Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again today to Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption).
Before I begin, I want to digress for a moment to send best wishes to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration as she is recovering from her surgery yesterday. We hope she has a very fast recovery and is back to her duties as quickly as possible.
In this corner of the House, New Democrats strongly support this legislation. We strongly supported it earlier this year and in the last Parliament when the same bill was introduced by the previous government. We are relieved that it is finally back before the House for report stage and hope that we can do whatever possible to see its passage expedited and finally have this legislation enacted in Canada. This legislation is long overdue and is expected by many people in Canada.
The bill would amend the Citizenship Act to allow a grant of citizenship to a child adopted overseas by a Canadian. It would ensure that adopted children are treated the same as biological children under the provisions of the Citizenship Act. In doing so, it would make citizenship automatic for adopted children, as it is for children born to Canadians. As has been pointed out earlier, it would eliminate the need for an adopted child to first become a permanent resident of Canada and have to apply for full citizenship later.
The New Democrats also support the motion introduced by the government to delete the provision for an appeal to the Immigration and Refugee Board, an amendment that was added during the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration's consideration of the bill.
I will quote directly from the report stage of the bill. The amendment reads:
Any decision of the Minister under this section may be appealed to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
I actually proposed that amendment when we were discussing this legislation in committee so it might seem strange that I now support deleting that addition. I also want to point out that the exact same amendment was proposed by the Bloc Québécois in committee. The amendment by the NDP was the one selected for debate first. All three opposition parties supported the amendment at committee.
Our concern was for an appropriate appeal if there were ever a denial of automatic citizenship for a child adopted by Canadians. I think everyone would admit that that seems unlikely, given the kind of process that is in place regarding international adoptions, but we also know that as humans and as our lives meet, through the laws of the land, especially around issues of citizenship and immigration, there is often a way to find an exception that requires an appropriate appeal, which is where our concern stems.
The amendment also came from a heightened awareness of committee members about appeals in the area of citizenship and immigration, concerns such as the failure of the present and previous governments to implement the Refugee Appeal Division, as provided for in the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and other problems related to the appeal process.
All of us wanted to ensure that there was an appropriate appeal in the legislation for any situation that might arise regarding the citizenship of a child adopted overseas. This position was also suggested and supported by witnesses, including the Canadian Bar Association which called for such an appeal to the IRB. It actually was the Bar's recommendations and testimony before the standing committee when we considered Bill C-14 that this be in place.
The representative for the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association, Stephen Green, noted that the only option currently, given the provisions of Bill C-14, would be for a judicial review and that it would be a very limited review at that point. That is why this came to the committee's attention and why the amendment was proposed.
I must say that during the committee discussions I listened carefully to the arguments that were put forward by the government and by the parliamentary secretary and I did see some virtue in those arguments.
There was some discussion about withdrawing the amendment at that time but other members of the committee were keen to see it remain and, since the exact same amendment was waiting on the agenda for us, it remained. I did not withdraw it at that time. Since the amendment passed at committee, there has been feedback on the specific appeal proposal, particularly from the government of Quebec but also from other provinces, which were very concerned about its inclusion.
I want to say very clearly that I do not want to see the legislation further delayed. I maintained that position when the parliamentary secretary and the government raised concerns about the appeal since the committee dealt with it. I have always said that if a proposal were brought forward that I would be happy to act on it and give an opinion on it as quickly as possible so that the legislation is not delayed in any way.
Given the concerns that have been raised, now that we have the proposal to withdraw the appeal procedure that is included in the current revision of the bill, New Democrats have agreed to support the motion from the government to remove the appeal provision that was added by the committee.
It is time to get on with this important bill that would make the lives of many families and many children much easier. However, we will watch closely to see if any situations arise that would benefit from a particular appeal mechanism. If so, we, and I am sure other members of the House, will make every possible effort to ensure an appropriate mechanism for appeal is put in place as quickly as possible.
Mr. Speaker, I also know that you were asked to rule on a point of order related to this amendment that we are now talking about, but it appears that it will be removed from the bill since I believe all parties are supporting that step.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and your staff for the work that was done to address those issues. I believe it was an important discussion and I want to say that by supporting withdrawing the amendment at this stage, I am not conceding to the government's position on the point of order it raised and which was not upheld by the Speaker's ruling.
While it might seem that the hard work was in vain now that the specific clause is to be removed, I want to express my appreciation for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, and think the issues raised were important to the ongoing operation of the House.
The bill before the House today is a better bill than was proposed to us early in this Parliament. Other amendments made at the committee and which are going forward make the regulatory review and the coming into force provisions of the bill much more explicit.
It was our consideration of what happened with other legislation in the area of Citizenship and Immigration, particularly the concern of members on the committee about the failure to implement the Refugee Appeal Division, that caused us to look more carefully at the provisions for regulatory review and coming into force, to make them more explicit and to put specific timelines specifically on the coming into force provisions.
As a result of those amendments passing, we have a much better bill before us and much greater accountability for the government when it comes to the implementation of this important legislation.
Families and their adopted children have waited far too long for the bill. It has taken two Parliaments to get it through. I hope we are on the verge of accomplishing that, and anything the New Democrats can do to expeditiously complete the task related to the legislation, we are prepared to endeavour to take those measures.
I think there are other places where we need amendments to our citizenship legislation. I am glad the minister recently announced that she would propose in the fall further amendments to deal with the question of lost Canadians but, unfortunately, I believe those are only half measures and do not deal with important situations related to war brides and war children. I am hoping that we can see a better proposal than has recently been announced by the minister when we return in the fall.
We also need to look at the provisions of revocation of citizenship and the oath of citizenship. I believe the Citizenship Act needs a complete overhaul and not just a piecemeal approach as we have been receiving from the government.
I live in hope that we may see a completely new Citizenship Act before the House to be debated, to update some of these important provisions. However, I am glad we are getting on with the question of overseas adoption and facilitating the citizenship of children adopted overseas.