House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.


Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the people of my riding of Calgary Shepard, I am pleased to speak to Bill S‑245. It is always a great honour and privilege for me to be able to speak on behalf of Canadian citizens.

I am not like everyone else in the House. Like 23% or 24% of Canadians, I am an immigrant to this country. I was just talking about that with my colleague, the member for Calgary Forest Lawn, who was born in Dubai.

As someone born in Poland, Canadian citizenship is extremely important to me. Canada is not only my homeland, but it is also the country that accepted my father, my mother, my brother and me when our country of origin, where I was born, did not want us. My father was a member of Solidarnosc. He was a worker, a labourer, an engineer for the Gdansk shipyards when Poland was communist. My father left Poland in 1983 to come to Canada, and it was Canada that offered him the opportunity to stay. He started working at a shipyard in Sorel. It was in Sorel, where I lived with my father in 1985, that I learned French.

Poland let us leave the country, but it did not let us take our passports with us, because the Polish workers at the Gdansk shipyard, the Lenin shipyard, and their families were not allowed to return to that country. As I said, Canadian citizenship represents my homeland as well as the great honour of becoming Canadian in 1989. Now I have the great honour of representing my constituents as a Polish immigrant to this wonderful country that has given us so many opportunities.

I must admit that I did not know a lot about the so-called lost Canadians, the people who lost the Canadian citizenship they had at birth or did not qualify for citizenship even though they should have been entitled to it by virtue of their presence in Canada. That is the result of a whole raft of laws and attitudes, and many MPs have talked about this and debated it since 1945. The laws changed again in the 1970s. Finally, along came Bill C‑37, passed by a Conservative government that wanted to solve the problem for good and reduce the number of lost Canadians as much as possible.

Despite the many bills that have been introduced to reform the legislation in this century and the last, despite the fact that parliamentarians studied this issue and were meant to receive witnesses to explain to them how these things happened, despite the fact that the government has tried to change the legislation several times to ensure that this does not happen, no one noticed that there would be a gap of 50 or so months during which there would still be lost Canadians.

Where are we at today?

I would like to thank Senator Yonah Martin, herself an immigrant from Korea, who sponsored this bill in the Senate. In the House of Commons, it was sponsored by the member for Calgary Forest Lawn. It is Senator Martin who proposed this bill to try to fix this problem for lost Canadians. Apparently, there are hundreds of Canadians in a situation that I would describe as extremely shameful, despite the fact that parts of the legislation have been changed over the past 100 years. Several different governments have tried to fix this legislative problem.

Before, the problem was that Canadians born outside the country to Canadian parents had until their 28th birthday to notify the Canadian government that they wanted to retain their citizenship. However, there was no form or simple way to confirm this with the government. It was not easy to do.

Even within the Conservative caucus, our colleague, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, would have been one of those lost Canadians, had it not been for his father tipping him off. I do not know how his father knew that Parliament was amending the Citizenship Act, but the amendments could have made him one of those lost Canadians.

In debate, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain said that he would be forever grateful to his parents who made sure to let him know, otherwise he would not have been able to serve in the House of Commons and represent the people of his riding in Saskatchewan.

This is the second time that we have tried to fill this legislative void by introducing Bill S‑245. I greatly admire author Franz Kafka. We have here the perfect example of a Kafkaesque or bureaucratic government that creates problems for ordinary citizens. This great German author who penned The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, The Trial, The Castle and Amerika, spoke about these major organizations that have far too many rules and far too many people trying to enforce them and about how an ordinary citizen can end up before them for making a mistake they were not even aware of.

Many people have lost their citizenship this way. However, those people can be proud because there are many parliamentarians, including Senator Yonah Martin, who are working to ensure this legislative void is filled.

We are now debating this bill to try to correct the error in Bill C‑37, which was introduced and debated in 2009 and 2011, if memory serves.

At the time, Bill C‑37 sought to amend the Citizenship Act to address this legislative gap. The period covered by the bill was approximately 50 months for second-generation Canadians. I am a first-generation Canadian. My children were all born in Calgary and are first-generation Canadians because they were all born in Canada. There was a legislative gap for Canadians who were born abroad to Canadian parents during those 50 months between February 15, 1967, and April 16, 1981. These Canadians were to inform the government before their 28th birthday if they wished to keep their citizenship.

As I said, there is hope, because we all agree that a Canadian is a Canadian and has the right to Canadian citizenship. It is a source of great pride and a great honour and privilege to be able to say that I am Canadian and always will be. In any event, that is my hope, unless the government makes another legislative mistake in the future and something happens to those of us who received their citizenship in 1989. I am hoping it will not happen, but one never knows.

In this bill, I think that Senator Yonah Martin found the right words to legislate on this issue. I have sponsored many bills in the House and I have had to talk to the jurilinguists and lawyers who work in the House to find the right words to achieve a goal. Sometimes, the problem is finding the right words and the right dates in order to ensure that legislative voids are properly filled while addressing the initial problem we sought to solve by introducing legislation in the House.

I thank Senator Yonah Martin, but also all of the other members and senators who worked hard on this bill. I am thinking of the former Speaker of the Senate, Noël Kinsella, and of former senators David Tkachuk and Art Eggleton, who worked hard to ensure that these Canadians get their citizenship.

During debates in the House, I always share a Yiddish proverb. Today's is this: “When you sweep the house, you find everything.” I hope that this legislation will make it possible for us to find all of the lost Canadians so that they can get their citizenship.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Yasir Naqvi Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I enjoy being recognized as the member for Ottawa Centre, because those are the great people who have given me the opportunity to serve them in this place. As always, every single day it is an honour to represent my community.

I am thrilled to speak on Bill S-245. I heard the comments of members who spoke on it and I too speak in support of the bill. I am a proud Canadian and very much like my friend from Calgary Shepard, I was not born in Canada. I came from a country where my parents were also politically persecuted and had to find a new place to live where they could live freely. My family and I came to Canada in 1988 and one of the greatest attractions of Canada was the rights and freedoms that are protected in Canada, especially by virtue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an incredibly important constitutional document that protects all of our rights.

I will be honest in saying that I stand here today with a heavy heart as a Canadian citizen, one day after, in my home province of Ontario, those rights were taken away from hard-working education workers by the invocation of the notwithstanding clause in back-to-work legislation by the provincial government, led by Premier Doug Ford. That is not the country my parents wanted to come to, where rights, in such a cavalier manner, could be taken away by the majority members of a Parliament. Rights are sacrosanct. They should always be protected. That is what makes us truly Canadian.

I want to give a big shout-out to all education workers across the province of Ontario who are picketing right now, demanding that their rights be restored so that there can be collective bargaining in a good-faith manner with the government, so that they can be in classrooms and so that all children can be in classrooms getting the best education they deserve from our system.

Bill S-245 is an important bill. As I mentioned earlier, I am supportive of the bill, but it really deals with a very small segment of “lost Canadians”, as has been described by other members, through the age 28 rule. There are many other new classifications of what I would say are lost Canadians as a result of changes that were made to the Citizenship Act in 2009.

The one that is really close to my heart, the one that I have heard about from quite a few constituents, is the rule that says that a child born outside of Canada after April of 2009 to a parent who is a Canadian citizen is not a Canadian citizen at birth if their parent was born outside of Canada and inherited their own citizenship because one of their parents was Canadian at the time of their birth. Imagine that. For example, I was not born in Canada but I became a Canadian citizen. If I became a parent again and that child was born outside of Canada, that child would not be entitled to Canadian citizenship. That creates a whole new set of lost Canadians, and it is something that we need to really look at and consider. That speaks to the first-generation limit that has been created in the Citizenship Act.

I want to tell a quick story, because I think it really brings into perspective what we are talking about. This is a story about somebody I know quite well, a close friend of mine who is a Canadian citizen. Her parents immigrated to Canada, became Canadian citizens, lived here, went to school here, worked here and just before this friend of mine was born, her mother went to her home country of Tunisia so she could have the support of her parents when she gave birth. This friend of mine was born outside of Canada in Tunisia.

However, in a matter of weeks, they came back to Canada, where their home was. Of course, my friend is a Canadian citizen. She lived here, went to law school here in Ottawa, worked here, and then, eventually, as many Canadians do, decided to go and work abroad.

She went to Europe. She went to England, where she got a legal job and where she met her future partner and got married. They live in France now and, in 2013 and, I believe, 2015, she had two daughters.

Unfortunately, although she is a Canadian citizen, she is unable to pass her Canadian citizenship to her two daughters, who were born after April 2009. In my view, that is a lost Canadian generation.

It is a first-generation limit that really needs to be addressed. I am sure that if we looked around in our respective communities, we would find many people in the same position. It is a situation that creates an unequal model of Canadian citizenship. Really, in essence, we are saying that a Canadian is not a Canadian by virtue of where they are born.

It is really of paramount importance, even now, because so many people who become Canadian citizens are immigrants. They are coming from different parts of the world. I am really excited that the Minister of Immigration, just a few days ago, announced that we will be bringing, by 2025, about 500,000 people per year into Canada, which is absolutely necessary. We are a big country with a small population base. We are growing, and we need more people.

All of those people who will come as immigrants to Canada are born somewhere else, and many of them may end up, after becoming Canadian citizens, living somewhere outside Canada. They may have families there and may want, of course, to come back to Canada. We need to make sure those children, who are born of parents who were born outside Canada, remain Canadian citizens.

It is creating an unequal model of Canadian citizenship and Canadian identity that needs to be resolved. It is also, arguably, a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by virtue of sections 15 and 6 of the charter.

By having this rule in place and not rectifying it, we are also marginalizing women, in particular, who are Canadian citizens who may not have been born in Canada. Many of these women go outside Canada for professional reasons, because they want to work in different parts of the world, which is fantastic, because we Canadians are known to travel the world, to live in other parts of the world and to contribute to the well-being of this great planet that we are part of.

By having this rule, though, we are basically asking these women to put their careers on hold and come back to Canada in order to have children.

I really want to say that Bill S-245 is a step in the right direction, but it is only resolving a very small part of the problem. There are some other glaring holes in the Citizenship Act by virtue of the first-generation limit rule.

We need to look at those rules in a holistic manner so we can truly give expression to the idea that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”, which I fundamentally believe is one of the greatest strengths of Canada. Our diversity and our inclusive society exist because we have this really well-defined pathway to citizenship. When people come to Canada as immigrants, they come fully knowing that if they meet certain rules and requirements, they will have the opportunity to become Canadian citizens and contribute fully to this great country.

We undermine their capacity and we treat them unequally if we have different rules by virtue of, as an immigrant, where they were born. That is something we need to rectify. I look forward to working with members in the chamber to fix these rules so that, truly, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Madam Speaker, I will not take up too much time today. I want to thank all of my colleagues who rose and spoke in favour of Bill S-245. It is a very important bill. Although we all recognize that it pertains to a small number of people who want to become Canadian, it is very important that we get this done.

I want to again thank my Senate colleague, Senator Yonah Martin, as well as Don Chapman and many others, not only for advocating for this bill, but for their hard work and perseverance to get the bill to this stage today.

I want to say that Bill S-245 is very important for the many who were stripped of their citizenship because of administrative errors and government failures from the past, when all they wanted to do was renew their passports, but I will keep it short.

I encourage all my colleagues to support this. Let us get it to committee stage. Let us get it done.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. government deputy House leader.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 16, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

It being 2:12 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, November 14, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

Have a great weekend, everyone.

(The House adjourned at 2:12 p.m.)