House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.


Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of Bill S-2, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, which was passed in the other place, but which has been sponsored here by the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. I thank the member for doing that and for his work on this issue in the past. I know it has been very important to him. I commend him for his work.

A little while ago we heard the parliamentary secretary suggest that those of us who support this legislation are acting out of a sense of emotionalism. I am emotional about this issue. This is an issue of fundamental justice. It is something that should have been corrected many years ago to extend justice to Canadians who have lost their citizenship through no fault of their own. I want to get upset about that. I think it is embarrassing, I think it is outrageous, I think it is utterly unacceptable that this has continued for so long. I am disappointed that the parliamentary secretary does not understand that. There is no excuse for not having addressed this issue by now.

The parliamentary secretary also talked about all of the ways that the lost Canadians had been accommodated in the meantime and the waivers that were available to them. The only waiver that is available to them is the waiver that denies them Canadian citizenship. That is not acceptable. We need to undo that as soon as possible. It is long overdue. If I am emotional about it, I am proud of that because it is something that needs to be done.

The bill deals with the situation of the so-called lost Canadians. These people lost their Canadian citizenship, not through any action of their own, but because their father or their responsible parent became a citizen of another country between 1947 and 1977. I want to stress it was through no action of their own. They did not do anything to change their citizenship status.

In that period if a person's father became a citizen of another country that person automatically lost his or her Canadian citizenship. What made this outrageous step possible was section 18(1) of the 1947 Citizenship Act which reads:

Where the responsible parent of a minor child ceases to be a Canadian citizen under section 15, 16 [which deals with acquisition of another nationality], or 17 [which deals with the renunciation where dual nationality], the child thereupon ceases to be a Canadian citizen if he is or thereupon becomes, under the law of any country other than Canada, a national or citizen of that country.

This situation meant that even if a child's mother retained her Canadian citizenship, the child would lose his or hers. This is an unacceptable situation.

Many people were not aware of this situation. They only discovered it, much to their surprise and shock, many years later, years that they had spent under the assumption that they were Canadians.

This situation was corrected by revisions to the Citizenship Act in 1977, but it was not made retroactive. What a terrible oversight that was. As a member of Parliament I hope I never participate in that kind of legislative oversight. We had the chance to fix it and we did not back in 1977.

This situation has been made even stranger by a court decision that said that children born to a Canadian mother outside of Canada in the period 1947 to 1977 are Canadian citizens, even if the father became a citizen of another country. That still leaves children born in Canada to Canadian parents out of Canadian citizenship if the father took out citizenship in another country in the period from 1947 to 1977.

We could have a situation where a family that had children in Canada, emigrated to another country, the father took out citizenship and then they subsequently had children in that other country. The children born in that other country are now eligible to be Canadian citizens, whereas the children actually born in Canada are not. That is an outrageous situation.

How can it be that children born in Canada to Canadian parents cannot be Canadian citizens? This is surely something that demands our attention and our emotional attention as well.

This issue has been before the House before. It has also been the subject of discussion at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in previous Parliaments and in the current Parliament.

I want to acknowledge the hard work of Mr. Don Chapman and Mr. Charles Bosdet on this important issue. They have organized many lost Canadians and publicized their situation very effectively. They appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration earlier this month and told their stories yet again. They also shared the stories of many others who faced similar circumstances.

A number of us were struck by the fact that the presentation they made to the committee just a few weeks ago was almost exactly the same as the presentation they made a number of years ago to the committee, almost word for word in some cases. Clearly, the situation has not changed. The issue was urgent then, and it remains urgent now.

The impatience of Mr. Chapman and Mr. Bosdet, their frustration with this situation and with the fact that they have had to appear so many times to ask for this basic justice was palpable in that meeting, as was their passion for Canada and Canadian citizenship.

The parliamentary secretary tried to ask broader questions. I do not think she did it effectively, but she tried to ask broader questions about Canadian citizenship. I think she would have done well to listen to both Mr. Chapman and Mr. Bosdet, who were very clear about what Canadian citizenship means to them. They were very clear about their connection and history as Canadians. They would do anything to have that restored immediately. To say that these people do not feel a connection to the country of their birth and their citizenship is completely unacceptable and outrageous.

They also presented many stories of the uneven application of the existing provisions. There are many stories about how some of the lost Canadians managed to reclaim their citizenship due to the easy intervention of a citizenship official, probably in contravention of the existing law, but certainly in appreciation of the ridiculousness of the situation. There has been a very uneven application of the existing legislation with its flaws.

This matter has come up at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Earlier today the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, the chair of the standing committee, tabled a report in the House about a number of issues that the committee has looked at regarding citizenship. I commend it to the attention of all members.

In it there is a section on the lost Canadians since this is an issue that has been before the committee in the past and has certainly been before us in our work in this Parliament as well. The committee made a very clear recommendation in the report regarding the lost Canadians.

I want to quote the recommendation the committee made: “The committee recommends that any person born in Canada who lost their Canadian citizenship as a child because their parent acquired the nationality of another country should be eligible to resume their citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident and without having to meet a residency requirement”.

The committee was very clear that this needs to go ahead directly without any special requirements because we believe that they are indeed Canadian citizens.

The remedies offered by the government just do not satisfy. Currently people who lost their citizenship in this way are automatically eligible for permanent resident status, but they must meet health, criminality, security and financial requirements and they must pay processing and landing fees. Those requirements, given the circumstances, are not acceptable.

There is no way people should have to wait the period. There is no way they should have to become permanent residents again. There is certainly no way that they should be required to pay landing and processing fees for resuming their citizenship in an appropriate way. The question of security has come up and that is dealt with in this legislation. Where there are major security issues, the cabinet still has the ability to deal with this matter.

I believe that citizenship must be restored to anyone who lost it under those circumstances. I believe they must be seen as people who have never lost their citizenship. It would be unfair and unjust to require them to engage in the permanent resident process or to have to live in Canada for a year prior to having their citizenship restored. These folks are Canadians and there should be no question about their status. The circumstances under which they were stripped of their Canadian citizenship were unjust and unfair. We must right this wrong without further delay. I agree with the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country when he said that the lost Canadians must be welcomed home.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise in support of my colleague's private member's bill to respond to the concerns of people who, through no fault of their own and no choice of their own, have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship for no reason.

Let us imagine a 20 or 30 year old having to apply for a passport because he or she has decided to travel abroad, perhaps for the first time, only to find out, after filing the application, that he or she is not a Canadian citizen. The person was born in Canada and probably lived here the whole time and yet some functionary tells the person that he or she is not a citizen because one of his or her parents left the country during a certain period of time, take out citizenship in another country and thereby, through no choice of the person who wants to travel and with no knowledge or consent, the person is no longer a Canadian.

This is a story that has been told to members of Parliament by more than one Canadian who was distraught. Some of these people have never left the country, only a parent did. When some of these people were small children they lived outside the country for a short period of time but they came back to the country, went to school, paid their taxes, raised their own families and then were told that they were no longer citizens. Some of these people are virtually stateless because they have no connection to the country where a parent went and changed their citizenship during a period of time.

If this had happened post-1977 there would have been no consequences. People would not have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship without consent because of the actions of a controlling parent . However those people who were unlucky enough to have this happen before 1977 were stripped of their Canadian citizenship without their knowledge or consent.

My colleague's bill is simple. It would redress this situation and restore full Canadian citizenship to those individuals who have been stripped of their citizenship. Members on all sides of the House have risen to say that this manifest injustice must be corrected, which is why the bill is before us today.

However, what happened? The spokesperson for the minister, the parliamentary secretary, said that the government did not know if it wanted to go ahead with this. What possible reason could the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration have for not wanting to correct an injustice that has been so poignantly pointed out to members of the House in committee, in person and in many forums around the country when we travel?

I would simply say that we have heard enough of the nonsense of finding some specious reason to delay correcting this injustice. We are a country of justice and fairness and a country that affirms the value of citizenship. I call on the House to support my colleague's bill today and to make sure that this injustice is corrected now and not later.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the issue of citizenship arouses passion among members of the House. Citizenship is something very emotional. It is not just an intellectual exercise. It is something that is very much a part of our being. Certainly, in my case it has taken me on very interesting journeys.

As was mentioned by the critic for the New Democratic Party, I had the privilege of tabling a bill in the House today on the issue of a new citizenship act. We had great cooperation from members of all parties, the Conservatives, the Bloc, the New Democrats and members of my party.

Some of the comments I made this morning are very pertinent to this debate. One of my comments was that citizenship should be seen as a right for those who qualify rather than a privilege. We are talking about a right.

When it came to the issue of the lost Canadians, the committee was very strong in its recommendation. It recommended that any persons born in Canada who lost their Canadian citizenship as a child because their parent acquired a nationality of another country should be eligible to resume their citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident or without having to meet a residency requirement. The committee said that because what happened in a historical perspective was simply wrong.

It was mentioned before that what we are trying to do is to right a wrong. I am so gratified to see the near unanimous support that this concept has.

The bill was debated in the Senate and was passed twice unanimously by all the senators. The majority of members in the Senate are Liberals and yet the bill passed twice unanimously.

In previous studies of the Citizenship Act a number of proposed citizenship amendments failed: Bill C-63, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18. We heard testimony continually on those three bills and the feeling in committee in all cases was that this issue should be addressed.

I can give a fairly simple example to show how ridiculous the bill was. We have persons who were born in Canada between 1945 and 1977. If they were a minor and their father took out citizenship in another country these people automatically lost their citizenship.

I came to Canada in 1957. My wife had our daughter in 1986. Given the year my daughter was born, had I left the country after having become a Canadian citizen and gone elsewhere, let us say Hungary, she would be a Canadian citizen without having to have set one foot into Canada. Furthermore, my grandchild would also be a Canadian citizen.

Surely we can understand the frustrations of the lost Canadians. Surely we can understand their passion for wanting their citizenship back. Surely we can understand the feeling Canadians have that we want to right a wrong.

It was mentioned that Mr. Don Chapman put his case forward to the committee time and time again. He sought every opportunity to do that because he is very passionately a Canadian, never ceased to be a Canadian and still considers himself a Canadian. What we want to do is right that wrong. Charles Bosdet is in the same kind of situation of having his citizenship unjustly taken away from him and wanting it back.

However something good is on the horizon. The report that we tabled in the House was done at the request of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. It was done so we could produce a new citizenship act that would get through the House of Commons. I commend the minister for asking for the committee's input. The committee was very strong on a number of issues but none stronger than on the issue of lost Canadians. The message is very clear. We want this fixed and we want to fix it quickly.

The minister has said that she will bring the bill back to us some time in February of next year and we as a committee look forward to making sure that the injustices that exist in the current act will be addressed.

I want to salute my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast who I saw at the committee many times. Even though we are on different political parties, we are all on the same side of the issue when it comes to Canadian citizenship.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


David Kilgour Edmonton—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, all individuals have basic human rights. One of these rights is free speech.

Tenzin Delek, a Tibetan monk, spoke freely about what he believed in. He maintained that he only spoke out to promote non-violent and compassionate behaviour, yet he was charged by Chinese authorities in Sichuan for allegedly “causing explosions” and “inciting separation”. He was given a closed trial in which he was denied due process, including inadequate representation. He was judged guilty before even going to trial.

As stated by Radio Free Asia, countries including the United States have called for “the need to provide clear and convincing evidence of guilt in all capital cases and noted widespread international concern over Tenzin Delek's case”.

Canada, as a long term supporter of human rights and democracy, should urge the Chinese authorities to stop the execution of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and to review his sentence. He and other political prisoners in China deserve a fair trial.

Louise Pargeter
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I met with friends and family of Louise Pargeter. Louise, a parole officer in Yellowknife, was murdered on October 6, 2004. She was killed while conducting a home visit to a parolee whose release was far from justifiable.

Louise was a compassionate person whose actions were defined by an unconditional love of community. She was an extraordinary partner, mother and friend who touched many lives. I want to express my sincere condolences to her loved ones.

Parole officers are dependent on our system to protect them from risk and harm. Louise's tragic death raises serious concerns about how Correctional Service Canada conducts its operations. The system clearly did not do enough to provide a safe working environment for this parole officer.

I call on the government to make it a much higher priority to provide meaningful protection for dedicated officers like Louise Pargeter who work to safeguard society from convicted criminals.

Canada-U.S. Trade
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the visit of the President of the United States of America today gives us an opportunity to recall the vitality of our trade relations with our partners and neighbours to the south.

During the 1990s, Canadian exports to the United States more than tripled. They reached $359 billion in 2000, compared to $108 billion in 1989.

Canada's total exports amount to $400 billion a year; demand by our American partners accounts for nearly 85% of these exports.

Today, one in three jobs in Canada is directly related to exports to the U.S. market. That shows how intimately our economic health is linked to that of our neighbours and friends in the United States.

For decades, the mutual friendship between Canadians and Americans has been a guarantee of prosperity. Let us hope that this friendship, based on the democratic values of respect for rights and freedoms, continues for a long time.

Bell-Allard Mine
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, following the closing of the Bell-Allard mine, the people of the town of Matagami showed remarkable solidarity and determination, when they marched on November 19.

The mine closing resulted in job losses for one-third of the workforce of this 2,000 inhabitant town. But the people of Matagami will not lose heart and will do what they have to maintain their quality of life.

The economic vitality of Matagami is greatly dependent on mining. The federal government must improve its flow-through share system to make it as generous as that provided by the Government of Quebec.

Such an improvement would stimulate mining exploration and contribute to shorter waiting times between the closing of one mine and the opening of another, which would be of great benefit to Matagami.

Hang on, Matagami.

Computers for Schools Program
Statements By Members

November 30th, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.


John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the opportunity to present the 200,000th computer to John McCrae Senior Public School in my constituency on behalf of the Ontario computers for schools program.

The Ontario computers for schools program, in which our government through Industry Canada participated, ensures that we become the most connected and indeed the smartest country in the world. The computers for schools program was co-founded in 1993 by Industry Canada and the private sector. Computers are donated by governments and businesses for refurbishment. These computers are then donated to schools and libraries across the country, helping our youth to become computer literate and preparing them for the future.

In addition, I am also proud to inform the House that this 200,000th computer was refurbished by Youth at Risk from Bendale Business & Technical Institute, which is also located in my riding of Scarborough Centre.

As we have moved from a resource based economy to a knowledge based economy, the computers for schools program represents a tremendous addition to the technology inventory of our education system by increasing computer access for students. Congratulations to our--

Computers for Schools Program
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to honour a local hero of New Westminster, British Columbia. Chief Warrant Officer Fredrick Scott Stewart, C.D., served at Camp Drvar, Bosnia, with the 1st Princess Patricia's CanadianLight Infantry Battle Group from September 2002 to the end of March 2003.

Mr. Stewart was the liaison officer for the town of Bos Grahovo, and he said the natural countryside was beautiful. Many residents were very appreciative and would ask him why a Canadian would travel so far and put himself at risk. Mr. Stewart, who is now a New Westminster city police officer, answered with pride, “Because we are Canadians and it is what we do. We help our neighbours”.

Mr. Stewart also commented on how well received Canadians were, but that there remain dangerous and evil elements too willing to kill for selfish purposes. In typical Canadian modesty, Mr. Stewart says that the real heroes were his wife and daughter who let him serve.

I wish to pay tribute to the thousands of Canadian heroes like Scott Stewart who risk it all for others for the benefit of mankind. We honour and remember them.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize the strong relationship between Canada and the United States. Our unique bond is based, among others, upon our shared values of democracy and of human rights and freedoms. Our close relationship can also be exemplified through trade.

Trade and cooperation between Canada and the United States have produced tremendous benefits and economic prosperity for individuals on both sides of the border. Approximately $1.8 billion worth of goods and services cross the Canada-U.S. border every day. In 2003 alone, two way trade in goods and services surpassed $441.5 billion, making the Canada-U.S. trading relationship the largest in the world.

Canada's friendship with the United States has brought to both our countries great new wealth and prosperity. May this unique bond between our two nations continue to prosper in the years ahead.

Budget Surplus
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government's obsession with applying the whole annual surplus toward debt servicing is having known undesirable effects, like making the poor poorer.

This obsession also has other serious economic implications. It is irresponsible to invest the whole amount in debt servicing when important sectors of our economy cannot afford to compete internationally anymore.

If part of the surplus went to government programs at least, we could go back on the offensive. The technology partnerships program needs to be replenished to ensure the development of new products and technologies that meet market needs.

The federal government needs an industrial strategy providing for the use of part of its annual surpluses. At stake is the future of our manufacturing companies and thousands of jobs that depend on them.

Welland Canal
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to recognize that November 30, 2004 marks the 175th anniversary of the Welland Canal, a world renowned waterway that runs through my riding. In Canada's earliest years, water transport of goods was essential in opening Canada's trade routes to the world. The Welland Canal was one of these routes from the heartland of the Great Lakes to foreign ports in far off lands.

The canal, originally built in 1829 to bypass Niagara Falls, has been refined to become a Canadian engineering feat, linking Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The canal today is 43 kilometres long and contains eight locks that lift or lower ships a total of 325 feet across the Niagara Escarpment. Since the canal's opening, it has witnessed over 100,000 ship transits and movement of billions of tonnes of cargo. It is an integral part of the St. Lawrence Seaway's network of waterways, which coincidentally celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Welland Canal has helped shape the geographic, cultural, and economic landscape of Niagara while bringing much growth in commerce for Canada.

I would like to congratulate all those connected with the Welland Canal, including all those who contributed to its construction and operation, and shipping companies and the crews of all the ships who transit this waterway in an environmentally friendly way.

John Evans Knowles
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member of Parliament for Haldimand—Norfolk, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House and honour John Evans Knowles, a former member of Parliament from Norfolk who is celebrating his 90th birthday today.

Mr. Evans Knowles was a teacher, a farmer and a former warden who represented the Norfolk riding from 1957 to 1962. It was a different era then and Evans joked that MPs who did not have much to say got the most accomplished.

Evans commuted by train weekly and although his schedule was strenuous, he believed the people he represented would be unhappy if he moved to Ottawa during his term of office. Evans recalls his maiden speech where he spoke with great pride about the riding of Norfolk. Through his efforts, the Canadian tobacco industry progressed and his induction into the tobacco wall of fame ranks as his major achievement as a member of Parliament for Norfolk.

On this day, please join me in wishing J. Evans Knowles a happy 90th birthday.