Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-2, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. As everyone knows, this private member's bill was introduced in the Senate. It is now being sponsored by the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country.
I am glad to speak to the bill because it is a very important. When we speak to issues of citizenship, immigration, refugee status, visitors visas and all the things that come under the rubric of citizenship and immigration, we need to be aware of all the facts and not be moved by emotions. Many things are at stake. There are many pluses and minuses. I want to bring forward some of the facts and some of those pluses and minuses in this debate, so people can make informed decisions as opposed to emotional ones.
The issues raised in the legislation have garnered a considerable amount of attention and a fair amount of misunderstanding. It is important today to engage in this discussion based on facts.
Bill S-2 would amend section 16 of the current Citizenship Act. It would allow certain individuals who gave up their Canadian citizenship to become citizens of another country, whether as minors or not, to automatically resume their Canadian citizenship without delay. The current act requires this group of individuals to undergo both criminal and security checks. They must have lived in Canada, as permanent residents, for one year to show their commitment to Canada.
However, many other things have been waived in the act for these people. For instance, while most people have to live in the country for three years to become eligible for citizenship, under the new legislation only one year of residency would be required. Under the current act, most people who come to Canada to become citizens are required to undergo medical checks and may be ruled inadmissible because of medical problems. Under Bill S-2, this would not be allowed. In other words, there would be no medical inadmissibility, regardless of how chronically ill they were.
Under the current system, a point system is involved whenever people want to come to Canada. Do they have a job in Canada? Do they have knowledge of English and French? Do they have knowledge of Canada and its laws? Do they understand what it means to be a citizen of Canada? Do they believe in Canadian values, et cetera? People are awarded points based on their answers. That has been waived for this group of people.
These people may have lived in Canada for 50 years or in another country. They might have gone to another country when they were three years old. Their parents took away their citizenship so they could become citizens of another country. Under Bill S-2, all the previous requirements would be removed with the exception of one thing. Security and criminal checks would be done. That is a reasonable thing to do in today's circumstances when we have all sorts of problems with which we have to deal. The only they would require is at least one year of permanent residency in Canada.
Many people believe citizenship is an automatic right because of birth. This is debatable, and many countries are now currently debating this. Some might have been born here, but gave up their citizenship to live in other countries. They have allegiance to other countries. They have worked hard, paid taxes and voted in other countries. However, because they were born in Canada, they assume that they can suddenly become Canadians again because of some period of osmosis. I am not saying this is right or wrong. Instead of dealing with certain things in a knee-jerk manner and in a manner in which we tend not to stop and think, we need to ask ourselves some very important questions about commitment to Canada and what that means. What does it mean to be Canadian?
All these things are in the current Citizenship Act, and they are worthy of debate. Do we agree or do we not agree? I do not know. We should talk about it. We should discuss it in a reasonable manner and in a manner that is objective and in the best interests of Canada. What do we believe citizenship is? Is it merely a right or is it also a responsibility? Are certain things required to be a Canadian or do we automatically assume that being born here allows individuals to become Canadians? I do not know the answers. I put them to the House because, as members of Parliament, we should discuss them. We are the ones who approve certain acts, like the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act.
When we discuss these things, we need to constantly relook at some of our presumptions and some of the things we did 10 years ago. We need to ask ourselves if we still believe in those things. What do our constituents say? Should we discuss these ideas? A reasonable House is one in which people continue to look at what we have taken for granted, whether it old legislation or one that was written many years ago. We need to ask, ourselves if it pertains to the environment in which we now live. What do our constituents think? What do we feel and believe?
Good, open and honest debate is really important. When someone asks a question, it does not necessarily mean it is a ridiculous thing. Questions should be asked. As people who believe in constant learning and being able to revisit the things we believe in, we should always be questioning ourselves. We should look at new environments and ways in which we think. We should always re-evaluate and do that in a spirit of good humour and mutual respect. In our democracy is one very core Canadian value, one in which most Canadians believe, and that is we should respectfully disagree, discuss, debate and talk about things. This is important.
To make fun of, or to ridicule, or to put down a person for asking an unordinary question, smacks very much of intolerance of people who think differently from us or from others. That is not good in a democratic society, especially in the House of Commons. We are supposed to be learned people, either because of intellectual ability or academics, or because we talk to our constituents regularly and we learn from them.
I was a physician. Every year I learned something new from my patients. They taught me a lot about the things. I learned a lot in medical school and I thought many things were a given. However, when I talked to my patients and listened to them, I suddenly realized more things went on in lives and minds of people, things about which I did not know. We must be open to listening and to learning.
At the moment, we are very clear on what the Citizenship Act says. The bill will amend that act. We have heard another hon. member suggest that there may be some things we should consider. Again, in the spirit of intellectual debate, I am ask these questions because I would like the hon. members to think about them.
Should it be important to look at criminality? What if someone has a strong criminal record in another country in which they have lived for 40 years? Do we want such a person in our country? We say we do not want Canadians to have certain records. Do we want to think about that? Should we be doing criminal checks? In this day of border security and looking at the alliances of people with certain groups, do we need to look into that? I put forward these questions.
Before people can receive Canadian citizenship, those people who purport that they automatically absorbed Canadianism because they were born here 50 years ago, is that too much to ask them to live in Canada for a year, put down roots here and show their commitment to our country? I do not know. I hope we would debate this and at the end of the day, reason and objectivity will win.