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:
- 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.