Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-425, put forward by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast. Bill C-425 proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian Forces who are permanent residents, by reducing their residence requirement for citizenship by one year. This would be for the Canadian Forces members who have signed a minimum three-year contract and have completed basic training. It also proposes to take citizenship away from, or deny citizenship to, those who engage in an act of war against the Canadian Forces. Such individuals would permanently be barred from reapplying for citizenship.
I applaud the hon. member for Calgary Northeast for introducing this important and worthwhile bill. Indeed, Bill C-425 is consistent with the government's commitment in the 2010 and 2011 speeches from the throne to support Canada's armed forces and to protect the safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security. Bill C-425 is also consistent with key objectives of Canada's immigration system, such as ensuring that newcomers and citizens participate to their full potential in fostering an integrated society. For all those reasons, we support Bill C-425 moving forward to committee stage for a thorough review and study to determine if it could be effectively implemented and that Canada's international obligations would be respected.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the Canadian Forces and our commitment to serve Canada in defending its values, interests and sovereignty. We are committed to ensuring that those who serve Canada are recognized for their service.
Generally speaking, Canadian citizenship is a requirement for enrollment in the Canadian Forces, but permanent residents may also be employed in exceptional circumstances. The problem is that their lack of citizenship and challenges related to security clearance and passport arrangements can make it difficult to deploy them for service abroad. Introducing a fast-track to citizenship for permanent residents serving in the Canadian Forces, as proposed in Bill C-425, is a win-win situation as it would honour their services to Canada and make their deployment abroad much easier.
In fact, last fall our Conservative government announced that members of the Order of Military Merit at the colonel level and above are now eligible to preside in citizenship ceremonies. The Order of Military Merit, established in 1972, recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service deployed by the men and women of the Canadian armed forces. Many of these individuals demonstrated dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty, and the order honours them for their commitment. It is therefore fitting that recipients of this award can preside at citizenship ceremonies, an occasion at which we reflect on the value of Canadian citizenship and the responsibilities we carry as Canadians, a value that the members of our armed forces so courageously defend.
In regard to the proposal to take citizenship away from, or deny it to, those who engage in acts of war against the Canadian Forces, I was interested to learn that some of the provisions to take away or bar citizenship already exist in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable. Members of the Canadian Forces risk their lives on a daily basis to defend it. So, it is definitely worthwhile to further study the proposal that those who would attack our Canadian Forces should not themselves have Canadian citizenship. Canadian citizenship is about far more than the right to carry a passport or to vote. Citizenship defines who we are as Canadians, including our mutual responsibility to one another. This is why we launched a citizenship action plan three years ago, to strengthen the value and meaning of citizenship.
As part of the action plan, we produced a new citizenship study guide entitled “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”. The guide provides essential information for anyone preparing to become a Canadian citizen. This helps ensure that all newcomers have more knowledge of the country they are joining. “Discover Canada” provides a much better overview of Canada's tradition, value and history, including our immigration history, than its predecessor. The old guide contains no reference to the Remembrance Day poppy, for example, and little mention of the stories and symbols that make us who we are today.
We are pleased that it has been a tremendous success, popular with citizenship applicants and established Canadians alike. Furthermore, our government has taken action to crack down on citizenship fraud. We are ensuring that anyone who lies about who they are, their residency in Canada or hidden past criminal activities would have their citizenship stripped.
We have also taken action against unscrupulous immigration representatives who fraudulently establish evidence of residents in Canada while living abroad most if not all of the time. This is perpetrated so that individuals can fraudulently maintain their permanent residence status and later apply for citizenship. There are currently 11,000 fraud investigations under way, including 3,100 for citizenship fraud. We are sending a clear message that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. We are applying the full strength of the law to those who have obtained their citizenship fraudulently.
I am sure all hon. members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective. Its spirit is laudable. It deserves a thorough study at committee to ensure that the bill achieves what it intends to achieve, that it can be effectively implemented and that Canada's international obligations continue to be respected.
I look forward to working with the sponsor and the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the hope that the good intentions of Bill C-425 are achieved.