Are the veterans prepared to go first? Okay.
On behalf of the committee, I would invite you to come to the table, please.
I want to welcome the two members from the Royal Canadian Legion: Mr. Pierre Allard, service bureau director, dominion command; and Mr. Erl Kish, dominion vice-president.
Welcome, gentlemen. I don't know if you've been here before, but generally we try to give the presenters about 10 minutes for their comments. Then the individuals from the committee make comments or ask questions of the presenters.
Thank you so much, Comrade Chairman. It's a pleasure to be here.
On behalf of our dominion president, Comrade Jack Frost, first I would like to thank you very much for inviting the Legion to appear before you today on this very important issue of lost Canadians. This is indeed our second opportunity to appear at your committee, as we were here previously on March 19, 2007. It is always a pleasure to work on a common cause.
I must admit that we are wondering why this issue has not yet been resolved and why timely action seems to be so difficult to orchestrate. To continue to deny citizenship to war brides and offspring of Canadian Forces veterans is objectionable. To be as constructive as we can be in what appears to be a highly politicized environment, we see two issues as obstacles to a quick resolution. These are concerns related to second-generation offspring born abroad to Canadian citizens and concerns on actual numbers that may be affected. We think both these issues can be addressed without delay in the passing of Bill on an urgent basis.
The Legion often appears at parliamentary and Senate committees responsible for the veterans portfolio. We remain truly impressed with the non-partisan approach that is evident in these committees. We remain convinced that this same non-partisan approach can resolve the issue at hand.
We were very pleased with the recommendations contained in your report. Allow me to refer to some of these recommendations: (a) rules for determining who is a citizen should be few, and citizenship should be permanent status; (b) people need to be able to rely on the certainty of their citizenship; (c) anyone who was born in Canada at any time should be deemed a Canadian citizen retroactive to birth; (d) anyone who was born abroad at any time to a Canadian mother or to a Canadian father, if he/she is first generation born abroad, should also be deemed a Canadian citizen; and (e) Citizenship and Immigration should reassess whether there is any pressing or substantial reason for continuing not to recognize the DND 419 as proof of Canadian citizenship. The registration of birth abroad should be recognized as proof of Canadian citizenship.
The committee also recommended that the minister use his discretionary power under the present Citizenship Act to implement the above recommendations before the bill is drafted.
When we did our review of Bill and looked at the proposed backgrounder and Qs and As, we were confident that resolution was around the corner, yet here we are today. This brings us to what we see as simple but timely solutions that require no modification to Bill C-37 but a strong resolve to move forward in a non-partisan approach.
On the issue of second-generation Canadians born abroad, one of the previous witnesses alluded to what we think is a bona fide requirement to give proof of attachment to Canada. There is a simple measure already in place that allows an immigrant born abroad to serve in the Canadian Forces and be fast-tracked in his or her application for Canadian citizenship. That is a simple but meaningful proof of attachment and willingness to serve one's country. This process requires no amendment to Bill C-37.
As for the numbers, this issue may be an important factor; however, it is not a showstopper. Surely it should not be seen as an impediment to timely passage of Bill .
Once again, the Royal Canadian Legion feels very strongly that passage of Bill C-37 is an urgent priority that should be embraced by all the members of this committee. As one of the members of this committee has said so eloquently, there have been enough studies and reports on this issue. What is needed is a cooperative approach that will bring resolution once and for all before those affected simply pass away.
I thank you, Comrade Chairman, for your time.
On behalf of our Dominion President, Comrade Jack Frost, I would like to thank you very much for inviting the Legion to appear before you today on this very important issue of the “Lost Canadians”. This is, indeed, our second opportunity to appear at your committee, as we were here previously on March 19, 2007. It is always a pleasure to work on a common cause.
I must admit that we are wondering why this issue has not yet been resolved, and why timely action seems to be so difficult to orchestrate. To continue to deny citizenship to war brides and the offspring of Canadian Forces veterans is objectionable. In order to be as constructive as we can be, in what appears to be a highly politicized environment, there appear to be two issues that are seen as obstacles to a quick resolution. These are: concerns related to the second generation born abroad to a Canadian mother or father; and, concerns on actual numbers that may be affected.
We think that both of these issues can be addressed on an urgent basis, without delaying the passage of Bill . The Legion often appears at parliamentary and Senate committees responsible for the Veterans portfolio. We remain truly impressed with the non-partisan approach that is evident in those committees. We remain convinced that this same non-partisan approach can resolve the issue at hand.
We were very pleased with the recommendation contained in your report. Allow me to refer to some of those recommendations.
Rules for determining who is a citizen should be few and citizenship should be a permanent status. People need to be able to rely on the certainty of their citizenship. Anyone who was born in Canada at any time, retroactive to birth, should be deemed a Canadian citizen. Anyone who was born abroad at any time to a Canadian mother or to a Canadian father, is he/she is a first generation born abroad, should also be deemed a Canadian citizen. Citizenship and Immigration should reassess whether there is any pressing or substantial reason for continuing not to recognize the DND 419 form as proof of Canadian citizenship. The registration of birth abroad should be recognized as proof of Canadian citizenship.
The Committee also recommended that the use her discretionary power under the present Citizenship Act to implement the above recommendations before the bill is drafted.
When we did our review of Bill , and looked at the proposed backgrounder and Q&As, we were confident that a resolution was around the corner. Yet, here we are today. Which brings us to what we see as simple but timely solutions that require no modification to Bill , but a strong resolve to move forward based on a non-partisan approach.
On the issue of the second generation born abroad, one of the previous witnesses alluded to what we think is a bona fide requirement to give proof of one's attachment to Canada. There is a simple measure already in place that allows an immigrant born abroad to serve in the Canadian Forces and have his or her application for Canadian citizenship fastracked. That is a simple but meaningful proof of attachment and a willingness to serve one's country. This process requires no amendment to Bill .
As for the numbers, this may be an important factor. However, it is not a showstopper. Surely it should not be seen as an impediment to timely passage of Bill .
Once again, the Royal Canadian Legion feels very strongly that passage of Bill C-37 is an urgent priority that should be embraced by all the members of this Committee. As one of the members of this Committee has said so eloquently, there have been enough studies and enough reports on this issue. What is needed now is a cooperative approach that will bring resolution, once and for all, before those that are affected simply pass away.
I want to thank you both for coming here, and all of your members. And I also want to acknowledge the work that you've done in order for us to be able to be here today. If it weren't for the vets and for the sacrifices you made, and your wives and children, we wouldn't have a democracy today and we wouldn't be here.
I'm going to give you some figures that I want you to please consider and also take back to your membership. The department finally gave us some figures on the weekend. It reads as follows: between 1947 and 1977, 114,000 registrations of birth abroad certificates were issued. So between 1947 and 1977, we have 114,000--in 30 years.
And then the department gave us the figures from 1982 to 2007, although we asked for 1977 onwards, and they didn't come up with some numbers. What they've given us is that between 1982 and today, 368,520 Canadians were born abroad. When they were asked for second generation, they only gave us 2006, and that was 2,412 people, Canadian citizens, born abroad.
I also want to thank you for having this in your statements. It says, “Anyone who was born abroad at any time to a Canadian mother or to a Canadian father, if he/she is a first generation born abroad, should also be deemed a Canadian citizen”. I'm not sure if you mean the second generation or not, but I want to thank you.
Now, what happens if you take the numbers of second generation between 1977 and today, 1982 to 1989, is that there were 56,000 people born abroad. From 1990 to 1999, 121,144 were born aboard. And here's the real kicker, folks, from 2000 to 2007, 187,260. And if you were to extrapolate and take the mean--because in my former life as an industrial engineer, I did statistics coming out of the ears--per year, from 1982 to 1989, 7,000 Canadians were born abroad; from 1990 to 1999, per year, 10,095 born abroad; from 2000 to 2007, 26,751 born abroad. If you forecast that into 2010, that will hit about 56,000 first-generation Canadians born abroad.
So if you take those numbers--and I'm certainly going to pass this graph around to you--by 2020 we might have close to a million first generation born abroad. Gentlemen, that's 10 times as many Canadians as born abroad between 1947 to 1977.
If you take the number of second generation born abroad in 2006, that was 2,412. And if you extrapolate that to the same degree, you're going to have about 5,000-plus in 2010 to 2020 of second generation born abroad.
If my daughter, first generation born abroad, were to get married to somebody who's not a Canadian citizen and they're stationed in the gulf.... In the gulf, as you pretty well know, if you are somebody who was born there, you're stateless. So my grandchild, this baby, will be stateless if he/she is born abroad. This child, that baby, has nowhere to go if we have an emergency. And if you, the forces, today's people, go in to take us out, you will say to the mother, “Yes, you're a Canadian citizen, please come with us”. You will say to her, “I'm sorry, your baby can't come”. But let's say that by mistake you do take the baby and there's something wrong with the baby, the baby is not born perfect, and the baby comes to Canada, that child, my grandchild, the person you fought so hard for, will have absolutely no coverage of health care or anything in Canada.
Yes, I've known people say to me, “But your daughter can sponsor her child into Canada and she can do this until that child is 22 years old.” So I ask you, who have fought so hard for this country and with all the fights that you have done, why should my daughter, who has lived all her life in this country, have to sponsor her child into Canada?
Please, I want you to consider those numbers, and if you have something to enlighten me, something to tell me, as a father, and possibly a grandfather of the grandkid who will be born abroad tomorrow, if my daughter is working out there, if you can convince me that the fight you fought for this country....
We know there are lots of stories of women who fell in love with soldiers abroad and left their families, their homes, and their countries to follow their husbands to Canada. It was a sacrifice, and it's tremendously unfair for them to discover they are not Canadian citizens. So I share your passion to get this bill done as quickly as possible.
Also, there is a section saying that persons born prior to 1977 can get Canadian citizenship from their Canadian father if they were born in wedlock, and from the Canadian mother if they were born out of wedlock. It's a strange rule and has caused lots of problems.
Hopefully, this bill will fix everything. My intention is to try to get this bill passed as quickly as possible, because I've seen the history of this bill. These issues have gone through, my gosh, six or seven studies and different types of bills, with one even going to the Senate and nothing then happening, and I fear this could happen again.
Because of that, I am going to ask you about the following. You talk about non-partisan work, and it seems that the Liberals want to make sure that second-generation children born abroad are Canadian citizens, which I think makes sense, but right now the issue is locked here. We could get this bill done very quickly and accommodate this element by doing something very simple, by just amending subclause 2(2), or actually taking it out of the bill, because right now it limits citizenship to the first generation born to, or adopted by, Canadian parents.
It would then deal with what Mr. Karygiannis was talking about, being a proud grandfather, and all of those problems arising from his daughter being abroad. If that would actually bring peace, so to speak, to this committee and help us to deal quickly with this issue, I would hope we could do clause-by-clause by Wednesday—with that amendment that I'm sure my Liberal colleagues will move. Then I hope the bill can be sent back to the House of Commons and hopefully all parties will say yea, and it will go to the Senate and they will say yea, and we'll get it done before the looming election call that I'm hearing in the background reaches us, because I certainly don't want to go through this two years from now.
Thanks to the Legion members for coming. Mr. Kish and Mr. Allard, we certainly appreciate what you're saying.
I can tell you that last week when we left off we said that if we had all-party agreement to pass Bill C-37 without any amendments we would do everything within our power to bring it before this committee. As I understand it, we had agreement by at least a majority of the parties here.
I can also tell you--and I'm somewhat surprised by our member for the New Democratic Party, Olivia Chow--that the recommendation that went to the minister under the report specifically concluded that the extension would stop after the first generation born abroad, and there would be options for those beyond that. It was a policy decision. A unanimous report by every member of this committee, upon which the legislation was drafted, went to the minister. I appreciate that you can do anything you want, but the bill as prepared is limited to the first generation born abroad. On that basis, the bill was brought here, with our effort, to get speedy passage. To open it up again would certainly not be an option at this time.
On the two things that matter to the Legion--the DND 419 and births registered abroad--we'll certainly direct questions to the ministerial people. But the big question has been the second generation born abroad. As I said, there has been a decision that they must have some connection to Canada, or they must use some other means if you want to incorporate those.
The numbers that Mr. Karygiannis has been espousing are not that large. There are some assumptions he's making on those, and they're not something you can easily record. Although we know they're there, we also know there's a way of dealing with a good number of them.
Given the present state of the House, do we want a bill that's maybe not perfect but goes perhaps 95% toward what everybody wants? Would you agree with the passage of the bill as is in order to accomplish that in an expedited fashion, as opposed to yet another wrangling that didn't exist before?
Gentlemen, first of all, I think I can speak for everyone in this room and everyone in this country when I say thank you very much for your sacrifices and for your service to this country. You're to be commended, as are all members of the Legion.
When you came here today, your remarks were dead-on; they were very specific. You'd like to see this bill passed as is, unamended, because you believe in this bill. Certain realities are upon us, gentlemen, whether certain people in this room like that or not. I started out in the last committee commending every member of this committee for working so hard and caring so much on this issue.
Mr. Karygiannis would like one further change, but the reality is that politically this government and this Parliament could very well fall at the end of February, and there is simply not enough time to have an amendment and go back through the wheels of government and through cabinet and back to this committee for it to pass. This is the opinion of the people above my pay scale, gentlemen. You, being in the military, can understand this. This is how it's been communicated to me: there's simply not the time for any amendments to be made to this bill. If an election is called before this bill is passed as is, which is the only option before us....
There are two options: we pass it as is, or it dies when an election comes and all this work goes out the window and we start all over again. Those are the only realistic choices before this committee. As much as my friend Mr. Karygiannis, and perhaps--
Good, and hand them out to all the members who aren't members. I'm a member of 530 in Waterloo.
Let me just say we're really having a false argument. For the government to stand up and say we have to pass this bill, that it's too difficult to change.... Look, we had two ministers who didn't even produce a bill. It was the combined efforts of the opposition that made this happen. The irresponsibility of the government not bringing it forward before is inexcusable. We could have dealt with it; this could have been legislation. So let's not play politics around it.
There's a fairly simple fix to the whole thing. The Citizenship Act is such a horrific mess. It is just a horrific mess. It's like pick-up sticks. You pull one, and if you're not careful the whole thing comes tumbling down. Mr. Davidson will deal with that. We could very quickly say that those Canadians who are born abroad, fulfilling the residency requirements of the present second generation born abroad requirements, are deemed to be born in Canada, and then we don't have to go beyond first generation.
The Council of Refugees, from whom we're going to have to hear, came out and made a submission. Essentially what they said was this, and this is an example outside of Mr. Karygiannis's.... Suppose, for example, a Canadian couple are spending a few years working abroad and give birth outside Canada to a baby. Let's call her Anna. It could actually be a soldier. She is a Canadian citizen through her parents. The family returns to Canada when Anna is six months old and she grows up in Canada. And we heard from Mr. Teichroeb, who had a similar situation. As a young adult, she chooses to study abroad and finds herself pregnant. If she gives birth to her child outside Canada, the child is not a Canadian citizen under the terms of .
If the baby--let's call her Mary Ann--happens to be not entitled to any other citizenship, she will be stateless. does have provisions to allow Mary Ann, and others like her, to apply for Canadian citizenship if they are stateless; however, there are a number of conditions that must be met, including the requirement that the stateless child of a Canadian citizen should have resided for three or four years preceding their application. This means the child will have to remain stateless for at least three years.
This bill also fails to explain on what basis Mary Ann would be allowed to enter Canada in order to meet the three-year residency requirement. Even if Anna attempts to sponsor her child as an immigrant under family class, she will face a challenge in finding travel documents for Mary Ann so she can travel to Canada as a stateless person. She is not entitled to a passport.
We, Canada, to our shame, made the United Nations High Commission for Refugees magazine on statelessness and we're featured for some of the miserable conditions that now exist. Now, in fixing this, which is important, we do not want to create another whole class of stateless people. There is a relatively simple amendment—and I'm going to be asking Mr. Davidson when he comes forward—that can be done very quickly and that will eliminate all those problems. We can have a bill that goes through and addresses the needs of Canadians and stops us being featured in magazines like the magazine on statelessness. It's not a difficult fix, but we would be looking for it.
Again, just for the record, it has been the opposition that has consistently pushed this government. We had two ministers, both of whom said they had absolutely no interest in citizenship. I remind you of Roméo Dallaire, who appeared at a press conference, and the question was asked of him, why is this happening? And he referred to bureaucratic terrorism in the department. That's Senator Dallaire, who himself was a lost Canadian.
There is an easy fix, and it can be out of this committee this week, fixed, and it could go through the House. All we need is the political will. I don't want to create any more problems than we now have created. It can be first generation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, gentlemen, and thank you for being with us today and giving us the benefit of your experience and all the knowledge you have gleaned from our veterans.
Like my colleague, I want to state that we intend to support this bill. We believe it is important. I have relatively little experience on the Committee, but I understand that this issue has been under review for several years now and that it has been unable to complete the different steps leading up to passage of the bill. So, we will be supporting it. This has nothing to do with politics. We believe it is important to do that for all concerned.
I read your presentation, and I have one question. We are always learning things here; that is what is great about being a Member of Parliament. As regards the second generation, you gave an example of authentic proof of attachment to Canada. An immigrant can be a member of the Canadian Forces and thus be entitled to preferential treatment. I was surprised to read that. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act may well contain provisions I am unaware of and that I will now know more about.
In fact, the expression “preferential treatment” is rather strong, it seems to me. There may be other forms of social engagement that constitute proof of one's attachment to Canada. Some may want to enroll in the Armed Forces, but that does not necessarily suit everyone. There are people out there who are honest, highly skilled and strongly engaged in their community that can provide proof of that. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.
I just want to drive one point home very clearly. We sat around this committee and struggled to get a unanimous report, and we gave and took. When we all agreed--100%, unanimously--that we would limit it to first-generation Canadians, we realized that would cut some people off. That was part of the give and take. Something was given and something was taken, but we came to an unanimous report.
Mr. Telegdi said, if the minister mirrors that report, or essentially follows that report, we will ensure a quick passage to the House. Today they're trying to say, let's now do an amendment to enlarge that, or change that, or do something different.
We've said we'd bring this bill before this committee for a quick passage based on that unanimous report. To change it at this stage and try to manoeuvre it around with another amendment is not on.
I just want to make that specific point, that Mr. Telegdi was first to say, let's have a unanimous report and let's move in line with it. Now he wants to change it in a substantial way, and that's not the way to do business.
I guess that just proves my point, Mr. Chair, that what started as a non-partisan exercise is rapidly deteriorating here into asking who dragged whom along, and who led the process first.
I will give these gentlemen their due for caring so much about this issue and working so hard on it, but the main issue here--for everyone in this room, for the press that's covering this, for Canadians who will read this in the transcripts--is that we had our kick at the can in a unanimous report. Whatever ideas could have been put forward to better this bill were all considered, or should have all been considered, then.
Once this committee delivered what was a unanimous report...and Mr. Telegdi was here. He went along with it. It was a unanimous report. This gentleman, who spent a lot of work on this file, much more work than I have, agreed to this unanimous report.
After that, gentlemen, because of our time constraints now in this Parliament, the horse had left the barn. Our government then delivered a bill that is exactly a reflection of that unanimous report. And I don't know what else can be expected of a government than to deliver what is in a unanimous report, agreed to by all parties.
Gentlemen, whatever amendments could have been made are already out the window. The horse has already left the barn. We have the bill before us. Now we either pass it as is or it will not happen in this Parliament, and all this work will be for naught.
I know there are people who will shed tears over that. There are people who have worked so hard over this, and there continue to be people, as we heard last meeting, who pass away while waiting for this to be rectified, and they continue to pass away. There will be a lot of tears shed over this if it's not done.
I agree with Ms. Chow. What a wonderful Valentine's Day present to war brides to have this passed. But it must be passed unamended to get this done before this Parliament ends. We can talk about pie in the sky, we can talk about eight, ten, twelve different amendments that might make this bill better, but that horse has already left the barn, gentlemen.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and honourable members. I do have an opening statement.
My name is Mark Davidson and I work in the Citizenship Branch at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I am accompanied by Ann Heathcote and Lori Beckerman, and together, we will be able to answer your questions.
I am here today to address Bill . Because of the demonstrated need for stability, simplicity, and consistency in citizenship status, what follows is the basic outline of the proposals CIC considered when drafting Bill C-37, which was tabled by Minister Finley on December 10.
First, nothing in these proposals will take away citizenship from anyone who is now a citizen of Canada. Those who are Canadian citizens when the amendments come into force will remain Canadian citizens.
Second, anyone who became a citizen under the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947, and subsequently lost his or her citizenship, will have it restored.
Third, anyone who was born in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, and who subsequently lost his or her citizenship will have it restored.
Fourth, anyone naturalized as a citizen of Canada on or after January 1, 1947, who subsequently lost his or her citizenship, will have it restored.
Finally, those born abroad to a Canadian citizen on or after January 1, 1947, who are not already citizens will now be Canadian citizens if they are the first generation born abroad.
The only exceptions would be those who, as adults, have personally renounced their citizenship to the Government of Canada, or those whose citizenship was revoked by the government because it was obtained by fraud.
These proposed amendments would give Canadian citizenship to various categories of individuals. They might have lost their citizenship by becoming citizens of another country, either as adults or as minors. They might have lost citizenship when they took an oath of citizenship in another country, which included a clause that renounced Canadian citizenship. They might have been born abroad and lost their Canadian citizenship under the 1947 act because they failed to take the required steps before their 24th birthday to retain it. So-called border babies, or indeed those DND babies who were born abroad under the 1947 Citizenship Act, also had to take steps to register as Canadian citizens. If they failed to do so, they never became Canadian citizens.
Bill will address past problems and protect citizenship for the future by limiting citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. Subsequent generations born abroad would no longer be given Canadian citizenship automatically.
Bill would also eliminate onerous and confusing retention requirements and confer citizenship by force of law, otherwise known as automatically. There is no application process and no deadline for people to come forward to apply for proof of citizenship or a passport.
Those who are interested in their Canadian citizenship and do not have proof of it can contact our department. We will deal with them as they come forward.
Those rare cases that concern people born outside of Canada prior to January 1, 1947, would not be affected by this legislation. That is to say, their status would not be changed by Bill . The proposal respects the significance of the year 1947, because Canadian citizenship, as we now know it, did not exist before January 1, 1947.
As warranted, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will still have the authority, with the approval of the Governor in Council, to grant citizenship under subsection 5(4) of the Citizenship Act in special cases. This would also be the case for unforeseen circumstances that CIC has not yet dealt with.
We believe that Bill will resolve the issue of citizenship for most of those people whose status is currently in question.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Before moving to questions, I'd like to highlight for members the binder we made available to them today. The binder includes a number of documents. There is the bill itself; an overview of the bill; a detailed summary clause by clause, which can be found at tab 3 of the binder; and a key highlights document at tab 4. Tab 5 includes the communication products that were released at the time the bill was tabled on December 10, which includes both the news release and two backgrounders.
I'll highlight that the backgrounder that is found at tab 5(c) is a list of fictional cases or examples of cases and a description of how these would be dealt with by the bill.
As well, there's a deck at tab 6, which provides an overview of Bill , and then eight issue papers that we've prepared, which go into more detail talking about the issues of the 1947 limit, citizenship by descent, the statelessness provisions, the simplified citizenship rules, prohibitions, family class immigration, and the exception for Canadians serving abroad, and finally an issue paper dealing with retroactive citizenship.
With that, Mr. Chair, we're quite happy to answer questions.
Maybe we'll stop there, because you're going to be coming back to us on Wednesday, when we're probably dealing with clause-by-clause consideration.
The question I'll put to you right now is this. Under the current Citizenship Act, we really have a problem, haven't we? The citizenship of a second-generation person born abroad expires at age 28. But if that person, before their citizenship has expired at the age of 28, happens to have a child, then that child is now a citizen until the age of 28. Is that correct? That's the third generation. And if that child has a child before turning 28, that child is a Canadian citizen until the age of 28. So under the current act, the generations just go on forever.
I mention this because I never heard it from officials, and having been around the committee for 10 years, I think I should have heard from officials about a problem of that magnitude, which I have not.
My question to you is you probably—
I understand the problem that exists.
My next question to you is one I really haven't received a satisfactory answer to.
Taking that into consideration--and we don't know how to keep records of all these people going on and on--what I suggested was that any time a first-generation Canadian born abroad satisfies the requirements that we presently have for a second-generation Canadian born abroad, or different requirements, if you simply deem those people to be born in Canada, then it would solve the problem that presently exists. It would address the problem Mr. Karygiannis talks about, and it would also mean we'd need a lot fewer subsection 5(4) grants of citizenship.
The onus on showing that situation is on the individual and not the department. Whereas right now you don't know what you're dealing with, in the other case you would know what you're dealing with. I think it's a fairly simple fix.
Obviously you have considered that. I would like you to tell me why you didn't do that. What was the problem with doing that?
I'm having trouble with that, because right now if you want to retain citizenship, and you are second generation abroad, you must do so before you're 28 years old. There are very clear rules as to what you have to do. You have to have been in the country for a year prior to your 28th birthday.
I don't see what the problem would be with saying, okay, we're going to change your requirement to three years, or whatever we want to do for landed immigrants. Once that is done, it's simple. It is not difficult. The difficulty comes if the onus is on the government to chase people around versus having people take the initiative to be entitled to consideration as first generation born abroad.
I would like to know if there is any way you can get us some numbers so we can know what the balance is. I know if we pass this bill, we're going to solve a big problem right now, but we're also going to be creating another problem, and it's going to be a trade-off. It's almost like cutting the baby in half. I can see the wisdom of passing the bill because it has to be passed, but I'm also very cognizant of the fact that we are now creating another problem. I want to know what those numbers are, because I'm hoping that once we get rid of this government, we'll get in a government that is actually going to fix it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to extend my thanks to you who drafted this bill which, according to the government, is consistent with the Committee's unanimous recommendations. I would like to review with you the 13 recommendations the report contains. Since this is a seven-minute round, that means I can devote 30 seconds to each recommendation.
The first recommendation is that the Citizenship Act be amended. That is the bill we are currently reviewing.
The second recommendation deals with the following fundamental principles, proposing that they be included in the Act: citizenship should be a permanent status; the rules should be clear and easy to apply; the government should not be able to revoke the certificate except in cases of fraud; these principles should apply to all people, whatever the date; and, background checks are not appropriate for those for whom citizenship is a birthright.
Are all those principles reflected in the bill currently under review?
I think it's important for me to reiterate a comment that has been made many times to this committee. That is, we do not know the number of either first-generation Canadians born outside of Canada, second generation, third generation, fourth generation, or fifth generation. One way of putting it is that we know the individuals that we know about. We don't know about all the others. And there are first generation, second, third, fourth, and fifth generation that are being born, as we speak, outside of Canada who have never come forward, of whom we have no record.
The way the present act works, those individuals are citizens, and because of the provisions of section 8, as Mr. Telegdi has indicated, they can continue for sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth generation without any ties to Canada. So it's important to understand that the figures that were shared with you were those of individuals who have come forward who we know about. But we're not suggesting that's the total population, because we don't know those people who have not come forward. There's no requirement under either the 1947 act or the present act for Canadian citizens who are having children born outside of Canada to report those births to the Canadian government. If they want citizenship for those children, or if they wanted citizenship for those children, they might have had to take action, but there's no law that says they must report their foreign births.
So we simply do not have a total number of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or twenty-fifth generation.
Thank you, Mr. Batters. This issue is covered, actually, in the first issue paper that I spoke about.
Citizenship in Canada was created by Parliament on January 1, 1947. Before that date, individuals in Canada had the status of British subjects with Canadian domicile. So the significance of January 1, 1947, is historical fact. The significance of that date has also been confirmed both by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Benner decision and also more recently by the Federal Court of Appeal in its decision in the Joe Taylor case. So is continuing that, to recognize that significant historical event that took place on January 1, 1947.
I think it's important to understand, though, that there will be individuals born before 1947, either in Canada or outside of Canada, who will benefit from this bill. These are individuals who did become citizens on January 1, 1947, under that first act, and then subsequently lost their citizenship either because they failed to retain their citizenship or they took out another citizenship and suffered because of the dual citizenship provisions of that 1947 act.
So will actually assist a number of individuals who became citizens on that day, January 1, 1947.
Yes, this is a matter that has come up a number of times in the past, and actually is a point that the Royal Canadian Legion had asked us to consider. In fact, there's also a reference to the issue in the standing committee's recent report.
will in effect wipe the slate clean from this issue by making it so that these individuals will be treated as citizens, not only going forward but also retroactively to their birth outside of Canada, in such a way that the nuance around the DND document, or the registration of birth abroad document, becomes moot. So in the vast majority of these cases, they have an RBA--they have a registration of birth abroad--but in the few cases where they do not, Bill C-37 will, as I said, make the issue moot.
I have a couple of points. One of the more notable aspects of is the first generation born abroad cut-off for citizens to be passed on by descent. That is a big issue.
This cut-off was supported by this committee in a unanimous report. The minister, in her remarks to this committee, stated that she would be guided by a number of principles in drafting this bill. Two of them are that citizenship status should be clear, stable, and not require an application; and that Canadian citizens should have a demonstrated attachment to Canada. This attachment to Canada should apply not only to parents of a child before the child's birth, but also by both parent and child after the child's birth.
There is a process, I understand, that is easily used if the Canadian parent wishes their second-generation child born abroad to have citizenship. The process maintains the principle that an attachment to Canada should be demonstrated by both the parent and the child.
Can you clarify for the committee what this process is and how it respects these principles?
Thank you, Mr. Komarnicki.
The process is one that we've previously spoken about, and it was raised at your meeting last week with other witnesses. It's the process by which Canadian citizen parents can sponsor their dependent children to come to Canada as permanent residents under the family class in IRPA.
They have a window of 22 years while the child is a dependant--and that window can be even longer than 22 years--to sponsor them. As I've said earlier, that sponsorship can be done overseas while the family is living outside of Canada. The sponsors do not have to meet any minimum income requirements, and the child would be exempt from the requirements to meet the excessive demand medical test. That's an exception to the rule that applies to dependent children of individuals sponsored by Canadian citizens.
Once they arrive in Canada as a permanent resident, they would also have an expedited path to citizenship. There's an expedited mechanism for citizenship for minor children contained in paragraph 5(2)(a) of the Citizenship Act. It allows them to become a Canadian citizen almost as soon as they arrive in Canada. They have to fill in an application, but they do not have to meet any residency tests.
Again, this was raised last week in your discussion with other members.