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.


Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, could the member elaborate a little more fully on the impact this might have on the workers in the garment industry, if this is not passed quickly and if action is not taken quickly?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are nearly 100,000 employees across Canada in this industry and they have been waiting for a response from the government for months. The committee tabled its report in April.

The fact is that combined with the least developed countries initiative that has been implemented in a wrong manner, frankly, the industry has told us that it will be severely harmed by this. If the government does not act on this, we could very well see the loss of a major part of this industry and the loss of a large number of jobs. That is why the government must act immediately to implement this.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton--Leduc and I have worked on the industry committee for quite some time. We understand how the tariff and the duty system works. What has been missing in this debate today is the fact that this duty that the industry is asking to have remitted is really just a tax on the industry. It is collected by the Canadian government because we have high tariffs on a lot of the products coming in.

One way of dealing with this would be through duty remissions. We all agree that is the most immediate thing that has to happen. However, in the long term, would it not be better to work with other like-minded countries at the World Trade Organization and reduce the tariffs on these kinds of industries so that we do not have the artificial barriers, and let the market take its course?

I would also ask the member for Edmonton--Leduc, is it necessary to make adjustments like we did in the free trade agreement with the United States for some of the industries that were hurt? Would that not be a better approach? Could we reduce the tariffs, phase them out, and make the adjustments to allow those industries to eventually make their own choices?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that is an obvious yes. Principally, any time we can get tariffs down on a global scale, it has been proven time and time again that Canadian industries, Canadian workers, and Canadian companies succeed and thrive. That is the ultimate goal. I want to thank the member for reminding us of that, because he is right.

This is an interim measure to correct something in terms of our own public policy at the domestic level, but the long term goal must be to reduce these tariffs on a global scale. In the meeting with me, that is what the industry certainly emphasized and I should point that out. The industry said to me that as long as it could compete fairly on a global level, it does not need any government intervention or protection, and that is the ultimate goal.

Going back to NAFTA, the free trade agreement, a lot of people predicted that this industry would not survive. In fact, it has survived, but there are some government policies in place that if we were to amend, it would thrive and succeed even more.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put some comments on the record that I feel are very important. The member for Edmonton—Leduc did a great panorama and detailed synopsis of the reasons why it is very prudent in this day and age, right now in November 2004, to ensure that these recommendations are pushed through and action is taken.

I want to go over one aspect that has not been touched on at great length. As members know, duty remissions, which underpin Canada's apparel industry, are set to expire December 31, 2004. As a result of this, employment decisions have to be made. The apparel industry is the 10th largest manufacturing sector in Canada and because of this point, we can see quite readily how this is going to impact on families all across our nation.

More than 93,000 employees, working in approximately 4,000 establishments, are employed and are counting on this employment to bring bread to the table. The apparel industry accounts for 2% of Canada's total manufacturing GDP and 4% of manufacturing investment, as well as 4.4% of total manufacturing employment. So this is a very critical issue.

The president of the Canada Apparel Federation told the committee that this industry draws on a large range of skills, including technology employment suitable for some entrance to the Canadian labour force. In urban areas, where the industry is concentrated, entry level jobs enable these apparel companies to play an important role in socializing new entrants into the Canadian workforce. These entry level workers develop their language, their work skills, and confidence that allows them to move into more skilled jobs here in Canada.

This infringes on what I believe to be a very important statement that we make to the immigrants of our country. I just signed 58 letters in Kildonan—St. Paul for new immigrants to my riding who are very thrilled to be in the country. I must say that none of them are in the exotic dancing industry. Having said that, these are people who are employed in the garment industry. These are people who are looking forward to advancement in Canada and the kinds of decisions that are made in the halls of the House reflect on the everyday lives of new immigrants to Canada.

We have to look at what is happening right now. We are coming close to the Christmas season. If we look at the statistical studies across Canada during Christmas time, even though it is a joyful time for many people, it is not so joyful for those people who are looking at losing their jobs because of the slowness of the government on this issue. It is not so joyful to those families who are wondering if they can afford to have Christmas dinner.

With all due respect, the Prime Minister has been away on a world tour and we hear on a daily basis how he drops into one country on one day, climbs on the jet and drops into another country on another day, and makes wonderful photo ops and wonderful press releases, all having to do with what he feels his treasured words do to these countries. I would like to bring forward that it is more prudent in this day and age for the Prime Minister to be here in Canada at this time when we have critical legislation and decisions that have to be made that impact on Canadians and on immigrants coming to our country in a major way.

We on this side of the House stay in touch with Canadians. We care about what happens to them. I am very much in support of this motion. As we look at this more closely, I would implore members opposite to ensure that they address this issue in a very speedy manner so that families, who are waiting to hear what is going to be happening to their jobs and how it is going to impact on their families, will be able to rest assured that they will have employment.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Kildonan--St. Paul on her first election to this House.

It is nice to hear the compassionate tone in the speech that she gave. I am particularly impressed by the fact that she is emphasizing the impact of this resolution if it were not passed and what the impact would be on unemployment. The member has also emphasized the impact it would have on families. The time has come for us in this House to recognize that whatever we do here impacts families directly or indirectly. In this case, it could have a very direct impact on families.

At this time of year, when we are getting ready for Christmas and where we are getting ready to put together those things that really matter to families, could the member talk a little bit about that as well?

We have heard a lot about the particular motion that is now before the House. It is very significant. The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc put together a kaleidoscope of all the things that must be done. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance indicated the complexity of this issue. However, no one so far has really emphasized the significance and the impact that it would have on families.

I wonder if the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul might be able to address that question and expand a little further on what she alluded to in her speech.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.


Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite simply, here in the House of Commons we often forget about the fact that what is really important is what happens to our families in Canada. This is all about jobs and quality of life. We must keep that very important point at the head of the agenda that we have here in the House. Retaining these jobs and working quickly on this motion would do much to help that.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.



Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, in the two minutes I have left, I will repeat that I am in support of the motion by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. I appreciate that we have all party support on this. Now we all have to work together, of course, to convince the Minister of Finance to do the right thing.

The issue of the employees, which other hon. members have raised today, has been of concern to me. As I said earlier, we introduced a program for older workers because we need to work with the provinces, for instance, and I will give one very specific example in my riding. Most of it is high tech now. This industry is not labour intensive but high tech, yet especially on the apparel side there are still newly arrived immigrants who are working in this industry.

We need to have two programs, then, one for those who can no longer be recycled. In my opinion, the PATA program introduced by this government has to be introduced earlier, as I have said. At the same time, as the industry becomes more high tech, we have to look at what other types of programs we are going to introduce for those workers who are newly arrived in this country and may not have the skills. I actually have raised this issue with the minister of labour of Quebec. We must have programs.

I will give members another example. In regard to the high tech part of it, a lot of the business people in my riding need trained personnel. There used to be one high tech program, especially in the needle trade. Unfortunately none of the students finishing high school and who may not want to go to professional schools are actually entering this program. We have to encourage this and work with the textile resource institute to get young people to actually find a future in this industry. It is nice to have these machines, but if no one can program them then there is no future.

What I want to say in the last few seconds I have left is that I have worked with this industry for a long time, as have the government, the Minister of Finance and the former ministers of finance. The reason the former minister of finance, now the Prime Minister, put in the seven year period in terms of the duty remission was to help this industry. We have to do the same thing again, in my opinion.

I also want to say that on November 22 I had the pleasure of announcing, along with the Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada, the CANtex program to help the textile industry. There are things happening and there are things we have to do, but we have to do more. It has to be a multi-faceted approach.

It also has to be an approach to open new markets, as I said. In terms of what is going to be in front of the committee on international trade today, the apparel and textile industries will be presenting some recommendations to see how we can help those two industries find new markets for our products. We have very good and competitive products. In my opinion, we have to be more protectionist, like the Americans, of our industry and we have to encourage a north-south type of market, perhaps, instead of looking to Europe or Asia where we are not competitive at all.

We have to assist the ministers, especially the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, to reallocate new sources of funding for those senior workers who will lose their jobs because this industry is becoming more technologically advanced. At the same time, as I have said, we have to look at what other tools the industry needs in order for us to be able to assist it.

My time is up. I support the hon. member's motion. I will continue to work with my colleagues from the Beauce and Scarborough Centre and the minister involved.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being one o'clock, pursuant to order made on Monday, November 29, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

November 30th, 2004 / 1 p.m.


John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

moved that Bill S-2, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a non-partisan effort on the part of many people to correct an historic injustice. This is an all party effort to restore rightful Canadian citizenship to a group that has collectively come to be called “the lost Canadians”.

It applies to Canadians who were born between 1947 and 1977 and who lost their Canadian citizenship through no conscious decision or action of their own.

It applies to my good friend, Don Chapman, who lost his citizenship as a child when his father moved to the United States for economic reasons. Don's family has lived in Canada for 200 years. His father was born here, fought in World War II for Canada and was only welcomed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration when he returned to Canada to be laid to rest.

Don Chapman has a home in my constituency. He is a good and solid citizen who hopes to retire in Canada on his corporate American pension. A good part of his father's estate has been given to Canadian universities and to charities.

This is also a story of a federal department, citizenship and immigration, that has run amok and roughshod over the wishes of Parliament, its political masters, and over the rights of the Canadian-born individuals we call the lost Canadians.

It is there in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration where the real resistance is to recognizing and returning the lost Canadian children to their birthright.

In that department, decisions are made to allow known war criminals and fugitives from justice and those accused of genocide to land and claim the protection of the charter of rights.

It is in that department where we can find the fiercest resistance to allowing the lost Canadian children to reclaim their birthright and their Canadian citizenship.

It is that department that the citizenship and immigration committee of this House should be closely investigating to determine why there is such willingness to thwart the will of Parliament.

Many Canadians who were born in hospitals on the other side of the line, in the nearest hospital, might not realize they could be deemed non-Canadian by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. However, in certain areas in Canada there are individuals who are quietly having their citizenship handed to them by that very same department. These people were born in the United States because there were American hospitals that were closer to their parents' homes than the nearest Canadian hospitals.

Why does the Department of Citizenship and Immigration play favourites? Is that the assumed role of the bureaucracy, to decide who is a Canadian and who is not?

The citizenship and immigration department argues that these lost Canadians might return and take advantage, that is, not the Canadians who are getting their citizenship papers slipped to them quietly by the department, but others like Don Chapman.

Don Chapman will retire as a pilot for a major American airline. A large part of his father's estate was left to Canadian universities and charities. And yet citizenship and immigration hints that he, along with other lost Canadians, might become a burden on society?

If there is anything burdensome in Canada, it is the bureaucrats in that department who thwart the will of Parliament and make decisions as to who will make good Canadians and who will not.

Canadians are also mystified as to how a foreign-born stripper can be fast-tracked by the immigration minister after working on the minister's election campaign, while a Canadian-born, outstanding individual like Don Chapman, like so many others, gets the cold shoulder.

Should Mr. Chapman have flown to Toronto to work on the campaign of the minister? Would that have endeared him to her sufficiently enough for her to order her bureaucrats to give him back his Canadian citizenship? She should hang her head in shame and then offer her resignation.

Then there is Magali Castro-Gyr, born in Montreal, with two Canadian parents. Her father took out American citizenship while Magali's mother refused, choosing for her and her children to remain Canadian. At least that is what Magali's mother thought. In 2000, her parents returned. Her father regained his Canadian citizenship, but not Magali. Her passport expired and, after a huge battle, she was ordered to leave Canada.

At the last minute, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration offered her citizenship, but only if she signed a gag order that she would never tell anyone, not even Parliament, what it had done to her.

If we told people that story without naming names, they would automatically think of some third world dictatorship. When we tell them it happened here in Canada, they are horrified to learn that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is willing to do anything, even cheapen our citizenship, to thwart Parliament and cover its hind end. Maybe what is needed at CIC is a heavy-duty broom and a big shovel.

Sheila Walsh was abducted as a 9 year old Canadian child 40 years ago and taken to England. After years of searching, she found her father living here in Canada. He died waiting for his daughter to regain her citizenship. That is all he wanted after fighting and giving his life for Canada in the trenches.

It was Paul Martin Senior who visited war graves in Europe and noted how Canadians born in Sherbrooke or Vancouver or even Ottawa were classified on their headstones as British subjects. That is how the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act came into being. That was the creative spark for the legislation.

It was good legislation, done by the Prime Minister's father, to make sure that we all became Canadian citizens instead of being British subjects. The problem with it back then was that it stated that married women, children, lunatics and idiots--this is in the bill--would be classified under the same disability for their national status.

It seems to me that the present Prime Minister might now want to consider legislation to correct that horrible blunder of so many years ago. I hope that his party will support this bill. In this case, we could say that the errors of the father should be visited by the son.

This is a non-partisan and all party effort to correct a historic wrong. It is not going to open the floodgates to the undesirables. That is already happening thanks to the policies of this and previous governments and the mismanagement of citizenship and immigration.

The bill is not and should not be interpreted or spun as a matter of confidence. It should be accepted and adopted unanimously by the House as a matter of conscience.

It is time to bring these lost Canadians home. It is time to tell the world we no longer believe that married women and children are mere chattels of the husband and the father. It is time to tell the world that Canada no longer believes that married women, children, lunatics and idiots are all categorized as somehow being lesser human beings.

It is time for this Parliament to welcome the lost Canadian children home.

I want to congratulate the chairman and members of the citizenship and immigration committee, who had the foresight when they saw the bill in the Senate, and I will get to that in second, to bring the witnesses down to the committee when Parliament started and look at this idea before we even got the bill into the House. I know they passed a motion to support these people in getting their citizenship back, so I want to congratulate the chairman and members of the committee for the good job they did.

I was somewhat astounded when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration made her comments about how the government could not support the bill. I thought that, if anybody, a person who was an immigrant to the country and became a Canadian citizen would understand that thrill of being a Canadian citizen, and especially if one was born here. I had hoped that she would make a speech on that but she did not. That is unfortunate, but I think the majority of members will support it. I have spoken to members on the other side of the House who are going to vote with us on the bill. I am sure it is going to pass this time.

Finally, I want to thank Senator Kinsella and all the senators in the other house who voted this bill in unanimously. It went through the Senate and all their committees, unanimously behind changing this law, which is long overdue.

I can think of nothing worse than losing one's citizenship involuntarily. If one is born in this country, one should retain Canadian citizenship; and this is since 1977. I know there are many members of the House whose spouses are American citizens but are also Canadian citizens. I am one of them. My spouse was born here but had parents who were Americans and she has the right to have dual citizenship. That is fair. That is the way it should be.

By the passage of the bill, which I hope will happen very quickly, we can right a wrong done to many people in the country and we can all smile a little bit knowing we have done a good job in 2004 to correct this injustice.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill. Before I address the substance of the bill, and I agree that the bill is non-partisan, I am going to take exception with what the hon. member said about the case of the foreign stripper. I profoundly disagree with his reasoning on that issue. I have not had an opportunity, but I am going to take it now to say something about this issue.

I have never met this individual nor have I seen her, and I do not know her husband either. This is an individual who came from another country and is married to a Canadian. I have to ask myself the question: If the woman had been a Canadian citizen and married a man who came from Romania to be a bodyguard in the same strip joint, would this debate be taking place in exactly the same manner? To ask ourselves the question is to answer it. It is quite clear that it would not have happened.

Perhaps that is a little harder for the minister to say. Because she is a woman, the first thing someone is going to say is that the minister is using that particular way to get herself out of trouble. I have nothing to do with this debate and I am not a minister at all. However, that is the first thing that struck me. Every time the issue was raised, it was the profession of the woman that became the issue as opposed to the cause.

I want to comment on this business of having a meeting in her campaign headquarters. Everyone here who is an incumbent member of Parliament knows perfectly well, and even those who were candidates for the first time, that during the campaign constituents flood our headquarters. They do not know the difference between a headquarters and a constituency office. They show up at headquarters with their employment insurance cheque wanting assistance, and so on and so forth. Do we kick them out? Obviously not--

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

An hon. members

Stay on the subject of the bill.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is the subject. It was in the speech of the hon. member who spoke and I am responding to that.

Now, I want to deal with the issue as such, and it is a pleasure for me to do so.

The hon. member raised a very good point as regards children born of a Canadian father and a foreign mother. It seems extremely unfair to me that, currently, the child of a Canadian father and a foreign mother is a Canadian—we are talking about pre-1977 cases—while the child of a Canadian mother and a foreign father is not. From a biological point of view, it is easy to see that this is ridiculous. If anything, it should at least be the contrary. There would then be some semblance of fairness. In fact, some religious denominations—such as the Jewish religion—are based on the principle that the only parent who can always be recognized is, by definition, the mother. It seems to me that there is an element of unfairness in the existing legislation. I mentioned it on several occasions and it should be corrected.

I want to mention the case of a constituent of mine. A child was abducted in my riding. That child was my daughter's friend when she was in school, in junior kindergarten. Her name was Tina Lynn Malette. She is no longer a child, she is now an adult. The child was born in 1978, but that is a coincidence. Imagine a child born one year earlier.

Her father was Tunisian, while her mother was Canadian. The child, who was living in my riding, was abducted by the father on a Sunday afternoon, when he was using his visiting rights. That child was taken to Tunisia and remained there against her will until the age of 18. She is now living in Canada.

Several attempts were made to get her out. A committee was set up. It included some parliamentarians like me, and Max Keeping, from the television station CJOH, in Ottawa, was our honorary president. We collected funds, hired lawyers and did everything we could to get that child back. However, we did not succeed, because according to certain laws of a religious nature in that country, the rights of the father were basically the only ones that counted.

All this to say that, one day, the child was able to come back to Canada after running away from her home, when she was 18, and going to our embassy in Tunisia. Incidentally, I met the official who helped her make it back to Canada. Whenever I see him, I thank him for his help. But that is not the point. Imagine if that child had been born a year earlier. She would not have had the right to come back. She would have had to apply for citizenship, because her father was a Tunisian living in Canada with her mother, a Canadian by the name of Evelyn Malette, in my riding.

So, there is no one in the whole bureaucracy who can convince me that this works. In my opinion, it does not work.

Therefore the bill should be referred to committee for study. I will share a few worries nonetheless. Some will tell us—and we will be hearing this—that there should be a procedure, for example, for people who have been imprisoned in the United States for 20 years or so and who ask, on the day they get out to come back to Canada, a country they have never seen, because they lived here when they were one or two or three years old. That is possible. Perhaps in the parliamentary committee certain amendments will be needed to make corrections.

That does not mean that the bill in general is bad. I think that it has identified a situation that ought to be corrected. In that respect, I agree with the hon. member who sponsored the bill, but I do not agree with his comments about the minister.

Now, for those who say that there is a need to protect those who come from abroad, and perhaps to protect those who were imprisoned right until they decided to return to Canada, there, too, is a problem.

This is my question, right away. Let us take the case of two different individuals, one born January 1, 1977 and the other January 1, 1978. How is it that all this security clearance is needed? They might be friends, they might have been released from prison on the same day, they might have been partners in crime. One of them will require all this security check, and the other nothing at all. I will need to hear an explanation in committee if I am going to understand how Canada is safer for admitting one of these individuals without question, and the other with a security clearance.

Finally, I am curious to know what exactly is meant by this security requirement. “Inadmissible on grounds of security” is a very broad criterion in the Immigration Act as it now stands.

I know of a case. There is a man in my riding who is in his fifties. He came here from Europe, but I will not specify the country because this could identify him, as there are not that many immigrants in my riding.

This person comes here from Europe. He worked for a number of years on a farm in my riding and then applied to change his visa worker status to landed immigrant status, and is refused. He is told that this is because of a criminal record: shoplifting when he was a student. Thirty years later, this person, now probably a grandfather, is inadmissible as a permanent resident of Canada. Let us not lose sight of the fact that he is already living here. I have some reservations about these procedures.

Yes, there may be reason in committee to tighten up certain things in the bill. We must not, however, claim that there are not injustices at the present time. I believe that there are injustices, for all the reasons I have set out in my speech.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Vancouver Centre


Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

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.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Meili Faille Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words today about the motion presented by our colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. The Citizenship Act as we know it is incomplete. The purpose of Bill S-2 is to correct it.

The reason we are in this House today discussing this issue is that in the first legislation, in 1947, a gaping hole was created when dual citizenship was not allowed. In 1977, when Parliament wanted to improve the situation by allowing dual citizenship, it fixed only half the problem.

Now it is time for Parliament to give an equal chance to everyone who is part of the Canadian family, or at least those who were denied an equal chance by this unclear legislation.

The purpose of Bill S-2 is to correct the situation whereby a person lost their Canadian citizenship during their childhood because one of their parents acquired another citizenship or renounced their Canadian citizenship. In other words, the child in question was not given the choice as an adult of keeping their Canadian citizenship or adopting another one.

Hon. members should know that, for children born after 1977, this situation is no longer a problem because Canada has been accepting dual citizenship since then, if the laws in the other countries permit it. However, the legislative gap still exists for people born between 1947 and 1977. Bill S-2 gives everyone the same rights and since it is an egalitarian measure, the Bloc Québécois cannot oppose it.

Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child reads as follows:

  1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality—

Thus, anyone who shares the values of the United Nations has to be in favour of this bill.

Much of the testimony heard when this bill was first introduced was similar to the testimony heard by a recent parliamentary committee on this issue referred to as the “lost Canadians” issue.

Everyone agrees. A major oversight in the 1977 legislation caused an ordeal for many people, and it is high time for Parliament to recognize its mistakes and correct them.

Let us hope that all the members of this House will take this opportunity to correct an injustice to those who were born here, in Canada. They are fully entitled to this right to citizenship, and I hope that the members opposite will recognize that they have no choice but to support it. That is what the members on this side of the House will be doing. We are ready to put right errors from the past.

Some may say that we can each think what we want, but I would ask the House to consider all these people who are continuing to be the victims of this retrograde legislation, which victimizes two categories of people in particular: women, and children.

In 2004, we still have legislation that victimizes women. Sections 17 and 18 in part III of the 1947 act have the effect of subjugating the rights of women and children to that of their husband or father. I remind the hon. members that this provision is still in effect for those born before 1977. Consequently, there are Canadians who automatically lost their Canadian citizenship when their husband or parent became a citizen of another country or changed nationality.

I want to make it clear that, even today, without Bill S-2, there are stateless persons in Canada. Some children stopped being Canadians without automatically gaining citizenship in another country. They had to reach the age of majority to apply for new citizenship, or to go through the immigration process, here in Canada, to become Canadians again. That is to say, they lost all their rights as citizens, in other words, Canada repudiated them.

In fact, the government was already aware of these anomalies. This is why it amended this legislation in 1977. However, the amendment was not retroactive, which meant that what was good for some was no longer good for others, with the result that there are still many lost Canadians.

Fortunately, some members took note of these mistakes and decided to correct them. This is why the Bloc Québécois is asking all members of the House to support this motion, and it is our hope that each and everyone will work to correct past mistakes.

Again, it is not by choice that these people lost their citizenship, it is because of the implementation of the act. We are asking the House to allow everyone to make a conscious choice and have the opportunity to do as he or she wants, make his or her own decisions, so that any Canadian citizen who stops being a Canadian does so by choice, and not because of someone else's decisions or actions.

I also know that there is no limit to virtue and that, when it comes to correcting past mistakes, we can surpass ourselves. Therefore, I invite first the leader of this government to support this amendment to the act and to ask his party to also support the motion.

Correcting past mistakes, showing compassion for all those whose rights were denied for so long, implementing a solution for all these lost Canadians, several of whom are now deceased, and paying this posthumous honour to them undoubtedly require a tremendous effort. However, as I said, there is no limit to virtue and I am convinced that everyone here in this House is capable of such an effort, beginning with the Prime Minister.

This legal error affects only those born in Canada, however. If there are two cases, and one person is born outside the country and the other inside, only the Canadian-born person experiences the lost Canadian problem. This is not an immigration problem, but a citizenship problem. When Canadians give birth outside this country, the baby is Canadian. But if the parents of babies born here change nationality, the children have to follow the change of their parents, without any power to decide themselves or to revoke the decision if—I remind hon. members of this point—they were born between 1947 and 1977, and not later. Why two different laws? It is absurd that these children have to go through all the red tape of immigration, when they are not immigrants, as the legislation of 1977 recognizes. They are Canadians. What have they done wrong? Been born too soon. Why is it that what applies to an individual born after a very recent point in time,, does not apply to one born prior to that point?

It is not that you have not understood this issue, Mr. Speaker, but rather that it makes no sense. That is all. This is why we suggest that the House support motion S-2 without reservation, in order to restore common sense to Canada's legislation, as was done partially in 1977.

It is a matter of citizenship, common sense as it applies to citizenship. So, as a sovereignist, I can defend it. It is not a matter of how or what should be implied, it is just a matter of having citizenship legislation that is consistent for everyone. Today, we must admit, it is not. This simple motion, S-2, would put things back into perspective and correct what this Parliament has not yet been able to remedy.

Citizenship, be it Canadian, American or French, is too important to be subjected to inconsistent legislation. That is why I strongly encourage this House to unconditionally support Motion S-2, which we have before us.