House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-63, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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10:05 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to oppose Bill C-63, the government's proposed changes to the Citizenship Act.

My constituents and I are well aware, as are many Canadians across the country, that our immigration and refugee system is in bad shape. In this legislation the government has chosen to deal with issues concerning Canadian citizenship instead of the serious flaws in our immigration and refugee system. This is mismanagement by the minister. She is mismanaging her priorities. Canadians want her to work on our broken refugee and immigration system.

We should welcome genuine refugees. They deserve our protection. In his December 1997 report the auditor general said that the current process does not quickly grant Canada's protection to claimants who genuinely need it.

The Liberals have no political will to improve the situation. The Liberal members on the immigration committee even refuse to study in the future business of the committee the abuse of our immigration and refugee system by drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals.

Imagine one morning waking up and seeing someone sitting in your living room. You wonder how that person entered your home. No bells rang. You had not let anyone come in. Eventually you find that while the front door was closed the person had no difficulty using the back door. It had been left wide open. After dealing with the person, would you not make sure to keep the back door closed? Then the next time someone rang the bell you would know who your visitor was and you would have the opportunity to show the courtesy of welcoming the guest in and making him or her feel at home.

In our immigration system the front doors are closed or partially closed. But the back doors are wide open and the government is keeping it that way. In our refugee process and system the back door is abused by criminals. Drug dealers come here to sell drugs to our children.

Canada is a country of immigrants. Genuine immigrants should be welcomed through the front door. Their cases should be processed as quickly as possible without any harassment or unnecessary court expenses.

The Liberal government has no political will to fix the system. Rather, it wants to make patchwork changes to the Citizenship Act. The auditor general cautioned the government against making patchwork changes. He indicated that the problem is complex and that there is a need to conduct a total review of the refugee claim process. It is four and a half years—

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10:05 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

We are supposed to be debating an act respecting Canadian citizenship. What the member is talking about has nothing to do with the citizenship bill. He is talking about a piece of legislation that will come to the House in good time, which is the review of the Immigration Act.

This has been happening continually from that side of the House. They have not been talking about the citizenship—

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10:05 a.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We have been through this a number of times now. Our colleagues have a right to come into the House of Commons and speak directly to a bill in any fashion they wish if they think they can get their point across. If the Liberal government members do not like it, that is just too darn bad.

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10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Standing Order 101(2) speaks to relevancy. Relevancy in committees of the whole is very strictly applied. Relevancy in debate is not as strictly applied.

It has been the decision of the Chair during the course of this debate that relevancy would be applied but not strictly applied as it would be applied in committee of the whole.

I accept the admonition of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I think it is valid. During debate we do have to be germane to the issues at debate. However, in the debate on citizenship and immigration the two very often overlap from both sides of the floor. We need to give each other a little elbow room.

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10:10 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am debating Bill C-65 and I was on clause 2(1) under interpretations. I am discussing—

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10:10 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The bill is Bill C-63, not Bill C-65 or any other bill the hon. member would like to talk about. It is a citizenship bill. Twenty-seven million people in this country are Canadian citizens. They were born here.

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10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. parliamentary secretary has made his point.

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10:10 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am debating Bill C-63 which is in my hand. I have read every page of it thoroughly. This is an act respecting Canadian citizenship. I was on clause 2(1) under interpretations. I am discussing the definition of citizen and citizenship and also in clause 6 and clause 8 which state “The minister shall, on application, grant citizenship to a person who”. I am talking about the person who, which is very much relevant and I am sure that the member will let me proceed.

It is four and a half years since the Liberal dominated committee presented its report but we have yet to see any action from the government. That is why it does not want to listen to what I am saying.

In my constituency a genuine refugee has been waiting for over five years and still has not been granted this status. He was tortured for his religious beliefs. After he arrived in Canada, his brother was tortured and killed by the police. Now his wife and children are being harassed and tortured. His family cannot reunite until he is granted this status in Canada. A day is too long for him to wait. My constituent is under tremendous pressure and mental torture.

Why is it this way? Who is responsible? The Liberal government is responsible for this mess. That is what we are talking about today.

As Canadians we want to welcome genuine refugees to our country. We want to help those people who need the help. Our refugee system is so full of flaws that it does not grant quick protection or provide protection for those who genuinely need it.

Instead of fixing our broken immigration system, the Liberals have us debate changes in the Citizenship Act, Bill C-63.

The auditor general deplores the fact that it takes on average more than two and a half years to settle a refugee status claim. The average processing time went from seven months in 1993-94 to nearly 13 months in 1996-97. It almost doubled in two years. This same period saw a sharp increase in the backlog of claims waiting to be processed, from approximately 17,500 to 29,000. A person claiming refugee status can count on staying in Canada for more than two and a half years.

Over the past several years, close to 60% of claimants have presented themselves to Canadian officials without a passport, personal identification or even travel documents. This makes the refugee determination process longer and makes it extremely difficult to remove failed claimants.

The auditor general says that out of 20,000 persons ordered deported, the department could act on only 4,000 cases and the remaining 16,000 are consumed in the system. If that is not a cat and mouse game being played by the department, then what is it?

The Immigration Act requires airlines to ensure that their passengers are properly documented.

These very same concerns were addressed nearly 10 years ago by the auditor general. The Liberals continue to make Canadians wait for changes.

It is essential that the realistic expectations for the speed and efficiency of claims be set out.

It is also important that federal agencies respond to these expectations within well defined parameters. There is need to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the refugee determination process. Fairness and efficiency are legitimate and important objectives. The Liberal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is choosing not to do anything about the problem. Instead we are going back to changes in the Citizenship Act.

Let us look briefly at the conditions of granting citizenship as proposed in Bill C-63. On presence in Canada, clause 6(1)(b) proposes to define the term “permanent resident” more concisely than does the current act. Bill C-63 calls for 1,095 days of physical presence in Canada in the five years preceding application for citizenship. However, Bill C-63 does not provide any mechanism for determining when the applicant arrives in Canada or when the applicant leaves Canada.

On penalties for bureaucratic delays, the current act allows individuals whose application for permanent residence is approved to count each full day of residency in Canada from the date of application as a half day toward the total needed for the citizenship application. According to this act, applicants will now be penalized for the system's bureaucratic delays.

Similarly in the case of adoption it is left up to the minister to define the parent-child relationship in cases of adoption. In defining family, clause 43 gives the minister the power to redefine spouse, marriage, family and family relations. She will not consult Canadians. She will not consult parliament. She will decide herself.

There are many things I wanted to say about patronage appointments, about the language requirements and about the oath which was designed by the minister and not by parliament.

We are seeing Liberal arrogance and a lack of respect for parliament and the people of Canada. The minister's first legislation should have been aimed at fixing a failed immigration system rather than citizenship. There is no political will to do anything about these problems.

I predict the government will not attempt to change the immigration and refugee system in the immediate future. It is already too late for many of those who are victims of crime. The minister has been in her portfolio for three years. She should have addressed the serious problems of our immigration and refugee system before tinkering with the Citizenship Act.

Therefore I will be voting against the bill on behalf of the people of Surrey Central and many more Canadians who are looking forward to changes to this act. We have been terribly let down and disappointed by the government's lack of action in addressing the serious problems in the immigration and refugee system.

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10:15 a.m.


John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about immigration and citizenship from a historical perspective because I think it helps us to understand something about ourselves and about how we got to this debate on Bill C-63. Everyone needs a history reminder once in a while.

Immigration to Canada is very much based on the Canadian dream of upward mobility. A fascinating book was published in 1988 called The Chinese in Canada by Peter S. Li. Being from British Columbia, the story in this book is of strong interest to me. As of the 1981 census about 75% of Chinese origin Canadians resided in B.C. and in Ontario. I have no reason to believe this has changed significantly.

Aside from our native population it is commonly held that no other racial or ethnic group has experienced harsher treatment than the Chinese in Canada. The Government of Canada passed the first anti-Chinese bill in 1885. It is no accident that this coincided with completion of the CPR railway. Fifteen thousand Chinese labourers worked on the B.C. section of the CPR between May 14, 1880 and July 29, 1885, saving the company millions of dollars.

The 1885 bill brought in a poll tax put in under the Conservative government of the day, a poll tax being a head tax. The Liberals increased this poll tax to $100 in 1900, a hefty sum indeed in those days, and then increased it again in 1903 to $500.

In 1923 the Liberal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act which suspended Chinese immigration until 1947 when it was repealed. Chinese Canadians refer to the passing of the 1923 act as humiliation day. Between 1923 and 1947 essentially no Chinese were allowed to immigrate to Canada and those already here were denied many of their civil rights.

The 1885 to 1947 policies resulted in few women Chinese Canadians. Prior to 1923 Chinese immigration was usually arranged by contractors or with individuals and voluntary. Typically, as a consequence of the head tax which was a cost for bringing wives or parents to Canada, men arrived single and lived as bachelors in Canada. In 1931, for example, out of a total Chinese population of 46,000 in Canada, less than 10% were women.

The 1885 to 1923 migrants were largely men and then essentially all Chinese immigration was stopped for a period of 24 years. This bachelor society inhibited a second generation of Chinese Canadians and the population of Chinese Canadians shrank dramatically between 1923 and about 1950. It was only post-World War II that family reunification and new immigration brought normality to Chinese immigration and family relationships in Canada.

Structural racism in Canadian immigration gradually disappeared after 1947 due to a combination of court challenges and government initiatives. In 1957 a major event occurred with the election of Douglas Jung as a Conservative MP in Vancouver, the first Chinese Canadian member of parliament. We all know of the valued contribution of the Chinese Canadian community in Canada today.

As distasteful as the story is of how government handled Chinese immigration to Canada, there are lessons for us all. The story I have told is to demonstrate that government has discriminated against racial groups in Canada and it is important to design our immigration and citizenship rules in such a way that this discrimination does not occur.

Canadian citizenship is an enviable status in the world community. Canada must set the rules and we must do so in a way that is fair to legitimate aspirants who match Canada's needs, that offers fair opportunity and that penalizes those who want to impose their priorities on the country by queue jumping or abusing Canada's hospitality.

Some of the provisions in Bill C-63 give too much discretion to the minister and are invitations to abuse our hospitality. This is distasteful and should be changed. My colleagues have pointed out many of these shortcomings.

In many ways a nation is defined by its immigration and citizenship policies. Ours need major rework and this act does not contribute in a major way to doing that. Today Chinese Canadians are represented in all professions in Canada and in all walks of life. As a cultural group they have emphasized education because that is how best to express upward mobility. This is the legacy many cultural groups have brought to Canada and that is what we want to encourage.

I will now get into some of the specifics of Bill C-63. The bill is intended to replace an act which has been in existence without any real change since 1977. It has been billed as a major reform but it really does not do that. Critical areas have been neglected and other areas have been altered in a negative way.

The unwillingness to change integral elements of the act will result in the court system ultimately creating law and an increase in power of the minister to make closed door decisions without oversight by parliament.

There is one major section on citizenship at birth. Bill C-63 states in effect that all children born in Canada will continue to automatically acquire Canadian citizenship regardless of their parents' immigration or citizenship status.

Recommendations from the 1994 all party standing committee stated that children born in Canada should be Canadian citizens only if one or both their parents is a permanent resident of Canada. In the judgment of Canadians there is abuse of the provision of the Citizenship Act granting automatic citizenship to children born on Canadian soil. The minister stated that she made no changes to this clause because there was no research done on how big a problem the citizenship at birth issue is.

That is quite a statement, recognizing there is a problem, not addressing it and not taking the four and a half years since the report came out to do anything about gathering statistical evidence to support or refute the dimension of the problem.

Under grant of citizenship the current legislation allows individuals whose application for permanent residence is approved to count each full day of residency in Canada from the date of application as a half day toward the total needed for their citizenship application.

Bill C-63 penalizes applicants for bureaucratic delays within the system, even if those delays are no fault of the applicants. Many groups have petitioned the minister to change this provision so that applicants are not penalized for bureaucratic delay. The official opposition calls for reinstatement of this provision.

The last point I will speak about is the citizenship oath. This may as well be called the minister's oath. It was not done in the public domain with public input. We missed a grand opportunity. The government wants to retain its monopoly on citizenship and immigration against the better judgment of Canadians.

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10:25 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-63.

I want to take a more personal perspective on it. As an immigrant to this country it was an honour when I, with my parents and my other brothers and sisters, finally swore the oath of allegiance to Canada. I have an understanding of what an absolutely wonderful thrill that was. Growing up in such a free and great country as Canada, I had hoped that other immigrants and other people wanting to come here would not be side stepped or roadblocked or delayed in any way from their achieving the same possibilities that my family and I have achieved.

Unfortunately Bill C-63 is a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare. To say to people coming here that they may or may not be accepted as citizens of this country because of bureaucratic bungling in the department is unacceptable. It goes to prove that the people who drafted the bill did not think of all the particulars. It would have been better if they had taken more time and carefully drafted the bill.

I also have concerns regarding the oath of allegiance. Even though I come from an area which is very much in favour of the monarchy, there are many aspects to the oath of allegiance that I think need to be modernized and accepted to more Canadians. The previous speaker from the Reform Party was correct that there should have been a wide open debate. Something of this importance in stature across the country should have been open to all Canadian to debate exactly what kind of an oath of allegiance we should have for new Canadians.

The concern that is often neglected in the aspect of citizenry is our aboriginal people. They were the first citizens of this country. Nobody asked them. They seem to get bypassed in all these circumstances and everything else. We came to this country 400 or 500 years ago and literally took over from them. They had a very good way of life for thousands of years and we came in an said we were going to change everything. That is stretching the argument a bit, but unfortunately the fact is they are an integral part of our society.

We talk about two founding nations in this country. We actually have three and they were the first. The part that really disturbs me is the fact of having an understanding of the French or English language, the two official languages. It is really a hardship on new immigrants who come to this country. There is no question that when my family came here they hardly knew a word of English at all, not a word. According to the bill they could be restricted from entering this country because of an act of that nature. I find that wrong. I wish that the minister and the government would take that back and review the situation and go through the clauses that many of us on the opposition side feel are flawed in this department and in this bill.

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10:30 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the bill because the bill does not address the real problems in immigration that are reported to every one of us as MPs almost on a daily basis. I know some members in the House are in rural constituencies and they really are not exposed to the sorts of problems with the immigration system experienced by members of parliament in urban centres.

I can give some examples of some of the problems in the Vancouver area that simply are not addressed by the content of the bill. I am sure many of the members have seen the news items on television where up to 80 Honduran drug dealers are arrested at one time in Vancouver in drug sweeps. These 80 Hondurans are criminal refugee claimants. They are not genuine immigrants. They are people who have come through our borders using false passports, using false documentation and they go straight to the drug dealing trade on the streets of Vancouver and east Vancouver. Some of them are as young as 12 and they are here illegally.

The minister has done absolutely nothing in her bill to deal with that type of problem. In fact, we are so stupid in Canada that we even brought a social worker from Honduras to look after all these illegals who are already here taking our welfare payments, taking free medical care, taking free dental care and all the other benefits that hardworking Canadians are entitled to while they deal drugs on the streets of Vancouver and we cannot do anything to get rid of them.

These very same people are arrested over and over again every week. They are taken down to the court house and within an hour they are back on the streets. There is an example of a major problem in the Vancouver area that has been completely ignored in the bill by the minister.

We have the same sort of problem in Vancouver every night with illegals where up to half of those arrested in the Vancouver area on any night of the week are illegal refugee claimants. Imagine that, half of those arrested in Vancouver every night of the week are illegal refugee claimants. That gives members an idea of the size of the problem, the strain on our police forces, the strain on our welfare system, the court system, all the issues that flow from that one problem of porous borders, our inability to keep criminals out of the country.

Some of the refugee claimants who say they are in Canada because they would be persecuted in their own country—

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10:35 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I remind the Reform Party that we are debating Bill C-63, an act respecting Canadian citizenship. It is important that we have some relevancy. What the member is talking about and what the Reform—

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10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for North Vancouver.

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10:35 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that my constituents consider what I am saying to be extremely relevant to this bill. The fact is the bill does not address the problems that they have identified for years. They have begged the minister to deal with them. I have already given some examples.

One of the things my constituents have suggested to the minister, and she heard it on radio talk shows when she was out there last year, was that she include in a new bill an ability for us to get rid of these criminals, to deport them in lieu of sentence.

We have this absolutely ludicrous situation where a refugee claimant can come in and commit a crime, they go into the court system and if we are really lucky the person gets put in jail. As soon as that person is released on probation, that is considered to be a part of the court sentence. So the immigration deportation process cannot start up. The person can wander around the streets, commit another crime and go back to jail. This process is repeated over and over again. Thousands of people are doing it in the Vancouver area. I am certain it must be happening in Toronto and it has to be happening in Montreal.

For an unknown reason the minister is ignoring the problem. She brings in these bills that fiddle around the edges of the problems but never deals with them.

Let me give the House some examples of the sorts of things that happen in my office. On a weekly basis we get anything up to about a dozen immigration case inquiries. I am an immigrant. No one can say I am against immigration. I could not have come here if I was against immigration. But what I stand for is a quality in immigration. There is nothing wrong with screening people to find quality immigrants to come here and who want to be Canadian, not for them to bring their problems from some other country or to bring criminals into this country, but to bring decent, hardworking people who can contribute.

About 20 years ago the immigration department worked through the embassies to find quality people to come to Canada who had skills and who could help the country grow. Now the immigration department is captive of its own system. The quotas are filled almost exclusively by family reunification and people who come to invest money. It is not done in a proactive way to find people we really need.

Let me give the House four or five recent examples of the types of cases that come to my office. A short time ago a man called to say he was having trouble sponsoring his wife from Pakistan because the Canadian embassy refused to recognize his marriage. We did an inquiry. What did we find out? This man married someone he had never met. He had never seen the women. He had never been to the town she lived in. He could not produce any wedding photographs. Someone else stood in for him so all the photographs were of someone else. He expected me to be an advocate for him when he had not even met the woman he was sponsoring.

Last week an Iranian man called me. He already had a sponsorship list of five people he wanted to bring in. He called to ask us to cancel the five he had already decided to sponsor. He wanted to change them to a different five. What sort of nonsense is this? A person does not know who he wants to sponsor into the country? It is an indication of another problem that occurs in the Vancouver area which is a pyramid selling scheme for citizenship.

People sell sponsorships. I know my colleague with the same name from Fraser Valley had a problem in his area where there was a big pyramid selling scheme. People would go back to India, get married and sponsor the person who would then sponsor the family. They would go back and get married and sponsor the next group. There was a huge amount of money changing hands. That structure was broken up a couple of years ago. It gives us an idea of the sort of problem.

I had another case a week ago where a refugee claimant who was sponsoring his wife from India called to ask why they had done nothing for almost a year.

Our contact at immigration Canada advised that the refugee claimant in my riding was due to appear in court on kidnapping charges. He had actually kidnapped someone in Canada. At the same time as he is committing these crimes he is trying to sponsor more people in. It is absolutely ridiculous.

The state of our immigration system is appalling and the minister's bill is doing nothing to address these problems.

Toward the end of last year another woman called asking me to write a letter of support to immigration Canada so that her husband, who had already been deported back to Iran, could come back to Canada. He had committed a crime in Montreal and had been deported twice. He was counterfeiting money in Canada and this woman wanted me to write a letter in support of his coming back. It is absolutely amazing what is going on.

We have had more cases over the past few years than we can count of refugee claimants in my riding who have actually gone back to the country that they claim they were persecuted in. They claim to be destitute and persecuted but somehow they have the money to go back on a vacation to the country that is supposed to be persecuting them.

Then of course they get found out. One would think that it would be an easy job to deport them. No, sir. It is impossible to deport them. On average it takes 10 to 12 years to get that done.

As members can tell I am just getting warmed up. I have a list of stuff here but with only one minute left I know I will not get through it all. However, perhaps I have been able to illustrate very well the sorts of problems this minister has not addressed.

I will try to sum this up in the last minute I have. Last March a refugee claimant from Sri Lanka was arrested near Toronto with 10,000 fake Canadian citizenship cards in his possession. He had paid about $15,000 for them, $1.50 for each Canadian citizenship card. A Nigerian was arrested in May with dozens of false immigration documents, citizenship cards, social insurance cards, drivers licences and false passports. Even here in Ottawa the RCMP is constantly confiscating false passports.

The system is in a mess and Bill C-63 does absolutely nothing to address it. It is a disgrace.

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10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-63, an act to amend the citizenship act.

Citizenship and immigration matters are extremely important to many of my constituents in Markham. It therefore gives me great pleasure to speak to this proposed legislation.

Just last month we signed up 360 new citizens. Markham has a population of 190,000. Roughly 55% are of ethnic origin.

My caucus colleagues from Saint John, New Brunswick and St. John's East have spoken very eloquently about the human side of citizenship and immigration cases. I would like to outline some of the details of Bill C-63.

This legislation amends the citizenship act by changing certain citizenship rights and conditions for citizens and applicants. This bill also revises the criteria for obtaining citizenship, the process for granting, denying and revoking citizenship to Canada.

This bill is a result of the report of the immigration legislation review advisory group which was submitted to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in December 1997. The report was entitled “Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration”. The government had commissioned the review to determine how immigration and citizenship legislation could be reformed.

The report was met with mixed reviews from the press and the public. Concerns were raised about a number of issues, including new citizenship tests that require a physical presence in Canada, dropping reference to monarch successors from the citizenship oath and the new requirements that the person speak one of Canada's two official languages.

I hope the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration gives these and other issues due scrutiny. We need to hear from organizations representing our immigrant community. Furthermore, we need to hear from other individuals and groups concerned with the different aspects of this bill.

I would now like to review some of the substances of the legislation. Bill C-63 stipulates that a person born in Canada becomes a citizen unless the parents are diplomatic staff of a foreign government or the United Nations.

The act also allows the minister to grant citizenship to a person who is at least 18 years old, meets the residency test of being present for three of the past five years, has an adequate knowledge of English or French, and has adequate knowledge of Canada, citizenship responsibilities and can communicate that knowledge in English or French without a translator.

The residency test is changed in two significant ways. First, prospective citizens must have been residents for three of five years prior to application rather than three of the previous four. Second, the rules are changed to require that the prospective citizen be physically present in Canada during those three years. Currently it is possible to be a permanent resident of Canada while actually living abroad.

Minimum residency requirements may be waived on compassionate grounds. The minister may grant citizenship to a minor or adopted child on application. The minister may also grant citizenship to someone who was born outside Canada to a citizen parent, is less than 28 years old, has resided in Canada for at least three of the past five years and has not been convicted.

Persons may be stripped of citizenship if they were born outside Canada to Canadian citizens who was born outside Canada after February 14, 1977, respectively, at aged 28 unless they meet minimum residency requirements.

Citizenship may be renounced if persons apply to the minister because they are citizens of another country or successfully apply for another citizenship, not a minor, able to understand the significance of citizenship renunciation and not residing in Canada.

The cabinet may order the revocation of citizenship if a person obtained it by duplicity. Persons referred for citizenship by someone who loses citizenship could also lose their citizenship.

The minister may not revoke a person's citizenship if the person is not notified or if the person within 30 days of notice requests appeal to a federal court and it is determined by federal court that citizenship was not obtained by some false representation or fraud.

Bill C-63 allows the minister to restore citizenship to a person whose citizenship was not revoked under the act or prior to the legislation or was a permanent resident of Canada after loss of citizenship and has at least 365 days of residence in Canada as a permanent resident in the two years preceding application for citizenship.

If the minister or cabinet believe that it is against the public interest, any person may be disallowed from taking the citizenship oath. Such a decision would remain in effect for five years. Any person determined to be a threat to Canadian security under the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act may also be barred citizenship.

Additionally Bill C-63 specifies that persons may be denied citizenship if they are on parole, probation or imprisoned, charged with an indictable offence in or outside Canada, under investigation by the Minister of Justice, the RCMP, CSIS or are or have been charged under the Criminal Code, have not been granted legal entry to Canada or are under removal order.

Bill C-63 lets the minister monitor conformity to the act and reverse citizenship decisions.

Citizenship judges will be renamed citizenship commissioners and will be responsible for promoting Canadian values, respect of law and social harmony. While they will preside over citizenship ceremonies, they shall no longer approve citizenship applications. Instead applications shall be decided by departmental officers. The salaries and benefits of the position will remain the same.

Bill C-63 changes the oath of citizenship. Where the current oath swears or affirms allegiance to the Queen and her successors, the new oath swears allegiance only to the Queen but not her successors.

Finally, the bill makes it an offence to misuse citizenship related documents. It sets punishment standards for citizenship officers who engage in wrongful behaviour.

By and large these changes appear welcome and somewhat overdue. It seems that every year we keep getting consultation papers or reports released by the minister without any concrete action.

I do worry about the impact that Bill C-63 tougher citizenship qualifications will have for international business people and others who travel extensively outside the country. The bill would force immigrants to be physically within Canadian borders for 1,095 days, a total of three years within a five year period before applying for citizenship. We need to be careful not to unfairly restrict international commercial activities in the private sector.

The intent of Bill C-63 is positive. The devil is often in the details. However, careful study and consultation at the citizenship and immigration committee will help improve the bill and address problems highlighted by others.

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10:50 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-63.

There is one problem that I and others members of the House see repeatedly in our offices, that the immigration department is in a mess. The minister has had three years to deal with it and yet she has done nothing. In fact things are spiralling out of control. Most members of the House have put cases into the her lap, only to see them completely disappear and evaporate without any action being taken.

Let me talk about some of the problems that are taking place. As are other members of the House, I am an immigrant to this country. We are deeply grateful for what Canada has given us. Let us make no mistake about that. However, the traditional role of immigration into Canada, the backbone and building block of our nation, has been watered down by incompetence on the part of the minister.

We have traditionally relied on an independent class of immigrants, who are trying to get into Canada, to build the country. They are going through the hoops and are told to leave the country. They are told they cannot get in. They do all the work, put their money down, and are sent back to from where they came, even when they are employed in this country. On the other hand, individuals who are criminals and commit offences on our soil are allowed to walk free on Canadian soil. What kind of immigration policy is that?

People who are trying to get legitimate family members into Canada are not allowed to do so. People who are legitimate refugees cannot come in. However those who are bogus refugees are allowed to come in. Why is that so?

Over and above the incompetence the minister shows in botching up her portfolio and in what she does to the citizens of this country, she does a greater disservice to legitimate immigrants who want to come to Canada to build a safe and secure future for themselves and their family. Those are the people the minister is slapping in the face by botching up her portfolio. This needs to be fixed. The minister has had the opportunity to fix it but she has not.

Clause 4(1) of the bill indicates that individuals who are born on Canadian soil automatically become Canadian citizens. Let us talk about some scams. One of the scams is that persons can bring in their children between the ages of 12 and 16, let someone here adopt them and when they become 19 they can bring the whole family into Canada.

When I was delivering a baby I learned of another scam. People can come into the country in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, have babies on Canadian soil and the children automatically becomes Canadian and can then bring the entire family into the country. That is not good immigration. That is gypping the immigration system and immigrants who come into this country by going through legitimate hoops.

It would have been more intelligent for the minister to have a residency requirement for persons coming into the country who are having a child who will become a Canadian citizen. There should be a two year residency requirement or they should be landed immigrants before they ultimately become Canadian citizens. If those provisions were included this loophole would be blocked. Also the loophole with respect to adoption needs to be blocked.

The minister can do a number of things. My colleague from Vancouver mentioned the issue of the oath of allegiance. We have a lot of rights in Canada but we do not talk about a lot of responsibility. The minister could have included in the oath of allegiance an allegiance to Canada, an allegiance articulating the responsibilities of people when they come to the country. That would have made the oath of allegiance, the oath of citizenship, meaningful. She failed once again.

If we are to build an immigration policy that does justice to Canada, if we are to build an immigration policy that will be fairer to immigrants as well as to Canadian citizens, we have to get back to basic principles. We have to build an immigration policy that focuses on the independent class of immigrants. We have to make sure the people who come into the country have the skills to contribute to the Canadian economy and have the linguistic skills to be able to function within Canada.

We have to recognize our responsibility to live up to our international obligations under the United Nations treaties we have signed with respect to refugees. Letting in legitimate refugees is a good thing, a humanitarian and compassionate thing, but letting in bogus refugees, people who are using refugee claimant status as something to queue jump, does a disservice to Canada and Canadians. Above all else, it does a disservice to the legitimate refugees and immigrants trying to come into the country.

As has been mentioned before, immigrants to the country who commit crimes should be sent back to the country they came from and banned from coming back into Canada for at least 10 years. In that way we would ensure the safety and security of our country for both immigrants and Canadian citizens.

We are seeking from the minister an element of fairness, an element of intelligence, and an element of a co-ordinated strategy within the ministry of immigration which will ensure we have an immigration policy that strengthens and not weakens Canada.

Immigrants come through the offices of every member of the House with stories of how they have been forced to pay for the mistakes of the ministry. When people who try to bring their beloved into the country they come here with a certain set of rules and guidelines, only to be told that they have to return to their countries of origin and go through the process again. When they go back to their countries of origin they are told to go back to Canada. This costs them money they often do not have. It also causes them an unnecessary amount of time to go through the process of becoming a legitimate contributor to our country.

We cannot understand why the minister, after three years in her portfolio, has failed to deal with these fundamental issues. She was even guided by the House Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship. Four years ago the committee placed 28 recommendations inn the minister's lap. Was anything done about them? No. Why does it take four years to deal with 28 recommendations from a bipartisan committee to strengthen our immigration system? What we see is Bill C-63 which, if anything, nibbles around the edges of our system.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have a couple of minutes remaining in his time when the debate on this bill resumes.

Harness RacingStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, every sport needs its superstars. Harness racing has a superstar family. The legendary Keith Waples is the patriarch having been the first driver in Canada to crack the two minute barrier. He is a Hall of Famer. His cousin Ron Waples won pacing's triple crown and trotting's Hambletonian. He is a Hall of Famer.

Now the torch has been passed to Ron's son, Randy Waples, who was named Canada's driver of the year in 1998. Randy raced to victory 472 times and won over $4 million in purses. More than that, his charismatic style won legions of new fans to standard bred racing. He is what any sport craves. Randy Waples is dashing, dedicated and driven to succeed. He is equally proficient behind a microphone as he is behind a horse, a public relations dream.

The hopes and aspirations of harness racing will ride on the wings of this energetic, electric superstar. I congratulate Randy. One day Randy Waples will be a Hall of Famer.

TaxationStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago we obtained an internal document put together by a consortium of 11 environmental organizations which exposes the shocking truth.

Big money from wealthy American corporate and family trusts is driving a campaign to kill jobs and investment in Canada. Hewlett Packard, the Rockefeller Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation and even Ted Turner are putting up big money to support the Sierra Club, Sierra Defence Fund, the David Suzuki Foundation and a host of others to stop a mining project in northern B.C.

Never mind that Redfern Resources Ltd. went through a rigorous three and a half year review. Never mind that people living in Atlin, Dease Lake, Stewart and the Yukon who care deeply about the environment desperately want the Tulsequah Chief Mine to proceed.

These environmental organizations do not care about facts. They do not care about the truth, about balance and above all, they do not care about people.

I call on the revenue minister to stop facilitating this and immediately revoke their tax holiday as charitable organizations.

SkatingStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Oakville the pursuit of excellence is alive and well not only in industry, science and technology, but also on the playing fields and in the arenas.

Last Sunday, February 7, the Oakville Ice Expression Novice Synchronised Skating Team competed in the Central Ontario Championships and won a berth to represent Ontario at the Canadian Championships in March.

I want to congratulate these Canadian girls, age 12 to 15, for their dazzling performance.

Their success has been made possible by the support of parents, volunteers and corporate citizenship. I wish to recognize and thank all these people for their hard work and dedication.

I believe that the pursuit of excellence when begun early through sports or the arts sets the pattern for adult life that benefits the individual, the community and the nation.

Canada 1999 Winter GamesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce to the House this morning that Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is about to embark on an absolutely fantastic event. Tomorrow morning in Corner Brook, Newfoundland we are going to be hosting the entire country at the Canada 1999 Winter Games.

The Prime Minister of Canada will be attending, as will many of my fellow cabinet colleagues and members from the House. It is a great event.

Planning for this particular event began several years ago when the communities of Corner Brook, Steady Brook, Stephenville, Pasadena and Deer Lake began in earnest planning for the Canada 1999 Winter Games.

The event is going to be a great celebration. Watch it. TSN and RDS are going to be providing 50 hours of live broadcast time.

Congratulations to all. I want to say thank you to the federal government for all of its support.

Child PornographyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, today, February 19, marks the 36th day since the possession of child pornography was made legal in British Columbia.

That might not be of concern to the Minister of Justice and her parliamentary secretary who take great solace in telling Canadians that child pornography is illegal in the rest of Canada. But those of us from British Columbia, especially those with children and grandchildren, resent the minister's dismissal that she has things under control.

The fact is the insensitive Shaw ruling of January 15 has already precipitated the dismissal of one charge of child pornography in British Columbia. There are another 38 pending that are in jeopardy of being brought to justice.

No, it is not business as usual in British Columbia. It is open season for these depraved parasites to practise their pedophile behaviour with immunity.

On February 2 the Reform Party gave the Minister of Justice and her party an opportunity to protect all Canadian children and we gave them another in committee on February 17. They have abandoned and rejected them twice.

AgricultureStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance's most recent budget contains important measures for our economy's three key sectors.

The Government of Canada will be spending $2 billion in the mining, fishing and agriculture sectors. By doing so, the government is honouring its commitments to the rural community.

In addition, let us not forget that the federal agriculture minister announced on December 10 that $900 million would be available over the next two years in response to a major concern about farm revenues.

The Government of Canada is also funding a number of programs benefiting the agricultural sector within the context of the safety net envelope.

The reason our government works for farmers is simple: the Liberal government believes there is a need to preserve and ensure the growth of agriculture in Canada, which is fundamental to our modern economy.

Mathieu Da Costa AwardsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to pay tribute to the recipients of the 1999 Mathieu Da Costa Awards.

This awards program commemorates the legacy of Mathieu Da Costa, the first recorded black person to set foot in Canada. Mathieu Da Costa was an interpreter of the Micmac language for Samuel de Champlain during his voyage to Canada in the early 17th century.

This year's winners of the awards are: Kylene Cachelin of Kamloops, B.C.; Christina Young of Orleans, Ontario; Lucius Dechausay of Scarborough, Ontario; Samuel Carter-Shamai of Toronto, Ontario; Jennifer Ligget of Victoria, B.C.; Raelyne Linton of Parry, Saskatchewan; Mala Rambaran of Regina, Saskatchewan; Odolys Azondékon of Aylmer, Quebec; and Jennie Dorsaint of Laval, Quebec.

Congratulations to you all. You have made us proud through your willingness and commitment to learn more about our country's rich cultural heritage.