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House of Commons Hansard #212 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.

Topics

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the honourable member for Portneuf, I should let her know that I will have to interrupt her at 1:30, at the end of the time provided for government business.

Resuming debate. The honourable member for Portneuf.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I am very disappointed to learn I will have so little time to talk about a matter that so fascinates people, as I have seen here today. However, I will nevertheless add my voice to those of my colleagues in speaking about Bill C-48, a new bill nearly 1,000 pages long that makes many highly technical changes to Canada's tax system, changes that have been piling up for over a decade.

As I have mentioned several times in this House, most of the changes contained in Bill C-48 have been announced over the 11 years since the most recent technical bill was passed in the many news releases and comfort letters of the Department of Finance and in the budget. These amendments have been brought into effect, but they have not been made the subject of a technical bill. Now the government seeks to enact them all more officially.

In addition to the measures we already know of, Bill C-48 introduces three new measures never previously announced. First of all, it repeals certain tax restrictions to assist labour-sponsored venture capital corporations in addressing some transitional problems. It amends the formula for allocating the taxable income of airline corporations to ensure that taxable income stays in the provinces or territories where those corporations are permanently established. It also provides for the implementation of a measure respecting the tax treatment of shares owned by short-term residents of Canada for departure tax purposes.

We in the NDP believe that the technical changes this bill will make to Canada's tax system will be beneficial and will generally have the effect of discouraging tax avoidance. That is why we will support this bill on second reading.

Tax avoidance is a problem often criticized by people across the country, particularly in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. These are honest taxpayers who pay their taxes and who see more privileged Canadians benefiting from privileges to which honest Canadians who pay their taxes do not have access. They want their members of Parliament to address this problem.

As representatives of these people, we have the responsibility to do everything it takes to minimize tax evasion and eliminate loopholes in the legislation. We must ensure that the state has all the resources necessary to guarantee that Canadians have the services and public institutions they depend on and deserve.

The Conservatives are offering all sorts of tax cuts and tax credits to oil companies without expecting anything in return. They are forfeiting revenue that the state needs and are never able to cut spending enough to lower the deficit. The Conservatives are using smoke and mirrors every day. They want us to buy the ridiculous idea that they are good managers of public funds, but they are unable to effectively and regularly implement the new tax measures that they are proposing to improve Canada's tax laws.

It is essential that the government quickly considers this problem and takes an effective approach to enact these technical amendments and thereby eliminate the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the current system. It is important for taxpayers, businesses and tax experts.

The government must act quickly to remedy this situation, which is problematic in a number of ways. We want Canadian businesses to be competitive so that they can perform well on world markets. They must have a clear understanding of the tax laws in effect and access to up-to-date information as quickly as possible. That is what we are asking from the government.

That is why we are going to support the bill at second reading; however, there is still work to be done. This government must do the work quickly in order to help all Canadian taxpayers and businesses.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier will have six minutes for her speech and five minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on the motion.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from January 29 consideration of the motion 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.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate on Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.

This private member's bill, at present, makes two changes to the citizenship process. First, it reduces the time a permanent resident must wait for citizenship if he or she completes basic training and has signed a minimum three-year contract with the Canadian armed forces. I would just note here that if this were the entire bill, I think it might well be passed by unanimous consent and we would not be having this debate today. I wholeheartedly support this provision.

The second element of the legislation provides that a person is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship or is deemed to have withdrawn their application for Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.

What complicates and indeed invites today's debate are the public statements by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that he seeks to modify the bill to revoke the citizenship of those who have engaged in acts of terror. Regrettably, we do not have his legislative amendments before us in the House. We do not know the exact wording he proposes. This may make all the difference, not only from a policy standpoint but from a legal and constitutional perspective as well.

The minister has argued that the power to revoke citizenship in such cases is a necessary one. He is quoted in La Presse this morning.

The amendments that I suggested will finally make it possible for Canada to harmonize its approach with those of other liberal democracies and will strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. This will send a clear message that Canadian citizenship has real meaning and is not just a pass that violent terrorists can use with impunity.

The rhetoric in this statement certainly resonates and appears compelling on its face. Indeed, a commentator on this point, Mr. Ibbitson from the Globe and Mail, said something to the effect that if nothing else, this is good politics, and the immigration and citizenship minister is certainly a good politician.

However, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been in this role since October 2008. He has, since then, introduced seven immigration acts, none of which have called for such a provision. Questions arise. Why now? Why this bill? Why in this way?

What Canadians may not know, though the issue is drawing more attention of late, is that a key difference between a private member's bill, such as that which is before us, and a government bill, such as would be the case if the minister were to introduce stand-alone legislation in this regard, is that government bills require the constitutional approval of the Minister of Justice pursuant to the Department of Justice Act.

In other words, by introducing such items through this private member's route, one circumvents the long-standing process by which legislative proposals are vetted for compliance with Canada's Constitution, including an assessment by the Department of Justice for litigation risk. This, of course, invites the question of whether there is an issue here of constitutional concern. As well, is there a related litigation risk?

Simply put, while we have a process allowing for the revocation of citizenship, as per section 10 of the Citizenship Act, in cases where a person obtains citizenship, for example, through false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances, we do not have other ways of revoking citizenship at present. This new proposal, by way of a private member's bill, raises serious constitutional concerns given, inter alia, the Charter's guarantees in sections 6, 7 and 15, particularly where it engages matters of national or ethnic origin, or potentially the recognized analogous ground of citizenship.

Moreover, there are concerns with respect to the Canadian Bill of Rights, which reads in part, “no law of Canada shall be construed or applied so as to...authorize or effect the arbitrary detention, imprisonment or exile of any person”. The Bill of Rights also prohibits an act that would “deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations”. I should note, however, that there is a notwithstanding process in that regard.

At its core Bill C-425, and this is the key point, goes to the heart of the question of citizenship in Canada, a concept that is actually quite fluid and flexible, perhaps more than most Canadians think, with attending constitutional concerns.

Indeed, it remains unclear under what circumstances the revocation of formal citizenship, as opposed to the denial of an application for citizenship by a permanent resident, would implicate charter considerations. It is for this reason that rigorous debate by the members in this place is so important with regard to the bill, as it would implicate our constitutional responsibilities as members of Parliament with respect to public oversight of the legislation, as well as trustees of the public with respect to any risk litigation.

Let me be clear. There is no question that an act of war against Canadian armed forces represents a repudiation of the values that we associate with the concept of citizenship, namely democracy, security, freedom, and equality. However, it is critical that we closely scrutinize any proposed legislation that would implicate rule of law considerations.

As I have noted, the concept of citizenship in Canada is flexible and the question of under what circumstances the government is entitled to revoke citizenship has perhaps not been fully yet determined by our courts. However, unlike questions of naturalization, the revocation of formal citizenship raises important questions pursuant to sections 6, 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Indeed, despite the repugnance of the crimes at issue, namely, the commission of an act of war or terrorism against one's own country, constitutional rights and the rule of law are not negotiable. Therefore, the fundamental questions we must ask, and it is our responsibility to address these questions, is to what extent these constitutional rights would be implicated by this legislation.

If the members in this place are to enable the revocation by the Government of Canada of Canadian citizenship in instances of criminality such as this, we must, simply put, ensure that such revocation is consistent with the rule of law, as defined by the charter and the related jurisprudence.

As I have mentioned, there are three distinct charter provisions engaging a panoply of rights that may be implicated by changes to the Citizenship Act such as proposed by this bill. These are sections 6, 7 and 15 and which together provide for a necessary starting point in discussing the constitutional contours of the legal concept of Canadian citizenship and the implications of such revocation.

Section 6(1) of the charter provides for the right of any citizen to “enter, remain in and leave Canada”. This is one of the charter rights that applies only to citizens, rather than to permanent residents, whose constitutional mobility rights are separately provided for by section 6(2). Certainly, the revocation of citizenship in a particular instance would result in the inapplicability or denial of section 6(1)'s mobility rights.

Accordingly, on this point, it is precisely for this reason that it is of critical importance to ensure that the revocation of citizenship is consistent with procedural due process requirements. Moreover, because the revocation of citizenship would result in the revocation of section 6(1)'s mobility rights, it would also raise concerns with respect to section 7 of the charter and the right to liberty. Indeed, the Supreme Court has determined that section 7 rights apply universally to anyone present in Canada, regardless of citizenship status. As well, it would implicate the rights of security of the person also in section 7. Therefore, we would have a panoply of rights here implicated. It is a central constitutional question that we cannot avoid addressing.

Finally, we must consider section 15 of the charter, which constitutionally prohibits the federal government from passing discriminatory citizenship laws. The courts have recognized that citizenship status is an analogous ground to the enumerated section 15 protected categories, thereby providing for constitutional protection against discrimination based upon citizenship.

Moreover, section 15 has been deemed to apply regardless of citizenship status. Therefore, by allowing for the revocation of citizenship, even in cases of commission of acts of terror, but only in cases where an individual is also a citizen of another country, Bill C-425 would raise section 15 equality concerns. Simply put, the bill would potentially discriminate against those Canadians who are also dual citizens of both Canada and another country.

Some may wonder why I raise the right to a fair hearing to which I referred to earlier. Since we do not know the language of the legislative amendments proposed by the minister, it could be that the proposed revocation of citizenship is automatic, thus, depriving one of a fair hearing. In the alternative, it could be that the proposal deems an application for renunciation to have been made by the person with respect to the person who has perpetrated the act of terror. The question then becomes one of whether the person could withdraw his or her deemed renunciation or make a further submission as to why the deemed renunciation should not be granted.

I raise these questions not as arcane procedural questions or trivial debating points but as serious considerations that need to be determined and debated in committee. Indeed, there is no question that the first time this revocation process is used, for whatever reason, it will be challenged in the courts, and the government will be obliged to defend it at taxpayers' expense.

Accordingly, we must have—

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

We have reached well over the time allocated for the interventions.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the member for Mount Royal. It sounded to me to be a somewhat speculative perspective on what may or may not be an amendment to the bill. I would suggest to the member that he would be wise to use his time to speak specifically to the bill in front of us versus speaking about amendments when he is not sure what they are going to look like or what they are going to propose. It is the process we use here in the House of Commons.

Further, the citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism committee is going to be reviewing this private member's bill when it passes through second reading. He can rest assured that it will get the due process and time necessary.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to rise and speak to Bill C-425, which is the private member's bill introduced by the member for Calgary Northeast. It is not surprising to me that such a bill was introduced by a member of Parliament who is an immigrant to Canada. I have found that naturalized Canadians often have a more acute understanding of the meaning and importance of Canadian citizenship, having made a deliberate choice, and often great sacrifices, to attain it. It says a lot that the bill was introduced by this member of Parliament, an immigrant to Canada himself, and that his bill has received overwhelming support from new Canadians especially.

I want to commend the member for Calgary Northeast for bringing forward a bill that is based on principle and on strengthening the value of our Canadian citizenship. In fact, no government has done more to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship than our Conservative government. For example, we introduced the 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.

In our country, if someone sells 5,000 or 10,000 new books, it is considered a bestseller. What is interesting is that “Discover Canada” has literally been taken off the shelves across the country. Literally thousands of copies have been requested by individuals and schools. It is a testament to the fact that we actually have a document that shows that the honour of citizenship bestowed on an individual requires research, study and commitment from those who anticipate and expect Canadian citizenship.

To add to that, it provides a much better overview of Canada's traditions, our values and our history, including our immigration history, than its predecessor. The old guide contained no reference, for example, to the Remembrance Day poppy and little mention of the stories and symbols that made us who we are, including the first and second world wars. We are pleased that it has been a tremendous success and is popular, not only with applicants who are seeking Canadian citizenship but with established Canadians as well.

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 has their citizenship stripped. We have created a citizenship fraud tip line so that Canadians can anonymously report fraud. There are currently 11,000 fraud investigations underway, which include 3,100 Canadian citizens. 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.

The first part of the bill should be something all members of the House can easily support, which is fast-tracking Canadian citizenship for permanent residents who serve in our Canadian armed forces. More specifically, Bill C-425 proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian Forces who are permanent residents by reducing the resident requirement for citizenship by one year. This would be for Canadian Forces members who have signed a minimum three-year contract and have completed basic training within our armed forces.

It is true that permanent residents cannot easily join the Canadian Forces, but if the forces have a position that requires skills and expertise for which a Canadian citizen may not be available, they can recruit permanent residents for that position. While it is also true that this would not impact a great number of permanent residents, it does not make it any less important. It is important recognition of the loyalty, service and willing sacrifice shown to our country by the individuals, regardless of how small or large that number may be.

The second part of this bill has received quite a bit of attention recently. As currently written, it would result in anyone who commits “acts of war” against the Canadian Forces having deemed renunciation of their Canadian citizenship.

Recently the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism suggested that the bill could be expanded to include terrorist acts against Canada and its allies. The reaction from Canadians was perhaps not the same as from those who sit across from us in the House of Commons. However, certainly Canadians across this country responded to the recommendation. A poll commissioned by the member for Calgary Northeast himself on this bill found that almost 85% of Canadians agree or strongly agree with stripping Canadian citizenship from terrorists, and a petition posted on the minister's member of Parliament website was signed by an astounding 10,000 people in less than five days.

I know that since the introduction of this bill almost a year ago, the MP for Calgary Northeast and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism have been speaking about ways to enhance and expand this section, despite what the opposition claims, as it tries to desperately find a criticism for such a popular proposal. It sometimes does leave me astounded. When a good piece of legislation is brought forward in the House of Commons that is stripped free of partisanship, the simple thing the opposition needs to do is to support it.

There have been several examples in the past, unfortunately including very recently, when this has happened. The recent discovery that one of the organizers of a horrendous bombing in Bulgaria, which killed several innocent people, was a dual national Canadian citizen, disturbed Canadians across the country, including me, and I am sure all members of the House of Commons.

The 1947 Citizenship Act actually included the power to revoke citizenship from those who were guilty of treason. The removal of this provision, in 1997, made Canada's citizenship law an aberration, as virtually all other liberal democracies have the legal authority to strip citizenship for such crimes as treason and terrorism. In Australia, for example, and the United Kingdom, a person can be stripped of citizenship if it is in the public interest, a much lower and more vague standard than the sponsor of this bill or the minister have suggested. France, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil are a few examples of countries that can strip citizenship for treason or terrorism, among other things.

The fact is that Canadian citizenship is already not inalienable, as it can be renounced voluntarily, or revoked, as I mentioned, from those who have obtained it fraudulently. Like the 1947 Citizenship Act, the premise of the bill put forward by the MP for Calgary Northeast is that citizenship is predicated on reciprocal loyalty. If a Canadian passport holder maintains another nationality while waging war against Canada, this should be construed for what is so obviously clear; it is a deliberate renunciation of one's citizenship. In other words, renunciation of Canadian citizenship should be possible, not just through the legal formalism of signing an application, but also a logical consequence of one's violent actions against one's country.

The question that has been raised is whether this principle of deemed renunciation of citizenship should also apply to Canadian passport holders who are convicted of serious terrorist acts. Given that Canada is an enemy of terrorism and proscribed terrorist organizations in particular, it is very reasonable to suggest that participation in terrorist crimes be considered a voluntary renunciation of one's loyalty to this country and consequently of one's citizenship.

To conclude, the member for Calgary Northeast's thoughtful private members' bill, and the amendments that have been suggested by the government, would finally bring Canada in line with other liberal democracies and would strengthen, again, the value of Canadian citizenship. It would also send the message that Canadian citizenship has real meaning and cannot be used as a flag of convenience by violent terrorists.

I hope the NDP and Liberals will listen to the vast majority of Canadians. If they do not want to listen to this side of the House, they should listen to the vast majority of Canadians and support this important piece of legislation going to committee for a thorough review and study. Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. I hope the NDP and Liberals will work with us instead of against us in this regard.

If the NDP and the Liberals do not want to listen to this side of the House, they should listen to the vast majority of Canadians and support this important legislation going to committee for a thorough review and study. Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. I hope the NDP and Liberals will work with us instead of against us in this regard.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-425, introduced by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.

First, it is important to mention that the main principle behind this legislation seems laudable, even though some parts have serious flaws that would also have serious consequences.

The hon. member wants to reward permanent residents who join the Canadian armed forces by speeding up citizenship approval, and the official opposition supports that idea.

The suggestion to reduce from three to two years the required period of residence in Canada to grant citizenship to a member of the armed forces meets several objectives.

It would allow us to better recognize and value the contribution of the newcomers who join our armed forces.

Our military make sacrifices. Sometimes, they even make the ultimate sacrifice. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to give them all the recognition they deserve. Therefore, acknowledging this exceptional contribution by speeding up citizenship approval would be welcome.

Moreover, this initiative would support the Canadian Forces' will to promote greater diversity in their ranks.

Currently, visible minorities account for only 6% of the Canadian armed forces. That is clearly not enough, considering that, by the end of the decade, visible minorities will account for 20% of the labour force. If the proposed measure can promote greater representation for ethnocultural communities in our armed forces, we will be happy to support it.

After all, the Canadian Forces serve the community and act as representatives abroad. Therefore, it is essential that they reflect the diversity of Canadian society.

That said, several aspects of Bill C-425 are quite problematic.

First, I am particularly concerned about the issue of renunciation of citizenship.

The bill provides that a citizen or a legal resident of a country other than Canada is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of his Canadian citizenship if he engages in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces. Also, a permanent resident who commits such an act would also be deemed to have withdrawn his application for Canadian citizenship.

The fact is that there is no definition of the expressions “act of war” and “legal resident” in Canadian law.

Also, there is no mention in the text submitted by the member for Calgary Northeast of the processes that, for example, would follow an accusation of act of war. Consequently, the bill does not have the necessary legal basis for its implementation and it would be totally dependent on judicial interpretation.

The scope of the legislation proposed by the hon. member is very broad, unless benchmarks are included regarding its legal basis and the resulting processes.

So, it is essential that the committee look at ways to define the terms used in the bill and spell out the process related to this possible renunciation of citizenship.

The operationalization of Bill C-425 is also problematic.

First, the basic requirement to join the Canadian Forces is to be a Canadian citizen. The only possibility for a permanent resident to join is to get an authorization from the Chief of the Defence Staff to fill a special need, or because of a significant lack of human resources, which is presently not the case.

Only a very small minority will be able to take advantage of the bill’s positive aspects.

As a matter of fact, during the discussions that have taken place at second reading, the sponsor of the bill has been unable to provide us with information about the number of people who might be affected by this measure.

There is therefore some research that should be conducted on this point. In addition, we think it is fair to wonder whether the government’s real objective here is not the renunciation of Canadian citizenship much more than it is the recognition of military service.

The delays in obtaining citizenship also deserve particular attention.

Right now, nearly 300,000 permanent residents are waiting to be granted Canadian citizenship. Consequently, despite the good will of the bill’s sponsor, the reality is that departmental cutbacks have significantly reduced the pace at which files are handled at all levels.

The handful of permanent residents who, according to the current version, will be able to take advantage of the proposed measure will not be much further ahead because of the huge backlog of applications.

In addition, I am wondering about the way in which the government has prioritized its action. The minister announced cuts of $80.3 million in the last budget, he is shutting down visa application centres and scaling down client services at CIC.

Delays in all immigration programs are escalating all the time. People are having trouble reaching staff members, and thousands of applicants are paying for the minister’s mistakes.

There is therefore a dichotomy between the bill introduced by the member and the decisions being made by the current government. As the system is being gutted, my colleague is proposing to accelerate processing of citizenship applications for permanent residents who might be able to serve in the Canadian Forces.

That being said, I agree with the bill’s principle and direction, and I think it necessary to support the bill at second reading, so that it can be reviewed in depth in committee. However, several elements that will make the bill acceptable in both its content and its implementation will have to be included.

The notions of “act of war” and “legal resident” should be defined in the bill in order to limit the potential for judicial interpretation. The process surrounding the renunciation of citizenship must also be considered. We will have to debate this part of the bill and flesh it out. It would be completely shameful for the government to create two classes of citizens without any debate or real consultation.

We must also consider the scope of the bill and potentially broaden it. It would be short-sighted to make legislative amendments that affect so few individuals.

In closing, I believe that we must consider Bill C-425. However, it seems clear to me that we must work together to limit its potential for abuse and optimize its application. This will allow us to come back to the House with a document that meets its original objectives.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak to Bill C-425, which introduces three new grounds for citizenship, or its removal, under the Citizenship Act based on relations with the Canadian armed forces.

The bill introduces, first, a new ministerial power to shorten permanent residency requirements for members of the Canadian armed forces seeking citizenship. This would give a new power to the minister for the purpose of alleviating special and unusual hardship or to reward service of exceptional value to Canada. On application, it would also reduce the residency requirement from three years to two years for members of the Canadian armed forces seeking citizenship, so long as that member has both signed at least a three-year contract and has completed basic training.

Second, it contains a deemed application section for renunciation of Canadian citizenship if that citizen engages in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces and that same citizen is also a citizen or legal resident in a country other than Canada.

Third, there is a deemed withdrawal provision of an application for Canadian citizenship where a permanent resident who has made that application for citizenship has engaged in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.

I must start by pointing out a classic bit of hypocrisy, which we often see from the Conservative side of the House, where the parliamentary secretary stood up and lectured the member for Mount Royal for bringing up the musings of the Minister of Immigration this past week of adding a section that would also allow the government to strip citizenship of those accused of terrorism. The parliamentary secretary berated the hon. member on this side of the House for bringing that up and considering that. He then proceeded to do the same thing in his own speech.

One wonders whether basic elements of consistency and principle have any traction on that side of the House. By the way, I want to compliment the member for Mount Royal on a thoughtful speech that points out what Canadians really want to see in their immigration policy and in policy in general, which is well-thought-out, rational, policy-based, evidence-based and constitutional legislation.

The background to the bill and the context in which it occurs is important for Canadians to remember. Since March 2008, over 25 major changes have been made to immigration procedures, rules, legislation and regulation. These have increased dramatically since the Conservatives formed a majority government. Among other changes, the Conservatives have used their majority to freeze parental sponsorships, to weaken family reunification, to punish vulnerable refugees and to increase the number of temporary foreign workers to meet the demands of their friends on the employer side of the equation. Most of these changes are politically motivated, invariably heartless, always without evidentiary basis and frequently unconstitutional.

Bill C-425 attempts to fast-track the time within which certain permanent residents may apply for citizenship. New Democrats think the government ought instead to be working to address the exceptionally long processing times for citizenship applications, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada currently reports is an almost two-year wait for processing. In other words, no one in this country gets their citizenship recognized anywhere near the time they are legally entitled to, and as such Bill C-425 is making a hollow and, I would respectfully submit, politically motivated promise.

Two years is the average. I have constituents waiting for citizenship, and I think every member in the House does, who wait between two and five years. These are permanent residents who came to this country, did everything they were asked of by this country, have worked hard, paid their taxes and want to become citizens so they can vote in this country, fully express their democratic rights and get a Canadian passport.

Instead of taking care of these unbelievably appalling and outrageously long lines, the government does nothing and instead fiddles with these relatively arcane issues that do not affect very many people at all. This private member's bill would get at an extremely limited number of cases as the circumstances under which a permanent resident would be able to enrol in the Canadian Forces are currently extremely narrow.

The Canadian Forces website and the Canadian Forces Ottawa recruitment office have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that a permanent resident may not enrol in the Canadian Forces. A permanent resident may only enrol when the Chief of the Defence Staff of Canada or such officer as he may designate authorizes the enrolment of a citizen of another country, which would only happen if he is satisfied that a special need exists and that the national interest would not be prejudiced thereby.

How many permanent residents do we really think are in the Canadian Armed Forces who have served three years, who have completed basic training, who are permanent residents, who are applying for Canadian citizenship and are residents and citizens of another country? However, I can tell the House how many permanent residents are waiting right now for their citizenship: hundreds and hundreds of thousands. One might ask, why would any member of the House target a bill that might affect six people, a dozen or a couple of dozen, instead of dealing with 300,000 Canadians? That shows misplaced priorities.

In terms of the other part of the bill, deemed stripping of citizenship, I want to repeat the remarks of my friend, the hon. member for Mount Royal, who points out the very delicate matter of stripping citizenship from people.

It may be good policy, because I have noticed in the House that whenever the government gets in trouble, whenever one of its members gets criminally charged or is under ethical investigation or the government is having a bad week, the government turns to one of two things, a crime bill or an immigration bill. Invariably, it seeks to marginalize and attack a certain group.

Right now we have a member from Edmonton who is charged for failing to take a breathalyzer test; we have Senator Brazeau who is charged with domestic and sexual assault; we have four senators now who do not seem to know where they live despite the constitutional requirement to reside in the province to collect their money. In fact, they are collecting money and per diems from Canadian taxpayers to live in Ottawa based on the fact they are away from their homes, but they have homes in the Ottawa area.

Marginalizing and attacking certain groups is a constant theme of the government, but Canadians are not fooled. They are not fooled because if the government were truly interested in dealing with citizenship and immigration, it would be attacking the real problems facing people in this country, including appallingly long wait times to sponsor one's parents and unite one's family, for employers to get their workers here, and for skilled workers to immigrate to this country.

Right now, despite all the rhetoric and fast talk of the Minister of Immigration, the truth, as members will find out in talking to any immigrant community across this country from coast to coast, is that wait times are as long today as they were five years ago. There is no progress. People do not mind waiting six or 12 months, but wait times are now measured almost in decades. People wait 10 years to sponsor their parents.

I have a real case from one of my constituents in the armed forces, who is serving with distinction. He is from Vietnam. He applied in October 2006 to sponsor his widowed mother in Vietnam. The sponsorship was verified and first-stage approval was given in 2009 and it has been in transit for second stage approval, which was received in Singapore in 2009. The most recent status update that we did for this gentleman in December 2012 indicates that the application was received in 2009, that it is in queue and that there is a 49-month wait.

Thus, there is a four-year wait from now, plus the three years' wait from 2009, on top of the wait from the time he applied in 2006. This member of our armed force, who is proudly serving our country, defending our interests, putting his life on the line and who wants to sponsor his mother, has been waiting since 2006, some seven years, and has another four to wait. This person will wait 11 years to sponsor a parent. He is not alone.

Is the government doing anything to speed up the process? No, it is cutting the number of officers around the globe. It is cutting funding for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and wait times will get longer.

While all the fast talking is being done by the minister, Canadians know the truth, that the government is using immigration as a political football, not trying to improve the process.

I also want to point out that the parliamentary secretary said that the Conservatives had strengthened our Canadian citizenship. I ask, when was it weak? Who thought it was weak, because we on the New Democrat side of the House have always valued Canadian citizenship? We think all Canadians have as well. The Conservatives act as if Canadians took their citizenship lightly before 2006. In Vancouver Kingsway, consisting of some 70% new Canadians or at least second or third generation Canadians, these people take their Canadian citizenship extremely seriously. I do not know what kind of mind could conjure up the idea that someone is taking Canadian citizenship lightly, but it is surely no one on this side of the House.

I will conclude by saying that the New Democrats will support the bill's passage to committee, because we want to study the bill and pursue amendments. The idea of doing anything that might speed up citizenship for any member of our forces is an idea worthy of exploration, but let us be clear: Only a New Democrat government will ever bring in the kind of immigration reforms necessary to actually satisfy the needs of the immigrant community in this country. We will do that in 2015.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. I invite the hon. member for Calgary Northeast for his right of reply. The hon. member has five minutes.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members for their contribution to this bill, as well as the thousands of Canadians who have given their active support since this bill's infancy. Once again, my bill is based upon three beliefs: more pathways to integration, that our troops deserve the highest respect, and that Canadian citizenship is a privilege which deserves the highest esteem.

As I said at the outset of this debate, I am a proud immigrant to this country. I believe that citizenship is enormously important. Citizenship is about our culture, our heritage and our loyalty, and there is no group that stands for these values more than our Canadian armed forces. They defend our nation and our values by putting their lives on the line each and every day. Joining the armed forces demonstrates a profound belief in, and commitment to, defending this country, which presents an excellent opportunity for integration, something this bill seeks to reward.

The second part of this bill is something that I sincerely hope will never be used. The same love for our country that inspired the first part of this bill necessitates the second part of this bill. Those who seek to harm Canada should pay for their actions. In the case of treason, perpetrators have shown they have no loyalty to Canada, and in fact find no value in Canadian citizenship. As such, they do not deserve the privilege of being Canadian citizens.

This bill is not unprecedented. Numerous western democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, already have similar laws that allow for the renunciation of citizenship for acts of treason. Furthermore, this law is simply a necessary step in widening Canada's existing legislation. Section 10 of the Canadian Citizenship Act already provides for the deprivation of citizenship and section 46 of the Criminal Code clearly identifies treason as a crime.

Until 1977, people who committed acts of treason would be punished by the removal of their Canadian citizenship. Citizens of Canada want this to be returned to law. My bill would expand existing laws to see that those who commit acts of treason meet proper justice, with all due oversight and rights of appeal outlined in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Citizenship Act. Of course, we would also uphold our international obligations and agreements.

We have an overwhelming mandate from Canadians who want this bill to succeed. I sent a householder survey to residents in my riding and the bill was supported by 87% of respondents. On October 30, the National Post reported on the results of an NRG poll of 1,001 Canadians from coast to coast to coast asking their opinion on the renunciation of citizenship. The poll showed that more than 8 in 10 Canadians are in favour of this bill.

Furthermore, the Calgary Herald editorial board, along with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, the Somali-Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization, Immigrants for Canada, the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, the Muslim Canadian Congress, B'nai Brith Canada, and many more organizations, have endorsed my bill, demonstrating the wide array of support of Canadians from all backgrounds and walks of life.

I am optimistic that the opposition will choose to support new immigrants and will not oppose giving our armed forces the support and respect they so definitely deserve. I am sure members of all parties will continue to be as open-minded to having a real discussion on this important issue at the committee stage as members from both the NDP and Liberal Party stated they were in the previous hour of debate. In that spirit, I want to once again reiterate that I am open to any and all amendments that are in line with the aims and intent of this legislation.

I want to do the following: create more pathways to integration, support the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces, and underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship. The bottom line is that we should reward those who are willing to put their lives on the line for Canadians and ensure that those who would attack the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom pay for their actions.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 27, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, February 25, 2013, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:16 p.m.)