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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

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 1, the Minister of Public Safety stated in this House that he would help the victims of flooding in La Tuque, but only if the requests for help met the disaster assistance program criteria.

Since that program is not applicable, will the minister tell the House today whether he intends to provide assistance to the people of La Tuque through some other disaster mitigation or critical infrastructure program which would be applicable?

Public SafetyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. I will point out, incidentally, that it was a Conservative member who first brought this matter to the attention of the House. I am pleased to see that another member is concerned about this situation.

As I said, there is a federal plan in place to help communities when this kind of situation arises. I will be expecting a letter from the mayors or representatives concerned. I will then consider their request and reply.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. John Ottenheimer, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. Before proceeding to the orders of the day, I am prepared to make a ruling on the request for emergency debate made by the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup concerning the impact of the value of the Canadian dollar on the manufacturing sector.

I regret to inform the hon. member and the House that this request does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order at this time. The request is therefore denied.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. Before oral question period, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas had the floor.

He has 10 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I am pleased to call upon the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas to resume his speech.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to continue my remarks on Bill C-14, the amendment to the Citizenship Act to facilitate citizenship for children adopted by Canadians overseas.

When I was last speaking, I mentioned that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration had been working hard on the question of a revised Citizenship Act, on the necessary revisions that are required to the Citizenship Act, which has not been looked at since 1977.

Some of the things we had been talking about pertained to the whole question of revocation of citizenship. I had mentioned that the process for revoking citizenship should be a full judicial process. That is something the standing committee in the last Parliament felt very strongly about. The standing committee felt that there should be no provision in law for an administrative power to annul citizenship and that to revoke citizenship, false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court. That was a very important standard that the standing committee wanted to hold up. It is something that is dramatically lacking in the current act.

That higher evidentiary standard is higher than the one that currently exists in the legislation. Right now it is not beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the lower standard of the balance of probabilities, the civil standard. The committee felt very strongly that this needed to be raised to the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

The committee also talked of the need for a review of the residency requirements for citizenship and that refugees should be able to count their residency from the time they make their claim, not from the date of a positive finding of that claim. Those are very significant issues for many people in Canada.

We need to have a standardization of the residency requirement. We need to honour the time that refugees have spent in Canada from the time of making their claim. That is very important. We want to facilitate the gaining of citizenship by refugee claimants. This would be one way of doing it, something that is not currently done in the act and one of the reasons that the standing committee believed there should be a review of the Citizenship Act.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration also said that we needed to ensure that criminal proceedings against an applicant outside Canada could be taken into account in the same way that such proceedings in Canada are taken into account. Given the concerns that many people have about security clearances, security issues and criminal issues, this was seen as an important addition that should be made to the act.

There was a concern about citizenship court judges. The standing committee felt very strongly that they should be maintained. There have been attempts in recent years to get rid of citizenship court judges. I am pleased to see that the government has appointed some new citizenship court judges in jurisdictions where their services were urgently required, but we need to maintain that important position. I think the standing committee last year was very moved by the dedication of citizenship court judges to their important work and felt that they made a very important contribution that should be maintained in any future Citizenship Act.

There was also the matter of the citizenship oath. There is some sentiment in Canada that the oath does not appropriately reflect the reality of Canada today, that the stress on allegiance to the Queen may be something that needs to be looked at. There should be a question of looking at loyalty to Canada and stressing that in the oath as well, perhaps recognizing the importance of the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the oath and establishing the kinds of relationships that new citizens have with their new country.

There were all kinds of issues that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration thought needed to be looked at in a review of the Citizenship Act.

The previous government kept telling us that it was on the verge of tabling legislation. It kept saying that it was almost ready to go and if we only gave it a little feedback, it would be ready to run with that legislation. Unfortunately we never saw it.

I suspect there is draft legislation hanging around in the department, perhaps even in a corner of the minister's office. I would encourage the new Conservative minister to look for it, to blow that pile of dust off of it, to see if it is something he can run with and introduce in the House. There are a number of citizenship issues that are very important and need attention, not just the important matter of adoption and the gaining of citizenship for adopted children.

Another issue that I feel very strongly about in the citizenship file is the whole question of the processing fee for citizenship applications. Unfortunately, the standing committee, in hearing testimony last year, heard of cases where people had to delay their application for citizenship because they could not afford the fee. That is a very serious situation. No one in Canada should be delayed or prevented from attaining citizenship merely because they cannot afford to pay the application fee.

Last year the standing committee said very strongly that the application fee for initial applications for Canadian citizenship should be eliminated. I hope the current government will take that under advisement. No one in Canada should be prevented from taking that step of becoming a citizen because they do not have the financial means to pay for the application. I hope the government will pay some attention to that recommendation.

Many issues in the Citizenship Act should be addressed and many would require a new Citizenship Act. I hope the Conservatives will expand their citizenship agenda beyond the relatively compact issue of adoption and citizenship and move on to a broader agenda around citizenship to update that important legislation.

I want to return to Bill C-14 and say that there was one area that the standing committee thought should be addressed with regard to a citizenship application for an adopted child and that was the case where it was refused. The standing committee, in its reports to the government and to the House last year, recommended that a full appeal on the facts and law should be permitted in federal court on any refusal of an application for citizenship for an adopted child. I know this is not part of the legislation. There is the opportunity to apply for leave to appeal at the federal court, but the standing committee believes that should be clearer and more direct in terms of a direct appeal to the federal court. That is one area where the legislation might be improved.

This is legislation that was long overdue. It would provide a measure of equity and fairness to adopted children and to their families and remove that spectre that many adoptive parents and their children have felt that they were somehow second-class citizens in Canada. The bill will finally address that at long last. I hope every party in the House wants this to receive the attention that it so richly deserves.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the minister mentioned just how important family reunification is to him. He also said that he was motivated by humanitarian concerns.

I have a hard time understanding the minister's position, which would delay reunification for parents who are granted refugee status and protection. Children are always at risk, yet he is delaying parent-child reunions. Waiting periods have become unacceptably long.

I am sure you will understand my sympathy for people who are not given the right to appeal, especially for refugees for whom an appeal provision was included in the legislation, in the form of a refugee appeal division that has never been allowed to come into force.

The bill provides that it will come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council. The committee knows that the government is using this provision to avoid implementing the refugee appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada even though the legislation was passed by both houses and received royal assent.

Does my colleague think that the bill should come into force immediately? Does he also think that the current wording of this bill offers no guarantee that it will one day come into force? Given the history of immigration and citizenship issues, we are concerned about this.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges has raised an important point. I think all of us who have been working on questions of refugee rights in this Parliament have been very disappointed by the failure of the previous Liberal government and now the failure of the current government to implement the refugee appeal division. It is a legislated part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is a small measure but one that every refugee and immigrant serving agency in Canada has been calling for because it will guarantee fairness.

It was a compromise when we debated that legislation in the House back in 2001. The government of the day wanted to move to see two-member immigration and refugee board panels reduced to one member. However, many concerns were raised about what would happen if a mistake were made in that circumstance, when there was no appeal on the merits of the actual case.

The compromise was to establish the refugee appeal division, which is a paper appeal. It would give a refugee claimant the opportunity to introduce new evidence, to introduce the facts of the case and to have the opportunity to see that case heard again and a real appeal heard. It is something that is absolutely necessary. We are concerned that those circumstance could arise again with this legislation.

The minister did mention this morning the situation of refugees in his more general remarks about immigration policy. I want to take this opportunity to mention that this morning I stood with a group of refugees and activists from the Parkdale neighbourhood in Toronto who were calling on the government to remove the fee for permanent resident applications that is charged to refugees whose case has been determined within Canada.

This fee of $550 is extremely onerous for people who have very meagre means for the most part in Canada. We know that many of the refugees who come to Canada and make a refugee claim live in poverty in our communities. We know they often do not have the best jobs in our communities and they are just scraping by. For many of them to gather the amount of money that is required to make a permanent residence application and to do it within the period required is extremely difficult.

When we have people who have been found to be refugees and who have shown that their lives are in danger in their country of origin, there should be no excuse for delaying their permanent resident status in Canada.

I think it is important that the government give urgent and serious consideration to removing the requirement of that fee for these people. This is s very important and it demands the government's immediate attention.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted the government has brought back our Bill C-76, which would give citizenship to foreign adopted children of Canadian citizens. This bill has now turned into Bill C-14.

This is simply a matter of fairness. In Canada, all children, whether adopted or not, should have the same rights and privileges. The bill would fix the administration so that would be the case. It does not matter how a family is formed in Canada. Families should be allowed to strengthen and grow without any administrative burdens, which would be the case if the bill is passed. The legislation was brought forward a few times before but it was caught up in an election. Hopefully, we can get it through this time.

We as Liberals have always put a lot of provisions into supporting families and that is certainly in the spirit of the bill. I know other groups have been doing great work supporting families. The Canadian Labour Congress Women's Conference is in town today and some members may have spoken to its delegates who are working very hard to improve the funding for day care, which is of such critical urgency in Canada at this time.

The fees at a French day care centre in my riding have gone up $200 and low income parents cannot afford to send their children to day care and go to work. I commend the work of those in my riding who have sent the message loud and clear that we need vastly improved resources for day care but that they are not being provided by any programs so far. They have also made a great case for supporting the anti-scab legislation.

Not having Bill C-14 has caused a lot of administrative problems for Canadian citizens who have generously adopted babies from overseas. In my riding, for instance, 17 Chinese babies have recently been adopted, as well as some African babies, and it has led to some very unfortunate and unnecessary administrative problems for the families. Some of them have had to wait 14 months to get citizenship for these babies and, therefore, a Canadian passport, whereas, had it been their baby born overseas, there would have been no waiting.

It makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for these families to travel. If the baby does not have citizenship and therefore cannot get a Canadian passport, it makes it very difficult for the family to travel together. How many parents want to travel without their young baby? It really causes great upheaval for a family, especially if there are important reasons for travelling to other countries.

This is the time of life when parents often take their babies to meet their grandparents because children under the age of two fly free. Once the child is over two the families many not be able to afford the flight. Once again that is discrimination against families that have adopted overseas as opposed to those that have their own babies, and for no good reasons.

Without Canadian citizenship, babies cannot get a social insurance number, which may lead to a lack of access to other programs. I am not positive but they may not be eligible for the government provided part of the grant for RESPs. We want adopted children to have social insurance numbers just as quickly as babies born to Canadian families so they do not run into these types of unnecessary administrative burdens.

In my riding, which is adjacent to the U.S border, and I am sure this happens in many Canadian territories and provinces, people often go across the border for the day for any one of a number of reasons. In my area they go to a place called Skagway on the ocean. It is a beautiful drive and people go on family outings quite often at this time of year.

All of a sudden a family cannot go across the border because it has adopted a baby overseas who does not have Canadian citizenship and who may not have one for as long as 14 months. The reason may be that the baby has Chinese citizenship and of course anyone with Chinese citizenship cannot go into the United States without a visa. Parents need to go through a long process and for an afternoon picnic it is not very practical.

The families that have adopted overseas babies have acquired a real good feeling for the famous saying that one does not know what one has until one has lost it because when a member of a family suddenly does not have Canadian citizenship, the family realizes the number of problems, the benefits that come with citizenship and the amount of upheaval for the family.

For these reasons, I will do everything I possibly can to make sure that we get Bill C-14 through Parliament as quickly as possible and that it does not again die on the order paper. On behalf of all Yukon families who have adopted babies overseas, I heartily support this bill.

I hope all members of Parliament will support the bill, because it would strengthen families and provide fairness to all, no matter how those families were put together. It would remove unnecessary burdens, such as doing a criminal record check on a baby. It would make it possible for families to stay together and to travel together. It would amend our immigration laws to better reflect the great Canadian values of caring, generosity, equality, inclusiveness, fairness and family.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his endorsement of this piece of legislation. The proposal for this piece of legislation has been around for a long time. In 1998 we had Bill C-63, which dealt with the Citizenship Act and which also contained this recommendation. In 2000 we had Bill C-16, which also had this recommendation. That bill passed in the House of Commons, but was not dealt with by the Senate prior to the election, so the bill died. In the subsequent Parliament, Bill C-18 dealt with this legislation.

In the last Parliament, we again dealt with a recommendation on this very issue before the committee on citizenship and immigration. Recommendation 5 of the October 2005 report essentially underlined the need to have children who are adopted abroad obtain citizenship. Of course we know that in the last Parliament we had Bill C-76, itself introduced to do exactly the same thing as the bill before us today.

I will just make the point that this bill has been kicking around for a long time and that a number of attempts were made to get it through the House. I am very pleased to see that it will finally be going through.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, there was no question from the member, but this gives me a chance to say three things I forgot to say during my speech.

On the first point, I talked about how effective the Canadian Labour Congress Women's Conference was in its work. There is another thing that it has also been very effective in. I talked about creating families in different ways. Also very effective is the work the women's conference has been doing in supporting same sex marriage and equality for all Canadians.

Another point I wanted to mention is that I went to the government about a month ago to ensure that this bill was brought forward, because it is very important for a number of families in my riding. I am delighted that the government has done this.

Finally, I would like to disagree with one of the earlier speakers, who seemed to suggest that we need a whole bunch of other changes to the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I do not disagree with that. However, I would not like that to confuse this bill.

This is a very simple bill, with just a couple of clauses on a couple of pages, that basically deals with these babies and their families. I would not want to complicate it with anything else so that it would once again, for a third or fourth time, die on the order paper. Let us keep it simple. I think everyone in this House supports this. Let us get it through as quickly as possible.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to commend my hon. colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo for his work on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He worked very hard on issues concerning the Citizenship Act.

Nevertheless, it must be said that this citizenship bill is not perfect. The committee heard numerous witnesses. Yet we expected to hear even more.

During the previous session of Parliament, the government had tabled a piece of legislation identical to the one before us now. Unanimity had been reached regarding that piece of legislation, which dealt with only one aspect of the Citizenship Act. It was a compromise—one aspect of the Citizenship Act that achieved unanimity.

I have a question for my hon. colleague from the official opposition. Why did the previous government take so long to proceed with tabling this bill? How can he explain that, over the past 30 years, everything concerning the question of identity or involving the Citizenship Act always took so long? These issues always seemed to come to an end due to an election or something similar. Why were they so slow to table this type of bill, even though it is something very important to adoptive parents?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the previous government of course had a huge agenda. Many very important bills got through.

I agree with the member that it is unfortunate the government was terminated prematurely by an election call when a couple of very important things were in the midst of happening. One, of course, was this particular bill. As I mentioned during my remarks, we tried several times to bring it forward. It was not brought forward just recently. We tried very hard to get this particular bill brought forward.

Even more catastrophic losses from that premature election call were the day care program, as I have talked about, and the Kelowna agreement. These were instrumental programs.

The day care program was instrumental for families. As I mentioned, in my riding I have already had some very critical cases of low income mothers who now are in very serious and precarious positions. The funding they expected has not come through. Of course, the day care program, into which we were going to put $10 billion, is not there. There are no major subsidies for day care in my area, which might have made it possible for these women to send their children to day care and to remain in the workplace so they could have a reasonable family life.

Of course the Kelowna agreement, for which $5 billion was set aside, was a historic agreement between the first nations people of this country and the nation of Canada, not a particular political party, but the nation of Canada. When there is one group of people in the country that is disadvantaged, that has lower achievements in a number of areas such as successful childbirth, jobs and education, we can remedy that inequity when those people themselves have come up with solutions.

The Government of Canada, the premiers, the first nations leaders from across Canada and the chiefs of first nations across Canada all got together in a remarkable effort that took over 18 months. They actually came up with a solution. They actually came up with some peace and harmony, which is not occurring in Caledonia, for instance. It was a great move forward, and when the agreement this nation made was abrogated, I think it was a very sad moment for Canada.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

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—

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I know that this is of very little interest to some Conservative members, but the bill is important to thousands of parents. That is what helps me keep my cool and say what I think about this fantastic bill.

There would have to be procedures, therefore, to ensure that as soon as the country of origin approves the adoption of a child who is already on Canadian soil, there is a quick arrangement to provide the child automatically with Canadian citizenship. This could be a form to fill out after the receipt of authorization from the country of origin or a Citizenship and Immigration Canada form with an annotation in the upper right-hand corner saying: “Adoption”. Citizenship and Immigration Canada could even be required to grant citizenship within a reasonable amount of time, for example a maximum of 30 days.

This would make it possible to take into account the specifications of the countries of origin of certain children who will not be in a position to take advantage of the bill.

If this is done, it would greatly facilitate the work of parents, which often goes on for two years between the time when their file is forwarded and the adoption order is issued. The result would be less red tape for parents who want to adopt from countries like those I mentioned: Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan too. I would have to check on Taiwan actually, but I am certain about Thailand and the Philippines. So their task would be simplified.

Apart from the bill, an amendment like that would be a kind of acknowledgement added to the federal tax credit for adoption expenses. The Bloc Québécois has introduced this measure on a number of occasions because we thought that these parents deserved some kind of support. These two signals would send adopting parents a clear message that when we talk about family, demography, and the future of Quebec and Canada, children who came from elsewhere to be adopted by parents here must be considered. This is the finest gesture that we could make because it is much more difficult to complete an international adoption than is generally assumed.

It is not just an administrative ordeal, but a deeply human ordeal, experienced by aspiring parents who are practically stripped of their privacy having to put so much on the table: their life, their feelings. Sometimes they undergo an all-out interrogation. And so it should be. A child should not be entrusted to just anyone. Children are precious; they are the most precious gems in the world.

However, this would give some recognition to these parents by virtue of being considered true parents and these children considered true Quebeckers and Canadians, who will enrich our society and be good citizens in the future. It starts here by taking those measures that we can. We do not have any authority over decisions taken by foreign countries. They have already been kind enough to trust us as adoptive parents; they have been kind enough to entrust one of their own to us so we could give these children a future and help them become citizens of Quebec and Canada.

I think that parents here should be recognized for what they are: true parents, not unlike birth parents, with children who must live here without any discrimination. When I say discrimination, this goes for parents as well. This bill, with the desired amendments, will truly address what we want.

The Bloc Québécois feels strongly about everything to do with family and demographic growth. Rest assured that we will work very hard for these amendments to be integrated into the bill. This time the bill must be passed quickly for parents like my wife and I who are in the middle of the adoption process anxiously waiting and hoping to know their baby boy one day.

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3:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments with great interest. In this House we often talk about abstract issues and terms and big dollar amounts and large numbers of people, but to hear the personal story of the member's family was quite touching.

I wonder if the member would be kind enough to share with us a bit more of his journey in the adoption process and how adopting children from other countries can enrich the lives of Canadians. I wonder if he could let someone like me, who may have to go down the route of adoption because of my particular situation, know how adopting from a foreign country could meet the goals that we all have of building the Canadian dream of a family and having kids and grandkids. I wonder if the member could also share with us how we could educate people about adopting from a foreign land to make Canada a better place.

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3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I also hope that he will experience what my wife and I are experiencing now and will soon experience with our second child, at least we hope so. We do not know how much time it may take.

I think that a bill like this one is a small step, like the tax credit for expenses in connection with an international adoption. I think that this is only fair. We cannot say that we have been going through a demographic decline for at least three generations and that we welcome immigrants with open arms, without granting some sort of collective support when parents, citizens of Quebec and Canada, wish to go and seek a child abroad.

We are not asking the population to take our place as adoptive parents or to do the work in our place, but things should be made easier where possible. There will actually be more and more parents in this situation, who will be opting for international adoption. It is really a nice way of ensuring the integration of citizens in our society for the future.

I do not know how it works in the rest of Canada, but I know that there are agencies. In Quebec, there are agencies recognized by the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale. These agencies are properly accredited and they help prepare files. They do not take the place of the people, but they endorse files and also handle the procedures for sending them, depending on particular ties with certain countries. I think there are agencies in Ontario. In the rest of Canada, I do not know. These agencies deal with particular countries. If someone is looking at Asia, Latin America or Europe, there are specialized agencies that have established a legal network, of course, and this facilitates the process.

This is an experience which I keenly hope the member will have. If he wishes, I will get some information for the rest of Canada. I will be pleased to do this for him, and I hope he gets to enjoy this tremendous experience.

For the past eight years, my wife and I have been experiencing this with Rosalie and we are getting ready to experience it again with our little boy, who is on the way. It is a parental experience, a human experience, an extraordinary life experience.

Being a parent is already extraordinary, but going through this experience, after months and months of waiting, is quite fabulous, as far as my wife and I are concerned.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his input and for his personal experience on this bill. One issue is indirectly related to adoptions. I want to bring it to the attention of the House and maybe get the member's input.

A number of years back, I believe, CBC did a special on a young girl who was adopted from Romania. I believe she was about eight years old. She had parents in Romania, but she was in an orphanage because her mother could not take care of her. This young girl was adopted. Her father was a physician. As soon as she was adopted, she lost her Romanian citizenship because of the legislation that existed in Romania. Within a couple of years, her adoptive parents sent her back to Romania and adopted someone else.

The reason I raise this is once the young girl went back to Romania, because she was no longer a Romanian citizen, she could not go to school. She came from a bad situation, but by coming to Canada, supposedly for a better life, she ended up a lot worse. I believe a lawsuit is going on about this.

I raise this not in the context of this legislation. This legislation has a chance of improving the process, but it raises the question of giving this individual citizenship. Once this young girl was sent back to Romania, she was stateless. She had landed status in Canada, but once she left here, she lost that status and she had not status in Romania.

We probably should look at some kind of legislation separate from this one. In this case, if we had the legislation before us, she would have been a Canadian citizen. She had landed status, but when she left, she was neither a Canadian citizen nor a Romanian citizen. Therefore, this would have addressed the important issue about being stateless.

At some point in time I hope we can perhaps deal with legislation that will address the morality of the issue where this young girl was very much victimized. Has the hon. member heard about that case or if he is familiar with it?

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for the question. I have never heard of such a situation: parents who go ahead with an international adoption and then, after a while, decide that they no longer want the child. I think these are unfortunate exceptions. I have never heard of such cases.

That being said, when you are the legal guardian of a child and an adoption order is made, you have full and complete responsibility for that child. It is as though they were your biological child. Under the law, you have a parental responsibility.

I cannot believe that that can happen. I may be mistaken as I am not an expert. However, it seems to me that the laws, especially in view of the Hague Convention, are in place to protect children. When the adoption order is made, whether in the child's country of origin or here in Quebec or Canada, you become parents and you have exactly the same responsibilities as biological parents. I cannot believe that such cases can occur, except for the one in that television program.

Of course, just as there may be exceptions with biological parents, there may be some among adoptive parents. Some may be poor parents, in one way or another, although that would really surprise me. When you wait for children and really want children with all your heart, and then they arrive, it seems to me that you have a duty. The parents are making themselves happy as well as making the child happy.

That being said, I advise parents who adopt children from another country to obtain dual citizenship. It is easy, it can be done it in Canada, it is permitted. This is just in case, when the child is older, they wish to return to their country of origin to see for themselves where they came from. No one knows what the future holds. I think it would be a good idea to have dual citizenship.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?