Mr. Speaker, I must say that it has been rather unpalatable to see the Liberal Party backstab its own members who stand on a matter of principle. It is a sad thing to witness. Hopefully Liberals watching in their offices will hang their heads in shame. I hope the former parliamentary secretary has a chance to make his case before caucus and that he is able to sway some opinion.
Today we are debating Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship. Bill C-16 does not constitute a major or modern reform as it says it does. It falls short and that is unfortunate. Its critical areas have been neglected, while others have been altered in a negative way.
The minister received recommendations from the government dominated Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in 1994 and the government has taken over five years to prepare legislation which still does not address the committee's key recommendations. Once again we have a case of the government writing the recommended reforms and not carrying them forward.
One of the areas I would like to deal with specifically is that of citizenship at birth, which is referenced in subclauses 4(1) through 4(4).
Canada is setting itself up for a problem. We have a provision which allows citizenship at birth, which makes sense for people who are born here of Canadian citizens. However, that provision also applies to people who are visiting our country, landed immigrants and others.
Australia has noted this problem. Because of this incentive structure, parents who are not Canadian citizens will bear a child in Canada and that child will become a Canadian citizen. Then the child is, in a sense, used as a bargaining chip for that family to remain in the country.
In the United States people cross the border from Mexico to Texas via the Rio Grande. Pregnant women muster themselves as best they can to cross the border because they know that if they can make it across, even if they hurt themselves in some way, if they bear their child within the boundaries of the United States it will become an American citizen.
Canada, with all the boats carrying migrants that we are expecting to receive on our shores this summer, is creating the same scenario. Women from other countries will make the assumption, because of this part of our law, that by hook or by crook they will make their way, whether it is good for their health or not, in rusty buckets of boats so they will have the chance to bear a child on Canadian soil. That would give the child Canadian citizenship and, therefore, it would give the mother a bargaining chip to remain in Canada. The sick thing is, that provides an incentive for pregnant women to make that arduous journey in the worst of circumstances. It is poor public policy for the government to set up an incentive whereby pregnant women will put themselves and their children at risk so the child may be born on Canadian soil. I say shame on the government.
Australia was responsible enough when it made changes to its law. It deemed that at least one parent had to be a citizen of Australia. As a result, there was not this use of children as bargaining chips for the sake of immigration.
The bill has dealt with conditions for granting citizenship on presence in Canada. Once upon a time, in and around 1977, a residency period of five years was necessary to gain Canadian citizenship. Then the Liberal government of the day reduced it to three years. It used to be three years out of five. However, the government has determined in its wisdom, even with all the problems we have with refugee status, with people claiming things illegally, with sham marriages and all the numerous things that are problems with our immigration system, to move it to three years out of six to make it that much easier for people to qualify.
The problem is, there is no stipulation for what is residency. In the law there is a provision which says that it is based on physical presence in Canada. However, the problem is that it does not provide any mechanism for determining when applicants arrive in Canada and when they leave, and there is no plan to develop one. There is no ability to check.
As a result, people will come to Canada and say “I am now qualifying for my residency with my physical presence in Canada”. They are then able to leave through one of the unmanned border posts, catch a flight from Seattle to wherever they are from and stay in that country. Meanwhile, Canadian records report them as having been here. They can return, at their convenience, after having lived abroad for a few years, at which time they may automatically be granted Canadian citizenship, even though they were not actually physically present. The government says there is a provision for physical presence, but in terms of actually delivering, there is not. It does not have any way of checking.
I am aware of, for example, Koreans flying out of Seattle because of unmanned border posts. They come to Canada, apply for citizenship, the residency clock starts to tick, they leave through an unmanned border post, go to Seattle, fly back to Asia, do business, continue to conduct their affairs over there, many times evading Canadian tax, and then come back at their own leisure. After a couple of years, even though they are working abroad, they are granted Canadian citizenship. That is a serious problem which the government has done nothing to address.
With regard to clause 8 of the bill, concerning adoption outside Canada, once upon a time if people were coming to Canada they would have to undergo a medical. The government is watering down this whole provision of giving medicals to people coming to the country. As a result, people will be able to adopt children with all sorts of ailments and illnesses, things that previously would have been screened in medicals. Who pays for it? The Canadian taxpayer.
Once again the government has opened Canada to more problems, despite the fact that it has seen all of the problems we have been dealing with so far and for which it has been taking a lot of heat. What does it do? Rather than fix the problems it opens us up to more.
There is blatant patronage in the bill. Clauses 31 and 32 deal with citizenship judges and citizenship commissioners. The sad thing is that patronage appointments were the problem when the last changes were made. When Barbara McDougall was minister the Progressive Conservatives created citizenship judges. Of course, all sorts of loyal party hacks got these jobs and got paid good money to sing the Canadian national anthem and have people take the oath of office.
The Liberals recognized there was a problem. Parliamentary committees reported that lack of merit in these positions was a problem, so the government just changed the name. It is almost like big brother 1984. Instead of calling them citizenship judges, they will now be called citizenship commissioners. It is still the same thing. The same party hacks are going to get the jobs. Those patronage positions are still there. It was probably just too juicy a plum to leave alone.
Clause 6 concerns the language requirements to gain citizenship. Once again there has been a watering down of the language requirements. The government only requires that people have an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada. What is an adequate knowledge? It is very vague. The government knows exactly what it is doing.
I would like to refer to a recently published book by Charles M. Campbell, entitled Betrayal & Deceit: the Politics of Canadian Immigration . Mr. Campbell was a vice-chairman of the Immigration Appeal Board for a number of years. He points out that Australia had the political courage to deal with a number of these situations and made the necessary changes. The Australians recognized that there were people who were engaging in sham marriages, who had poor employment prospects, and all the rest of these things, just as we have in Canada today.
What were some of the provisions that Australia implemented? One was that in order for someone to be deemed effective in the English language they had to be able to demonstrate four things: they had to be able to read English, speak English, understand English and write English. Of course, in Canada that would apply to both English and French.
In Bill C-16 the government has stipulated that people should have an adequate understanding, an adequate knowledge. Adequate in no way implies that they be able to read one of the official languages, be able to speak one of the official languages, be able to understand one of the official languages, or be able to write in one of the official languages.
Australians knew they had a problem to fix. In Canada we have not fixed it. As a result, we are spending all sorts of money to teach people the language once they come here. That puts a burden on Canadian taxpayers. It is something that could have easily been remedied by actually having provisions for those four skills with regard to understanding the official languages, but the government failed to do that.
There are other things which Australia had the courage to deal with which this government did not. The Australians also had the skill level restricted to those occupations that require a trade certificate, a degree, a diploma or an associate diploma. As well, the qualifications must have been obtained at least three years before the application to immigrate was filed. That is very pertinent. In Canada we have a lot of people who are immigrating who have particular skill sets, but when they come to Canada, because they do not meet the qualifications here, they cannot work in their area of expertise. As a result, we have a number of well educated people driving cabs. That is part of the problem with what the government has done.
Australia also dealt with age. We all know that we have a huge aging population. We have a demographic bubble that is going to burst in 2017, which will probably bankrupt and destroy the Canada pension plan. Nonetheless, this government is continuing to allow itself to take on more and more unfunded liabilities and responsibilities with regard to social programs and pensions for people who immigrate.
Australia had the courage to say that the ideal age criteria for a new immigrant were people who were over the age of 21 and under the age of 35. People over the age of 45 would not be acceptable. Australia recognized that the pension and health care obligations would be too burdensome. The Australians recognized that it would be a burden to allow people from other countries to immigrate without pension and health care systems such as we have in Canada. It would a burden for them to enter under an easy guise and receive those benefits without actually having provided much of a benefit to the country in terms of having worked there productively during their prime earning years. Australia had the courage to deal with these things. However, once again this government totally shied away from any of those important considerations.
My party and I would support an immigration and citizenship policy that would require children born in Canada to take the citizenship of their parents. Children born in Canada to landed immigrants, therefore, would assume Canadian citizenship. However, people who come here, putting their child and themselves at risk in order to bear their child in Canada, should not be given citizenship. We are creating an incentive for those women to put themselves at risk.
The citizenship oath, clause 34, had very little public input. The minister, in a sense, prepared this oath on her own. There was no debate and the citizens were not involved in creating the new oath of citizenship. It would have been an ideal opportunity for a nationwide patriotic debate on the matter but that was not done. The minister decided to develop this on her own behind closed doors. Now we will have whatever the minister deems fit as a citizenship oath rather than what the country could have decided.
Once again I reiterate that there were many things the government could have done and failed to do. For example, with regard to spousal considerations, spouse will be a very loose term. As a result, spouse will include not the idea of just a marriage between one man and one woman but it will also include common law relationships. Goodness knows, we have sham marriages that are arranged already, but imagine if we allow people in on common law relationships.
It gets even better. There is the allowance for the whole idea of same sex provisions. For example, a person could pick up a lover some place where they do not have the same type of medicare provisions for AIDS research and whatnot. They could bring those people back here and because they would be considered a same sex partner they will be able to charge those medical bills to the Canadian medicare system. When does the silliness end?
I want to wrap up with what I consider to be basically the summation of the points. We used to have citizenship based on five years of actually living in the country. It has now been whittled down to three out of six. There is no provision whatsoever for checking on whether or not they are physically present.
On top of that, it took the government five years to come up with what it has, which is very little compared to what it could have had, and it was done behind closed doors. It kept in all the provisions that dealt with patronage and continues to violate the recommendations that were put forward by its own standing committee and the recommendations that were put forward by the CIC department, the official opposition and what many Canadians themselves would support.
As a final point, I want to let the House know that as a result of these things and because of what the former parliamentary secretary was attempting to do with the bill, he believes, as do many, that the government should not be acting as a prosecutor. Right now we have people who are going before a political court, that being the governor in council, and are being stripped of their Canadian citizenship despite the fact that they have been in the country 20, 30, sometimes 40 years.
I want to table the following amendment, “That after the word “that” the following be substituted therefor: Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for the purposes of reconsidering clauses 16 and 17 with due regard for the fact that Bill C-16 continues the current system of revocation which has been in place since 1920, allowing the governor in council on a report by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke a person's citizenship and, the arguments put forward by groups and individuals, such as the German Canadian Congress, the B'nai Brith Canada and the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, that citizenship should be a decision of the courts and not be decided by politicians”.
I believe a subamendment will be coming forward as well. The amendment basically deals with the whole idea that the government can act as prosecutor against people who have been in the country for decades.
While we want to be able to deal with these things expeditiously, we cannot have the cabinet acting as the judge and stripping people of citizenship despite the fact that they have been here 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. That is not fair to them and it is not fair to their families.
Obviously, Madam Speaker, you can hear the catcalling across the way. The Liberals know they have back-stabbed their parliamentary secretary and I am sure are feeling guilty about it, as they should. I have seen some rather dastardly things pulled here today. Hopefully, they will take that into consideration and in their caucus meeting on Wednesday they will be able to debate it and figure out the right thing to do so they are not depriving people.
I want to ask for unanimous consent to replace the motion by the member for Waterloo—Wellington, which is now before the House, with the following amendment, “That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefor: Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for the purposes of reconsidering clauses 16, 17 and 18 with due regard for the fact that Bill C-16 continues the current system of revocation, which has been in place since 1920, allowing the governor in council, on report by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to revoke a person's citizenship, and the arguments put forward by groups and individuals, such as the Canadians Alliance, German Canadian Congress, B'nai Brith Canada and the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, that citizenship should not be a decision of cabinet, and those threatened with revocation of citizenship should have access to full judicial appeal”.