Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-6 and to its provisions that would help provide greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship and help immigrants obtain citizenship faster.
Bill C-6 proposes to help those Canadians who desire to work for companies that require travel as a part of their job description. I am sure the House would agree that in this ever-changing economic climate, it is essential for us to help those who reside in Canada and who want to become Canadians. As Canadians, we desperately need them to join us. That new generation of immigrants can continue to help build our country so it may remain one of the best places to live in the world.
We must also allow our people to be gainfully employed. I have had several people in my riding who are frustrated with not being able to work for companies that require them to travel and still have the ability to become citizens of our country, which would help them build a successful life in Canada. I am sure we can all recall situations where people have come to our riding offices wanting to work for these companies, wanting to be employed, and wanting to be Canadian citizens. We must help them.
Under the renewal process in place now, it takes s a lengthy time for people to renew their PR cards that allows them to travel around world. We want to encourage diversity and take steps to ensure that the path to citizenship is flexible and fair. However, we also want to encourage Canadians to take pride in obtaining their citizenship.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship have been clear from the outset. Flexibility and diversity is crucial to our future as a country and in what we offer the world. We know from decades of experience that immigrants who become Canadian citizens are likely to achieve greater economic success in our country and make a greater contribution to the Canadian economy. This commitment benefits the country as a whole. Furthermore, one significant predicator for a successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship.
During debate on this very issue yesterday, a member from the Conservative Party stated that in order for one to value his or her citizenship, it should be difficult and take a long time to obtain citizenship. I highly disagree with that. In fact, it took my parents less time to get their citizenship when they arrived in this fine country in the late 1970s. I do not know of people who could be prouder to have chosen this country to make it their home. They have contributed greatly and have worked extremely hard to make their lives and the lives of their children a success here.
I have a senior in my riding who helped me with my campaign. I have never met a prouder man. He came to Canada as a senior with little knowledge of the English language or Canadian history. However, he always reminded me of how honoured we should all feel to be involved in the democratic process. He always made sure my office had a Canadian flag. He also insisted that I wear a Canadian pin on my jacket when campaigning. At events, he reminded me to play the national anthem. He stood proudly as he attempted to sing the words. This is a person who never had to take the test because he was above the age that required him to do so. Does it seem as if this individual does not value his citizenship? I think not. If anything, at times people who are born here and have never lived anywhere else can end up taking their citizenship for granted.
Bill C-6 provides for a flexibility that benefits both the lives of new Canadians and the social cohesion of our diverse country. The first way it would do this is by amending the physical presence requirement to the equivalent of three years out of five. More specific, the proposed changes would reduce physical presence requirements to three years out of five immediately before the date of application. This is a change from the current four years out of six. This would allow individuals to apply for citizenship one year earlier than under the requirements that came into force in May of 2015, making the path to citizenship a shorter one.
The five-year window in which to accumulate three years, or more specifically, 1,095 days, of physical presence would also provide greater flexibility for those who are absent from Canada during the five-year qualifying period, for work or other personal reasons.
I have had many people in my office, whom I have met over the last few months, who have sick parents in their country of origin, who have to travel in order to take care of loved ones. Should we not grant these people the ability to do so in these extenuating circumstances, but also the ability to come back and gain citizenship quite quickly?
There are people who are selling their homes and wrapping up loose ends, who have moved to this country because their children have enrolled in school or for other reasons. They need to be able to wrap up their old prior business and still be able to come back to this country and move on with their lives in a successful way.
This bill supports the Government of Canada's goal that I spoke of earlier, the goal of increasing flexibility and making it easier for immigrants to build a successful life in Canada, reunite their families, and contribute to the economic success of all Canadians. In a world where individuals are more mobile than ever before, where employers increasingly have an international presence, it is crucial that we build flexibility into our immigration system.
As well, permanent residents who choose to study abroad, do voluntary work in other countries, or work for NGOs abroad would be able to, provided they are physically present for three years within the five-year window. They would be able to then bring this rich, international experience back to Canada, benefiting us all.
Similarly, Bill C-6 also proposes to repeal the supplemental physical-presence requirement that citizenship applicants be physically present in Canada for a minimum of 183 days of each of the four calendar years within the six years before the date of application.
Keeping this requirement would not allow applicants to fully benefit from the shorter physical presence or the increased flexibility that I just described, or the new non-permanent resident time credit that Bill C-6 also proposes. Removing this requirement would also provide more flexibility for prospective applicants to meet the requirements of citizenship.
Another way Bill C-6 would increase flexibility is through the removal of the intent-to-reside provision. Under current law, applicants are expected to have an intention to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. Applicants are required to hold this intention from the time they submit their application to the time they take the oath of citizenship.
The provision created concern among some new citizens, who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada. For example, although the period covered by the intent-to-reside provision does not apply after a person has become a citizen, it has created great confusion.
Some new Canadians whose work requires them to live abroad for extended periods may feel that their declaration of an intent to reside in Canada could negatively affect their ability to work abroad as Canadians.
The government has made a commitment to repeal the provision. Doing so, and making it clear that no citizens are bound by it, would eliminate any misperception that new Canadians would have.
We want our immigration system to be flexible to the needs of those who make Canada their home. More broadly, the changes proposed by Bill C-6 support the Government of Canada's commitment to fostering a diverse, fair, and inclusive country.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-6 today. I encourage all my honourable colleagues to support the bill, as I will.