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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Conservative MP for Thornhill (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Citizenship Act February 24th, 2020

Madam Speaker, it is very difficult to approach the business of the House today after weekend events that demonstrated so disastrously, yet again, the Liberal government's inability to provide peace, order and good government.

Teck Resources Limited withdrew from a $20-billion project that had passed a succession of environmental reviews; had the enthusiastic support of indigenous communities that would have shared significant economic benefits and 7,000 jobs in construction and 2,500 jobs in operation; and had the support of provincial governments, business and industry, given the $70 billion in economic stimulus it would have provided to the national economy. This took place because the Liberal government could not resolve its contradictory environmental and resource-development policies and provide certainty that the project would not be threatened by further lawlessness. This is a devastating blow to the Alberta economy, the national economy and to the concept of peace, order and good government.

With that, I will proceed to the legislation at hand.

It is an honour to rise today to speak to the importance, indeed the sanctity, of the oath sworn by all new citizens of our great country, Canada. The current oath of citizenship is a relatively short, compact and simple, but profound, promise of new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada. It is an affirmation of patriotism and loyalty.

As we consider Bill C-6 today, I believe a few moments of historical reflection are in order.

Canada may be 152 years old, but Canada only became largely independent of the United Kingdom in 1931, under the Conservative government of Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. Even after 1931, citizens of this country remained British subjects. Anyone coming to Canada from anywhere else in the Commonwealth was not required to take the oath of allegiance. However, by 1946, the Canadian Parliament, the MPs sitting in Centre Block, now under renovation next door, moved to enact the Canadian Citizenship Act.

I arrived in Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax with my mother, a Canadian army nurse, aboard a Red Cross hospital ship in convoy, the Lady Nelson toward the end of the Second World War, a couple of years before the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect in 1947. My parents were both Canadian: My father was a captain in the Canadian army and my mother was a nursing sister lieutenant assigned to the army medical corps plastic surgery team. I was born in a Canadian army hospital in Bramshott, Sussex.

With all of this combined, I grew through childhood and into my twenties believing that I was a Canadian citizen. I was sworn into the Royal Canadian Navy, only briefly, to my lifelong regret, and then into the Royal Canadian Army Reserve, taking the oath of loyalty to Queen and Canada each time, and I voted in two Canadian elections. I only discovered in 1966, when I applied for my first passport to travel to Vietnam as a freelance journalist, that I did not qualify to carry a Canadian passport: Because I arrived in Canada before 1947, I was not a Canadian citizen.

Fortunately in the 1960s, naturalization of this sort could be accomplished in very short order, and very quickly I was able to finally officially swear the oath of allegiance, officially becoming a Canadian citizen. I received a passport and was able to begin getting on with my life.

The actual Canadian citizenship oath only became law with amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1977. For the first time, Queen Elizabeth was cited as the Queen of Canada, consistent with Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy.

I assure you, Madam Speaker, I am moving steadily toward the proposed amendment to the oath before us today, changes that have been proposed a number of times since 1977 by Liberal governments. These proposed changes, in their time, were controversial and were either abandoned or died on the Order Paper.

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal citizenship and immigration minister, Sergio Marchi, commissioned a group of Canadian writers to compose a new oath that would have, outrageously, dropped all reference to Queen Elizabeth, our constitutional monarch. Fortunately, the Liberal prime minister, Chrétien, in a moment of exceptional clarity, told minister Marchi to park that proposed change and it was abandoned.

However, as members know, Liberals love tinkering with legislation, and a few years later another Liberal minister, Lucienne Robillard, tried to get rid of not the Queen this time but allegiance to her heirs and successors, which suggested to many that Canada's constitutional monarchy could end with her death. That bill, Bill C-63, died on the Senate Order Paper when an election was called. Two similar follow-on bills, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18, failed as well. As a matter of fact, Bill C-18 never made it past second reading in the House.

That brings us to Bill C-6, the proposal before us today to amend the Citizenship Act again.

The minister's mandate letter has directed him to achieve 12 specific tasks. Among these tasks are a number that stumped his two predecessors through the past Parliament.

The minister has been directed to effectively address the continuing flow of illegal migrants across Canada's southern border, more than 16,000 last year, and to engage the United States in closing loopholes in the safe third country agreement. As the backlog of asylum claimants, most of whom are likely to be rejected, approaches 90,000 and is still rising, the minister has been directed to reduce processing times. As well, the minister has been directed by the Prime Minister to advance reforms in the capacity of the asylum system and introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk. As provinces, communities, chambers of commerce, and business and industry across Canada appeal for more timely, more efficient processing of permanent immigrants, the minister has been directed to assist there as well.

There are other directions in the minister's mandate letter, but the first legislation brought to the House by the minister is far down the mandate-letter list. Bill C-6 is, for all intents and purposes, the same proposed legislation as Bill C-69, thrown into the legislative process in the final days of the last Parliament, in June. There was no time to debate it then or for a committee study. It had absolutely no chance of passing in that Parliament. It was simply a pre-election promise.

Now we have Bill C-6. The oath as it is today, and as I have heard it many times over the years attending citizenship ceremonies as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, is this:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is, as I suggested in my opening remarks, a relatively short, compact, simple but profound promise of all new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada.

The oath, with amendments proposed by the minister, would be:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The government tells us that these additional 19 words are a fulfilment of a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In fact, the commission only recommended that four words be added to the oath, which were “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples”. Whether four or 19 words are added to the oath, let us look at who would be speaking these words, the future new Canadians who would be swearing or affirming this proposed longer oath.

Let me suggest to colleagues in the House to close their eyes for a moment, if I have not already led them to a somnolent state. I am sure they can visualize a familiar scene. In a council chamber, a courtroom or an event room in a historic building, or at a site or national park, there is a group of 40 or 60 men, women and children, along with as many or more friends and family.

A citizenship judge enters, often accompanied by a Mountie or two, a handful of politicians and, in recent years, very often an indigenous representative of the region or province. Canada's national anthem is sung with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than in other circumstances. A few tears of anticipatory joy may be shed.

A smudging ceremony may be conducted, in which sage, cedar, tobacco or other plants are burned to cleanse and purify the event. Inspirational words will be offered by the presiding citizenship judge and other notables present. They will speak to the importance of the event, our country's history, perhaps their own personal experiences, and the words they are about to speak together.

Visualize again for a moment the expectant faces among the audience, faces from races, religions, cultures, communities and countries near and far who have come to Canada under a variety of circumstances. They may have come as economic migrants or refugees to join family members who came before, or as temporary foreign workers, or as international students who fell in love with this country and decided to stay and build their future lives here as citizens.

This ceremony is not a one-hour or a one-day event. One does not become a citizen overnight. This ceremony is the culmination of years of preparation, including accumulating the required residency years, learning one or both of Canada's official languages, and studying the many documents and data contained in the Discover Canada handbook or on the audio files connected to it and on the website.

This handbook is an abundant repository of Canadian history, citizen responsibilities and obligations, rights entrenched in the Constitution and the importance of the rule of law. This handbook is essential reading for new citizens, not only for the historic content, but also for the study questions provided to help them prepare for the citizenship test.

The handbook offers solid detail of Canada's first nations. As the section on aboriginal peoples explains, first nations' ancestors are “believed to have migrated from Asia many thousands of years ago.” It explains that aboriginal people were well established in Canada “long before explorers from Europe first came to North America. Diverse, vibrant First Nations cultures were rooted in religious beliefs about their relationship to the Creator, the natural environment and each other.”

The handbook also lays out in easily consumed detail the following:

Aboriginal and treaty rights are in the Canadian Constitution. Territorial rights were first guaranteed through the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III, and established the basis for negotiating treaties with the newcomers—treaties that were not always fully respected.

The handbook addresses the impact of European diseases on the native culture and how traders, missionaries, soldiers and colonists changed native lives forever.

In preparation, future citizens learn of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Loyalist military and political leader during the American Revolution; of Tecumseh and the Shawnees he led in support of British forces in the War of 1812; and of Louis Riel's fight for Métis rights as well as his trial and execution in 1885.

The handbook describes almost two centuries of injustice and abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools, physical abuse and cultural oppression. The handbook reminds readers that in 2008 in Ottawa the federal government under Conservative Prime Minister Harper formally apologized to former students. As well, the handbook defines the three distinct groups that compose Canada's aboriginal peoples.

The Conservative Party fully supports treaty rights and the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people. Conservatives support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Conservatives support action on clean water, safe housing, education, health and economic opportunity, and the Indian Act, which blocks many first nations from charting their own future.

The Conservative Party fully respects treaties, which are already among Canada's body of laws. The Conservative Party supports the resolution of unfulfilled treaty obligations in the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people.

In the week since these proposed changes were reintroduced by the government, I have received messages from constituents, and from far beyond, which contend that this amendment amounts to typical Liberal tokenism and virtue signalling, pandering and should be opposed.

I cannot speak to the Liberal government's motivation here, because when it comes to public policy, inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of legislative process and decision-making. However, I can say that I have spoken often in this House against proposals, very often from the Liberal government, to burden various sections of clearly written sections of law, of the Criminal Code, with unneeded specificities.

In this debate, I must be clear that I believe the existing oath of citizenship does not need to be burdened with 19 new words that I believe are redundant. If we are to add first nations specificity, why not official bilingualism, why not privacy, why not national security, why not anti-Semitism?

Therefore, I propose the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), since the existing Oath of Citizenship already includes the profound promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada and the bill does nothing to support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

Christie Blatchford February 18th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, over the generations, Canadians have been served by many great journalists, eloquent chroniclers reporting from city halls, cop shops and courtrooms, locker rooms, rinks, sports fields, battlefields, sites of disaster and human tragedy.

Christie Blatchford reported and opined from all those places over almost a half century, but she was like none before. Her newsgathering skills ranged from gritty to compassionate. She inspired colleagues and rivals. She challenged conformity and authority, and very often her editors. As a former editor remembered last week, she made every newsroom better.

Christie won more awards for her work than time allows to list. When she was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, she told a colleague, “I care about stories that tell us why the system matters, why things are worth protecting, why the rule of law is important.”

It is an honour today to remember a journo's journo, a truly great Canadian.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act February 6th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I am well aware of the threat China poses to Canada's aluminum industry.

Indeed, it is something that the Liberals are trying to pass off by saying that 70% is such a great guarantee. However, 70% is not a great guarantee when it used to be 100% and it was defended by the Government of Canada, the Province of Quebec and the Province of British Columbia, and workers were guaranteed a bright future for what is the cleanest aluminum produced in the world today.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act February 6th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and the opportunity he has given me to conclude a couple of thoughts with regard to the deficiency in this agreement, as it applies to the aluminum sector.

We see in this agreement that Canada is protected. There is the 70% rule. However, until recently Mexico did not have an aluminum sector. It did not produce aluminum. China is now by far the largest producer of aluminum in the world. China produces 10 times the Canadian metric tonnage of aluminum every year.

As its economy has slowed in recent years, China has been dumping that aluminum around the world. Much of it has gone to Mexico, where it is then transformed magically into a Mexican product, which is being further dumped in Thailand, Vietnam and India. This will certainly have an impact on the Canadian aluminum sector in the automotive industry.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act February 6th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in the debate today with mixed feelings. I certainly recognize the need for ratification of this treaty, but I also recognize the need to do the due diligence required to look at a treaty that, by all measures, can be considered as deficient.

We in the official opposition have made clear since the beginning of this debate that Canadian business and industry desperately need the certainty and predictability that ratification of the new NAFTA will provide. Granted, much of the certainty and predictability is that this deficient, retrograde agreement has negative overtones in many ways and many places and it will touch many corners of Canadian society. It will be seen in the dairy and poultry industry, in the aluminum sector and in a number of areas that were not even discussed in the negotiations over the past couple of years by the Liberals and their negotiators, areas such as the softwood lumber problems and of course the American challenges to free trade with regard to the buy America process. These were not even addressed by Canadian negotiators as they were forced to accept an agreement that contains considerably less than the original NAFTA.

I would like to recall the debate that took place in 1988, not in this new House but in the original House of Commons just across the way, when Liberal Party members, led then by John Turner, were vociferously in opposition to the original NAFTA proposal brought in this House by then prime minister Brian Mulroney. John Turner said that he would tear it up if he became prime minister.

The New Democratic Party, in opposition at the time under Ed Broadbent, was also very strongly opposed to the agreement, as it is today, saying that Canada would effectively become the 51st American state of the United States if it was implemented. I regret I have no historic quotes from the Bloc Québécois, because at that time Lucien Bouchard sat in the cabinet of the Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. The Bloc was still at that point only a spark in the back of Mr. Bouchard's mind.

Looking back at 1988 and the final ratification in 1993, I think we can agree that this new NAFTA is nothing like its predecessor, the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

My colleagues have reminded the House on all sides since the beginning of this debate about the imperfect negotiating process that the Liberals pursued, such as sitting at the table, leaving the table, procrastinating, consulting and then rushing back to the table to be the third party and given a “take it or leave it” trade agreement. I remind the House that Canada's Conservatives support today, and have always supported, free trade with the United States. After all, as I have reminded the House, NAFTA was a Conservative legacy.

Members will recall that when this began, the Prime Minister promised his trade negotiators would come back with a deal better than Canada had before. He spoke of a win-win-win outcome for this negotiation. We know it was certainly a huge win for the United States and a big win for Mexico, but this is definitely not anything like a win for Canada.

When the deficiencies of this backsliding new NAFTA agreement were first presented to Canadians, we in the official opposition asked for, and were assured by the Liberals that they would provide us with, impact analyses of the agreement on the various sectors in Canada with which we saw reason for great concern.

Anyone who ever served in government knows that every department touched by this new agreement, this new treaty, has done a cost-benefit analysis. They have measured the impact in the short term and the long term.

The Liberals promised an analysis statement, and we are still waiting. We hope that the government, which proclaims its commitment to transparency, accountability and evidence-based decisions, will provide this impact data in the days ahead when this debate and study go to committee.

We know that in committee we will get some impact statement, if not from the professional and sectoral associations that desperately want certainty and predictability, even in a negative context. This will address the concerns and fears of the workers, the people and the communities that are about to be impacted by the negatives that this agreement would impose on them.

Of the many deficiencies in this agreement, I mentioned a few at the outset. My colleagues have looked across the spectrum of shortcomings, and I would like to address one that is of great concern to many Canadians. That is the impact on Canada's aluminum sector.

Members will recall that at the beginning of December, when details of the agreement were revealed, we found to our dismay that the deal included a last-minute change to the requirement calling for 70% of the steel and aluminum used in auto production to be purchased in North America.

One of the rules for the steel sector was that the steel must be melted and poured in North America. There was no provision for aluminum. The initial response from the president of the Aluminum Association of Canada has changed in the last few weeks. When Jean Simard discovered the fact that there was diminished protection for Canadian aluminum, he said, “They fought, Canada fought, but they lost....At the very end Mexico said, ‘This is my red line. That’s enough.’ ”

That is the reality, although the Aluminum Association today, again desperate for certainty and desperate to cut its losses, said that yes indeed, it is a good deal, a necessary deal.

I would like to sympathize with those in the sector. In the Côte-Nord, the Lac-Saint-Jean area, Sept-Îles, Alma, Bécancour, Baie-Comeau, Deschambault, Laterrière, Grand-Baie, Arvida, Shawinigan Falls and, of course, on the west coast, in Kitimat, I would like to sympathize with the workers and unions that now see this 70% rule.

The Liberals think this is a great new improvement. They boasted that there was no guarantee for the Canadian aluminum sector in the original NAFTA, and they were right. There was no need for the rule in 1988, in 1993 or until the end of the last century, because until the end of the last century, Canada was a very competitive producer of aluminum. China was an up-and-coming, but still limited, threat to the Canadian market and certainly to the North American market. Under NAFTA, under the Auto Pact, Canada effectively had close to 100% of the aluminum content in the auto production industry.

I understand the negative impact this is having on this major sector of the Quebec economy and the Canadian economy as a whole. Of course, Canadian aluminum is the cleanest.

It is the cleanest around the world.

In conclusion, we will support the bill, but we support it with heavy hearts.

Infrastructure February 5th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, members may remember that on the eve of the election, weeks after a commitment from the Conservative leader, the Prime Minister reluctantly matched the province.

Shovels are ready. Ontario is ready. Toronto is ready. When will the PM deliver?

Infrastructure February 5th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and his downtown Toronto Liberal MPs cold-shouldered Ontario last year when the premier submitted a plan to build the urgently needed Ontario line subway to ease capacity pressure on existing lines—

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act February 3rd, 2020

Madam Speaker, I listened very closely to my hon. colleague's remarks. He should know that we in the official opposition agree that Canadian businesses, industry and the provinces need predictability and certainty with our support of this new NAFTA. However, I hope the member understands why we want some answers regarding the deficiencies in this new accord, particularly with regard to the Liberals' boasting about the new benefit of the 70% rule in our very important aluminum sector.

The Liberals say this benefit is new and was not in the original NAFTA. Well, of course it was not in the original NAFTA, because China was not mega-producing millions of tonnes of aluminum then. With the slowdown in the Chinese economy, China is now dumping it into various countries around the world, including, as we have seen, through the back door of this agreement, into Mexico and our economy. This threatens the producers of our very clean hydroelectrically produced aluminum here in Canada, such as those on the west coast in Kitimat and in the Côte-Nord and Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean areas.

I hope the hon. member understands why we are asking for the impact assessments that we know have been carried out, and undoubtedly should have been carried out by the government, with regard to the negative impact of this new agreement on the vital aluminum sector.

Media Industry February 3rd, 2020

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have seen a jaw-dropping erosion of rights under the Liberal government, for example, Bill C-76, which rigged election rules in the Liberals' favour, and the $600-million bailout of selected struggling newspapers.

Now the Liberals have embraced the shocking recommendation to license media companies, an Orwellian tool used by ruthless authoritarian governments. Are the Liberals so desperate to cling to power they would emulate dystopian societies in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act February 3rd, 2020

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for a very well-reasoned speech today. We know that almost certainly those economic impact figures are available but, for reasons we can only suspect, they are being withheld from Canadians.

I would like to ask my colleague about the 70% rule that the Liberals seem so proud of, saying it did not exist in the original NAFTA. It was not necessary in the original NAFTA, because in the 1990s Russia, China, India and Canada were all basically producing the same volume of aluminum. However, in this century, China has grown to be the largest producer, at 33 metric tons in 2018, 10 times what Canada produced at only 2.9 metric tons.

Mexico, our partner in the new NAFTA, did not have any aluminum production at all. All of a sudden, Chinese aluminum being dumped through Mexico is showing up in the United States, in India and in Vietnam. We will not know until we see the actual figures, but this very deficient treaty with very serious potential impacts is having a very serious impact on the Canadian aluminum industry.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on this backdoor corruption of what was at one time a Canadian-dominant partnership in the North American aluminum sector.