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

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

John McCallum  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things,

(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;

(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;

(f) change the process for the revocation of Canadian citizenship on the grounds of false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances; and

(g) remove the requirement that an applicant be 18 years of age or over for citizenship to be granted under subsection 5(1) of that Act.

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.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2020 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94).

The bill will change the oath of citizenship. The new oath will now read:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

As someone who emigrated to Canada, I know first-hand just how valuable and memorable the experience of taking the oath of Canadian citizenship is. That is why this bill is very close to my heart. When I came to Canada back in 1974, the wait for my citizenship felt like a long time.

The day I went to my ceremony was one of the happiest days of my life. I can still remember the building, the people who were sitting beside me and the colour of the carpet in the room. However, what I remember the most was the moment when I put my hand to the chest and swore the oath. I still think about that to this day, and what it meant to me.

When I speak to other new Canadians, I hear the same thing. The oath is the legal requirement to become a Canadian citizen, but it is much more than that for every newcomer.

To become a Canadian, I had to pass the citizenship test. That test would show I understood the history of Canada and what this country stands for. This was before Canada became one of only a few countries in the world where indigenous and treaty rights were entrenched in our Constitution.

Some of the questions on the citizenship test were things I had picked up over the years, and others were things I needed to study. Canada's relationship with its first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples was not something I was required to know. It was not something that came up often. Back then when people said “Indian”, it was unclear if they were talking about me or Canada's first people.

Let me tell the House about what I did know even back then. I knew about reserves, and I knew about poverty. Many of the homeless I would see in Toronto were, sadly, first nations people. I have learned a lot about Canada's indigenous people since that time, and about the struggles they still face.

For example, reserves to this day have boil water advisories that are decades old. Indigenous people represent only about 5% of the adult population in Canada, but make up 30% of the people behind bars. The lasting impact of residential schools and the mental health crisis has led many indigenous people to take their own lives. The housing crisis on reserves has forced people to live in rundown homes filled with black mould, threatening the lives of those inside.

I have learned much more since being elected. I wish I had known more. I am glad that schools in Ontario are now making sure that students are familiar with these topics. That was not the case when my children were in school.

There is a lot of ignorance about these issues, even though none of these issues are new. They span generations. Where progress has been made, it has come too slowly. Our new leader has said, “....all governments in our history have not lived up to what we owe our Constitution and indigenous Canadians.”

I want to be clear about this. Canada is the best country in the world and I am proud to be a Canadian. One of the things that makes Canada so great is that we consistently acknowledge our mistakes and fix them.

I was not a member of Parliament when it happened, but I remember when Prime Minister Harper offered a full apology on behalf of Canadians for the horrendous residential school system. The Conservative government also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which recognized that the Indian residential school system had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on indigenous culture, heritage and language.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action were first released, the member for Papineau, now the Prime Minister, committed to action immediately. He was later given a four-year majority government. When giving some of his first speeches, he talked about how important Canada's relationship with its indigenous people was.

There are 94 calls to action in the TRC report. Although we are implementing call to action 94 today, it is important that Canadians know that the progress the Prime Minister promised has been far from realized.

Four years of a majority government has yielded little progress. A 2019 report by the Yellowhead Institute says that by 2018, only eight calls to action had been implemented. That number increased to nine by the end of 2019.

One of the reasons the progress for Canada's indigenous people has been so slow is they are often treated as an afterthought by the government. It was only at the very end of the majority government that it even put the first version of this bill forward, Bill C-99. After the election, which saw the Prime Minister re-elected, the government put forward a new version of Bill C-6, only to start again. Then the Liberal government chose to prorogue Parliament, killing the bill on the floor of the House before it could come up for a vote.

I recognize that the bill would bring a lot of changes. After four years of the same old, I was pleased to see the bill reintroduced in the current session. However, I cannot stress enough that indigenous people need to see real action on mental health, incarceration rates, housing and much more. That is why it is important that we pass Bill C-8 quickly, as it would affect the lives of those struggling right now.

Some might say this move is only symbolic. I would say that symbols are incredibly important. There is only a problem if the government continues to deliver lip service to indigenous Canadians and not results.

If there are any concerns about the wording of the bill, I am sure we can come to a consensus at committee. It is very important that indigenous groups from across the country have their say. I recognize the committee has many restraints regarding witnesses, so I hope the Liberal government is engaging in consultations as we speak.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2020 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak in support of Bill C-8 on behalf of the NDP.

The NDP has consistently called for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. In fact, I tabled an amendment to revise the citizenship oath to recognize and affirm the aboriginal and treaty rights of the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in a previous immigration bill, Bill C-6, back in 2016. Sadly, that amendment was not accepted.

Even though this change was in the former minister's 2017 mandate letter, the Liberals failed to act until the dying days of the last Parliament, just before the 2019 election. As a result, the bill did not even make it to second reading.

The Prime Minister has claimed that the new relationship with indigenous peoples is his most important relationship, yet it has taken the minister three years to act on this priority from his mandate letter. I ask the members to think about it. It is astonishing that it has taken this long for the Liberals to act. There is simply no good reason for this not to be accomplished already.

The Liberals have missed the opportunity to ensure that the many new citizens who took their oaths since 2017 began their journey as Canadian citizens with a full understanding of our collective obligation to honour the rights of indigenous peoples. If it takes the Liberals this long to add a line to the citizenship oath, is it any wonder they are failing on their nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples on so many levels?

In 2017, when the Prime Minister declared, “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples”, all of Canada was hopeful. Perhaps we would finally be able to work on redressing this country's historical wrongs and heal the trauma caused by Canada's colonial history. Perhaps we would finally be on the right side of history and move forward with a new relationship that puts the rights of indigenous peoples front and centre. Sadly, the actions of the Prime Minister indicate otherwise.

All we have to do is take a good hard look at the lived experiences of indigenous peoples to know that Canada has failed and is continuing to fail to meet its obligations to indigenous peoples. Look at what is happening with indigenous children. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found Canada guilty of “wilful and reckless” racial discrimination by knowingly underfunding on-reserve child welfare services.

Why did it take 10 non-compliance orders against the federal government to force it to act? Why did Dr. Cindy Blackstock have to fight for so long and so relentlessly for the government to treat indigenous children fairly and equitably? Why is it that the basic human rights for indigenous peoples are so hard to honour for the Liberal government, and for the Conservative government before it? It is truly hard to comprehend.

Successive governments' foot-dragging in meaningful implementation and in upholding indigenous rights has had devastating impacts on the lives of indigenous communities across the land for generations, from the young to the old and all of those in between. We see the effect of this in our communities every single day. It is in the violence currently being committed against the Mi'kmaq fishers.

As stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they have the right to self-determination. This right was enshrined in the peace and friendship treaties and upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 by the Marshall decision. The Marshall decision affirmed their treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a “moderate livelihood” 20 years ago, yet successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have failed to negotiate with indigenous communities to define “moderate livelihood” and pave a path for indigenous fishers to fully exercise their rights, rights which are enshrined in Canada's Constitution.

How is this possible? Would anyone think, even for a minute, that, if this were a Supreme Court ruling for non-indigenous peoples, it would take more than two decades for the government to act? As a result of the inaction, the Mi'kmaq fishers are faced with violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism. Crimes were committed against them. People were injured, and they have suffered property damage.

Two weeks ago, the Liberal ministers agreed with the NDP that this warranted an emergency debate in the House of Commons, yet during the debate Liberal members voted against the NDP's unanimous consent motion to affirm the inherent rights of the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people. The Liberals have refused to confirm their rights, which are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and by the Supreme Court of Canada. They refuse to recognize that the Mi'kmaq nation deserves full and equal protection under the law from violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism.

Now, according to media reports, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs is alleging that the DFO is planning to seize the gear and traps of the Mi'kmaq fishers. Do the Liberals really think this is reconciliation? It is utterly shameful.

The Liberal government must stop making a mockery of the meaning behind this bill and act with integrity by taking real action to affirm the rights of all indigenous peoples. The Prime Minister must also pause and reflect on the message he is sending to young indigenous peoples when they witness the blatant inaction of the RCMP when it comes to ensuring the Mi'kmaq nation is afforded the same protection as everyone else.

This situation is more disturbing when compared to the situation of the Wet'suwet'en land defenders, where an ample number of heavily armed RCMP officers surrounded them as they attempted to assert their rights against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It was truly shocking to learn that the RCMP officers were instructed to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want.”

It is as though the 1997 landmark decision, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that the rights of the Wet'suwet'en nation had not been extinguished, did not exist. The Liberals are pushing ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline extension. The voices of the land defenders are being ignored. There is a total disregard for article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which explicitly outlines the need for the government to fully respect the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples when it comes to resource development on their land, including and especially when the answer is “no”.

When the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples are so blatant, how can the Liberals go on pretending that they are affirming the rights of indigenous peoples? Sadly, this kind of injustice is not new, nor is this kind of doublespeak.

My questions for the Prime Minister are theses: What will it take to stop the human rights violations against indigenous peoples? What will it take for him to internalize the fact that the trauma of such human rights abuses is intergenerational?

My colleague, the member for North Island—Powell River, shared the very real lived experiences of her children as indigenous peoples. No parent should have to see their children suffer under the weight of such systemic racism. No parent should have to fear for the safety of their children because they are indigenous, yet this is their everyday reality.

My constituents, who continue to witness this ongoing abuse by the government, are saying that reconciliation is dead. They see an unprecedented number of indigenous children being taken away from their families through the child welfare system. They see police brutality being levied against indigenous peoples. They see racism permeating the health care system. They continue to see indigenous women and girls go missing.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls determined that colonial structures and policies, which persist in Canada, constitute a root cause of the violence experienced by indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ2IA people. This violence, the report concludes, amounts to a race-based genocide against indigenous peoples, especially women, girls and 2SLGBTQ2IA people.

To remedy this and put an end to this Canadian genocide, the final report of the national inquiry put forth 231 calls for justice. When the final report on the national inquiry was released, the federal government promised that a national action plan would be in place on the anniversary of the annual release.

Families, survivors and indigenous organizations have emphasized the need for an indigenous women-led national action plan to implement the 231 calls for justice. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse, the national action plan has been delayed indefinitely. The longer the government stalls, the longer people suffer.

For example, many of the calls for justice include addressing racism in health care settings and hospitals. The disturbing death of Joyce Echaquan, an indigenous mother of seven children, after experiencing racist and derogatory treatment from health care staff in a hospital, is a sharp reminder that it is inexcusable for the Liberal government to delay the implementation of the calls for justice.

While the government is using the pandemic as an excuse for inaction and delays, the community has been advocating for real concrete actions to improve the safety and well-being of indigenous women and girls on the ground for decades. These include access to safe and affordable housing, reforms to the child welfare system, reforms to the justice system and policing, improving health care access for indigenous people as well as providing core funding support for providers of culturally sensitive and trauma-informed support in community services.

The pandemic is not an excuse to delay what should be a top priority for Canada. On the contrary, the pandemic is the reason to accelerate action. In fact, the pandemic has exposed many issues. Imagine what it is like to not have access to clean drinking water in a pandemic, yet the Liberal government has recently backtracked on its promise to end all drinking water advisories in indigenous communities by March 2021, which is only five months away.

Just last month, the Neskantaga First Nation's community was evacuated amidst a global pandemic after high levels of hydrocarbons were discovered in the water supply. While the government is using the pandemic as an excuse for the delays in fulfilling its promise, this situation was not caused by the pandemic. The community of the Neskantaga has been under a boil water advisory for 25 years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, access to safe water to meet hygiene needs is more important than ever. The pandemic should be a catalyst for urgent action rather than an excuse for delays. The health and safety of indigenous peoples matter. The lives of indigenous peoples matter.

Tied to the issue of clean drinking water is access to safe, secure affordable housing. Canada is struggling with a preventable affordable housing and homelessness crisis. The crisis impacts indigenous communities much more acutely due to the historic and ongoing displacement and systemic racism experienced by indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are 10 times more likely to become homeless than non-indigenous Canadians.

Indigenous communities in rural, urban and northern communities face some of the worst housing conditions in all of Canada. My colleague, the MP for Nunavut, went on a housing tour in her region. All the families she visited were living in overcrowded situations and all had serious problems with mould. Some homes were in such poor condition that beds were frozen to the wall.

Overcrowded homes and lack of housing means that many people are often forced to remain with abusers. Children are removed from their homes and families because there is no safe habitable housing available to families. As my colleague states, “Putting Inuit in situations where they are dying, getting sick or losing their kids because of inadequate housing is modern-day colonization.”

Urban and rural indigenous communities also face unique and drastic housing challenges. My riding of Vancouver East is one of the hardest hit by Canada's ongoing homelessness crisis, a crisis that disproportionately affects indigenous peoples.

Of all the community members currently living in the Strathcona Park tents right now, it is estimated that 40% of the residents are of indigenous ancestry, despite indigenous people only comprising 2.5% of the population of Metro Vancouver.

The lack of access to housing, a basic human right, is a root cause to the disproportionate number of indigenous children in care and removed from their families. It is a root cause of the violence experienced by indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. It is stressful, trauma-inducing and injurious.

It is simply incredulous that the housing needs for urban, rural and northern indigenous peoples were completely ignored in the national housing strategy. Despite all the talk over the years, there is still no plan for a rural, urban and northern indigenous housing strategy led by indigenous people for indigenous people.

The amended citizenship oath affirms what should have been true all along; that recognizing and affirming indigenous and treaty rights is at the core of fulfilling one's duties and responsibilities as a Canadian citizen. The government must act now to fulfill its own obligations to recognize and affirm indigenous and treaty rights.

While the amended Citizenship Act helps new Canadians better understand, we, at the same time, also have a crucial role to play in ensuring that Canada meets its obligation to indigenous peoples. It is treaties that give settler Canadians the privilege of living on indigenous lands and with that privilege comes the collective responsibility to commit ourselves to recognizing and affirming indigenous and treaty rights.

Justice Murray Sinclair summarized this obligation best, “Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem—it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us.” It is incumbent on the federal government to show that leadership every single step of the way. It is incumbent on the Liberal government to do better than what it has done so far.

Having only completed 10 calls for action is not good enough. Indigenous people should not have to continually wait for their rights to be honoured and for their basic human rights to be respected. Incremental reconciliation should not be the path forward. We need to see action and we need to see it now. We cannot allow for the pandemic to be that excuse. We need to accelerate the program and to move forward. Generations have been waiting for it. Indigenous peoples deserve better.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues. I am sure my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou will be pleased to be able to speak.

Today, I will be speaking to Bill C-8. Although part of my speech will focus on the substance of the bill, I would also like to talk a little bit about how the bill was introduced and debated, both during this Parliament and the previous one.

To begin, I will give a bit of not so ancient history about the government's desire to modify the oath of citizenship. This is not the first time that this bill has come before the House.

The changes to the citizenship oath, as set out in Bill C-8, were first introduced in Bill C-99 during the previous Parliament, the 42nd Parliament. That bill was introduced on May 28, 2019, shortly before the House closed down. Since Parliament was not set to come back until after the October 2019 election, it was reasonable to expect the bill to die on the Order Paper, which is exactly what happened.

Subsequently, a second version was introduced as Bill C-6 in the first session of the 43rd Parliament. Since the bill was being tabled at the start of the session this time, there was hope that it would not die on the Order Paper. As the ways of the House of Commons and the government are as impenetrable as prorogation is apparently inevitable, Bill C-6 died a premature death.

However, Bill C-6 did get one hour of debate. To ensure that it did not die in vain, I will provide a summary of the key points of said debate.

First, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship stated that in preparing the bill, his department had consulted the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, an organization that represents indigenous parties in Canada that are signatories to the 24 modern treaties. These consultations had begun in 2016.

Second, to justify the fact that the wording of the oath in the bill was different from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, the minister said that the parties consulted did not agree on wording. The department therefore chose to go with wording that better reflected the experience of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

Lastly, the minister clearly stated the intent of the bill, saying:

The purpose of this bill is twofold. First, our goal is to ensure that new Canadians recognize indigenous peoples' significant contributions to Canada. The government is also reaffirming its commitment to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples.

Based on how the bill has been managed over time, I do not think the government is in much of a rush to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The consultations with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples began in 2016, so it is a little surprising that the government did not introduce the first version of this bill for first reading until May 2019 and that it chose to do so at the end of the Parliament.

Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's report was tabled in June 2015, little has been done so far. Just 10 of the 94 calls to action have been implemented. It makes us wonder how willing the government is to take action on this matter. To ensure that the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's report is not just a cosmetic exercise, we must remember that even though every call to action is necessary, each individual call is not enough if it is implemented on its own.

If this is not due to a lack of haste and willingness on the government's part, we at least have to question the government's efficiency. For instance, why not graft the amendment of the oath of allegiance onto Bill C-5 regarding a national day for truth and reconciliation, the bill we just debated and passed at second reading earlier today?

Why did the government not propose amending the oath of allegiance in the 42nd Parliament, as part of Bill C-6, which also amended the Citizenship Act?

If a separate bill is required to implement each of the remaining calls to action, then we have a long way to go. We have every right to ask ourselves the following question: By addressing each call to action through a separate piece of legislation, in addition to rehashing them, is that also the government's way of trying to cover up the fact that its legislative agenda is pretty meagre, to say the least?

In short, either the government is not being very convincing when it says that first nations issues are a priority, or it is being not terribly effective or deliberately ineffective in order to hide another defect, that is, its legislative laziness.

That concludes the editorial part of my speech, and I will now turn to the substance of the bill.

It should come as no surprise that the Bloc plans to vote in favour of the bill. The Bloc Québécois has already made it very clear that we want to be an ally to first nations. In that regard, it is only natural that we support the implementation of one of the recommendations from the report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

As I already mentioned, even though each individual call is not enough when implemented on its own, every call to action is necessary, and I intend to vote in favour of a bill to implement this one.

Amending the oath of citizenship to include a promise to recognize the rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is a step in the right direction toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. First nations peoples are absolutely right to ask for a reference to indigenous rights in the oath.

Obviously, the Bloc Québécois supports a nation-to-nation approach. That is the approach that Quebec will take when it declares independence. Indigenous peoples will be equal founding peoples with us when we create the new country of Quebec.

In the meantime, we hope that this new version of the oath will raise newcomers' awareness of the reality of first nations and their history, but also their new country's shameful treatment of first nations in the past. This is an opportunity to open a dialogue between newcomers and first nations. They will be able to speak to each other as equal citizens so newcomers can learn more about not only the history of first nations, but also their contribution to society.

To prevent history from repeating itself, as it sometimes tends to do, we hope this knowledge of the past will better prepare us for the future.

I personally hope the government will ramp up its reconciliation efforts. If it does, it can count on the Bloc Québécois' steadfast support.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2020 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this bill before us has been in the making for five years. Back in 2016 the former minister, John McCallum, introduced Bill C-6, and at that point I made an amendment to bring in this change to that act. It did not pass. It did not get through the system, and so here we are, five years later, and it has taken the government this long to get to this place.

So, given this is where we are, there is a real serious question as to how the Canadian public and newcomers can take the government seriously with respect to reconciliation for indigenous peoples. As well, I am wondering what the minister is doing to ensure that newcomers have access to information so that they can learn about the history and internalize that history, so they can fully respect the human rights of indigenous peoples.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, for generations, Canada has welcomed newcomers from around the globe looking to arrive here and contribute to this great place we call home. Canada has openly welcomed people fleeing political, economic and social hardships as well as those looking for opportunities to better themselves and their families.

The multicultural mosaic of Canadian society has been shaped by people from all walks of life, who have chosen to live freely together to ensure peace and respect for all. In welcoming them to our beloved country, we look to continue and strengthen that tradition of diversity and inclusion for all who wish to call Canada home.

As we begin debate on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, we need to acknowledge Canada's colonial history. Embedded in that history are many chapters of how Canada legislated against and discriminated against the ethnic minority community.

The Chinese people who came before me helped Canada build the railway to connect this country from coast to coast. They went through hell to earn me the right to stand here today. They sacrificed everything, and some paid with their blood. They took on the most dangerous work to help build the railway and they fought for Canada, even though they were deemed “aliens”. They were discriminated against and mistreated in ways that make us hang our heads in shame.

I have learned from elders and heard stories of how it was indigenous peoples, who themselves were experiencing discrimination, who came forward to support the Chinese people. They helped them, housed them, fed them, clothed them, gave them medicine, offered a sense of belonging and treated them with humanity. In practice, they have shown the world again and again that the most important life lesson is humanity. This came from the very people who were experiencing colonization, people who suffered extreme hardships and discrimination themselves.

All of this is to say how very grateful I am to the indigenous peoples for their teachings, their kindness and their humanity. What a privilege it is for me to learn from them, to stand with them, to thank them, to appreciate them for the teachings that they have given to all of us. These are the teachings of lifting each other up, of being land defenders, the teachings that water is life and that mother earth is sacred. These are teachings of being united with one heart.

As a non-indigenous person, I stand as an ally. That is why the bill before us is so important. We, as settlers, must learn and understand Canada's colonial history.

The bill would change the text of the citizenship oath taken by new citizens of Canada to align with call to action 94 of the TRC and includes a reference to treaties with indigenous peoples.

The revised citizenship oath would read as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

I am proud to stand in this House in support of Bill C-6.

Taking the citizenship oath is a significant moment in a newcomer's journey to Canada. With that privilege comes responsibility. It is absolutely essential that new Canadians understand and respect the constitutional rights of all indigenous peoples, and in fact I would say it is every Canadian's responsibility to be educated about the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples.

For far too long, successive governments have made aspirational statement after aspirational statement about how they would build a new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, about how they would take reconciliation seriously, but as we know, broken promises and shameful disappointments always followed.

We have all heard that the current Liberal government would be different. We all wanted to believe that would be true. However, even the bill before us, which is a simple but important change, has been five years in the making, despite being cited as a top priority by the government. In the last Parliament, on May 3, 2016, I tabled an amendment at committee to make this change in another immigration bill that was also called Bill C-6. Unfortunately, the committee deemed my amendment out of scope, so it did not pass.

In the last Parliament, former MP Romeo Saganash wrote to the former minister of immigration in April 2017 to offer support and assistance from the NDP to realize this measure. This offer of collaboration was ignored. Even though this change was outlined in a mandate letter to the former immigration minister, no action was taken until the dying days of Parliament before the election. Bill C-99 did not even make it to second reading.

In that not-so-subtle way, it was clear the Liberals were merely trying to set the stage to say they did try to make this change for the upcoming election. If it takes the Liberals this long to add a line in the citizenship oath, is it any wonder they are failing so miserably on their new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples?

To date, there are only nine completed calls to action out of 94, and10 with this bill. For someone who claims this is his most important relationship, it sure as heck is moving at a snail's pace. That is 2.25 calls to action per year. At this rate, it will take approximately 38 years before all of the calls to action are implemented. That would mean reconciliation in 2057.

Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby, academics at the Yellowhead Institute, called the Liberals' track record on the TRC calls to action “dreadful progress.”

Canadians are coming to terms with our colonial history and want a Canada where the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized and respected. The Liberal government is continuing to deliberately disadvantage indigenous peoples, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast are noticing. In our country, a shocking 25% of indigenous people are living in poverty, despite making up only 5% of Canada's population. This figure is even worse for indigenous children, with 47% living in poverty, and this figure rises to 53% for children on reserves.

We continue to see indigenous peoples getting poisoned because they do not have access to clean drinking water. What is a necessity for every other Canadian is not afforded to some indigenous communities. What is a basic human right is being trampled on for indigenous peoples.

It is disgusting that indigenous children are being brought to court by the Liberal government. There have been nine non-compliance orders, yet 13 years later the Liberal government continues to appeal a Human Rights Tribunal ruling that it has “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against indigenous kids. First nations children have been harmed by the severe underfunding of the on-reserve child welfare system and are now being punished by continued government neglect. Instead of providing funding to support indigenous peoples, the government has spent almost $10 million on legal fees in the war to deny rights to indigenous kids. If the nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples is the Liberals' most important relationship, then why will the Prime Minister not honour the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and stop taking indigenous kids to court?

At the forefront of our nation, we continue to see this colonial approach by the government in addressing the Wet'suwet'en protests. The Prime Minister's comments on Friday were reckless and irresponsible. He said, “Every attempt at dialogue has been made.” What a joke. Right from the beginning, he was trying to avoid any accountability.

He refused to meet with the hereditary chiefs when they made the request to him weeks ago. Up until February 18, he did not even recognize the dispute as a nation-to-nation one. Now he has the nerve to say that patience has run out. Never mind the fact that indigenous peoples have waited 150 years for justice.

This is a failure of leadership. It is a failure of reconciliation. It is time for the Prime Minister to realize that every attempt at dialogue has not even been close to being made. A comprehensive, credible plan for de-escalation and dialogue is required in order for meaningful dialogue toward a resolution to take place.

The hereditary chiefs have said they will not negotiate with a gun to their head. They want the RCMP to stand down and the project to halt.

Given that Coastal GasLinks' final technical data report has been rejected by the B.C. environmental assessment office, this is an opportunity for all levels of government to de-escalate. The government should seize this opportunity. The Prime Minister said that the onus is on the hereditary chiefs. I say the onus is on him.

His irresponsible words on Friday only served to inhibit progress for a peaceful resolution. He should check himself. He should heed the words that are being added to the citizenship oath for newcomers and take to heart Canada's obligation to the rights of indigenous people under section 35 of the Constitution, which clearly states that “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

The Prime Minister should also know that section 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly upholds the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Based on Canada's highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, the landmark Delgamuukw decision has reaffirmed the rights of indigenous peoples.

When people throw the words “rule of law” around, they need to consider all laws. Canada needs to stop using the rule of law as a weapon against indigenous peoples. Canada needs the Prime Minister to warrior up, and show some real leadership.

I will also remind everyone that Canada refused to acknowledge indigenous titles some 40 years ago under Pierre Elliott Trudeau's government.

Former justice Thomas Berger was appointed by then Indian affairs minister Jean Chrétien to lead a public inquiry into the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. Thomas Berger said, “In my judgment, we must settle native claims before we build a...pipeline.“

Canada is at a critical time in our history.

Remember the Liberal election campaign? “Choose forward” they said. Is this going forward? At a time when it is most critical for the government to firmly reinforce its commitment to indigenous reconciliation, the Liberals are going to delay the introduction of UNDRIP. Delaying the introduction of UNDRIP in the House at this time sends a clear message of what the Prime Minister is all about. Time and again, when it comes right down to it, indigenous rights are always put on the back burner. Justice for indigenous peoples can wait. That is the message from the Prime Minister.

To further add fuel to the fire, we are hearing language from the Conservatives that has not been helpful. The more they denounce indigenous protesters as lawbreakers and radicals, the more they serve to inflame the situation.

Recent comments by Peter MacKay, a leadership hopeful for the Conservative Party, promoting vigilante action by congratulating far-right groups that have associations with yellow vest protesters, were highly irresponsible. Congratulating these far-right groups that have outright called for acts of violence against protesters will only contribute to worsen the situation. It is so disappointing to hear a leading Conservative leadership candidate take this approach.

In addition to that, the current Conservative leader, who advocates that enforced violence is the best solution, has the audacity to tell indigenous protesters to “check their privilege”.

A reply from Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en camp of Wet'suwet'en members, may have put it best, when she said, "All of Canada is subsidized by Indigenous people. All Canadian industries and transportation infrastructure rely on the theft of Indigenous land for their existence...Calling Indigenous land defenders 'privileged' when so many of our communities are denied basic human rights and services is racist and absurd."

We see time and again everyone citing the rule of law, but whose version of the rule of law are we following? The government cannot pick and choose which laws to follow and which laws to ignore. Will the rule of law continue to be only used as the government's self-serving cause or will it finally acknowledge Canada's colonial history, the precedent-setting landmark decisions that defended indigenous rights such as Delgamuukw?

This is about the perpetuated discrimination and mistreatment to which indigenous peoples have been subjected for over 150 years.

Look around at what is happening. This past weekend in Toronto, thousands of people stood in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people. In my riding of Vancouver East, we had countless rallies as well. We had a rally at Vancouver City Hall organized by Dakota Bear and his family, where scores of people gathered to stand in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en peoples.

The message is loud and clear. The time has come for Canada to be on the right side of history. UNDRIP has to be entrenched in the path forward for Canada in action. To quote statements made by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip to the media:

The challenge here is to move beyond public platitudes and eloquent rhetoric about the intention of implementing the United Nations Declaration, both federally and provincially. It has to be followed through with the work of legislative reform, policy development and rules and regulations that stipulate very clearly how the entire population — both hereditary and elected band council — are able to participate in an exercise to register their support or disapproval of large-scale resource development projects.

We're not there yet. And again, corporations and governments attempt to take the shortcut and we find ourselves in the courtrooms, we find ourselves on the land, upholding and defending Indigenous law.

He further stated that:

...reconciliation cannot be achieved at gunpoint. And we cannot achieve reconciliation by throwing matriarchs and elders and children in jail. We cannot achieve reconciliation by choppering in paramilitary RCMP forces in full battle gear, surrounding encampments....

I can tell you, if choppers start landing in your backyard and teams of heavily-armed police start running through your front yard and dragging you out of your home, you'd be a little upset.

This is Canada's history. This is colonialism. This is a history that newcomers must learn. This is a history that all Canadians must take to heart. This is a pivotal time for the Canadian government to prove its commitment to indigenous people, to prove that it takes reconciliation seriously, and to prove once and for all that it will honour the rights of indigenous peoples and work with them in equal footing in the new nation-to-nation relationship.

Again, quoting Grand Chief Stewart Phillip:

The law clearly states that not only must there be substantial and thorough consultation, but there must also be consent. It must involve both parties, both elected and traditional.

This is a test of the government's will make to good on its promises. I call on the Prime Minister to seize this opportunity of not just committing to Bill C-6, but committing to a truly reimagined nation-to-nation relationship where indigenous children are not taken to court, where UNDRIP is finally implemented and carried out in action as promised, and where he takes personal action in accountability to engage with the Wet'suwet'en people. We are all waiting for the government to do the right thing by honouring indigenous rights, respecting sovereignty and treating all peoples, including indigenous peoples, with basic human rights. The time to act is now, and the world is watching. Let us not just say to new Canadians what it means to honour the rights of indigenous people; it is time for the government to take those words to heart and act accordingly.

The NDP supports Bill C-6 and we consistently call for the full implementation of all of the TRC's calls to action. The NDP honours the work of Justice Murray Sinclair, Dr. Cindy Blackstock and my former colleague, MP Romeo Saganash. In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, “The road we travel is equal in importance to the destination we seek. There are no shortcuts. When it comes to truth and reconciliation, we are forced to go the distance.”

It is time for all levels of government to go the distance.

April 29th, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I do support this motion. I just want to put a couple of pieces of information on the table.

It's my understanding from the finance committee that they're not sure when they're even going to get to the immigration component of the bill, which suggests there's not going to be a lot of time allocated at the finance committee for study. I'm not certain the finance committee members even have an understanding of when or who the immigration officials will be who are to appear. I think the finance minister will probably be hard pressed to answer a lot of the questions that I think we all have on this particular issue.

I'll just make this note. In the 42nd Parliament, I believe this committee has only dealt with one piece of legislation, Bill C-6. There was another motion that we dealt with, and I think that was it.

In terms of reviewing government legislation from a legislative perspective, this committee's been pretty light. There are a lot of substantive changes in both of these divisions in the bill that I would have specific questions for the government on, so I think it would behoove us to take this on and prioritize that review.

I'm happy to let the government members.... I'm not sure, Chair, but I would presume that they're just going to adjourn the debate on this motion. I hope not, but I think even just two hours.... This is weighty stuff, and there are a lot of different groups that I know want to testify on this and who have varying opinions on it. I think, given that we have not really reviewed legislation.... Really the only legislation that this minister has introduced—I guess he's not introducing it, because it's the finance minister introducing it in the House.... To have it not come to the committee, you know, would be a real change, I guess, so I would encourage my colleagues to support this motion, and on behalf of the Conservatives, I would say that we wholeheartedly support it.

December 7th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Dr. Harpreet Kochhar Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you, Chair.

We have seen a significant increase since Bill C-6 came into force. The numbers have doubled or tripled over the weeks, but now it is coming to a plateau. We put in place enough—

December 7th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

I have one very small question, Minister.

I know Bill C-6 went into implementation this fall. Can you indicate to us how that's progressing and what kind of reaction you've had from those who are being assisted by Bill C-6?

Opposition Motion—ISIS Fighters Returning to CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

I rise in support of my colleague's motion to condemn ISIS terrorists and their supporters and to call on the Liberal government to not allow Canada to become a safe haven for terrorists.

As I have said in this place before, the top priority of the House must be the protection of all Canadians. The protection of our people should be placed ahead of political manoeuvring and should be of top concern for all members of Parliament regardless of their party.

This view is shared by my Liberal colleagues on the public safety and national security committee, who earlier this year endorsed a national security report that stated, “National security is one of the most fundamental duties—if not the most fundamental duty—conferred upon a government.” On the issue of Canadians who have left Canada to join ISIS and are now returning to Canada, the Liberal government is failing to meet the national security report standard.

The government's threat level is currently at medium as a result of growing terrorist attacks and threats globally and here at home. A medium threat level is where a violent act of terrorism could occur.

A 2016 CSIS publication titled “The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon and Related Security Trends in the Middle East” stated clearly, “One does not have to speculate terribly much to see the potential threat from ISIL to the West given its vast cadre of foreign fighters native to, or previously resident in, those countries. This unprecedented pool of foreign recruits suggests that ISIL would certainly have the capability to undertake...attacks”.

We owe it to those who sacrificed and fought to protect Canada from threats both foreign and domestic. Our armed forces, our veterans, our police, and our national security agencies have paid a price to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. We owe it to every Canadian to ensure that all reasonable and lawful measures are taken to protect our nation from the threat of those who would do us harm and compromise our national security.

Let us be clear. Canadians are strongly opposed to welcoming terrorists back to Canada. We should not mince words, ISIS fighters are terrorists. They are people who have publicly beheaded Canadians and other westerners. They have burned other human beings alive. They have drowned people in cages. They have thrown people off buildings for simply being who they are. They have raped and enslaved women and girls. There appears to be no manner of unspeakable atrocities that ISIS terrorists would stop at to harm those who are not deemed to be true believers.

If we as a House cannot come together to condemn ISIS and their atrocities, if members of the House cannot stand against oppression, slavery, murder, and war, if we cannot agree to oppose the annihilation of the freedoms of worship, belief, and association, then the House has lost its moral compass and its moral authority. ISIS terrorists stand against everything we as Canadians hold as fundamental to our way of life, the very foundations of our society.

There are clear tools to deal with these threats however. Canadians who attempt to travel to join ISIS are recognized and have been convicted under the Criminal Code for treason, which is a crime against our society and our country. Canadians who participate with ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups that seek to kill and destroy all who oppose their strict doctrine and beliefs, are in reality committing treason against Canada, and there are charges that can be levied in Canada for returning ISIS terrorists as well. That is treason.

In Canada there are two criminal charges of treason. The first is high treason, which is defined under Section 46 of the Criminal Code as being those who levy war against Canada or assist an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are. In my view, this describes those Canadians who have taken arms and joined with the radical ISIS terrorist groups to attack humanity

There is also the charge of treason, which includes those who in Canada conspire with any person to commit high treason or to do anything to use force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Canada. In fact, the Criminal Code is explicit that for Canadian citizens, treason applies while in or out of Canada.

There is another tool for the government to use to help protect the security of our country. That would be to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens who have travelled overseas to join or to commit terrorist acts. When the Liberals passed Bill C-6 in June 2017 they removed the authority to strip dual citizens of their Canadian status if convicted of terrorism, treason, or espionage. Therefore, today, we cannot stop these people from returning, and we cannot deport them either. Moreover, as Canada falls behind other western countries in taking away citizenship from these terrorists and extremists, it makes Canada the destination by default for anyone with Canadian citizenship.

Canadians oppose ISIS terrorists returning to Canada, or rejoining our society. These terrorists have, by virtue of participation and their acts against others, forfeited that right. Based on the law of armed conflict, ISIS terrorists are legitimate targets for such a time as they take part in hostilities at both the operational and tactical levels for international engagement for Canadian soldiers.

Stuart Hendin, a lawyer and instructor at the Royal Military College, and the Canadian Forces College, was explicit that the government can target ISIS, Canadian or not, who are engaged in conflict. Unfortunately, unlike many of our allies, Canada, under the Liberals, has withdrawn from this active conflict. If the government will not stop this evil from returning to Canada, will it not vigorously pursue charges of treason? If we are going to provide funding to reform ISIS collaborators, something the Minister of Public Safety has admitted has a very low probability of actually occurring, let it be from behind bars. Let them begin to repay their debt to humanity as soon as they set foot back on our soil. We should treat ISIS terrorists as the criminals they are. Should they receive any support from the taxpayer, whether to de-radicalize or reintegrate, let that funding flow through Correctional Service Canada.

There can be no forgiveness without repentance. The Bible says in Luke 17:3, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” All who have supported and fought for ISIS are rebuked by the citizens of Canada, if not by the government. For Canadians linked to ISIS, let them serve a sentence in Canada and do their penance, under far more generous conditions I might add than under the oppressive regimes they support. Only then should there be forgiveness and acceptance into our society.

The minister and his parliamentary secretary have said all that can be done is being done. However Canadians are confused about the government's position and actions regarding these terrorists. On November 23, the media asked the Minister of Public Safety directly if passports were being taken away, if names were being added to the no-fly list, and if these people were neutralized in terms of a threat. The minister says that steps are beginning to be taken and that all Canadians can be assured they are safeguarding the security of the country. While I and my colleagues appreciate that disclosing specifics on security operations would be counterproductive, the minister's comments that steps are beginning to be taken are not a strong reassurance to Canadians that the Liberal government is on top of this issue.

What I will commit to with the Minister of Public Safety and the government is we will work together to get this issue of national security and public safety right for the best interests of all Canadians.

October 19th, 2017 / 10 a.m.
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Marta Morgan Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear once again before your committee in order to further discuss the Auditor General's spring 2016 findings regarding citizenship fraud.

My colleagues and I will be very happy to answer any of your questions following my brief opening remarks.

Mr. Chair, as you know, in May 2016 the Office of the Auditor General presented a number of findings regarding the detection and prevention of fraud in our citizenship system, and made seven recommendations for improvements in the areas it examined.

Along with the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, IRCC agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and last year we shared our management action plan with this committee.

Stemming from the Auditor General's recommendations, this committee provided eight recommendations of its own, to which responses were provided earlier in the year.

Our management action plan established 23 actions to be taken to improve fraud management, including some activities that were scheduled to be completed by the end of March of this year.

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to report that all actions in the IRCC management action plan have been completed, and ongoing activities continue to receive appropriate attention and resources.

For example, in the spring of 2016 we updated the instructions on creating, updating, and maintaining problematic addresses in the global case management system and centralized the responsibility for the maintenance of such addresses within a single division of our department.

To mitigate the risks identified by the Auditor General, the instructions in the standard operating procedures to systematically enter and update problematic addresses are very detailed. Quality control exercises have subsequently demonstrated areas where staff are adhering to the standard operating procedures and areas for improvement, which have led to further refinements in processes.

We have made improvements on managing fraud risk through internal controls and information sharing, and we are committed to continuously monitoring and improving fraud controls.

We have improved information sharing with the RCMP and CBSA by formalizing practices, by issuing operational bulletins and instructions, and by updating memorandums of understanding.

Although the Office of the Auditor General did not find a significant amount of fraud in the citizenship program, it did find that IRCC was unable to demonstrate the effectiveness of its fraud controls. Since the release of the OAG' s report, we have made significant progress in assessing the effectiveness of these fraud controls. All of the risk indicators have been reviewed using a statistically valid sample of files to verify if they were consistently applied and effective at detecting fraud. We found that risk triaging was consistently applied in 85% of the cases. We have eliminated the risk indicators that were not effective. We have adjusted the remaining indicators to further improve their efficiency, and we have ensured that they are being consistently used. Also, quality assurance exercises have shown that our officers' decisions are typically sound, and that they demonstrate good compliance with fraud detection procedures.

The ongoing implementation of some provisions of Bill C-6 will help us to better detect and prevent citizenship fraud in ways recommended by both the OAG and this committee. For example, the bill's introduction of a document seizure authority, which is expected to be brought into force by the Governor in Council next spring when required regulatory amendments are expected to be in place, responds to the Auditor General's finding of inconsistent practices for dealing with suspicious documents. These provisions will be supported by regulations that provide officers with the process and terms that must be followed once a decision is made to seize suspected fraudulent documents, and with the authority to share the seized documents, as required, with the CBSA.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada takes citizenship fraud and program integrity in general very seriously. The Office of the Auditor General has noted that IRCC has implemented a number of measures aimed at better detecting and preventing fraud in its programs, including the citizenship program, and has continued to conduct various program integrity activities.

In accordance with our citizenship program integrity framework, IRCC has established baselines to monitor refusals and fraud controls. As I mentioned earlier, we have reviewed and assessed risk indicators to verify if they are being consistently applied and if they are effective at detecting fraud.

We have also established a new random selection process to continuously monitor existing fraud controls and identify emerging fraud.

In addition to the fraud controls examined by the Auditor General, IRCC has access to CBSA's border passage history checks to view applicants' entries to Canada, and we have established expertise in each region to deal with exceptional cases and to better detect patterns of fraud.

Mr. Chair, my intention with these brief opening remarks has been to offer committee members a broad overview of this topic.

My colleagues and I will now be pleased to respond to questions from the committee, and to go into greater detail on any topic that members would like to further explore.

Thank you.

October 16th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Penny Walsh McGuire Executive Director, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce

I'm Penny Walsh McGuire. Walsh McGuire is the last name. Thank you.

Good evening, Chair, vice-chairs, and members of the standing committee, as well as fellow witnesses.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee on this important topic of immigration in Atlantic Canada.

The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce serves as the voice of business, providing services, opportunities, and advocacy support for members to enhance their ability to do business. With close to 1,000 members, the chamber reflects a diverse network of businesses from almost every industry sector and profession. I can say that diversity has been an area of growth, with close to 10% of our members' businesses being newcomers to Canada in the last five years.

Since 2011, the chamber has operated the P.E.I. connectors program. You may be very familiar with this. I think there are 23 programs operating across the country. We operate a province-wide initiative. It really extends advisory, networking, and professional development services to immigrant entrepreneurs and investors. Our clients are primarily provincial nominee program applicants. In 2006 we served more than 500 entrepreneurial clients, who were at various stages of their business launch. We also are exploring a number of employment development initiatives for both newcomers to P.E.I. and new graduates. One of our top policy priorities is population growth, so essentially what I'm confirming for you is that, as a chamber of commerce, we're very much invested in the topic.

Like many of our neighbouring provinces, P.E.I. is getting older. In 1971, the median age of Islanders was just under 25, and now we see it closer to 44. We are the youngest province in Atlantic Canada, but we're three years older than the Canadian average and six years older than our prairie cousins. I won't belabour stats too much, but give a little more background for those on the line.

While indicators suggest that the trend is starting to reverse, attracting and retaining immigrants must be at the core of future population growth in P.E.I. International migration remains an important factor in population growth and labour market development for Prince Edward Island. At a rate of 13.6 per 1,000, our province has the highest immigration rate in the country. Those were early spring figures; it could be higher now. We were tied with Alberta, and we do have the highest immigration rates in Atlantic Canada.

Of course we're proud of this expanding immigration story, but one challenge for P.E.I. and many other jurisdictions across the region and the country is around retaining new residents. At present, we retain only 38% of our immigrants over the long term. Long term has been defined as, I think, around five years. Many leave P.E.I. after two years.

The province's action plan for population growth focuses on maximizing retention rates for new immigrants and keeping our youth and our skilled workforce here.

I want to touch on one area that I feel Atlantic Canada is well positioned to succeed in, and that is the retention and recruitment of international students. Obviously, international students are particularly desirable because of their age, skills, and their economic impacts as students. I would be remiss to not mention and recognize the international graduate stream through the Atlantic immigration pilot program. This has, I think, a huge opportunity and potential for our region. I'm suggesting, in speaking to my colleagues at the province, that next year would be the earliest we would see major impacts, simply because the program was launched in March.

With that, I think a few barriers still exist for students, and we do hear this. The Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce was pleased to co-sponsor a national resolution with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce in support of giving students more pre-graduate experience, because we continue to see that our employers are demanding that from graduates. We're just going to touch on a couple of areas.

We're looking at recommendations for considering international students having the option to qualify for the Canada summer jobs program. That experience is key. We were lucky to be the recipient of a Canada summer jobs grant this summer, but all the international student applicants who came into our search were not eligible.

I think another area would be to modify student permits to allow international students to participate in co-op terms and internships without obtaining a separate work permit.

There are a few other areas, and maybe I'll touch on them, but in the interest of time I think that pre-grad work experience is key. I want to recognize Bill C-6 is certainly a start to how international students can really be a more important part of our recruitment and retention effort in Canada.

I will also touch on the Atlantic immigration pilot program. I did note that there was an interest in talking about this. I think generally it is obviously still early days, but we are seeing some success. I think we're the second or third largest chamber in Atlantic Canada, tied with Fredericton usually. We have heard from a lot of our members who are interested and excited about this. In speaking to the province's immigration office, they are quite confident that we are going to hit our targets for the first year of the pilot. We have certainly heard a lot of success stories.

One concern we do hear, and we hear this maybe more on the settlement side, is about the obligations and the understanding of the resources needed for an employer to truly support a new employee through this program—really that you're supporting the integration of that individual, not just in your workforce but in the community. Although we think it's an excellent approach still providing a customized opportunity for Atlantic Canada, we have heard some concerns from employers on the settlement side. Our settlement agency does an excellent job, but this is a new initiative and probably employers need to understand what is required of them.

I won't say a whole lot more on that other than—

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipStatements By Members

October 5th, 2017 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize another significant promise fulfilled by our government. We have heard loud and clear from Canadians about the significant hardships they have faced on their journey to citizenship, due to unnecessary barriers created by the previous government.

Yesterday, I was proud to join my colleagues from Brampton and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in Brampton to announce that effective October 11, changes will be implemented to ease barriers for future Canadians on their quest for citizenship. The physical presence requirement for citizenship will be reduced to three out of five years, and the age range for knowledge and language requirements will be returned to 18 to 54 years.

These changes, along with those previously announced in Bill C-6, will help residents of Brampton West and across Canada reunite with their families, contribute to our society, and reaffirm that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

October 5th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Director General, Admissibility, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Mieke Bos

I have heard those stories with the scenario you are referring to, but this falls outside of my area of expertise. The entry-exit information will apply to everyone leaving Canada, which is information that we currently don't have. The purpose of this information is for us to establish whether the clients applying for permanent residency or citizenship have met the residency requirements. We are legislated to do that.

The committee will have followed the Bill C-6 proceedings. Bill C-6 will come into effect shortly, and it determines exactly what the residency requirements are for future citizens. As I explained before, currently we rely on the information from the client. The vast majority of clients are entirely legitimate, of course, but there are cases of abuse, so this allows us to objectively verify when applicants were in Canada and when they left.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

October 4th, 2017 / 2:50 p.m.
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Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills for her incredible advocacy on so many important files.

In one week from today, on October 11, key changes to the Citizenship Act resulting from Bill C-6 will come into force. We delivered on a promise we made to Canadians to repeal the unfair two-tiered citizenship provisions brought in by the previous Conservative government.

We know that one of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship. We know diversity is our strength, and for this side of the House, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.