Mr. Speaker, I rise today to add to the debate on Bill C-467 brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South. This private member's bill stems from the passage two years ago of an act to amend the Citizenship Act.
The government supports the intentions of Bill C-467, which would treat children born abroad or overseas by crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada so they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.
We do have concerns with the bill as it is currently drafted, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences. However, we are looking forward to working in committee to make a few changes that will be needed to ensure the bill achieves its desired objective.
As the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has said, few things in this world are more precious to Canadians than their citizenship. However, over the past several years we have heard from people who thought they were proud Canadian citizens, only to discover that their citizenship did not exist in law due to inconsistencies in citizenship legislation. When they applied for a passport, they were told that they were not Canadian citizens. People who lived or worked here for years without Canadian citizenship could be denied benefits, such as pensions and health care.
The Government of Canada took this matter very seriously. These were unfair situations due to outdated legislation and so we corrected the mistakes of the past and righted a series of wrongs.
As hon. members are aware, amendments to the Citizenship Act have restored Canadian citizenship to those who ceased to be citizens under the 1947 act. These changes gave citizenship to those who never had it but were born of a Canadian, such as the so-called border babies. These were people whose families live close to the Canada-U.S. border and for whom the closest hospital in which to give birth was in the United States.
We can only imagine how difficult it had to be for someone to believe that they were Canadian, only to discover later that their citizenship was not valid all along. We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who came forward and testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. They told heart-wrenching stories of how this loss of citizenship had affected them personally.
We also amended the Citizenship Act to support Canadian parents who adopt children from other countries. Such parents no longer have to apply for permanent resident status for their children before he or she is eligible for Canadian citizenship.
The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of previous amendments was essentially to bring stability, clarity and consistency to Canadian citizenship laws.
Previous amendments to the Citizenship Act also protected the value of Canadian citizenship by ensuring that our citizens would have a real connection to this country.
Along with the hon. members, I agree that the private member's bill before us today is certainly well-intentioned. However, while Bill C-467 does not achieve its objective in its current form, we are prepared to work together to amend the bill. To that end, we will be supporting the bill's passage at this stage so that it can be considered by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, of which I am now a member.
However, I would like to reiterate some of the concerns with the bill as it is written right now. The intent of Bill C-467 is to enable children of crown servants born abroad, including the children of Canadian Forces members, to pass their Canadian citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada. However, as drafted, the bill fails to do this.
The bill would also have the unintended consequence of denying citizenship for children of crown servants in situations where the crown servant was born abroad to a Canadian parent. That is because Bill C-467 would remove the right, under section 3.5 of the act, which allows crown servants to pass citizenship on to any children they have while serving abroad.
Bill C-467 proposes 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 was 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 respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions.
It is true that under Bill C-467, children adopted abroad by crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, but they would also not be subject to the safeguards aimed at protecting their best interests. The bill would not treat these children the same as those born in Canada. I am sure all members would agree that we should not penalize the children of crown servants who are not able to pass on the citizenship as a direct result of their parent's service abroad in the name of Canada.
The intent of Bill C-467 could be achieved by expanding the exception that exists in the current act to ensure that the children of crown servants and Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside of Canada.
We are already working with the hon. member for Vancouver South to ensure the bill achieves its objectives and will continue that co-operation at committee stage.
As my grandfather said, “You can lose your possessions, but never your pride”. It is a pride he always felt in knowing we are and always will remain proud Canadian citizens.
I congratulate the hon. member for proposing this bill and I look forward to working with him to amend it.