Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address Bill C-425. I also acknowledge the efforts of the member.
I listened to the member's opening remarks in the introduction of the bill, and a number of thoughts came to mind. One of them is that we do have a citizenship and immigration committee and it would be wonderful for us to have some sort of discussion about the benefits of citizenship and how it can be used to promote and encourage what we think is important not only to select groups but to all Canadians.
It was not that long ago that I had an interesting discussion with someone who was talking about volunteers. Many immigrants who come to Canada spend endless hours volunteering for many worthwhile organizations, charitable groups and so forth. We were discussing whether there would be an opportunity for us to be able to do something with regard to that.
More specific to the topic we have at hand, I approach this particular bill with an open mind. I have had the opportunity to check the website that the Canadian Forces provides on the Internet. If one hits the Apply link, for example, one will find there are certain restrictions. One has to be a Canadian citizen in order to apply to become a member of the Canadian Forces. I suspect that is something that needs to be looked at.
The minister responsible for the Canadian Forces will find that the Liberal Party is open to good ideas. Maybe we need to relax the way in which we recruit members of the Canadian Forces from our country. Should only Canadians be allowed to apply? Why not encourage landed immigrants to become members of the Canadian Forces? If we agree that should be done, then let us look to the minister responsible for the Canadian Forces and allow that to take place. All day today I have been talking about 1.5 million landed immigrants in our society. That is a very conservative number to which I have been referring. It is actually a lot greater than that. According to the Canadian Forces website, these people would not be eligible to apply to become members.
We do need to have a debate. That is what I like about Bill C-425. The member has brought forward a piece of legislation that could ultimately pass to committee stage. There is some value in having the citizenship and immigration committee look at the bill. I would like us to possibly go further, however. As much as I believe there could be opportunities in granting citizenship to those who would serve in the Canadian Forces, I am more interested in how more landed individuals could participate in our Canadian Forces.
Members of the forces get an immense sense of pride serving our country. I was a member of the Canadian Forces. I remember going to the recruitment office and signing up. I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege and the honour of being a member. I would not want to deny that opportunity to others, whether they are Canadians or permanent residents who really want to become members of the forces. There would be some benefit to having that dialogue in committee. I recognize that the government does have a majority, but given that this is a private member's bill, there is a very good chance it will pass and go to committee.
Therefore, the challenge I would put to the Conservative Party is to do what I am going to be recommending my Liberal caucus do. That is to approach the committee in a very open fashion. Given the importance of our Canadian Forces, given the importance of our citizenship, there is great value in allowing for that debate to occur.
The member will not receive any opposition from me in trying to encourage that debate to occur. In fact, what I would like to do is to have a page provide a copy of the Canadian Forces website that I am referring to, where it states one has to be a Canadian citizen. That is one of the things we should be talking about.
I was somewhat touched by the member's comments. He talked about how he came from the Punjab and how Canada is his new home. It does not necessarily mean one forgets about one's old home, but one takes a great sense of pride in one's new home. We want to be able to encourage people who have chosen Canada as their home to participate in our many different national institutions. I believe there are many who would have an interest in serving our great country.
To that extent, I suggest that we allow Bill C-425 to pass second reading. I do have other concerns that I would like to address, but I believe that the issues I have and would like to see addressed will be addressed in a forum that would ultimately allow for a bill to pass that makes sense. Hopefully, we will see the minister responsible for the Canadian Forces see the merit in what we can do to encourage the Canadian Forces, as one of our national treasures, to possibly consider incorporating more landed immigrants.
With that, I look forward to the ongoing debate. I will have a page bring over the sheet, which is a printout of the Canadian Forces recruitment website.