Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address this important debate; and certainly an honour for me to follow my friend, the parliamentary secretary from Parkdale—High Park. I did not agree with much of what he said in his speech, but I appreciate his work in this place, and particularly the opportunity we have to work together on Parliamentary Friends of Tibet.
Before I get into the specific provisions of this bill, I want to spend a bit of time setting the philosophical groundwork, at least in terms of how I see it and many on this side of the House see it, on the substance of this debate, underneath these provisions, in terms of what Canadian citizenship is all about.
I will say at the outset that I believe that we live in the best country in the world. I do not say that lightly. I have lived abroad and I have travelled quite a bit. For many reasons, we live in the best country in the world. One of the proof points of that is the fact that we have so many people who want to come here. Over the last 10 years, we have had the highest sustained immigration levels in this country's history. However, comparatively as well, many more people want to come to Canada relative to our population than want to go to many other countries.
As we think about what our citizenship is and what it means, perhaps it is important to start by asking why Canada is such a great country, and what we can do to ensure that in the context of our ongoing definition and redefinition of citizenship we preserve what is essential about our country. We are all very proud of Canadian diversity. The parliamentary secretary spoke eloquently about the diversity that we have in this country. However, many countries around the world have diversity and perhaps have a different experience of that diversity. I was thinking as I prepared for this about the visit of the Chinese foreign minister. China is a very diverse country, but a country in which religious and ethnic minorities face significant difficulties. Russia is a very diverse country. Syria, in fact, is a very diverse country. So we have many countries around the world that are diverse where perhaps the experience of that diversity is not positive for those in the minority.
It is clear, if we look at this comparison, that it is not diversity alone that makes us great and it is not diversity alone that makes us who we are; but it is in fact what we do with that diversity, how we work together in the context of that diversity, and in particular our ability as a nation to build together around shared values. If we have diversity without any kind of shared values, there is always a risk of conflict. I am very proud of our history as a country that has both great diversity and has managed to maintain a strong sense of shared values. That is particularly important for our success.
It is worth underlining what some of these shared values are. We have a belief in this country in freedom. We have a belief in democracy, in basic principles of human rights and, to some extent, in universal concepts of human dignity that underline those ideas of human rights. We have a belief in the rule of law; in universal human equality and value regardless of race, religion, caste, ethnicity, linguistic background, et cetera. We have a belief as well in gender equality, which is very important to who we are in this country. We have unity around these common values in the context of our own diversity. Our experience of not just political unity, not just sort of general accommodation of one another, but of practical community and common purpose, is quite unique in this country.
I will just share this anecdote because it is important. I was in a European capital a number of years ago, meeting with a Canadian friend of mine who was working there. We were in a very diverse part of this city. There were people from all different parts of the world. We noticed around us all of a sudden that we did not see any mixed-race social groups. We saw a group of people from one racial group together, and then a group of people from another. We looked around us in the crowded centre of this European capital and it was a bit jarring to realize that in spite of the fact that this was a very diverse place there were no obvious signs of community, of at least people sitting together within that place.
The advantage we have in Canada is in building substantive community between different people of different backgrounds.
I thought about that experience later when, at the time I think it was the British prime minister, similar comments were made by French and German leaders, talking about the alleged failure of multiculturalism in the European context. As much as I would regard that as not correct, even in the context of Europe, it is worth understanding that there is a different experience of multiculturalism in Europe compared to the Canadian experience.
Canada, from the moment of its founding, was a country founded on shared values and on ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity. We can compare that to many European states, which obviously emphasized elements of shared values, but also have measures of ethnic nationalism built into their founding as well.
We have to welcome newcomers in a way that understands that background without compromising what George Cartier called our concept of one political nation. I will read from a book called Straight Talk, which is a book on federalism that I captures this well.
That dual quest for the universal and for cultural diversity has been with us since the birth of our Confederation. We have often strayed from it since then, and committed grave mistakes and injustices, but the result is this admirable human achievement that is Canada.
We have had this history from the beginning of combining the universal values in the context of diversity. The same book continues with:
Finally, Cartier wanted Canada to be a “political nation”, a nation of solidarity which transcends race, religion, history and geography to ensure that the French in Quebec would never want to break their solidarity with other Canadians. If we seek a contract at the birth of our federal union, it is certainly the one expressed by Cartier, which has inspired all of Peter Russell's work. Quebecers of all origins have helped other Canadians a great deal to achieve that ideal; they must not renounce it.
Straight Talk was written by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I think he has had some very good things to say in the past about the importance of common values in the context of this diversity.
Where are we going from here then? What is the philosophy which underlines this legislation advanced by the government?
Early in the new government's term, the Prime Minister was talking to the The New York Times about aspects of Canadian identity. Here is what he said, which is something very different than the words I just quoted from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He said, “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada...Those qualities are what make us the first postnational state.”
Therefore, we have in the House, at least between our side and the Prime Minister, very different visions of what the Canadian nation is supposed to be.
Ours is one of unity around shared values in the context of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other forms of diversity. However, the Prime Minister's concept is one that goes beyond or outside of this idea of shared values and emphasizes the diversity, but at the same time wants to perceive Canada as a postnational state, not as a political nation.
It is with that in mind that we come to legislation put forward by the government, which would allow convicted terrorists to retain their Canadian citizenship. I think we can understand what the Liberals' thinking is on this bill in light of the Prime Minister's comments to The New York Times and in light of that underlying philosophy.
It is clearly a problem to our historic concepts of Canada as a political nation to say that convicted terrorists should be able to retain their citizenship. A terrorist is not just someone who wants to do violence and mayhem. Terrorists are people, in our current conception of it, who disconnect themselves from our Canadian values, who embrace a wholly distinct set of values than the ones I have outlined, gender quality, universal human dignity, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, and instead commit themselves to fighting for the destruction of those very values. A terrorist is not someone who is pushed outside of the fold of Canadian values. A terrorist is someone who chooses to leave the fold of Canadian values, and that is very clear.
Our concept of diversity that emphasizes shared values says that diversity does not extend to those who wish to destroy us. There have to be parameters or limits ensuring that we remain the country we have always been, a country of unity in the context of our diversity.
The Liberals view of diversity in many ways bends over on itself. It permits those who are deeply at odds with things in which the Liberals themselves clearly believe, gender equality, human rights, the rule of law, democracy. Yet it allows people who reject those things, who want to fight against those things, to remain in the Canadian family and to use the advantages of their membership in the Canadian family, of their Canadian passport, for example, to then wreck havoc against the very values that we espouse.
I think all of us in all corners of the House deeply believe in the idea of diversity, but we also believe the diversity is necessarily bounded as a practical matter, as a matter of our own survival. There are certain things we must agree are simply not welcome here and they include the desire to destroy our way of life.
I ask Canadians who are watching this to reflect on these differences of vision, the one espoused by the Prime Minister and the one espoused by George Cartier, the question of Canada as a postnational state or of Canada as being part of a common political nation.
It is important to specifically counter some of the arguments that were made by my friends across the way. Members of the government have said many things on this that are substantially true but do not really apply to this legislation. My friend, the parliamentary secretary, praised the importance of having a path to citizenship. We have always had a path to citizenship in our country. Nobody is proposing, or has seriously ever proposed, the creation of a sort of UAE-style of citizenship where an individual would have to be born here. We believe very much in a path to citizenship, and we can disagree over the difference of one year here or there in terms of being in a country without disagreeing on that fundamental point.
For those who have a commitment to Canada, there is no substantial problem with saying let us wait another year. Those who do not have a commitment to Canada will perhaps have a different perspective. All of those who have a commitment to Canada, whether it is an additional year, it is not clear to me what the breaking point is about those changes.
There is an important issue alleged by the government, and we hear this talking point many times, of two-tiered citizenship. There are two things that need to be said about this. First, the government has been clear that its intention is to retain the ability to revoke citizenship that was acquired on the basis of fraud. This means that people who acquired their citizenship could have it stripped from them on the basis of fraud.
Fraud is in my mind a much lesser crime than terrorism. For the government to say that on the one hand citizenship is irrevocable for someone who clearly parts ways with Canadian values and then say on the other hand, citizenship can be lost if someone cheated on a form is just not consistent.
If the government really takes this idea that citizenship is irrevocable to its logical extreme, it is hard to understand why it would be dealing with a more extreme issue, yet leaving in place the revocation possibility for a relatively less extreme offence.
I want to say this as well about the regime the government put in place. The government's bill would institute a system of two-tiered citizenship that did not exist before. Under its system, people who acquired their Canadian citizenship could have it stripped on the basis of fraud. Under our system, anybody could have their citizenship stripped on the basis of fraud or involvement in terrorism.
Under the Liberals' citizenship process, nobody who was born in our country or who was born with Canadian citizenship could ever lose their citizenship. Our system treats equally those who were born abroad and those who were born here. Therefore, I am perplexed by the Liberals continuing use of their talking point, in spite of their total unwillingness to actually implement the fullness of this supposed principle that they are espousing.
The fact is that where an individual was born does not matter for our original legislation. People could lose their citizenship if they were involved in terrorism, and it did not matter if they were born here or somewhere else. The value of Canadian citizenship is dependent on their commitment to our shared values, not on where they were born. That is an important principle and a principle for which we have stood.
Of course, as a practical matter, we cannot strip the citizenship of someone who only has one citizenship, and that is true whether individuals obtained their citizenship by a fraud or whether they obtained their citizenship in spite of then going on to commit or be involved in some form of terrorism.
That is a practical matter, and obviously we are limited in the House by certain features of the practical world in what we can do and cannot do. However, as much as possible, we should hold fast to that principle, that Canadian citizenship has value. It expresses the substance of who we are as a country, a country that has unity around shared values in the context of our diversity, and this, unfortunately, is simply not appreciated by the arguments made on behalf of the bill.
Some more clarifications need to be made about the original system we had in place. It is a bit perverse, frankly, that members of the government talk about new Canadians being worried about the provisions of the bill because of misinformation about them, and then go on to continually imply things about the bill that are incorrect. If some Canadians were worried about the provisions of the bill and did not have a proper understanding of what the original bill would do, I would hope the members of the government, who were maybe talking to these Canadians in the context of a campaign, would have provided correct information about the bill.
They might have clarified that actually there is no restriction whatsoever in the original Bill C-24 on mobility rights. There is no possibility whatsoever that people could lose their citizenships for a minor crime. In fact, people who commit a major crime, a violent crime, still could not have their citizenships revoked, regardless of where they were born, regardless of whether they were duel citizens. It is only in the case of terrorism.
The crucial point with respect to terrorism is that this is where individuals have stepped fully outside the parameters of Canadian values. They have said that they have no interest in being part of the Canadian family. They have acted in a way that put themselves fundamentally at odds with it in terms of their values.
One of the arguments we have heard as well from my friends across the way is the assertion that putting them in jail is enough, that someone should not face both imprisonment and then the loss of citizenship. However, these are two completely different kinds of sanctions to deal with different kinds of issues. Of course, somebody who is involved in violent crime or terrorism should be punished through incarceration, but there is also the issue of whether this person has retained his or her commitment to be part of the Canadian family or not. These are different issues that should be both dealt with and certainly both considered.
However, there is another practical matter that I think the government ignores in its reasoning. It is the fact that individuals could well be outside of the country and become very involved in terrorism, be fighting for Daesh, perhaps, or another terrorist group, and clearly, in the process of their actions and their involvement in that, take themselves outside the Canadian family. Those people, as long as they retain their Canadian citizenship, have the benefits of Canadian citizenship, can ask for assistance by diplomatic staff and Canadians would be on the hook to bail that sort of an active terrorist out.
Of course, we do not have the ability to incarcerate people if they are abroad fighting on behalf of another terrorist organization. This is perhaps a context in which this would have to be considered, and it do not think is properly considered by the government's arguments.
It is important to underline in that context at the same time that it is not the conviction in a foreign court that would lead to these considerations. It would only be a decision of the Canadian courts or an adjudication on the basis of equivalency, an evaluation that was done based on Canadian law with respect to terrorism. It still would not require someone to be in the country.
In terms of the underlying philosophy, Canadians should go with George Cartier, not the postnational anti-identity fantasies of the Prime Minister. It is also important to dig into the substantive provisions of the bill and realize that it does not fix problems that were real, that we were addressing significant problems. Terrorists should not—