moved that Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House for the second reading of my first private member's bill, Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces).
I would like to start by thanking my family for putting up with the crazy hours and travel schedule of a member of Parliament who is also a husband and a father. I thank my wife, Neetu, my children Jatin, Chetan and Arisha, and also my dearly missed parents, Bindra Ban Shory and Maya Shory, who have already gone before me but whose love and blessing on my life I still feel every day.
I also thank the staff and volunteers who have helped me work on this legislation, men and women whose creativity, insight and hard work have helped make the second reading of this legislation possible today. They are: Laura Koch, a member of the Canadian Forces and my legislative assistant who helped with the formulation of this bill in its infancy; Wala Azimi, a proud Canadian who was born in Afghanistan and who nevertheless is understanding my Punjabi more and more each day; Kenton Dueck, my former executive assistant in Calgary Northeast, a man who has been as passionate about this as I am; Patrick Tuns from my Ottawa office and Daniel Boucher from my constituency office, both of whom have demonstrated their support for this bill from their first day; and, my constituency assistants, Sukhi Dhaliwal and Raman Brar, who eagerly help my constituents of Calgary Northeast each and every day.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the hard-working ministerial staff, Chris Champion and Leigh Johnston, as well as Madame Marie-Andrée Roy from the House of Commons legal team who helped put these thoughts into bill form.
I would also like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have offered their support for this bill.
In this legislation, my goals are to promote integration, to better recognize permanent residents who serve Canada, to honour our Canadian troops and to underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship.
To some who see the colour of my skin or hear my accent, the word “immigrant” probably immediately jumps into their minds. I may have been born, raised and educated in Barnala, Punjab, India, but the fact is that I have lived in Canada for more than 23 years and Canada is now my home. Like millions of others, whether they were born here, flew here or drove here, I believe that our wonderful democracy, Canada, is the best in the world and worth protecting with every resource at our disposal. In that spirit, I tabled this legislation and encourage the support from all sides of the House.
Canadians not only expect but have also told us again and again that they want us to restore the value of Canadian citizenship.
I want to thank the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for introducing a new citizenship guide to inform newcomers of their rights and responsibilities when they come to Canada. The minister not only introduced a citizenship fraud tip line, but also recently announced efforts to crack down on citizenship fraud, which are paying off.
My Bill C-425 adds to our government's efforts to strengthen Canadian citizenship and would also reward those who are willing to put their lives on the line. It provides citizenship more quickly to those who take on the responsibility honourably serving our country. At the same time, it takes the privilege of Canadian citizenship away from those who betray Canada and everything it stands for.
I urge all members to support this bill going to committee for a thorough review. I am open to looking at any amendments from that review that respect the spirit of this bill and strengthen Canadian values.
It would be safe for me to assume that we all are committed to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. We also recognize the importance of the Canadian Forces and its commitment to serving Canada in defending its values, interests and sovereignty.
Along those lines, the House is a place where tough determinations are made on behalf of Canadian men, women and children and our brave men and women in uniform. The House is the place where we debate military budgets and deployments.
Unfortunately, these debates can sometimes become politicized and doing the right thing for our country and our troops can become obscured by the spin and rhetoric. Nevertheless, we all share a duty to support our troops and to do so with our very best judgment on behalf of our constituents.
We parliamentarians from all sides are entrusted to make the kinds of decisions that affect not only Canada, but also the brave souls into whose hands we place our security. I felt it was crucial for me to experience first-hand a glimpse of a day in the life of our courageous Canadian forces. That is why I spent several days in a uniform alongside our Canadian army during a reserve training exercise in Wainwright, Alberta in August 2009, along with colleagues from both sides of the House, as well as my “brother from a different mother”, the member for Medicine Hat. It is also why I spent time at sea off the east coast aboard the HMCS Fredericton in the summer of 2010.
I also want to thank the Minister of National Defence for ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the people, equipment, infrastructure and readiness required to defend Canada and Canadian interests now and well into the future.
Since 2006, under the solid leadership of the Minister of National Defence, the defence budget has grown by over $6 billion and key acquisitions have been made. Our men and women in uniform not only deserve the best equipment to get the job done, but also the best, the brightest and the bravest to be fighting alongside them and to have them at their back.
When Canadian permanent residents who are not yet Canadian citizens answer the call to serve under the red and white banner of this great nation, they are not just performing a duty. They are not simply working nine to five. They are putting their lives on the line for their new home for millions of Canadian men, women and children in the greatest country in the world.
For their demonstrated honour and courage to stand in the gap when least expected, but when most required, a one-year credit toward Canadian citizenship is the least we can do. Under the proposed change, a permanent resident who is a member of the Canadian Forces and has completed basic training and has signed a minimum three-year contract to serve the forces will be given a one-year credit toward his or her residence requirement for acquiring Canadian citizenship.
Also, under the proposed change Canadian citizens with dual citizenship and permanent residents applying for citizenship would lose their citizenship or become ineligible to become citizens if they commit an act of war against our troops.
I remember once seeing a bumper sticker that said “Stand behind our troops...otherwise, please feel free to stand in front of them”. Of course, the humour was dark, but the underlying truth about our parliamentary responsibility still rings true.
Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable. Members of the Canadian Fores risk their lives to defend it, so it makes sense that those individuals who choose to attack our Canadian Forces should not have the privilege of calling themselves Canadian citizens.
In referring to another key aspect of the second half of this legislation, I would like to make a very simple and direct point about safeguards. Most of us have sprinkler systems in our homes and hope they will never have to be used. Most of us have airbags in our cars and hope they will never have to be deployed. However, safeguards stand in place to protect our homes and protect our lives.
I pray that, like the fire sprinkler in our homes and the airbag in our cars, the second half of my legislation will never have to be used.
I firmly believe this is an excellent bill for Canadians from all walks of life. It is good for longstanding Canadians and good for new Canadians. It is another pathway to promote integration by encouraging new Canadians to serve alongside our armed forces. It supports our troops. It also underscores the immense value of Canadian citizenship.
Therefore, it is with deep Canadian pride and gratitude for our men and women in uniform, the new Canadians who bravely join them in the air, on land and sea, and it is with a profound respect for the Canadian citizenship you and I share, Mr. Speaker, that I proudly stand today on behalf of the men and women of Calgary Northeast in seeking support for my first private member's bill, Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces). I look forward to receiving the support of all members so that it can be sent to committee for a detailed review.