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House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was adoption.

Topics

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to open the debate today on Bill C-14.

As members may know, this bill was introduced in the House on May 15. The timing was no accident. The United Nations designated May 15 as International Families Day. This is a day to reflect on the importance of families to societies around the world. This year's theme was about changing families and it has given us an opportunity to see how we can support their changing needs.

This bill give us the perfect opportunity to show our support for Canadian families who wish to adopt children born abroad.

Let me tell the House about one of those children. A baby girl was abandoned in a public place in China where she would likely be found. She was only a few months old. An orphanage took her in and gave her a date of birth and a name. She was lucky.

A Canadian woman heard of the little girl and began the adoption process. She went to China and returned with a skinny and frightened little girl who, for the third time in 15 months, had been given to someone she did not know.

After waiting for two years for amendments to the Citizenship Act the Canadian mother arranged for her adopted daughter's case to be channelled through the usual immigration process and she received Canadian citizenship in about one year.

Today, she is a very happy girl living in Scarborough.

However, if this little girl had received citizenship at the time of her adoption, there would have been one less obstacle to be overcome and her adoptive parents would have been saved much time, effort and frustration.

The government has an agenda that is focused on outcomes. We want to see laws that improve the lives of Canadians, its citizens and immigrants. With respect to the immigration part of my portfolio, we have already taken action in a number of ways.

I recently announced that international students in our universities and colleges will be allowed to compete for off campus jobs on a level playing field with their Canadian peers. About 100,000 students across Canada stand to benefit by this opportunity to develop skills, language and experience.

The government is committed to improving the social and economic outcomes that recognize the importance of better supporting immigrants so that they can succeed socially and economically. That is why we are providing two years of additional settlement funding, a total of $307 million in new funding.

To help victims of human trafficking, we moved quickly to implement new measures such as temporary resident permits to help victims come forward and report the crime and begin their recovery.

We are operating according to the plan we introduced.

That plan includes addressing three citizenship and immigration matters, three issues impeding a fairer and more sensible immigration program that works for Canada.

The first was to reduce the right of permanent residence fee by half. That was done in the May 2 budget.

The second was to take steps to establish a Canadian agency for the recognition of foreign credentials. With $18 million provided for in the budget, we can begin to make headway after years of false starts. I fully support my colleague on this project, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who will continue to consult with the provinces and territories regarding this agency. We will await her advice and proceed accordingly.

The third of course was to support Canadian parents who adopt foreign-born children, and here is the legislation. The legislation springs from a Conservative Party of Canada policy position that was adopted in early 2005. The idea won the favour of all parties by the end of that year.

This legislation is a thoughtful and balanced response to issues raised about our current law. It is also an expression of Conservative and Canadian values. We have also heard from important stakeholders such as the Adoption Council of Canada. They are behind the bill. So are the many other families who have their own stories of frustration and delays. I can recall countless stories where people were concerned about the time and effort required to get Canadian citizenship for their adopted foreign-born children. Their input and concerns are reflected in the continuing work that goes into the regulations that will complete this legislation.

Families and representatives of families have all been calling for our government to modify its legislation to support families, to get it done. This legislation does get it done. It gets it done for families and it gets it done for children. We are there to support families. By passing this legislation, members of this House will be doing not only what is right, they will be increasing fairness in Canadian citizenship legislation.

The issues dealt with in this legislation have been noted for some time. They were examined by standing committees during previous sessions of Parliament. This bill benefits from what was put before those committees. The discussions leading up to the present bill have been long and deliberate. They have also been pragmatic and democratic. Individuals who have real life experience with the requirements of current legislation came forward. We sat down with them and listened to their frustrations about the status quo.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the hon. member for Prince George--Peace River who took a leading role in these discussions. In fact I will say that over the last many years, I do not know of a single parliamentarian who has played more of a leadership role on the issue of adoption than that member. At a time when really no other parliamentarians were coming forward on this issue, the member for Prince George--Peace River, the government whip, was there standing up for families who were struggling with all kinds of adoption issues, including the issue of providing citizenship to foreign-born children. Today we see the fruits of all of his labour up until this point.

We also consulted widely on what could and should be done. The result is in this bill. It is a sensible and coherent response to issues raised around Canadian citizenship for foreign-born children and young people adopted by Canadians. It delivers a major priority of our election platform: a fair and sensible citizenship and immigration system that works for Canada.

Currently, Canadian citizens residing in Canada who wish to adopt a foreign-born child abroad must first sponsor the child as a permanent resident. Only after that step has been taken can an application be made for citizenship. With this bill we are making it easier for Canadian parents to obtain Canadian citizenship for their foreign-born adopted children, whether the parents reside in Canada or abroad.

Today's bill is good news.

Bill C-14 gives children adopted overseas access to citizenship without having first to apply for permanent residence. It reduces delays in getting citizenship for children who are becoming part of Canadian families. It is an expression of our desire as Canadians to see new families constituted as supportively and as quickly as possible.

This bill will mean more fairness.

At present there is a difference in the way we treat children adopted overseas by Canadians and those who are born overseas to Canadians. A child born to Canadians overseas receives Canadian citizenship by birth. An adopted child must first get permanent residence before citizenship. The families who have opened their hearts to these children certainly do not make that distinction and neither do we.

This legislation streamlines the process for families. It augments the fairness of our system as a whole. It has the support of Canadians across the country. That is because we listened carefully to any concerns raised in our consultations, concerns for example about the possibility of individuals adopting children merely to help them acquire citizenship, adoptions of convenience as they are known. We crafted the bill to deal specifically and coherently with these concerns.

Among other safeguards, Bill C-14 ensures that the existence of a genuine parent-child relationship is demonstrated, that the best interests of the child are being met, that a proper home assessment has been made, that the birth parents have given their consent to the adoption, and that no person will achieve unwarranted gain as a result of the adoption.

I would like to clarify that this bill applies to adoptions that took place after the Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977.

There is an additional matter I would draw to the attention of the House. This is the case of adoptive parents living in Canada. The province or territory where the parent resides will be an integral part of the adoption process. That is because adoption falls within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Bill C-14 does nothing to alter this. The government does not wish to impinge in any way upon the prerogatives of the provinces and territories.

I began my remarks by talking about a little girl. Let me close with the story of two parents and their experience. They will soon join 10 other Canadian families to fly to China to bring their newly adopted children back to Canada. Can anyone imagine their flight home. It is their opinion that the current citizenship process “is a difficult and lengthy process, so this”--Bill C-14--“is a big help....This is one less obstacle”. When embarking on the journey of adopting their children, these parents were surprised to discover that citizenship rules are different for babies adopted abroad as compared to babies born to Canadians abroad. Babies are people just starting out with a clean slate.

I conclude by returning to the theme of this year's International Day of Families. It is pertinent to this legislation. It is “Changing Families: Challenges and Opportunities”. With this bill we are doing our part to support families and adopted young people in a time of rapid change globally. Indeed we are supporting families and their newest members, their adopted children, children we want to see protected, children we want to welcome, children who we want to feel at home here in Canada.

Bill C-14 contributes to one of this government's priorities: a fair and sensible immigration program that works for Canada. For these reasons, I look forward to the debate ahead of us. A prominent immigration lawyer has commented on the bill by saying, “This is a win-win situation. No one will object to this piece of legislation. It will pass, I hope, the House very quickly. It will go through committee stages and it will receive royal assent, I hope, very quickly. It is long overdue”.

Indeed, the member for Trinity—Spadina has commented on this. I would think that she concurs with the proposed changes. She is a highly regarded member of the House, but there is a reason for all members to be as proud of this legislation as I am. I look forward to both sides of the House supporting the passage of the provisions of this bill as quickly as possible.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the minister on his remarks and for introducing the exact bill that the Liberals put before the House when they were in government.

I appreciate that the minister spoke about the importance of families and family unity. I agree with the minister 100% on that point, but he knows very well that countless children are born in Canada whose parents are being deported to their country by the minister's department. In particular, I will describe the case of one family, which I have raised with the minister. The father is from Portugal and the mother is from Brazil. During the crackdown they had to flee to Portugal. They are still trying to get back to Canada. They have children born in this country, Canadian citizens who have full rights, the same rights that the minister and I have, yet they cannot come back to this country.

The minister talked about family unity and keeping the family together. Where are the rights of those Canadian children who were born in this country?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would have to start by pointing out that the hon. member sat on the government side of the House for several years while his government deported, not a few hundred families, but thousands of families back to their home countries. They were undocumented families, many of whom had children who were born in this country.

It strikes me as a little strange that the member would stand up after being silent for year after year not speaking up for his own constituents and then point an accusing finger at the present government for basically doing the same thing following the Liberal government's policies.

I will say this much. This government will never stand in this place and make promises to people quietly on one side and then come to this place and fail to do what was promised to the people to whom the promises were made. We will not be that kind of government. We will not show that kind of hypocrisy.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges.

Does the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles wish to say something?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have risen twice and I do not understand why I have not been given the floor. Would you kindly explain the procedure to me?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Some procedures are different in Quebec. For example, in the case of Thailand, parents are recognized as guardians. I would like the minister to tell me at which point citizenship will be granted.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would say a couple of things with respect to that.

First, the adoption process is primarily driven by the provinces in the sense that anything we do respects provincial jurisdiction. This is a provincial jurisdiction with respect to the adoption process. We consulted with Quebec in the lead up to this legislation. We are very careful to accede to the provinces when it comes to the issue of adoption itself.

We also have another obligation which is to work with the countries from where children are being adopted and to respect their laws as well with respect to adoption. We are quite assiduous in making sure that we respect their adoption laws. In some cases in fact we are not even allowed to enter into agreements with some countries because some countries do not allow international adoptions of the kind that we are talking about today.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the legislation before us is important. I think there will be lots of support around this place and certainly from this corner. I do want to ask why is there such a limited citizenship agenda from the government?

In the previous Parliament the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration did a review of the Citizenship Act. There had been promises from the previous government to introduce a revamped immigration act. We know there are many issues within it that need our attention, particularly the revocation procedure which many of us feel makes new Canadians feel like second-class citizens because of the possibility of challenges to their citizenship that do not exist for those of us who were born in Canada. There is a whole other list dealing with the question of the citizenship oath which many people feel needs to be updated.

Why not have a more extensive agenda around citizenship and address some of these issues that have been promised for so long?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is that this is a very specific plank of our platform that we ran on and we made a commitment about addressing it. This is where we are starting.

The other point I would make is that I am not aware that in the election campaign any of the parties proposed to make revocation of citizenship an election commitment or commit to doing that if they formed the government. That speaks volumes because we know that in the last number of years there have been several attempts to change the Citizenship Act. I think there were four in the last half a dozen years and they all failed. They all foundered precisely because there is a lot controversy about some of the aspects of changes to the Citizenship Act, especially on the issue of revocation.

While we are not opposed to have that discussion at some point, it is pretty clear there is nothing approaching a consensus on this issue. In a minority Parliament I am mindful of that. I think we should try to get the common sense things done that we can get done.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for bringing the bill forward. He is correct. The bill lives up to an election promise made by the Conservative Party of Canada, one with which many of my constituents are very happy.

I have a case at the present time involving a young couple who have been married for four years. They have found they cannot have biological children so they will go the route of adoption. They are trying to pay for a house and make payments on a car and are now facing the possibility that the adoption could cost them $20,000 by the time everything is said and done. Over and above that, they are facing roadblocks.

My wife and I have adopted two children. I know what it is like, as a young married couple, to go through this and face the added costs. The response from my constituents is very positive with respect to the bill.

Part of the bill talks about prior to 1977 and those individuals who perhaps may be here already. Are there still many, who have come from other countries who, who have to deal with these roadblocks, yet they contribute to our economy? We recognize them as citizens of our country, but they do not have that piece of paper.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are large numbers of people, but I cannot give my colleague a number off the top of my head.

The bill is designed to end the difference between children born to Canadian parents overseas and adopted children. The legislation takes us back to the upgraded citizenship bill of 1977. The idea is to make it clear that children who have come to Canada since 1977 are treated the same way as children born to Canadian parents overseas. The intent is to ensure there are no distinctions between naturally born children and adopted children. This is a Canadian value. People want to show this generosity to everyone and it is reflected in the legislation.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Laval—Les Îles has the floor; she may ask a short question.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration through you.

Earlier, in his speech, he mentioned that no other parliamentarian had taken such an interest in the question of international adoption as a parliamentarian on the side of the government, and that they had consulted plenty of people.

I am sure that they consulted lots of people. However, I would like the minister to explain to us how it is that Bill C-10, which he introduced, is identical to Bill C-76, which the Liberals introduced when they formed the government. That Bill C-76 obviously died on the order paper because of the last election.

Could the minister tell us how these two bills differ from each other?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the bill reflects a Conservative Party motion from our assembly in 2005, which the previous government adopted. It knew it was good policy and good politics. We have simply taken it back.

We are going to improve it as well by consulting broadly with stakeholders when it comes to the regulations. That is where the rubber will meet the road. We are going to find ways to work with them. Although we have cut out the permanent residents part of the adoption process in the citizenship process, we need to make sure we speed up the whole process so there will not be any delay between the time the adoption is approved and the time when this typically a young child becomes a Canadian citizen.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today in the House of Commons to offer the support of the official opposition to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, so that children adopted by Canadian parents can enter Canada and remain here as citizens without having to go through the first stage, getting resident status.

Before going any further, I would like to add that I wish to share my speaking time with the member for Davenport.

We support the objective of this bill, in spite of the fact that my party has some concerns about it, particularly in connection with the automatic immigration of children over 18 years of age, who would not have go through security and criminal record checks. However, I will deal with this question in detail a little later.

As indicated in the question I asked the minister a few moments ago, the bill is an exact replica of Bill C-76, presented in Parliament by my colleague, the former citizenship and immigration minister, on November 17, 2005.

Apparently this bill died on the order paper, in view of the fact that the election was held immediately afterwards.

I would like to congratulate the present minister for recognizing that the legislation builds on several other bills tabled previously in Parliament, dating back to 1998, since the first Citizenship Act of 1947 and, to my knowledge, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth after the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which gave Canada legal recognition as a self-governing dominion and became law in Canada. We followed it with the 1977 changes to the act.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has also undertaken a lot of work. I would like to particularly thank committee members for the latest report, which was submitted to Parliament last October and which called for a total revamping of the act, with a preamble to include equal treatment of Canadian born and naturalized citizens as one of our values, including the enhancement of our two official languages.

The bill has taken its time in coming, but it is finally before us in the House and we are very glad of this. Citizenship also must be given as a right to those who qualify, rather than as a privilege.

Recommendation 4 of the 12th report of the standing committee to Parliament also called for automatic citizenship entitlement for adopted children.

In 2001, the Liberals created a special policy to give these children access to citizenship. It was an interim measure taken with a view to finding a solution in which fairness and justice could prevail for adoptive parents.

Today we have an enactment that has been very slow coming, but that will finally ensure equity for adopted children.

The granting of citizenship is a gift full of emotion and of very great value, which is certainly not taken lightly by anyone.

Children born in many countries remain without a homeland, since their parents themselves still do not have clear status. They are in fact stateless, because such countries refuse citizenship if the parents were not born in the country.

Thus we in Canada live in a society that respects the rights of individuals.

Despite the current occurrence in Toronto, involving immigrants and the children of immigrants, I know the respect that is held for Canada from the many citizenship ceremonies I have attended in my riding of Laval—Les Îles and from my own citizenship ceremony many years ago.

I have listened to the stories of parents and their children. They take their responsibilities as citizens of our country very seriously. These people and their offspring, including those who have been adopted, are proud to live in a society where there is order, where the people who protect us are respected, are part of our communities and are not to be feared, as is the case in many countries known.

Many of my constituents have left behind the fear that they lived through and are proud to be Canadians. They have instilled that pride of citizenship in their children, those born here and those who have acquired citizenship.

If Bill C-14 is adopted in its current form, section 5.1(2) of the act as amended will allow people over 18 years of age who are adopted to be exempt from security checks and criminal records checks.

I understand the conditions involving a genuine relationship between adoptive parents and their children.

It is important that these genuine relationships be present before the child is adopted. If everything goes well, these relationships will continue long after that time.

It is also clear in the terms of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, paragraph 5.1(2)(a) a genuine parent-child relationship must exist before the child reaches the age of 18.

My concern stems from the bypassing of security and criminality checks for children who are now considered adults under our law, that is 18 years and over, who may have been in conflict with the law.

We have seen recently children, too young to be identified, being alleged threats to Canada. Yes, no doubt they may be influenced by much older adults because there is this need for belonging, the identification of someone who might seem to be charismatic and daring. Yet those youths may not have had the willpower, either because of a lack of positive role models in their lives or whatever extenuating circumstances, to resist the temptation of criminal activities.

I would like to make clear that there are three categories of children. There are those children under 18, who obviously are children from the time the process is put into force until they are adopted. That is not a problem in this. Where the problem lies is for youths who are under 18 when the process has started, but are over 18 when the process is finished and for those people who are between 18 and 22 during the process.

This is what I would like to look at in my remaining time.

By giving these young adults over 18 complete freedom in Canada as citizens, we could be contributing to compromising the infrastructure and the very foundations of our society that we seek to protect. I recommend that the government continue its work toward the equality of adopted children and Canadian children. However, in these particular circumstances, unless the official opposition can guarantee that security and balance controls are in place, this particular section must be modified in order to allow automatic security checks and criminal records checks for adoption after the age of 18.

Let me be clear, this has nothing to do with parent-child relationships. Parents do not always know what their children are up to. Parents cannot monitor their children 24/7, as youths would say.

Youth are adopted out of war zones all the time. It is part of Canada's humanitarian history. As we know, they can be influenced at an early age. If violence is all they know and those prospective parents have been unable to influence them enough to give them the security they crave, we might be bringing into Canada youth who might be unable to adapt to their new environment in a positive way.

I maintain that youths over 18 ought to be subject to criminality and security checks before being given Canadian citizenship through adoption. It is important to have those checks and balances in place in the world in which we now live.

The issue of security checks, from a Canadian angle, was one of the issues that had been raised by the former minister of citizenship and immigration, when he said:

Best Interests of the Child is a key consideration, but it does not outweigh all other factors. Other elements must, of course, come into play when a case officer examines the various considerations in the balance. Let us say that Best Interests of the Child are one of many important factors taken into account when officers assess cases.

I argue that the assessment of security and criminality is one of these important factors.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Laval—Les Îles has been one of the most active members in the chamber on the issues of citizenship and immigration.

I have a couple of questions of clarification where the member may be able to assist the House. I agree with the elimination or reducing the differentiation between adopted children abroad and children born to Canadians who are travelling abroad.

Clause 2 of the bill, paragraph 5.1(2), refers to a child who was a minor child. Then we get into a person who is at least 18 years of age, meaning under 18 is a child. I am not sure whether there is a differentiation between who a minor child is and someone who is under the age of 18. I think there was another one very similar to that.

For clarification, the member raised the issue of criminality checks for those who are under age 18, even though they are subject to the laws internationally. Is there a difference between a minor child and a person who is under 18?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge there is no difference. However, I feel that the member is asking an extremely important question about the legality of the definitions in the bill. Since I am a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, I will certainly ensure that this definition is very clear in the bill. According to Canadian law, a minor is a person under the age of 18.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. I have a question for her that deals with the immigration portfolio. It is an issue that relates to the situation with respect to work permits in Canada.

Because we have a significant work skills shortage, I want to ask my colleague if she thinks that the government should consult with other groups and develop a better system of work permits to address the skilled trades shortage we have in our country right now and to bring immigrants in certain skilled trades to Canada to address this deficit.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not “plant” the question, but I must admit that I could not have put it any better myself.

Several agreements between the federal government and various provincial and territorial governments permit the provinces to apply to the federal government as to the type and number of individuals they would like to receive as immigrants in their own province, depending on the desired categories.

In future years, when the government hopefully tables a bill one day, we will have to give very serious consideration to the entire question of labour skills and needs in Canada given the role—past, present and future—of immigration in our country. That is evident.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with respect to adoption provisions.

My hon. colleagues will know that Bill C-14 is in fact a reintroduction of Bill C-76, which was of course put forward by the former Liberal government in November of 2005. I am pleased that the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration decided just last month to bring forward the bill once again, in the form of Bill C-14.

This bill amends the Citizenship Act that became law in 1977. Clearly, for reasons of fundamental fairness and equity, there was a need to address the issue of foreign-born children adopted by Canadian parents. The current law requires an unnecessarily long and involved process by which adopted children become full citizens in Canada.

As has been noted in testimony before the Senate committee on citizenship and immigration and within this House, the current system creates an inequality between children born to Canadians living abroad and foreign-born children adopted by Canadian parents.

Indeed, in his appearance before the standing committee last November to discuss Bill C-76, now Bill C-14, Mr. Mark Davidson, who serves as director and registrar of Canadian citizenship, noted that this, again, is a matter of “equity”.

I fully agree with Mr. Davidson's assessment. This is about fairness. It is about treating children of Canadian parents with equity and equality. They deserve the same treatment as children of Canadian parents born abroad. In implementing Bill C-14, we will ensure that parents of foreign-born adopted children can immediately begin to welcome their new children into their families without the added burden of having to complete the unnecessary step of obtaining Canadian citizenship for their children.

By the time these children have been brought to their new homes here in Canada, their parents have already undergone a long and extensive administrative process. It is certainly incumbent upon their government here in Canada not to add to this process in unnecessary ways.

Ms. Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada, described Bill C-14 in this way: “This is a major step forward for foreign-born adopted children and their adoptive families”. I agree with Ms. Scarth that this is indeed a significant step forward and is, quite frankly, long overdue.

I intend to support this bill because it is about fairness. It is also about practicality. Requiring families who adopt foreign-born children to go through the immigration process is not only unfair but clearly redundant. These are their children, whom they will raise in Canada, and they are Canadians. These children, by virtue of their new Canadian parents, deserve the same rights and privileges as any other Canadian child. This bill would provide them this opportunity and address an issue that has long been outstanding and is very much in need of redress.

As noted before, I am pleased that the former Liberal government brought forward this proposed change in the form of Bill C-76. I am also pleased to continue to support the principle as it is now presented in Bill C-14. This is indeed about fairness, equity and compassion for new Canadian parents of foreign-born adopted children. I encourage all members to support Bill C-14.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before this House today deals with international adoption. This is an eagerly awaited measure that we have always supported and promoted in this House.

I have the pleasure of speaking today about Bill C-14, which essentially amends the provisions of the Citizenship Act relating to international adoption. This bill will have numerous implications in the lives of all adoptive parents in Quebec as well as in the other provinces. Bill C-14 will eliminate the requirement that a sponsorship application be filed under the “family reunification” requirement.

Under the provisions that are proposed, children born outside Canada and adopted by a Canadian citizen will be able to acquire citizenship without first having to become a permanent resident and comply with the procedure associated with permanent residence. Once the citizenship application is made, citizenship will be granted if the adoption meets certain conditions. The child becomes a Canadian citizen on the day that citizenship is granted.

In Quebec, citizenship will be granted once the adoption process is finalized, before the adoption has been officially ordered by the Court of Québec.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-14 in principle. We waited for a long time for a bill that would finally respect Quebec’s jurisdiction in respect of adoption, while granting the children of adoptive parents citizenship more quickly. We are pleased that the explanations we have offered in recent years have borne fruit. We are particularly glad to see that the federal authorities will be respecting the jurisdiction of the Court of Québec and its role as the authority that officially orders the adoption of the child.

In Quebec, the best interests of the child is the fundamental principle in international adoptions. The Bloc Québécois members agree with that principle. In 2004, Quebec took an important step in applying that principle when it incorporated the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

In Quebec, all decisions concerning a child must be made in the child’s best interests and must respect the child’s rights. That rule is fundamental when it comes to adoption. An adoption must also meet the conditions set out in the law. What we generally call international adoption is referred to, in legal terms, as “the adoption of a child domiciled outside Quebec”. Quebec adoption laws thus go much further and cover both adoptions that take place in a foreign country and adoptions that take place in the other provinces and territories of Canada.

The statutory provisions that refer to the best interests of the child, and the statutory instruments that govern international adoption in Quebec, are as follows. We have the Civil Code; the Code of Civil Procedure; the Youth Protection Act; the Order respecting the adoption without a certified body of a child domiciled outside Québec by a person domiciled in Québec; the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption; the Act to Implement the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption and amending various legislation relating to adoption; and the Order respecting the certification of intercountry adoption bodies.

These instruments establish the conditions that must be met in Quebec by Quebeckers who wish to adopt. The Civil Code of Québec also deals with types of adoption and the effects of adoption. The rules governing consent and the “adoptability” of a child are the rules that apply in the child’s country of origin.

International adoption procedures vary according to the child’s country of origin. In Quebec, there are three ways of going about it. First, there are the cases where the child’s country of origin decides in favour of foreign adoption. Then there are the cases where the country of origin decides first on the placement of the child, as happens for example in the Philippines and Thailand. There are two steps to this procedure: the parents remain the adopted child’s guardians until the child’s country of origin is satisfied that they have fulfilled all the conditions during the placement period. The third case is much less problematic. Here the country of origin has ratified the Hague Convention and its decision can be officially recognized by the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale.

The international adoption secretariat is the central authority in Quebec and operates in partnership with approved international adoption agencies. The secretariat draws up an international adoption file containing all the necessary legal documentation and forwards the adopting parent's file to the adopted child’s country once the verifications have been completed. The secretariat ensures that the proposal is consistent with the recommendations in the psychosocial evaluation of the adopting parents.

When it is satisfied, the secretariat issues a letter of non-opposition. It is sent to the immigration authorities in Canada and Quebec and confirms that, after examining the documentation and the procedure that was followed, the secretariat has no reason to oppose the child’s coming to Quebec and Canada. Procedures are then followed in the child’s own country and the way is paved for the child’s coming to Quebec.

Adoption in Quebec confers parentage on the adopted child that replaces his or her original parentage. At that point, the child ceases to be a member of his or her original family.

Adoption decisions pronounced abroad must be officially recognized by a Quebec court to take effect in Quebec, with the exception of countries that have signed the Hague Convention. The responsibility for this task falls to the Court of Québec’s Youth Division.

The new provisions that are proposed would allow adopting parents to apply for citizenship in advance before the adoption is officially approved by the Court of Québec. Without this, adopting parents and adopted children in Quebec would not be in a position to benefit from the citizenship bill.

At the same time, another administrative measure could be applied immediately to speed up the process of awarding citizenship: rapid identification of the application at the Case Processing Centre. A special indication could be added on the application mailing envelope to specify and clearly identify that this is an international adoption application. When the child is travelling to Quebec, measures could be considered to improve communications between the different airports, to the delight of the adoptive parents who want to see administrative measures that do their job.

Each successive government has promised us major and necessary revisions to the Citizenship Act. You are surely aware of how long parliamentarians have been working on this sort of legislation, and I am pleased that we are agreeing to move quickly to refer the bill on adoption to committee.

Other citizenship measures will have to be tabled here in this chamber, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the last parliamentary session. For example, there is no substantive appeal in the case of citizenship applications, and the government limits recourse to judicial review in the event of a negative decision. In this regard, sponsorship under the “family reunification” class seems to offer more protection for adoptive parents. We have been told this by the organizations testifying before the standing committee.

We have been waiting long enough. We have been waiting for these sorts of legal provisions since 1998. In fact, a decision of the Federal Court of Appeal found that the government is violating section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it pertains to adoption.

In granting adopted children citizenship more quickly, the federal government is finally taking account of the best interests of the child.

The adoptive parents have to start a long series of procedures. They have had enough of long waits in dealing with the federal government to adopt a child. I am certain that speeding up the awarding of citizenship will facilitate the integration of adopted children in their new family.

I would be remiss if I did not bring up the issue of adoption treaties, and the validity of the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine and the necessity of recognizing it in this field, in the interest of the child. For Quebec to be able to exercise its adoption and civil law powers, it should be able to conclude its own adoption treaties with the children’s countries of origin. It is the responsibility of the federal government to permit Quebec and the provinces to negotiate specific international agreements in the field of international adoption. Until it does so, we will continue to see the unfortunate consequences of its irresponsible management, such as those caused by the distressing episode of the adoption treaty with Vietnam, where the federal position is bad, plainly dysfunctional and increasingly indefensible.

We have here another example where the federal government must grant Quebec the ability to fully assume its constitutional jurisdiction on the international stage. Whatever it claims, the federal government does not have exclusive jurisdiction in international relations, for the Constitution does not state which level of government is responsible for international relations.

I repeat: since the Government of Quebec is responsible for adapting the Civil Code of Quebec, the Code of Civil Procedure and the Youth Protection Act, the Government of Quebec alone is in a position to guarantee that the rights of children will be respected. An adoption treaty concluded between the federal government and a foreign country could not offer such a guarantee. It is therefore imperative that Quebec conclude its own adoption treaties.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on Bill C-14, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding adoption.

As we have already heard, this is exactly the same bill as Bill C-76 that was introduced last November in the last Parliament. I want to commend the Conservative government for getting it on the agenda so soon. It is unfortunate that we did not get it on the agenda sooner in the last Parliament because it is a change in our citizenship law that many families have been awaiting for many years. It is one that has been proposed in the past, long before the Conservatives adopted it as their party policy. I wanted to correct the minister's assertion on that. This is something that has been around for many years and supported in many corners of the House. It is a good thing that it is finally on the agenda and hopefully we can expedite its passage so that adoptive foreign children have the same rights as children born to Canadians.

The bill would amend the Citizenship Act to allow a grant of citizenship to a child adopted by a Canadian. In this corner of the House we strongly support the bill. It would ensure that adoptive children are treated the same as biological children under the provisions of the Citizenship Act. In doing so, it will make citizenship automatic for adopted children as it is for children born to Canadians. Children who are eligible in this regard are eligible if the adoption took place after February 14, 1997, the date of the implementation of the current Citizenship Act.

This proposal has been supported by the courts. The federal court has said that the distinctions in law based on adoptive parentage violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and specifically section 15 on equality rights. The courts have said that the legislation needs to be updated and changed in light of the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the need was not there before, it clearly needs to be on our agenda now.

This points out what many adoptive parents and adoptive children have felt over the years, that they are somehow second-class citizens, that they and their families are somehow second-class because they were not afforded the same automatic citizenship that children born to Canadians were. I am glad we are finally getting around to righting that because when it comes to citizenship, there should be no distinctions. Everyone should feel like a first-class citizen and there should be no distinctions in categories of our citizenship. Any time someone feels that somehow their citizenship is less than someone else's, we need to look at that very carefully. This is one of those areas, so it is a good thing that we are moving to fix that.

Currently an adoptive child must be sponsored for permanent residence by their adoptive parent. This process would be eliminated, and we all know what a lengthy process that can be. Unfortunately, it has proven problematic for many families, so it is good to be able to remove that bureaucratic impediment to the full participation of adoptive children in Canada. Now it will still be open to people and some lawyers have said that they would recommend to clients that they still go through the process of applying for permanent resident status for the child and then subsequently to that citizenship. That option would remain but under the new legislation it would not be required.

Under Bill C-14, the adoption must meet certain criteria, and four in particular: First, the adoption must be in the best interests of the child as defined by the Hague Convention on the protection of children in inter-country adoption. We wanted to ensure the provisions of the Hague Convention were upheld and the legislation does that.

The second thing is that a genuine relationship must be created between the parent and the child, which means the building of a family and the building of a parent and child relationship.

Third, it must have been done in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction where the adoption took place and the laws of the country of residence of the child. All the laws of both the province in Canada where the adoption has taken place and the laws of the country of residence where the adoptive child was born and lives must be upheld.

Fourth, it must not have been entered into for the purposes of acquiring status or privilege in relationship to citizenship or immigration. It cannot be an adoption of convenience, an adoption that is intended to do some kind of end run around our citizenship laws.

It is a good thing that all of those criteria are included in the bill because we want to ensure this is about recognizing families, recognizing adoptions and recognizing the importance of adoptions for Canadian families.

The bill also includes specific recognition of Quebec's particular adoption process and, as we have heard already, that is a crucial part of this legislation.

The bill recognizes adult adoption if the adoptive parent acted as the person's parent before he or she was 18. We know that is also a crucial part of the legislation.

For all those reasons, we in the New Democratic Party support the bill.

I wish we would have had the opportunity to deal with this months ago. It is a shame that it came to the House so late in the last Parliament. It was almost an afterthought. It came in the dying days of the last House when so many promises had been made about citizenship. We heard, more often than not, on several occasions from ministers of the previous government, that there was an intent to go ahead with an overall revamping of the citizenship legislation, something that many of us felt was long overdue. We have not looked at our citizenship legislation since 1977.

We know the previous government tried to update the Citizenship Act three times with Bill C-63 in the 36th Parliament and, more recently, with Bill C-16 and Bill C-18. All of those died on the order paper because they were not given the appropriate priority nor the proper attention to working out the problems and dealing with the suggestions that were being made around them I should point out that both Bill C-16 and Bill C-18 would have addressed the issue of adoption and citizenship.

We could have dealt with this a long time ago if it had been given the appropriate priority by the Liberal government and if it had lived up to the priorities that it stated it had around citizenship legislation.

We are, again, looking at a very particular proposal around citizenship legislation with this bill. We need to move forward on that because families have waited too long.

It would be nice if the Conservatives' agenda were a bit broader than just this legislation but that is not to denigrate the importance of this legislation. Families and adoptive children are counting on it, but there are other citizenship issues that need to be addressed.

In the last Parliament, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration urged the government at that time to move on the issue of adoption in two reports, one in November 2004 and one in October 2005. Therefore, the government is well aware of the standing committee's enthusiasm for dealing with this matter.

There was no excuse for delaying the legislation in the past and there should be no excuse for delaying the legislation now. We need to get this to committee, get it back to the House as soon as we can so it can go through the process and families can take advantage of this proposal.

I want to make a few comments about the broader citizenship agenda that I asked the minister about earlier. We need to ensure we have this overall review of citizenship legislation. The act, as I mentioned, was passed back in 1977, and there are many aspects of it that demand our attention. I think crucial in that is the whole revocation process, the whole process where someone's citizenship can be revoked. This is another one of those areas where people feel like they are being treated as second-class citizens.

Many new Canadians have said that because their citizenship can be revoked, unlike the citizenship of someone born in Canada, it makes them feel second class. They always feel like that possibility of challenge hangs of their head. That is not a good thing to have when it comes to citizenship. When we are trying to establish people's attachment to Canada and when the citizenship process is the appropriate process for doing that, we need to ensure it meets that standard of developing attachment for people who become citizens.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, in a report to the House in the last Parliament, recommended that the charter should be fully applicable to the Citizenship Act. The committee recommended that the process for revoking citizenship should be a fully judicial--

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I interrupt the hon. member. It being 2 o'clock, we are going to statements by members under Standing Order 31. There will be ten and a half minutes left to the hon. member when we come back to this debate.

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

June 13th, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are proud that our country is the most multicultural and diverse in the world. Our multicultural policies should focus not only on tolerance but also on acceptance. We must accept the multicultural realities of modern Canada.

Ethnic groups should not be pitted against one another. This government will not promote the hyphenation of Canadians but will help to build cohesive values and promote acceptance with a Canada first attitude.

The immigrant settlement policies announced in the budget will focus on an immediate and improved start for newcomers to Canada. Their academic and work related credentials should be recognized and put to better use for Canada as well as for new Canadians.

This government will ensure that we integrate our population, not segregate it. We all want to continue to see a united and strong Canada.