Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my friend from Surrey—Newton.
It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the government's plan to repeal the unfair provisions found under the Citizenship Act that were passed in the previous Parliament under Bill C-24, which allowed for the revocation of Canadian citizenship of dual or multiple nationals on the grounds of national interest.
Once again, our government is delivering on the commitments we promised Canadians during last year's federal election. From my perspective, Bill C-24 is not only a bill that personally affects the lives of many of my constituents but it also affects many Canadians across this country.
I note that in the speech by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, he articulated two broad principles that governed the intent behind Bill C-6.
First and foremost, he enunciated the concept of a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, which was something that we had heard throughout the campaign, and that we found the notion of two different types of classes of Canadian citizens to be offensive.
The second concept that was articulated by the minister was with respect to peeling back the changes found in Bill C-24 that imposed new barriers on welcoming immigrants to this country and becoming Canadian citizens.
There are a series of four provisions within Bill C-6 that attempt to bring back a much more welcoming atmosphere to becoming a Canadian citizen. Those are very important principles. However, I want to focus on two different principles.
I first want to note that I appreciated the speech made by my friend from the New Democratic Party, the member for Vancouver East, who I thought articulated in very clear terms the reasons why her party would be supporting the provisions of Bill C-6. She also put forth some legitimate criticisms that she found, namely, that we did not necessarily go far enough in Bill C-6.
I take the point the minister raised that this government remains open to making reasonable changes, which is a reflection of this particular government. For example, this government would definitely entertain some of the issues the member articulated.
I want to get to those two broad principles that I would like to articulate in the short time I have to talk to Bill C-6 that I feel were particularly offensive under Bill C-24.
The first concept I want to advance, which was a central theme that had been articulated by the previous government and in particular by the former minister of citizenship and immigration, Chris Alexander, is the concept that citizenship is a privilege as opposed to a right. I strongly disagree with the former minister's position on this substantive fate.
The whole concept of strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act, as minister Alexander had framed it, was that citizenship was somehow a privilege. From my perspective, once it is conferred, it attaches rights. There are obligations and responsibilities that come with citizenship, but it confers rights that are protected specifically under the charter, as my friend from Vancouver East had noted. Therefore, once it is legitimately acquired, the concept of citizenship should not be taken away capriciously.
That brings me to the second concept. My friends in the New Democratic Party touched upon this particular theme both in the comments made by my friend from Vancouver East and in the question from the finance critic for the NDP, which is the concept of the encroachment of executive power and the lack of procedural due process that was found under Bill C-24. Again, I deeply oppose this concept.
I take the comments that my friend from Vancouver East noted seriously. She remains concerned that there needs to be procedural due process whenever citizenship is stripped away. This government would be amendable to those kinds of amendments to the legislation.
I found particularly odious the previous government's perspective to grant the minister the arbitrary right to decide which individuals would get to keep their citizenship and which ones would not. It was particularly odious because it could be done capriciously and without any sort of procedural due process. There would be no capacity to appeal. There would be no capacity to bring new facts to the table.
I know what members of the Conservative Party are ultimately going to say. They are going to say we would only be stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists. All we heard in the debate in the House from the previous minister and from my friends in the opposition is that at the end of the day once individuals are convicted of a particular crime, they should serve their time, and that is the ultimate sanction. Stripping citizenship from certain classes of individuals is not fundamentally appropriate. More important, it would undermine the whole concept of the fundamental principle of rule of law, where all citizens are treated equally. I note that concept was very well articulated earlier, and I want to reinforce that principle in my comments today.
These are really the fundamental issues of why I will be supporting Bill C-6 in addition to the principles that were enunciated by the minister.
My sense is that this is about what it means to be Canadian, what it ultimately means to create conditions where we are a welcoming society, as noted in the opening comments of the minister, a society that values people who come from around the world. My friend from Calgary Nose Hill articulated the same principles.
I do not agree with my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan that somehow this is about an elevation of values. This is very much a values debate, but the value we are attaching is to the protection of fundamental principles, principles that are found in the charter, the principle of rule of law, the principle of equality. That is why we are here in this place. If we cannot protect those fundamental principles for the people we find most offensive in our society, then why are we here? That for me is the core of the debate and why Bill C-6 must be supported.