions.

Amendments to the eligibility requirements include

(a) clarifying the meaning of being resident in Canada;

(b) modifying the period during which a permanent resident must reside in Canada before they may apply for citizenship;

(c) expediting access to citizenship for persons who are serving in, or have served in, the Canadian Armed Forces;

(d) requiring that an applicant for citizenship demonstrate, in one of Canada’s official languages, knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship;

(e) specifying the age as of which an applicant for citizenship must demonstrate the knowledge referred to in paragraph (d) and must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages;

(f) requiring that an applicant meet any applicable requirement under the Income Tax Act to file a return of income;

(g) conferring citizenship on certain individuals and their descendants who may not have acquired citizenship under prior legislation;

(h) extending an exception to the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent to children born to or adopted abroad by parents who were themselves born to or adopted abroad by Crown servants; and

(i) requiring, for a grant of citizenship for an adopted person, that the adoption not have circumvented international adoption law.

Amendments to the security and fraud provisions include

(a) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who are charged outside Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament or who are serving a sentence outside Canada for such an offence;

(b) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, while they were permanent residents, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring those persons from acquiring citizenship;

(c) aligning the grounds related to security and organized criminality on which a person may be denied citizenship with those grounds in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and extending the period during which a person is barred from acquiring citizenship on that basis;

(d) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, in the course of their application, misrepresent material facts and prohibiting new applications by those persons for a specified period;

(e) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after having been convicted of certain offences;

(f) increasing the maximum penalties for offences related to citizenship, including fraud and trafficking in documents of citizenship;

(g) providing for the regulation of citizenship consultants;

(h) establishing a hybrid model for revoking a person’s citizenship in which the Minister will decide the majority of cases and the Federal Court will decide the cases related to inadmissibility based on security grounds, on grounds of violating human or international rights or on grounds of organized criminality;

(i) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after their citizenship has been revoked;

(j) providing for the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens who, while they were Canadian citizens, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring these individuals from reacquiring citizenship; and

(k) authorizing regulations to be made respecting the disclosure of information.

Amendments to the provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions include

(a) requiring that an application must be complete to be accepted for processing;

(b) expanding the grounds and period for the suspension of applications and providing for the circumstances in which applications may be treated as abandoned;

(c) limiting the role of citizenship judges in the decision-making process, subject to the Minister periodically exercising his or her power to continue the period of application of that limitation;

(d) giving the Minister the power to make regulations concerning the making and processing of applications;

(e) providing for the judicial review of any matter under the Act and permitting, in certain circumstances, further appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal; and

(f) transferring to the Minister the discretionary power to grant citizenship in special cases.

Finally, the enactment makes consequential amendments to the Federal Courts Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

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

June 16, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 10, 2014 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 10, 2014 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
June 9, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
May 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
May 29, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the 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 significant new 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.”.
May 28, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently, as I often do to my colleague the minister. I have said, to enough people that it probably has made its way back to him at some point, that I actually believe him to be the most rigorous and hard-working minister in the cabinet. In the land of the blind, notwithstanding the fact that I disagree with much of what he says, he is eloquent and very articulate and rigorous in his arguments.

I know the minister has spent a significant amount of time with Canada's multicultural communities and has worked hard within those communities. I have spent a fair bit of time with those communities as well. When they speak of Pierre Trudeau, Canada's citizenship laws, Canada's identity and multiculturalism, and these policies that have defined a modern Canada, they speak in a very positive way.

Does the minister agree with his successor, the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, that the changes made to Canada's Citizenship Act in the 1970s cheapened our citizenship?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kings—Hants for his very kind words. He and I were both elected to this place 17 years ago last week, I believe. We are becoming old veterans of this place. Hard to believe, we were both elected in our twenties. I thank him for those comments. I hope that the comparative remark was not being damned by faint praise.

Objectively speaking, the 1977 Citizenship Act did lower the bar to obtain citizenship quite significantly. At the time, I am sure that it was well intended. However, I honestly believe the consequence of it has been that some people, thankfully a small minority, have consequently taken our citizenship for granted. I refer to that not insignificant number of people who I know obtained or sought to obtain citizenship without living here, as I said before, and without really speaking one of our languages or knowing much about our country.

The bill before us is not radical, is not a change by orders of magnitude. It is more in the order of a change of degree or modification, raising citizenship for residence requirements from three years to four years, for example. It would still be easier to obtain citizenship under the scheme proposed in the bill than in virtually any other country in the world.

We are saying that we should re-establish the value of citizenship. Maybe we went too far in lowering the standard that allowed, regrettably, some small minority to take our citizenship for granted in 1977. Hopefully we can find a consensus on this issue.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:25 p.m.
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Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, one of the very unfortunate issues that we deal with in constituency offices, and it happens in my constituency office in Newmarket—Aurora, is that people who have been misled by immigration consultants come into the office. It is unfortunate that in many cases they have spent enormous amounts of money attempting to get their citizenship, yet they have been led down the garden path, as it were, and have not had the proper instruction.

My colleague has spent a fair bit of time working on issues related to this problem. Could he comment on how we would regulate immigration consultants?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, one of the things I became aware of as Minister of Immigration was the terrible stories about exploitation by “ghost” or unscrupulous immigration consultants. We brought in a new law that makes it a crime to operate as an unlicensed immigration consultant at any stage during the process of an application. If individuals facilitate an immigration application for consideration, they now must be licensed consultants.

We put in a new regulatory body with much more integrity and much more of a focus on enforcement called the Immigration Consultants Regulatory Council of Canada.

The bill before us seeks to add citizenship consultants to that regulatory framework. Those who sell advice or facilitate applications for citizenship for a fee, for consideration, would now have to be licensed consultants in good standing of a regulatory body designated by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to make sure that there is follow-up. If people are cheated, robbed, or given bad advice, they can make a complaint. Sanctions could be laid and the consultant could lose his ability to pursue that business.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:25 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister just talked about people who renounce their citizenship and the possibility to do so. He talked about Google. I have been wondering for some time about the case of a Canadian citizen who committed fraud, was sentenced and spent years in a U.S. prison. He gave up his citizenship to get a British title. My question is very short: what is happening with Conrad Black?

What can the minister tell us about his case?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, clearly, under the Privacy Act, the minister cannot comment on a particular case. That being said, a foreign national who applies for permanent residence is ineligible if he has committed a serious crime. However, there is a review process.

The process is called restoration.

This means that a foreign national who was sentenced for a serious crime cannot acquire Canadian citizenship, but the legal procedures for reviewing that sort of decision still apply.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:30 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I am very pleased with the tone of the debate this evening. I think that this is an important issue. Evidently, everyone here thinks so and sees the importance of our efforts as parliamentarians.

My colleague's question about an exceptional case was quite pertinent because, after all, the minister—we have to recognize this—is speaking with a great deal of experience, and will only point out the positive aspects of this bill, which is not his bill but that of his colleague. His reply to my colleague's question revealed precisely the element of discretion in a decision about a private case, and that is what bothers me the most about this bill.

I am not an immigration expert, but like all MPs, many cases are brought to my attention and my staff does a good job of handling them. I am the MP for the riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. Many people choose to settle in this riding when they come to Canada. On many occasions we have to deal with the problem of people who apply for citizenship and then are confronted with a very unwieldy system.

I find it reassuring that the government has decided to address the state of the immigration system and that it has chosen to move forward with legislative reforms because the immigration mechanism seems to be broken and unwieldy today.

In my riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, I see some very serious problems, which have particularly serious consequences for the human beings who come to our offices because they are caught in a process that is literally frozen. These are individuals, families and people who have come from elsewhere to earn a living, to work on a project and quite often to contribute to their adoptive country.

The people who come here have not seen their families in sometimes two, three or four years. They hope that by filling out the right forms and being patient, they may perhaps bring their loved ones closer to them. However, the crisis in the system that handles immigration applications is more serious than ever.

Every day in Longueuil, I hear about men and women who have been waiting for months or years to see their spouses. This situation is the result of the decisions and the policies of our friends opposite, our Conservative friends. It is also the result of budgets that have been reduced while needs have grown. Those decisions have tremendous repercussions on people's lives.

Actually, the processing times beggar belief. In June 2014, to sponsor a spouse or a dependent child, the processing time was 23 months at the Canadian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. To sponsor a spouse living and waiting in Kenya or South Africa, the wait is 21 months. At our embassy in Senegal, you have to wait 25 months before getting a call back; in New York, it is more than 30 months. More than two years, that is ridiculous!

These are figures, but for the people on the waiting lists, they are not just figures. For the people that I met in Longueuil and those my team met in our offices, these are not just figures. These are real lives. They spend months and years of distress, helplessness, sleepless nights and loneliness worrying about their loved ones. It is their host country that is imposing this on them.

These are the consequences of poor decisions made in Ottawa relating to money invested far from where the needs are the greatest. That is the real problem. However, there is nothing tangible before us today that addresses this specific emergency.

We have seen demonstrations here on Parliament Hill. Take for example the 10,000 people who had filed their applications at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Buffalo, in the US, shortly before the government closed that office. Every one of those applications were redirected, sent from one office to another and lost for more than a year, leaving the applicants worried and apprehensive.

The minister of immigration at the time reacted by calling this huge blunder an effectiveness measure for taxpayers. I kid you not. When a government proves itself unable to run a visa office, it is certainly not a measure of effectiveness for our international reputation.

We know that the challenges are enormous. However, we regret that the government has not been up to the challenges of the immigration file. The resulting chaos has reached proportions that are, frankly, embarrassing and unworthy of a G7 government and a country that would impose quality standards in the provision of services to citizens.

When the cries of those caught up in the mess were heard loudly enough to have a bearing on the Conservatives’ electoral prospects, then we finally saw money being thrown at the problem in the 2013 budget. We are talking about $44 million over two years. Since the money will not go any further, we are in the last year of that spur-of-the-moment cash grab.

In view of the crisis, the government resolved more than once to resolve the problem, but we saw that the situation got worse, not better. We see today that the processing times and the backlog of applications have doubled since the Conservatives came to power. That is really something!

Despite this disastrous situation that has particularly affected many residents of Longueuil, we see that Bill C-24 contains no effective solutions for reducing the bottlenecks in the immigration system, which really seems to have broken down completely.

I would like to focus on what is probably the most appalling and the most worrying aspect of Bill C-24, and that is the across-the-board attribution of powers to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. This is a trend we have seen frequently and in many different forms. The Conservatives prefer to put powers in the hands of ministers and their staff, because it allows them to act without accountability and behind closed doors.

Bill C-24 proposes giving the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to revoke citizenship in certain specific cases. For example, a person who has been convicted on certain grounds, in Canada or abroad, may have his Canadian citizenship revoked, not in a fair and equitable trial in the courts, but by the minister's office. This means that the minister will be asked to make such decisions by himself.

This is also the case when the minister, or his staff, is convinced that a person obtained Canadian citizenship through fraud. While previously these issues were decided by cabinet or the courts, now it is the minister's office that will have the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship on the basis of suspicions. In other words, this is a power that will not be exercised in a fair environment.

We are being asked to trust the Conservatives. Really? We are being asked to close our eyes to the exercise of this discretionary power. I do not think so.

We are right to ask questions about this procedure. When someone commits a crime, there are consequences and penalties that are applicable to everyone, regardless of ethnic, national or social origin. This is how things happen in Canada, as they do in countries that respect fundamental rights. Our courts are the tools we use to judge illegal acts and impose punitive or dissuasive measures.

The powers that would be granted to the person holding the office of minister of citizenship and Immigration under Bill C-24 are also dangerous because they would allow the minister to base his decision to revoke citizenship on a judicial decision handed down in another country.

For example, let us look at the power of the minister to consider a conviction handed down in another country carrying a prison sentence of five years or more for an offence which, if it had been committed in Canada, would have been classified as a terrorist offence under the Criminal Code. This means that decisions made by Canada would be based on judicial rulings handed down even in a non-democratic country, or in autocratic or totalitarian regimes, or even in states where the justice system is corrupt.

What Bill C-24 proposes is that while most citizens would receive a criminal sentence, others could lose their Canadian citizenship. We are talking about a two-tier citizenship: some fully benefit from the rights associated with being a Canadian citizen, while others have conditional or temporary rights.

This very problematic way of doing things is also reflected in the government's proposal to now require that a citizenship applicant confirm his intention to reside in Canada. That is an unreasonably vague condition, and it puts a heavier burden on applicants. In other words, by obtaining his citizenship under this condition, a new Canadian may have doubts about rights that are usually taken for granted by other Canadians. He can legitimately wonder whether he has the right to travel over long periods of time and whether he can work abroad without getting his citizenship revoked by the government because he did not demonstrate an intent to reside in Canada.

Freedom of movement should be a prerogative of all Canadian citizens, not just those who were born here. The president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers talked about an “implicit threat” that will generate a sense of insecurity and worry among people, given that the government may decide to arbitrarily revoke their citizenship if they leave Canada too soon, or if they stay abroad too long.

Since I only have one minute left, I will now talk about our strong feeling that this bill gives too much power to the minister and his office.

We have reasons to find it sad to see a party that keeps boasting about its love for multiculturalism, and whose ministers tour immigrant communities during election campaigns, suddenly turn around and make family reunification harder and Canadian citizenship less accessible.

We, on this side, are convinced that a more humane approach to immigration is needed. We know that immigrants contribute tirelessly not only to our economy, but also to the common good. We know that when family members are allowed to live together, their lives and health are better, and we make sure they have an integration and support network to better connect with their host community in Canada.

I sincerely hope the Conservatives will take note of our concerns and will acknowledge them, not only in the context of this bill but also in their actions over the year and a half left to the 41st Parliament.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:40 p.m.
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Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the focus he has put on Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, by being present this evening to speak to it and ask questions.

However, the member made reference to the fact that there was not much in the bill to deal with the backlogs. I am sure it was probably an oversight on his part.

I would like to focus his attention on a specific part of the bill that would change the decision-making process for granting citizenship from a three-step process to a one-step process. In effect, this would give officials in the citizenship and immigration stream, who are familiar with cases, the right to grant citizenship, rather than go through the three steps they go through now.

Experts in the field and officials from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration have done the analysis. We estimate that going from a three-step process to a one-step process will reduce the processing time from as high as 30 months to under a year.

Is the member familiar with that, and could he comment on the three-step to one-step process?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I really appreciate the tone of the questions, and I thank the hon. member for the work he does and for his question.

Of course, I realize that the government wants to speed things up, but the problem is that everyone here represents his or her riding and has the trust of his or her constituents and party leader. This means that every point of view expressed here is relevant, valid and democratic. Incidentally, there are very different ways of doing things, depending on the school of thought. To us, the problem is that while it is much easier to make quick decisions if only a small group is involved in the process, this is of course contrary to the public interest. In the context of the last parliamentary session, it is easy to understand why we do not trust the government.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-24 proposes to amend the Citizenship Act by expanding the age requirements of applicants to 14 to 64 from 18 to 54 for knowledge and language requirements. This shift in age requirement will be problematic for immigrant and refugee children.

UNICEF has expressed concern in that testing could lead to challenges with reuniting children with their families and could therefore lead to the deprivation of the child's right to family reunification under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also does not take into account the stress that testing may cause or a child's ability to perform successfully in a test environment. These children may also be dealing with a fear of authority or trauma from their home country.

What does my hon. colleague think about this?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that that is an excellent question.

I am going to answer by saying that I had one family that came to my office many times to explain their problems. The members of that family had been ordered to leave the country. They tried to find arguments, to reach another stage and to present new arguments in an attempt to get out of this situation. It was a child who had the responsibility of presenting the arguments. These people had a problem understanding the language and they had a 12-year-old girl at the time. The matter was not settled and they had to leave the country. That young girl was heartbroken because she had this deep feeling of not having succeeded in defending her family.

I thank the hon. member for emphasizing the human aspect of this issue. I certainly agree about the value of Canadian citizenship. It is only natural to want to protect it, but there are lives involved and young people who are affected.

Again, I thank the hon. member for raising this issue.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:45 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate all my NDP colleagues who have spoken to this bill. We are proving that the NDP is reasonable and carefully studies all the issues put before us in order to find ways to improve these bills. Some make their way to committee where, again, our NDP team proposes good amendments. Essentially, these amendments are based on expert opinion and cases that we come across.

A number of my colleagues live in regions with a large population of newcomers or people who are applying to live in Canada and become permanent residents and eventually Canadian citizens.

The teams at their offices deal with a lot of immigration cases. I live in the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, which is in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. It is in northeastern Quebec, two hours from Quebec City. This region is considered remote. However, even in my beautiful region we are very open to others. This did not happen overnight. It took years, even decades to achieve this open-mindedness and it took some special people in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to make that happen. I am really proud of my region today. This month, the first African grocery store opened in Saguenay. I think that is great. It shows an openness to the world. More and more people are even coming to Saguenay to start their new life. My riding assistants and I see all the administrative and bureaucratic problems that newcomers to Canada have to deal with. It saddens me a bit.

Nonetheless, I am proud to be able to speak to Bill C-24 today and share my view on all this, even though the 10 minutes I have been given will not be enough to cover everything.

Fundamentally, everyone recognizes that Canadian citizenship is of considerable value, but we do not want a politicized approach to this issue. This is unfortunately what the Conservatives are trying to do right now. As I mentioned, we have seen this kind of situation all too often since the Conservative government came to power.

Other parts of the bill also raise concerns. I will try to cover as many of them as I can. For instance, revoking citizenship has given rise to significant legal concerns. We are still worried about the proposals designed to concentrate powers in the hands of the minister. I am disappointed in all the Conservative ministers when they use their power to undermine democracy and give preferential treatment to their own friends.

We would hope that the minister would commit to working in cooperation with us to make real improvements to our immigration legislation, but unfortunately the minister has chosen to put forward a bill that is probably unconstitutional, while the Conservatives on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration turned down all of the amendments put forward in committee. This is not reasonable. The Conservative government thinks that all its bills are perfect and that they cannot benefit from amendments coming from the opposition. Members of the opposition do, however, represent a very large percentage of Canadians, who voted for them, and they represent their respective parts of the country.

I expect the government to show some openness, but unfortunately we see its prejudice instead. This can also be seen in the way it looks at new immigrants and even refugees.

I have my own personal opinion about this. It may perhaps bother some people, but I find that the Conservative government uses new immigrants and cultural communities to broaden its electoral base by promising them heaven and earth. Unfortunately, the government drops them when they are no longer needed, when these voters are not in one of their demographic groups of voters or are not rich enough for them.

We have also seen this in terms of tighter immigration regulations. The new Canadian citizens must have a good chunk of change to be able to settle in Canada, or else they are not the kind of people that the Conservatives want to have in Canada.

I can say that the New Democratic Party supports families and this also includes family reunification. We understand that everywhere in Canada, everywhere in the provinces and even everywhere in the world, not all families are as privileged as the Conservatives opposite and their rich friends. The citizens at home may be sure that the members of the NDP will continue to be fair toward everyone and to show they sincerely care.

I will begin with the first measure that raises concerns. Bill C-24 concentrates new powers in the hands of the minister, including the power to grant or revoke the citizenship to those holding dual citizenship.

The government has a strong tendency to create laws that concentrate power in the hands of its ministers. The NDP condemns this practice. We cannot trust the Conservatives. By granting new powers to a minister, we are exposing ourselves to the real possibility that they will make arbitrary decisions based on political motives. The revocation of citizenship is problematic, since even the idea of giving the minister the power to revoke citizenship raises serious questions. Canadian law already comprises mechanisms to punish people who commit illegal acts. It should not be up to the minister of citizenship and immigration to make these decisions.

Another problem with revoking the citizenship of dual citizens has to do with creating a two-tier citizenship system in which some Canadians could have their citizenship revoked, while others who committed the same offence would be punished through the criminal justice system. The Conservative government is quite good at double standards, and I find that shameful.

Under the provisions of this bill, the minister can revoke citizenship based on certain criteria. The first criterion is whether the minister or an authorized employee is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the person obtained citizenship by fraud. Up until now, these cases were generally referred to the courts and to cabinet. That will no longer be the case.

This poses some serious problems in that the minister would have the power to revoke an individual's citizenship on the basis of suspicions alone, and no independent tribunal would rule on whether the accusations were true. Unfortunately, some people seeking refugee status in Canada have experienced some degrading and downright shocking interrogations at the hands of officials or other people in positions of authority.

Some people say that if they were to return to their country, their life could be in danger, but the Conservative government and its henchmen insist that their home country is perfectly safe, even though the international media say that this is not the case. Sometimes we hear that the sexual orientation of refugees from extremely homophobic countries is questioned. I have heard some horror stories. I find it very worrisome that the minister could revoke citizenship on the basis of suspicions.

In the United States, for example, the government can file a lawsuit to revoke an individual's naturalization if it was obtained illegally and the individual concealed or falsified relevant facts in the naturalization application process. In such situations, the individual has the right to take the case to court, which I think is reasonable. Any decision can be appealed, and the individual is guaranteed due process.

The second criterion applies to a person convicted under section 47 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to imprisonment for life for treason, high treason or espionage, or a person who was convicted of a terrorism offence as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code—or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section—and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment.

The problem is that this measure makes absolutely no distinction between a terrorism conviction handed down in a democratic country with a credible and reliable justice system and a conviction in an undemocratic regime where the justice system could very well be corrupt or beholden to political interests. This revocation process can be used without the Federal Court ever seeing the file. The measure is retroactive and very problematic.

The third criterion applies to an individual who served as a member of an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada. This revocation process has to go through the Federal Court, which must confirm that the person suspected of these actions really did serve in one of the organizations mentioned while a Canadian citizen. This measure is retroactive.

I would like to talk about the minister's power to grant citizenship, which is also problematic.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:55 p.m.
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Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and, contrary to the other speakers who have spoken tonight, he has decided to take a more partisan view of the bill and has made some derogatory remarks about members of cabinet and members of the government. He made comments to the effect that they use their power to undermine democracy and give favours to their friends.

Surely this is not the time for any member of the NDP to talk about giving favours to friends, this week in particular, when the Board of Internal Economy has found that the NDP has given a $1.17 million favour to its friends. I would ask that the member refrain from using that kind of language when debating a bill of this nature. I know that he is a member of Parliament, as we all are here, and he has a role to play in defending his party, but the language he is using is certainly very aggressive.

I would ask the member the same question I asked the previous member. Would going from a three-step process to a one-step process for granting citizenship benefit him and the constituents in his riding?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague asked a number of question. I will start by answering the first one.

The NDP is pleased to use the parliamentary resources of the House of Commons to inform Canadians about what is happening here in Ottawa, unlike the Conservatives, who prefer to use the resources available to the government, such as the Prime Minister's plane, to send their rich friends and party fundraisers all over Canada at the taxpayers' expense.

Basically, my colleague opposite is saying that my speech is partisan. It is true in the sense that we are having an ideological debate in the House of Commons. It is particularly true with regard to the NDP's vision of immigration and newcomers to Canada.

We believe that our beautiful, multicultural country should open its doors and welcome good candidates for Canadian citizenship with open arms. We should not revoke their rights for arbitrary reasons, which is what the Conservative government wants to do by putting the power in the hands of the minister.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 8:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. We have worked together often on health issues.

The interest in promoting the integration of older children into Canada seems to motivate the proposed language amendment. Some research shows that older children who lack capacity in one official language may have difficulty in acquiring one at an older age. This is not a sufficient reason to compromise the convention rights of children. The testing process is not a reliable indicator of a child's ability to become a productive citizen.

Does the member think that the requirement for children ages 14 to 18 to successfully complete both language and knowledge testing should be removed?