Mr. Chair, honourable members, my name is Mark Davidson and I am the director of legislation and program policy in CIC's citizenship branch.
As you can imagine, I have followed the work of this committee closely over the past several months as you have been exploring issues of citizenship loss. So, I am pleased to be here, along with my colleagues, to help to answer questions you might have.
With me, as I mentioned, is Clark Goodman, who is the registrar of Canadian citizenship. We also have Rose Ann Poirier, from our case processing centre in Sydney; Rosemarie Redden and John Warner, from our case management branch; Margaret Dritsas, who is the nationality law adviser in my group; and Eric Stevens, from our legal services unit.
Mr. Chair, you heard from a number of witnesses who have testified about discovering they are not Canadian citizens. Some of them, like Mrs. Barbara Porteous, were born outside Canada but have lived most of their lives here. Witnesses such as Mrs. Porteous have told you their stories and of their shock at discovering they do not have the citizenship they believed they had.
Mr. Chair, I can certainly empathize with them. They have lived in Canada most of their lives, worked, paid taxes and participated in the lives of their community.
Their emotions upon discovering they are not actually citizens are perfectly understandable. l'm sure I'd feel the exactly the same way if I were in their shoes. You have heard from other witnesses whose lack of citizenship was not a surprise, but who nevertheless feel they have a legitimate claim to Canadian citizenship.
Mr. Chair, the testimony you've heard speaks volumes to the value that people do place on Canadian citizenship. It also highlights the fact that every case is different, that every person's story is unique.
The dilemma we as public servants face is that while every story is unique, the rules and the law are constant. As public servants, the decisions we make are, for the most part, framed by legislation approved by Parliament.
As you well know, there are two key pieces of legislation governing citizenship: the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947 and the Citizenship Act of 1977, which replaced it.
Our job as public servants is to apply these pieces of legislation to the circumstances of individual cases to the best of our abilities.
Some of the laws passed by Parliament, particularly with regard to the 1947 act, might seem a bit archaic by today's standards. Provisions that limited the ability to pass on citizenship to a child born outside of Canada, depending on whether the father or the mother was Canadian, or whether the parents were married at the time of the child's birth, strike me as a very good example of that. But it is not our role, as civil servants, to stand in judgment of why the laws of the day were enacted. They were the laws of the day, and the role of civil servants is to evaluate cases on the basis of the applicable law.
When Parliament approved the 1977 Citizenship Act, it recognized that despite efforts to make the rules fair, there would be situations where the impact on certain individuals would not seem fair at all, so the act gives the minister discretionary authority under subsection 5.(4) to grant Canadian citizenship upon the approval of the Governor in Council, also known as the GIC.
When the minister appeared here in February, she made it clear that she was making it a priority to review the cases of people who did not have the citizenship they thought they had or felt they merited. She stated that she was prepared to use the authority the legislation provides her to grant citizenship where it is merited.
The minister has instructed us to bring forward cases where these individuals have demonstrated they have a significant attachment to Canada, have lived here most of their lives, and thus merit consideration for this special grant of citizenship.
We're here today to assist this committee in its work and to answer your questions as fully as possible, while of course respecting our role as civil servants.
I'll ask my colleague Clark Goodman to provide a few details on what has been done since the minister's appearance before this committee in February.
Clark is responsible for program delivery and so is better placed to given you an update on our activities.