It is a great honour to be in this House again, so thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak to you about Bill C-6.
I am a sociologist who looks at citizenship legislation as a part of the government's effort of nation-building. My testimony is based on past and ongoing research, and today I would like to emphasize three points.
First, I commend the minister for proposing to repeal subsection 10(2) of the Citizenship Act, which provides the grounds for revoking citizenship related to national security. I would like to make three points to support this.
First, from a nation-building point of view, the revocation of citizenship is not a solution for a social problem, because it means exporting potential criminals to countries that cannot handle these individuals any better than Canada. Perpetrators may be either submitted to the death penalty, incarcerated in inhumane conditions, or most likely, the countries they are exported to may not be able to prevent them from committing terrorist acts from abroad. None of these are desirable, I believe, from a Canadian point of view.
Second, research suggests that perpetrators seldom refrain from heinous crimes due to drastic penalties. Not even the death penalty deters them, and potential terrorists rarely feel discouraged by the threat of citizenship revocation.
Third, and probably most important, our research has shown that past legislation, maybe unintentionally, contributed to the stereotyping of Canadian Muslims. Supported by a grant from Public Safety, researchers at the University of Ottawa have studied the media and social media coverage of the terms of revocation for Canadian dual nationals convicted for the threat of committing treason, espionage, and terrorism.
You will be interested to hear that the revocation measure was discussed skeptically by the media. Although the media was skeptical of it, their way of reporting also supported the idea that it is among Canadian Muslims, as well as dual Canadians more generally, that we are most likely to find terrorists. This, I would argue, is not conducive for multicultural nation-building.
I now come to my second substantial, larger point. In my reading of Bill C-6, as it's proposed, this legislation will bring Canadian law back in line with the idea that naturalization, becoming a citizen, is not an end point or reward of integration, but rather an important step toward immigrant integration.
Comparative research shows this approach is much more conducive to making immigrants not only part of the country's socio-economic fabric, but also to winning their hearts and minds, which is the ultimate goal when building a nation.
Once again, let me make three points to support this. Language skills are important to facilitate participation in society, but so is formal citizenship. Restoring the previous age limits for language and knowledge testing, and adjusting the language level in the application kit, will reduce barriers to the less educated, non-European-language speakers, and the economically vulnerable.
As we well know, at universities testing is a stressful undertaking, specifically for older persons and accompanying family members, often women.
As the previous speaker has already noted, restoring the pre-permanent resident 50% credit toward citizenship is an important incentive to those with Canadian experience: students, refugees, and former temporary workers. It highlights the interpretation of formal citizenship as a step within the longer journey to becoming fully integrated.
Third, changing the residence requirement to three out of five years, I believe, is conducive to retaining immigrants who are highly skilled, and highly mobile, the so-called best brains in the world that Canada and other countries want to attract. This measure enables these individuals to also become citizens, even though they may have to work outside of the country for some time and not be physically present. It gives them more flexibility.
My larger point is not part of Bill C-6 as it is presently proposed, but I urge the government to consider implementing a recommendation made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, namely to revise the citizenship oath to include the respect of treaties between the crown and indigenous people.
Interviews that I conducted with new Canadian citizens show for them the citizenship ceremony and the oath are very important and meaningful elements of the naturalization process. Since the current government has already pledged to value the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations, from the perspective of building a nation, this may be a good moment to strengthen the relations between our new Canadians and our oldest ones.
In summary, Canada has a long history of selecting immigrants who make an economic contribution to this country. For this it is envied in the world. This rationale, however, needs to be complemented by a warm welcome of new Canadians. I believe that this bill as it stands will move the legislation closer to that end.