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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Border Services Agency Act December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-26. This legislation will have endless repercussions on the lives of everyone in this country. It will have an enormous impact on everyone crossing our borders, including each member of this House, like nearly everyone in this country, as well as everyone who will come here in the future.

This is an ambitious bill, with an extremely broad scope. It is the result of the events of September 11, 2001, and I want to mention that the outline of this bill was drafted in the days after the unfortunate events unfolded in New York City over three years ago already. We must not forget that the world is a very different place now.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-26. It is however concerned by two things: in particular, the transfer of important duties and functions from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to the Canada Border Services Agency, a transfer that could eventually jeopardize the protection of the rights of immigrants and refugees, the right to collect, retain, use and release information with regard to the enforcement of border security legislation and agreements between the Canada Border Services Agency and other national and international entities.

With regard to repressive measures affecting immigrants and refugees, we cannot disagree with an entity that already exists in fact, whether by order in council or whether it has been in existence for ages already. We cannot question a reality. The reality is that the transfer of responsibilities from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the Canada Border Services Agency, as Bill C-26 seeks to do, has already occurred at our borders.

Nevertheless, we can and must remain critical of the implementation of measures that will transform this system and legally establish it. In the name of protecting individual freedoms, we must ensure that the potential changes in this system will not run counter to the very foundations of our society. After the events of September 11, 2001, discussions essentially concern the fine line between individual freedoms and the protection of national security.

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to national security outweighing individual freedoms. Our sovereign neighbours to the south can evaluate the situation any way they want and make their decisions accordingly. Canada should do that as well—remain sovereign—and it should not feel obliged to make its decisions on the basis of those of its neighbour. Thus, the measures taken in anger and bewilderment, immediately after the events of September 11, must not put Canada's inherent values on the back burner.

Although the Bloc Québécois has disagreed on many points with the decisions made by the federal government in the past, it also recognizes many shared values in the common history of Quebec and Canada. Values such as democracy, peace, privacy, human rights and many others are fundamental to both our cultures.

Such tragic events should not cast their shadow over the values that have built our common history for more than 400 years. We must be very cautious when the time comes to make major changes in the way we see and interpret the world. With respect to the circulation of passengers at the new smart border, I want to point out that, if Bill C-26 were adopted in its present form, some of these fundamental changes would contradict the vision we have had up till now, both in Quebec and in Canadian society.

Until now, we have shared the point of view, in Quebec and in Canada, that it was up to Citizenship and Immigration to manage the flow of new arrivals, whether they are immigrants, refugees or visitors. Under Bill C-26, all of these people will automatically have to deal with officers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

Some try to reassure us by suggesting that these will be the same employees, the same officers, who previously worked for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. However, we must not be fooled. Two things can become one: these officers, with the change of bosses, will eventually change their mandate and their corporate mentality. They cannot change hats without changing their mission.

Furthermore, if these officers are currently the same and we agree that the uniform does not make the officer, then we must obtain assurances that when they change mandates their citizenship training—and I emphasize the word “citizenship”—will stay the same.

What I mean is that it is essential that we get assurances that these officers will not become agents of repression, but that they will uphold the precepts that unequivocally make Canada a welcoming land of liberty and an open country where rights and freedoms take precedence over all the rest.

We have a hard time imagining a public safety guardian—whose mission is to protect national security—becoming a guardian of human and individual rights. We want to stress the fact that these two mandates contradict each other and it is only natural that a person who takes care of one is not best suited to take care of the other.

On the Border Services Agency Web site it says it is “the first line of defence in managing the movement of people and goods into and out of Canada”.

It talks about defence as though an enemy army were flooding the Canadian battle fields. If this is not a way of seeing each passenger, individual, visitor or new arrival as a threat to national security, then I do not know what is.

The presumption of innocence is the foundation of the society we share. A fundamental breach of this tenet is announced here. Posting officers who are concerned with defence is the antithesis of an open border. We believe that the balance between national security and individual liberty is threatened.

We have no right to see every individual crossing our border as an enemy of the nation. While realizing that the world is not as safe a place in 2004 as it was in 1984, the Bloc Québécois nevertheless refuses to agree that it should be less free.

It is dangerous for officers of the new agency to have the authority to decide whether individuals crossing our borders have a right to enter and also to be entitled to stop, detain and deport people, all at the same time. I am talking about a single officer having the power to make all these decisions. That is not worthy of a free and democratic society. It sounds like a repressive society, which Canada is not.

Judging who is entitled to enter and who is not is a judicial responsibility. To date, all individuals dealing with immigration have had the right to defend themselves, the right to counsel and the right to argue their case.

The system may not be perfect, but the right to judicial review exists in immigration matters. This will no longer be the case if Bill C-26 is passed as it stands, because newcomers will simply be prevented from entering.

For Canada to act contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to deny individuals entering the country their basic rights is contrary to human rights. The Bloc Québécois does not agree with letting this government take that direction.

We reject the idea of initially considering anyone coming into Canada as a potential threat to national security. We want a fair process to be established, not exclusionary thinking. Our concern is that the agency may look for officers with this kind of thinking, whose main qualifications will be investigation, deportation and harassment. We find it most unfortunate that there is no review mechanism for people crossing the borders, no process for appealing the decisions made by these officers, that they are judge and executioner, and that, in other words, they have the power of life and death over people, without anyone overseeing their work.

When certain individuals cross our borders as a last resort and ask for asylum, if they are sent back to their country of origin, they often risk being tortured. Already, under our current system, there are deportation cases that end in real human dramas. And I am not talking about the consequences of the safe third country agreement, which will soon come into effect, and for which these same officers will be responsible. This agreement will have a devastating impact on the lives of many refugee claimants. But that is another issue.

I am not talking either about exceptional situations. Canada is not a country where one life may be less important than another. It is a free and democratic country where humanitarian values are paramount. It is important that Canada define its rules accordingly and not implement legislation that could possibly lead to abuse or to violations of its own intrinsic values.

I will go quickly over clause 118. It provides that the governor in council may take away other powers from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and give them to the Border Services Agency. Of course, it seems risky to leave to a single individual the authority to give powers to the agency, without debating the issue in the House.

We are told by IRB officials that the nationals of 10 foreign countries are specifically targeted. This of course goes against all the principles of our shared society, and we ask that a clause be included in Bill C-26 to prevent racial profiling. The September 11 events have already generated enough abuse and racial tensions. It is critical to put an end to this abuse, instead of encouraging it.

The Bloc Québécois is convinced that the last thing that Canada wants is to be identified as a racist, discriminatory nation, and this is why we want a special reference to this issue included in Bill C-26.

My second point has to do with the measures taken to control the exchange of information. In addition to all the measures that I just mentioned—and I have to hurry if I want to mention them all—there is a very important aspect of this bill that could lead to very dangerous potential abuse.

Once again, American pressure appears to be dictating the government's choices, an indication of outside interference. These are not Canadian values. I would again point out that the fundamental freedoms protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the foundation of all the laws of this Parliament, which apply to all persons on Canadian territory.

If the government wants to expel certain individuals from its territory, so as not to have to honour its commitments, not only international commitments but moral ones as well, we condemn this. We would not want to attribute such an intention to the government. We therefore oppose all measures in Bill C-26 relating to the exchange of information.

Clause 119 permits the collection, retention, use, disclosureand disposal of information for the purposesof this act or for the purposes of application of the border legislation and the implementation of an agreementor arrangement entered into between the Border Service Agency and a foreign state, international organization or any other individual or organization. We do not wish to see that power extended any further.

Not only is there nothing to restrict the nature of these agreements, but there is also the possibility of information being exchanged between the Canadian Border Service Agency and any other individual or organization. This broad power to communicate information is a source of concern and of potential abuse. There is nothing stopping the minister from entering into a whole range of agreements with numerous entities. The problem lies in the fact that there is no definition of the purpose of the information sharing, nor any restriction on the type of agreements permitting such exchanges or with whom they may be signed.

It is dangerous to leave all this power in the hands of a single minister, a single individual. It seems risky for such a power not to be counterbalanced by measures to protect refugees and immigrants on whom information might be disclosed.

When a refugee claimant seeks asylum because of persecution in his or her country of origin, if there is an agreement permitting notification of that country, it is not hard to imagine the danger this places the individual in. International agreements on refugees require us to welcome these individuals, give them a place to stay, and respect their rights, but they also require us to protect them.

Once again, fears about national security must not open the door to the abuse of individual liberties. If some members of the House plan to rise, as they have already done, and reassure us, I say that defining our course of action is not the task of any one member, but rather is dependent on the legislation and conventions by which we are bound.

There is a current trend toward even greater disclosure of personal information. We must draw the line somewhere. We are saying here that the line between privacy and the protection of national security has been crossed, especially since it in no way serves the interests of Canadians to release such information to a third party.

We will not make any suppositions about the reasons why this measure was included. We will only recommend that protection of privacy and individual liberties be reinforced.

Once again, the texts of international conventions are the definitive reference on what we can and cannot do. Paranoia has no place in the decision to release confidential information, and the Arar case is a perfect example of the type of society into which such measures can lead us. This case is currently before a parliamentary commission; an indication of how contentious it can be to formulate legislation governing such behaviour.

When individual rights are curtailed, when individuals feel less free, is a country more progressive? The Bloc Québécois strongly believes the opposite is true, and Canadians clearly agree. So, before we make decisions that could lead to major changes in how Canadians live, to a fundamental shift in the values held by Canadians and Quebeckers, we must ask ourselves the following questions: are we prepared to sacrifice fundamental rights and at what price? In whose name? Are we safer or less free? Would our security be greater or our freedom more restricted? Have we truly reached the time when we must make such choices as if we were at war?

I would like to point out that we are discussing a bill. Before it ends up casting doubt on all the values underlying our shared history, before we decide whether we are creating a climate of war for ourselves, we must be prepared to accept the consequences, because they are momentous.

It is agreed that we have certain commitments to our American neighbours. But are we prepared to become unconditional allies, as their president put it during his most recent visit? Do we want to keep at least a bit of our sovereignty, or are were prepared to sacrifice everything for some vague reasons.

Bill C-26, in its current form, contains certain aberrations of a scope much broader than would appear. We must make just and enlightened decisions before there is no turning back.

For all these reasons—namely the abstract sharing of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's responsibilities with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which in the long run could endanger respect for and the safety of immigrants and refugees and everything related to rights and the collection and sharing of information about the people who cross our borders—the Bloc Québécois has reservations about the current application of Bill C-26.

We agree, nevertheless, with the principle of this bill and we recognize that the world is not the same in 2004 as it was in 1984. Still, we would hope that, even if the world is less safe, it is no less free. This is the unfortunate prospect that Bill C-26 opens.

Let us remain sovereign in the choices that we make in this House. Let us prepare bills consistent with our shared values and with the treaties and conventions that we have signed in the past. Most of all, let us not abandon one of our most important values: the presumption of innocence. Let us not put all our entrants in the same boat, and let us avoid any presumptions of guilt in their regard. That would be contrary to 400 years of free and democratic life.

Immigration December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Council for Refugees comprises organizations concerned with defending the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Recently, this organization held a conference in Victoria at which participants wondered if Canada was still an asylum-granting country. I had the opportunity to talk with these people, who live each day in exile and who want only a safe place to live. I saw their disappointment about Canada's lack of consideration for them.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the way in which it is currently enforced are inhumane. Since 2002, refugee claims are assessed by only one board member, whose decision cannot be appealed. Although the 2002 legislation set out an appeal process, it has never been implemented.

I remind the government, since it seems to have forgotten, that asylum-seekers have a right to dignity, justice and security. For this reason, the Bloc Québécois demands the immediate implementation of the appeals division for refugee claimants.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas for giving us the opportunity to talk about Bill C-272, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

It is a pleasure to consider again a motion that has already been discussed in the House. We are pleased to see that our recommendations were heard and have led to measures to remedy the lack of clarity the bill originally suffered from.

Our greatest reservation was that the concept of family was vague. This concept has been defined, and this has greatly improved the bill under consideration today.

I remind the House that, for refugees who have found protection in Canada, one of their most pressing concerns is their families, who currently must wait an extremely long time abroad. There are long delays and so many people must live separated, against their will, from their closest family members.

It is understandable that they are so eager to be re-united. Being refugees adds to their worries. In many cases, family members were left in precarious and even dangerous situations. As long as their loved ones are in danger, refugees cannot enjoy the security they have found in Canada.

At a time when we applaud the speed at which information travels around the world, we are frequently presented with the same atrocities that these individuals have fled. Members can understand how distress can grow and push many of these people into despair. The government encourages the reunification of families but we must consider the day-to-day reality of those who are waiting, in order to understand,.

I would underscore the depth of love demonstrated by those waiting for their file to receive approval.

All too often, the experiences of refugees trying to bring their families here are at painful odds with the good intentions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and of the civil servants applying it. The tales of these refugees reflect a cruelty that is a disgrace to Canada and that, we believe, would be considered unacceptable by the vast majority of Canadians if they were to learn what refugees face.

In half of all asylum claims, it takes over 13 months to process the claims of family members. One out of five cases takes over 26 months. At the slowest visa office, 50% of all cases take more than 27 months. Some refugees wait much longer than that.

When asked about the consequences of slow processing, the Canadian Council for Refugees indicated the following:

The long delays prolong risks to family members overseas, who may be in conflict zones orrefugee camps. Families are often subject to the same risk of persecution that caused theirspouse or parent to be granted Canada’s protection. Living conditions may endanger their healthand the children’s education, leading to increased social costs when they finally come to Canada. Psychologically, the toll of such long separations is heavy. Many refugees say that their familymembers suspect them of not wanting them to come, because they cannot believe that a countrylike Canada could be so inefficient in its processing. Families that finally reunite after years ofseparation face the stress of trying to live together after having grown apart. Some families’ tiesdon’t survive.

Since this bill will, among other things, contribute to reconstituting a group of persons that will bring stability to life and help people move on to the happier times of integration and making a contribution to society, the House must support this motion.

Protection of the family is an obligation upon society and the state, according to the international human rights texts ratified by Canada. The Universal Declaration of Human RIghts stipulates that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”.

Similar terms are repeated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 10(1) states that “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains very explicit provisions regarding the reunification of refugee families. Article 9, paragraph 1 reads:

States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.—

Article 10, paragraph 1 reads:

In accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State Party for the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with by States Parties in a positive, humane and expeditious manner.—

That demonstrates how important this motion is in relation to the role Canada claims to play on the international scene, with respect to the protection of refugees and the rights of children. Thus, the choice facing the House is unequivocal and leads us to some important reflection on the family.

As for the priority given to refugee claimants, Canada's immigration plan is divided in a 60:40 ratio, which means that immigrants are selected in the following way: 60% of our immigration comes from the economic category, that is, business people, self-employed and skilled workers, and the other 40% involves family reunification, refugees and others.

Of the 40%, 30% involves family reunification, 9% is refugees and 1% is others.

Almost every week the headlines tell us of the deportation of refugee claimants who have been refused. Clearly, the many conflicts and civil wars being waged in a growing number of countries make it necessary for democratic countries to listen more attentively to refugee claimants. Inappropriate funding mean that Canada refuses thousands of refugee claimants every year, although their lives are in danger in their home countries. With bigger budgets, Canada could better honour its obligations as a signatory to the Geneva convention on refugee protection.

Insufficient resources is the major problem with the whole immigration issue. Insufficient resources for immigration is the reason we support this bill in order to have the opportunity to discuss it in committee. In fact, if it is passed at second reading, there will have to be a debate in committee and we would then be in a position to prove that the Department of CItizenship and Immigration is incapable of meeting its responsibilities because of insufficient funds.

By recognizing the humanitarian aspect of Bill C-272, and by accepting its referral to a committee, the Bloc Quebecois would help prove that common sense and responsibility dictate that we ask for sufficient funding to provide proper settlement services for those who are admitted, while not ignoring our humanitarian duty to asylum seekers. They must be given priority access to resources.

No one wants families of refugees to remain separated. International standards in human rights advocate speedy reunification. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act aims at reuniting families. We need to bring meaning back to the expression “human compassion”, far too often rendered meaningless by acts that are not consistent with the family reunification programs. The social costs of prolonged periods of separation must not be forgotten in our decision. Let us work together on reducing the wait times starting today.

The government has tried to speed up family reunification by making a few minor amendments to its policies. Unfortunately, these efforts have not resolved the problem. The time has come for change.

I call on this House to support Bill C-272.

Citizenship and Immigration December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, is the government insensitive to the human drama of those jailed through an unjust process and does it realize the urgency of changing the security certificates to put an end to this intolerable situation in a society that calls itself democratic?

Citizenship and Immigration December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the security certificate process causes suffering for families who see one of their members imprisoned and threatened with expulsion from Canada, as part of an unfair process which upsets the balance between security and individual rights. The current procedure includes serious infringements of basic human rights, in particular, hearings at which the accused is not present and the lack of appeal.

Does the government intend to completely review the legislation governing security certificates and stop sanctioning a legal system completely devoid of the fundamental right to the presumption of innocence?

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act December 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker , since Bill C-331 concerns Ukraine, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all those Ukrainians currently fighting for the sake of their democracy to continue this difficult struggle.

The freedom of peoples is not easily achieved. This is why I want to reiterate the support of the Bloc Québécois for all those who are currently defending their right to democracy. In 2004, every nation should be able to choose its own government. The will of the people must not be thwarted by pressure or fraud.

I would also like to congratulate the Parliament of Canada for the second time in as many weeks, since, once again, it is about to correct an error it made in the past. Last week, it concerned an error in judgment regarding legislation made 25 years ago. Today, even if the events in question go back more than 90 years, it corrects behaviour unworthy of a democratic society.

At the beginning of the 20th century, history witnessed great victories, but also some darker days. Today, we must reflect on one of those days. I do not by any means want to forget the brave soldiers who went to fight in Europe. They stood tall on one of the toughest fronts in history. They gave their lives for loftier ideals than the world itself, and we should never forget that.

Bill C-331 is about the plight of over 5,000 poor people who fled abject living conditions and immigrated to Canada 10 to 20 years before the 1914-18 events. These people were later interned in labour camps during World War I. Through an order in council, the status of those who did not have their certificate of naturalization was changed. They became “foreign enemies”, because their territory of origin was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They were no longer just Ukrainians, people in exile, as they had been when they arrived here. They had become Austrians, and Austria was an enemy of Canada.

We understand that, throughout this painful period, Canada respected its international commitments on the treatment of prisoners of war. We do not share the view that these people were indeed prisoners of war. We really wonder why these camps were maintained until 1920, considering that the war had ended a couple of years earlier. However, taking cover behind treaties and conventions does not excuse the fact that the treatment given to these people was unworthy of a democratic country. The events for which Canada is blamed should be recognized. To forget them is to risk repeating them again.

I remind hon. members that these prisoners were subject to hard labour, rations and curfews. They were not only prisoners of war; they were forced to work. They were interned in labour camps and deprived of their freedom. The Canadian government really took advantage of them. It used these helpless people to build or repair houses, to clear land, build drains, construct roads between properties and public roads, etc. These people were forced to work hard and they were shamelessly used by Canada. It is high time the government acknowledges this blemish on Canada's record.

I want to remind the House that we did not imprison them because they were fighting against our troops, overseas or at home, because there has never been a single battle between these enemies and the state that took them prisoner.

We took them prisoner because they were from the Austro-Hungarian empire and because they had Austrian passports. Can we blame people, who never had the chance to choose their own destiny, for the colour of their passports? We think not, and that is why we feel that Bill C-331 is logical.

Furthermore, we accepted these people who were fleeing hardship and had come here in search of a better life, as immigrants. Ukrainians were an integral part of the immigration plan back then. We opened our doors to them and then we put them in prison. We told them, “come” and then we told them to “work”, at the end of a gun. To us, this is a perfect example of how absurd Canada's immigration policies are.

The Bloc Québécois condemns and regrets the way Canada treated Ukrainians but we are proud to take part in a debate on a bill that seeks to remedy the inexplicable behaviour of a country that, even then, considered itself open and modern.

We join all those who wish to reinstate their personal names, the name of the Canadian government, and who want to say sorry for this unworthy decision adopted by order in council. We ask all the members of this House to support in principle Bill C-331.

It is never too late to learn from our mistakes, to confess and set them right. Parliament has an opportunity today it should not miss. We implore it to do more than the small tourism plaques affixed here and there among the national parks. This is the best thing it has done to date to remedy this enormous error in judgment with regard to an innocent people. It is an insult.

We put our guests in labour camps and we subjected them to hard labour. That is called slavery.

Slavery in the 20th century, in any country, is too serious an issue to pretend it never existed. I defy any member of this House to dare to deny that. Turning a deaf ear for 90 years is already a crime in itself. It is time to tell the whole world that Canada does not agree with decisions it made in the past.

Ukrainians were not an enemy nation: they were invited. We welcomed them as they were, truly welcomed them. We gave them land and the right to work and settle, and then we took those things away. The labour camps were something you might find in a fascist state, not a free and democratic nation. The disgraceful and abominable treatment of a nation of invited immigrants, might, in other times and places, attract much more serious punishment and much greater consequences. We think the Canadian government has a golden opportunity to come out of this with its head held high. We ask the government to support this bill and recognize what it means.

This Parliament could, at least, take responsibility for past actions. The federal parliament must recognize the wrongs that have been done to the Ukrainian community.

Members of this House, fellow MPs, let us not repeat the errors of the past again. When we invite people in with open arms, let us not treat them as second-class citizens. Let us not offer them the privilege of becoming citizens but recognize their full right to citizenship. Let us agree to recognize our affront to the Ukrainians. Let us be the hosts we claim to be. Let us not invite people in with one hand and wave them away with the other. Let us show that we are worthy of a society with 400 years of shared history. Let us offer our wealth to everyone who, because of the twists of fate, have not had the same opportunities we have had here in North America.

Canada must live up to the ideals it proclaims. It must be able to recognize when it has made errors that contradict these ideals. In order for history not to repeat itself, we must seize every opportunity. This is a great one. It is a start. Recognizing the wrongs of the past is a way to make it possible to head into the future in justice and serenity.

Citizenship and Immigration December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, every week I meet newcomers in difficulty, people who need our help, who are expecting help from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Yet, she is delaying meeting them.

Does the minister not consider that she has failed in her duties by putting her own interests, her campaign staff and the financing of her election coffers before the needs of these people? This is a very poor choice of priorities, which shows that she is out of place as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Citizenship and Immigration December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was mixed up in questionable activities and is now the subject of serious allegations regarding a $5,000 contribution to her election fund, possibly for services rendered.

Given that her department's client base is not always familiar with how things are done in Canada, does the minister not consider that she is sending the wrong message to newcomers about how to go about doing things here and that her presence at the helm of the department has become a very heavy liability to the government?

Citizenship and Immigration November 30th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, instead, the immigration minister should restore the refugee appeal division to avoid absurd decisions such as those made by two members of the IRB regarding the Nafaa brothers, who were born in the same refugee camp in southern Lebanon.

How can the minister explain that a single reality results in two diametrically opposed decisions, namely refugee status determination in one case, and deportation in the other?

Citizenship Act November 30th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words today about the motion presented by our colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. The Citizenship Act as we know it is incomplete. The purpose of Bill S-2 is to correct it.

The reason we are in this House today discussing this issue is that in the first legislation, in 1947, a gaping hole was created when dual citizenship was not allowed. In 1977, when Parliament wanted to improve the situation by allowing dual citizenship, it fixed only half the problem.

Now it is time for Parliament to give an equal chance to everyone who is part of the Canadian family, or at least those who were denied an equal chance by this unclear legislation.

The purpose of Bill S-2 is to correct the situation whereby a person lost their Canadian citizenship during their childhood because one of their parents acquired another citizenship or renounced their Canadian citizenship. In other words, the child in question was not given the choice as an adult of keeping their Canadian citizenship or adopting another one.

Hon. members should know that, for children born after 1977, this situation is no longer a problem because Canada has been accepting dual citizenship since then, if the laws in the other countries permit it. However, the legislative gap still exists for people born between 1947 and 1977. Bill S-2 gives everyone the same rights and since it is an egalitarian measure, the Bloc Québécois cannot oppose it.

Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child reads as follows:

  1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality—

Thus, anyone who shares the values of the United Nations has to be in favour of this bill.

Much of the testimony heard when this bill was first introduced was similar to the testimony heard by a recent parliamentary committee on this issue referred to as the “lost Canadians” issue.

Everyone agrees. A major oversight in the 1977 legislation caused an ordeal for many people, and it is high time for Parliament to recognize its mistakes and correct them.

Let us hope that all the members of this House will take this opportunity to correct an injustice to those who were born here, in Canada. They are fully entitled to this right to citizenship, and I hope that the members opposite will recognize that they have no choice but to support it. That is what the members on this side of the House will be doing. We are ready to put right errors from the past.

Some may say that we can each think what we want, but I would ask the House to consider all these people who are continuing to be the victims of this retrograde legislation, which victimizes two categories of people in particular: women, and children.

In 2004, we still have legislation that victimizes women. Sections 17 and 18 in part III of the 1947 act have the effect of subjugating the rights of women and children to that of their husband or father. I remind the hon. members that this provision is still in effect for those born before 1977. Consequently, there are Canadians who automatically lost their Canadian citizenship when their husband or parent became a citizen of another country or changed nationality.

I want to make it clear that, even today, without Bill S-2, there are stateless persons in Canada. Some children stopped being Canadians without automatically gaining citizenship in another country. They had to reach the age of majority to apply for new citizenship, or to go through the immigration process, here in Canada, to become Canadians again. That is to say, they lost all their rights as citizens, in other words, Canada repudiated them.

In fact, the government was already aware of these anomalies. This is why it amended this legislation in 1977. However, the amendment was not retroactive, which meant that what was good for some was no longer good for others, with the result that there are still many lost Canadians.

Fortunately, some members took note of these mistakes and decided to correct them. This is why the Bloc Québécois is asking all members of the House to support this motion, and it is our hope that each and everyone will work to correct past mistakes.

Again, it is not by choice that these people lost their citizenship, it is because of the implementation of the act. We are asking the House to allow everyone to make a conscious choice and have the opportunity to do as he or she wants, make his or her own decisions, so that any Canadian citizen who stops being a Canadian does so by choice, and not because of someone else's decisions or actions.

I also know that there is no limit to virtue and that, when it comes to correcting past mistakes, we can surpass ourselves. Therefore, I invite first the leader of this government to support this amendment to the act and to ask his party to also support the motion.

Correcting past mistakes, showing compassion for all those whose rights were denied for so long, implementing a solution for all these lost Canadians, several of whom are now deceased, and paying this posthumous honour to them undoubtedly require a tremendous effort. However, as I said, there is no limit to virtue and I am convinced that everyone here in this House is capable of such an effort, beginning with the Prime Minister.

This legal error affects only those born in Canada, however. If there are two cases, and one person is born outside the country and the other inside, only the Canadian-born person experiences the lost Canadian problem. This is not an immigration problem, but a citizenship problem. When Canadians give birth outside this country, the baby is Canadian. But if the parents of babies born here change nationality, the children have to follow the change of their parents, without any power to decide themselves or to revoke the decision if—I remind hon. members of this point—they were born between 1947 and 1977, and not later. Why two different laws? It is absurd that these children have to go through all the red tape of immigration, when they are not immigrants, as the legislation of 1977 recognizes. They are Canadians. What have they done wrong? Been born too soon. Why is it that what applies to an individual born after a very recent point in time,, does not apply to one born prior to that point?

It is not that you have not understood this issue, Mr. Speaker, but rather that it makes no sense. That is all. This is why we suggest that the House support motion S-2 without reservation, in order to restore common sense to Canada's legislation, as was done partially in 1977.

It is a matter of citizenship, common sense as it applies to citizenship. So, as a sovereignist, I can defend it. It is not a matter of how or what should be implied, it is just a matter of having citizenship legislation that is consistent for everyone. Today, we must admit, it is not. This simple motion, S-2, would put things back into perspective and correct what this Parliament has not yet been able to remedy.

Citizenship, be it Canadian, American or French, is too important to be subjected to inconsistent legislation. That is why I strongly encourage this House to unconditionally support Motion S-2, which we have before us.