Evidence of meeting #62 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cases.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Janet Siddall  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Clark Goodman  Acting Director, Citizenship and Immigration Program Delivery, Operational Management and Coordination Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Rose Anne Poirier  Manager, Program Support, Case Processing Centre, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Rosemarie Redden  Manager, Citizenship Case Review, Case Management Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Margaret Dritsas  Nationality Law Advisor, Citizenship Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Eric Stevens  Legal Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Samy Agha

Noon

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you very much for your answers to those questions. I appreciate it.

Noon

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

I'm going to ask a few questions.

Getting back to the numbers and remembering the discussions we had in previous parliaments with previous ministers, this whole issue of lost Canadians has been around. When the officials or ministers argued against it in various forms, they always came up with big numbers as the reason we cannot deal with it.

I think there's a realization now that the numbers are indeed big, and as much as Professor Edmonston put out his estimates, he did not include the Mennonites.

I think the committee's going to have a big problem seeing discrimination based on the fact that these folks had religious weddings and did not have civil weddings. When the faith community appreciates this fact across the country, I think they're going to be putting on some heat, in particular on the party that's supposed to be a proponent of the religious groups. I think that's coming.

We've come a long way, from having no legislation to where we're now going to be getting legislation, which the committee looks forward to.

In the proposals the minister was talking about as to what she's going to be dealing with as of January 1, 1947, are we going to have a grant of citizenship that is applicable from the time they receive it, or is it going to be retroactive? I think that's a question we'll be debating in the fall. I'm just wondering whether you have thoughts on it.

12:05 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Janet Siddall

I would refer you back to the minister's statement before committee on what she was proposing. It goes back to those persons born in Canada or outside of Canada after certain dates. I can look it up here for you and read it to you again, or it's also posted on our website.

Would you like me to go through her proposals again? Okay.

On May 29 she said:

First, nothing in these proposals will take away citizenship from anyone who is now a citizen of Canada. I'd like to repeat that. Nothing in these proposals will take citizenship away from anyone who is now a citizen of Canada. This is not about taking away citizenship from anyone who now has it, but rather about correcting past problems and protecting citizenship for the future. Second, anyone born in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, will have their citizenship confirmed even if they lost it under a provision of the 1947 act. The only exceptions would be those born in Canada to an accredited foreign diplomat, or who have personally renounced their citizenship as an adult. Third, anyone naturalized in Canada on or after January 1, 1947 will have their citizenship confirmed even if they lost it under a provision of the 1947 act. The only exceptions would be those, as above, who renounced their citizenship as an adult or whose citizenship was revoked by the government because it was obtained by fraud. Fourth, anyone born to a Canadian citizen abroad, mother or father, in or out of wedlock, on or after January 1, 1947, is a Canadian citizen and will have their citizenship confirmed if they are the first generation born abroad, but no further.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

What would happen to people like Magoli Castro-Gyr, who was a tenth-generation Québécoise who was turned into a first-generation Canadian? Would she have her citizenship go back to the time she lost it, seeing that the new policy would treat her much better than the older one?

12:05 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Janet Siddall

Obviously I can't speak to an individual case, and I wouldn't want to speculate how new legislation that has yet been approved by Parliament might affect an individual case. But the bill will undergo the regular parliamentary process, and I know this committee will certainly be looking at it closely.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

Maybe you have a sort of warning that this question will be asked once the bill comes down, and you might correct it before it gets here.

The other issue I'm wondering about and that the government has recognized they have to update is that they cannot discriminate on the basis of people being born in and out of wedlock. My big question is, and I hope you will come in with a rationale, how you can consider Mennonites who had church weddings to be, number one, born out of wedlock and be treated that way, and number two, how you can say there's a cutoff as to when we can discriminate.

If we recognize that we should not be discriminating against people born out of wedlock in this day and age, why is there the artificial date, January 1, 1947? We can discriminate before, but we cannot discriminate after.

It doesn't make any sense. It seems we could have solved the whole problem if we had just carried that spirit all the way through.

12:05 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Janet Siddall

Obviously, as a public servant, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on the substance of the minister's proposals until such time as legislation is brought forward, but we will certainly make a note of the committee's concerns.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

We really are concerned about them. They have been coming here for many years. I think they have been coming in front of this committee for the past decade. They were coming here before I joined the committee, so we'd like to have some satisfaction for them. It would really be helpful.

The next one we have is Ms. Grewal.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen, for appearing before our committee.

First of all, I would like to say that during my time here in Ottawa, I have been impressed with the good work, the hard work and dedication of public servants. You guys should be really proud of the job you are doing.

12:05 p.m.

A voice

Hear, hear.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Last week, Minister Finley told us that she has instructed her officials to increase their efforts to raise awareness of this very important issue of loss of citizenship. Could you please elaborate on what steps have been taken to implement this directive?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I have a point of clarification, Mr. Chair. I just want my colleague to clarify the question.

Is my colleague asking the witnesses about steps taken to implement the legislation proposed by the minister? Is that what the question is?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I have already directed the question to the officials, and they will answer my question. My question is not directed to you, sir.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

Members can ask their questions. It is her turn, so let's not have any interruptions.

12:10 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Janet Siddall

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In January, the minister asked us to reallocate additional resources and to place a priority on those individuals who have been living in Canada for most of their lives and unfortunately believed they were Canadians, but found they were not perhaps Canadians. This is what we have done, and we've spoken to some of those actions already.

In terms of raising awareness, I don't want to take too much time, but we've worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs on at least a dozen occasions. They have updated their website and have sent messages to their consular officials abroad.

We have been working with the Passport Office to raise their awareness, and they have updated their website. There are now linkages back to the CIC website, where we did a lot of work to try to make the information more user-friendly in terms of tools for self-assessment.

We have worked with Service Canada and have provided them with the linkages. They have a very good link and section on their website for newcomers to Canada and for Canadians.

We worked with the RCMP for those cases in which we're moving forward to recommend a discretionary grant by the minister, to have better turnaround times on those few cases that might require fingerprints.

We've worked with CBSA to ensure that they do not remove anyone from Canada without coming back to us first, because someone's citizenship status may be in question.

We've worked with Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

With DND, we've had an ongoing relationship. They have a good section on their website, but we have again updated that.

We've worked with the provinces and the territories. There was an exchange of letters between our deputy minister and his counterparts, and there has been a letter sent by Mr. Goodman to his counterparts to ensure, first of all, what constitutes proof of Canadian citizenship and to ask them to check with us before they remove any benefits.

We have an ongoing relationship with the Mennonite Central Committee, the organization—I'm sorry, I forget the woman's name—that deals with the children of.... It's Christine Eden, and there have been others.

We have updated a number of our publications, and you've seen them in your package today. We have our posters. We have the campaign that was just launched. And of course we keep referring to one of the best resources, our call centre. Because it has dedicated lines, no one has to wait to get through. If people do not want to reveal their identity, if they're concerned, they can certainly describe their circumstances and we will give them the best advice that we can. However, I do have to say that to make a definitive determination on whether or not someone is indeed a Canadian citizen, we do need documentation.

Those are a few of the things. Our guidelines are to our staff and to anyone who would also like to see how we're handling these specific instructions from the minister to deal with these cases on a priority basis. They are available on our public website.

I appreciate the advice that some of the committee is giving us on how we can continue to raise awareness in perhaps a more targeted and sensitive way, so that we can offer these services to individuals. Hopefully our success rate in reassuring the vast majority of them will continue.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Do I have any more time, Mr. Chair?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

You have about ten seconds.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I would again like to thank you so much for all the hard work and the dedication you guys put into your work.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

We're coming back to Mr. Karygiannis, to start off a new round.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm filling in for my colleague Alan Tonks on this round. Mr. Tonks did not have an opportunity.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

On a point of order, Chair, our new speaking order doesn't allow substitutions when a member has already spoken.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Andrew Telegdi

I think that's what we said when we went—Anyway, you're starting off the next round, so there you go. You have five minutes.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

The minister stated last week that she had made an agreement with the minister responsible for the RCMP for expedition of police clearances, of CSIS and RCMP checks. She said they were supposed to be turned around within two weeks. Is there such an agreement?

12:15 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Janet Siddall

Yes, there is. I contacted my counterpart at the RCMP in February, seeking their assistance when we actually needed to have fingerprints for the discretionary grants that we were recommending—what we call the section 5(4) grants. We asked them if they would assist us in turning those around as quickly as possible. We have confirmation from Superintendent Thompson that indeed they are doing this for us, to the best of their capacity, within a two-week timeframe.

There are two processes here. There are the individual—

June 5th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Ms. Siddall, that's fine. I thank you.

Would somebody who was a cross-border baby, an individual who was born in the United States but it was at the border, be someone we call a lost Canadian? I'm talking about an individual who, after forty or fifty years, finds out that they don't have citizenship.