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An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

Sponsor

John McCallum  Liberal

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of April 13, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-6.

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,

(a) remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security;

(b) remove the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada;

(c) reduce the number of days during which a person must have been physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship and provide that, in the calculation of the length of physical presence, the number of days during which the person was physically present in Canada before becoming a permanent resident may be taken into account;

(d) limit the requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54; and

(e) authorize the Minister to seize any document that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe was fraudulently or improperly obtained or used or could be fraudulently or improperly used.

It also makes consequential amendments to 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

May 17, 2016 Passed That Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 21, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 3:30 p.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle.

This afternoon, we are continuing third reading consideration of Bill C-6 on citizenship. Tomorrow, we are going to debate Bill C-2, which would amend the Income Tax Act.

If colleagues would not mind, I would prefer to dispense with the statement for next week's business if that is okay. What I will do is join my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle and associate myself with the very positive and appropriate comments he made.

Mr. Speaker, for you and me and many of our colleagues, the past few months have certainly been a learning experience. This is the first time in your long parliamentary career that you have served in this role that is so essential to democracy. On behalf of my Liberal colleagues, I want to say that we think you have done an excellent job, and we thank you for your service and for taking on the role of Speaker.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for North Island—Powell River.

At the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration, I had the opportunity to hear witnesses from across Canada and they offered their expertise on how we could make Canada's immigration laws better.

As a result of those important testimonies, I tabled 25 amendments to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. Significant amendments were required because Bill C-6 failed to remedy many of the problems created by the Conservatives' Bill C-24.

One gaping hole in Bill C-6 is that it failed to address the lack of procedural fairness and safeguards for individuals facing citizenship revocation. This is because Bill C-24 eliminated the right for an independent and impartial hearing. Furthermore, Bill C-24 also eliminated consideration of equitable factors or compassionate and humanitarian factors that could prevent a legal but unjust outcome.

The system we have defies common sense. How could it be that individuals fighting a parking ticket are afforded more procedural fairness than the person having their citizenship revoked? Yet this is the case.

On June 9, 2014, the minister, while in opposition, stated, “We object in principle to the arbitrary removal of citizenship from individuals for reasons that are highly questionable and to the very limited opportunity for the individual to appeal to the courts against that removal of citizenship.”

Fast-forward to today, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has further reconfirmed that the lack of judicial appeal and review rights for those in the citizenship process still needs to be addressed, yet this concern was not corrected by the government in Bill C-6. Because Bill C-6 failed to address this, I tabled substantive amendments to ensure individuals who face citizenship revocation have the right to a fair and independent hearing and an appeal process.

If passed, the amendments would have created a system modelled after the current process being applied to permanent residents who are subject to deportation on the grounds of misrepresentation. This system, which uses the immigration appeal division, would not only have provided the rights to an independent appeal process, but is also considered more cost effective and efficient than the old system.

Despite broad support to achieve this goal from experts that appeared at the committee such as the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Legal Aid Ontario, and others, the narrow scope of Bill C-6 resulted in these important amendments being ruled inadmissible.

I have asked the minister to adopt my amendments in a government bill in the fall and I hope that happens.

In the meantime however, the unfortunate reality is that some individuals currently in the citizenship system faced with revocation will still lack the judicial fairness provided to people in Canada fighting a parking ticket.

On the issue of procedural fairness, Bill C-6 also failed to address the minister's ability to indefinitely suspend citizenship proceedings. The former Conservative government under Bill C-24 added section 13.1 to the Citizenship Act, which permits the minister to suspend citizenship applications and other proceedings indefinitely while additional information or evidence is gathered.

Under this process, someone could literary die before a decision is made about their citizenship application. I know that recent Federal Court decisions demonstrate the need for a statutory time frame for making decisions to avoid inordinate and unexplained delays. Again, I had attempted to resolve this issue through amendment at committee, and again, the narrow scope of Bill C-6 prevented me from doing so, and the amendment was deemed inadmissible.

Another misstep of Bill C-24 was to place all justice systems around the world on equal footing. This was done by barring individuals from citizenship if they have been charged with or convicted with offences equivalent to indictable offences in Canada.

While this might sound reasonable, it is incredibly important to remember that not all justice systems in the world are equal. Most importantly, some countries deal with corruption at various or even multiple levels of the justice and political system, from local police to lawyers and judges to national leaders. This can, and does lead to unjust charges and convictions. In my view, these situations should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

In its submission to the committee, the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic wrote:

Implementing additional immigration and citizenship penalties for individuals being charged or with convictions is inherently dangerous in that it leads effectively to situations of double jeopardy—that the individual will be punished once by the criminal justice system and then a second time through the immigration and citizenship system.

There are many countries around the world where rule of law is underdeveloped or completely inadequate, or where individuals are charged and convicted for purely political reasons.

While those appearing at committee used the example of Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy as an example of how not all justice systems reach the same verdicts as ours, I would also like to draw to the attention of this House that, in 2001, the House voted almost unanimously in favour of awarding Nelson Mandela honorary Canadian citizenship. Under the current laws, if someone like Mr. Mandela immigrated to Canada, he would have been automatically barred from applying for citizenship to Canada through the regular channels.

At the committee, the issue of minors coming to Canada without parents or legal guardians was highlighted to members as an area of significant concern. Unless applying for citizenship as part of the application with parents or guardians, individuals must be 18 years of age or older to become Canadian citizens. While the government argued that there is already a remedy in place to address this, at issue, as explained by Justice for Children and Youth, is as follows:

Section 5...allows for an applicant to make a request to the Minister on humanitarian grounds for a waiver of the age requirement. ...this humanitarian exemption poses a generally insurmountable barrier for children wishing to access citizenship and is not a reasonable limitation or a satisfactory solution to issues raised by the age requirement provision.... The provision in effect restricts access to Canadian citizenship for children—solely on the basis of age—who otherwise meet all the requirements. It restricts access to citizenship for the most marginalized children, i.e. unaccompanied minors, children without parents or lawful guardians, and children with parents who do not have the capacity to meet the citizenship requirements or do not wish to apply.

My proposed amendment would have provided a pathway to citizenship for youth under 18 years of age without a parent or guardian who is, or is in the process of becoming, a Canadian citizen. Addressing this issue was supported by organizations such as Justice for Children and Youth, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and UNICEF Canada, among others. Unfortunately, the amendment was not adopted by the Liberal members on the committee.

While we are on the subject of minors in the citizenship process, in a brief submitted by Justice for Children and Youth, it was noted that the citizenship process fails to adhere to the principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It states:

Youth criminal justice records and ongoing proceedings before the youth criminal justice court cannot and should not be considered for the purpose of citizenship applications because to do so is contrary to the Youth Criminal Justice Act..., specifically violates the privacy protections afforded to minors by the YCJA, and is inconsistent with the fundamental purpose of the YCJA.

Once again, the narrow scope of Bill C-6 deemed this amendment inadmissible.

On the theme of pathways to citizenship, another issue that was brought in when Bill C-24 was tabled and was not rectified by Bill C-6 is the issue of double-testing in language. There is no doubt that acquiring skills in one of Canada's official languages is an important aspect of building a successful life here. However, under changes made by the Conservatives, the knowledge test of Canada required to obtain citizenship now amounts to a double-testing of language skills.

Prior to the Conservatives' changes, individuals had the ability to take the knowledge test with the aid of an interpreter. Due to the changes, the interpreter is no longer provided, and this amounts not only to second language testing, but to a language test that, as we heard from experts who appeared at committee, is arguably more difficult than the actual level of English or French someone must have to pass the actual language test.

My amendment to address this problem and go back to the old system, which would have been the case had the Liberals followed through on their election promise to repeal Bill C-24, was rejected by the committee. I do think this is most unfortunate, as the current rules only serve to maintain the barriers for the pathway to citizenship.

I am pleased that I was successful in advancing and passing two amendments to Bill C-6, which will now enshrine in the law the duty for reasonable accommodation, ensuring that the citizenship process adheres to the principles of the Canadian Human Rights Act for those with disabilities. This will make disability accommodation a right, not something provided out of mercy or on the basis of compassion, as it formerly was.

My amendment clarifies the requirement of the duty to accommodate those with disabilities as they navigate through the citizenship process. Currently, vague words of required “proof” and discretion around accommodation can lead to individuals, who would otherwise be able to become Canadian citizens, being denied due to a lack of disability accommodation.

There is much more to—

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver East for her contribution at committee and to this debate on Bill C-6, which I think is an incredibly important part of the commitment we made in the last election to roll back what we thought were many of the oppressive elements of Bill C-24 that had been passed in the 41st Parliament.

I would like to ask, given the contributions that my friend from Vancouver East made at the immigration committee with respect to some of those amendments—and I noted that some of her amendments were not accepted by the government—whether the member will still be supporting the overall intent of Bill C-6, including some of the amendments she had proposed that were carried at committee.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my good colleague for those very kind comments. That is very encouraging.

Indeed, Bill C-6 failed to bring forward proper due process for those who face losing their citizenship. In a normal set of circumstances, people who are given a parking ticket or a speeding ticket could appeal that process by going to court. Under this system, with the Bill C-24 changes by the Conservative government and the failure of Bill C-6 to rectify them, those who lose their citizenship would not have the opportunity to appeal this process. That is simply wrong. The Canadian Bar Association and many organizations came forward at committee to say that this needed to be changed. In fact, when Bill C-24 was debated in this House, the current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship also said that was wrong.

Therefore, it is a mystery to me how the government neglected to include that important change in Bill C-6. However, that is exactly what happened. I tried to advance a series of amendments related to that. Unfortunately, they were deemed to be out of the scope of Bill C-6, and therefore not before us. However, I did get a commitment from the minister that the government would rectify this, and I look forward to it bringing forward a government bill in the fall to adopt those amendments I tabled at committee.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my hon. colleague for all of her hard work and dedication. It is a wonderful thing to work with people who are so dedicated to making a difference and looking after these issues that are so important to the people we serve.

I am glad to rise in the House and speak on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.

As a former executive director of an immigrant-serving agency in my riding, I want to convey to members here the sense of betrayal that the former Bill C-24 had on our sector and on the people we served.

In my role as executive director, I spoke at many citizenship ceremonies and worked with people as they prepared for their citizenship here in Canada. I was constantly overwhelmed by the immense sense of pride and dedication people felt as they prepared and finally became Canadian. It was events like this that really made me the proudest to be a Canadian citizen.

However, Bill C-24 created a second class of citizen. In fact, it institutionalized systemic discrimination. It was a bill that was so unconstitutional that it had no place in our democratic foundation.

Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians are equal. It will be good to see this idea begin to be reflected in our legislation again. As our leader said in the 2015 campaign, “...a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”.

During the last election, the NDP promised to repeal Bill C-24, and I thank so much again my colleague from Vancouver East who worked so hard to really make that happen. I was very sad when all of those amendments were not heard.

Bill C-6 in its current form aims to rectify these missteps, but the bill does not do it entirely. After reflection, I am mindful that the bill is not ideal but it will repeal some of the harmful and unconstitutional changes to citizenship made by the previous government. Therefore, I will support its passing in the third reading.

While this is a step in the right direction, there are also many challenges that remain for immigrants. We call on the government to take urgent action on lengthy wait times and huge backlogs, on family reunification, and on the barriers to citizenship that still remain in place.

In the last session of Parliament, the NDP firmly opposed Bill C-24. We called on the Conservatives to withdraw it from the very beginning, but the Conservatives refused to listen.

While some of the changes implemented by the former bill were, in some cases, overdue and addressed some of the deficiencies in the system, others were so draconian that Bill C-24 was widely opposed by respected academics and experts in the field of law, including the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and UNICEF.

During the time of canvassing across my riding, and in the work I did previously, I met many members of the communities I served. I heard stories of people who were choosing to not venture toward becoming citizens, because they were very hurt about this second class of citizenship, and many parents were very concerned for their children.

One parent told me that his children had dual citizenship. He was choosing not to get Canadian citizenship, but he had married a Canadian woman and they had children who had both the citizenship of his first country and hers. Now he is worried about how much their Canadian citizenship actually means. He said to me that his children live here, that they will be raised here, and that this will be the only country they will ever know as home. What if they do something and Canada decides to take away their citizenship? Where will they go?

Other people said to me that it felt as if the government did not want them to become a citizen. They felt that they were a potential risk simply because they were born in another country.

These stories illustrate the real fear that people are feeling and the total disregard for their dedication to this country of Canada.

Bill C-6 begins to make some of those changes, but it still leaves that hesitancy. It still has so many barriers to citizenship. It still provides too many things that create fear for members.

I hope the government will listen and make the amendments in the fall that my hon. colleague suggested. Let us move forward in a positive way in this country.

I am glad that these provisions will no longer be law. Nevertheless, I am disappointed that Bill C-6 does not go far enough. It would still allow the minister to revoke someone's citizenship without the right to a judicial hearing. No matter how good their intentions, ministers simply should not have secret discretionary powers.

Prior to Bill C-24, individuals who were accused of fraud and risked having their citizenship revoked could request a hearing before a Federal Court judge. A final decision would be made by the Governor in Council. Bill C-24 allowed the minister to make a decision based on a review of paperwork, with no right to a judicial hearing. The Liberals' failure to address this feature in Bill C-6 means that there may still be a constitutional challenge to the Citizenship Act.

The NDP believe that a citizen facing revocation should always have the right to a hearing before an independent and impartial decision-maker as part of a process that considers humanitarian and compassionate factors.

I remember that the Prime Minister, during the campaign, talked about decentralizing the powers purposely accumulated in the PM's Office. The last government concentrated power in its different omnibus legislation. What happened to the right to a hearing and to due process?

In my last job, I served many newcomers to Canada. Some of the stories I heard were sad, and the commitment to becoming Canadian, in a country seen as free and inclusive, was tangible. The fact that the minister had the power to give or take away citizenship was a level of power that many people came to Canada to escape. Having a fair, transparent process is absolutely imperative.

When the bill was studied at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, New Democrats proposed a total of 25 amendments. Only two of them were eventually passed, and I am so grateful that they were: the duty to accommodate for individuals with disabilities, and adding statelessness as a factor to be considered when granting citizenship based on exceptional circumstances. The remaining amendments were voted down and the Liberals did not give a reasonable rationale for opposing them.

The Liberals need to do more. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has repeatedly acknowledged the considerable shortcomings of his ministry. He promised to take action on the long wait times, but we have still not seen a concrete plan.

Now that this legislation is at third reading, let us start to have this discussion in terms of how to reform it correctly.

The minister should disclose the reasoning for and the frequency of discretionary grants of citizenship. There must be action on cleaning up the mess at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, including speeding up family reunification, putting an end to lengthy backlogs, removing the cap on parent and grandparent sponsorship, and speeding up processing times for immigration and citizen applications, especially in light of the high fees paid by applicants who receive very poor service in return. The challenges I faced in my last job would have tested the patience of any normal human being.

The narrow scope of Bill C-6 prevented many amendments recommended by expert witnesses, including the Canadian Bar Association, from being admissible at committee stage. The minister has acknowledged this and suggests that the Liberals will need to introduce another immigration bill in the fall to address these shortcomings. I certainly hope to see it.

I would like to conclude today by urging the minister to work with us to table a truly comprehensive bill that will improve the Canadian citizenship process. It needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Willowdale.

I rise to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. Bill C-6 would make specific and targeted changes to legislation passed by the previous government in Bill C-24. The objectives of those targeted changes are twofold.

Before I expand on those two objectives, I wish to state the following. We live in the best country on the planet: Canada, which we share with our first nations and on whose shores generation after generation landed. We are a Canada of first nations, immigrants and refugees, and their progeny. These were and are freedom's shores and the land of opportunity. It is a great privilege and good fortune to be a citizen of our country.

I state this as the son and grandson of refugees. Both of my parents and all four of my grandparents were refugees who arrived from displaced persons camps. My paternal grandmother called Canada freedom's shores, where everyone was equal before the law and where for the first time in her life she had the vote. She had a voice as an equal citizen. It is with this very personal legacy in mind that I speak to Bill C-6.

One of the two objectives of Bill C-6 is to make the journey toward citizenship less onerous and to bring it back to the standards and requirements of a system that worked well previously. There are changes such as reducing the length of time required to be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship. It would be reverted back to three of five years as opposed to four of six. It would also allow time in Canada before permanent residency to count as half-days toward the physical presence requirement. This would allow people who came here to study or work, or are under protected persons status the comfort of knowing that they are welcome to begin the process toward citizenship. As well, it would amend the age range for language and knowledge requirements from age 14 to 64 back to the previous 18 to 54 age requirement. These are important changes.

However, the most important objective of Bill C-6 is to address the dangerous precedent set by Bill C-24, which created two classes of citizen: first-class citizenship for those who obtained citizenship through birthright; and second-class, revokable citizenship for those became citizens by choice, often by difficult choice and through hard work.

During the last election campaign, our Prime Minister and the Liberal Party of Canada made clear to the millions of Canadians whose citizenship had been denigrated to second-class status and done so retroactively by the previous government's Bill C-24 that we would rescind the offending clauses of that legislation. Simply put, under a Liberal government a Canadian would be a Canadian would be a Canadian once again.

A foundational principle of western liberal democracies is the concept of égalité: that every citizen is equal before the law and is to be treated equally by the law. No citizen has an inherent birthright privilege. This runs counter to historical feudal notions of hierarchical rights granted to different groups based upon birth: caste born into; ethnicity born into; wealth born into; or, in the extreme, the birthright of royalty and the absolute, the divine right of kings. In the liberal democratic west, we are beneficiaries of a system built upon the sacrifices of those who revolted against the injustice of feudal birthright inequality.

The concept of equality was at the core of the French and American revolutions and succinctly put into the American Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “all men are created equal”. I would with humility paraphrase today that all humans are created equal.

In Canada, the principle is enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We live under a system of rule of law. However, all laws must subscribe to the fundamental principles of the Charter of Rights.

When expert witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration during our review of Bill C-6, I asked the panellists, those who both criticized and supported the Conservative Bill C-24, a simple question: “One of the fundamental principles of our justice system is that every citizen is treated equally before the law... Do you subscribe to this principle?” I asked for a simple yes or no.

Surprisingly, both critics and proponents of Bill C-24 responded yes. Only one did not state yes, prevaricating that “For me, it really reflects...the force of that argument, of the position the government has staked out. I still think there are circumstances in which the breach is so fundamental that it requires some other remedy...”.

Even within this prevarication, the only “no” among the witnesses to “should every citizen be treated equally before the law”, one finds an embedded logical disconnect. If the breach is so fundamental that it requires some other remedy, as was stated, should this other remedy, assuming it is a more arduous legal penalty for a fundamental breach, not apply to a Canadian-born terrorist or person engaged in treason, as well?

However, there are other rational disconnects and legal, ethical pitfalls to this section of Bill C-24; for instance, the penalty for a terrorist or treasonous individual who is a dual citizen of a country that is a state sponsor of terror. What would deportation to such a country result in? Would it be a hero's welcome?

On the other end of the spectrum, would we strip Canadian citizenship and deport to a country that subscribes to torture or a country in whose prisons individuals “disappear”?

The question then becomes this. Why did the Conservative government, in the year leading up to an election year, enact a law so deeply flawed; a law that not only offends the fundamental principle of equality before the law; a law that would not stand up to a charter challenge; a law whose penalty in practice could create moral jeopardy or lack of consequence?

Perhaps the answer lies in the observation that it was the same governing group that established a snitch line for barbaric cultural practices during the last federal election campaign—a slightly more camouflaged attempt at the dangerous politics of division and demagoguery that we are currently seeing in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

However, would a Canadian government knowingly resort to undermining the fundamental principle of equality before the law for electoral gain?

As our Prime Minister pointed out not long ago in this House, it was the same Conservative Party that took away the fundamental right to vote from Canadians in the 2011 election.

During the election campaign, I was proud to be part of a team that pledged to do politics differently; whose leader would not succumb to the temptation of dividing Canadians against themselves; who spoke to our better angels.

As I speak today, I think back to the principles my grandmother imbued me with. She was a hard-working refugee who loved her Canada, who loved our Canada, a country that, for the first time in her life, had given her a voice and the same equal rights of every other citizen. She never missed a vote, and she taught her grandchildren to stand against the injustice of inequality, which had been her lot in life prior to landing on freedom's shores.

Our government, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration worked hard and diligently on this legislation.

It is with pride that, this upcoming Canada Day, we will be able to declare that our Prime Minister and our government have fulfilled their commitment and under the current government, once again, in Canada, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend and hon. colleague from Etobicoke Centre for his excellent speech and his points on equality. I know him to be one of the House's most ardent and dedicated champions of democracy and human rights here at home and around the world.

I wonder if he could take a few moments to let the House know about the feedback that he received on Bill C-6 from leaders in his riding who have come from elsewhere, whether it be Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, or other parts of the world. What has he heard from them about the direction we are taking in Bill C-6?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-6. I will be using my time today to obviously outline why I support this bill, but also why these changes are deeply needed to improve the Citizenship Act as it stands today. I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park.

This bill fulfills many of our campaign commitments that we promised during the recent election, when our party was given the honour to serve as the government. If we look back to the campaign, in my riding of Brampton South, I heard a lot about the Conservatives' approach to immigration. I heard, loud and clear, that their approach pitted groups against one another. It was not about bringing people together. Simply, people told me it was slow.

In the first few months of our government, we have chosen different priorities. We are focused on reuniting spouses and families. We are focused on reducing the backlog. We are focused on a more compassionate approach to refugees. This is why we have taken in many refugees, notably from the Syrian communities, but we also continue to take in refugees from many countries at an exceptional pace of processing.

Immigration is the number one topic I hear about in my constituency office. It is what I hear about all the time, because we live in a globalized world where the links are local through technology to places all over the world.

I do not hear about vague economic ties. It is people's family member, friend, or small business that connects them. Immigration, the movement of people, is at the core of that relationship. The connection our country holds with other countries is enriched and built by individuals. It is about people. Everyone deserves dignity and a fair chance to succeed.

Under the previous Conservative government, the system was broken. It was hard for people to reunite with families, and they were made to feel as if seniors and youth were not worthwhile pushing for.

I will be honest. We should be creating an immigration system that is working for everyone and working in a timely way. The minister's job, and something this minister has been particularly good at it, is to create a fair and just system. A fair system is compassionate, timely, and ensures people have a clear understanding.

Now with Bill C-6, our government is making changes to improve the system. Our government is reducing wait times, shrinking backlogs, and working hard to prioritize people who need us the most. We can be proud of that system and these changes.

Since June 2015, adult applicants are required to declare, on their citizenship applications, that they intend to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. The provision created concern among some new Canadians who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada.

The government is proposing to repeal this provision. All Canadians are free to move outside or within Canada. This is a right guaranteed in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Bill C-6 would also improve the lives of permanent residents, who would have one less year to wait before being able to apply for citizenship. They would be able to count time they spent physically in Canada before acquiring permanent resident status.

I want to applaud the amendments that came forward at committee. They protect groups and people who need protection, particularly stateless people. I further want to applaud the inclusion of a focus on people with disability. This is a stated priority of our government.

I am pleased to see that, as MPs, we are working together to meet these stated goals. This is about people. I am also pleased to see changes to the language requirements in this bill, which would remove potential barriers to citizenships for seniors and youth who apply. This would make a real difference in the lives of many who are seeking to reunite with family or their spouse.

In May 2015, legislative changes came into effect that created new grounds for citizenship revocation and allowed citizenship to be taken away from dual citizens for certain acts against the national interest of Canada.

These grounds include convictions for terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received, or membership in an armed force engaged in armed conflict with Canada.

This bill is sensitive to some who were convinced in the previous government's time that terrorists on Canadian soil with dual citizenship could be shipped off because Canada was sending a tough message to terrorists abroad. However, that shirks our responsibility to deal with these people ourselves. It says that our own system is not strong and capable enough and that the person is not a homegrown terrorist. That speaks to an experience others could be having here in Canada. If we have people reading ISIL propaganda here in Canada and plotting, we need to deal with those people and that reality ourselves.

We have had a few examples of this in the past couple of years. We need to tackle the fact that this mentality and this problem is not isolated elsewhere. We cannot just ship off our problems. A Canadian, despite what the person may have done, is still a Canadian and should be dealt with in Canada.

However, the ability to revoke citizenship when it becomes known that it was obtained by false representation, by fraud, or by knowingly concealing material circumstances will necessarily remain in place.

The minister would continue to have the authority to revoke citizenship in basic fraud cases, such as identity and residence fraud, and the Federal Court would continue to have the authority to revoke citizenship in cases where the fraud was in relation to concealing serious inadmissibilities concerning security, human or international rights violations, war crimes, and organized crime. I think all hon. members would agree that no one should be rewarded with Canadian citizenship if they attempt to obtain it through false pretenses.

Bill C-6 is a comprehensive bill that deals with outstanding issues, but it also pushes us forward. Many permanent residents in my riding of Brampton South are looking forward to being given credit for time spent in the country before becoming citizens.

This is what real change looks like, and I am pleased that we are discussing all of these issues. Together we can ensure a Canada that is both diverse and inclusive. We will continue to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

In fact, on a related note, I want to applaud the announcement of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness yesterday on border exits, which will go a long way in further benefiting our immigration system. Announcements like this are what working together in government looks like.

Bill C-6 is the right bill at this time to fix a system that is not inclusive, not focused on people, and not processing things fast enough for the people affected on the ground, like the people in my riding of Brampton South. I know that they want this bill passed at the earliest opportunity and want to see a system that is fair. I look forward to voting for this bill. I hope all honourable members will be doing the same.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my serious concerns about Bill C-6.

Canada is the greatest and the most generous nation in the world. Our diversity is our competitive advantage, and having strong evidence-based immigration policies is vital as we continue that tradition.

We must have the right policies in place to ensure that Canadians and new Canadians can take pride in their citizenship for generations to come. However, the Liberals have literally ignored this fact, despite their commitment to transparent evidence-based policies. The Liberal government has consistently demonstrated the exact opposite since coming to power. They are recklessly politicizing Canada's immigration policy, despite the important role it plays in safeguarding the future security and prosperity of all Canadians.

The bill before us would reverse changes to the Citizenship Act enacted by our previous government, with the most notable changes being the ability of the government to revoke the citizenship of a dual national convicted of a terrorist act and the requirement that new Canadians sign an oath declaring that they intend to reside in Canada.

We believe that new Canadians enrich and strengthen our country. Their experiences and perspectives make us stronger. Immigration is an important part of who we are as a nation and of the strength of our nation's future. We want newcomers to Canada to have every opportunity to succeed, with opportunities for economic success, the experience of our many freedoms, and the experience of safe communities.

However, I am concerned that the Liberals' first priority, when it comes to tabling immigration and public safety legislation, is to effectively give back citizenship and protect the rights of a convicted member of the Toronto 18, Zakaria Amara. Bill C-6 would overturn the previous rule of stripping Canadians of their citizenship if they are charged with plotting against their adopted country. These charges include treason, acts of terrorism, and armed conflict against Canadians. As members can see, these are very specific instances.

It is baffling to me that the Liberal government would prioritize restoring Canadian citizenship to Zakaria Amara. Mr. Amara has so far been the only individual whose Canadian citizenship has been revoked under the changes made by the previous Conservative government.

To provide some context as to why this is important to me and to Ontarians, Mr. Amara had been previously sentenced to life in prison for his role in a bomb plot against a number of high-profile targets in Toronto and southern Ontario. This included a plan to rent U-Haul trucks, pack them with explosives, and detonate them via remote control in the Toronto area. Police thwarted the plot when they arrested Amara and 17 other people in the summer of 2006.

For many families, including mine, the news of the plot was very unsettling. Why would the Liberal government make these changes and not consider the opinions of Canadians in the GTA and how it would impact them, given what happened a decade ago? Other experts in the field have similar views.

Ms. Sheryl Saperia, director of policy for Canada for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies does not believe the provision should be repealed. In committee testimony, she stated that in cases where the crime is not just a crime under the Canadian Criminal Code but a crime against Canada as a national entity, by virtue of a person's actions, this might forfeit the right to Canadian citizenship. She said:

This has nothing to do with discrimination. This has nothing to do with putting up roadblocks, certainly not for any particular community. This is about people's actions. What they choose to do has certain consequences, which may include the revocation of citizenship.

She continues to claim, “I believe that, when people commit a crime against the country itself, then they are potentially forfeiting their right to that citizenship.” She also believes that it is not unreasonable to revoke citizenship for someone who is convicted for crimes of treason, espionage, armed conflict, and terrorism against Canada.

Finally, she states:

I don't believe that Canadian citizenship should just be so easy to receive. I believe it is truly a privilege and a gift. Canada is the most wonderful country in the world to live in. I don't believe it is unreasonable to create minimal standards for what it takes to retain that citizenship. I stand by my defence of the ability to revoke citizenship for those crimes against Canada....

Furthermore, when Mr. Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, last appeared before the committee to testify regarding the previous Conservative government's Bill C-24, he articulated a position in support of the revocation of citizenship from dual national Canadians who have committed certain offences including terrorism offences. This position was a reflection of his belief that in the case of certain particularly heinous political crimes, the perpetrator is actually guilty of two distinct offences. First, they are guilty of the particular crime they have committed. Second, they are guilty of the fundamental betrayal of the core values on which Canadian citizenship is based.

To quote Mr. Fogel:

Our support for this provision [to revoke citizenship] reflects the desire to address not just the crime but also the grievous insult to Canada and Canadian identity that has taken place.

There is only one class of Canadian citizen and all Canadians deserve to be protected from acts of terror. It is also extremely worrying that under the bill a dual national's citizenship cannot be revoked for committing a terrorist act, but can be for simple fraud.

Bill C-6 also removes the requirement that an applicant intends, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada. Applicants for Canadian citizenship will no longer need to intend to remain in Canada upon gaining citizenship.

I believe that new Canadians enrich and strengthen our country. Their experiences and perspectives make us stronger. Immigration is an important part of who we are as a nation and the strength of our nation's future. We want newcomers to Canada to have every opportunity to succeed: opportunities for economic success, the experience of our many freedoms, and the experience of safe communities.

The “intent to reside” provision likely does not restrict mobility rights guaranteed under the charter and instead reinforces the expectation that citizenship is for those who intend to make Canada their permanent home. We hope that those seeking Canadian citizenship intend to bring their personal experiences and contributions to our country and enrich it by residing here.

In addition, Bill C-6 seeks to reduce the number of days during which a person must have been physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship. Under the existing Citizenship Act, the physical presence requirement was fulfilled if an applicant resided in Canada for 183 days in the four out of six years prior to making a citizenship application. The Liberal government proposed changes to reduce the physical presence requirement to three out of five years before the date of application.

We want newcomers to Canada to be successful and experience all that Canada has to offer. The longer an individual lives, works, or studies in Canada, the better connection that person will have to our beautiful and special country. I believe that strong residency requirements promote integration and a greater attachment to Canada. Participation in Canadian life for a significant period of time before they become citizens helps enrich both their experience and our country's future.

Finally, Bill C-6 limits the requirement to demonstrate a knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 from the current ages of 14 to 64.

I cannot emphasize enough my belief that an adequate knowledge of either French or English is a key factor in successful integration into our communities and the labour force.

When I arrived in Canada, I began working in a factory. At the time, I was shy and spoke limited English. I have said this before and I will say it again. As a result, I had to rely on those around me to help me communicate with both my co-workers and supervisors. One day I needed help to ask my supervisor for some nails to complete the project I was working on. The young man I asked for help responded by demanding that I buy him lunch first. In this way, I was made to purchase lunch for this young man every day just to keep my job.

This is a situation that I hope other new Canadians never have to find themselves in. For myself and many others, learning the language allowed me to move past this difficult situation, further my own career opportunities, build a number of successful businesses, provide for my family, and support my own children as they pursue their hopes and dreams.

It is because of this experience that I support the immigration language requirements as they currently exist within the Canadian Citizenship Act. To change these provisions without thoughtful evidence-based research is both reckless and irresponsible. As I have repeatedly said, we want newcomers to Canada to have every opportunity to succeed, opportunities for economic success, and the experience of safe communities. Adequate knowledge of either English or French is a key factor in successful integration into our communities and labour force. Language proficiency promotes integration and a greater attachment to Canada. Proficiency in our official languages helps enrich both their experience and our country's future.

Does the Liberal government not value immigration and new Canadians enough to prioritize their successful integration? Are new Canadians simply a number in a politicized immigration levels plan, tabled without thought to what their lives will look like once they receive Canadian citizenship?

Part of successful integration is the opportunity to pursue meaningful employment. When questioned by committee members if any quantifiable consultation had been done into the economic implications of reducing language requirements, the Minister of Immigration answered that his government had not done so. My caucus colleagues and I demand the government implement sound, well-researched policies. The changes to the Citizenship Act as outlined in Bill C-6 fail on all fronts.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am also puzzled by the same situation. I had a call two weeks back from somebody in Scarborough. The person claimed that somebody had made a minor mistake on an application for citizenship 25 years ago. That individual has kids and grandkids and has been told that he has to leave the country.

The member talked about balance. Bill C-6 has no balance. Is committing fraud worse than committing a crime against humanity or a crime against the country?

I talked to another colleague who said that nothing has changed in Bill C-6 compared to Bill C-24. Before the Conservatives took office, the citizenship application fee was $1,500. We brought that down by $500. The Liberal government has not brought anything down.

There are many other issues—

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2016 / 12:20 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.

I would like to begin with a list.

This list includes Afghanistan, Argentina, China, Germany, Grenada, Haiti, India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Somalia, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

What do these countries have in common? They are all nations from which members of the House hail. Forty-one members of the chamber, spanning four different parties, are citizens of Canada who were born outside of this country. I am one of that group of 41 members. I was born in Uganda and arrived here as a young refugee in 1972.

Bill C-6 says to me and 40 of my fellow MPs that our citizenship is no different than that of our Canadian-born colleagues. In fact, Bill C-6 says to millions of Canadians who naturalized here after arriving from overseas that their citizenship has the same value and is accorded the same respect as the citizenship of those born in this country. It tells them that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. Allow me to explain.

Bill C-6 would reverse the divisive legacy of legislation enacted by the previous government. Under what was then Bill C-24, the previous government enacted legislation that allowed persons born abroad to be stripped of their citizenship on the basis of acts against the national interest—treason, spying, terrorism—but this applied only to those born abroad. Therefore, if someone was born in Canada and committed the exact same criminal act against the national interest, their citizenship could not be stripped. Canadian-born individuals would be dealt with by the criminal justice system alone, whereas foreign-born Canadians were subject to a double penalty: punishment under the criminal justice system, together with revocation of their citizenship under the Citizenship Act.

The old legislation, enacted by the previous government, was wrong for two reasons. The first is that it was unfair and unequal. We heard about the unfairness of the old Conservative legislation from strong immigration advocates, such as Legal Aid Ontario's refugee law office and Romero House in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. The inequality of the old legislation was laid bare by the litigation it caused. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers brought a charter challenge to Bill C-24 contending it created two tiers of citizenship.

The second and more important reason is that the old Bill C-24 was flawed because it sent the wrong message to newcomers. People like me, who fled their homelands to make a fresh start in Canada, are thankful for the opportunity to be here, but ultimately, we all seek the same thing: full and final integration. The previous government's Bill C-24 failed such Canadians, precisely because it rendered them more vulnerable. It told them that they are citizens, but citizens with an asterisk. By retracting the odious legislation the previous government passed, I and millions of Canadians who came here from other countries are being told that the politics of division are over and that they do, indeed, belong.

That is enough talk about the old legislation. I now want to talk about the merits of Bill C-6.

Bill C-6 meets what we like to call the triple-E test. It is evidence-based, it makes economic sense, and the bill is ethically sound. Allow me to address each of these points in turn.

The first point is that Bill C-6 is evidence-based. Our government campaigned on a commitment to return to evidence-based policy, and that is precisely what Bill C-6 represents. Studies demonstrate that facilitating a path to not only obtaining but maintaining citizenship promotes a better integration of newcomers and their sense of belonging. This point has been reinforced to me time and time again by settlement and community groups doing important work in Parkdale—High Park, such as Ukrainian Canadian Social Services, the Four Villages Community Health Centre, the Canadian Ukrainian Immigrant Aid Society, and the Canadian Polish Congress.

The second point is that Bill C-6 is good economics. These very same studies show that the bill would have clear economic benefits for Canada. Immigrants who are given a path to permanence through citizenship have higher educational and economic outcomes. This point has also been communicated to me in my riding by terrific organizations on the front lines of settling newcomers in Toronto, like the Parkdale Intercultural Association, the Parkdale Community Recreation Centre, CultureLink, the Parkdale Community Health Centre, and Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services.

Bill C-6 is also ethically sound. Until the previous government's decision to enact the old Bill C-24, we never had two tiers of citizenship in this country. It is not morally justifiable to divide citizens among those fortunate enough to be born here versus those who naturalize after arriving from overseas.

Our new bill does a lot more than just eliminate the two classes of citizenship created by the Conservatives. As I said, Bill C-6 also makes it easier to obtain citizenship in several important ways, which I will now address.

The barriers to citizenship that would be removed by this bill are many. I propose to address four.

The first relates to the length of time required to qualify for citizenship. Our legislation will require an applicant to be present in Canada for three years over a five-year time span, rather than the current four-year requirement over a six-year time span. Therefore, the bill would expand the pool of potential citizens and allow them to apply earlier.

More specifically, Bill C-6 is more flexible. It does not require a person to be in Canada for at least 183 days per year over each eligible year. Instead, one needs simply to be here for 1,095 days over a five-year period. What does that mean? It means flexibility. If one's job takes one overseas for an extended period, this would not make one automatically ineligible for citizenship.

Second, Bill C-6 would restore the knowledge and language testing requirement to the previous age range. The previous government passed legislation indicating that testing would be required for any applicant aged 14 to 64. We are restoring that age range back to the previous norm, which is age 18 to 54. This change would improve access to citizenship for the very young and for those 55 and over, thereby helping to speed up their formal integration.

Third, the intent to reside provision is being removed. Bill C-6 would no longer make it a requirement to declare one's intent to reside in Canada before becoming a citizen. That requirement was unmerited. All Canadians have mobility rights. More importantly, the old requirement created a great deal of confusion. Over 200 applications were returned to individuals who failed to complete the intent to reside portion of the application, because they did not understand it. They feared their citizenship could be revoked if they moved abroad. It cannot.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Bill C-6 would allow time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident to count towards one's three-year requirement to become a citizen. This provision allows for a 50% credit for time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident, up to a maximum credit of one year.

Who will this help? It would help temporary foreign workers, international students, and protected persons by speeding all of these groups on their path towards citizenship. This makes sense. These people have already spent time here. They have already worked and studied here. They have already built an attachment to Canada.

I turn now to one of the criticisms we have heard about the bill, which is safety.

Allow me to be crystal clear. Bill C-6 would not imperil the safety of Canadians. Our government's commitment to safety is unwavering. We have a place for terrorists and it is called “jail”. We have a place to prosecute terrorists and that is called the “criminal justice system”. When one commits a crime in Canada, one is prosecuted by the criminal justice system. We do not need a Citizenship Act tool to address a Criminal Code problem.

However, there is also a broader more philosophical underpinning to Bill C-6. When we boost integration and put in place mechanisms for success, we strengthen ties and loyalty to this country. This does not threaten our safety. It is part of a host of initiatives, such as our response to the Syrian refugee crisis, which demonstrates Canada's openness, our inclusivity, and our compassion. These efforts counter radicalization and reduce threats to our safety. In fact, I would say we do this better than any country in the world, and I am proud to be part of a government that is restoring this reputation both here and abroad.

It is also important to understand that Bill C-6 is not an outright rejection of all aspects of its predecessor, Bill C-24, passed by the previous government.

What, from Bill C-24, have we decided to keep? There are provisions we have kept, but there are also provisions we have actually improved.

For instance, we have kept the physical presence requirement rather than the term “residence” because physical presence is easier to verify.

Revoking citizenship based on fraud and misrepresentation has existed since 1947, and this power remains in Bill C-6. Bill C-24, passed by the previous government, facilitated fraud detection, which is very important, and we have kept provisions that make this possible, as well as provisions that permit government to strip people of citizenship quickly when they have committed fraud. More importantly, we have also enhanced some of these provisions. For example, we have added a section that allows us to seize documents used in the commission of fraud. Finally, we have also committed to implementing all of the Auditor General's recommendations regarding preventing citizenship fraud.

Another improvement relates to conditional sentence orders. If convicted, time served in the community on a conditional sentence order can no longer count toward the three-year residence requirement and if one is on a conditional sentence order, one cannot take the oath of citizenship. Again, these are improvements on the predecessor legislation.

Let us talk about the committee. The bill has just returned from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We are also a government that believes in working across the aisle. At committee when amendments were proposed that made sense, that conformed with the policy direction we are pursuing with this legislation, that improved the bill, we did not hesitate to accept those amendments. Those amendments help us create a more diverse and inclusive Canada.

One of the amendments by the NDP added the term “statelessness” as a ground on which citizenship may be granted at the discretion of the minister. Another NDP amendment requires the minister to consider reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of citizenship applicants with disabilities. Those are amendments proposed by the opposition that we accepted on their merit and we welcome them as part of this new bill.

In conclusion, I want to return in my remarks to where I began.

When I provided a list of the 22 different nations that make up the homelands of members of the House, it was simply to provide a snapshot of the diversity of this chamber. This chamber serves as a proxy for this country, a country that is made up of literally millions of individuals whose provenance extends to every corner of the globe. To that diverse group, Bill C-6 says, “Your citizenship is no less valuable, no less respected, than that of a citizen born in this country”.

I believe one of the lasting attributes of the bill is one that has been rarely discussed. In facilitating pathways to citizenship, Bill C-6 also facilitates pathways to participation. Only citizens can cast votes in this country. Only citizens can stand for election to this chamber. By breaking down barriers to citizenship and putting in their place opportunities to obtain and retain citizenship, Bill C-6 promotes the highest level of engagement possible, engagement in our democratic process.

The ultimate job of any government, regardless of its political stripe, is to promote an engaged citizenry. That is precisely what Bill C-6 would do. I am proud to endorse the bill as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and I urge all of my colleagues to do the same.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2016 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand and speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party to this important piece of legislation.

During the 41st Parliament, the previous Conservative government brought in Bill C-24 that made a number of changes to the Citizenship Act. The most controversial of those changes, Canadians are well aware, was the change that effectively created two classes of citizens. There was one in which naturalized Canadians, or Canadians who were born abroad but became a Canadian citizen here, were treated differently than a Canadian citizen who is born in Canada. The Prime Minister expressed it quite eloquently when during the campaign he talked about a Canadian being a Canadian being a Canadian. That resonated with Canadians as well. However there are many other parts of that bill that also were seriously flawed and problematic. Many experts pointed out that the bill was in a number of ways unconstitutional and/or did not respect international law.

From a political point of view, the bill was ill conceived. It was conducted in haste, and in many ways proposed changes to the law where there had been no demonstrated problem. It was a repeated attribute of the previous Conservative government to make decisions not based on evidence but based on ideology. Bill C-24 was a classic example of that. The bill turned out to be very unfair, divisive, was ideologically driven, and most important it was unfair.

The NDP opposed Bill C-24 from the very beginning, and we called for it to be withdrawn and amended. We proposed dozens of amendments, all of which were rejected by the previous Conservative government. The bill before us today, Bill C-6, would amend that flawed and very damaging piece of legislation, so the New Democrats are very happy to support this bill at third reading.

Bill C-6 will amend Bill C-24 in a number of ways, but not in all of the ways that we think it ought to be amended. I will cover both of those.

I will start with where it would amend Bill C-24 in a positive fashion.

Bill C-6 will remove the ability to revoke citizenship based on certain specified grounds. It will remove the obligation for a new citizen to declare the intent to reside in Canada. It will restore the length of time that a permanent resident must actually be present in Canada to qualify for citizenship. It will restore it back to the three-year period over five years, from the desire of the previous government, which wanted to expand that to be permanent residents of Canada for four years out of six years. This bill will restore the right to count up to two years of temporary residence before one becomes a permanent resident toward the amount of days that someone has to be resident in Canada to qualify for citizenship. It will eliminate the requirement that an applicant must have been present in Canada for 183 days in four of the last six years. It will remove the requirement for the language and knowledge examinations, which the Conservatives broadened to apply to young people aged 14 to 17, and seniors aged 55 to 64. I will expand on that.

Bill C-6 would also add to Bill C-24 by preventing offenders from counting time served for conditional sentences—that is a sentence served in the community with conditions—toward the calculation of required presence in Canada. That was a very large gap in the bill that the Conservatives missed. Bill C-6 will also give citizenship officials the power to seize fraudulent documents, which is another important provision that would allow our administrators of citizenship to be able to do their job.

This bill, as I said, is not perfect, and we would like to see additional changes. Bill C-6 does not address certain provisions of Bill C-24 regarding the following: the power that Bill C-24 granted to the minister to revoke citizenship based on a paper review with no judicial hearing; and it does not address provisions in Bill C-24 that provided a prohibition on citizenship for people charged with or serving a sentence for a criminal offence abroad, which also has to be an indictable offence in Canada. This bill also would leave in the minister's discretion to privately grant citizenship to individuals, which is another power that the New Democrats do not believe ought to be exercised in such an executive and non-transparent manner.

The New Democrats are pleased to support the bill because it repeals many of the harmful and unconstitutional changes to citizenship made by the previous government. We are disappointed that the bill does not go quite far enough in the ways that I just mentioned and we also point out that the narrow scope of the bill did prevent many amendments recommended by expert witnesses, including the Canadian Bar Association, from being admissible at the committee stage.

The Minister of Citizenship has explicitly acknowledged this and suggested that the Liberal government will need to introduce another immigration bill in the fall to address those shortcomings. We want to encourage the minister to keep his word on that and we look forward to working with the minister as he tables a truly comprehensive bill that will improve the Canadian citizenship process and comprehensively restore proper, sound, and fair law to this very vital part of Canadian political life: citizenship.

I am going to talk about the background to the bill. It was introduced by the Conservative government in February 2014, so essentially within a year or year and a half of the last election. The reason I point that out is that the previous Conservative government tended to act on ideological and political wedge reasons, not on sound evidentiary-based reasoning. We think that the bill was motivated politically as Conservatives tried to speak to a base and intolerance in Canadians by creating wedges between people. I will talk about that in a few moments because we think it is always a very unsound way to create legislation in this place.

At second reading in the last Parliament, the NDP tabled a broad amendment calling on the government to withdraw that bill and we also asked the government to send that bill to committee before completing second reading to allow that bill's obvious flaws to be addressed before continuing debate.

Not surprisingly, the Conservatives refused and despite our opposition, they adopted Bill C-24 without amendment. Bill C-24 received royal assent in June of 2014. Since then, the New Democrats have been asking for the bill to be revoked, especially regarding the provisions that increase the powers in the hands of the minister, including the authority to grant or revoke citizenship in executive fashion without a judicial process, the provisions to eliminate the recognition of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident, the parts of the bill that prohibit the granting of citizenship to persons who have been charged outside Canada with an offence, and the provisions that increased the residency requirements and the knowledge and language requirements in the bill.

Once again, the Liberals have addressed most but not all of those issues in this new bill. I am going to drill into some of these important issues. First, let us examine the provision that we support in the bill about repealing the national interest grounds for citizenship revocation. Legislative changes of that former bill that came into effect created a new ground of citizenship revocation that allowed citizenship to be taken away from dual citizens for certain acts against what was described as the national interests of Canada. These grounds included convictions for terrorism, treason, spying offences, and for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.

The bill repealed those grounds. I want to say at the outset that the New Democrats and I think every member in the House acknowledge the seriousness and unacceptability of those crimes. There is no question about that. Treason, terrorism, spying, acting in a foreign army engaged in conflict with Canada, these are all crimes that I think every Canadian would condemn in the most strenuous way possible.

However, the issue becomes what the proper remedy for that is. What the New Democrats, many members, and obviously the new Liberal government have now acknowledged in the bill is that the proper response to anyone who commits those acts is to be dealt with harshly and appropriately by the Canadian legal system. That is the proper way to deal with citizens, not to strip a citizen of their citizenship rights, which hearkens back to the old medieval concept of a king in the 12th century banishing a citizen from the kingdom as punishment.

That is the kind of spirit that infused the Conservative government with this law. Instead, any person who believes in modern democracy and modern concepts of statecraft, would agree that once people become citizens, they are citizens. Citizens should be dealt with together.

Here is the rub. I have heard the Conservatives say the word “equality” in the House before. They have never been able to satisfactorily explain this to anybody. If a Canadian citizen born in Canada committed a terrorist act, or a Canadian citizen born in Canada spied against Canada or a Canadian citizen born in Canada fought for an armed forces against the Canadian Armed Forces, why he or she would not be stripped of his or her citizenship, but a naturalized Canadian who committed exactly the same act could be stripped of his or her citizenship.

This was the essence of the objection to that provision. It created two tiers of Canadian citizenship. I will stand in the House, and all MPs will stand here, and condemn each one of those heinous crimes, but we will equally stand in this place and say that it is a Canadian value to treat Canadian citizens equally before the law.

I am very happy to see the Liberal government enforce that very important concept.

I want to talk about repealing the intent to reside provision. Since June 2015, adult applicants must declare on their citizenship application, because of the Conservative law, that they intend to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. This provision created concern among some new Canadians who feared that their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada. The Liberal government is proposing to repeal this provision, and I congratulate them on that because it is absolutely the right move.

All Canadians are free to move outside of this country and live where they wish. Again, we have another example of discrimination in law by the Conservative government where I, who was born in this country, could move to France if I wanted to and never have to worry about my citizenship being revoked. However, someone who was born in a different country and was naturalized here would have to worry. That is discriminatory. I am glad to see the government repeal that discriminatory provision.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2016 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am looking at the projected order of business for today, and it says very clearly that Bill C-14 is up for debate. I am surprised that the government is refusing to bring that forward when it is on the projected order of business.

I hope, if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: that the order of the day not be Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, and that the House proceed to the consideration of report stage of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying).

Bill C-10—Time Allocation MotionAir Canada Public Participation ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the bill does is kill thousands of aerospace jobs in this country.

The government should not be proud of bringing forward the bill, but I have to comment on the absolute chaos we have seen from the government this morning. In 60 minutes, we have now gone through three pieces of legislation. We were told today was to be reserved for Bill C-14. That was what was placed on the projected order of business. We arrived this morning and the government said no, it would bring in Bill C-6, and then it switched rapidly to Bill C-10.

We know why the Liberals are bringing in Bill C-10. They are trying to provoke closure and bulldoze this through, because yesterday parliamentarians tied in their vote on Bill C-10. The bill is so bad, the legislation is so destructive to aerospace jobs in Canada, as you know, Mr. Speaker, you had to break the tie. It was 139 to 139. That has only happened 11 times in Canadian history, and in fact, it is the first time that a majority government and a government bill has seen a tie vote broken by the Speaker.

Is that not the real reason why sunny ways have turned into dark ways and why the Liberals are trying to bulldoze the bill through? It is because they are embarrassed by the results from yesterday.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2016 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this subject. I will be splitting my time with the member for Lethbridge who also serves as our party's critic for disabilities. She is doing a phenomenal job in that role, standing up for vulnerable people.

This is a great bill. It is a bill that all parties as well as unrecognized parties agree on, but it is important to express some disappointment about the reality of the process and how this debate has come up today. We had Bill C-14 on the Notice Paper. Then we had a vote to concur in Bill C-6. Then we had closure on Bill C-10. Now we are on to Bill C-11 without notice.

I say this precisely because of the importance of the bill. It is a bill that we should all be coming together not only on substance but on process. Had we the notice, had we been able to plan this debate at a time when all parties were ready and organized for it, we would have been able to get so much more out of this conversation. There would have been an opportunity to bring in stakeholders perhaps, to listen to and to observe this debate. This would have given all parties the opportunity to ensure that those who really wanted or needed to speak to this were in a position to do so.

Instead, this very important substantive legislation is being used as a procedural weapon, it seems. The government tabled the bill on March 24. As much as the minister has mentioned the urgency of moving this forward, the Liberals could have at least given notice that they were going to do it today. We could have had the bill debated earlier. This is a missed opportunity.

In the previous timeslot, my colleague from the NDP, the member for Windsor West, wanted to split his time and a government member blocked that from happening. We have these missed opportunities of collegiality, missed opportunities to work together to put our best foot forward as a House. It is unfortunate, because we agree with the issue and can work together on it. Yes, there are times for partisanship in this place, but the bill should not have been one of those times.

I do not blame the minister for this. I have spoken to the minister at committee and I know she is committed to working across party lines on important issues. However, this speaks to the House leadership on the government side and how it views absolutely nothing it seems as beyond partisanship.

I want to get that out of the way because it is important to put on the record.

Let us talk about the bill. I am very proud to be speaking in favour of it.

Just to highlight for those who may be just joining the debate, the bill has three substantive different parts to it.

The bill would allow not-for-profit organizations acting on behalf of a person with a disability to convert books and other works into an accessible format without first seeking the permission of the copyright holder. It would instantly allow books that were currently not in accessible format to be converted into those formats. That is an important change, one that would make a positive difference.

Also, as part of the treaty that the bill would operate under, the Marrakesh treaty, which was signed in 2013 and would now through this legislation be ratified, it would allow the sharing of those works between different countries participating in that treaty. There is the domestic element of allowing people to have access to this important information. There is also that international element, encouraging sharing between different countries of this vital material.

Finally, the bill would make important related amendments to digital lock provisions.

Obviously we are going to support the bill. It is getting a lot of consensus. This is the conclusion of a prior process of which the previous government was certainly a part. Budget 2015 set out a plan to implement this treaty. Page 286 of budget 2015, stated:

The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

The ability to access printed information is essential to prepare for and participate in Canada’s economy, society and job market. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1 million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakesh Treaty).

Aligning Canada’s copyright limitations and exceptions with the international standard established by the Marrakesh Treaty would enable Canada to accede to this international agreement. Once the treaty is in force, as a member country, [Canada] would benefit from greater access to adapted materials.

It is worth nothing that this process has been in place. Certainly, this was the plan laid out in Canada's economic action plan 2015. However, we are very pleased to see the new government continue on with this important work. This work needed to be done.

I would like to specifically motivate the philosophy behind the bill. It is essential that every person has access to books. Books are a major part of all of our lives, and they are an important part of every child's life.

My daughter, Gianna, and I read books all the time. I read books to her on Skype when I am in Ottawa. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a child who has a visual impairment and who is unable to get books which he or she can read. My daughter is a voracious reader. I brought four books with me and we went through them all in one evening. I need to bring more books with me next time I come to Ottawa, clearly. It is great to see how important books are to us all, especially kids. We need to ensure that people of all ages, including children, have access to reading material of all kinds.

As has been discussed in the House, people's reading decisions are not limited by the availability of books.

Again, I cannot imagine what it would be like to really want to read a particular book, whether a novel or a work of non-fiction, and be told that because of a disability, I cannot read that book, that the book is not available to me, that the knowledge is not available to me. I think that would be a very difficult thing for anyone to deal with. That is why this legislation is important for ensuring that everyone has access to books, that there can really be the full sharing of knowledge that takes place.

Everyone in every situation should have access to as much knowledge, as many books as possible. There can be nothing but good that would come from more access to books for more people.

I also want to talk about the international dimension of this. One of the things we know about Canada is that many people maybe have come here from other places or maybe were born here, but who like to read books in other languages. They might be more comfortable in a language other than English or French, or they simply enjoy reading works from a range of different languages. Specifically, the international dimension of this treaty would allow Canadians to have greater access to books in other languages that may be in a better format which they can make more use of.

Some of the countries that have signed the treaty so far are Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, UAE, and Uruguay. In a multicultural Canada that likely means more access to materials in languages like Hindi, Punjabi, and Spanish. It is important that through those international sharing takes place for all Canadians, not just those who want to access things in English or French, have access to them.

Noting the countries that have signed the treaty so far, it does not look like there are that many Francophone countries. In addition to us ratifying this, there is a lot of value in Canada playing a role, encouraging other countries to ratify and, in particular, seeing if we can use our relationships through the Francophonie to encourage more Francophone countries to ratify this and therefore ensure we have good access to more French-language materials.

We need to get to 20 countries. It is important that we get those 20 countries ratifying. I understand from the minister that we only have three more to go. This is an important leadership role Canada can play and the continuing advocacy we have to do.

I mentioned this during questions and comments, but I have had a constituent raise with me the importance of ensuring those tools people access that allow them, as people with disabilities, to operate in the world, to read, and to do other things, it may be an iPad or a speech app on a phone, are tax deductible. I see measures that address those issues as aligning well with the measures in this legislation.

I look forward to supporting the bill.