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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament September 2016, as Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 67% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to talk about this motion. I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan on this initiative.

One of my proudest accomplishments in this place was having played a role during the previous government in the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom. I would like, therefore, first to address the reason in principle that this office is necessary; second, to describe why it is particularly urgent at this time that Canada and like-minded democracies emphasize the protection of vulnerable religious minorities; and third, to offer some practical reflections on why I believe this is necessary to the Department of Foreign Affairs, now Global Affairs. Fourth, I hope to have time to say a word about the reality of the genocide being inflicted against vulnerable religious minorities in the world today.

First, I reject the assertion of the members opposite that there is no such thing as a hierarchy of rights. Of course there is. We can see it right in the charter. Certain rights are categorized as fundamental rights and others as democratic or procedural rights. There are administrative rights. There are political preferences that our friends on the left in particular like to conflate into rights. However, to suggest that all of these have the same legal or moral weight as, for example, the right to life is illogical.

By the way, I will be splitting my time with the member for Peace River—Westlock.

If we say that the right to obtain a driver's licence has the same moral and legal weight as the right to life, we are clearly misunderstanding the very perception of rights.

Second, this notion that all rights are indivisible and equal and that we therefore cannot prioritize any is manifestly false, as the members opposite have demonstrated. Each of them, in their speeches, emphasized particular sets of rights that they think the Government of Canada ought to prioritize both domestically and internationally, and they are right to do so. However, to suggest that to prioritize the protection of people who are facing genocide because of their faith convictions or their conscience is somehow to diminish other rights is offensive and illogical.

Why ought we, then, to prioritize freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

One of the great former prime ministers of this place, the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, when he introduced the Bill of Rights here, spoke about the sacred character of man. In that speech he was reflecting a long tradition in liberal democracy since the Enlightenment, the view that there is something special in the character of humankind in the possession of inalienable rights, the source of which is not the state or an electoral majority or judiciary or talking. Rather, there is a sacred character in the human person from which flow inalienable rights. The preamble to our own Charter of Rights from 1982 echoes John Diefenbaker's sentiment, which echoes all of the great documents of liberal democracy when it says in the preamble, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:...”

Why does it say that? Was it just some sort of accident that former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau effectively wrote that into the preamble of the Charter of Rights? No, because he understood what Diefenbaker meant by the sacred character of man. He understand what the founders of the American republic, for example, meant when they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights....”

If we reflect on this notion of the sacred character of man, man not being some animal but possessed with a unique and inviolable dignity, it is from this that flows religious conviction or its absence. That is why this is such a priority.

That is why a great man who lived through the 20th century, what he called the “century of tears”, a man who lived through the twin totalitarianisms of Nazism and communism, St. John Paul II, said that the first and primordial right is the right to freedom of conscience and religion, because it is through these rights that we define our deepest commitments of who we are as human persons. That, I submit, is why it is appropriate to understand the central nature of the theme of conscience and religion in the broader spectrum of rights.

Second, why is it particularly urgent at this time? It is because we are facing, as all of the data demonstrates and as colleagues of mine have introduced into debate, perhaps an unprecedented wave of violent persecution against members of religious and confessional minorities around the world.

Every day, without exaggeration, there are massed acts of violence purposely targeting people because of their religious confession or lack of it, whether it is the arrest of Uyghur Muslim dissidents in the Xinjiang region of China or the self-immolation of Buddhist Tibetans on the Tibetan Plateau to protest the illegality of their practising their ancient faith.

Whether it is religious minorities in Sri Lanka who face harassment and persecution because they are Muslim, or Hindu, or Christian; whether it is the Catholic schoolgirls who were beheaded in last year in Mindanao on their way to school for the crime of being Christian; whether it is the bombs that go off in Ahmadiyya Mosques in Pakistan, or Ismailis or Shia who are targeted for violence in Pakistan, in Yemen, and in so many other places; whether it is peaceful Sunni Muslims who are targeted daily for bombing by violent Salafis and Wahhabis because their form of Islam is considered insufficiently extreme, right across the world we see these waves. Indeed even in the liberal democratic west, we see a growing sense that the freedoms of religion and conscience need to be impinged by the state.

I submit that now it is more urgent than ever. Indeed, one of the reasons that instigated the former government's creation of the Office of Religious Freedom was the visit to this place in February 2011 of a dear friend of mine named Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minority Affairs in Pakistan, the first and only non-Muslim minister ever in the Pakistani cabinet. He talked to us about the persecution of Hindus; Sufis; Ahmadiyyas; Shia; Christians, both protestant and catholic; of Parsi Zoroastrians; and all of the minorities without proper state protection in his country. He talked to us about how he was facing a fatwa, because of his defence of those who had been brought up on false charges of blasphemy, including the young peasant Christian girl, Asia Beebi, who continues to swelter in a Pakistani jail under the threat of death.

He was a living witness to us, a sign of contradiction against this wave of hatred based on religion. He went back to Pakistan, and 12 days later was shot 21 times when he left his home that morning. His witness in this place helped to inspire parliamentarians of all parties to support the creation of an Office of Religious Freedom to say that Canada will not stand by passively in the face of such a wave of violence and persecution.

This country has always been a voice for the voiceless, a defence for the persecuted; and before this office was created, I, as a minister in the previous government, sought to have members of our foreign service prioritize these issues. I was always told not to do so publicly because we did not want to embarrass other countries or detract from bilateral relations.

Then when I would go to meet foreign leaders privately, like Prime Minister Gillani in Islamabad, our senior diplomats told me not to raise these issues privately lest we upset bilateral relations.

That is my last point, the functional problem that needed to be addressed, where these issues, for whatever reason, were not being addressed frankly and forthrightly by our foreign service.

Now, I am proud to say, thanks to the good work of Ambassador Bennett and his coworkers at the Office of Religious Freedom at our missions around the world, this is being emphasized, not to the exclusion of other rights and concerns, and Canada is now playing a leadership role. Thanks to our leadership, we are now chairing the international contact group on religious freedom.

Let us continue this relatively modest but still powerfully important initiative for the defenceless.

Business of Supply March 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for his speech and congratulate him on his election.

I found a rather obvious logical incoherence in the member's remarks. He began by asserting that there is no such thing as a hierarchy of rights and that rights are indivisible, and then he went on to prioritize particular sets of rights, particular themes under the heading of rights, including, quite understandably and appropriately, the rights of women and aboriginal rights.

Is it the position of the member that, because of the alleged indivisibility of rights, we cannot emphasize any sets of rights except those the Liberal government chooses to prioritize? Is not the real question here that the government is now seeking to de-prioritize an emphasis on the growing wave of violent attacks on religious minorities around the world? Is that not what this is really about?

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. Bill C-6 leaves untouched the 1976 revocation provisions for those naturalized citizens who obtained their Canadian citizenship through misrepresentation. This would include, for example, the Nazi war criminals who did not disclose their participation in crimes against humanity in applying for and obtaining their Canadian citizenship.

However, I who was born in this country could never have my citizenship revoked under the provisions of the bill, but an immigrant could. The member is absolutely right: if we want to play the game about two-tier citizenship, it applies far more clearly to Bill C-6 than it did to Bill C-24.

My father was a fourth generation Canadian who had an Irish passport. He had dual citizenship. If he had joined the IRA, heaven forbid, and been convicted of that, with a penal sentence of two years, even though he was a native-born Canadian, he could have had his citizenship revoked. However, immigrants to Canada from India or China, for example, who automatically lose the citizenship of their country of origin in being naturalized to Canada could never have their citizenship revoked under the provisions of Bill C-24, because it excluded its application to people who did not have dual nationality pursuant to our obligations under the international Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member on his re-election and note that he is always an extraordinarily thoughtful participant in debates in the chamber.

I was not suggesting that Canada replicate the American policy of Democratic President Barack Obama to assassinate American terrorists abroad. I was simply raising the point to put in perspective how very modest our approach is compared to that of our closest ally, whose president is feting our Prime Minister in the White House tonight.

The member raised an important question that reflects a misunderstanding about the process. It is quite possible that a Canadian citizen would be convicted of serious terrorist offences abroad. Following what is called an “equivalency assessment” by the Department of Justice, if that offence is determined to be an offence in a legitimate court system with adequate evidence and would constitute a serious offence here, citizenship could be revoked without that person ever coming back to Canada. Take for example the fellows who were over there and burned their passports. That would be the kind of example I am citing.

Moreover, if the person is in Canada, the revocation of that individual's citizenship would in no way obviate their arrest and prosecution and conviction and incarceration under Canadian law.

Here I would mention the Toronto 16 ringleader, who is about to get out on parole. I would rather have him under the watch of another country's security system than potentially posing a risk to us here in Canada.

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member on his re-election. He is always a very serious participant in the debates in this place.

First of all, it was the member's own Prime Minister who said that there is no such thing as a Canadian identity and that this is a post-national state. None other than the Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh, the former Liberal minister, upbraided him for that ridiculous assertion.

Second, the member is wrong in asserting that the United States does not have a power of revocation. There are limited grounds for revocation in the United States. They are not based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision but on a constitutional amendment that dealt with the granting of citizenship to slaves following the U.S. Civil War.

Here is the thing. Our Prime Minister is meeting with President Obama tonight. President Obama and the American administration have a rather less delicate way of dealing with American terrorists abroad. It is true that they do not go through the hassle of the paperwork and judicial applications to revoke their citizenships; rather, they send missiles, launched by drones, and eliminate them. I think the kinetic elimination of U.S. citizens who have committed terrorist offences rather makes the point.

As well, virtually every one of our peer liberal democracies has provisions analogous to those in Bill C-24 for the revocation of citizenship from traitors or terrorists.

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we are ambitious for new Canadians, for all Canadians, to know what our identity is and how, through the struggle of generations, through the organic development of these remarkable parliamentary institutions, through the core values of our society, such as the rule of law, the equality of opportunity, and equality before the law, we managed to develop this country that is something of a model for the world. It did not happen by accident, and this country is far more than just some kind of a post-modern reflection of the world. It comes from a particular set of institutions and values that are incarnated in our laws, and we are ambitious for new Canadians to know that history.

Canada is maintaining the highest sustained levels of immigration in its history. In the past decade, Canada welcomed over 2.6 million new permanent residents and swore in over 1.6 million new Canadian citizens. That was during the prime ministership of the now member for Calgary Heritage.

We are maintaining the highest per capita levels of immigration in the developed world. Some countries have aberrant years when they are a little higher, but on a sustained basis, what we are doing with respect to immigration in this country is unprecedented in our history and, indeed, in the modern history of the developed world.

I maintain that we cannot take for granted the success of our model of unity and diversity, that we must be very deliberate, intentional, about ensuring that there is unity in our diversity, that we do not end up replicating the failed experiences of certain other western countries which are struggling with problems of social exclusion, ethnic enclaves, ghettoization, often which become the precedent factors for radicalization, extremism, social discord, and even violence.

We must not, through happy talk, pretend that there are no challenges to maintain social cohesion. This is not and should not be considered an exclusively conservative value or idea. It was, after all, the late Prime Minister Mackenzie King who adopted the Citizenship Act in 1947 with these clear obligations for new Canadian citizens. It was former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who, in 1997, spoke in the chamber about the need for civic literacy as one of the factors to bind us together. What did he mean by civic literacy? He meant a certain common vocabulary about who we are as a people, about our institutions, about from whence we came.

The citizenship program, the citizenship law, is designed, in principle, to help develop that sense of social cohesion, of common Canadian values. I reject categorically the notion of the Prime Minister that there is no such thing as a common Canadian value. There is. This country, this culture, rejects completely the attitude of certain cultures around the world which treat women as property rather than people, for example. That is why, as minister of citizenship and immigration, I was proud to work with new Canadian communities.

I was also proud to work with experts and departmental officials to renew the citizenship program by making legislative and administrative changes.

When I became the citizenship and immigration minister in 2008, I discovered that many new Canadian citizens could not speak even very basic French or English. They could not communicate with their fellow citizens. In a way, they were excluded from the Canadian community.

I discovered that even though they had received 100% on the exam to test their knowledge of Canada, some people knew very little about our country, because unscrupulous immigration consultants were selling the test answers to people who were applying for citizenship.

I also learned that there were networks that were helping people who did not live in Canada and had never lived in Canada to commit fraud.

They remained outside the country in tax havens but hired unscrupulous consultants to arrange for testing and fraudulent documentation for citizenship applications. That is appalling and unacceptable.

We are a generous and open country and we simply ask for those who seek to join the Canadian family that they respect our basic laws, customs, know something of our country, and ideally are able to communicate in one of our languages. That is why we needed to reform the program.

One of the ways in which we did so was a modest expansion of the residency requirement in Canada from three out of four years to four out of six years. That still gave people a great deal of flexibility, one-third of the time spent outside of the country to address the kind of exigencies mentioned by the previous speaker. However, I do not think four years is an unreasonable request for people to develop a durable, meaningful attachment to this country. Four years was still the lowest threshold for residency to obtain citizenship of any major democracy in the world.

Canadian citizenship should be the gold standard; it should not be the bargain basement of citizenship in the world. I do not think it is unreasonable to say 48 months is a period in which to develop a meaningful attachment to our country.

With respect to the provision on declaring the intention to reside in Canada, the regulations and the legislation were absolutely clear that people who became Canadian citizens, having signed that declaration, who had to leave for any reason, would not be penalized, and their citizenship would not be revoked. We simply wanted them to consciously declare that their citizenship was not just about obtaining a Canadian passport as a political insurance package.

Millions of Canadian citizens live abroad, including members of my family and most of our families. Most of them maintain a durable attachment to our country. However, regrettably many hundreds of thousands of them who the moment they obtained their Canadian passports left this country and have never come back. We can use politically correct happy talk to pretend this does not happen, but we all know that it does.

We all know cases where we have had to organize massive evacuations for tens of thousands of people who had not lived in our country for years, who had not paid taxes to it, who had not contributed to it, but who pulled out their Canadian passport as a document of political convenience. I believe that passport represents far more. It represents a loyalty of Canada to the citizen and a reciprocal loyalty of the citizen to our country. It is not a document of convenience. It should never be that.

That is why we simply said to these applicants to please express to us that it was actually their intention to reside in Canada, their new country. We welcome them.

I spoke as minister to citizenship judges who quite literally told me that they had seen people coming to take the oath at the ceremony with their bags packed. They were going directly from the ceremony to the airport to return to their countries of origin. That is not consistent with what we consider the sense of a durable connection to Canada. Therefore, I find it regrettable that the Liberals are eliminating this.

Perhaps what I find most regrettable in this is the perverse priority given by the government to the bill to restore citizenship to convicted terrorists. We have heard a lot of demagoguery from the government about the notion that the previous Bill C-24 in the last Parliament created some ostensible two-tier Canadian citizenship. What complete rubbish. Ever since the 1947 Citizenship Act was adopted by Parliament, there has been a power to revoke citizenship or to renounce it. When people say that citizenship is irrevocable, they simply do not know the law. It is revocable in this and every other country and always has been.

In the original 1947 act, adopted by a Liberal government, among the grounds for the revocation of citizenship was the conviction for treason or acts of war against Canada. That was a provision in our law under multiple Liberal governments from 1947 until amendments to the Citizenship Act in 1976 when that was repealed.

Essentially, what we did in 2014 in Bill C-24 was to re-establish the original Liberal law to say that if individuals violently hated our country we would take a conviction of their violent hatred as evidence of their voluntary, willful, and deliberate renunciation of the obligations implicit in their Canadian citizenship. That is what that provision, to be repealed in Bill C-6, permitted us to do, under judicial review and in compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I mentioned a case that was immediately dismissed, because they do not want to address this issue. It was dismissed out of hand. However, I would invite any member and anyone viewing this to go on line and simply Google “Canadian burning passport in Syria”. They will get two or three images of Canadians who have travelled to join a group. It is not just some group of militants, but a genocidal terrorist organization that has declared hostility and war on Canada and inspired an attack on this very Parliament. It is crucifying children, beheading members of religious minorities, and raping girls as young as eight. They have gone to join that organization, whose membership is illegal in Canada. In more than one of those images we can see these “Canadians” burning and shooting their Canadian passports.

The position of the members opposite appears to be that, if those men who are clearly expressing their violent hatred for Canada were to download a form from CIC's website to renounce their citizenship, fill out the form, sign it, put it in an envelope, and send it to Ottawa, they could therefore renounce their citizenship. That is a terribly cramped and legalistic view of the facts and of citizenship.

I am sorry, but if individuals deliberately go and join an organization at war with Canada—parenthetically, committing genocide—destroy their Canadian passports as a clear indication of their renunciation of those passports and the citizenship they symbolize, we should have no compunction about saying we read their actions for what they are, they constitute renunciation, and we will renounce their citizenship if they are engaged in such acts of terrorism.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, for whom I have great respect, raised a completely ridiculous, demagogic argument. This is not about having a sign of Che Guevara on a website requiring a conviction in a Canadian court of a terrorist offence or treason that would carry at least a two-year penal sentence. No one in the history of our legal system has faced a terrorist conviction of two years for expressing views. This is about violent terrorism.

What the government is telling us in the bill is that someone can take up arms against our country, so violently do they hate it, like that man in Toronto whose citizenship has been revoked. He was the ringleader of a plot that planned to kill thousands of his fellow citizens in an act of extreme political violence, to demonstrate his violent hatred for our country. In so doing, he renounced his citizenship. He did so through his volition.

The power of revocation simply reflects the volition of those who renounce it violently through such acts of treason or terrorism. The power of revocation does not apply to immigrants versus native-born citizens, as the demagogues in this debate have implied. The only reason it is limited to dual citizens in this application is our legal obligation under the international convention on the prevention of statelessness.

Therefore, I appeal to the members opposite and around this place to think seriously about the meaning of our citizenship and to oppose the provisions of the bill.

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I would like to again thank my constituents for the honour of serving them in the House for the seventh time.

I am here to speak to Bill C-6. Unfortunately, one of the government's priorities is to restore the Canadian citizenship of terrorists who are filled with hatred towards Canada. They hate our country and they hate being Canadians.

Like the vast majority of Canadians, I believe that citizenship is essential to the Canadian identity, especially since the passage of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947, which set out three requirements for citizenship applicants.

First, applicants must live in Canada for a certain period of time, so they can become familiar with their obligations, our customs, our laws, and our Canadian values.

Second, for over six decades, the Canadian Citizenship Act has required applicants to be able to communicate in one of Canada's two official languages. There is a reason why citizenship is an essential sign of our community and national identity. To be a full member of a community, a person must at least have the ability to communicate with other members of that community. It is no coincidence that “communicate” and “community” come from the same root word.

In a country as diverse as ours, it is essential that we have certain commonalities in order to be unified in our diversity. One of these essential commonalities is the ability to communicate in one of the two official languages. Obviously, there are a number of proud Canadians who do not currently speak one of the two official languages. However, since the Canadian Citizenship Act was passed in 1947, we have been encouraging them to work toward successfully meeting that goal and thus becoming full members of our community.

Third, the 1947 act requires a basic knowledge of Canada, our laws, customs, values, democratic institutions, and history because this great democracy did not happen by chance. Canada is far more than just a reflection of the world.

I recall the Prime Minister saying in an interview recently that Canada is “the first postnational state” and that it has “no core identity. I, and I believe the vast majority of Canadians, flatly reject that fatuous notion. Canada is a proud nation with a particular history rooted in—

Citizenship Act March 9th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment, as I congratulate the member for Surrey—Newton on his recent election back to this place.

The member repeatedly troped that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, which, of course, is true, just as it is true that a traitor who hates Canada is a traitor who hates Canada.

The member opposite can look up on YouTube a video of a Canadian citizen who went abroad to the join the genocidal terrorist organization Daesh, ISIL, in Syria. He hates Canada violently, so much so that he videotaped himself soaking his Canadian passport in gasoline, setting it on fire, and then for greater certainty, shooting it with his Kalashnikov, all the while belonging to an organization that has declared war on Canada and which seeks to kill Canadians “wherever they can be found”, according to that organization's leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Is it the position of the member opposite that the Government of Canada should reissue this gentleman a new passport pursuant to the adoption of the bill before us?

Taxation February 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have never seen a parliamentary secretary attack his own department for saying that the budget was balanced.

Not only are the Liberals blowing Canada's hard-won surplus, now they plan to help their Ontario Liberal friends impose a new job-killing payroll tax and a new tax on everything, a tax on carbon. All of that means fewer jobs and lower income.

Why in the world would the Liberals be killing jobs through higher taxes, particularly at a time of economic fragility?

Finance February 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the problem.

Canadians made a choice based on an election promise that the government never planned to keep. The $10-billion deficit it promised has tripled in three months.

Did the Liberals mislead Canadians during the election campaign? Why did the Liberals hide their real plans for massive spending increases and huge deficits?