Mr. Speaker, a while ago I listened to my Liberal colleague say that it was because of the election that we were not able to pass this bill. The Liberals were defeated and that was the explanation for it. I would remind her that they had 13 years to table such a bill, which was awaited by thousands and thousand of parents wishing to adopt.
It was not the Liberal Party of Canada’s priority to grant adopted children a status similar to that of those born here or born abroad but to parents who are Canadian citizens.
It is not a privilege. It is also linked to an international convention commonly called the Hague Convention. Under this convention, parents and children, regardless of their origins or whether the parents are biological or adoptive, must be treated equitably and similarly, without discrimination.
It is understandable that after nearly 30 years and five abortive attempts at passing such a bill, we are happy with this outcome, as are thousands of men and women across Quebec and Canada.
I am not an expert in international adoption. I am quite simply a father who has experience in international adoption. My wife and I are experiencing it still today. We adopted a little girl 19 months old eight years ago now. Today this little girl is 10 years old. We are in the process of adopting a little brother for her from Thailand—Bangkok, to be more specific. I know better than anyone, with my wife of course, all the worries, all the work, all the sweat it can take to prepare an adoption file and deliver it. And then there is the interminable wait and all the steps taken before, during and especially after.
I am in a good position to know that this bill, though it does not resolve all the problems and does not substantially reduce the administrative work, will nevertheless be a great help. It is being well received by thousands of parents who have already adopted or who are in the process of adopting, as is the case for my wife and myself.
There is no reason for having let this debate drag on for so long. There is no reason for not having adopted an accelerated procedure so that such a bill might see the light of day.
First and foremost, this bill is meant to remedy the unfair way that parents in Quebec and Canada are treated. If a child is born outside Canada to Canadian citizens, the child is automatically considered to be a Canadian citizen, even if he or she is born outside the country. On the other hand, a child who comes to Canada as a result of an international adoption is not entitled to the same treatment, even if the parents are citizens of Canada. To begin with, we will have fairer, non-discriminatory treatment that complies in all respects with the spirit and the letter of the Hague Convention.
There can be several months, and even years, of waiting between when the adoption process is begun and when it ends, culminating in citizenship for the adopted child. For parents waiting for a child, this seems like an eternity. They have to be sure that they have all the papers, and a complete file to send to the country of origin of the child who is about to be adopted. It takes months and months of work and of psychological assessments of the adoptive parents.
We often forget this aspect. If we made birth parents undergo all these psychological assessments and tests to evaluate their parenting skills—this is what happens especially for a child coming from somewhere else—I am quite sure that many might be disqualified.
The assessment is thorough: your childhood, your relationship with your parents, and so on. It is never-ending, and it is right that this should be so, because this is how it was intended.
Adoptive parents, or candidates for international adoption, must be able to prove that they will be good parents, that they will be able to include a child who has come from elsewhere in the world in their family, and rear that child, when often, in the case of some countries, they do not know the age or sex of the child.
For months, there are lots of requirements to be met, and there is also anxiety, because while we may all be parents and have good opinions of ourselves as potential parents, doubts will always arise. We have been through this, my wife and I. Thousands of adoptive parents or would-be parents go through it as well, year after year. It is a cause of great anxiety, before the evaluation report comes back to us and tells us, finally, after all of the assessments, that we are going to be good parents.
The Immigration Canada procedure also has to be followed; then there is the Youth Protection Branch, for Quebec; there are even procedures that have to be followed at Sûreté du Québec or RCMP offices to get certificates stating that you have no criminal record, for example; and there are administrative procedures with the registrar of civil status. In other words, there are months of work before a file is complete and can be sent to the country.
After that, when the file is complete and has been sent off, there is the waiting. For that interminable waiting period, day after day, there is anxiety, there is excitement, and there are plans. We try to imagine—and we are going through this right now, my wife and I—what the child will be like. We try to imagine ourselves with this child. Everyday, or almost, we have dreams, we build virtually an entire life plan for this child, whom we do not even know.
It is no different for mothers, for example, who are carrying a child, and for the fathers who, too, are waiting. It is exactly the same thing. It means waiting. It means hopes. It means building plans for a life. It even means having a very fertile imagination, so that you imagine, at some point, walking down a path in the woods, having this little one who is coming there between us, sometime in the next few months.
A lot of castles in the sky are built, but a lot of administrative stumbling blocks are also encountered. Even if the files are complete when they leave here, the authorities abroad sometimes ask for further verifications and more documents to be included in the file. Then the anxiety starts all over. Is it all right? Do the authorities consider this application to be completely legitimate? In the eyes of the foreign authorities—Thailand, in our case, my wife and I—are we considered to be good parents?
These months of waiting culminate in the trip to the country where the child so long awaited is currently living. Once we arrive there, it is not over. There remain interminable procedures and incredible red tape. For those not accustomed to working in administration, to shuffling papers, to going through these sorts of procedures—I am not talking about an MP or a lawyer—these are mountains to be crossed. Even for us, this red tape is something very arduous and very demanding, both psychologically and physically.
Once in the country of adoption, it is necessary to deal with the embassy and also with a local doctor. We still do not have the child. Three or four days may go by before we finally meet the child we have been waiting for, often for a year and a half, two years, in some cases two and a half years. Next, as if that were not enough, the country authorities often carry out their own evaluation.
The two adoptive parents are at a table with five or six local officials, whether social workers or university deans. They are asked questions for a period that can range from a half hour to three hours. They are bombarded with questions about their parenting skills, their family history, their connection to the child. If biological parents were asked to take such tests, there would be certain surprises, because this is very demanding and extremely complicated.
This continues after we come back with the child. Six to ten months may go by, even a year, before the adoptive parents become the parents of the child. In Quebec, to confirm an adoption decision, it is necessary to go through further administrative procedures with the youth protection branch, the international adoption secretariat and the Court of Quebec.
I am very happy to have this sort of bill. However I know for a fact, from having discussed this particular bill with my colleague from Vaudreuil—Soulanges who is the immigration critic, that a few amendments should be made to this bill. It is absolutely necessary that this bill be passed quickly to prevent it from meeting the same fate as the five other bills tabled over the last 30 years. There are some minor amendments to be made.
The rules might not apply in certain countries where people go to adopt children. For example, Thailand is a country where the rule of immediate citizenship might not apply. In the Philippines, this bill might not be enforced. Why? Because as long as the authorities of the country of origin—in this case the authorities of Thailand or the Philippines—have not authorized the adoption, something which can take six, seven or eight months, one cannot be the legal and legitimate parent of that child.
“Progress reports” are required, that is, one has to undergo other assessments from month to month. Thailand, for example, requires three progress reports. These reports mention such things as whether the child is integrating well and whether the parents have a good relationship with the child. Once again, the parents are waiting for six or eight months before the Thai authorities decide that the adoption can go ahead.
In the meantime, one has to apply for a placement order upon arriving in Quebec. That makes the parents the legal guardians of the child. As long as the Thai authority has not issued its consent and the assessment reports have not demonstrated that the people are good parents and the child is integrating well, immediate citizenship cannot be granted to the child born in Thailand or the Philippines. A few other countries operate the same way.
There should be a provision in the bill for those countries of origin where the authorities have to provide their approval—an approval that the Court of Quebec must await before it can issue its adoption order. This provision would ensure that when the authorities in the country of origin—