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.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to my hon. colleague, she is simply wrong about what she just said. We are speeding up processing times.

It is the NDP that is against processing pending applications more quickly. If the NDP had it their way, debate on this bill, the debate would go on until the end of this session or even until fall. Maybe in 2015, or later, we might have results for those who are patiently waiting for faster processing times.

This government will never accept that kind of approach. We have accepted 1.4 million new citizens. We are proud of new Canadians' commitment to their citizenship. There are certainly some backlogs, but thanks to the measures in this bill we will be able to process files much more quickly. Backlogs will be less of a problem for those who apply for citizenship once this newly reformed legislation comes into effect, and processing times will be much quicker.

I see no reason for the people calling my hon. colleague to be concerned.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons the minister wants to close the debate on the bill is because he keeps making stuff up and does not want the scrutiny of Parliament to uncover the fantasy-based facts that he continues to underlie his reasons for the bill.

The bill would increase wait times. It would make citizenship harder to acquire for those who are waiting right now. There are already over 300,000 people waiting, their applications pending. The bill would make it harder. It would make it harder for children and seniors to acquire citizenship because they would have to undergo rigorous language tests. It would extend the wait times, which are already over eight years. It would give the minister unprecedented powers.

Are these the reasons why the current government wants to shut debate, because it does not want Canadians to really understand the fundamental ways in which the government would change the rules for citizenship, which are the cornerstone of who we are as a country?

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, make it harder to become a citizen? Waiting times of eight years?

With statements like these from the opposition benches, it is no wonder that some Canadians are confused. They are receiving false information from some in this House. That really is unfortunate, given the importance of the bill.

Here are the facts.

Yes, there are over 300,000 applicants in the system. Yes, waiting times for new applications, as things stand now, are two to three years.

However, with the measures in the bill, which the NDP would see us postpone, delay, et cetera, those waiting times would come down later this year, plummet in 2015, and be under one year by the beginning of 2016.

Moreover, yes, we are extending the knowledge requirement, the language requirement, to a slightly larger age spectrum, down to high school age and up to late working age, the eve of the normal legal age of retirement in this country, 64 years.

However, every time we strengthen the requirements of citizenship, we find it becomes more popular. We find more people apply. We find the naturalization rate goes up.

And so, we would not be making it harder to become a citizen of this country. We would actually be making it more meaningful. We would be doing something that Canadians have responded to extremely positively with every form we have brought in. We expect the same positive response this time.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to the minister. First, what we are doing in this half-hour period is actually talking about parliamentary process. What we are talking about is not the merits of the bill, but parliamentary process, in terms of shutting down debate around a very important matter before this House.

I have to comment on a couple of things that the minister raised. First, he accused the NDP of not wanting to deal with the significant delays in citizenship and immigration. He is well aware that our constituency offices spend a significant amount of our time dealing with the unconscionable delays with regard to citizenship and immigration. It is ludicrous to hear the minister say that we support keeping those delays in place.

We do support legislation that is thoughtful, that takes into account the concerns of Canadian citizens, and that looks at due process. The minister is saying that everybody is happy about this legislation. I should perhaps send him three documents. The Canadian Bar Association, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and a number of prominent scholars and academics, just to name a few, have done a detailed analysis of this legislation and have raised significant concerns.

I ask the minister, why is it that he supports shutting down a democratic process, a democratic debate, that would allow us to have a fulsome review of this piece of legislation in the appropriate kind of process? Why is he shutting down that opportunity?

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, why did the NDP, on February 27, in the person of my colleague, the immigration critic for the NDP, move to end debate on Bill C-24, to discontinue debate at that early stage? Was that a positive co-operative expression of faith in the democratic process? We do not think so, nor did we think so in the three days of debate allocated to second reading. We heard the same speech time and time again from the NDP, citing the same inaccurate information, often from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association or a small section of the Canadian Bar Association. They do not speak for Canadians across the board. They do not even speak for lawyers across the board. That is what we have heard from the much broader feedback that we have had, from a much broader group of people.

I spoke to people last week who signed the petition, which contains thousands of names, as many online petitions do. After a five-minute discussion, they said they would be taking their names off the petition. They had not understood what they were actually expressing their opposition to. They had not understood the benefits of the bill. They had not understood how processing would become faster. They had not understood how the value of Canadian citizenship would be strengthened by a four-year residency requirement. It would ensure that we are not moving in the direction, as Richard Gwyn regretted some years ago, of turning Canadian citizenship into “the unbearable lightness of being Canadian”.

We want people to have a substantial understanding of this country, its laws, its traditions, its system of government. That is what the “Discover Canada” guide does; that is what our reforms today have done; that is what the bill will do, and that is why it is popular with Canadians.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is failing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When he says that all members have had the opportunity to speak to this bill, that is not exactly true. We give speeches here in the House as a way to connect with our constituents about bills. That is one way that we can let our constituents know what is going on.

The real reason for the debate that is happening right now is that once again, the Conservatives are limiting the time members have to explain things to their constituents in simple terms, so that they in turn can express their opinions on the subject.

A Togolese resident of my riding is facing deportation on June 19. The parliamentary process is not working. The minister received a letter in this regard. Perhaps there will be a question about this in the House, or perhaps not, but the process is not working. The bill in question is going to once again delay the process and drag it out.

This situation is a terrible shame. The last thing I want to say is that it is important that we be able to have a say and help the government make better laws. The Conservatives' habit of always limiting time for debate is shameful.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, fortunately, we have not yet had the opportunity to hear every member of the NDP repeat the same speech.

However, many of them have said the same thing, and it is doing them more harm than good. Canadians have heard them and are now saying to themselves that the NDP has nothing substantial to say about this bill.

If we read the debates about the Citizenship Act from 1946 or 1914, no member of the House repeated himself or said the same thing. Generally speaking, members act responsibly in the House. They try to avoid wasting the House's time and to bring forward new perspectives and add to the debate. However, that is not what the NDP is doing.

The NDP wanted to put an end to this debate and postpone the reform of our Citizenship Act until the end of February. We are moving forward because the process is working fairly well. Over 100,000 Canadians have already received their citizenship this year, and the measures set out in this bill will ensure that the number of successful citizenship applicants continues to rise.

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying “71”. That is the number of times that the government has brought in closure on debate in the House. It is a record, by the way. I am sure by the end of the day, it will be 72, and if not today, it will be tomorrow.

The minister said that the NDP is saying the same thing over and over again. The NDP has a lot to say on this legislation because it is important legislation. It is more a matter of him not liking what we have to say and that he would like to dismiss it.

He also said that the system is working very well. I can understand that. From his point of view, the system is working very well when the government controls it 100% and can basically bypass the legislative process in the House.

I do need to point out that no witnesses were heard when the bill was at committee. The government says that pre-consultation was done. The fact is that we abide by due process at committee, hearing parliamentary witnesses at committee. That is an integral part of the parliamentary process. Quite frankly, I am shocked and disturbed that the minister is not taking responsibility and does not see the error in trying to bypass a legitimate process at committee. There is no excuse for it.

Of course, it is the government's prerogative if it wants to hold pre-consultations. However so many bills, whether it is Bill C-23 or this legislation, are being rammed through the House without due process, and that negates the very reason we are here. We were elected to hold the government to account, to examine legislation, and the committee process is an important part of that.

Again, we are having another vote on a closure motion, a censure on debate, on an important bill. How can the minister defend that? How can he defend bypassing an important stage at committee?

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. There were 25 witnesses who were heard in committee on the bill. It is a bill that was absolutely made public and available to all members of the citizenship and immigration committee. It was prestudied. It was studied in clause-by-clause. It was prestudied because we considered it important to have that debate in committee as early as possible.

How can members opposite claim that no witnesses were heard? How are those 25 people who made the trip to Ottawa, who prepared for their testimony, going to react to being told by the NDP that they did not exist?

The NDP has repeated itself. Those members have gone around in circles. We have heard the same speech many times, not just on this subject, but on many subjects. That lessens the effectiveness of this place. That bothers Canadians. They want us to add value every time we stand up in the House of Commons to discuss legislation. They do not want stonewalling, by any political party . We have a strong mandate to govern, and we have a strong mandate to bring this legislation up to date. The bill has not been reformed in 37 years. The NDP would have us go years more, perhaps another decade, before any updates are made, with all of the terrible consequences we know that would bring.

The real issue, and it is passing strange that the NDP has not raised it this afternoon, is that we and the NDP have a fundamental difference of opinion about the one issue that some in the bar association and in the BC Civil Liberties Association have raised. The NDP is also of that view. Those members think that terrorists, spies, and traitors, even if they are dual nationals, should stay—

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a fact, and maybe the minister can stand up and apologize for misleading Canadians.

I have been on several committees since I have been here. When a committee is studying a project or a bill, we bring in witnesses. The Conservatives will bring in witnesses who are tilted to their way of thinking. However, they could not bring in any to discuss Bill C-24 because they could not find any Conservative witnesses who shared their way of thinking.

Will the minister now stand up and apologize to Canadians for misleading them and trying to make them believe that there were witnesses at committee when there were not?

Bill C-24—Time Allocation MotionStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very unfortunate to see the member opposite putting himself in this position. He is not a member of the committee. Obviously, his colleagues on the NDP side have mislead him about what the committee actually did.

The committee prestudied the bill. It heard 25 witnesses with views from across the spectrum, on all sides of the bill. It was a useful study. It contributed to our understanding and Canadians' understanding of the bill.

The New Democrats are the ones who should apologize. Citizenship in this country involves an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. It involves loyalty to our institutions, to our political system, and to all of the benefits that citizenship brings us.

That is one of the important points in this bill, which may be the only substantial point that the NDP has returned to time and time again. That is why we think that dual nationals who have committed acts of terrorism, espionage, or treason should no longer enjoy citizenship. They have forfeited and violated their allegiance to this country. The NDP differs with us on that, and it is offside with most Canadians in that same respect.

This bill would speed up processing. It would underline and deepen the value of Canadian citizenship, as never before. It would reward those who serve Canada at home and abroad, and it would send the clear message that gross acts of disloyalty, when they are committed by dual nationals, would lead to revocation of citizenship.

These are all measures that are hugely popular with the citizens of this country, and we look forward to celebrating them with Canadians on July 1.

Report StageStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the chance to speak one final time on Bill C-24, a bill respecting the strengthening of Canadian citizenship. This is a challenge that has been before the House in one way or another for well over a century, since Confederation, as we have sought to understand and reinforce the value of the rights and privileges as well as the responsibilities and duties that we have as Canadian citizens.

It is important to realize that the bill has received wide-ranging debate, both in the House and across Canada, in committee and in this Chamber. We disagree perhaps with New Democrats on the nature of that debate. They have forgotten about the pre-study of the bill in committee; we have not. Earlier today in debate they declined to acknowledge that 25 very solid witnesses appeared before committee on the bill. We listened to their testimony with attention and found it extremely valuable.

There is a more fundamental issue, and this debate has revealed the fundamental difference of opinion between the NDP and ourselves on the bill. It revolves around the issue of revocation.

The NDP is silent on the issue of revocation of citizenship when it is fraudulently obtained. That is a power that we as a government already have under the current act. It is a long-standing power that has existed in one form or another through generations in the various versions of legislation governing Canadian citizenship. It is required, because as we in the House and all Canadians know, there was a phenomenon of abuse, particularly after 1977 with the Trudeau reforms to citizenship, of this highly prized program. People received the status of permanent residency but then actually failed to be physically present in our country. Instead, they paid lawyers and consultants to pretend they were here.

We have made great strides in understanding this issue. In collaboration with the RCMP, thousands of cases are being investigated, and they have led to dozens of revocations, as is proper in the minds of Canadians, who, as we all know, rightly have a low tolerance for abuse, for short-circuiting the system, and for rule-breaking of this kind, particularly when it relates to an issue as serious as citizenship.

Then there is the issue of revocation for gross acts of disloyalty to Canada. We on this side think that dual nationals who commit an act of treason or espionage or who are members of a terrorist group serving inside or outside our country have morally forfeited the right to be Canadian citizens. We think that moral forfeiture to the right to Canadian citizenship should be reflected in legislation. We should have the power, as a government and as a country, to revoke the citizenship of those who have taken up arms against the Canadian Forces or sold state secrets.

These are not widespread phenomena in Canada, fortunately. The loyalty of the overwhelming majority of Canadians is not in question. However, that same overwhelming majority understands that citizenship brings with it the concept of allegiance to a crown, to laws, to a political system, a democracy that has rules. When someone literally sells state secrets to a foreign power, betrays our country in fundamental ways, or takes up arms in a terrorist organization or in some other organized force against Canada and against international order, in the case of terrorism there should be a power to revoke citizenship when we are not making citizens stateless. That is a responsibility we take extremely seriously.

The bill would not create new classes, in isolated cases or larger numbers, of stateless persons, but it would give us a right that every other NATO ally, with the exception of Portugal, already has, which is to revoke citizenship for gross acts of disloyalty. This is a fundamental difference we have with the NDP and the Liberals, who do not seem to acknowledge that this power is relevant and that it should be reflected in the modernization of our Citizenship Act, which Bill C-24 would bring.

Second, we have a difference of opinion with a couple of stakeholders, notably, a few in the Canadian Bar Association, who have declared the bill unconstitutional. They do not listen to lawyers from the Department of Justice. They do not listen to lawyers across the country who are specialists in citizenship and immigration and see this bill as valuable, legitimate and entirely constitutional. They think that by asking permanent residents if they have the intent to reside in Canada as they begin the process of accumulating their residence in Canada to qualify for citizenship, is an unconstitutional request. We beg to differ.

If people are resident in Canada for three out of four years under the current law and four out of six years under the new law, they clearly have had the intent to reside in Canada. People do not take up residence in a country by accident, and it is entirely legitimate not only to ensure that there is physical presence for the requisite number of years but that people who are aspiring to attain citizenship have the intent to reside. If their intentions change, so be it. They may qualify for citizenship over a longer period, or their plans may change and they may go to live in another country, take up a job opportunity or follow family circumstances to another part of the world. They will not meet the residency requirements and they will not become eligible for Canadian citizenship. However, we are going to ask, and it is absolutely reasonable to ask, those heading toward the prized goal of Canadian citizenship if they intend to reside here.

Apart from those two criticisms, we have not heard much. There are isolated pockets of opposition to the bill, many of them badly informed, unfortunately, I think often by members opposite who have mischaracterized some of its provisions. There was an online poll, as I was saying in an earlier debate. Some of those who unwittingly signed were under a complete misapprehension of what the bill actually contained. If we on this side of the House had the opportunity to meet with these people, communicate with them directly, as we do in correspondence and emails every day, those misunderstandings would not have gone as far as they did.

The bulk of the reaction we have had from across the country, from the north and south, from the east and west, and everywhere in between goes along the following lines. I will quote Nick Noorani, managing partner of Prepare for Canada, who stated:

I congratulate the government on its changes [to the] Citizenship Act that combat residency fraud and ensure new Canadians have a stronger connection to Canada. With the changes announced today, processing times will be improved and new Canadians will be ready to fully participate in Canadian life.

Martin Collacott of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, a former Canadian ambassador, stated:

The government's new citizenship legislation addresses a host of long overdue issues relating to the acquisition of citizenship. Its provisions, such as strengthening residency requirements for applicants, will increase the value and meaning of Canadian citizenship...

Gillian Smith, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, stated:

Our organization works extensively with Canada’s newest citizens who tell us that measures taken to foster their attachment and connection to Canada have a positive effect on their successful integration. New citizens' sense of belonging comes in large measure from experiencing Canada first-hand-its people, nature, culture and heritage.

There are others, such as Sheryl Saperia on the need to send that clear message of deterrence to those who might contemplate terrorist acts and Bill Janzen, a consultant in the Central Mennonite Committee, who applauded us for the work to address the long overdue issue of lost Canadians.

There is a lot here. There is real value in this bill, such as faster processing, increased value for Canadian citizenship, honouring those serve and deterring disloyalty.

One hundred years ago, debate concluded in the House on the Naturalization Act, which is one of the forebears of this bill. Mr. Diefenbaker said the following on the last day of that debate, which took only one month:

If ever there was a time when we should assert and practise what our citizenship means, it is now....It is our duty and responsibility as Canadian citizens to maintain those principles and traditions which mean so much to us and to guard against infringement of the great principles of freedom; for...the hallmarks of liberty can be erased as a result of the acts of a zealous person who is misdirected, no less than by one who destroys those principles with evil intent. We will give a great citizenship to Canadians hereafter.

Report StageStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thoroughly confused by the minister's speech. He says that Canadians are misguided. He says that the Canadian Bar Association does not know how to interpret laws and that it is a group of lawyers that is phony and does not know what it is doing.

When I listened, I did not hear him talk about UNICEF. It wrote a brief and sent it to the committee when we did the pre-study. It said that the bill was making so many changes that it was going to make Canada in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Lawyer after lawyer, committee organization after organization have said that the bill is not good completely as it is and have suggested many recommendations.

Why did the minister's parliamentary secretary, under his guidance I am assuming, not allow a single amendment to the bill that was proposed by any of the opposition parties? Why did the government did not listen to the experts who made suggestions? Why did it not propose a single amendment and did not accept a single one of the amendments that were put forward by any of the opposition parties?

Report StageStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason that the NDP amendments were not accepted was because they were not very good. They would have watered down the provisions of the bill. They would have left us with an inferior processing model for citizenship. They would have left us with backlogs and long processing times.

Most crucially, they would have failed to address the issue of those who violated their allegiance to Canada, but somehow in the view of the NDP currently could continue along with their Canadian citizenship. We do not think that should be the case in future for dual nationals. That is why we have a fundamental difference of opinion with the NDP members who have no trouble defending these spies, traitors and terrorists and their right to continue to be Canadian citizens even after committing such gross acts of disloyalty.

There are serious improvements in the bill. They go in the same direction as that debate 100 years ago on the Naturalization Act, which happened in only one month. No one on the opposition benches repeated themselves in that debate. The quote I just gave from Mr. Diefenbaker was from the 1946 debate on the Citizenship Act. That too was a fast debate on a historic bill, with rich contributions from all sides of the House. We have not seen that from the NDP in this debate.

Report StageStrengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to pick up on the minister's gratuitous remarks about the Canadian Bar Association. I do not know whether that is because the minister is not a member of the Canadian Bar Association. I do not know why he would want to cast aspersions on the hundreds of thousands of lawyers.

However, I want to remind him that under section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act, the Minister of Justice is compelled for every bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a minister of the crown, that would be that minister, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, shall report any inconsistency to the House of Commons at the first convenient opportunity. In other words, the bill has to be constitutional.

Could the minister please stand and table the legal opinions rendered by the Department of Justice lawyers, which actually prove the bill is in fact charter compliant and constitutional?