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—
John McCallum Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.
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.
December 7th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 16th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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.
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.
Director General, Admissibility, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
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.
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.
June 19th, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan
I have the honour to inform the House that, when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code—Chapter No. 13.
Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipStatements By Members
June 19th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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.
Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB
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.
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.
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.
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.