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.