Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-84, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act.
This bill was introduced on February 20 by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and will be passed today, with our consent, on second and third reading. The minister has just expressed her thanks to the official opposition for its co-operation. You have already seen in the past four years that the Bloc Quebecois is a responsible party.
We are a sovereignist party, and Quebecers have entrusted us with the role of official opposition. We have fulfilled our mandate with a great deal of ability and a serious attitude, which is why today we are co-operating in the passage of this bill, which we feel is an important one. We also agree to this bill being fast tracked.
The amendments to the legislation mainly address the possibility for a retired judge appointed by the Governor in Council to replace, and therefore perform the duties of, the security intelligence review committee, or SIRC, when the latter is of the opinion that it cannot fulfil its duties, because of apparent lack of impartiality, conflict of interest, or any other reason deemed necessary.
The government has just told us that these legislative changes are intended to ensure the security of the country. Should a situation arise in which an individual constitutes a threat to the security of Canada, SIRC carries out an investigation in accordance with section 19 of the Citizenship Act. The committee then reports to the Governor in Council, who decides whether citizenship is to be granted or not. In the case of an application for permanent residence, the process is the same, except that the decision comes from the Federal Court.
Bill C-84 is presented as an alternative solution, when SIRC cannot perform its duties, for instance by reason of lack of impartiality. Under Bill C-84, the governor in council may appoint a retired judge for a term of three to five years to perform the duties of the review committee set out in the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act.
The bill can be retroactive. It includes transitional provisions aimed at recognition of a legal decision rendered with respect to the jurisdiction of SIRC before the coming into force of the bill. The decision must, however, be definitive and without appeal.
According to section 19 of the Citizenship Act, the Minister may make a report to the Review Committee, when of the opinion that a person should not be granted citizenship, administered the oath of citizenship, or issued a certificate of renunciation.
In such cases there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the person concerned will engage in activity that constitutes a threat to the security of Canada or that is part of a pattern of criminal activity planned and organized by a number of persons acting in concert in furtherance of the commission of any offence that may be punishable under any Act of Parliament by way of indictment.
The minister shall, within ten days after a report is made by CSIS, send a notice informing the person concerned of the report. The review committee shall investigate the grounds on which the report is based. The review committee shall, as soon as practicable after a report is made to it, send to the person with respect to whom the report is made a statement summarizing such information available to it. The review committee shall, on completion of an investigation, make a report to the minister and provide the complainant with the conclusion of the report.
Bill C-84 follows on the heels of the Zundel case. Zundel, a German citizen, applied for Canadian citizenship in 1993. On the basis of information obtained by CSIS, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration sent a report to the Security Intelligence Review Committee stating there were reasonable grounds to believe that Zundel constituted a threat to the security of Canada.
Zundel was advised that the SIRC had been ordered to investigate him. If the report was confirmed, his application for citizenship might be turned down, which was the case. Zundel is a person with extreme rightwing views who denies the existence of the Holocaust. He is a member of so-called hate organizations and is therefore a threat to the security of Canada. These conclusions can be found in a report on the Heritage Front. And as you know, that particular case attracted the attention of the media.
Zundel therefore asked the Federal Court to prohibit the SIRC from conducting an investigation on the grounds of a reasonable apprehension of bias.
Zundel's counsel then filed an application for judicial review on the grounds of this apprehension of bias on the part of the SIRC. The federal court judge issued an order prohibiting the SIRC from continuing its investigation, on the grounds of bias. The federal court therefore upheld the appeal by Zundel's counsel. Furthermore, the judge suggested how the legislation could be amended to deal with such situations.
So far, the minister was not in a position to reject Ernst Zundel's application for citizenship. He might be forced to grant him his citizenship, even if this individual might be a threat to national security.
The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the bill but obtained the consent of the government party for moving two amendments. The first one concerns the appointment of a retired judge and reads as follows: "After consultation by the Prime Minister of Canada with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons and the leader in the House of Commons, of each party having at least twelve members in that House, the Governor in Council may".
With this amendment we want to avoid any hint of patronage with respect to appointments made by this government, as has happened in the case of commissioners appointed to the IRRB.
We also agree with the amendment moved by the Reform Party.
The second amendment by the Bloc Quebecois reads as follows: "The person appointed under subsection 39.1(1) must, not later than September 30 in each fiscal year, submit to the Solicitor General of Canada a report of the activities of the person during the preceding fiscal year and the Solicitor General of Canada must cause the report to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the day the Solicitor General of Canada receives it."
I agree with the points made earlier by the minister. This individual denies the existence of the Holocaust in which more than six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis during the second world war. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Jewish community for its exceptional contribution to Canada and Quebec. I visited the Museum of the Holocaust recently in Washington, and I again realized of why we must not let this happen again today.
For all these reasons, I support Bill C-84.