House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.


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4:20 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Motions Nos. 4 and 5 which are before the House. The proposed legislation that is outlined should be addressed to its fullest. It is quite significant when certain groups of people can be excluded from the advantages of our legal system. Not that I say our legal system is all that great, but if there is an entitlement there should be an entitlement. It means having access to legal opinions of the courts of our country as citizens and another group not having that access. We will support Motions Nos. 4 and 5.

The proposed legislation does not allow individuals equal access to the legal system in spite of the fact that they may be granted citizenship. Even if there were fraud I think there is entitlement. I find it passing strange that this provision is in the bill when a judgment was made in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1985 which declared that refugees have complete and total access to our legal system . That was under the Singh decision.

First they were allowed or permitted an oral examination. Then a process was set up which I think was unnecessary, but be that as it may we have it right now. It could be changed. A process was set up whereby they could fight the matter in the tribunals, in the courts, all the way up to the federal court and tie up the courts for long periods of time fighting cases to which there is never any conclusion, except the federal court will say whether or not they are refugees.

Then it goes through the tribunal process again with the legal minds jumping into the fray. The lawyers all line up, just like they were when the Chinese boat people ended up lined up on a dock on the west coast wanting to fight their cases. They knew there was a legal entitlement and a battle to be fought.

Yet we have provisions in this bill that even though citizenship is granted and then for some unknown reason fraud is found or misrepresentation determined they are not permitted to fight the case on legal grounds.

There is an irony in this part of the bill. On the one hand we see abuses taking place within the immigration process where those fighting their cases with legal representation are caught up in a whirlwind. They are constantly going around and around with nothing ever being resolved. This costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and in fact billions over time.

That is acceptable, but on other other hand someone who may have committed some act is still entitled to legal representation by the mere fact that he or she has been granted Canadian citizenship. Is that not somewhat of a paradox or a contradiction? I think it is a contradiction.

Even a judge listening to a case, despite the fact there may have been fraud or there may have been suspicion of misrepresentation, could make a decision on whether there is fraud and could say that the individual after being found guilty is no longer entitled to legal representation. It is clear that she or he has committed fraud, and everybody goes on his way. However that is not what the bill provides.

There are lawyers sitting across the way. It is odd that we do not hear too much from them. Many times there are charter arguments surrounding the issues of which we speak, but there has been substantial silence on that side of the floor. I find that passing strange.

The point in question is the issue of citizenship. My hon. colleague from the Vegreville area, the critic for immigration, put it quite eloquently. Once citizenship is granted it must be assumed to be genuine. Once it is revoked then another matter must be dealt with such as deportation.

There is no mention of that in the bill at all. We deport people who commit fraud, who lie, who misrepresent. That is not even mentioned in the bill although I would assume there are provisions in another part of the act which might deal with that. When there is a violation of the law as blatant as a misrepresentation or a fraudulent application, it should be spelled out here that a course of action will be pursued against the individual. It all comes back to the fact that there should be an entitlement to fight the case and to present the evidence. It has to be adversarial.

Unfortunately that side of the House has either overlooked this point or maybe wants some other legal entanglement which will take off in a new direction in our courts. The Immigration Act is fraught with all kinds of weak areas that continually require argument in our courts and tie up our courts.

It is about time we had some good, clear policy and legislation that can be easily interpreted without the courts so that everyone knows where he or she stands. When there are arguments, which would be fewer by far, they could be settled in the federal court. I find the whole proposal lacking. On the other hand, my colleague, the immigration critic, has addressed those issues in Motions Nos. 4 and 5, and I fully support them.

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4:30 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, let me first say that I support the bill before the House because it would give greater value to citizenship for those Canadians who are citizens by choice and not by birth.

When we look at Bill C-16 we notice that clause 12 talks about people who become citizens by choice having all the rights and responsibilities of every other Canadian. I am one of those five million to six million Canadians who are citizens by choice. Let me tell hon. members that it is a very central part of my identity as a person.

When my family left Hungary in 1957 we came through mine fields. I was a young boy. There has to be something pretty desperate to motivate a family to cross mine fields. The situation has to be pretty bad. When I arrived with my family in Canada I could say that we felt we had arrived in heaven. It is important for Canadians to know that.

The problem with the present act in dealing with the revocation of citizenship pertains to the fact that it is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who, under section 17, could proceed on grounds with a notice stating that it is believed an immigrant at some point in time obtained citizenship by fraudulent means. The person has 30 days to respond from the time the minister sent the notice, not from the time of receipt of the notice.

If the immigrant wishes to dispute the allegations of the minister, there will be a hearing before a federal court judge in the trial division. What is important to understand is that there is not an opportunity to appeal the decision of that judge.

Think about it. The whole history of jurisprudence in Canada and the western world is based on the right to appeal. It is the recognition that no one judge is infallible. If judges were infallible we would not need courts of appeal, nor would we need the supreme court. The fact of the matter is that judges are human and they are prone to error. It is the ability to appeal the decision to revoke somebody's citizenship to a higher court that really underlies the judicial system in its finest sense.

Under the present system there could be a case of an individual who got here by fraudulent means, whom the crown strongly believes got here by fraudulent means, but a judge could make a mistake and say that the immigrant did not come here fraudulently. The crown would not have the option to appeal. Conversely, if a judge makes a wrong finding and says that an individual is guilty of coming here by misrepresentation, the immigrant would not have the right to appeal.

What happens is this. The minister is the prosecutor in the case. She goes to the federal court trial division. The decision of the federal court trial division goes to the minister, who, under the present act, has to act as an appeal court and also has to make a report to cabinet. The cabinet makes an order on revocation.

As a Canadian by choice who values his citizenship, like many other Canadians by choice, if I am to lose my citizenship I want to have the due process of law. My family came across mine fields because we wanted to be in a country that is ruled by law, not where the politicians or the prime minister of the country decide what my rights are as an individual citizen.

This is a good motion. It reflects the views of all of the people who made presentations before the committee on Bill C-63, which was the predecessor to Bill C-16. They included people from right across the country. We had the B'Nai Brith. We had the Ukrainian Congress. We had the Immigrant Lawyers' Association. We had the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. What was so unique about it was that they all agreed that there should be the opportunity to appeal.

The motion before us was prepared mainly through the work of Kenneth Narvey, who is a legal researcher for the Coalition of Concerned Congregations on the law relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those of the holocaust. It captures the spirit put forward by the B'nai Brith and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, as well as the Ukrainian Congress—all those groups representing people across this country, who are in many cases citizens by choice.

The law on revocation goes back to 1920, which is one of the darkest periods of our immigration history. If we think back, we had the Asian exclusion act. We did not want Asians coming to this country and we made laws to keep them out. We had the head tax to keep the Chinese out.

We had the time of the Komagata Maru , a ship from Asia which arrived legally. The popular belief was that we did not want those kinds of people in this country and laws were passed to turn them around and send them back.

It was not long ago that we had a policy in this country that related to Jews which said “None is too many”. We only have to go back to the second world war. To our collective shame in the western world we turned away the SS St. Louis , which had almost a thousand Jews on board. They were sent back to the gas chambers. That is the timeframe in which this piece of legislation concerning the revocation of citizenship goes back to.

The right to my citizenship as a citizen by choice is only as good as the least popular among us in the country.

We have made some great strides heading into the new millennium. We have a premier of British Columbia who is from India. We have a governor general who is from Hong Kong. We have a Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who is Jewish. I urge my colleagues in the House to go the rest of the way. Let us get rid of this archaic piece of legislation on revocation. If we are going to revoke citizenship, let us revoke it by the due process of law, let us trust our legal system that we have built and supported, and let us not have second class citizens in this country.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Human Resources Development; the hon. member for Québec, Parental Leave; and the hon. member for Mississauga South, Trade.

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4:40 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I am glad I was in the House to hear the parliamentary secretary speak. He certainly did a fine job in helping us to relive some of those things. He also experienced great danger in coming to Canada. I have talked to many people like him. It is always very emotional when individuals have the desire to live in Canada. People like the parliamentary secretary inevitably make good citizens.

My area of Canada is much younger than that of Ontario. We are still very much akin to groups of people who came over in this century, even as late as the twenties, who still maintain their nationalist ties. One of Canada's few Romanian settlements is located some 20 miles north of where I live, and there is another settlement about 100 miles from my home. These people are very proud Canadians today.

The hon. gentleman mentioned some of the dark periods in Canadian history. I think about the time of Confederation when we became a nation. That was the time of the plight of the Irish. I can remember Irish people during the famine trying to immigrate to Canada, but there were people in this country who were quite willing to send them back. That is another dark story, another era in our Canadian history of which Canadians are not very proud.

I think my hon. colleague is also somewhat taken back by the number of illegal immigrants who somehow get into Canada. All of the people I know who have immigrated to this country are concerned about the way in which people get here, how long they stay and how they abuse the name of the legal immigrant. These people, like me, are concerned.

I want it understood that I am not anti-immigrant. I am not against the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. I am, like most Canadians, which has been shown in poll after poll, against the policies of the government which do not tighten up the immigration policy. Not too long ago most of the crimes being committed in certain areas were being committed by illegal immigrants.

I say to the hon. gentleman that he should take his case and his story to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. If we have people of his calibre applying to enter Canada, then for goodness sake let us speed up the process and bring these people in. We have not done that.

We have been home to too many people who have been here for years and years. In some cases these individuals have committed crimes and have never been deported. Our whole immigration policy, our whole citizenship department, has taken on a very bad name.

There were three people in my office not too long ago. They were all immigrants within the last 10 years. That was exactly their complaint, that they were finding it difficult because of the headlines flashed across the papers and stories about a very lax policy toward immigrants coming into Canada. They were taking the brunt of the jokes in society. That is not right and we could do something about it.

The other day one of the members opposite referred to the member for Calgary Northeast as being anti-immigrant. I am not anti-immigrant. I have tried my best in every case to speed up the process when I knew it was legitimate. I am against the lax deportation and the inability to deal with people who are abusing our Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The hon. gentleman has presented a very worthy case. I want to support him and I want to support this. However, I want to put the idea out there that we need to honour those people who are legitimate immigrants. We need to move very quickly and deport those people who are not legitimate immigrants and not follow the practice we have right now.

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4:45 p.m.


Rahim Jaffer Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure to talk about an issue that is very important to Canadians and to Canada, the idea of citizenship and immigration, and to reiterate some of the thoughts that my colleagues have expressed when it comes to the proposed changes. I also want to talk about how strongly we feel about citizenship and immigration.

We are basically in agreement with the government on Motions Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in Group No. 2. When it comes to giving rights to citizens in this country, and once they obtain citizenship, they should be treated equally, as my colleague just mentioned. Specifically we cannot take those rights that are given to Canadians once they receive citizenship lightly. They have to be taken very seriously and treated equally.

Before I carry on in addressing these particular motions pertaining to the bill, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague from Lakeland who is our immigration critic. He has worked tirelessly to make sure that the Liberals are kept accountable, that our immigration system works as best as it can, that people from across the country give their feedback on the changes we are debating and that there is the most involvement possible. I know my colleagues would agree that immigration and citizenship is something we should all take an interest in. We should not take it lightly. It is very important to take a moment to congratulate him. He has worked tirelessly on the bill and on the changes that have been proposed.

As I said, the official opposition wants to support these particular motions. As two of my colleagues mentioned in this round of debate, currently the proposed legislation does not provide individuals who have been granted Canadian citizenship full access to the legal system if their right to citizenship is challenged, that is due to misrepresentation or fraud or any of the particular cases where someone's citizenship can come up for question.

From what I understand, during the course of the committee hearings department officials insisted that this clause was not of serious concern. However, the issue caused great concern to members of the committee and a vast majority of the witnesses. I started out by saying when citizenship is granted to any Canadian we have to make sure their rights are treated equally if any possibility of suspicion or misrepresentation comes up surrounding the granting of their citizenship.

We cannot just have the minister being able to revoke that citizenship without any discretion. That is the big concern we have with this part of the bill and the motions put forward. We are happy to see that the Liberals as well realize this in this part of the debate and do not want to leave that kind of blatant discretion in the hands of the minister, but instead allow the proper legal channels to work in the case of suspicion of anyone's citizenship or any fraudulent activity when it comes to citizenship.

The alliance agrees that once citizenship is granted, it must be assumed to be genuine because hopefully the person who has obtained the citizenship has gone through the proper channels to obtain that citizenship. The revocation of citizenship is not something to be taken lightly and must be done only under complete and thorough scrutiny by the Canadian legal system. That is the point of these motions. We have to go through the proper channels. There cannot be the blatant ability for any person, or any minister for that matter, to revoke someone's citizenship unless the person has been proven guilty.

The only thing I found a little odd during the course of reviewing the committee hearings and especially in raising this point of debate is that during the course of the committee hearings my colleague from Lakeland tabled an amendment which was very similar to the two Liberal amendments. I think it is in clause 17. There were a few Liberal members on the committee who wanted to support that but in the end for some reason it was voted down. That is unfortunate.

I will take a moment to review what is being done on committees. I sit on the environment committee and I often want to see a sense of co-operation and collaboration. If there is any member on the committee who brings forward an amendment to government legislation to make it better, one would think the government would support it and still take credit for it anyway.

It seems to me that the partisanship in this place gets to be too much to handle for all of us. We forget that we are here to make legislation better for Canadians, not just to make ourselves look good. I think that is why most members of parliament got involved in the business they are in.

It would be nice once in a while to see the initiatives of the opposition when it comes to making legislation better supported by committee members and especially by the government. A committee is supposed to be a non-partisan effort to make legislation better. I have seen in many cases during my short experience here sitting on committees that that very rarely happens. In the case of my hon. colleague from Lakeland, his amendments, which are almost identical to the motions, were voted down at the committee level, which unfortunately was not a good thing.

Now that we see that these amendments are virtually the same, we want to support these amendments. As I said we do feel, and my hon. colleague from Lakeland attempted to bring this before the committee, that these amendments will help to protect citizens who are under suspicion of having fraudulent citizenship. They will protect those people who are innocent but are under the suspicion of having fraudulent citizenship. It will take the discretion out of the hands of the minister.

If we put this part of the bill into perspective of how many revocations of citizenship there are in the overall scheme, I think there is usually fewer than one per year. It is not something that happens very frequently, thank goodness. At least on that level citizens of Canada can rest assured that when citizenship is given to them, it is something that is taken seriously. However, in the problems which do come up from time to time, if there is suspicion of any fraudulent activity when it comes to citizenship, people can rest assured that their rights will be protected. The equality of all citizens and Canadians will be taken very seriously.

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4:50 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario


Carolyn Parrish LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, it is with great respect for my colleague on this side of the House and his poignant remarks on our history and his personal experience that I reluctantly stand.

I do not support these motions. I want to correct the member opposite who just spoke. In fact the Liberal government is not sponsoring these two amendments. They are being sponsored by the Canadian Alliance.

I speak as one who has a riding of 40% immigrants. Those immigrants are law-abiding, hardworking, productive members of society. I also speak as someone who does not have the story my colleague beside me has, but I come from immigrant stock from eastern Europe. My grandmother chose to be a Canadian by coming from Poland in a cattle boat separated by one thin wall between the cattle and herself in the bottom of the boat.

I have read the amendments carefully and I do not support them. I would like to give my reasons.

I would like to speak on behalf of the almost 100%, as just pointed out, of legitimate immigrants who would not support citizenship for those who have entered this country through stealth, or acquired citizenship through lying or any other means that were other than honest.

I am going to use the previous immigration critic's own words. I find it passing strange that his party supports lengthy court referrals. He talked about it as being a paradox and a contradiction. He has in the past, and so has his party in one of its previous incarnations and its current incarnation, not supported putting too much power in the hands of the courts. As a matter of fact this has been a hue and cry of that party.

Now members of that party are talking about putting power back into the hands of the courts and taking it out of the hands of parliament. They also railed against too many lengthy procedures when the Chinese boats arrived off the shores of Vancouver. They were most vociferous that those people should be deported immediately. Therefore, I am again finding this whole argument coming from the opposite side of the House passing strange, a paradox and a contradiction.

Let us be clear about what the motions would do. The motions would make citizenship revocation solely a court proceeding. The revocation process under Bill C-16 is the same process that has been government policy for over 20 years, tried, true and reinvestigated. The federal court makes a determination of facts, deciding whether the person obtained citizenship by misrepresentation or by concealing material circumstances. Following that determination the minister makes a report to the governor in council and the governor in council decides whether to revoke citizenship.

The motions before the House would remove the roles of the minister and the governor in council and would leave the decision of fact and of whether to revoke citizenship to the courts. Again, the party opposite has constantly said that we are giving too much power to the courts.

Revocation of citizenship is a very serious matter that the federal government does not take lightly, but a pillar of parliamentary tradition—

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4:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member opposite has indicated that this motion was not a Liberal motion when in fact this motion was given to the clerk by the member for Parkdale—High Park. When it came time for the member to move the motion, she was ordered not to do so. I did it as a co-signator.

I want to clarify that for the member. The motion did come from the government originally. It is a good motion and she should be supporting it but I will talk about that in my debate.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That certainly clarified things for me but it may have got the rest of us even more confused.

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4:55 p.m.


Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and I will agree to disagree as we do on many things.

I wish to go back to my point. Revocation of citizenship is a very serious matter that the federal government does not take lightly. A pillar of parliamentary tradition is the principle of responsible government. A decision to revoke citizenship should remain with cabinet which itself is accountable to the Canadian people through parliament.

Further, adding appeal rights or giving exclusive power to the judiciary to decide revocation will lengthen the revocation process of suspected war criminals and terrorists, people who were never entitled to Canadian citizenship in the first place.

Let me also add that the revocation process under Bill C-16 guarantees due process for persons undergoing revocation of citizenship and many opportunities to state their case. The motions before the House would also allow any revocation done under the 1977 or 1947 acts to be appealed to the court of appeal or the supreme court.

If that appeal results in a finding that the person did not obtain citizenship by misrepresentation or concealing material circumstances, the revocation would be deemed to have not occurred, that is the decision of the governor in council would be overturned. This would be a radical shift in the way citizenship revocation is done.

Now is not the time to make a radical shift in citizenship revocation. Now is the time to pass the new citizenship act which has been 15 years in the making. It has been reviewed extensively across the country. There has been much consultation, particularly with immigrant groups. Again I would like to state that the government does not support these amendments.

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5 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I start my comments on the motions in Group No. 2, I feel I must respond to what the member from the Liberal Party just said.

She said that she does not want to support these motions because they would be making a substantial change to the current citizenship act when in fact the replacement act we are debating today has been in the process for 15 years. I do not understand the logic in that. It seems ludicrous if there is a change that makes sense.

There is a change in a motion which was originally put forth by a Liberal member of parliament. He was not allowed to actually read the motion today so I as a co-signator put it forth. It is a good motion, supported by members of the party opposite. Some have told me they will to support the motion so I will assume they will. The argument this member put forth is that it is just too much of a change to put into the new citizenship act which has been in the process of being amended for 15 years. I cannot understand the argument.

The second issue to which the member spoke was the issue of too much power in the hands of the court. That is interesting in that right now the revocation of citizenship is in the hands of cabinet. We have several members of our party who were not born in Canada. If I, a Canadian Alliance member of parliament, had come from another country and if the cabinet had a political reason for wanting to expel me from the country, the ultimate power is with the cabinet, the way it has been laid out in the new citizenship bill.

That is unacceptable. That is old style. That is something one would expect from the 1920s, perhaps, because democracies were not as well developed then. Back in 1920 is exactly when it was put into the act originally. With modernization of democracy surely it is time to make a change so that it is wrong when someone is threatened with revocation of citizenship, which is an extremely serious thing to have happen, and when the ultimate control is in the hands of cabinet.

I fully support the motion that has been presented. It would give that ultimate power to the courts so that a less partisan body would be making the ultimate decision. That is what the motion is meant to do.

The member will have to answer to her constituents. Many of them will be upset by it. Anyone who has come to our country and is in Canada now should be concerned about it. They should be asking this member and all other members of the government why they did not support a motion which would put that authority in the hands of the court rather than in the hands of cabinet.

I cannot believe the member made this argument. It looked as though she had been given a speech by the minister or by the particular public servant who is responsible for that. She read it, but she should have looked at it first. Some members have already spoken in support of the motion from the government side because it is a good one.

As to the power in the courts, the government for some reason does not have any particular desire to interfere with power given by the courts when it comes to the Singh decision. I do not believe it is a correct interpretation. It leaves a situation where anyone coming to our country who is not a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant and has no status here is entitled to the full protection of the charter of rights and freedoms, including the complete judicial process.

They seem to be happy with that. It is something that no other country offers. In the new immigration bill that has been proposed they do not even have to be in Canada to be offered charter protection. If they want to apply to come to Canada and are not citizens, have no status and live in another country, they will have access to the protection of our charter.

Yet the government refuses to grant the same protection to people who have become citizens of our country during their lifetime. It is an absurd concept and I expect the government to have to answer that concern, not to me but to citizens in its constituencies.

I have heard from many constituents, as have some of the members opposite. I would be very curious to hear how the hon. member responds to that and how members of the government who brought forth this new Citizenship Act and yet refuse to make this change, which is a good change, can live with themselves when they wake up in the morning and look in the mirror. I really do not understand.

The Citizenship Act is very important. It could lead to individuals being thrown out of our country when they have become citizens. It is all wrong that the ultimate power is going to cabinet.

The two motions in this group both deal with this issue. I encourage the government to reconsider. I believe some members will support them. I encourage them to talk with their colleagues and change their minds. If government members decide to change their minds on this issue between now and when we vote on these motions, I can guarantee that there will not be one bit of heckling from this side of the House. There will not be one negative word from this side of the House.

Instead there will be congratulations because they will have listened to a good idea which has come from the opposition but originated with members of the governing party. I give them credit for that, but they will not let it pass. I encourage them to change their minds and I look forward to their doing exactly that.

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5:05 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take up much time in this debate, but I want to use it as an opportunity to raise an important issue for my constituency.

It has to do with a family from the former Yugoslavia that has been trying for some time to enter Canada. These folks have experienced extreme persecution in their country. They have lived a period of horror in terms of their personal lives. Unfortunately they have been trying, I must say unsuccessfully, to enter Canada. I have recently asked them to put their case clearly on the record so that I could present it to the Minister of Immigration, which I have done.

I asked the minister of immigration to involve herself and make a decision based on compassionate and humanitarian grounds to enable this family from the former Yugoslavia to enter Canada and to join with extended family members who have been here for some time and have integrated very successfully into the fabric of Canadian society.

I am fortunate to know one of the families that has been working very hard on behalf of extended family members in the former Yugoslavia. While all sorts of people are using various ways to get into the country, these people have chosen the legitimate way, the honourable way, the correct way, the appropriate way. They have gone through all the appropriate channels.

They have been informed by our foreign service people abroad, particularly those responsible for immigration, that the former Yugoslavia from which they come, and particularly the neighbouring area of Macedonia, is not an area of serious problems. These people on a personal basis have experienced severe persecution and extreme harassment. The spouse of the head of the family has been threatened with rape. Their children have been threatened in the school yards with repeated beatings because they happen to be of the wrong ethnic group in this case.

I am not sure this is the appropriate time to do it, but I will use this occasion to raise their plight and concern. I hope and pray the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will see fit to grant this family entrance to Canada based on compassionate and humanitarian grounds so they can join extended family members here. I know they will make a very positive contribution to life in Canada and will be able to leave a very unfortunate circumstance behind them in Europe.

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

A recorded division on Motion No. 4 stands deferred. The recorded division will also apply to Motion No. 5.

Pursuant to order made earlier this day the motions in Group No. 3 were previously moved and seconded. This group contains Motions Nos. 6 to 8, 15, 16 and 18 to 21.

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5:10 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motions in Group No. 2. I want to talk about what has been happening with regard to the government and its management of the House.

We have the citizenship bill in report stage before the House today and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is in committee at exactly the same time. Also at the same time the government makes an announcement that it has finally managed to deport a small portion of the 600 people who arrived illegally by boat this year.

That is the way the government seems to manage. It cannot co-ordinate things even in the House. The minister cannot co-ordinate her own time. She should be here. She is the minister responsible for citizenship. I will not say whether or not she is here but she should be. The minister should be taking part in this debate and listening to this debate. Her time management and the way she manages herself and her department are so poor that she has three things going on at the same time. That is completely unacceptable. Many members who would like to be taking part in the report stage debate of Bill C-16 are at committee. That is unacceptable.

Motion No. 6 deals with consultations between the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of any party recognized in the House, in other words any party with over 12 members, on the issue of appointing a retired judge who in certain cases will take the place of the security review committee. This would be done on very serious issues, usually security issues. The minister would be asked to appoint a retired judge to preside over the hearing. For some reason the government does not want the security review committee to do that. To add some measure of protection in the act, it has said that the minister must consult with all party leaders. This motion would require the minister to get agreement from all party leaders that this judge is an acceptable person and that he or she will be able to deal with security issues or a very touchy issues. I do not think that is too much to ask.

I do not believe any of the party leaders, current or in the future, would let partisan politics stand in the way of such an important appointment when dealing with the security of our country and an issue that affects human beings in such a serious way. I do not understand why the government would reject Motion No. 6, and I hope it will not.

Motion No. 7 points out that in this legislation there are no provisions preventing the appointment of a citizenship commissioner who has been found guilty of an offence under clause 39 or 40 of this bill. I will run that by members again, because it is important to take careful note. The government has put no protection in this proposed new citizenship act against appointing someone as a citizenship commissioner who has a criminal record as a result of breaching this proposed new act. It is unbelievable that would be the case.

I pointed this out in committee on several occasions and yet the government insists that it wants the minister to decide on the appointment. It is an unacceptable process. The minister is willing to allow someone who has breached the new citizenship act, the very serious clauses 39 and 40, to be appointed to the position of citizenship commissioner in spite of having committed these serious crimes. One has to wonder why.

Is the government suggesting that it has political friends whom it would like to appoint to these positions? Everyone in this group is a political appointment. That is why they are grouped together and that is why I have brought forward these motions. The government seems to be so concerned that it cannot find enough of its political friends, who have not breached the citizenship act, to appoint to this position of commissioner that it has to open it up to those who have broken the law under the very bill we are debating today. It is unbelievable. Any other government would turn red-faced or maybe white-faced at this type of thing going on and someone pointing out that it should be changed. I would hope that the government members would support this motion but I doubt very much that they will.

Motion No. 8 deals with another instance of patronage. It is the same type of thing. The Canadian Alliance understands that the government wants to ensure that the senior citizenship judge who is appointed reflects the government's principles and way of thinking. I am talking about only the top dog here, and I understand that. I am not saying that there should not be a political appointment at the top. I am saying that in this position the government naturally would want someone who reflects its values.

All we are asking for is that the appointment be at least monitored and scrutinized by the appropriate standing committee of the House. Does that not make sense?

When the Canadian Alliance forms the government in a year or a year and a half, which I hope and believe it will as there is a good chance of it, we will take this act and completely overhaul it. The person who ultimately will be responsible for the granting of citizenship will reflect the principles of the party. All other members will not be patronage appointments. This government has left dozens and dozens of patronage appointments in this citizenship act so it can give its political friends these lucrative jobs. That is unacceptable.

We are saying that it is okay for the top person to reflect the values of the government, but that a House of Commons standing committee should scrutinize the appointment. That is all Motion No. 8 does. It is completely reasonable. We will see whether the government supports the motion or not, although I doubt it. It just does not seem to want to support anything that comes from anyone other than itself. If it steals the idea from someone else and passes it that is okay but if it misses that opportunity, which it often does, and an idea is brought forth by someone else, then it is not a good idea. That is not the way government will be when we are in power, which will not be that far from now.

This is the last chance I have to talk about Motions Nos. 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21. They all deal with the fact that too much is left to regulation in different areas of the bill. This is something this government is guilty of on more occasions than I can say. In fact, the new immigration act, Bill C-31, which was tabled by the minister a few weeks ago, is so full of holes that we could navigate one of those rusty illegal migrant ships through it with no problem.

I had to run out of here today to go to committee in order to take part as the official opposition immigration critic. When I asked the minister some questions about the new act, she said that it was not really a new act, that it was a framework act. She knows that it was so full of holes it will not work.

The Liberals have left everything in Bill C-31 up to regulation which is the same thing they have done with Bill C-16. Too much is left to regulation. In no way should the minister, civil servants or the department be making decisions on such critical issues as who can make an application on behalf of a minor, on how a relationship between a parent and child should be defined, or on what is in the best interests of the child. They are all found within the new act but that have no definition and there are not guidelines.

In no way should this government or any civil servant be left to decide what constitutes adequate language knowledge or other knowledge in order to be eligible for citizenship. However, that is what this new act will do. These proposed motions would say that this cannot all be left to regulation. We will put it in legislation so at least the principle of the new act can be understood. That was not done and that was what we wanted. I encourage the government to support these motions.

Citizenship Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to indicate that we will support the motions in Group No. 3. These motions deal with a couple of topics, including of course the whole issue of the citizenship commissioner.

This is a fundamental issue. Why are we asking that the standing committee have a say in these appointments? It is to ensure that the work of the commissioners is done in all fairness, but also in a way that will respect the legal character of citizenship.

Under the law, citizenship is based on rights and responsibilities, but we, in the Bloc Quebecois, want it to be even broader. We want it to allow various groups, individuals and new Canadian citizens to be aware of the importance of the democratic rights that have been shaped in Quebec over the last few years by our own charter of rights and Election Act.

We want the commissioners to be able to pass on this information and the standing committee to have a say in their appointment.

The proposed motions deal more specifically with clause 43, the regulations clause. Our motions call for these regulations to be made, subject to ratification by the House of Commons. In our opinion, this is fundamental.

As my colleague from the Canadian Alliance has said, there is a tendency for this government to govern and pass legislation on the basis of regulations that cannot be debated by parliamentarians. In a democratic system, if a government does not bother informing parliamentarians of what it is doing through clauses in a bill, I believe it is a basic requirement that such regulations be debated in the House.

To give an example, clause 43( a ) reads: a )—including medical evidence to establish parentage, and the times when those applications and notices must be made;

When Bill C-63 was being looked at in the standing committee, adoptive parents from Quebec made recommendations and proposals to it. What they wanted to tell us was that they wanted medical evidence, records of medical examination, to be transmitted before the proposal of adoption, so the parents could be aware of the child's medical status. This is fundamental.

In the regulations there is reference, among other things, to the best interests of the child. Some of the motions are aimed at defining what the child's best interests are.

If the prospective parent is not aware of the results of the medical examination, does not know the child's health status, this might to some extent affect the child's best interests. It is important that the parent be aware of the child's health status in order to ensure that his or her vital needs are being met. If information on the health status of the child is not provided within a reasonable length of time, the best interests of the child might be compromised.

In this bill, nothing tells us what the expression “in the best interests of the child” means. There is no definition. There is nothing specific as to when the results of the medical examination of the child must be given to the parents. We do not know if it will be before of after the proposal. Adoptive parents were clear on this issue.

When the bill was studied in committee, a number of proposals were made. We wanted these fundamental aspects to be considered. I think that, for the sake of transparency and due to the fact that the government refused to include in the bill certain details regarding the regulations, we must have a debate in this House on all the regulations pertaining to this bill.

I will conclude by saying that my party will vote in favour of the motions in Group No. 3.

I will have the opportunity to speak to the motions in Group No. 4 some other time. That group includes a very important motion. I wanted to propose it, but my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve had already done so. It deals with the oath of citizenship.

The House resumed from May 9, 2000 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, be read the second time and referred to a committee.