Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witness for being at this committee's meeting today.
First off, I'd like to touch on the issue around the overall strategy because that seems to be the central issue here. Right from the beginning—and I'll repeat it again at this committee—I engaged with stakeholders all the way through to talk about Bill S-245 and what amendments needed to be made. Through that consultation, it was clear to me that the groups wanted the lost Canadians issue addressed once and for all, and not just as it related to the narrow category that was established under the bill itself.
There were a variety of areas that we needed to address, including those who had lost their right to pass on their citizenship to children born abroad. There were issues around what I loosely call “war heroes”. Those are individuals who fought for Canada, went to war for Canada, for example, died for Canada and never came back. However, at the time they did that, because Canada was not formulated as a country—Confederation had not taken place—they were not recognized as citizens in a technical sense. Part of the goal, of course, was trying to address those people and to make them whole, even though they may have passed on. Their descendants have already had access to Canadian citizenship. It's just really a symbolic thing.
Another category that needed to be addressed, for example, included those who faced discrimination because of Canada's immigration laws and citizenship laws over the years. I was trying to capture those individuals and make them whole.
Anyway, there are a number of these kinds of categories. Right from the get-go, I made it clear that's what I was trying to do.
In that process, it was determined, through the stakeholder consultation, that they would like to see the government address this by way of conferring those rights back to them. In that process, I came up with a number of suggestions to address those. For example, being in Canada for 1,095 days, consistent with what the Citizenship Act outlines by way of the number of days, was one connections test.
There were other connections tests that I thought were important to establish a connection to Canada, such as if someone voted in Canada or was on the voting registry, or for example, someone who went to school here or who worked for Canada or represented Canada abroad. Those were the categories that I thought for sure we should consider to establish that connection.
In that process, in discussing all of this with the stakeholder groups, I proposed that this was what we should do by way of amendments. Various drafts and instructions went to the law clerk, who then came back with lots of different drafts and different things at different times. In that process, I also recognized that I needed the government to support this.
I had these conversations, by the way, with the minister and the minister's office to see if we could come to an agreement and work collaboratively to find a way to address the lost Canadians issue. It was a long process. We put a lot of work into it.
While I didn't get everything I wanted in those negotiations, it was generally agreed to that we would address the issue of the lost Canadians on this second generation born abroad question by establishing a citizenship test. I had wanted it to apply to parents and grandparents. The government wanted it to apply only to parents. I don't agree with it, but I also recognize that I'm not in government, and that this required negotiations. That's where it landed.
The overall strategy of where we landed was something that I did share with stakeholders, all the way through from the beginning. This committee was advised of that as well, so there's no mystery there. Specifically in terms of the subamendments—yes, the subamendments—I should just point out, too, that those subamendments members are referring to were never submitted to the clerk, by the way, as an official package that came back to us. It didn't, until much...until when we were debating this matter.
Loosely, what were the subamendments to do? I knew the government would amend my amendments and that they would only apply the 1,095 connections test to parents. I knew that right from the beginning going in, even before all of this stuff went into the clerk.
In my view, which is what I have been saying all along, I do not believe that there was a breach in confidence here, most certainly not by me or my staff. We did not provide the amendments package from the clerk after it was released back to us to anyone.
We had drafts from legislative counsel on the amendments that I wanted to achieve. We did share some of those drafts with stakeholder groups to invite their feedback and so on and so forth. That's all within the purview of what we are allowed to do and is part of the normal engagement with stakeholders.