Madam Speaker, in about a month Canada will host the G20 and we will welcome many countries to Canada. We are a trading nation. We want to encourage our children and all our professionals and businesses to trade with other countries, to visit them, to study or work abroad. Yet we have a citizenship law that discourages them to do so because their grandchildren may not become citizens.
Bill C-467, which I and the New Democratic Party of Canada support, would amend the Citizenship Act to remove the second generation citizenship cut-off for children born abroad or adopted abroad by a Canadian citizen who has been employed outside of Canada in the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration and the public service of a province.
The second generation citizenship cut-off applies to children whose parents are Canadian citizens and were also born outside of Canada. If these children are also born outside Canada, they do not automatically receive Canadian citizenship. We know already of two Canadian children born to Canadians who have become stateless.
Even though I will support the bill, it simply does not go far enough. The bill only applies to the public servants and armed forces personnel.
According to the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, in 2009 approximately 2.8 million Canadians lived abroad. The Canadian public servants and armed forces members only represent a very small fraction of those numbers of Canadians living and working overseas.
These are Canadians. They have chosen to live and work abroad perhaps as journalists, aid workers or students. We just cannot and should not deny them the right to pass on citizenship to their children or their grandchildren just because they spent some time overseas.
For example, Senator Munson was at a press conference that I attended. Because he was a journalist for many years, his son was born abroad. His son is also a journalist and lives outside of Canada. If he happens to have a baby, Senator Munson's grandchild would be stateless. Is that fair? Absolutely not.
We need to end the second generation citizenship cut-off for all children born abroad to Canadian parents. That is exactly what one of my private member's bills, Bill C-397, would do.
I hope my colleague, the member for Vancouver South, would be willing to work with me to amend this bill at committee to include all children born abroad.
There seems to be an assumption that because some Canadians chose to live and work outside of Canada, they somehow do not have strong ties to Canada. In fact, some people even call them citizens of convenience. What an insult.
I have heard from many of them. They are proud Canadians. They have strong ties to this country. Sometimes they represent us. Sometimes they represent their companies. Many of these are Canadian companies, multinational companies. However, it seems the government's general policy is to encourage them to cut off their ties by denying them the right to pass on full citizenship rights to their children or their grandchildren.
We are now living in an interconnected world and governments need to consider this and adjust some of their policies so our citizens can feel free to travel and not be punished. The simple fact is we need to completely rethink the way we treat Canadians working or living abroad. Instead of pushing them further away, we need to recognize them as proud Canadians and do what we can to help strengthen their ties with their country, our country, Canada.
I want to give an example of a woman I met, Helen Chatburn, a Canadian citizen who was born in England and is expecting a child. Helen works in Nigeria for an organization funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. Remember that Helen grew up in Canada. She is a Canadian, but if Helen were to give birth in Nigeria, her child would not have Canadian citizenship. Helen has been left with no choice but to fly to Canada, seven months pregnant, to give birth here. What absurdity. This woman is risking her health in order to grant her child Canadian citizenship because of this flaw in the Citizenship Act.
The second generation cutoff ought to be revoked entirely because it does nothing to protect the value of citizenship. In British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, due to the shortages in neonatal care units, pregnant women have been sent to the U.S. to give birth, but they may not know that if their kids have a child overseas, their grandchild could be stateless.
As Valerie Bolduc, director of community development at the Canadian Expat Association states:
Technically, you can be fourth-, fifth-generation born-abroad and have lived in Canada practically your whole life.
Why not give them the same rights as children born here if they all have Canadian parents?
The Citizenship Act affects children and their families. Not only does it fail to protect the values of citizenship, but it also undermines them because it deprives the children of Canadian citizens of their full rights of citizenship.
Also, this bill does nothing to address the two-tiered citizenship for adopted children. If an adopted child is made a Canadian citizen before moving to Canada, which we would want to do, the second generation cutoff would apply to these children. However, if the adopted child is brought to Canada first as a landed immigrant and the parents apply for citizenship while the child is in Canada, and that child would have to wait for a year or so, the rule would not apply.
This bill only addresses children adopted abroad by citizens employed outside Canada. That also is not fair.
Remember, our most valuable resource is our human capital. That is the most important element. Let us not squander it by allowing the Conservatives' retrograde policies to stand.
We will look to amend this bill at committee for it to apply to all children born abroad to Canadian citizens, not just those who are in the army or who are diplomats. In a country with an aging population, we must value our children, every one of them, whether they are born outside Canada or in Canada, whether they are adopted by Canadians, coming to Canada as citizens or landed immigrants. We need more Canadian children, not fewer.
No child should be left stateless because his or her father or mother chose to become an aid worker to do good work outside Canada. No child should be left stateless because his or her parents or grandparents decided to become a journalist overseas. No mom should have to be forced to travel to Canada just to have her baby, thus interrupting her career and her good work in a developing country. No executive should have to worry about not representing her own company in order to come back to Canada to have her baby.
Let us adopt this bill and fully amend it so that all children will be treated equally.