An Act to amend the Citizenship Act

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

Sponsor

Ahmed Hussen  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of May 28, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to include, in the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, a solemn promise to respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

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.

January 28th, 2021 / 7:45 p.m.
See context

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux Chair, Governing Circle, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Thank you.

Ahneen. Good evening. My name is Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux. I am the chair of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation governing circle and an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I'm also a proud member and resident of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation in Lake Simcoe, Ontario. Together with the Chippewas of Beausoleil and Rama and the Mississaugas of Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island, we are signatories to the pre-Confederation 1923 Williams Treaties, signed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, which covered lands in different parts of south central Ontario.

First, I would like to acknowledge that I am also speaking to you from the original lands of the Chippewa. I want to thank the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for inviting the centre to appear in order to contribute to your study of Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. This is an important initiative, one that will breathe life into one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada as set out in its call to action number 94.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation would like to thank the Honourable Ahmed Hussen for sponsoring Bill C-99 on this matter and the Honourable Marco Mendicino for sponsoring Bill C-8 and its predecessor, Bill C-6. We encourage all parliamentarians to ensure that Bill C-8 receives royal assent during this parliamentary session. We applaud the effort to be more inclusive as a society, as part of the very act of welcoming people to become citizens of our country. This addition to the citizenship oath, one which “recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples”, is in the true spirit of reconciliation.

At second reading of this bill, Minister Mendicino stated that at the time of the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, too few Canadians knew about the tragedy of residential schools. He also noted, “Our government firmly believes that we must acknowledge the injustices of the past and envision a new relationship based on the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.” We agree, and note that considerable progress has been made towards creating awareness, developing a new relationship, and recognizing the rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as contained in section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. Indeed, much progress has been made in recognizing and upholding the international human rights of indigenous peoples.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the “framework for reconciliation”, as it supports the development of new relationships as described by Minister Mendicino, relationships based on co-operation and mutual understanding, as well as recognition and respect for the human rights of indigenous peoples.

In this regard, we would like to express to the federal government our support and appreciation for the introduction of Bill C-15, an act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was co-developed with first nations, Inuit and the Métis nation. Bill C-15 is itself a symbol of reconciliation and a new approach to the relationship. It is complementary to the aim of Bill C-8, to recognize and affirm “the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples”.

There is so much that we hope new citizens and all Canadians will understand about the history and relationship with indigenous peoples. This is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the information kit for newcomers and the citizenship test be amended to reflect a more inclusive history of the indigenous peoples of Canada, including information about aboriginal rights, treaties and the history of residential schools. Although Bill C-8 does not address needed changes to the information kit, we do hope this complementary policy action to support the intent of call to action number 94 will be undertaken by the Government of Canada. This type of education and awareness building is important work, as has already been stated.

It is important for newcomers to have an understanding of the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We need to build societal understanding about the rich, diverse and vibrant cultures and histories of the indigenous peoples in Canada. I myself have dedicated my life to building bridges of understanding among individuals and peoples. I see endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue. I remain deeply committed to public education and youth engagement from all cultures and backgrounds, and spend a considerable amount of time throughout the year delivering those kinds of educational processes to people across the country.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was established because of a shared vision held by those affected by the residential school system in Canada to create a safe place of learning and dialogue where the truths of their experiences are honoured and kept safe for future generations. They wanted their families, communities and all of Canada to learn from these hard lessons so that they would not be repeated. They wanted to share the wisdom of the elders and traditional knowledge-keepers on how to create just and peaceful relationships amongst diverse peoples. They knew that reconciliation is not only about the past; it is also about the future that all Canadians will forge together.

Bill C-8 is an important part of this journey we take together to create a brighter future for all Canadians.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its governing circle stand ready to support the government's reconciliation [Technical difficulty—Editor].

Meegwetch.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

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 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing her time with me and giving me this opportunity to debate Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, which was introduced by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

The bill amends the Citizenship Act to include, in the oath or affirmation of citizenship, a solemn promise to respect the aboriginal or treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, in order to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94.

My colleague already said the things I am about to say, but sometimes this government needs to hear things more than once. With respect to this bill, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said that, beginning in 2016, his department consulted the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, which represents indigenous signatories to Canada's 24 modern treaties.

As we can see, the wording of the oath in the bill is different from that suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The minister's reason for this is that the stakeholders did not agree on the wording and therefore the minister chose a text that better reflected, from the government's standpoint, the experience of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

This is another good example of the government thinking that it knows better than first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. This has been the approach of successive Liberal and Conservative governments over the years. They give out money. They offer programs to first nations and other groups and then dictate what they should do with it. The federal government always thinks that it knows best, it knows everything and it is the best. It thinks it knows the needs of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples better than they do. It thinks it knows their values and customs, but it is wrong every time. We need only think of residential schools, a sad chapter in Canadian history.

On the other hand, I am not surprised. Does this not remind members of something else? We saw the same sort of thing recently with the health transfers for the provinces. The Liberal government thinks it knows the needs of Quebec better than Quebec itself and is trying to tell Quebec how the money should be spent. I think that is basically a joke.

The Prime Minister did not listen when all the provinces called for an immediate, permanent increase in health transfers with no strings attached. Instead, he is persisting with his harmful obsession to interfere and decide how Quebec should spend its own money and with his idea of Canadian standards in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction.

The federal government needs to give Quebec the health transfers it needs to deal with the worst health crisis of the century without any strings attached. I want to emphasize that. Cuts to health transfers in the midst of a public health crisis make the situation worse and increase needs. Health transfers are essential. It is a matter of good management by the provinces for better quality of care and services.

This is the government's third attempt to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94. The ideas in Bill C-8 first surfaced in Bill C-99, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, in the 42nd Parliament. That bill was introduced on May 28, 2019 but never got past first reading. In the parliamentary session before this one, the Liberal government introduced bill C-6, which got just one hour of debate before dying on the Order Paper when Parliament prorogued.

That was done to silence parliamentarians and prevent them from getting to the bottom of the WE Charity scandal, an abuse of power on the part of the government as well as an ethical violation. WE Charity paid the Trudeau family, and the government gave WE Charity the contract for the Canada student service grant. What a way to manage things.

We hope the third time will be the charm, considering how long it is taking the Liberals to implement the recommendations of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

To date, only nine of the 94 calls to action have been acted upon, and this is the 10th. Fortunately, reconciliation with indigenous peoples is a priority for this government. Imagine what would happen if that were not the case.

To prepare to become Canadian citizens, all immigrants to Canada study a guide called “Discover Canada”. The guide ignores the fact that indigenous peoples are a source of law for Canada and states that the Canadian tradition of ordered liberty can be traced back to England, and not at all to the indigenous peoples of Canada who welcomed European explorers, helped them survive in this climate, guided them across the country and signed treaties with them to share their territories with the newcomers from Europe.

Call to action number 94 of the report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada states:

We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

As I was saying earlier, the wording we find in the bill we are debating today differs from call to action number 94. The government opted for the following wording:

I swear 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.

Passage of Bill C-8 would also make a change to the current affirmation and replace the following:

I 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 and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It will be replaced with the following wording:

I 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 fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-8 because we pledged to be an ally of first nations. This bill is a step toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. The established relationship of inequality has stripped indigenous people of the means to control their own destiny and fostered distrust for public services and the government.

What is more, the bill responds to call to action number 94 from the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It is important to note that, of the 94 calls to action, 10 have been completed since last September.

This bill would make newcomers to Canada aware of the reality of first nations and the constitutional nature of their rights when they become citizens. It would also spark a dialogue between newcomers and indigenous peoples on the history of the first nations.

For those reasons, we will vote in favour of Bill C-8.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

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

February 24th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to my constituents in Steveston—Richmond East, British Columbia, for having placed their trust in me by electing me as their representative in Parliament. I also want to thank my colleague from Dufferin—Caledon for sharing his time with me. I am honoured to serve my constituents in this Parliament.

I am here today to debate Bill C-6, an act to implement a change in the oath of citizenship in response to recommendation 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is an amendment to the Citizenship Act to include the promise to respect the treaty rights of first nation, Inuit and Métis people.

I found there is no logic in placing support behind this bill when it is so glaringly exclusionary of the many Métis, Inuit and B.C. first nations who are not under treaty rights. They do not have effective treaties in their respective areas. What purpose would the proposed changes serve for these individuals?

Our nation is a nation of immigrants who stand on the traditional territories of, and shoulder to shoulder with, first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Canada is one of the few countries in the world where indigenous rights and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution.

I believe that educating Canadians about these rights is an important part of the path to reconciliation. However, this education is already in effect. New citizens, having completed their residency requirements and having studied the handbook of history, responsibility and obligations, are expected to be aware of the rights entrenched within the Constitution. This gives them at least a general view of the spectrum of resolved and unresolved treaty rights in different parts of the country. In doing so, they develop respect for what is among Canada's existing body of laws and can appreciate the need to fulfill the remaining unfulfilled treaty obligations within the process of reconciliation.

Apparently the Liberal government believes Canadians to be so unsophisticated that they would find this task accomplished merely by adding 19 words in the oath of citizenship.

Over 30 years ago I came to Canada as an immigrant. I have taken the oath of citizenship to our great country. Other members in this House have done the same. I will now read the oath, which has stood unchanged since 1977. It states, “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The oath is simple. It represents the final step of the journey from initial entry to planting roots and eventually becoming a Canadian family member and citizen. The oath of citizenship need not be and should not be complicated, nor a thorough examination of the rights and obligations of what it is to be a Canadian. It is merely an affirmation of loyalty to the Queen of Canada, who is the head of state of our constitutional monarchy, and it is an affirmation to obey our laws and obligations as a Canadian.

Let me reiterate: The existing oath of citizenship already includes the promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada. These laws include the Constitution, and the Constitution recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people. To accept the proposed legislation is therefore unnecessarily redundant.

Therefore, I ask again: What is the purpose of this bill? As I have mentioned, along the way of becoming a citizen, a new immigrant must read materials relating to the origins of Canada, including materials relating to Canadian indigenous peoples. I believe Canada's indigenous peoples would be better served by emphasizing recommendation 93 and not 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action, thus strengthening this education.

I will now read out recommendation 93 of the TRC report:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.

My alternative to Bill C-6 is just this. Implementing recommendation 93 would go further to educating new Canadians about our history with first nations and the obligations the Crown has to them. Such content can also discuss part 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 35, which states, “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

It is because of the lack of forethought by the Liberal government that my initial reaction to this legislation was the same as when the government introduced it shortly before the election as Bill C-99, a mere three weeks before Parliament was to end.

That reaction was that this was yet another virtual signal by the Liberal government to talk big but not deliver. The bill is a half-hearted effort by the Liberals to distract from something real. The Prime Minister has recently fumbled a crisis of his own making and is desperate to take attention away from his own failings when it comes to Canada's indigenous.

Instead of empowering indigenous communities to act in their economic interests with Canada's vast natural resources, he waited until it was too late to respond, effectively siding with those who would keep our first nations impoverished to suit their own agenda.

Instead of getting on with the program and allowing the Coastal GasLink pipeline to proceed with construction, a pipeline that has signed agreements with all the elected band councils along the planned route, the Prime Minister instead spent significant time actively promoting the obstruction.

Like Albertans, our first nations people want to work. They want to do what is best for their generation and their future generations, and they both have had opportunities denied under the Prime Minister.

Instead of creating jobs, jobs have been lost. Because of indecisiveness on the blockades, Canada has lost the opportunity and the economic advantages provided by the Teck Frontier oil sands mine. This is not good for our country or those in the indigenous communities who actively want to see construction on resource projects proceed. Nor is it good for Canada.

Canada has a long and complicated relationship with its indigenous peoples. I readily agree that further steps are necessary to strengthen our relationship. Changing the oath of citizenship does not accomplish this task.

The leadership of the government has promised so many more sunny ways than it has delivered in any substantial form. Canadians deserve better than another empty promise made by politicians wishing to cater sympathetic favour and reduce proud citizens of this nation to tokens cynically used to curry political favour.

Bill C-6 is another example of more Liberal false and, dare I say, empty compassion, something of which I believe Canadians are getting very tired.

As a Conservative member of Parliament, I stand for the improvement of Canada. My party stands for the improvement of Canada. We represent the many Canadians who want better than a government that consistently fails in its mandate by changing the rules and not providing urgent or transparent actions to address the concerns of Canadians.

Simply put, the Liberal government does not act in the interests of making life for Canadians better. It merely pretends to do so.

In these last few weeks, the Prime Minister has been absent and indecisive as Canada has faced a unity crisis in dealing with the blockades. No matter the gravity of the issue facing Canada or the concerns of its indigenous inhabitants, the House has been served an appealing word salad in his responses. Similarly, the bill is but another response devoid of any substance.

I would like to know when the Liberal government will begin to take action to help Canadian indigenous peoples beyond its typical tokenism and pandering.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill we are debating today, Bill C-6, is essentially a reiteration of the 42nd Parliament's Bill C-99, which was never passed.

Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, proposes a change to the oath of citizenship set out in the schedule to the Citizenship Act under section 24. Clause 1 proposes amending the text of the schedule, or, in other words, it proposes new wording for the citizenship oath, including the solemn affirmation.

To quickly give a bit of context, I want to start by saying that Bill C-6 is based on consultations with immigrants and indigenous partners.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC, presented its six-volume final report, which contains 94 calls to action. For six years, the TRC heard from nearly 6,500 witnesses from across Quebec and Canada in order to shed light on the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation between indigenous peoples and other Canadians.

In response to the publication of that report, the federal government committed to implementing all calls to action within its jurisdiction. As I have already indicated, the amendment proposed in Bill C-6 addresses call to action number 94 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The wording in the commission's report is as follows:

We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

In 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada led discussion groups with well-established new immigrants about the wording of the oath of citizenship being proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in its calls to action. The response of the discussion groups seemed positive overall, but some participants indicated that the amended version of the oath should be accompanied by adequate training for newcomers on indigenous peoples and treaties. Others expressed concern about the change because it might set a precedent for other groups that may want to be mentioned in the oath.

In collaboration with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, IRCC also held consultations with the Assembly of First nations, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. It should be noted that the proposed oath in the calls to action also raised some concerns in the media. Some wonder whether citizens are able to faithfully observe the treaties concluded with the indigenous peoples. Others object to the fact that the oath makes no mention of the thousands of indigenous citizens who belong to non-treaty nations.

On May 28, 2019, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship introduced in the House of Commons Bill C-99, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, to amend the oath of citizenship and solemn affirmation, which requires that the Citizenship Act be amended. No changes have been made to the oath of citizenship in more than 40 years. It is important to know that the oath of citizenship is a solemn declaration whereby the candidate swears or pledges allegiance to the Queen of Canada. It is the last legal requirement to be fulfilled to obtain Canadian citizenship.

The wording of the oath of citizenship currently found in the schedule to the Citizenship Act is 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 and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

When the bill we are debating today is passed, the new wording of the oath of citizenship will be 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.

It is important to note that the proposed wording in Bill C-6 and in the old Bill C-99 differs from the recommended wording suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in that it refers not to treaties with indigenous peoples, but rather to the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Aboriginal rights are intrinsic collective rights held by indigenous peoples because they were historically the first to occupy this land. They can include aboriginal title to land, the right to self-government, the right to occupy a territory, the right to resources or socio-cultural rights. In contrast, treaty rights refer to rights set out in historical or modern treaties negotiated between the Crown and specific indigenous groups.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the legitimacy and importance of incorporating a reference to indigenous rights into the citizenship oath. We also recognize indigenous nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc advocates a comprehensive approach to government relations, focusing on negotiating nation-to-nation agreements. Recognition should be the starting point for any commitment to reconciliation.

However, although section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes existing aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not define the federation as a free association of equal nations. Unlike Canada's plan, Quebec's plan for independence, promoted by the Bloc Québécois, proposes that indigenous nations be counted among the founding peoples of a sovereign Quebec, which would be founded on a true association based on mutual respect and equality.

If Canada positioned itself as an association of free and equal peoples, it would be easier to ask newcomers taking their oath of citizenship to commit to respecting the fundamental rights of all founding peoples. Since Canada instead chose, without Quebec's consent, to position itself as a multicultural majority nation in which national cultures are reduced to regional folklore, the federal government's efforts to respect indigenous peoples are still somewhat awkward.

The Bloc Québécois does not oppose including the recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights in the oath of citizenship. We even commend the principle and sincere desire behind this act, but we want to point out that this addition constitutes a detour that would not be necessary if Canada was a state that recognized the nations that make it up in its fundamental legislation right from the start.

It is therefore only natural to wonder, with all due respect for the recognition of first nations, Inuit and Métis, what consideration the Liberal government is showing for Quebeckers when it proposes asking newcomers to commit to respecting the rights of the nations that together form their host society.

In closing, since the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-6, we will be supporting it.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

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.

Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Immigration

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-99, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

May 27th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Okay. The recommendation I have is basically in terms of the fees that are required. We heard from a lot of witnesses that although we're waiving the actual cost of the record suspension, there are other fees involved.

My recommendation is that:

After having studied Bill C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis, and having studied the Record Suspension Program pursuant to Motion No. 161, the Committee wishes to make the following recommendation to the Government:

That, given witnesses have expressed concerns about additional financial costs in the pardon application process, such as acquiring copies of court and police documents, and given that the Government has recognized the importance of reducing the financial burden of applying for a pardon as evidenced by Bill C-93's proposal to waive the $631 fee, the committee strongly encourages the Department of Public Safety and National Security to study further ways to reduce costs associated with applying for a pardon.