House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.


Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Outremont Québec


Martin Cauchon Liberalfor the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved that Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am proud to have this opportunity on behalf of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to open debate on Bill C-16, the citizenship of Canada act.

To me and to so many Canadians from whom I have heard, citizenship is about truly belonging to this society. It is anchored in allegiance to the values which Canadians share. It is a concept with real meaning and it is a proud celebration of what it means to be Canadian.

That makes citizenship far more than just a piece of paper, more than just some box to be checked off on a form, more than a convenience for international travel. It makes the law on citizenship one of our most fundamental laws. Our citizenship law sets the ground rules for those who can truly call themselves Canadian. It captures the common understanding among Canadians about what it means to be one of us.

In 1947 a Liberal government introduced the status of Canadian citizenship in law for the first time. It was a legislative initiative driven by the vision and energy of Mr. Paul Martin Sr. We were the first country in the Commonwealth to take that step. That 1947 act took us through a 30 year period of immense change in Canadian society.

In 1977, with Robert Andras as Minister of Manpower and Immigration, the Liberal government implemented a new Citizenship Act. That law reflected a growing sense of nationhood. It reflected the growing equality of women under the law. It drew on Canada's experience with our first Canadian Citizenship Act. That act has served us well over the past two decades of even faster evolution in our society.

However, the time has come for change, for modernization. The time has come for an act that fully recognizes the impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The time has come for an act that addresses the many legal questions and administrative issues that have emerged with experience over time. The time has come for an act that reinforces the value of Canadian citizenship. Bill C-16 does that.

First, let me point out that our core citizenship principles have stood the test of time. What Canadians thought citizenship should mean in 1947 is substantially what Canadians still think today. Children born in Canada will still be Canadian citizens automatically. Children born in other countries to a parent who was born in Canada still have a right to Canadian citizenship. Those who come to Canada later in life must be permanent residents before they can apply for citizenship. They still must prove their attachment to Canada. They must prove their knowledge of our society and our values. They must prove their knowledge of at least one of our two official languages.

I would remind members that the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introduced Bill C-63 during the last parliamentary session.

It was intended as both an attempt to modernize the Citizenship Act and to enhance the value of Canadian citizenship. It died on the order paper when the House was prorogued, but not before being the object of much discussion in this House and in committee.

This bill is substantially similar in its intent and its major provisions to Bill C-63. It reflects the broad consensus that was clear in debate last time.

However, this legislation is not identical to the bill which was before us in the last session. We have not simply slapped a new number on an old bill.

Let me cover some of the major changes. For example, while we still intend to strengthen the residency requirement, we have identified room for change in how the residency requirement can be met. Under this bill a permanent resident will have to be physically in Canada for at least three of the six years before applying for citizenship; not just an address, not visiting other countries for whatever reason, but physically present here. However, we have lengthened the period of time that people can use to count that physical presence from five years under Bill C-63 to six years in this bill.

We have also decided to reinstate a time credit for physical presence for people who had some other legal status in Canada other than that of a permanent resident. For example, someone who was initially here as a convention refugee, on a minister's permit or as a visitor will be able to use half of their time under that status for up to one of the three years they need to meet the residency requirement.

We have already made it clear that we want to give children adopted abroad much simpler access to Canadian citizenship. The courts have told us that we must bring down the disparities between adopted and biological children born abroad, and we want to do so.

However, we also want to respond to concerns raised about previous proposals. For example, we will clearly limit citizenship through adoption to minors only. We will make new rules retroactive to 1977. We will include a requirement which will ensure that an adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Let me turn to some other changes.

We still propose a new citizenship oath, slightly modified from the previous proposal. New citizens will swear to respect our rights and freedoms. They will promise to uphold the values of our democracy. They will continue to swear allegiance to Canada and to Her Majesty the Queen.

We will alter the proposed powers of annulment and revocation. While we still want to be able to annul the citizenship of a person who uses a false identity or who is involved in criminal activities under our citizenship law, we have dropped the requirement in Bill C-63 that a person wishing to oppose the minister's intent to annul is restricted to doing so in writing.

We also intend to make it clear that we can only revoke the citizenship of a person who knowingly sought to deceive us. Moreover, we will not seek to revoke the citizenship of children at all.

For all those significant changes it is important to underline that the major new directions to citizenship law that our government set out in 1998 are still valid. They are still in this bill.

We still intend to limit the number of generations of people born outside Canada who can claim Canadian citizenship and we still propose to clarify the conditions for those people to formally retain Canadian citizenship.

We continue to believe that moving citizenship decision making from a quasi-judicial process to one that is administrative makes sense in every way. We intend to support that change by the use of clear and consistent criteria and tests. We intend to rely mostly on citizenship officials to carry out that process.

We see continuous roles for today's citizenship judges, men and women who, by this bill, will be known as citizenship commissioners. They will have an increased role in promoting active citizenship in the community. They will advise the minister on citizenship issues and continue to preside over citizenship ceremonies. They will be ambassadors of citizenship in their communities.

The bill retains the proposals for streamlined review processes for people who want to challenge decisions. If the person thinks that there has been a simple error of fact, then he or she will be able to apply to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for a review of those facts in that decision. If the person thinks there has been an error of interpretation under law, he or she will be able to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a review. Under the new system a federal court judge can require that it be reconsidered. All those proposals are still in this bill because they are sound and appropriate.

Let me conclude my remarks with these comments. The history of citizenship in Canada is one of evolution and yet enduring principles too. The 1947 act was anchored in its time. It reflected the relative status of men and women in those days. It reflected a world in which we saw our closest links to other lands in which people were British subjects.

By 1977 the evolution of life in Canadian society meant it was time for modernization. The 1977 act removed many inequities in the old act. It brought in more consistent and equal criteria for citizenship. It recognized that women deserved treatment and rights to citizenship that were no different from those enjoyed by men.

In this new millennium we need an act that is even more modernized, more streamlined, clearer and more consistent.

This bill meets those requirements. The new Canada Citizenship Act being debated today is going to enhance the value of Canadian citizenship.

This bill is going to modernize our Citizenship Act, modernize our processes. It is going to integrate the changes our society has undergone, as well as our modern legislative framework and our governmental processes.

It will remain true to the fundamental elements of what we understand citizenship to mean. The principles at the heart of our citizenship law have endured over more than half a century since the Hon. Paul Martin Sr. brought in Canada's first Canada Citizenship Act in 1946.

Under the leadership of the Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada had just proven its status as a country equal to any other on the globe. Canadians had fought as Canadians to liberate Europe from the evil of Nazi aggression. Other Canadians had fought in Asia and the Pacific to defend our values and our interests. Here at home Canadians had contributed in many ways to the war effort.

The creation of a unique citizenship to call our own was a fitting way to capture what our country and our people had just accomplished. It was a fitting way for Canada to give its people a sense of belonging rooted in this land and its people.

Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice all did their part to earn our place on the world stage back then. They all became citizens of this great country in 1947 for the first time ever. Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice are doing the same today.

The citizenship of Canada act will be about the values we share as were its predecessors. It will be a statement about belonging to this country as were its predecessors. It will link us all, whether we are Canadian by birth or by choice.

Some 350,000 babies are born in this country every year, and some 160,000 people apply for Canadian citizenship. Our Citizenship Act enables more than half a million people to become part of the great Canadian family as equals, as Canadians.

A new citizenship law will be a fitting way to help celebrate the new millennium. We look forward to the support of the House on Bill C-16.

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10:20 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to talk about Bill C-16 which will replace the current Citizenship Act, if and when it passes. There are some things about the bill which I support and others which I do not and I will get into that during my presentation. However there are other issues which have to be mentioned today.

It is a clear error in judgment on the part of the government to bring in legislation to replace the current Citizenship Act before legislation which will overhaul the Immigration Act has been passed by the House. The government has been saying for the last four years in particular but really for the six years since I have been here in Ottawa that it is going to bring forward legislation which will provide a massive overhaul of the Immigration Act immediately, next year. The government always says it will be later this year or next year but this has been going on for six years. It has not happened and it is very hard to explain why.

The Citizenship Act changes should not come in until the changes to the Immigration Act are made. The Citizenship Act refers to the Immigration Act in several places.

I will talk about the unfortunate order of events and why this has happened. The government does not seem to be willing to make the necessary tough decisions to change the Immigration Act so it has gone ahead with changes to the Citizenship Act so it can say it has done something. I understand that but I do not think it is acceptable.

As my colleague opposite has said, citizenship is something we are all extremely proud of. Canadian citizenship is seen by many people around the world as something they would like. Many people cherish the thought of becoming a Canadian citizen. It is not only Canadians who see Canadian citizenship as something of great value, as I know all Canadians do; others would like to become Canadian citizens.

As we put in place a new citizenship act, which this bill will do, it is important that it is done right. The government presented Bill C-63 in the last parliament, which was its idea of doing it right. The government dropped that legislation because it was so flawed and the government could not see putting it through. That became very clear in committee.

Bill C-16 is the government's response to the problems seen in committee. This is good, except the government has not dealt with a lot of the problems which were pointed out again and again in committee. I will talk about some of those things. I cannot pretend I am going to touch on all of them but I will focus on three or four of the main areas.

We went through the whole committee process on Bill C-63 in the last parliament. Witnesses suggested many changes. Many excellent suggestions were made. The government listened to a few but not nearly enough of them. That is not acceptable for an act which governs something as important as citizenship, something which we are all so proud of.

I would love to see a citizenship bill which I could support. This is not it, unless changes are made at committee which would make it something Canadians and I could support. It is not that important what I support as one citizen, but it is important that the Canadian public generally support the legislation. I do not believe this legislation is something that Canadians can support.

This bill is the second attempt and there have been some changes, a few changes which are beneficial but not that many.

With reference to the previous legislation, I want to make it extremely clear that it was not only witnesses but members of the immigration committee which reviewed that legislation who pointed out very strong concerns with Bill C-63, the predecessor to Bill C-16. They expressed their desire for change.

A few changes were implemented, but very few. In fact, there were only three changes from Bill C-63 to Bill C-16, yet the government dropped Bill C-63 because it was flawed. I do not understand why it did not fix the bill before it brought it back as Bill C-16. The bill has been re-tabled, and I say re-tabled because there have been only three or four changes made.

There are some good changes. For example my colleague from Dewdney—Alouette can express some claim to victory for the change that was proposed at committee by the Mennonite community. It requested that the new law contain measures to facilitate the acquisition of Canadian citizenship for the people in its community who still wished to return to the country or who had already done so.

In essence clause 57 allows a three year period for individuals born to Canadian parents outside of Canada between 1947 and 1977 to acquire Canadian citizenship upon application. Members of the Mennonite community explained that very well at committee. It was supported by the member for Dewdney—Alouette. That is a good change. That is a committee working as it should.

One other change is that the part of Bill C-63 which allowed bureaucrats or the minister without approval of parliament to redefine spouse has been withdrawn from the bill. A couple of weeks ago when I saw this bill I thought that was a positive move. That was something my colleagues and I called for quite strongly during the debate on Bill C-63. It was something some Liberal members on the committee called for. It was withdrawn and I thought we had made some progress.

Then last week Bill C-23 was tabled in the House but not in a way that is acceptable. I then understood why that clause was taken out of the citizenship bill. It was no longer required as a result of the omnibus bill which would give same sex benefits in several pieces of legislation. The modernization of benefits and obligations act tabled by the justice minister amends 68 federal statutes, affects 20 departments and agencies and extends benefits to same sex couples on the same basis as common law opposite sex couples.

The government has chosen to extend benefits based on a person's private sexual activity while excluding other types of dependent relationships. I fail to see why it would do that. Why would it extend these benefits on the basis of sexual activity rather than on a relationship of dependency? That is exactly what has happened.

The change was made to the citizenship bill which took the power away from civil servants or the minister to make a change. That was the right thing to do. The government has brought the changes it is proposing to deal with that before parliament, which is the right thing to do. However it has been done in a way that is unacceptable to Canadians. It has been done on the basis of sexual activity.

Former Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau said that the government had no place in the bedrooms of the nation yet that is what Bill C-23 does. The official opposition believes that any discussion of extending benefits should be accompanied by an affirmation of the definition of marriage.

There was no definition of marriage in Bill C-63. Was that too much to ask for? An opposition day motion was passed in the House with support from all political parties which ensured that the current definition of marriage would be retained, yet the government has not seen fit to have that included in this new act.

I point that out that the unacceptable part of the citizenship bill, the former Bill C-63, was taken out, but it has not been properly dealt with in this new citizenship bill. It is way off target. That debate is taking place in the House as we debate Bill C-23. I will not go into it in any great depth. The problem has not been solved. It has been shuffled off to another piece of legislation and the response by the government has been inappropriate.

My colleagues and I have talked and will talk about that in great depth as we debate that piece of legislation. That is a positive thing that is not included in this bill. The reason for it not being included does not leave me with a very positive feeling.

I will get into more particulars about the bill, but I want to talk a little more about something I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. It is unfortunate that the citizenship legislation came before the House before those major changes were made to the Immigration Act. It is clearly in the wrong order. The changes to the Immigration Act may well require more changes to the Citizenship Act in the very near future. It is in the wrong order because the Citizenship Act does refer to the broader, more encompassing Immigration Act in several areas.

Beyond that, there are so many reasons that the Immigration Act changes should be before the House today rather than the Citizenship Act. There are serious issues facing Canadians today regarding immigration. These issues have been pointed out by Canadians across the country, and certainly by us here, but there has been no response to them.

It has been recognized by various parties, including CSIS, the RCMP and American officials who recognize and talk about the problem, that Canada is a haven for terrorists and criminals and is a favourite destination for people smugglers. Is that something that makes us proud to be Canadian? I do not think so. It is something that points out the need for changes to the Immigration Act, changes which should have come before this bill.

Polls show that immigration has become one of the top concerns for Canadians today. They want it fixed. Why is it not being fixed?

Farrell Research reports 71% of greater Vancouver residents believe the refugee system is too lax and 76% believe that Canada has been made an easy target for people smuggling. That is no big surprise. Canadians across the country feel like that.

Additionally, in 1998 an Environics survey revealed that 69% of Canadians agree that many people seeking asylum in Canada are not real refugees. That has been borne out by some of the things we have seen over the past year where even the refugee determination system has determined that many people making claims are not genuine refugees. Unfortunately, many are finding their way into our country anyway. Even if they are not accepted they are allowed to stay.

Our formal acceptance rate for refugees is 44% which is more than double and triple other countries that are comparable to Canada, like the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Forty-four per cent is high, but our acceptance rate is more like 80%. I have explained that in committee and there is no argument, even from officials. Only 20% of those who claim refugee status are actually ever known to leave the country. That means that the other 80% are allowed to stay. Many just abandon their cases, withdraw their cases or are refused status and just stay in the country. The end result is the same: They are allowed to stay in our country, illegally in many cases.

We have an effective acceptance rate of 80%. The 44% who are chosen through the system are, hopefully, genuine refugees. However, the other 36% who make up the 80% are not. Clearly they are not because they have never been accepted. Many have been rejected by our system and yet they are allowed to stay. So in effect we have that 80%.

The refugee determination system is badly broken. Why was this not dealt with before the Citizenship Act was presented to parliament so the Citizenship Act would be based on and fit in with or mesh with an Immigration Act which has been overhauled? Canadians recognize the need for that. The government recognizes that.

For four years now the government has been saying “Maybe this year or next year we will bring in major changes to the Immigration Act. It has really been saying this for six years but it has been an open promise for the last four years. Not one change has been made. It is completely unacceptable that this would be put forward now before those changes are made.

There is another side of the Immigration Act that demonstrates very well that our system is not working. People who come under the independent categories have to wade through a bureaucracy that is unimaginable. They have to go through a process that can take up to two and a half to three years, and many times much longer. Often the process takes so long that people who are needed in this country by businesses and by the country, people who will add to our economy immediately, give up. They go to the United States, to Australia or somewhere else because the process there works a lot better. That is unfortunate because we are losing good people. Why was that not fixed before we got to the citizenship bill? It is very unfortunate that it was not.

I have heard dozens and dozens, probably hundreds, which is not an exaggeration, of heart-rending stories of families begging to be reunited that just cannot be reunited. These are families of people who have qualified under the independent categories. They will add to our economy right away. Of course they want to bring their husbands or wives and their dependent children. Who would not want that? Canada would expect that would happen. Often, even after they are accepted, it takes years and years to reunify the family. That is shameful. It causes uncalled for pain. Once somebody is accepted as an immigrant, why on earth would the process to bring their families in not be almost immediate? Why would it not be a matter of a few months not years? Commonly and most often it takes years. Why is that not fixed?

Let us look at an example. Let us talk about Leticia Cables, a nanny who was taking sanctuary in a church in Edmonton. She is a Filipino nanny who worked hard and was honest but who is presently being deported by the government. She is being forced out of this country by this government right now.

On the one hand, we have an unquestionably hardworking and honest nanny who made a mistake but who will be given no consideration by this minister to allow her to stay. That is shameful. On the other hand, we have a Honduran who has been arrested 20 times for drug trafficking, as I have heard from the hon. member for North Vancouver, who is in our country illegally. He is allowed to stay and has been set free. Does that make any sense?

Where is the good management of this government? Where is the good judgment of this government? This is the government that will not allow this nanny to stay. She admits that she broke a rule but that she did not know she had done wrong. Why are we not giving her special consideration when 1,300 criminals in 1998 were granted ministerial permits to stay in this country? Of those 1,300 criminals, 350 were violent offenders, murderers and rapists. Those 350 criminals were allowed to stay under ministerial permit, but the minister will not give this nanny a permit to stay in this country. She is chasing her out. For what? The nanny broke a rule. I do not believe she knew she was breaking the rule. She said that she was given the advice by one of her employers who was a lawyer and someone she trusted, yet this minister is chasing her out.

Where are the precedents of the government when it comes to immigration? Why does it not fix that up? It could then fix up the Citizenship Act, because I agree that it needs fixing as well. I cannot go on any longer about the problems with the Immigration Act as we are dealing with the Citizenship Act.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

More, more.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Some hon. members call for more, Madam Speaker. I could go on all day pointing out how nonfunctional our immigration system is in the area of refugee determination and in the area of independent immigrants being allowed to come to our country and reuniting very quickly with their families. It is a broken system.

I will get back to the citizenship bill that we are debating today. We should be debating changes to the Immigration Act. I would be happy to do that. I am ready for it. Canadians think it is many years overdue, but here we are.

I will talk specifically about three different areas of the citizenship bill. The first is clause 6(1)(b) in relation to residency. This was an area where there were a lot of concerns expressed at committee. I know my colleague, the hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette and my other colleague from Calgary, who were both on the committee at times throughout the debate on this bill, know that there was a lot of concern expressed about residency.

The intent was good. Bill C-16 defines the term permanent resident more concisely than does the current act. The existing legislation may be loosely interpreted. Some individuals have been found to be residing in Canada because they have a bank account here or own property in the country without actually having ever lived in Canada. Redefining that is good.

Bill C-16 calls for 1,095 days, or three years, physical presence in Canada before someone is eligible to apply for citizenship. However, Bill C-16 does not provide any mechanism for determining when applicants arrive in Canada or when they leave, nor is there any intention to develop one. The proposed change is a good idea and I support that change, but there is no way expressed, or in fact even in testimony from the various civil servants who appeared before the committee, of plans to enforce the law.

It is of great concern to me when the government puts forth law that cannot be enforced. It admitted to that. I have several quotes here. I will not read them all because I have a few pages of quotes from witnesses at committee, including the civil servants who deal in this area, where they admit that, no, they cannot really enforce it. One quote says that they will enforce it when they really want to. In other words, this allows them to target people they want to target, but it will not ensure that people really have had physical presence in the country three years out of six. A physical presence in the country for three years out of six is a good idea. I think that is an appropriate goal, but that is all it is in here, a goal, because there is no way of really enforcing it.

The minister of immigration at the time, on March 3, 1999, expressed the following:

Our primary goal is to ensure that people who obtain Canadian citizenship have a deep commitment to their adopted country. We believe that such a commitment is possible only if the person is physically present in the country.

I think that makes sense.

I understand that many newcomers need to travel extensively, either for business or personal reasons. Many maintain strong economic and social links with their countries of origin and Canada benefits from these links. That is why, in Bill C-16, we provide these permanent residents with the flexibility to travel outside the country by extending the period during which they need to meet the physical requirements. It has been extended to six years now, three years out of six. I believe that is a fair accommodation.

That is important because we are truly part of a global economy. That is a huge advantage for Canada because we have people from almost every country in the world who speak the languages of probably all countries on the face of the earth. It is great for doing business. They know the culture. They can speak the language. It gives us an incredible advantage over many nations that do not have that diversity. This is a good change. The intent is good, but why do we have a law that we cannot enforce?

This change is in response to a committee report from 1994. That is a six year time lag. In the committee report of 1994 the government dominated Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recognized the problem being dealt in this clause in point 6 on page 12 of the report where it says that residency should be defined in the new act so as to require physical presence in the country on an application for citizenship.

However, my main concern is that the very next recommendation in the same report, recommendation No. 7, states that measures should be introduced to enable accurate monitoring of the periods of time that permanent residents are absent from Canada.

That government dominated report recognized not only the need for the change but the need to be able to enforce the law. Unfortunately it is not there. I have pages of quotes. I know I cannot go through them all today, but I have some quotes to which I will refer. The member opposite has expressed an interest in hearing more, so I will certainly give a little more.

Greg Fyffe, assistant deputy minister of policy and program development, when questioned by me and others at committee on how he was going to monitor the physical presence, said that it was obviously a serious concern.

Norman Sabourin, director of citizenship and citizenship registrar, during the same meeting agreed with Mr. Fyffe when he said that there was no question that without any regimented border controls in place in Canada there would always be a challenge in assessing whether or not a person was in Canada. Mr. Sabourin claimed that the department had developed a lot of expertise in assessing documentary evidence that supported and outlined whether or not a person was in Canada. These include passports.

In terms of passports, how many people who cross the border, for example from Canada to the United States, ever have a passport? Of course a non-Canadian will have one, but how many have them stamped? I have travelled to about half a dozen countries in the last four years and only once had my passport stamped, and that is when I asked to have it stamped. The passport is not a very reliable document to use when trying to determine physical presence in the country.

Mr. Sabourin went on to explain some other methods the department would require individuals to employ in order to verify whether they are physically present in Canada. They include whether or not a person has been attending school or has been in a job, or whether or not someone can vouch for that fact. There is some merit to that.

Mr. Sabourin, the departmental official, explained how they would monitor physical presence by saying that finally, and maybe the most important part of equation, they have in place a quality assurance program which allows them to verify the quality and integrity of information provided by applicants. As part of this program they randomly target applicants to verify the information they provided and to explore in detail whether or not the information is accurate. They are also able to develop profiles based on indicators of certain types of applicants who might be less enthusiastic than others in providing a complete picture of their presence in Canada. It concerns me that this clause will allow the department to target certain types of applicants.

It appears that the department will be picking the types, stereotyping, and relying on luck in many cases to implement the change which it feels is so important and which I believe is so important. I contend that based on the promise of random quality assurances that nothing is in place to allow this physical presence to be properly monitored. I have to skip over the rest of my commentary on that clause. There are other valid points that should be made but I understand that time is limited.

Another concern is the area of retroactivity. People who have applied under the current Citizenship Act will be made to meet the law set out in the new citizenship act when it is passed. That type of retroactivity is not acceptable. Subclause 55(2) stipulates that when the application has made its way to the point where a citizenship judge is considering it, the application will be considered under the old act. The department has stated that processing time may vary between eight and twelve months.

However, we have been informed that the real processing time is more like 17 months under the current act. There should not be two different paths that applications follow depending strictly on the speed with which the department currently processes. People will be penalized if the department has stalled their application, or if it is moving slowly through the process for whatever reason. People should not be penalized and made to qualify under the new act just because they have not reached the final stage where a judge is about to declare them citizens.

That is very unusual under law and I do not think it is appropriate under this law. One Liberal member of the committee, the member for Scarborough Southwest, stated on April 28, 1999, in relation to this clause that he took the position of the traditional historic pattern of the Liberal Party of not having retroactive legislation. If this citizenship law passes as it is, as he understood it, notwithstanding that someone has been making his plans in anticipation of the law as it currently exists he will lose his one year credit and will have to wait for no apparent reason other than the change in law to apply for Canadian citizenship.

To him that is retroactivity; it is taking away from people who have relied on an existing law and it is un-Liberal, whatever that means. That came from a member of the Liberal Party at the committee who showed great concern about this clause. Generally the committee did not like it and here we have it again in Bill C-16.

Other penalties which are of concern relate to bureaucratic delays as well. This is the last point I will to talk about today because I see that my time is drawing to a close. People being punished for bureaucratic delays concerns me. It is something that is unacceptable. It is something which is in this bill. It is allowed to happen as a result of this bill in different areas.

Subsection 6(1)(b)(i) of the current act allows individuals who claim refugee status to count each full day of residency in Canada from the date of application as a half day toward the total needed for a citizenship application. If there is a delay for whatever reason in getting the application through then a half day credit will be allowed toward residency in Canada. That will be completely taken away under the current bill. If there are bureaucratic delays, under the bill no time will be granted. People will be punished for the time it takes the civil service to deal with the application.

Therefore refugees who want to become citizens will be punished because of the slow process of the bureaucracy. Does that make any sense? We and several other witnesses have called for leaving in place something like what is under the current act. If the process is slowed down by the bureaucracy, at least part of that time will be considered to be time when the applicant is physically present in Canada because the person is physically present in Canada. That makes sense. Many witnesses said that it made sense, but we do not find that change in the legislation. To me that is a great concern which must be fixed.

I have several other areas I will talk about in future readings of the bill. My colleagues will talk about some of the changes they want to see in the bill. We presented many of these arguments when Bill C-63 was before the House. We heard many of the same arguments from witnesses at committee. The government heard some of them. It did not deal with them very well, particularly in terms of residency, but it heard them. Maybe we can fix them in committee but many of them have not even been acknowledged by changes in the new piece of legislation.

For that reason I cannot support the legislation. I cannot speak for all my colleagues, but I believe they are unlikely to support this piece of legislation unless we get some of the key changes required to make it a good piece of legislation.

We want a new citizenship act. The old one is outdated. Does the new piece of legislation provide for a new citizenship act that will work for Canadians and for people who are aspiring to become Canadians? No, I do not believe it does. For that reason we will not be supporting this piece of legislation but I certainly look forward to the arguments, the discussion presented by all opposition parties and by the government in the House and at committee. Hopefully we can make some changes that will make it work.

That is what I am looking for. It is not a bill that should be partisan. I do not believe that it will be treated as a partisan piece of legislation. We are talking about Canadian citizenship. We all feel the same about Canadian citizenship. We take the same pride in Canadian citizenship. We realize what a valuable asset Canadian citizenship is. All we want is a good piece of legislation.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

We have two minutes before Statements by Members. The hon. member for Rosemont may start his speech, if it is agreeable to him.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont, QC

Madam Speaker, I only have two minutes, but I can continue later. This will perhaps allow me to tell you how I have planned my remarks. That is about all I will have time for.

Bill C-16 is a bill on Canadian citizenship, which, naturally, to all intents and purposes, contains the essentials of Bill C-63, a bill that died on the order paper.

The Bloc Quebecois debated it at the standing committee. My colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was leading the fight at that point on the bill as a whole and had introduced a number of amendments to include a number of—

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I believe it is time to proceed to Statements by Members. The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian citizenship is more than a status. Our citizenship makes us who we are. It marks our belonging. For example, every year over 150,000 immigrants become citizens.

Our government has proposed legislation on citizenship. It has established clear and fair criteria in keeping with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What is new in the bill is that persons applying for citizenship must demonstrate solid links with Canada. They will have to have lived in Canada at least three years over the six years preceding the application.

The Liberal government continues to work to ensure that we are open to the world and that we promote the development of other cultures wishing to settle in the country. This is the direction of the Liberal government's commitment and action in immigration.

RefugeesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has now been more than a year since the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was told by Vancouver police that dozens of bogus refugee claimants from Honduras were trafficking drugs in our city.

Some of those refugee claimants have now been arrested more than 15 times each. While the minister does nothing to remove them from Canada, the bogus refugees happily climb into the paddy wagons week after week, treating the experience like a working vacation and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare, medical care and social services.

The United Nations convention on refugees requires refugees to make their claims in the first safe country they reach, but almost all of the refugee claimants in Canada changed planes in Miami, Heathrow or Frankfurt.

One does not have to be a policeman on the streets of Vancouver to work out why the claims are not made in Miami, Heathrow or Frankfurt, but the minister stands by while we get taken for suckers. She is worse than the cardboard cutout we had for a minister before her.

Nortel NetworksStatements By Members

11 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as the Internet has revolutionized the way we work and communicate, the changes that are coming will make the advances thus far seem inconsequential.

Nortel Networks' new technology, the Open IP Environment, is predicted to bring massive changes to the Internet over the next two to three years, providing consumers with Internet access from virtually everywhere.

Where will a lot of this work take place? Right here in Canada, and right here in the Ottawa area.

Earlier this week Nortel Networks announced an investment of $260 million U.S. into the further development of fibre optics technology for the Internet, of which more than $100 million will come into the Ottawa area.

Nortel expects to hire 1,000 employees in Ottawa, bringing the number of full time Nortel workers in the area to 14,000.

Recent investments in Internet and fibre optics technology mean the creation of thousands of new jobs and place the national capital region clearly in the vanguard of the Internet revolution.

The Late Charles SchulzStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, Charles Schulz entertained Canadians and people around the world for 50 years with his Peanuts comic strip.

He passed away at his home last Saturday, just as Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the lovable Peanuts gang bid their farewell in newspapers across the planet. “Such an ending was as if he had written it that way”, said Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston.

As a caricaturist and visual arts teacher, I recognize the importance of this entertaining and educational means of communications Mr. Schulz gave us. The appealing characters in his weekly strip taught us many a lesson about life.

Thank you, Mr. Schulz, for having been a family member for nearly 50 years.

“You're a good man, Charlie Brown”.

MeningitisStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, today in Edmonton an inoculation frenzy is under way. Meningitis has struck and threatens Edmonton's youth.

Today nearly 300,000 of our children will receive an inoculation cloak to protect them against this evil scourge. My daughter, Kristina, is one of those to be inoculated today.

Two precious lives have been lost and over a dozen more hang in the balance. Meningitis can strike any place at any time and meningitis does not discriminate.

Dr. Gerald Predy, Chief Medical Officer for Edmonton's Capital Health Authority, leads the troops in the battle against the meningitis menace with his army of over 500 nurses.

I want Dr. Predy and fellow Edmontonians to know that the support and prayers of the House are with them during this most trying of times.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, clean air and the protection of human health is a top priority for the government and we are taking action.

We are reducing the air pollutants that form ground level ozone, a primary component of smog.

This week Ottawa hosted the first formal negotiations of the Ozone Annex under the 1991 Canada-United States air quality agreement. Canada's objective is to reduce the flow of ozone and ozone precursor pollutants from the United States into Canada, reducing transboundary smog.

Scientists tells us that at least 5,000 Canadians die prematurely each year from the effects of poor air quality. Over the next eight months delegations from Canada and the United States will reach agreement on targets and schedules to reduce emissions that create ozone. Canada is setting strong national targets and a timetable for strong action to reduce ozone and particulate matters with Canada-wide standards. We will continue to take aggressive action. We will continue to provide strong leadership to improve air quality and to deal with the health concerns facing all Canadians.

“Chartrand Et Simonne” MiniseriesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, since February 2 Radio-Canada has been showing the “Chartrand et Simonne” miniseries, which runs on Wednesdays and which relates the true love story between Michel Chartrand, a committed, passionate, quick-tempered and tender person, and another exemplary person, Simonne, his wife, the daughter of Mr. Justice Monet.

I had the privilege of watching the whole series. Two excellent actors, Luc Picard and Geneviève Rioux, give a brilliant performance in the leading roles. I hope Radio-Canada can broadcast the rest of that miniseries.

This miniseries makes us relive important moments in Quebec's union history, including the Asbestos and Murdochville strikes. We can see those who were alongside Michel Chartrand, namely, Gérard Pelletier, Jean Marchand, Jeanne Sauvé and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, before they all joined the Liberal team.

Congratulations to producers Robert Ménard and Claire Wojas, to director Alain Chartrand and to his team for a wonderful production.

Molson BreweriesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate and commend Molson for its outstanding effort to support the community and help save our great Ottawa Senators hockey team.

Canada's oldest brewing company, Molson, recently announced an initiative to support hockey in Ottawa. A creative idea that requires support from the community, Molson will donate $2 for every case of Molson sold.

Molson has a history of helping communities. For example, in 1786 John Molson helped to build a hospital. Since the late 1980s Molson has championed the cause of HIV/AIDS. Recently the company has shown community spirit by sponsoring a program called “Local Heroes”, which is intended to revitalize recreational facilities in Canadian communities.

Over the years Molson has supported over 1,000 projects, and for that we extend our thanks.

Government GrantsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are outraged by the reckless spending at HRDC in the billion dollar boondoggle. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is a systemic problem which is widespread in Indian affairs, western economic diversification, ACOA and CIDA. Let us look at CIDA.

CIDA Inc.'s December 1999 audit revealed missing reports, sloppy bookkeeping, no follow-up audits, no lessons learned and payments made to projects even after they failed. It is the same old thing.

The situation has worsened since the 1992 audit. More than half of nearly $1 billion goes to feasibility studies and still only one in ten projects ever gets off the ground. There is no measurement of benefits from projects. Ninety per cent of the projects did not even report where the money went.

Some of the biggest CIDA contracts have gone to a company which was among the largest single contributor to the Liberal Party prior to the last election. CIDA is being used as a slush fund in the same way as HRDC.

LebanonStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canada-Lebanon Parliamentary Friendship Group wants to strongly condemn the most recent bombing of Lebanon by Israel.

It is understandable that Israel is angered by the loss of life suffered by its occupational force in South Lebanon where the Hezbollah make attacks on the Israeli occupational forces. The adherence by Israel to United Nations resolution 425 to withdraw from Lebanon would reduce tensions considerably in the Middle East.

We want the establishment of a lasting and fair peace between Israel and its neighbours. The destruction of Lebanese infrastructure by Israel was an act of confrontation that threatened innocent lives, and it goes against regional peace and stability.

Because we care about the establishment of a lasting and equitable peace in the Middle East, we call upon the world's democracies to ensure that all parties return to the path of respect for international law.

FarmersStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, as you know we had many Saskatchewan farmers in Ottawa this week telling us about the worst farm crisis for grain farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba since the 1930s.

As a matter of fact, the reason for the farm crisis is basically because of a subsidy war between the Europeans and the Americans. In Europe the farmer gets 56 cents on the dollar from the treasuries in those countries. In the United States the farmer gets 38 cents on the dollar from the treasury in Washington. In our country the farmers get 9 cents on the dollar in support from the treasury in this country.

We know that we have to create a level playing field. We also know that we now have the fiscal capability to do that, with a projected surplus for the next year of about $10 billion and about $95 billion in the next five years. With the budget coming down in about 10 days it would be very wise for the Government of Canada to make sure there is a substantial commitment from the federal government to the farmers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the grain sector to level the playing field for our farmers to that of the Europeans and the Americans.

Human Resources DevelopmentStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Hélène Alarie Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities made short work of the Prime Minister's simplistic line about the financial problem at Human Resources Development Canada being limited to $250.

Why then did the Liberal majority not go along with the opposition parties' suggestions to call as witnesses Mel Cappe, the Clerk of the Privy Council; the President of the Treasury Board; Denis Desautels, the Auditor General of Canada; John Reid, the Commissioner of Access to Information; and Mr. Martin, the Director of Internal Audit at Human Resources Development Canada?

Members of the committee were unanimous that there should be an in-depth investigation into all grant programs at Human Resources Development Canada. Quite a comedown for the Prime Minister, who is irresponsibly suggesting that the crisis involves nothing more than a few small amounts.

It is a shame that the Liberal majority refused to follow through on its logic and rejected the Bloc Quebecois proposal to call the Minister for International Trade and the Prime Minister as witnesses. The biggest culprits are being allowed to wash their hands of the scandal for which they are responsible.

Harness RacingStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, this month I was a presenter at the prestigious O'Brien Awards for excellence in the sport of harness racing in Canada. It once again showcased the superstars of our sport.

When the dust had settled, the lightning-quick Blissful Hall paced away with the Horse of the Year Award. His outspoken, opinionated, colourful trainer, Ben Wallace, garnered a much deserved Trainer of the Year Award.

The real story of the night was the emergence of a new superstar in the driving ranks. Canada has produced the greatest drivers in the history of harness racing, from Joe O'Brien to Keith Waples to John Campbell, and now a new young lion called Chris Christoforou, who won over 600 races and over $6 million in 1999, both Canadian records. Chris learned his lessons well from his father, Chris Sr. Harness racing knows that this young man is ready, willing and certainly able to race through the home stretch to victory for the great Canadian sport of harness racing.

LighthousesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of many individuals in Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who are concerned by the proposals being considered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to solarize lighthouses in the area.

Not only is solarization expensive, unnecessary and ineffective, it begs the question, why convert cabled lighthouses to solar? We have already witnessed the removal of horns, buoys and backup diesel motor systems as cost cutting measures, to the detriment of ocean safety. Blankets of fog in places like the Strait of Canso often render solar lighthouses ineffective. A rush to alter equipment and automation is dangerous and haste could cost lives.

Fishermen are deeply concerned with the prospect of losing these lighthouses by converting them to a solar operation. The most immediate threat is to lighthouses in Cranberry; however, Whitehead and Eddie Point could soon be targeted upon the completion of the Cranberry transformation.

I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to seriously weigh the safety concerns of the fishermen most directly affected by these proposed changes. I urge the minister to reconsider all plans to further downgrade and denigrate these historical and practical lighthouses in the province.

Whitby, OntarioStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Whitby 2000 time capsule is where mementoes, stories and pieces of heritage about the town of Whitby, its residents, institutions and businesses will be stored until the year 2030, at which time it will be exhumed.

The year 2030 marks the 175th anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Whitby. Current and former citizens of Whitby are invited to make a submission, reflect on changes in Whitby or share dreams and aspirations for the future.

School children may wish to submit a special school project on Whitby as it is today, or document popular trends, record the history of Whitby or predict the future.

Families could record their family history with photographs or write letters to future descendants. Community groups may submit a history of their particular group with photographs of various projects.

Submission application forms must be completed by individuals or groups wishing to submit material for inclusion in the Whitby 2000 time capsule. The 2000 time capsule co-ordinating committee will review the submissions and notify applicants of the process—

Whitby, OntarioStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is now time for oral questions.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday when asked about $640,000 jobs grants in her riding in November, the HRD minister told parliament:

...when I became Minister...I delegated the authority for approvals in my riding to my deputy minister.

Yet access to information reveals that in November the minister alone had authority for approvals. I invite the minister to explain this latest discrepancy.