Mr. Speaker, I am rising in opposition to the piece of legislation that is here before us today, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Just as other pieces of legislation are seen in the House, the Conservative government has a knack for taking a few things that we can really support and, instead of moving them ahead and getting consensus on them, throwing them in with aspects that we absolutely cannot support. That what is we have in the citizenship bill.
There are bits in here that I have really been pressing on the ministers and the government to change. One of the bits that I really want to acknowledge is that, at long last, the “lost Canadians” issue has been addressed. This issue was addressed previously because the NDP pushed so hard to get it addressed, but it left out those who were born before 1947, people who served on behalf of Canada in wars but were not given citizenship. That right has been addressed. I would like to acknowledge the work done by Don Chapman and others, who carried on and put in an incredible amount of hours to see this injustice righted. I am glad to see that.
I am also glad to see in this bill that tougher measures would be taken against fraudulent immigration consultants. They absolutely should be, and I am really pleased to see this. I am so proud of an ex-colleague of mine, the former member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, who put in a lot of work on this file and really pushed to get something done about the fraudulent consultants. Let me tell members that not all immigration consultants are fraudulent, but where we are hearing of abuse, it is quite grotesque.
There are other little bits in here about fines for fraud from the current fine of $1,000 to $100,000. We are fine with that. However, there are bits in this bill that I absolutely cannot support. One of those is the process by which this piece of legislation has landed in the House.
I know that members are going to be shocked at this. Did they know that this piece of legislation, after it came through second reading and was sent to the committee stage, never heard any witnesses? The committee never heard any expert testimony. Instead, the Conservatives used their majority at committee to move straight into clause-by-clause.
This, once again, goes to a trend that I have seen in the House. There is an allergy to data, an allergy to science, and an allergy to expert opinion. The Conservatives had already made up their mind. They did not need to be informed by experts of the dangers of some aspects of the bill, and maybe even be enlightened and accept some of the amendments that the opposition put forward. Why would they do that? Despite this, I have heard the minister stand in the House and say that they heard lots of testimony. They did a study in general, without having the legislation in front of them. No report of that study has been tabled in the House on this legislation, which has seven key components, and where we heard no expert witnesses. There are probably more components, but I have identified seven.
This is a bill that should cause every Canadian living in this country or overseas to be worried, because what we have in this bill, for the first time since Canadian citizenship was established, is a two-tiered citizenship for some. By the way, when people talk to me, they say “oh yes, it must only be two-tiered for people who were born in other countries”. Oh no, this bill would actually create two-tiered citizenship for those who were born in this country and those who became citizens through naturalization.
One of the things that has been truly amazing about Canadians and Canada's history is that we accepted a long time ago that a citizen is a citizen. If a citizen does something wrong, we have a penal system and there are consequences that the citizen has to bear.
Under this legislation, some people will be more citizen than others. I am talking about those who end up with dual citizenship.
By the way, I was shocked after I became an MP, when there was that income tax fiasco for many of my Canadian constituents who then found out that they were still American. They had thought they had let that go a long time ago, but apparently it is very difficult to let go of American citizenship. They found they had dual citizenship. I would say that there will be all kinds of people who do not even know they have dual citizenship, and yet they do through birth, through their parents. For example, my children have the right to dual citizenship from England. There are people who come from different countries. Historically, when we have accepted them into this country, we have said, “Yes, we accept dual citizenship”. Then, when they have their children, their children have that right to that dual citizenship.
We are not really debating dual citizenship or the pros and cons of that. What we are really looking at is what it means to have Canadian citizenship. What we are saying, as I said previously, for the first time in our history is that some citizens will have different rights than others.
I am not a lawyer and have never tried to pretend I am, but I could see that there could be some legitimate legal constitutional challenges with this. How could two Canadians who were born here or two Canadians who came here to this country be treated differently, just because one happens to have a dual nationality?
This bill takes components of the bill that the government tried to rush through this House under the guise of a private member's bill. When it did not get that, it brought it back here and threw in quite a few other components. It should really concern us.
As I said, I am still shaking my head that, here we are, a country that has been a country built through immigration, and the only people who can really say they were here long before the rest of us, first, second, third, fourth, fifth generation, are the aboriginal communities.
What we are seeing once again from the government that likes to spend a lot of money and resources wooing the immigrant community is it is sending a very different message through the legislation. It can be an attack on family reunification. We have a government that is always talking about the importance of family. At the same time, we say we want the young and the brightest from other countries. Of course we do.
However, the young and the brightest do not fall out of the sky. In many cases, they are coming from families where they may be the only child. Then we are saying to them that family reunification, the chance of their families ever coming to join them, has now been turned into a lottery system, and they just have to keep trying.
I do not think that is the way to build a country. I do not think that is the way we want to build our communities.
We also tried to address the long wait lists. We shredded applications for people who waited legitimately. We have shut the door on immigration in so many ways, and yet under the government, the floodgates have been opened for the temporary foreign worker program that has kept wages down at entry-level jobs and in the low-skilled sector. I would say there are abuses throughout that program that we are hearing about over and over again.
The government says it is going to address the lengthy wait lists for citizenship. I could more than pack this chamber with people who have been waiting and waiting. After they have qualified for citizenship, they could wait another 32 to 36 months to get their actual citizenship papers.
There is a little throw-in here for men and women who served in the armed forces. They are going to get to apply for their citizenship one year early. That sounds good on paper, and we support it. On the other hand, when a citizenship system is so backed up and people are waiting for years and years, it seems like a gift that is not really a gift, or a reward that is not really a reward.
As I was saying, once again, the government has tried to pull a sleight of hand by throwing in a few good things in this bill, and quite a bit that is not acceptable to the opposition.