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House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #50

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Would all those who wish to continue private conversations, please use the lobbies.

It being 6:10 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

moved that Bill C-467, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (children born abroad), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to introduce this bill to deal with some exceptions that were in the legislation when it was unanimously passed. The bill would—

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member.

Order, please. Out of respect for the hon. member who is speaking, thank you.

The hon. member for Vancouver South.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Madam Speaker, this bill would amend the Citizenship Act to provide that a child 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.

Currently, children born abroad to Canadian government workers are considered under the Citizenship Act as first-generation Canadians born abroad. This, in turn, impacts their children, in that they are considered a second generation born abroad and are not eligible for Canadian citizenship if born outside Canada.

This bill would ensure that children born to or adopted by Canadians working for the federal or provincial governments of Canada would be treated as if they had been born in Canada, which is the fair thing to do.

I have an example that I want to provide. It is the example of Howard Cummer, a Canadian citizen who was serving as a trade commissioner to Singapore in 1979, when his son was born. His son now lives in Tokyo and is married to a Japanese national, but if Mr. Cummer's son and daughter-in-law have a child in Tokyo where they live, that child will not be entitled to Canadian citizenship under the current system. I believe that would be unfair. Citizenship would be denied despite Mr. Cummer's record as a civil servant and the fact he was working for the Canadian government at that time.

I am actually going to read the letter that he sent me. He is not my constituent, but he simply contacted me. I decided that it was the right thing to do to introduce this bill. I am using excerpts from his original letter to me. He stated:

“I am writing to you to seek your help in amending Bill C37, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, which became law on April 17, 2009, to eliminate the unintended consequences of the Bill on the children of Canadians born abroad.

“I know that the Bill was unanimously passed by Parliament to eliminate the transfer of citizenship to the children of 'sojourning' Canadians—who have no long-term or historical ties to Canada and who consider a Canadian passport only to be one of convenience.

“But the Bill cuts far too wide a swath!

“Take my family situation as an example. I was working in Singapore in 1979 as a Canadian Trade Commissioner when my son was born. We had to agree in writing that we would not claim Singapore citizenship for him in order for my wife to have a hospital bed.

“He is now 30 years old, married to a Japanese citizen and starting an internet bank in Tokyo. If he and his wife have a child in Tokyo then under the present rules of C37 that child will not be eligible for Canadian citizenship.

“My family came to Toronto from Pennsylvania in 1797 in the second wave of United Empire loyalists. Their presence is recorded in the place names of Cummer Avenue, Old Cummer Station and Cummer Park and my ancestors are buried in the family graveyard on Yonge Street now tended by the North York Historical Society. The family has fought for Canada in every war since the War of 1812 and was part of the Upper Canada Rebellion with William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837.

“But my family history is short compared to my wife's family—the Dawes claim to have been in Newfoundland since 1508 and can be confirmed as having been there by land titles since 1595.

“Between the two sides of the family there is over 600 years of Canadian history and yet my grandchildren will not be Canadian if born outside of Canada to my children who were born abroad while I was serving Canada.

“This is flat out wrong!

“The bill needs to be amended so that grandchildren of Canadian diplomats, Canadian Armed Forces personnel, the employees of Ministries of finance, Agriculture, Justice, CSIS,—all branches of government within interests abroad—will not be penalized for their citizenship—if their grandparents were working abroad for Canada.

“I am contacting you now to see what can be done to limit the unforeseen impact of this bill and to make the amendments necessary to preserve citizenship where and when it should be preserved.

—Howard Cummer”.

That actually makes the case for this bill more eloquently than I could have in this particular situation.

This is not a partisan issue. It is the right thing to do. Obviously, if and when it does go to committee, we can make the amendments so that there are no unintended consequences.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly support this bill. However, it only covers public servants. I am wondering whether the hon. member would be willing, once it is at committee, to allow for amendments on the following issue.

Right now, 2.8 million Canadians live abroad, and there are many who will end up having children outside Canada. These are true Canadians. Some own big companies that are doing trade outside Canada. Some are diplomats. Others are journalists. For their grandchildren to be denied the right to be Canadian is totally unfair.

Would the member consider those kinds of amendments?

Also, if children are adopted and become citizens in Canada rather than come into Canada as landed immigrants, and they have kids outside Canada, their grandchildren also will not be Canadian. It is also a problem for adopted children, which is downright discrimination.

Would the member consider an amendment so that adopted kids would also be treated equally?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Madam Speaker, with respect to the adopted children, taking the last question first, that would be an easy thing to do. If there are any other unintended consequences, we should deal with them. I would be very open to that. Obviously, one would have to persuade the whole committee to support that.

With respect to private business people who choose to do business abroad, they are in a different category altogether. They are not in the category of diplomats or Canadian armed personnel or others who are sent for government service by either the provinces or the federal government. It is not that they are not doing work, and it is not that it is not good for Canada. They are in an absolutely separate category. I would have to be convinced to support that. At this moment, I would say no. I do not think we should extend this privilege to people who choose to do business abroad. However, I have an open mind, and I would be happy to be persuaded.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I just want to get some clarification on the end part of the mover's statement.

For us, the intent of this private member's bill is important. Going to committee obviously means that there will be some amendments made to the bill to move it back to the House for third reading. I really would like him to clarify that the intent of Bill C-37, which was enacted a couple of years ago, is something he supports and that this private member's bill actually gets at an area that we need to pay attention to and obviously make an addition to. That is the scope of his bill, and that is what he would like to have come to committee. It is based on nothing outside of that.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not understand the parliamentary secretary's point.

I obviously support the amendment I have brought forward. I believe that the amendment is appropriate. I am open to looking at other things. I understand that the government may be moving some amendments to avoid some unintended consequences of this amendment. I would be very open to those.

The member preceding asked whether I would be open to adopted children getting the same rights as children born in Canada. We should be able to take a look at that. An adopted child legally has the same connection to an individual as a naturally born child in all Canadian laws. We should take a look at whether adopted children should be treated the same way naturally born children are in this particular situation. Obviously, it would depend on the committee as to where the committee goes. The amendment I have proposed is the most important amendment, for me, in the first place.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-467, brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

This private member's bill stems from the passage, in the 39th Parliament, of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born to or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel and federal and provincial public servants, as children born in Canada such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.

First of all, I would like to commend the member for Vancouver South for his commitment to this issue, and I would like all hon. members to know that the government supports the intention of Bill C-467. However, we have some technical concerns with the bill in its current form, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have, as the member points out, some unintended consequences.

Nevertheless, I am confident that we can address these concerns together, with the co-operation of our parliamentary colleagues. The bill will have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants and our military serving abroad.

I would like to share with my hon. colleagues a very brief overview of Bill C-37 and the reasons that led us, as a government, to restore citizenship to lost Canadians and to include a clear limit on citizenship by descent.

Members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will recall many witnesses who testified three years ago this spring as they shared their love for this country as proud citizens. They shared their dismay and their frustration when they described how it felt to discover that their citizenship was not, in fact, recognized by the law.

The public outcry was enormous, and that is why the government corrected the legislation. When Bill C-37 came into effect a year ago, it restored or gave citizenship to most people who were known as lost Canadians. Changes to the law restored or granted citizenship to the vast majority of those who lost or did not have it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.

The changes meant that people who became citizens when the first Citizenship Act came into force in 1947, and people born or naturalized in Canada after 1947 and subsequently lost their citizenship, would reacquire their citizenship unless they formally renounced it or had it revoked because of fraud. Foreign-born persons adopted by Canadians between January 1, 1947 and February 15, 1977 would also be eligible to apply for citizenship. Complex rules that required some citizens by descent to take steps to apply to keep their citizenship were simply eliminated.

The new law also set a limit on citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was done to uphold the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring a real and concrete connection to Canada.

Hon. members will also recall debate of Bill C-14 in 2007 and the steps Canadians adopting foreign-born children had to take before their children could become Canadian citizens.

International adoption is a complex process, as we all know, involving many layers of approval by both provincial and territorial governments in Canada and by the federal government of the country where the child lives. In many cases, adoptions must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

With the passage of Bill C-14, parents of foreign-born adopted children were able to apply directly for citizenship for those children without first having to go through the steps of applying for permanent resident status. It was a clear and bold reaffirmation of the values and principles that define our identity, our country, and the notion of the Canadian family.

The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of Bill C-37 and Bill C-14 was essentially to simplify the complex rules on Canadian citizenship.

The private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned, and we once again praise the member for Vancouver South for his constructive efforts. In the coming weeks, we look forward to addressing the technical issues that would otherwise prevent this bill from achieving its rightful objective.

The government recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that Crown servants and their families posted abroad make to this country.

I am sure that hon. members would also agree that any children born to Crown servants working abroad should not be penalized by not being able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or they may adopt abroad as a direct result of their parents' service to this country.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no question that Crown servants abroad, including our military, have a connection to this country and we are confident that the changes proposed by Bill C-467 are consistent with the intent of Bill C-37.

There are a few issues with this bill that need to be examined. For example, the bill attempts to extend access to citizenship to the grandchildren of Crown servants by adding a new provision for children born abroad or adopted by Crown servants.

At the same time, it proposes to repeal a section of the act that currently allows all children born to a Crown servant outside Canada to be Canadians, regardless of the generation in which they were born outside Canada.

Similarly, right now, anyone born abroad or adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, may apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions. Under Bill C-467 as it stands now, children adopted by Crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, which could indeed be problematic.

Nevertheless, I am sure that all members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective and that, as Canadians, we should support our Crown servants posted abroad, especially and including military families, and recognize their sacrifice, their commitment and their strong connection to Canada.

That is why I am confident the intent of Bill C-467 can be achieved by expanding the current exception that exists under the law to ensure that the children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside our country.

To ensure that the good intentions of Bill C-467 are achieved, I look forward to working co-operatively in the coming weeks with the member for Vancouver South, and all members, toward some constructive amendments.

We have a committee that is currently working on Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act. We are working our way through it. As members know, it is never easy at committee to come to a consensus on absolutely everything. I believe that bill is going to come back to this House, is going to be supported and is going to be passed. For the first time in decades we will have strong and positive change to our refugee act.

At the same time, I think the committee, with all four parties represented there, can come to some common agreement on the bill. The member has a critic who certainly has an open ear and a colleague who has an open ear to ensuring that we do what is right at committee.

I anticipate that we can do the same with this bill. I look forward to the day the member has the opportunity to present at committee and work with us on what I think will be amendments, necessary amendments nonetheless, that would ensure there are no unintended consequences with respect to this bill and the impact it would have on Canadians born abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today about Bill C-467 because I believe that it will correct a legislative error.

When the Citizenship Act was amended in 2008 through Bill C-37, the principle of restricting the transmission of citizenship by descent was included to ensure that Canadian citizenship was not passed on in perpetuity.

But in wanting to create an exception to restricting the transmission of citizenship for our military and officials who are overseas on a mission, we complicated matters. We created an exception to the citizenship exception that had just been passed. The goal was to maintain privileges for our citizens who have children overseas. However, as is often the case when a law is created or amended, unanticipated problems or gaps surfaced in the legislation.

Bill C-467 would remove the exception to the exception that was created and propose a new category of citizens in order to make the Citizenship Act fairer.

The law, in its present form allows our military and officials, who were themselves born abroad, to transmit their citizenship to any children they have when they are on a mission. However, rather than being considered citizens in good standing as though they were born here, these children have the status of Canadians born abroad, which does not allow them, in turn, to transmit their citizenship.

Bill C-467 would make these children full-fledged citizens with the same rights and privileges as the children of the military and officials born here and posted here.

When the government amended the Citizenship Act to restrict the transmission of citizenship, it maintained that the provision would ensure that Canadian citizenship is not transmitted indefinitely to individuals who have no ties to Canada. Although I believe that there should be nuances in this rule, I agree with the general principle.

Given the employee-employer relationship of these two parties, it is obvious to me that, for this category of citizens, their right to citizenship does not have to be proven because it is explicit. Consequently, their children should be considered as though they were born here—even if they were born abroad—just like children adopted from abroad, who now have this recognition.

That is exactly what the member for Vancouver South wants to achieve with this bill.

Here is a simple example to illustrate what I am talking about. I was born in Vietnam and adopted in 1974. I now have a Quebec birth certificate, which is my legal identification in Quebec. However, when I renew my passport, I have to send my Canadian citizenship card, not my Quebec birth certificate, as do all people born in Quebec.

I was adopted in 1974, long before the law was changed to allow children adopted from other countries to obtain citizenship upon arriving in Canada. If I were a member of the armed forces, any grandchildren of mine born abroad would be stateless. That situation is unacceptable.

In this case, my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, has five children, including one born abroad when he was Quebec's delegate general in Japan. That child will not have the same status as his four children born here.

This is an example that illustrates the need for this bill. The current citizenship criteria, which are essentially based on birthplace, seem to me to be outdated in these cases, just like the discrimination against parents who adopted children abroad in my time. The flaws in the system should be corrected by the bill my colleague has introduced.

With globalization and international labour mobility, more and more government employees, members of the military and other people will be going abroad to work.

Moreover, the Bloc Québécois has long been calling on the government to introduce exit controls for non-citizens, but the Conservatives have consistently refused. They recognize the problem, but refuse to take action.

Clearly, Bill C-467 does not correct the whole problem, because it only focuses on government employees. I feel we are going to have to take a much broader approach and review the principle of restricting transmission of citizenship by descent.

We support this amendment, but I want to say that this bill will not completely fix the flaw in the current Citizenship Act.

However, it does give vital recognition to people working for the government abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

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.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have seconded this bill because it goes some way toward solving some problems that were created as a result of the adoption of Bill C-37 which came into effect in April 2009. Law making is sometimes extremely complicated and there are unintended consequences and we are seeing some here at different levels.

The first level which Bill C-467 presented by my colleague from Vancouver South addresses is the most urgent and most obvious one. It is the fact that people who have had children while serving their country abroad and whose children are now having children of their own, those children cannot be Canadian citizens. That is nonsense. The riding which I have the honour of representing is in Ottawa. One would expect there would be a number of people living in my riding and throughout the city who have served our country abroad in the Department of Foreign Affairs, for instance, and who are now in this situation.

I know two ambassadors who have had children while serving abroad. In the first case, one of his sons is now working in the private sector in a bank in Paris. He and his wife are going to have their third child. The first two children, from the same father and mother, are Canadian citizens, but the third one, if the child is born in Paris, will not be a Canadian citizen if born there. The third grandchild of the man who served his country abroad, born from the same parents, cannot be a Canadian citizen. It is nonsense. Another well-known ambassador who served this country with great distinction has a daughter in Great Britain who cannot have children who will be Canadian citizens.

That is the first obvious unintended consequence of Bill C-37 that has to be fixed. I applaud my colleague's initiative. I hope that even if the government seems to have some hesitation about some technicalities it is concerned with, that we can see our way to at least adopting that.

The second level of complication was brought up by the member for Trinity—Spadina and I concur with her. Canada as a trading nation has to consider going beyond this bill. I have legislation on the books, Bill C-443, which addresses that. It deals with the fact that there are a number of Canadian citizens working abroad, for the United Nations or its agencies and for NGOs, and heaven knows, we fund them through CIDA. These are honourable, respected NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières. A number of them are associated with religious groups. A number of Canadians are serving the interests of their country through these organizations and they are going to get caught in the same situation.

That is the second level of complication that I hope we will address some day. I hope the government is paying attention to this. Whether we can do it through amendments to this piece of legislation or not remains to be seen.

The third one is the very dramatic situation where we will be creating stateless children. That can be an incredibly complicated situation for anyone.

These are some of the unintended consequences of the legislation that came into effect last year which I believe have to be addressed. The first one is being addressed through the legislation proposed by my colleague from Vancouver South and I hope we will see fit to pass it quickly.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill C-467, which calls on the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada. That would mean making it possible to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.

As my hon. colleague has said, the government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we do have some concerns that the bill as drafted would not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences.

Members who studied the issue of lost citizenship in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration know full well that citizenship is not something to take lightly or for granted. Studies and witness testimony over the issue led to us to the conclusion that legislation governing citizenship is by no means perfect and that we should truly appreciate the value of our Canadian citizenship.

Members will recall that in order to protect the value of citizenship and ensure that it could not be passed on to endless generations, Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament introduced a first generation limit to citizenship. The limit is there to ensure that Canadians would have a connection to Canada. Bill C-37 also created an exception to this new first generation limit. The exception means that children born outside Canada to Crown servants are also citizens.

Without this exception to the fist generation limit, children of Crown servants would not be able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. This means that as long as a Canadian citizen is a Crown servant working abroad, any children the Canadian citizen has or adopts abroad are Canadian.

Generation after generation of parents working abroad as Crown servants are able to pass Canadian citizenship on to their children, but let us say Anna has a child while working as a Crown servant in England. Her child, Nicholas, is Canadian. When Nicholas grows up, if he decides to work as a Crown servant in India, any child he has or adopts while working as a Crown servant there would be Canadian, but if Nicholas decides he does not want to work as a Crown servant, his child, in other words Anna's grandchild, would not be Canadian. We aim to change that.

Since early 2009 the government has heard from Crown servants and organizations representing them that it is unfair to penalize these children as a direct result of their parents' service to Canada. I absolutely sympathize with the need to recognize that Canadian families serving Canada abroad have a strong connection to Canada and should not be penalized for their service.

I agree with my colleagues that the private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned. After all, it proposes to treat children born or adopted abroad by Crown servants the same as children born in Canada so that they could pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt overseas.

As I have said, the bill does have some problems. For example, under this bill, children of Crown servants could not pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. Children of the original Crown servant working abroad who were born abroad to a Canadian parent would no longer have access to citizenship.

Children adopted by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada would become citizens automatically without regard to the international obligations and requirements that aim to protect the best interests of the child, for example, to prevent child trafficking. Bill C-467 would propose to confer citizenship automatically to children adopted abroad by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada.

The current act already allows anyone who is born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, to apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respects international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdictions on adoptions.

Nevertheless, I am confident that we can achieve the intent of this private member's bill if we expanded the current exception that exists in the current act, so that children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside Canada.

I recommend that, by addressing these concerns together, this bill could have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants, including our military serving abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-467 which was brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

As all members of the House are aware, this private member's bill stems from the passage in the 39th Parliament of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls upon the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada, such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.

The government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we are concerned about some unintended consequences. Our success as a country is no accident but a result of an abiding belief in values such as liberty, human dignity and freedom of conscience and where harmony is the rule rather than the exception. We are an open and tolerant society, renowned for our respects for democracy and for the freedoms that come with that. We celebrate our different cultural traditions but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian ones.

That is fundamental. We need to preserve the value of Canadian citizenship along with an abiding connection to our past and to one another, where citizenship means more than access to a convenient passport.

Within the past three years, the government has passed significant laws that would correct flaws in citizenship legislation. Bill C-14 and Bill C-37 reflect clear and bold reaffirmations of our values and the principles that define us as a country.

Under the old rules, it was possible for Canadians to pass on their citizenship to endless generations born outside of Canada. To protect the value of Canadian citizenship for the future, the new law under Bill C-37 put a limit on citizenship by descent to one generation born outside of Canada, similar to the rules in other countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have about seven and a half minutes when this debate comes back.

The time provided for consideration of private member's business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to further question my colleague on the opposite side of the House on a question that I asked the minister on March 29.

On March 29, I asked a very simple and direct question regarding new veterans and the care and commitment that the current government had to the huge and new challenges they face. They want to play a part in building tomorrow's Canada but the Conservatives are failing them. When will the government commit to the care and benefits these soldiers deserve and are calling for themselves? It is a very clear and simple question about looking at modern veterans and their particular needs as expressed in the 21st century.

I did a preamble about that because it was the week before we honoured veterans from World War I, the last living veteran from that war having just died.

The minister gave no answer and actually avoided my question completely. He did not say one word that related to new veterans. Instead, he reflected upon the Great War that ended in 1918 and talked about a book of remembrance and about the commemorative services to be held on April 9.

I am trying to move the government forward from 1918 to 2010. It is almost 100 years since that war ended. The question I want answered very clearly is: What is the government's plan to deal with the veterans who have not been what we have called “traditional” veterans, those veterans who are not from World War II or the Korean War, but all the veterans since then, so-called “modern” veterans, who are now actually falling into two different categories, which are those from the cold war, from failed state operations, peacekeepers and the war in Iraq, to those new veterans, post the New Veterans Charter, who are mostly from Afghanistan?

The reality is that since 2006, we have a new class of veterans who have been under a new regime, under a new charter, a charter that was conceived and passed unanimously by all parties in the House, as a new way forward for veterans of the modern age.

However, over the last several months, if not the last couple of years, we have been hearing from veteran after veteran, veterans organization after veterans organization, that the programs, the financial compensation, the disability awards and the lump sum payments are simply not enough. They are not working to keep veterans engaged in the activities in which we want them engaged to help them do successful rehabilitation and reintegrate into family and community.

We are seeing more and more instances of post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness, suicide, financial problems and family strife and the government has not presented one change since 2006.

In the New Veterans Charter, which was meant to be a living charter, the minister was given the power to make changes to programs and to update them as needs changed. The number of soldiers who have come home with these profound problems increases day after day. I am hoping the parliamentary secretary can give a clear answer on this very pressing problem.

7:10 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I cannot imagine that the minister would ever ignore his most important question. I am sure that was not the intention.

We are all aware, and he and I are on the same committee, that there are some real challenges out there for modern veterans. It, therefore, is important to point out that progress is being made. It is never enough and not fast enough for many but many changes have continued to take place.

As a matter of fact, we had a witness at our committee yesterday, a mother of a modern vet, who indicated that her son, who is an injured vet back from overseas serving our country very well, is still in the military. One of the changes we are seeing take place is that DND is trying to retain, wherever possible, those who have been injured and are now handicapped, and put them in meaningful roles in the military so that they stay gainfully employed.

At the same time, as pointed out at the committee meeting yesterday, these important people who have been injured while serving overseas on our behalf are receiving a number of services and programs from Veterans Affairs.

I would like to emphasize that a lot of work going on between Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence to co-operate and integrate where possible. Thanks to the new charter, we are trying to do more for our veterans all the time. We have a wide ranging number of packages and programs for the veterans. There is a continuing need for upgrade and change but the focus is on making them as comfortable and serve their needs as much as possible, whether it is physical or psychological injuries that take place.

It is also important to remind people that we have 40 offices across the country. Veterans Affairs is established at armed forces bases so young military folks coming back from overseas and the war can start integrating before they leave the service and get the kind of attention and treatment they need, which is where both departments need to co-operate. There is an extensive network of health care providers, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists, who are there to help where they can.

We have specialized mental health clinics, including one that we visited at Ste. Anne's Hospital, where veterans can stay up to eight weeks to concentrate on their full-time treatment and recovery. We would like to see them reintegrated into society and in a working environment but where they cannot into work they obviously need all the support mechanisms they can get.

Under operational stress injuries, OSIs, they get treated in an understanding and supportive environment, and that continues as that need continues. As has been pointed out, that is a growing problem.

One of the great programs is the operational stress injury social support program, which we have heard a lot about. It is a partnership between Veterans Affairs and DND where those who have gone through the problem or families who have gone through the problem are there to deal directly with veterans coming home. They can talk to them and communicate in a way that helps them understand the problem and what services are available.

Those initiatives are recognized, not only in Canada but around the world, as being very much in a leadership role. We have to do more so that young vets, while they are still in the military, are learning what is available, how it can be long-term for them and how it can be adjusted and fine-tuned. We know there is a lot of work ahead. Everyone who is eligible, including the families because they are a very important part of it, know that early intervention and action leads to the best long-term results for the veterans.

We must continue to listen to the suggestions that are being made, including what we are getting now in our committee review, and remember that we are there to serve the military and the veterans and to provide the best possible services we can. We all know that we owe our veterans the very best of care.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his response. I do note that he is encouraged by the changes and, in attempting to make my role as a critic to be a constructive role, I want to encourage him to go a little further.

Most of the programs he mentioned have actually not changed. They have very slightly evolved over the last number of years. As he acknowledges, DND does employ some returning soldiers, but Veterans Affairs Canada still does not have a significant program to employ veterans. That would be one constructive suggestion I would make, similar to other jurisdictions.

He mentions post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries. Yes, there are some clinics but I would suggest that the government needs to establish at least two Centres of Excellence to do thorough research into the Canadian context and this set of problems called post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps one out west, perhaps one in Quebec.

Case management is absolutely critical and I hope a new model is developed for that. I encourage him to continue his work.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I certainly thank my colleague again, as I think he is showing that the will is there to keep co-operating in looking for improvements. There is a need to continue improving and looking at how we can do better.

I think the fact that we are in a review process now is very healthy. We will be reporting back as a parliamentary committee with a number of positive recommendations that we heard. They all must be focused on the fact that all members of the House, regardless of party, want to do the best we can for our veterans. Therefore, co-operation at the end of the day is necessary.

I thank the member for raising the issue again this evening.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, on March 26 I asked the government about its plans to include contraceptive health in its G8 child and maternal health initiative. Since then the government has conceded that access to contraceptives should be included. I am very pleased that it has realized that access to contraception can reduce maternal mortality by 70%.

However, the government has continued to refuse access to abortion under the plan, despite knowing that more than half a million women die every year in developing countries because of unwanted pregnancies, including 55,000 women from botched abortions. We should note that these figures are based on reporting rates that are traditionally very poor.

This is completely unacceptable, but of even more concern, according to the Canadian International Development Agency, is that 2.5 million teenagers worldwide have unsafe abortions, and those young women face, to a very significant degree, serious complications that are often life threatening.

No one is fooled about the underlying reasons for this. It is clearly ideologically based. Because of this, lives are at risk and the cycle of links between poverty and child and maternal health issues continues.

The government ignored advice from domestic and international experts when it excluded abortion funding from its G8 maternal and child health initiative, including CIDA, UNICEF and World Vision.

The risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth is one in seven in the poorest parts of the world, but it is more than 80% preventable, and this is what the Royal Society of Canada is saying. To go back to contraception, this week it said:

Provision of effective contraception for approximately 200 million who have none will prevent 23 million unplanned births, 22 million induced abortions and 14,000 pregnancy-related maternal deaths each year.

This evidence is so irrefutable, it is there in black and white, but when I originally asked the government a question about contraception and maternal health, it said it would not even fund contraception. Now it says yes; but do we trust it to keep its promises?

Further, the government does not have the support of Canadians on this issue. The Canadian Press-Harris/Decima poll found this month that only 30% of respondents would support the government's decision excluding abortion funding from the G8 initiative.

Thus the government is rejecting the advice of Canadians, it is rejecting the advice of experts, and it is rejecting the advice of other G8 countries and G8 governments, like the U.S. and the U.K. who have come out against our government's decision.

Further addressing child and maternal health, we have to get serious about poverty. We need to come together on this issue as we approach the deadline for the millennium development goals that aim to reduce extreme poverty around the world by 2015. We need to increase funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, all of which have links to child and maternal health. The Canadian share would be about $700 million over the next three years.

While Canada has followed through on its 2005 commitments to increase aid to Africa, we continue to be at risk of falling back to previous levels of inaction, because the government is freezing its current contributions at 2010 levels for five years.

All of these issues are linked. Therefore, my question to the government is, will it stop with its ideologically driven agenda and take a comprehensive approach to child and maternal health in the global south?