moved that Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to introduce third reading of the new Citizenship of Canada Act in the House of Commons.
This legislation helps to define who we are as Canadians. It may not be as dramatic or glitzy as a beer ad, but as we enter the 21st century, it is a reflection of the values that we Canadians share. It sends a message to the world that the currency of Canadian citizenship is not dollars or showmanship but honesty and an often quiet but nonetheless deeply held commitment to equality, tolerance, freedom and the celebration of our diversity.
Bill C-16 updates and modernizes our citizenship process from the current Citizenship Act that was passed in 1977. It promotes equality for all who seek to become Canadians by treating adopted children in a similar manner to natural born children. It extends the citizenship process to common law and same sex partners of Canadians. It creates a process which is fair and fast, and requires a clear attachment to Canada.
In the past parliament, the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, my colleague and predecessor, introduced Bill C-63, an act to replace the current Citizenship Act. Bill C-63 received extensive debate in the House as well as hearings and consultations through the standing committee. The recommendations of the standing committee on Bill C-63 were incorporated into this legislation.
The standing committee also reviewed Bill C-16 and made several recommendations to clarify and tighten the proposed process under this legislation. I thank the committee for its diligence and hard work. I would like to acknowledge the able chairmanship of the member for London North Centre.
A key element of the new citizenship act is its definition of physical presence. The current Citizenship Act includes a residency requirement of three out of four years. However over the past several decades we have seen many inconsistent rulings on what constitutes residency.
Canadians have been clear that they believe the integrity of citizenship means having an attachment to Canada. I believe that an attachment comes through familiarity with our official languages, our customs, our diverse cultures, and our communities. One must be in Canada to feel and appreciate what it really means to be Canadian.
The standing committee on the review of Bill C-63 proposed that a person should be physically present in Canada for a minimum of three out of six years in order to receive citizenship. I agree. Bill C-16 makes it clear that the three years out of six years rule for physical presence is the basic requirement for citizenship in Canada.
Bill C-16 proposes another important change to ensure consistency and equal treatment. Bill C-16 will allow Canadians who adopt children abroad to bring their children home as Canadians. The act will see that the children adopted abroad by a Canadian parent are treated in the same manner equal to children born of Canadians abroad. This will ensure that our Citizenship Act is consistent with our charter of rights and freedoms.
Bill C-16 also includes an important change in the role of commissioners. The process under our current Citizenship Act involves the use of citizenship judges who must consider each citizenship application. However, over 90% of our citizenship cases are quite straightforward. Bill C-16 proposes to use a clear, consistent process in making decisions on citizenship applications.
The role of the judge will be replaced by a commissioner who will oversee citizenship ceremonies and who will review the language and knowledge requirements for the few who cannot use standardized tests for reasons of age or disability. Most important, commissioners will go out into the community and into the schools to talk to people about what it means to be a Canadian.
Bill C-16 modernizes Canadian citizenship. It strengthens the integrity of citizenship by making the requirements clear and the process consistent. It builds on the lessons of the past by including a mechanism to remove citizenship if it is obtained by fraud. Revocation of citizenship is not new, nor has the process been changed.
Canadian citizenship is not a right. It is a privilege. It should not be extended to those who enter or acquire status in Canada by telling lies. Above all, Canada is not and will not be a safe haven for war criminals, those who have been involved in terrorism, and those who have committed crimes against humanity.
This country was built by people from all over the world who came here honestly in pursuit of new opportunities and old dreams. These people have worked to make Canada a beacon of economic hope and democratic freedom, the democratic freedom that we cherish so deeply.
We are envied around the world. We have been recognized by the United Nations for the sixth year in a row as the best country in which to live.
The act honours those immigrants and refugees who over the years have built this country, who have acquired Canadian citizenship. The act affirms the core values which we all share and it honours the enduring commitment to those who have built Canada, their commitment to this true north strong and free.