Madam Speaker, it is rather unexpected that I rise today to speak to Bill C-467.
At the outset, I want to say that I listened with great care to the speech from the mover of the bill, as well as the member for Trinity—Spadina. Clearly, we are in favour of this bill and certainly willing to get the bill to committee, but as the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there are some improvements that we would like in the bill.
Bill C-37 came into effect in April of 2009 and out of that whole process there are still gaps in the legislation. The fact of the matter is that this bill would not deal with all of the gaps that the member for Trinity—Spadina outlined so eloquently in her speech.
Having said that, this is certainly a positive move by the member for Vancouver South. I missed the initial period for questions but wanted to ask him whether this bill would apply to members of the reserve forces in Canada.
When we look at the summary of the bill, it refers to the enactment providing that children born abroad to, or adopted abroad by, a citizen employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration or the public service of a province be considered like a child born in Canada. The bill mentions the Canadian armed forces.
In some cases, reserve members are not covered by measures covering the armed forces in general. I was unable to ask the mover that question.
This issue has dogged us for quite a number of years. Having been a provincial member for 23 years now, issues have come up where people have found, perhaps accidentally, that they did not have Canadian citizenship. It came to a head, as we know, around 9/11 when the Americans started to tighten up on their rules of access to the United States, and people had to produce passports and prove citizenship. A number of people could not do that. There were some very well publicized cases, as members know.
Another question I wanted to ask the member was whether he had an idea as to how many people would be affected by this particular bill. The member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out that there are perhaps 2.8 million people, I believe she said, living abroad. There are people working in our missions, working for NGOs, and many working for multinational corporations.
As a matter of fact, it becomes almost a lifetime occupation for some people to spend all of their working lives being transferred around the world and spending very little time in Canada until perhaps their retirement years. During that time, it is quite conceivable that children will be born outside of Canada and at a certain point will be found to be stateless.
The member for Trinity—Spadina talked about Senator Munson, with whom I had the pleasure of travelling to Washington recently, indicating that in his case he could potentially be in a situation where a grandchild of his would be a stateless person. Clearly, we have to look at this whole area and err on the side of inclusiveness, including all people who could potentially be affected by this type of legislation.
One only has to look back three years ago when we debated Bill C-37 in the House. I read through some of the speeches of the day and some of the background.
We are not talking about a really simple issue here. This is a very complicated issue. The average person is not going to while away the hours and days becoming an expert in immigration law. I would think that in some cases one would have to be a lawyer to sort through some of this stuff and to really understand it.
One of the previous members talked earlier about Bill C-37, the bill to amend the Immigration Act, which was introduced in the House and received first reading on December 10, 2007, the whole purpose of which was to address the issue of the so-called lost Canadians, the people who lost their citizenship through no fault of their own when they were mere babies.
These people thought of themselves as Canadians. They wished to participate in Canadian society, but either ceased to be citizens or never were Canadian citizens in the first place for various legal reasons. There were different reasons by and large in each one of the cases and each case presented a very compelling reason. Even the Prime Minister was involved in one of the cases to try to resolve the issue. In many cases these individuals were not even aware that they were not Canadian citizens until they applied for a certificate of Canadian citizenship or other documentation.
It might surprise some to know, and I was informed of this a few years ago, that even today a very small percentage of the population actually flies on an airplane. I forget what the actual number was but only 13% or 15% of people have actually flown but that number must be much higher now. A very large number of people in our society have not had occasion to board an airplane and fly to other countries. If an individual has no reason to travel, he or she would have no reason to consider asking for documentation. Only when a life event happens are people forced to get citizenship documentation and sometimes find out they are not able to get it.
It would be interesting for people watching today to know that there are at least four distinct legal groups of lost Canadians. The first group is made up of naturalized Canadians, those who subsequently lived outside the country for more than 10 years prior to 1967. The second group is made up of people born abroad to a Canadian parent before the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. How is someone supposed to remember all of these facts, particularly if that individual happened to be born abroad?
The third group is made up of people who lost their citizenship between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977 because they or a parent acquired the citizenship of another country. The fourth group is made up of the second and subsequent generation of Canadians born abroad since the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. As the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, we are talking about 2.8 million people living abroad.
I understand that my time is almost nigh. Suffice it to say that we support the bill and are prepared to send it on to committee.