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.