Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to add my comments to Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces). I would like to extend my congratulations to my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for Calgary Northeast, who introduced this private member's bill. By doing so, the hon. member has demonstrated an admirable commitment to recognizing the exemplary service of Canada's men and women in uniform, the very worthy individuals who stand on the front lines and put their lives at risk to defend our safety and liberty.
This private member's bill proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian armed forces who are permanent residents by reducing the residence requirements for citizenship by one year for those members. It also proposes to take citizenship away from or deny citizenship to those who engage in acts of war against the Canadian armed forces.
Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable and I commend the member for recognizing this through his private member's bill. Canadians, whether established or new, must take our responsibilities as citizens very seriously. From generation to generation, thousands upon thousands of Canadian soldiers have given their lives for this country. Countless more risk their lives and some are doing so right now.
While enrolment in the Canadian armed forces is usually limited to Canadian citizens, permanent residents who have not yet acquired citizenship are sometimes employed in exceptional circumstances. These are people who dedicate their lives to protecting Canada yet they do not possess the fundamental membership in Canadian society. Their lack of citizenship often correlates with challenges in acquiring security clearances and arranging passports. This creates problems in deploying these individuals abroad.
Introducing a fast track to citizenship for permanent residents who serve in our country's armed forces, as the bill proposes, would help mitigate these types of problems. The proposals in the bill to honour the Canadian Forces are in line with other measurements the government has taken in the past few years. This includes recognizing the distinctive merit and exceptional service displayed by recipients of the Order of Military Merit.
The Order of Military Merit established in 1972 recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service displayed by the men and women of the Canadian armed forces. Many of these men and women have demonstrated dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty and the order honours them for their commitment to our country.
Last fall, the Government of Canada announced that members of the Order of Military Merit at the colonel level and above are now eligible to preside at citizenship ceremonies. The Order of Military Merit honours military service to Canada. 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 responsibility we carry as Canadians.
The Government of Canada launched the citizenship action plan three years ago in order to strengthen and preserve the value of Canadian citizenship. First we developed a new citizenship guide “Discover Canada”, which explores our history, shared values, symbols and institutions in a more in-depth way than its predecessor. In addition, we improved the knowledge requirement for Canadian citizenship with a new test. We did so to ensure that new citizens can appreciate the foundation upon which our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law were built.
We have also taken action to address the problem of residence fraud in our citizenship program. As the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced in September, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is now investigating more than 11,000 individuals from more than 100 countries for attempting to cheat Canadians and Canada. In order to help detect fraud we have also introduced a citizenship fraud tip line. We are also taking action to crack down on crooked consultants who often help people maintain a Canadian address to appear as though they are living in Canada, even though in some cases they never have.
Canadians should be proud that so many people around the world want to become Canadian citizens. It is a testament to what a great country we live in. We can often take our citizenship for granted though. It is easy to forget how many people do not enjoy the liberty, security and freedom that we as Canadians do.
Our government believes that citizenship is precious, that it is a privilege and we have sent a clear message to those who would lie and cheat to obtain it that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. Bill C-425 aims to protect the value of citizenship by giving citizenship sooner to members of the Canadian Forces and by taking it away from those who undermine our country by taking up arms against Canada. In principle, it makes sense that those who commit violent acts against Canada and our armed forces, who do not believe in Canadian values or the value of Canadian citizenship should no longer hold citizenship in our great country. However, this proposal requires further study.
The bill contains certainly laudable proposals. That is why I personally support the bill moving forward to committee for further review and study, and I hope all members in the House will also do the same.