That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, the House:
agrees with amendments 1(a), 1(c), 4 and 5 made by the Senate;
proposes that amendments 1(b)(i) and (ii) be amended by replacing the number “60” with the number “55”;
proposes that amendment 1(b)(iii) be amended by replacing the words in paragraph 5(1.04)(a) with the following words “made by a person who has custody of the minor or who is empowered to act on their behalf by virtue of a court order or written agreement or by operation of law, unless otherwise ordered by a court; and”;
proposes that with respect to amendment 2:
the portion of subsection 10(3) before paragraph (a) be amended by deleting the word “revoking” and adding the words “may be revoked” after the words “renunciation of citizenship”;
paragraph 10(3)(d) be amended by replacing all the words after the words “advises the person” to the word “Court.” with the following words “that the case will be referred to the Court unless the person requests that the case be decided by the Minister.”;
the portion of subsection 10(3.1) before paragraph (a) be amended by replacing the word “received,” with the words “sent, or within any extended time that the Minister may allow for special reasons,”;
paragraph 10(3.1)(a) be amended by deleting the words “humanitarian and compassionate” and adding after the words “including any considerations” the words “respecting his or her personal circumstances” and by adding the words “of the case” after the words “all of the circumstances” and by deleting the word “Minister’s” before the words “decision will render the person”;
paragraph 10(3.1)(b) be amended by replacing the words “referred to the Court” with the words “decided by the Minister”;
subsection 10(4.1) be amended by replacing that subsection with the following “(4.1) The Minister shall refer the case to the Court under subsection 10.1(1) unless (a) the person has made written representations under paragraph (3.1)(a) and the Minister is satisfied (i) on a balance of probabilities that the person has not obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, or (ii) that considerations respecting the person’s personal circumstances warrant special relief in light of all the circumstances of the case; or (b) the person has made a request under paragraph (3.1)(b).”;
subclause 3(4) be amended by deleting all the words beginning with “(4) The Act is amended by adding the following” to the words “under this Act or the Federal Court Act.”;
proposes that amendment 3(a) be amended in subsection 10.1(1) by replacing the words “If a person” with the words “Unless a person”;
proposes that with respect to amendment 3(b):
subsection 10.1(4) be amended by replacing all the words beginning with “If the Minister seeks a declaration” and ending with the words “knowingly concealing material circumstances.” with the words “For the purposes of subsection (1), if the Minister seeks a declaration that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, with respect to a fact described in section 34, 35 or 37 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Minister need prove only that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.”;
by deleting subsection 10.1(5);
proposes that amendment 6(a) be amended by replacing clause 19.1 with the following “19.1(1) Any decision that is made under subsection 10(1) of the Citizenship Act as it read immediately before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force and that is set aside by the Federal Court and sent back for a redetermination on or after that day is to be determined in accordance with that Act as it reads on that day. (2) A proceeding that is pending before the Federal Court before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force as a result of an action commenced under subsection 10.1(1) of the Citizenship Act is to be dealt with and disposed of in accordance with that Act as it read immediately before that day.”;
proposes that amendment 6(b) be amended by replacing clause 20.1 with the following “20.1 If, before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force, a notice has been given to a person under subsection 10(3) of the Citizenship Act and a decision has not been made by the Minister before that day, the person may, within 30 days after that day, request to have the matter dealt with and disposed of as if the notice had been given under subsection 10(3) of that Act as it reads on that day.”;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 7 because it would give permanent resident status to those who acquired that status fraudulently;
proposes that amendment 8 be amended by replacing all the words after “(3.1) Subsections” with the following words “3(2) and (3) and 4(1) and (3) and section 5.1 come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.”.
Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on the amendments to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the senators for all of the work they put into Bill C-6 and the amendments that we are considering today. Our government feels that the collaborative work of the senators has made Bill C-6 stronger. In that spirit, our government agrees with the principles behind two of the amendments. I will now detail in my remarks how we also propose some further adjustments.
I would like to emphasize that Bill C-6 reflects the government's commitment to fostering a diverse, fair, and inclusive country. We know from decades of experience that immigrants who become Canadian citizens are more likely to achieve greater economic success in this country, and to make greater contributions to Canadian society, thereby contributing to our common prosperity.
Furthermore, we know that a significant predictor of successful integration outcomes is the attainment of Canadian citizenship. Historically, a very high proportion of newcomers to Canada have become Canadian citizens. It goes without saying that this integration not only benefits the lives of those newcomers who end up becoming new Canadians but makes our country more diverse, inclusive, and fair.
I am sure that all of my colleagues would agree that Canada is strong because of the diversity of Canadians, and that we are diverse because of our country's long-standing embrace, and kind and welcoming nature for newcomers. It is in that spirit that Bill C-6 proposes changes that will remove barriers to citizenship for eligible immigrants. This will encourage their sense of belonging and attachment to this country. We want to ensure that the citizenship process is fair, robust, and flexible, because we place the highest value on Canadian citizenship.
Following third reading of Bill C-6, the Senate has returned three amendments to the House of Commons. These include changing the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years; allowing minors to obtain citizenship, as of right, without having a Canadian parent, and without the necessity of applying to the minister for a waiver; and changing the citizenship revocation model so that the Federal Court will be the decision-maker in most cases where citizenship was acquired fraudulently.
I will use the remainder of my time to discuss the government's response to these Senate amendments.
The government does not support raising the upper age limit for language and knowledge requirements to 59. This amendment is not in line with the intent of Bill C-6 to facilitate citizenship to eligible immigrants. Reducing the age range for language and knowledge requirements to 18 to 54 years of age does not weaken Canadian citizenship and its value. In fact, the acquisition of Canadian citizenship contributes to a greater sense of belonging and attachment to our great country. We believe in the importance of having adequate knowledge of Canada's official languages, and a knowledge and understanding of the privileges and responsibilities associated with Canadian citizenship. That is why adults aged 18 to 54 years of age will still be required to show evidence of proficiency in English or French, to demonstrate knowledge of Canada, and to pass a citizenship test.
However, the government understands that for younger and older applicants, this can be a barrier to citizenship. Therefore, Bill C-6 returns the age for language and knowledge requirements back to 18 to 54 years of age. By doing so, Bill C-6 will reduce barriers to citizenship by allowing applicants to achieve citizenship faster and contribute to Canada's economic, social, and cultural growth. Older applicants aged 55 years or older will still be able to access services that will enable them to become more integrated into Canadian society.
The second Senate amendment would make it easier for minors to obtain citizenship, as of right, without a Canadian parent. Overall, we support this amendment. This is consistent with the government's intent to facilitate citizenship for eligible immigrants and with our commitment to remove barriers to citizenship, especially for the most vulnerable.
The government supports this amendment with a technical modification to ensure greater clarity around who can apply and of this concept. The concept of a de facto guardian is unclear in the Senate amendment. Therefore, the government is proposing alternative language to clarify and provide greater clarity to this. This amendment would come into force upon royal assent.
The government also supports, with amendment, the third Senate amendment to enhance the citizenship revocation model. The Senate's amendment provides that all individuals would have the option to request that their case be referred to the Federal Court for a decision. The minister would only decide on revocation cases if individuals do not request that their case be referred to the Federal Court or if the individuals do not respond.
The government's amendments include, first, further narrowing the minister's authority to revoke citizenship to only those cases in which the individual expressly requests a decision by the minister; second, ensuring individuals are able to seek leave to the Federal Court for judicial review of the minister's decision; third, rejecting the part of the amendment that would allow individuals to retain permanent resident status despite having acquired citizenship fraudulently; and fourth, rejecting the part of the amendment that would allow actions taking place after the obtainment of citizenship to be considered in revocation decisions.
For context, since the current revocation decision-making model was introduced in 2015, the minister has been the decision-maker on most cases involving fraud or misrepresentation, especially involving residence, criminality, and identity issues. The Federal Court has been the decision-maker on more serious cases involving fraud or misrepresentation involving human rights violations and organized criminality. Prior to the current model, the Governor in Council made all the decisions in these kinds of cases.
I would also like to point out that individuals who had their citizenship revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation will revert back to permanent resident status if the fraud or misrepresentation occurred during the citizenship process, and will revert to being a foreign national if the fraud or misrepresentation occurred during the immigration process. For those who revert to permanent resident status, which is more than 70% of cases, these people would still be eligible to reapply for Canadian citizenship after 10 years, provided that they continue to meet the requirements.
The amendment to the decision-making model would ensure that there is still judicial oversight of revocation decisions as well as enhancing greater procedural protections. Our government has said in the past that we were open to considering how we can further enhance the citizenship revocation process. My hon. colleagues in the Senate have proposed a model that, with some modifications, will achieve just that.
In terms of timelines, the amendments to the citizenship revocation model would come into force at a later date to be determined by the Governor in Council. This will allow time for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as well as the Federal Court to put in place the necessary procedures.
To reiterate, the government is committed to building a Canada that is both diverse and inclusive. The story of immigration and the story of citizenship is the story of Canada and we want to continue to make sure that those two stories remain intertwined. Whether newcomers arrive as refugees, family members, or economic immigrants, the contributions that they make to this country, and the generations that follow them, will be important.
We want to encourage our diversity and take steps to ensure that the path to citizenship remains flexible and fair, but also robust, because we want to encourage all Canadians to take pride in being Canadian. That is the guiding principle behind the government's position with respect to the Senate's amendments. We firmly believe that by removing barriers to citizenship and helping newcomers achieve citizenship, our government is contributing to such a future, and by doing that we will be fostering a greater attachment to Canada.
Canadians are proud of our country and of our tradition of welcoming immigrants. We help them settle, integrate, and succeed in Canada. This has been our past, our present, and our future. The importance of diversity can sometimes be taken for granted, but there is no doubt that we are a better country because of it. Our government is committed to building on that success.
We are committed to encouraging all immigrants to take the path to full membership in Canadian society. One of the strongest pillars, one of the strongest indicators of the successful integration outcome is obtaining Canadian citizenship. Bill C-6 would help us ensure that Canada remains the strong, inclusive, and diverse country that it is.
In closing, the government's position is as follows. We do not support changing the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years of age. We support, with modification, the amendment that would make it easier for children to apply, as of right, for citizenship without a Canadian parent, and we support, with modification, the amendment to change the citizenship revocation model so that the Federal Court becomes the decision-maker in most revocation cases related to fraud or misrepresentation.
We remain committed to the timely passage of Bill C-6, and as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I encourage all members of the House to support the government's position with respect to the Senate's amendments.
I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the Senate amendments today.
A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.
In the words of our Prime Minister, our government firmly believes that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.