Mr. Speaker, this has been a great debate today. I have enjoyed listening to both sides of the House, where there seems to be quite a polarity between the Liberals and Conservatives, but the debate nonetheless has helped me reflect on the idea of what a citizen actually is and what is citizenship.
It is a very ancient concept, perhaps developed by the Israelites, but really made famous by the Greeks who expanded the idea of what a citizen is. It used to be that we organized ourselves. Humans were not very mobile and we lived in the same spots most of the time. We organized ourselves first by family and then by clan. Whom we were loyal to and whom we conceived ourselves to be was really the people in our immediate area.
However, once society started to expand and urbanize, which the Greeks were a great example of, all of a sudden it brought us into contact with different people who were not from our family groups, not from our clans. What developed as a result was the idea that we are something outside of ourselves. We could conceive of the idea that it was not just about us and our families, that not only could we co-exist with other groups, but we could believe in this broader group as something bigger than ourselves. That is really where the idea of citizenship began, as we began to think of ourselves as a group beyond our family members.
Along with that came the idea of defining what a citizen is. The safest way in ancient societies was to give citizenship to the most powerful people to make sure that males who were born in a particular area were given exclusive rights to citizenship and no one else. That eliminated women, slaves, and visitors from other places, so it was a very exclusive domain, this idea of who a citizen was.
What was important about that aspect of citizenship was that Greek males started to travel. Citizenship was important because they would be Greek citizens regardless of where they were in the world. Once people started to gather in urban areas and started to travel and explore, the idea of citizenship became even more important. A Greek male who travelled far away could always think in his head that he was a citizen of Greece. That was something beyond himself. It is not that he was a member of a particular family, but a citizen of Greece, and that was something important to him. It is something he would defend and try to contribute to.
We are in a parliamentary assembly now. The Greeks were famous for their parliamentary assemblies. Indeed, they not only expanded the idea of citizenship, but also started the first democracies. That is where they would debate who a citizen was, who would be included, who would be excluded, which is what we are doing here today. We are talking about what a Canadian citizen is.
Often we are caught up here with our partisan hats on, thinking about how this would benefit our own party and other parties, but I would really like us to pause and think about what we are doing here in this debate and will be doing at committee when the bill is passed. We will be having the same discussion that has been had in other assemblies. It will be about what a citizen is and how we define who we are. That will in turn will show the rest of the world how we think of ourselves and what kind of example we are providing to other people. This is a very important debate we are having because it sets the tone of how Canada is perceived worldwide.
Citizenship is actually codified by rules that give us privileges and responsibilities, but also gives us a sense of ourselves that is outside of our normal day-to-day living. We are all proud to be Canadians here, and I think a lot of people in the world would like to be Canadian, whereas others are very proud of their own nationality and will retain it. Furthermore, in some situations in Canada, we do not make people trade in their other identity, but allow them to become dual citizens. That is how our country works and it has worked very well. It is not the same in all countries. Some countries make people revoke their citizenship from another country.
What it really says is that Canada is an open place where one can come from afar, go through the rules, and become a citizen without having to jettison one's other identity. I think that is what makes Canada very strong.
My riding of Burnaby South, I would say, is one of the most diverse communities in the entire world, with over 100 languages. Most folks are from afar. We have a core group of folks of European descent who have been in Burnaby for 100 years or so, and now we have citizens from all over the world and a large population of refugees. They have come to Canada and are trying to move their conception of who they are to who they are going to be.
This is why we have to make sure that we get it right here and make it clear what it means to be Canadian. It is also why I so disagreed with the debates we had in the last Parliament, because they all came down to a very small part of what being a citizen is. It is important how we deal with people who are terrorists, but the focus on that clouded the idea of what citizenship is in Canada. I think what we need to do in this debate is clarify for both new and old Canadians what citizenship means to us.
Everyone thought Canadian citizens were equal, but then all of a sudden we had this whole discussion of whether or not citizenship was two-tiered, and whether someone could have their citizenship removed, which seems like an alien concept for people. If one is a citizen, either one has been born here to Canadian parents or one has moved here from another country and has gone through a series of very rigorous steps to gain citizenship. The state is totally in control of that process. The very apt government officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada move recent immigrants to become permanent residents and then citizens, and these people are put through rigorous screens.
However, I have not really been getting an answer from the Liberals why they have retained in Bill C-6 the idea that a minister can revoke someone's citizenship without any kind of judicial review. I asked the parliament secretary that. If someone gains citizenship through fraudulent means, then their citizenship can be revoked, but I think that represents a failure on our part. If we fail to screen people properly and they gain citizenship by fraudulent means, that is a failure on our part, and I do not really count that person as having been a citizen to begin with.
If we move aside someone who has received citizenship fraudulently, under what other circumstances would we ever remove someone else's citizenship? Why does the minister need this power to remove someone's citizenship without judicial review? I have yet to hear an answer from the other side to that question. I am hoping that maybe in the question and answer period we can have a response from the other side as to why that is the case.
I think the effect is that it is still unclear as to how our citizenship is protected by law. For every other case of law-breaking in the country, we have to go through a proper judicial process protected by the charter. All Canadians feel confident in that. However, to me, this clouds the idea of what a citizen is and leaves a shadow of doubt as to whether citizenship is protected.
I have to say that I am glad that the new Liberal government has decided to allow graduate students here to speed up their application to become citizens. I know the U.S. is moving in that direction as well, and I am deeply worried that we will lose very talented students because we have restrictions on their becoming Canadian citizens.
This is something I am very proud to support and will be voting in support of the bill.
However, I am hoping that as we get to committee, we will try to clarify this whole issue of why the minister can revoke citizenship without judicial review.
I see that I am out of time.