Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to take part in the debate surrounding Bill C-16.
Someone much wiser than I once said that there is no higher honour that one can have than that of being a citizen in a democracy. I firmly believe that and I believe that Canadians are doubly blessed and feel even more strongly than some in that regard.
Canadians, first and foremost, do value their Canadian citizenship and their right to belong to this great country. Coming with that privilege also comes obligations and responsibilities, both of which we also welcome and value as part of our Canadian citizenship.
Obviously most Canadians hold this issue very dear and very close to them by virtue of the fact that we had 37 groups and organizations make representations to the committee as it studied Bill C-63, which was the immediate predecessor of Bill C-16. Thirty-seven groups from all across the country felt strongly enough and genuinely motivated enough about this issue, which really only amends the Citizenship Act in quite minor ways, to give of their time to share their ideas with our committee. We took their representations very seriously and I believe crafted the better part of their recommendations into what we have before us today as Bill C-16.
I am proud to say that our caucus too is fiercely proud of its Canadian citizenship. We consider ourselves fiercely proud Canadian nationalists. We consider ourselves champions of this country. Our citizenship is the vehicle by which we are given the licence to advocate on behalf of our country and speak loudly and proudly about it wherever we can here and elsewhere.
I lament the fact that somehow being a fiercely proud Canadian citizen has somehow fallen out of fashion. It is not nearly as common or as typical in this place to hear even what was heard 20 or 30 years ago when members of the Liberal Party at that time occupied themselves to a great degree on the issue of Canadian nationalism, foreign ownership and concentration of foreign ownership. There were people such as Walter Gordon in the old days who would stand up in the House and speak passionately about keeping Canada Canadian, not losing our economic sovereignty and not selling out to foreign ownership. It is now creeping higher and higher to the point where Canadians really have to question who is running the show and if we really do have economic sovereignty.
When we talk about citizenship we cannot help but think of those things and that thrust we feel sometimes. It is time and maybe this bill gives us the opportunity to review the whole subject of taking back our country with our pride in our Canadian citizenship.
Citizenship is not only how we define ourselves as part of the nation-state, another threatened concept frankly in today's globalized economy. The whole idea of the nation-state in its very best light is at very grievous risk of surviving this new globalization in the economy. It is also how we view ourselves as a part of a community. As a citizen it makes us part of a community and it is by virtue of that fact that we can build community. We feel very strongly that this is also at risk in an age where there is a growing importance attached to the individual and not to the collective.
Being a citizen means that one is part of a broader community that is greater than the sum of its parts and that is a very healthy thing. It is one of the reasons why so many Canadians were motivated to come out to share their ideas with us. They feel passionately about this too and they also feel threatened by these very things that I have raised.
The whole globalization of capital and global trade agreements, such as the MAI, WTO or NAFTA, threaten three things which we hold as very dear and precious to us. First, they do threaten the whole concept of citizenship. Second, they threaten the concept of democracy. Third, they certainly threaten the concept of the nation-state as we know it today and as we view Canada in such a proud way as a strong, healthy national government. I put it to the House that all those things are at risk and that is why we saw such a high level of interest in this bill, a disproportionate level of interest given the fact that the bill really only amends the citizenship practices in a very modest way. It gives people a forum to raise this much larger picture.
We look at examples such as what happened in Seattle as growing evidence that young people are very seized of this issue. Young people are very concerned that globalization is in fact chipping away at the concepts of citizenship, democracy and the nation-state. People asked me how I could make this quantum leap from talking about citizenship to talking about the globalization of capital. Frankly, it is self-evident that as we confer more and more powers on unelected bodies, corporations, if you will, and grant them nation-state status, they then have primacy over the freely elected officials, such as the ones in this room, and our ability to govern our own economic sovereignty.
There are perfect examples, recent examples, that we could point to where our own country is feeling this pinch. The Ethyl Corporation lawsuit is a classic example where we, as democratically elected officials who have chosen that we do not want a certain product circulated in our system because we feel it is a hazard to the common good, get our wrists slapped by this senior power, this higher power, this corporate power that says we cannot do that because we are interfering with its opportunity to make a profit and it will sue us for lost opportunity. That is a classic example of the threat to democracy, the threat to the nation-state and the threat to citizenship as we know it.
When we take power away from the freely elected politicians and give it to this other third party, another power, we are gradually eroding our ability to conduct our own affairs and be masters of our own domestic economy.
Canadians I know across this country want the bill dealt with expeditiously. In fact most of us, certainly in our caucus, would like to see it dealt with today and finished with in the House so it can go back to committee, follow through the process and ultimately become law for the simple reason that Canadians want to talk about more important aspects of immigration and refugee issues.
The actual citizenship bill, as I pointed out, makes quite minor changes to the way that we deal with the citizenship issue. The larger issue, the issue that Canadians are really seized with I believe, is the bigger picture of immigration as a whole and what immigration means in terms of growing our economy.
Canadians want basic questions dealt with. The first question they want to deal with when it comes to immigration is how big should Canada be. Has anybody ever really had that debate in the House? How big should Canada be as a country? Until we have that debate, how can we possibly make good rules regarding how much immigration we should have and how many people we should let in every year? We need to know what our goals are and then make meaningful rules to help us achieve those goals.
We have the cart well before the horse in this case because here we are dealing with issues regarding immigration without ever having had that basic, fundamental debate. We can take guidance as we enter that debate about how big Canada should be from our predecessors in the House. Wilfrid Laurier stood up in this place and said “By the year 2000 Canada should be a country of 100 million people”. That was the goal. Pierre Trudeau said and the Economic Council of Canada in the late 1960s said “By the year 2000 Canada should be a country of 50 million”. We are still way off. We have failed to achieve those goals, even although they are modified somewhat.
At the current rate of immigration and growth we are just about right to remain stagnant, which means in 50 years we will still be a country of whatever we are today, 30 million people.