Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to have this opportunity to highlight our government's commitments to protecting the integrity of Canada's citizenship system and add my voice in support of Bill C-24. This important piece of legislation would deliver on our Conservative government's promise in the recent Speech from the Throne to strengthen and protect the value of Canadian citizenship.
On this side of the House we recognize the important role immigration has played in building our country. Since 2006, our Conservative government has welcomed the highest sustained level of immigration in Canada's history. Each year we have welcomed an average of almost 260,000 newcomers who contribute to the economic, political, and social fabric of our country as permanent residents. Moreover, Canada remains a world leader in naturalization, with more than 85% of eligible permanent residents going on to become Canadian citizens.
We are proud of this enviable high rate of uptake in citizenship. Our important bill, the strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act, would not only reduce citizenship backlogs and improve processing times for applicants, but it would strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship.
Canadians have no tolerance for the cheats and fraudsters who do not play by the rules and who de-value the integrity of Canadian citizenship. Most of us have heard anecdotal stories or read newspaper reports about police investigations into individuals who lie to become citizens of our great country. They concoct schemes to make it appear as if they are living in Canada when in fact they are not and nor do they have any intentions of planting roots here. Rather, they consider Canadian citizenship as nothing more than a passport of convenience, a revolving door or gateway to generous taxpayer-funded economic and social benefits available at their disposal as needed.
Canadians rightfully expect our Conservative government to put a stop to this selfish niche to protect Canadian citizenship, which truly is a privilege. It is shameful that the opposition does not understand why it is so important to protect the value of Canadian citizenship and why it should support this important legislation. Our Conservative government has listened to Canadians across the country and has committed to put an end to this abuse most recently in our last throne speech. Our government not only listened but acted to deliver on this key promise by introducing Bill C-24. We are committed to protecting the value of our citizenship and taking action against those who seek to cheapen it.
Our proposed reforms would strengthen the value of citizenship by helping to prevent citizenship fraud and by increasing the penalties for those who gain citizenship fraudulently. First, our reforms would bring the penalty of committing citizenship fraud in line with that of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by increasing the penalty to a maximum fine of $100,000 or up to five years in prison, or both. The proposed legislation would also add a provision to refuse an applicant of material facts and bar applicants who misrepresent such facts from reapplying for citizenship for five years. That is a serious way to deter citizenship fraud.
In contrast, existing penalties in the Citizenship Act have not increased since 1977 and are ineffective in deterring fraudsters. Our proposed increase in fines and significant jail terms would deter both applicants and crooked citizenship consultants from trying to undermine Canadian citizenship.
With respect to crooked consultants, our government successfully passed the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act in an effort to protect those in need of assistance from an immigration representative. That bill created a regulatory body to oversee immigration consultants and ensure compliance with the law. Bill C-24 would give the government similar legal authority to designate a body to regulate citizenship consultants. Proposed amendments would increase penalties for citizenship fraud to a maximum fine of $100,000 or up to two years in prison, or both.
I am proud to stand before the House today to address these important reforms that our government has introduced as a means to crack down on fraud and to preserve the integrity of Canadian citizenship and citizenship programs.
This leads to my last point, which focuses on our government's promised amendment to streamline the process to revoke citizenship from those who have lied or cheated on their citizenship application. As members are likely aware, our Conservative government has taken action to revoke citizenship from those who obtained it through fraudulent means. More than 11,000 cases of fraud have been discovered and we are investigating each and every one. However, the current revocation process is extremely lengthy and cumbersome. Shamefully, it has taken Canada years, often decades, to revoke the citizenship of fraudsters, including despicable war criminals who never should have obtained it in the first place.
One this side of the House, we are serious about cracking down on those who undermine the value of our citizenship. It is important, to achieve such an important objective, that we put our government in a position to be able to revoke the citizenship in a timely manner.
Under proposed changes to the new revocation process, it should facilitate the government's ability to revoke citizenships in a timely manner for those convicted of residency fraud. In these cases, the minister of citizenship and immigration, or his or her delegate, would oversee the revocation, but the decision would still be subject to review by court, as is the case for all immigration decisions. This streamlined revocation process would result in faster decision-making and faster removal, while still ensuring fairness.
Individuals who have had their citizenship revoked would also be barred from reapplying for 10 years, up from the current bar of 5 years. Our government believes that this is entirely reasonable.
Canadian citizenship is a unique privilege and is highly coveted around the globe. However, citizenship is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. It means that we share the commitment to uphold our common values that our brave men and women in uniform have fought to preserve and champion. These are values that include freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to have Canadian citizenship share in all of the great advantages it confers. However, it is important to remember that citizenship is far more than just the right to carry a passport or to vote. It defines us as a people. As such, it is essential that we work to maintain the value of Canadian citizenship.
I have heard from many of my constituents on this issue. All of them agree that we must crack down on criminals and fraudsters who cheapen the value of one of our most precious commodities. It is shameful, however, that opposition members do not listen to Canadians and do not support this important bill.
Indeed, the measures in Bill C-24 represent the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation. They are necessary to strengthen the value and protect the integrity of Canadian citizenship for today and for the future. With this bill, our Conservative government is sending a crystal clear message: we will not turn a blind eye from those who commit fraud or help others to obtain Canadian citizenship by fraud.
If opposition members prefer to continue with their shameful tactics to oppose and delay passage of the bill, they will have to answer to the Canadian public, a public who is, thankfully, recognizing the necessary and common sense changes we are making.