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

Sponsor

John McCallum  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, 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

June 13, 2017 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act
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.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipStatements By Members

June 19th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the standing committee that assisted in drafting Bill C-6, I am honoured to rise today to celebrate the recent changes to our immigration system. The passage of this important legislation represents not only the realization of another pivotal Liberal campaign promise, but also reaffirms the highest ideals of Canadian identity and inclusive citizenship.

As the member of Parliament for one of Canada's most multicultural ridings, I am proud to represent a government that fully appreciates that our diversity is a source of great pride. Furthermore, as an immigrant to this country myself, I found the previous government's unjust, two-tiered citizenship model to be disgraceful and abhorrent.

By contrast, Bill C-6 repudiates the previous government's cynical politics of division and once again upholds our noble calling that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, irrespective of where one is born.

June 14th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Thank you.

All right, here we are, and I'm looking at my colleagues and their staff from a point of wanting to do something that resembles work.

What I've found in my time as opposition critic for immigration is that the immigration file involves some legislative and macro-level things that we need to look at, such as the study that's before us today, but it's also really process heavy.

A lot of the things that come before us in terms of problems.... If we all agree that it's not a matter of if Canada does immigration but a question of how, then we need to look at process issues when they come up.

I don't think anyone here could argue that this year, we've seen some pretty challenging situations involving process, in terms of immigration policy in Canada. Without getting into partisan rhetoric one way or the other on how we think process should go, there is a legitimate need for study on some of these issues.

On the motion that my colleague, Jenny Kwan, raised with regard to border crossings—I don't have the exact wording—the reality is that while we might differ on how that process should look, a woman froze to death trying to cross into our country this year, and we've had no study on the process by which that happened. I think the border crossing issue is probably one of the top public policy issues that we've seen in Canada this year. Ms. Kwan moved a motion on this, and debate was adjourned. I'd like us to have an opportunity to see that voted on.

Similarly, we spent a lot of time on Bill C-6 this week, with regard to the appeals process for citizenship revocation in cases of fraud. I moved a motion to have study on that in committee, and the best way to do that. That was not voted on either. Debate was adjourned.

The minister has only appeared before the committee once. He hasn't even appeared before committee on this.

When all of these process issues happen, we have to ask ourselves, as opposition members what our avenues and ways are of being able to address these issues to do what we're tasked to do by the Canadian public. The answer is to question the government's management of these types of processes and policies.

While there was unanimous consent in the House to—

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion in relation to the Senate amendments to Bill C-6..

The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 10:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address important Senate amendments to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. It is critical that the House give thorough consideration to the amendments to Bill C-6 to ensure public safety, to ensure fair treatment of all citizenship applicants, and to ensure that the greatest possible opportunities for success are given to newcomers.

Conservatives are pleased to recognize how immigrants have contributed greatly to Canada, strengthening and enriching our nation. Immigrants offer unique experiences and perspectives that add to Canada's diverse culture and strengthen the nation's future. It is important to ensure that Bill C-6 in fact enables newcomers to have every opportunity for economic success and to enjoy fulfilling and safe lives here in Canada.

The Senate revisions to Bill C-6 address three areas. First, Bill C-6 would be amended to ensure a court hearing for people facing citizenship revocation on the basis of fraud or false representation. Second, it would be amended to change the requirements regarding age and knowledge of an official language to 60 years of age. Third, it would seek to minimize red tape so that minors applying for citizenship could have their applications processed in a manner that was fairer, less complex, and more efficient than the existing process.

The first revision I will address is the amendment that would ensure that a court hearing is given to people who face having their citizenship revoked for fraud or false representation. If the amendment were passed, the immigration minister would be required to inform people who are having their citizenship revoked of their right to appeal their citizen revocation in Federal Court. The inefficiency of this proposed system is unacceptable. It would lead to further backlogs in the already inundated Federal Court, which is already strained due to the Liberals' inability to fill judicial vacancies. It would also cost Canadian taxpayers thousands of dollars to process. The process of stripping citizenship should be left to officials rather than an arbitrary appeal board, which is now stacked with Liberals. Not only that, but applicants already have the right to appeal decisions made by the lRCC in Federal Court if the immigration department made an error in the interpretation and application of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

At this point, if the appeal mechanisms for those who obtained their citizenship through fraud are increased, it could provide an incentive for people to lie on their applications. The government should not focus on increasing appeal mechanisms for those who obtain their citizenship by cheating the system. The focus should be on educating people about the consequences of fraud and how to properly obtain citizenship.

The Federal Court recently ruled that there should be an appeals process, but this ruling and the Senate's amendments are at odds. For example, there is inconsistency between the Federal Court ruling and the Senate amendments with regard to which body people should be appealing their citizenship revocation to. We expect the Liberals to make it immediately clear whether they plan to appeal the Federal Court ruling. This information is necessary for parliamentarians to consider before voting on these amendments. In light of this, we call on the federal government to appeal this ruling to protect the integrity of our immigration system.

At this time, we also call on the government to address the holes in the immigration fraud detection process that were identified by the Auditor General in 2016. Although Canada is compassionate, we must maintain that Canadian citizenship obtained by fraud and deceit is not a right, because that person was never entitled to it in the first place.

Second, the Senate's amendments to Bill C-6 raise the age requirement for knowledge of an official language from 55 to 60. Although we would have liked to see the age remain at 64, we are relieved to accept this new age requirement over the original age of 55 that was proposed by the Liberals. Language proficiency is an integral component of Canadian citizenship. In Canadian society, we see evidence every day of how language binds us together and knits together Canada's incredible pluralism.

On a practical level, knowledge of one of Canada's official languages eases the transition for immigrants into a new workplace, school, or community. Immigrants who cannot communicate in Canadian society struggle with ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping, hospital visits, and driving. In fact, access to language services is a serious problem for refugees and immigrants.

Over and over again, the Liberals have heard how serious this issue is for newcomers to Canada, and how the existing system is failing immigrants. While refugees and immigrants are anxious to begin working, they are unable to access language training and thus are unable to secure a job. Rather than reducing the age requirement for knowledge of an official language, the Liberals should be talking about how to ensure that immigrants will have a smooth transition into Canadian society.

Third, the Senate amendments to Bill C-6 would eliminate the red tape that currently complicates the application process for many minors. Specifically, it affects minors who are permanent residents, but who are applying for citizenship without a permanent resident parent or guardian.

As it stands, permanent residents who wish to apply for Canadian citizenship must either be over 18 years of age, or must apply concurrently with their permanent resident parent or guardian. This means that even if a minor fulfills all other citizenship requirements, if he or she does not have a permanent resident parent or guardian, the minor has virtually no choice but to wait until the age of 18 before applying.

I say “virtually” because it is technically possible to prove that it is necessary for the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to waive these requirements, but actually getting this waiver is inconceivable for most permanent resident minors. Apart from taking years for IRCC to process, it requires a great deal of financial resources and specialized legal assistance. Additionally, minors who may benefit from this discretionary decision likely do not know of its existence, since it is hidden in the statute. In short, the waiver mechanism is not a solution.

The existing system effectively penalizes some of Canada's most marginalized people based on their age, which is not a factor that they can control. The category of “permanent resident minors” includes minors without a parent or guardian in Canada, minors whose families cannot afford the fees for citizenship applications, and minors whose parents do not meet the citizenship requirements. It also includes minors whose parents or guardians cannot or will not help them apply, and minors who no longer have family relationships due to abuse or neglect. In fact, numerous witnesses testified before the House of Commons and Senate committees, highlighting the consequences of such restricted access to citizenship.

We now know that highly marginalized minors with a less secure status risk deportation in their adult lives. This is extremely unfair. The Senate amendment would change the Citizenship Act by repealing the 18 years of age requirement and clarifying that the language and knowledge requirements do not apply to minors.

It also authorizes the minister to waive the requirement that a minor's application must be made by an adult. These changes will ensure that in almost all cases, a minor will be able to submit his or her own application. It is important that all members of the House lend their support regarding the amendment, since Bill C-6 does not currently address this unfair discrimination against minors.

Canadian citizenship is a crucial component of our national identity. It knits together our diverse country and comes with many rights and protections. Preserving its integrity is of the utmost importance.

I therefore ask my hon. colleagues to reject the amendment regarding the appeals process, at least until further information is given regarding the recent Federal Court ruling. I ask that all members of the House support the amendments regarding age and the knowledge of an official language.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Willowdale for sharing his time with me.

I welcome the opportunity to speak today about Bill C-6. The legislation would send a clear message to Canadians and indeed anyone who aspires to become a Canadian citizen that Canada is a country of inclusiveness and fairness. Many of my constituents in Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam spoke to me about the need for Bill C-6. The aim of the bill is to provide greater flexibility for applicants to meet citizenship requirements. In doing so, our goal is to help foster an even greater sense of belonging and connection to Canada among all newcomers.

In my time here today, I wish to address proposed changes to Bill C-6. It would amend the age range of those required to meet language and knowledge requirements for citizenship. Under changes implemented in 2015, the age range for citizenship applicants who must now meet language and knowledge requirements was expanded from those aged 18 to 54, to those between 14 and 64 years old.

Older newcomers, in particular, may have greater difficulty in learning a new language and taking tests. For that reason, we believe these changes unnecessarily introduce barriers for applicants in the expanded age group. Bill C-6 would make citizenship more accessible to both older and younger applicants. Under the legislation, the age range of people who must demonstrate knowledge and language competency would be reduced once again to those aged 18 to 54.

Proficiency in either French or English and knowledge of Canada are important aspects of citizenship and this will still be required for a majority of citizenship applicants. However, we also believe that acquiring citizenship is an important step in the integration prospects for immigrants. It is also important for all Canadians as they benefit from newcomers' full participation in our society.

Reducing the age range to meet language and knowledge requirements would make it easier for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada. Through citizenship, newcomers gain a deeper sense of belonging in our society. They become more engaged and they become more active members of our communities.

These changes under Bill C-6 would ensure newcomers, when they apply for citizenship, are not at a disadvantage due to their age, whether they are younger or older. Older adults would continue to find support to speak our official languages and gain more knowledge about Canada through a wide variety of services. Just as all other Canadian children learn about our country and master our official languages, younger applicants will acquire knowledge of Canada and official languages at school.

Once again, it is our objective to make it easier for newcomers to succeed in Canada and gain a deeper sense of belonging. Therefore, we do not support the proposed Senate amendment that would change the upper age range from 54 to 59 years old. It is our aim to require only applicants aged 18 to 54 to meet the knowledge and language requirements and we continue to support the intent behind this important change. We wish to remove barriers to citizenship. We believe that expanding the age range to applicants who are 59 years of age would create a potential barrier for older applicants.

Our reasons for these changes to the Citizenship Act are quite simple and reasonable. We are committed to a Canada that is both diverse and inclusive. One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving citizenship. That is because the acquisition of citizenship contributes to a greater sense of belonging. By removing these barriers to citizenship for younger and older applicants, we will facilitate the integration of these newcomers and foster their full participation in our society.

In summary, our proposed change in Bill C-6 would help both younger and older applicants achieve Canadian citizenship faster, it would help them to build successful lives in Canada sooner, and it would help them to contribute to the country's economic, social, and cultural success.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I stated previously, under both ministers of this government, we have seen energetic leadership. It would be fair to say that on a monthly basis we see concerted efforts to improve our immigration system.

As Bill C-6 was being contemplated, I recall that the question of revocation of citizenship did arise. On numerous occasions, the then minister of immigration stated that he was open to considering procedural safeguards that could be brought in to strengthen the integrity of our immigration system.

This is a government that recognizes full well the merits of immigration and how it enriches our country. Going forward, I have no doubt there will be more changes to come.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the member for Willowdale says the government is open to certain additional changes, but I agree with my friend from Vancouver East. We had every reason to hope that there would be more in Bill C-6 to undo the damage of Bill C-24.

I certainly will support the bill. I am grateful the amendments were made by the Senate. It improved the bill over what left this place to go to the other place.

As we continue to try to repair the damage done by the previous government, can we do more to address the issue for refugees, particularly those who are facing deportation? I asked the hon. minister this question and he said that there were adequate means for people to protest and to appeal. I have not found them adequate. People who pose no threat to Canada are being deported and do not have an adequate opportunity to defend themselves or stay in our country.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member is well aware, after the House adopted Bill C-6, it went to the Senate. Numerous people had an opportunity to speak to the senators who were examining the bill. As we are all well aware, they put a lot of hard work into this. The various revisions and amendments they made are reflected in the bill as it has come back to us.

Obviously we have a government that is very much concerned with ensuring our immigration system is accessible and it is not arbitrary like the previous bill brought to the House several years ago by the Conservatives. I am certain, with the energetic leadership of our minister, we would consider bringing more changes in the future.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

It brings me great joy to rise again before the House to discuss Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-6 represents not only the realization of a fundamental Liberal campaign promise and a signature achievement of our government, but also serves as a powerful articulation of Canadian identity and a reaffirmation of the various benefits of diversity.

Before I continue, I would be remiss if I did not thank both the former minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship, the Hon. and, I might add, tireless John McCallum, for his hard work on this file, as well as the steady leadership of his successor as minister, my hon. friend and colleague from York South—Weston.

I would also like to commence by thanking my former colleagues on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for their work on the legislation, as well as the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for providing sober second thought to the bill. Having had the honour of being involved in the committee study of the bill as it was originally conceived in the House before it was sent to the Senate in June last year, I am deeply aware of how important the bill is to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

In fact, since being elected in October of 2015, few, if any, issues have resonated with my constituents in Willowdale as powerfully as the need to modernize our immigration system and to repeal and repudiate the most odious changes to our immigration system brought in by the previous government. Whether knocking on doors or in ongoing conversations with constituents, my staff and I have consistently heard the same refrain. Bill C-6 represents a welcome change in policy and tone for Canadians and their families. If any concerns have been expressed, it is the delay that people have experienced in seeing the enactment of Bill C-6.

As an immigrant to this country, I am profoundly sympathetic to this inclination. I understand what Canadian citizenship means, both here and abroad, to generations of families who have come to this great country seeking a better future. As someone who had the great privilege to arrive in this country in my teens, I certainly fully appreciate and would never take for granted the significance of immigration as a lifeline to our future well-being and prosperity.

I can also confidently say that the love of country one has for a place where we were not born but which has nonetheless given us all the opportunities in the world is very different than the affinity one feels for the nation of one's birth. Naturalization occupies a cherished place in one's heart that is neither blinded by history nor blood, but instead by one of deep gratitude. I have both admired Canada from afar and also lived to enjoy its greatest blessings: its educational system, its esteemed place in the world, its deep respect for all persons, its quiet dignity, and of course our spirited people. I recognize the noble value in Canadian citizenship and I am proud of our government's assiduous efforts to restore and reaffirm the bedrock values upon which Canadian citizenship is based.

In its original form, Bill C-6 aimed to accomplish four key objectives: first, to remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security; second, to remove the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada; third, to reduce the number of days during which a person must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship; and fourth, to return the requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54.

In doing so, Bill C-6 repeals or amends the most misguided elements of the Conservative Party's Bill C-24 and establishes a more effective, robust, modern, and just pathway to citizenship. This is not, in other words, a radical departure from established laws and customs, but rather a return to sensible policies following the excesses of Bill C-24.

I would like to briefly examine these four key objectives before examining the amendments before us. First is that it removes the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security.

The most crucial element of Bill C-6, I believe, is that it revokes the unprecedented ability, granted through Bill C-24, of the Canadian government to strip its own citizens of fundamental rights, namely the rights to inalienable citizenship and equal protection under the law.

In rejecting a two-tiered approach to Canadian citizenship, Bill C-6 would bring government policy in line with the recommendations of a litany of stakeholders who condemned the arbitrary, unconstitutional, and undue nature of Bill C-24. This includes the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Layers, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, and many leading academics, journalists, and civic leaders.

The second question relates to removing the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada.

Further among its many ill-conceived statutes, Bill C-24 also stated that adult applicants had to declare on their citizenship applications that they intended to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. The provisions created concern among new Canadians, who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada.

By way of example, Canadians whose work required them to live abroad for extended periods felt that their declaration of an intent to reside could negatively affect their international mobility and, by extension, their ability to work abroad.

Within the current context of our open and global economy, this would place Canada at a serious competitive disadvantage. Rather than disincentivizing engaged global citizens from seeking Canadian citizenship, Bill C-6 instead supports the government's goal of making it easier for immigrants to build successful lives within Canada, reunite with their families, and contribute to the economic success and well-being of our country.

I will now move to the various amendments that were suggested. The legislation before us today has, of course, been further modified by several amendments put forth at the Senate committee stage. I would like to use my remaining time to briefly address these amendments.

There are three proposed amendments before us today. One is an amendment to change the citizenship revocation model. The second is an amendment allowing minors to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent. The third would change the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years.

After careful assessment and consideration, our government agrees with two of the three amendments adopted in the Senate, as they support our commitment to remove unnecessary barriers to citizenship, make citizenship more accessible to the more vulnerable, and enhance procedural fairness in the citizenship revocation process.

With respect to the proposed model to have the federal court act as a decision-maker on most citizenship revocation cases in which citizenship was acquired fraudulently, allow me to reiterate that ever since the current decision-making model came into effect in 2015, the minister has been the decision-maker on most cases involving fraud and misrepresentation, while the Federal Court has been the decision-maker on more serious cases involving fraud related to security, human or international rights violations, and organized criminality.

Under the Senate's proposed model, all individuals facing revocation of citizenship would have the right to request that their case be referred to the Federal Court for a decision regarding revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation.

In cases in which an individual refers their case to the court, the minister's role would be to bring an action in the court to seek a declaration that the person obtained citizenship by false representation, by fraud, or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. It would then be up to the court to make the final decision.

The government has considered this amendment carefully and is supporting this new decision-making model, but with some key changes. The government believes that the minister's authority should be limited to revocation cases that the individual does not wish to have referred to the Federal Court.

Our government also supports, with modifications, the Senate amendment allowing minors to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent.

Our government must respectfully disagree with the proposed Senate amendment to change the upper limit for language and knowledge requirements.

As mentioned previously, the language and knowledge requirements brought about via Bill C-24 were seemingly imposed at random, and this side has yet to see a compelling argument for this amendment.

The government has considered these proposed amendments very seriously and has accepted some key proposals regarding a new decision-making process for the revocation of citizenship.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, these amendments should have been in Bill C-6 to begin with. They were not.

These amendments were amendments that I brought to committee. Then they failed at committee. Then I had to go and lobby the senators to make these changes. I am glad that worked, and that they brought these changes back. I am glad that the government is going to accept what the senators are bringing forward.

I support Senator Omidvar and her work, because I met with her about it and urged her to take action. She did, and I am delighted to know that. I am delighted that Senator Oh took up my amendment on the issue around minors.

I wish there were senators who would have taken up more of the amendments I tabled at committee that failed. I know they did not, but given that this is where it is, I will accept what is here before us and will support the bill. This has been our position right from the beginning, that we needed to repeal Bill C-24. I wish the government had done that. If the government had done that, we would not even be here having this debate right now.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak in this important debate.

It has been almost a year and half since Bill C-6 was introduced in the House of Commons. The bill was sent to the Senate on June 17, 2016, and it has now finally made its way back to the House from the Senate, where it was held up for more than a year. Many people in our communities have been waiting anxiously for this legislation to be passed and to come into effect.

Members may recall that when he was on the campaign trail, the Prime Minister promised Canadians, particularly those in the ethnic community, that he would repeal the Conservatives' Bill C-24. Like so many Liberal promises, that did not happen. Instead, the government introduced Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

On February 25, 2016, Bill C-6 was first introduced in the House. About a month later, on March 21, 2016, it passed second reading and was referred to committee. Bill C-6 was then sent back to the House for third reading. It passed third reading and was sent to the Senate on June 17, 2016.

I should note that no amendments were made during second reading or at committee stage at the Senate, but three amendments were made during third reading.

The first amendment included providing a pathway to citizenship for minors. This was similar to the amendment that I proposed at committee, and I am glad to hear that the Conservative member and the government members now support it. At committee, though, government members certainly did not support it.

Another amendment proposed providing judicial appeal for citizenship revocation for fraud and misrepresentation. This amendment is similar in principle to my amendment to provide due process for these cases, but differs in the procedure. I support this amendment. Due process being restored has been a long time coming for those who face citizenship revocation.

The third amendment has to do with increasing the age of individuals who must pass a language test to 60. This Senate amendment I do not support.

In reviewing the process that we have embarked on with Bill C-6 to arrive at where we are today, let me point out that at committee I tabled 24 amendments on a range of topics. Two out of those 24 amendments were passed at committee. They included changes in two areas.

First, a statelessness provision would provide the minister with the authority to intervene in cases that would cause a person to become stateless and provide him or her with status based on humanitarian and compassionate factors. I was pleased that amendment passed.

The second amendment that also passed was with respect to disability rights. My amendment would ensure that the Citizenship Act adhered to Canadian human rights laws and regulations around reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities. I am pleased that this amendment also passed.

While I am happy that these amendments were supported at committee, there were many that were not. One set of amendments that I had hoped would be adopted at committee would have ensured that there would be judicial fairness and due process again for those faced with citizenship revocation. As members may be aware, the Conservatives' Bill C-24 fundamentally altered the process for revoking citizenship.

The process in place before Bill C-24 involved three steps. The first was a report under Section 10 of the Citizenship Act that the minister was satisfied a person obtained citizenship fraudulently. Second, once notified of the report, the person could request that the matter be referred to the Federal Court for a hearing. Third, if the Federal Court made the finding requested by the minister, citizenship could be revoked by the Governor in Council, which could consider equitable factors.

The Conservatives' Bill C-24 eliminated the Federal Court hearing process. The minister now decides on revocation with no requirement for a hearing, and this is wrong.

As pointed out by the Canadian Bar Association:

Bill C-24 also eliminated consideration of equitable factors that could prevent a legal, but unjust, outcome. Before then, the Governor in Council could consider equitable factors when deciding whether to revoke citizenship. This is no longer possible.

The BC Civil Liberties Association also challenged this, and stated:

In our submission, the government should repeal the procedural changes made to the Citizenship Act by Bill C-24 and restore individuals’ right to a fair hearing before an independent judicial decision-maker who can take humanitarian and compassionate considerations into account in making their decision.

There is no question that this needs to be rectified.

Perhaps the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers put it best when it said:

A permanent resident subject to deportation for misrepresentation has a right to both a hearing and an equitable appeal. Yet a Canadian citizen whose citizenship is to be revoked has no such rights. These provisions are currently being subject to a legal challenge—

I will diverge from the quote to say that a decision has been made by the courts, and the BC Civil Liberties Association, which took this matter to court, won.

These provisions are currently being subject to a legal challenge in the Federal Court as being inconsistent with the Charter of Rights. There is no reason why the new government should support these reforms which deny citizens a fair hearing. Indeed, while in opposition Liberal Members of Parliament opposed these very provisions.

The amendments that I proposed at committee were based on a system put forward by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, known as the CARL system, supported by experts and stakeholders that use the IRB. Prior to Bill C-24, individuals could appeal to the Federal Court. Because of the cost, duration, and lack of availability of the courts, this has been called an inefficient system by some experts.

The Immigration Appeal Division currently undertakes similar appeals and reviews of decisions for statuses such as permanent residence. For that reason, this board is adequately situated to handle citizenship cases as well, and can handle them more efficiently than the Federal Court system. My amendments would have instituted this policy as well, which is what I proposed. The aim was to restore the consideration of humanitarian and compassionate grounds as well as put forward a system of appeal that is more efficient and cheaper for taxpayers. Sadly, these amendments were not supported at committee, as they were deemed to be out of scope.

Former minister of immigration John McCallum acknowledged that this needed to be fixed. Many of us in the community were led to believe that this would be done. However, no action was taken. When the government failed to address the issue, the BC Civil Liberties Association challenged the government in court on this fundamental violation of people's right to due process and won. There is no question that this needs to be fixed, and finally, here we are.

The matter was then pushed over to the Senate. That is exactly what happened. The government did not introduce a bill in the House to fix the problem, so it was pushed over to the Senate for the Senate to deal with. I lobbied a number of different senators on the need to address this issue and I am glad to see that Senator Omidvar agreed to champion the cause. Now, after more than a year, I am happy to see that the Senate has attempted to rectify this huge gap in our Citizenship Act with its amendment, and today the government motion before us indicates that this amendment will essentially be accepted.

With this Senate amendment, individuals will have the right to a judicial hearing, and humanitarian and compassionate considerations related to the person, particularly in situations where the best interests of a child are directly affected, will be considered, although the government's motion uses different terminology. Instead of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, the government's motion uses “any consideration respecting his or her personal circumstances”. At the end, the effect, I believe, is the same. Therefore, the NDP supports this amendment.

I would like to point out that there seems to be some suggestion from my friends on the Conservative side that having an appeal process in place would incite people to somehow defraud the system and misrepresent their applications. I will take a moment to respond to that, because that is simply absurd. People do not think that because there is an appeal process, they will think about how to defraud the system or misrepresent their cases. That is absolutely not how people operate.

We need to have due process in place to ensure we do not presume people are guilty before they make a final decision. By the way, there are situations where a case could well have gone awry from the officials, that they might have received misinformation about a particular application. It is absolutely essential in a democratic society for an individual to be able to challenge the alleged misrepresentation against them. Allowing the appeal process to be restored will do exactly that.

In addition, the government motion also added the provision whereby an individual could request that his or her case be heard by the minister. That is to say that an individual would have the option of having the matter referred to federal court or be heard by the minister.

As the government motion allows for this to be a choice, the NDP will support this change as well. If it said that it would be up to the minister to make that decision, we would not have supported it. People should have the right to choose an independent judiciary to make that decision. However, since this is not what the government has proposed, I will support the option to allow for the individual to make that choice.

The truth is that the Harper government should never have taken away someone's rights to a judicial hearing in cases of citizenship revocation.

Tied to the process of citizenship revocation, another issue I hope the government will rectify is the notion of indefinite suspension. As it stands right now, the minister has the right to suspend the citizenship process indefinitely. Instead of putting in a system of accountable and extendable deadlines, the government is continuing the indefinite suspension provisions. This is wrong.

Under this system, a person could be under investigation indefinitely without ever knowing when it might come to an end. Imagine what that would be like. In criminal cases there is a statutory limitation, but not in immigration. Does the government not think it is wrong to indefinitely investigate someone? Do the Liberals really think it is an appropriate thing to do in the case of citizenship and immigration? While I moved an amendment on this during committee, unfortunately the committee did not accept it, and that is too bad.

Let me turn to another amendment before us today. The Senate proposed an amendment to provide unaccompanied youth or those under state care pathways to citizenship. I called for this at committee. At issue, as explained by justice for children and youth, is:

Section 5(3)(b)(i) 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.

Unfortunately, my amendment was rejected by the committee. I am so glad now that the Senate, particularly Senator Oh, picked up this amendment, advanced it and has now referred it back to the House.

The NDP will wholeheartedly support this amendment. I had wanted to see this adopted at the committee stage.

Let me turn to the last amendment before us.

The Senate saw fit to bring forward an amendment to increase the upper age requirement for passing a language test from 54 to 60. This is where I diverge from the Senate. The NDP does not support this change and I am pleased to see the government also disagrees with it. The government motion has changed the upper age requirement for passing a language test from 60 back to 55.

It is my view that we should go further than this. I moved an amendment at committee to reinstate the allowance for an interpreter to be used during the knowledge test in the citizenship process. The current system amounts to a second language test, which is harder than the actual language test, due to non-standard terms and events contained in the knowledge test for those who do not speak English or French as their first language. I was saddened that my amendment did not pass at committee.

I learned English as a second language. I immigrated here when I was young, and I did not speak a word of English. I spoke Cantonese. I have my Cantonese language. I speak the Cantonese language fairly fluently. I can understand, communicate, and I can do interviews in that language without any trouble. However, when technical terms come up, it is very difficult to know what the technical term is and how to articulate it well. This is the same thing for those who are subject to this citizenship test. The issue around technical terms is that they differ in the first language, and often it is difficult for the person to pass the knowledge test if they do not have the technical language. That does not mean that they do not speak English well enough—they speak it very well—but some technical terms are very difficult to master.

There was a time, prior to Bill C-24, that the interpreters would be allowed to attend these tests so that those technical terms could be explained in the person's first language. However, that has now been done away with, and I am saddened by that.

There are other amendments that I wish were before us. At committee I called for the expansion of the definition of “statelessness”, to better capture how people can fall through the cracks. In particular, I called for the provision to prevent any official from being able to engage in a decision that would contravene any international or human rights agreements that Canada is a signatory to, especially those on statelessness. Unfortunately, those amendments were not supported, as they were deemed to be out of scope.

On a related matter, I would like to see changes made to address the issue of lost Canadians. For decades, Canadians have found themselves to be stateless due to a number of arcane laws. We heard from a number of people who lost their citizenship out of the blue one day because of these arcane laws. There are situations of second-generation Canadians who had been born abroad not being recognized as Canadians.

This year we are heading into the 150th anniversary of this country. When we celebrate this nation's 150th birthday, would it not be something to know that there are Canadians who have been Canadians all their lives, have somehow become lost in the system, and we have done nothing to fix that? That was something I wanted to advance at committee, yet once again the committee did not accept my amendments. I am concerned that the government did not bring legislation to address this issue before July 1 of this year. That should have been done.

The other issue I want to raise is with respect to cessation provisions. We talked about this issue with respect to refugees. These are people who, unbeknownst to them, find their status affected for no other reason than that they travelled back to their country of origin at a time when the cessation provisions were not in place and when the threat that had forced them to flee their country no longer existed. Even then, the status of these people had been affected by cessation provisions. In most cases, cessation proceedings are brought against them when they apply for their citizenship. That is outrageous. I hope that all members of this House would agree with me that those provisions need to be done away with. We need to bring in legislation to repeal the cessation provisions that were brought forward by the Harper government.

With that, I know my time is running out. I am glad to see that this bill is finally before us. I hope to see a speedy passage of it, so Canadians can ensure that their rights are protected. I hope that those who have been waiting for this bill to pass will finally see it go through all stages of the House and come into force and effect.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:15 p.m.
See context

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member for Calgary Nose Hill touched on many subjects this evening, but I would like to get to the heart of the matter, which is Bill C-6. I am going to read the questions I have prepared because I would really like some good answers from her.

Let us talk about fraud. When the Auditor General issued a report on fraud in the citizenship program in 2016, the findings were a damaging report card for the Conservative government's lack of action on this front. It turned out that while the Harper Conservatives enjoyed touting themselves as tough on fraud, their actions failed to match their words, and that was after having an entire decade to address this problem. In fact, it is our government, as members know, that has taken concrete steps to address citizenship fraud and ensure the integrity of the program. We are doing this through concrete actions to achieve that objective, unlike the member opposite's party, which put up arbitrary barriers to citizenship for newcomers. My colleague will perhaps be able to offer some comment on this regarding citizenship fraud.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 8:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Dufferin—Caledon, during your intervention, and my colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands made a comment about women's attire, and I would like to say that in the American tradition, we should all have the right to bare arms, especially at this particular juncture. That is a position I support.

The other reason I think it behooves the government to take a little extra time for a study, rather than supporting the Senate amendment, is that our parliamentary committee has been charged with reviewing the issue of how immigration consultants are governed in Canada and the impact they have on both citizenship fraud and defrauding people who might be using them.

I want to say why this is important. I am going to start by saying that there are many excellent immigration consultants to legitimately help people navigate Canada's immigration system and become citizens. They are good, hard-working people who have the best intentions and play by the rules. However, there are those who do not. Many people in this place who have had experience doing casework on immigration in their ridings have had a constituent who has suffered the consequences of an immigration consultant who has provided people with illegitimate advice, has advised them to lie on a citizenship application, or has defrauded them of money.

There was a very weighty, in-depth study at committee. We have not yet issued a report, but I want to highlight some of the testimony. We heard over and over again concerns about the ability of the current oversight body, the ICCRC, to regulate this sector. My colleagues from Dufferin—Caledon and Markham—Unionville and I all heard serious testimony from witnesses who were essentially left destitute because of this. To the relevancy of the amendment at hand, more often we heard about people who were advised to lie on their citizenship applications and hence had their applications revoked.

After going through the exercise at committee, I am of the belief that the current oversight process is inadequate and is not working. The status quo cannot be maintained. There are serious governance challenges within the ICCRC board itself, bordering on dysfunction. I am just going to put it out there. This is not just my opinion. This was highlighted in witness testimony. We have to think about the end user.

One of my colleagues from the NDP has made the point that this is about compassion. We need to have compassion for people who are being defrauded in these situations. The oversight situation we have is not adequate. The testimony was very clear and very damning in that regard. It is not working, and there needs to be change.

I know that all members of the committee are going to be considering this testimony and considering recommendations for the government. I would like the government to consider those recommendations in the context of how we deal with both the Federal Court ruling and the response to the Senate amendment. I do not understand why the government has not appealed the Federal Court ruling.

If we are indeed risking sending a message to the international community to not worry, because there is a lengthy appeals process if people lie on their citizenship applications, that is congruent with some of the issues we have been dealing with in terms of how to reform the system for immigration consultant governance.

There was an article, published in January 2016, that spoke to the issue of ghost consultants. This was something we heard about in the course of the study I just mentioned. Ghost consultants are people who are essentially not regulated by our current oversight board, and often that is where many of the instances of fraud occur. The article said:

On the federal government’s website, in no fewer than 21 languages ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese, people looking to immigrate to Canada are warned to be on the lookout for fraud and to stay away from unauthorized consultants.

Don’t be the victim of a scam, the site warns.

And don’t be tempted into using false documents.

Despite the government’s efforts to regulate the industry, however, large numbers of unlicensed consultants continue to operate under the radar, sometimes going to great lengths to dupe the system—or their clients—and making loads of money doing it.

Last fall, Xun Wang, an unlicensed consultant in Richmond, B.C., was handed a stiff seven-year sentence for carrying out one of the biggest immigration frauds authorities say they’d ever seen involving doctored passports and other forged documents.

While that prosecution was successful, critics say so-called “ghost consultants” continue to operate largely in an enforcement vacuum.

This article continues:

Internal records show the border agency fielded more than 400 complaints about alleged unauthorized immigration consultants from June 2011 through September 2015. It opened 71 cases and laid 12 charges.

“Little attention is given to rogue agents, the ghost agents. The public is being taken for a ride,” said Cobus Kriek, a licensed immigration consultant in Calgary, who obtained the CBSA records through an access-to-information request.

A CBSA spokeswoman said the agency reviews all complaints and tips. Investigations are opened if officers believe consultants have misrepresented themselves or the information they’ve put in applications, or if they have counselled others to do so....

If anyone dialed the Halifax phone number Mohd Morelley wrote in his application for citizenship as proof he was integrating in Canada, it would ring out in an office on the outskirts of Halifax. Someone might answer, but it wouldn’t be Morelley or his wife or three children, who all wanted to be Canadians.

They were all living in Kuwait.

Along with the bogus phone number, Morelley and his family bought a full-service bogus citizenship package from an immigration consultant, including a Halifax address for a home he never lived in, tax returns and employment records for a job he never held, payment of utility bills he never used, ATM withdrawals to show local transactions he didn’t make and a letter from a local Islamic society saying he was deeply involved in the activities at a mosque he didn’t attend.... Morelley’s phantom phone—and fake life—were far from unique: more than 140 cell phones, labeled with the number and name of a client, were organized in the Bedford Highway office of the Canadian Commercial Group, run by immigration consultant Hassan Al-Awaid....

“The CBSA sets priorities and focuses criminal investigations on cases that are likely to have the greatest impact, for example large-scale fraudulent operations,” the statement said. As of late November, the agency said 16 investigations had closed, resulting in 15 convictions.

Critics say it’s not enough, that unsuspecting customers are falling victim to crooked consultants who lack qualifications, fail to file paperwork, or simply take their money and run.

This is what is important:

....not all clients are victims. Some clients are willing participants in the fraud, paying consultants to create documents that make it seem like they’re living in Canada when they’re not.

I do not want to politicize the issue, because this has been an issue that has crossed different governments, but something needs to be done.

We are sending a message to people. I can just imagine how a conversation would go in a situation like this if someone had any qualms about perhaps not being truthful on the application. What I do not want to happen is a ghost consultant or someone who is not regulated saying, “Don't worry. You can appeal the decision. You would have a long period of time. If you are found out, the penalty has been reduced.”

What is the government doing to ensure this situation does not happen?

I will continue, because there are some other excellent points. It says:

Before foreign nationals can apply for Canadian citizenship, they must spend 1,095 days in Canada in a four-year period.

Bill C-6 would change that. It continues:

The Federal Court of Canada has said this residency requirement protects “precious Canadian citizenship,” and ensures would-be citizens have “the everyday opportunity to become ‘Canadianized.’”

“This happens by ‘rubbing elbows’ with Canadians in shopping malls, corner stores, libraries, concert halls,...”

Many, however, are paying to skirt these rules.

“We do not have to be Pollyannas here,” Phil Mooney, past president of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants told a parliamentary committee in 2011.

Again, this issue has been ongoing for a while. This is the second time, and probably more, that the citizenship and immigration committee has looked at this issue. It goes on:

“A large number of individuals participate willingly in attempts to defraud the system … and there are hundreds of thousands of people who will do anything, sign anything, pay anything to come here.”

That said, many prospective immigrants are falling victim to ghost consultants, who also “take money away from legitimate consultants who follow the rules and pay a high price to be regulated,” Mooney said.

“Further, we suffer added indignities because the public cannot easily distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.”

The problem is the CBSA doesn’t have enough resources to investigate the bad ones, said Dory Jade, current president of the industry group.

The public cannot easily distinguish between the good guys and the bad guy.

We heard at length over numerous meetings that preventing ghost consultants from defrauding people was a problem. However, what we hear in this article, and what we heard in testimony, is that some people choose to defraud the system and willingly put false information on their citizenship applications. How is the government going to address this problem given what is proposed in the Senate amendment? It is a huge mess and we should reject it outright.

There is one recommendation that I support, and I want to speak to it. It was made out of a spirit of compassion and would improve the immigration system in Canada. I will at least provide the House with some positive things. This was an amendment supported by Senator Victor Oh. I will read a statement that was put out by Senator Oh on June 12. It states:

Senator Victor Oh commends the government for its decision to support an amendment to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, which would provide equitable access to citizenship to children and youth under the age of 18 who meet all the requirements.

Bill C-6 is a government bill that seeks to make changes to the legislative provisions regarding grants of citizenship by naturalization, grounds for citizenship revocation, and the authority of the Minister with regard to fraudulent documents. However, it did not address barriers that prevented certain minors, including children in the care of child welfare authorities, from obtaining citizenship in Canada.

Under the current laws minors submitting an application with a parent or guardian or who have a parent or guardian who is a citizen face no significant barriers. However, those without parents or guardians and those whose parents or guardians are unwilling or unable to apply have virtually no option but to wait until they are 18 years of age to apply on their own. The only exception is to request a waiver for a grant of citizenship on compassionate grounds from the Minister — a highly discretionary process that is simply ineffective...

The amendment, which was passed by the Senate on April 11, 2017 with 47 votes in favour, 27 votes against, and 3 abstentions, would allow children and youth with a permanent resident status to submit an application for citizenship separately from a parent or guardian. “This change would not only ensure that these minors can have a permanent and secure status in Canada, but also provide them with increased opportunities to succeed and thrive” said Senator Victor Oh.

"It is my sincere hope that now that the bill will return for further consideration my colleagues in the House of Commons and the Senate will vote in favour of the amendment with the changes made by the government to clarify who can apply for citizenship on behalf of the child” added Senator Oh. “This would be a landmark moment in the history of advancing the rights of children and youth in Canada, and I am proud to have played a role in it.”

I actually agree with the sentiment presented here by the Senator. I actually think this is a common-sense, compassionate amendment that will give us all, regardless of political stripe, great pride in the Canadian citizenship process. I commend Senator Oh for his work. I certainly support it. It is my understanding that the government will slightly amend his amendment. This is where it gets complicated for the viewers at home, but with that, when I read what is being proposed by the government in terms of amending Senator Oh's amendment, it looks fine to me.

For once, on a very hot and muggy June day in the House of Commons we can agree between the government party and my party that this is something that is worthwhile, so we will be supporting that particular change. As it is implemented, it will certainly support better immigration processing in Canada.

Just for people who might be asking me, I often find after I give these speeches, people write to my office and say, “Why are you supporting this? What is going on?” Just to be very clear on what this amendment does, the issue is that permanent residents that apply for citizenship in Canada must be either 18 years of age or apply concurrently with a permanent resident parent or guardian. For minors whose application is attached to that of their parents or guardians or whose parents or guardians are Canadian citizens, the current process presents no serious issues. However, minors without parents or guardians, or whose parents or guardians are unable or unwilling to apply, have virtually no option but to wait until they are 18 years old, as Senator Oh said.

The objective of this amendment is to provide a direct pathway to citizenship for minors under the age of 18 that meet all the requirements, but do not have a parent or guardian to make an application on their behalf or whose parents are either unable or unwilling to apply.

Right now, subsection 2(1) of the Citizenship Act defines both “minor” and “child”. A child “includes a child adopted or legitimized in accordance with the laws of the place where the adoption or legitimation took place”. A minor “means a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years”.

The proposed amendment does not affect the processes for minors who would have entered Canada and qualified for permanent residence. Minors who make an application will still have to meet the eligibility requirements for citizenship, including the physical presence requirement.

Just to be perfectly clear, to anyone who might be watching or to my colleagues who might not have read the substance of the amendment, there is no need to worry that this amendment somehow changes the process by which a minor might be looked at for admissibility. Essentially what this does is it changes the eligibility, but it does not change the review process itself.

To remain consistent with the proposed changes under Bill C-6, the children would not need to meet the language or knowledge requirements. Under the proposed amendment, minors whose parents or guardians are submitting an application concurrently or whose parents or guardians are citizens of Canada will continue to apply under subsection 5(2) of the Citizenship Act.

In contrast, minors without a parent or guardian, or whose parents are unable or unwilling to make an application, will be able to directly apply under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act, because it will no longer be necessary to be the age of majority. A main outcome of the proposed amendment is that the applications for citizenship of minors will no longer be dependent on their parents' citizenship and the parents' willingness or ability to apply for citizenship. However, a child will still need assistance from a legal guardian to make his or her application.

The child will also be required to countersign his application after the age of 14. This process is consistent with Citizenship Regulation No. 2, paragraphs 4(a) and (b), which apply to the applications under subsection 5(2) of the Citizenship Act. My understanding is that the reason this safeguard is in there is to ensure that children are not being abducted or forced away from a family unit against their will.

I read through the Senate testimony and I talked to Senator Oh. He has done a good job in terms of laying out the case for this. What I am not certain about is how this relates to other countries that might have best practices in this regard, but certainly going forward if we implement this and do it well, we would have some best practices to share with the world.

There is a point that I forgot to make that was very important. I am going to jump back to the amendment I was addressing prior to Senator Oh's and that is the amendment around the appeals process for citizenship revocation in cases of fraud. I would be remiss not to mention that one of the reasons the government and all members need to reject this amendment is the strain on the backlogs that we see in the Federal Court. We have had rigorous debates about the appointment of judges and the fact that the government has not been on the ball in appointing judges, as there are many vacancies. In Calgary, there are courtrooms that are empty. It is a shame and I know there are many qualified applicants in Canada. I do not understand why the delay is happening.

Prior to adopting this amendment, the government needs to deal with this issue. When we think about how many people have had their citizenships revoked that this would apply to, it is going to create delays and backlogs. In terms of the current processes in place, the Federal Court will examine appeals if the department errs in interpretation or application of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. A quote from the IRCC website, which details the current process of citizenship revocation, reads:

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (SCCA) introduces new grounds for revocation of citizenship and provides for a streamlined revocation process. Previously, the citizenship revocation process generally involved three steps: the Minister, the Federal Court, and the Governor in Council. Under the new revocation process, the Governor in Council will no longer have a role except for some transitional cases.

The new process has two decision-making streams:

the vast majority of revocation cases will be decided by the Minister;

certain complex cases will be decided by the Federal Court.

Note: The Case Management Branch handles all cases considered for revocation of citizenship. Local office staff are not involved with these types of cases, other than to alert the Case Management Branch should information come to their attention regarding a case that should be investigated for possible revocation.

As the IRCC website makes clear, under the current process, some special cases are sent to the Federal Court. The cases that currently go to the Federal Court are examined if IRCC erred in interpretation or application of IRPA. This is a particularly important caveat as it ensures that errors of the department do not lead to revocation; however, it also maintains that people are not incentivized to lie on their applications.

It is important to consider that the courts are facing serious challenges in terms of existing backlogs and hearings. These backlogs exist largely due to the fact that under the government there is a growing number of judicial vacancies, which have contributed to a large number of serious criminal cases being thrown out of court. We have not heard from the minister if he has actually worked with the Minister of Justice to figure how the volume, if the government decides to accept this amendment, is going to impact the backlog further or if she is going to somehow take action in appointing or expediting some judicial vacancies that are currently unfilled. This appeals process will likely put an excess strain on the courts, which are already strained by judicial vacancies.

To illustrate how problematic the issue of judicial vacancies are and for one to understand what the Federal Court ruling could impact, I want to read from an article in the Toronto Star, on August 11, 2016, which states:

...Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin linked the number of empty seats on federally appointed court benches across the country—44 at the moment—to unacceptable trial delays, especially in the criminal courts.

McLachlin said she has no argument with the Liberal government’s effort to overhaul judicial appointment processes across the country, but said “I hope we can find a way to bridge the gap while we’re perfecting the processes—but that’s in the government’s hands, properly, under our Constitution.”

Asked what options might bridge that gap, McLachlin emphasized “it’s not for me to tell the government how to appoint judges. That’s not my business. But there are names, I understand, that are in the system from the previous (judicial advisory) committees.”

She said it is the current government’s “prerogative to appoint in accordance with their processes” but added there is a pressing need for vacancies “be filled in a prompt manner.”

McLachlin made clear there is a lot at stake for the justice system, saying the vacancies are “a huge difficulty. It’s more than a challenge. It makes it very, very difficult to comply with the constitutional requirement that people be tried within a reasonable time,” she said in an interview at her office west of Parliament Hill.

McLachlin pointed to the Supreme Court’s July ruling in a case called R. vs. Jordan, a split 5-4 decision in which she dissented.

In the interview, she said the court addressed the “lamentable delays” in criminal trials. She said the decision was clear that “we have to have strict compliance with the constitutional right of people to be tried within a reasonable time,” adding that “this is going to be a challenge for the justice system in the years to come.”

The majority ruling warned past approaches to how the courts considered delays—based in part on the high court’s own rulings on issues of procedural fairness—have created a “culture of delay and complacency.”

It set out a new framework that set limits on how long the justice system should reasonably take from the laying of a criminal charge to the actual or anticipated end of a trial.

I just want to leave members with one quote from this article, which states:

[Justice] McLachlin said she first started expressing concern about empty seats on Canada’s courts in 2006 when “I think there were 35 vacancies and I said that was unacceptable at the time, and today there are—how many?—41?”

The issue of judicial vacancies is not something that is a partisan political construct. It is something coming out of a concern raised from groups such as police associations across the country and victims advocacy groups. The reason this is material to why I think the Senate amendment on the appeals process should be rejected by this place is that we have not addressed the issue of vacancies in the courts, and this will add a significant burden to the Federal Court process. We have not had the minister come in and talk about that important procedural component on how we will do this.

We have also had some discussion at committee on this. I believe my colleague moved a motion to study the issue of the resourcing of the Immigration and Refugee Board. We know that there are significant amounts of delays happening in that particular body. Why has the government not addressed this?

The point I am trying to make is that we have not had any material debate on these issues, either at parliamentary committee or in the House. The minister has not been out in the media on these issues. The ramifications of the Federal Court ruling and the Senate amendment that we are debating tonight, which I do not think the government has done a particularly adequate job of shaping, have huge impacts on the integrity of our immigration system in that it could incent people to lie on citizenship applications.

The integrity of our immigration system is currently threatened according to the findings of the Auditor General's report, for which the minister has not yet responded to the House or committee with respect to what the government is going to do to address that. There are also issues with respect to backlogs at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

There are issues with regard to resourcing in the Federal Court process. There are issues around the processing of ghost consultants. There are issues related to awareness campaigns on how people should be accessing immigration consultant support services. There are issues around the provision of benefits, and other rights and privileges afforded to Canadian citizens who may have obtained this through fraud.

The point I am trying to make is that there is so much to study here. This is not immaterial, yet the government has treated it as immaterial.

I have spoken for almost two and a half hours on this. There is more than two and a half hours' worth of study that is needed on this issue. We have not had this debate. The government cannot continue to come forward, say “Welcome to Canada”, and expect Canadians to say that everything is great when it is not putting material scrutiny or any sort of effort into addressing these challenges.

Oftentimes, one is arguing for or against immigration. I am arguing for an adequate process, with integrity. There are serious problems with it right now, as I have outlined in detail, that the government has not addressed.

What are we doing tonight? With the minister coming forward and saying that this is how he is going to alter this amendment and support it, he is saying, “I don't care about the rest of this stuff. We're just going to proceed.” I would like to tell him, let us put partisanship aside for a minute. Everyone here on this side is saying to take a bit more time. Get this right. If you do not get this right, there are serious implications not only for Canadians, but for people who are seeking to enter the country.

There are so many people who are trying to enter the country legally. We hear of spousal sponsorship, inland sponsorship, people who are waiting for years to come to this country, and they are doing it the right way. What we are debating tonight is something that incents people to do it the wrong way, without addressing some serious concerns. It is not the Conservative Party of Canada that is raising the issue—certainly we are shining a light on it tonight—but people like the Auditor General and Justice Beverley McLachlin. These are not partisan people. These are people whose job it is to raise issues. The minister has not responded to this.

Every once in a while, we have to take a bit more time in this place. That is why I had the right to speak as long as I did tonight. I feel it is very important to put on the record the fact that this particular amendment is so wholly inadequate. It has not been studied. Send this to a parliamentary committee. I would love to do a summer study on this. Let us have experts come in to talk about the implications of this ruling.

I would like to move an amendment. I believe my colleague, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, would be amenable to this.

I thank my colleagues for their indulgence. In closing, with an impassioned plea to my colleagues—I know I have spoken for a long time tonight—from the bottom of my heart, and I know it is June, we have to get our immigration system right. We cannot just keep saying “welcome to Canada” and not deal with these process gaps. That is the form and substance of my intervention.

Based on everything I have laid out tonight, I am very happy to sit here—adequately happy—and look at my colleague who is passing me a note, and implore the House to not support this amendment around the revocation of citizenship in cases of fraud. I think we all want to incent people to come to Canada the right way. I want to, from the bottom of my heart, encourage the minister to take the time to get this right, rely on parliamentarians to help him with the scrutiny of this—it would be great if he could come to committee once in a while—and to actually care about how we process citizenship in Canada.