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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration



Monday, April 17, 2023

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]



     Good afternoon, everybody. I call this meeting to order.
    Welcome to meeting number 58 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
    Today, pursuant to the order of reference of Thursday, June 23, 2023, the committee will resume consideration of Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the granting of citizenship to certain Canadians.
    Ms. Kwan, you have the floor.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    I'm happy to see everybody back after a constituency break of two weeks.
    Related to Bill S-245, given the tight timeline of the requirement for the bill to be reported back to the House, I'm going to move the following motion, Madam Chair, a copy of which, in both French and English, has been sent to the clerk for distribution to the committee members. That motion reads as follows:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, the committee request an extension of thirty (30) sitting days to consider Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians), referred to the committee on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, to give the Bill the consideration it requires and that the Chair present this request to the House.
    Madam Chair, as indicated, we're kind of a little bit down to the wire here with the timeline. To ensure that the committee has the opportunity to do all the necessary work related to this bill, I therefore move this motion.
    Thank you, Ms. Kwan.
    Ms. Kwan has moved a motion to request an extension regarding Bill S-245.
    Go ahead, Mr. Dhaliwal.
    We're not experts, but at times Madam Kwan brings in a really good perspective. I think it's a good idea to support her and move forward with the meeting.
    Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.
    Just so I understand, Ms. Kwan is asking to extend the time to consider this bill by 30 days. Is that correct?
    Essentially, yes. It extends the time because there's a timeline for us to report it back to the House, and this is to extend that timeline to report it back to the House by 30 days.
    This is a process question. This is new to me. I haven't done this one before.
    Can the committee just unilaterally say that? Do we have to report that to the House? Is there something the House has to do in return? How does that work exactly?
    Thank you, Mr. Redekopp.
    If we request an extension because we cannot report back on the consideration of the bill, we request an extension. If the motion passes in the committee, I will present that to the House and then the House will consider it.
    You present it to the House and then the House has to consider it and vote on it. Is that correct?
    Yes. Here's an explanation on that:
If a committee feels it will not be able to complete its consideration of a private Member’s public bill referred to it within 60 sitting days, it may request an extension of 30 further sitting days. Only one extension may be sought. As soon as a committee report requesting an extension is presented, a motion to concur in the report is deemed to have been moved and seconded. No debate takes place, as the motion is deemed put to a vote right away and the vote is deferred until the next Wednesday sitting.
    Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.
    Do we know when 30 sitting days...? That's a long time from now. Can we do less than 30, or does it have to be 30?
    We can request a maximum of 30 days. We cannot request more than 30 days.
    Has someone done the math on when that is, the 30 sitting days?
     Yes, I'll just ask the clerks.


     Madam Chair, do we have a copy of the motion?


    Do you mean the motion that Ms. Kwan has presented?
    A voice: Yes.
    The Chair: We can request a maximum of 30 days.
    Go ahead, Ms. Kwan.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    It does not have to be the full 30 days. If we complete this work before the 30 days, we can, but it's up to 30 days. That's the maximum timeline for which you can ask for this extension.
    This is the standard language, which Madam Chair just read out. That's why it reflects that.
    Okay. We'll go to the vote on Madam Kwan's motion.
    (Motion agreed to: yeas 11, nays 0)
    The Chair: The motion is adopted that we will request an extension of 30 days.
    Ms. Kwan.


    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    I'm now going to move a second motion, a copy of which has been sent to the clerk, also in both French and English.
    The motion is as follows:
That, the committee report the following to the House: that the Committee recommends to the House that it be granted the power during its consideration of Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians), to expand the scope of the Bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to an application to retain his or her citizenship under section 8 as it is read before April 17, 2009.
    Madam Chair, we've had extensive discussion about this, particularly with witnesses who came before us. As we know, there are many categories of lost Canadians. Bill S-245 currently deals with the category of lost Canadians pertaining to the 28-year-old age rule. However, it leaves out many other categories of lost Canadians. Most notably, the current situations are such that many families are faced with forced separation because of the first-generation cut-off rule that came about with Bill C-37 back in 2009.
    We've heard from witnesses who urged us—the committee, the government—to make amendments to this bill, which would be out of scope for this bill, to address those lost Canadians. There are other categories as well for which we can get into the details when we get to the clause-by-clause, but in order for that to be considered, this motion is required.
    I'm therefore moving this motion so that we can follow the procedure absolutely, as has been advised to me by the head clerk and the legislative clerk sitting at the table, to make sure that we do not end up in a bad situation with this effort.
    To that end, I hope committee members will support this motion I've put forward.
    Thank you, Ms. Kwan.
    Go ahead, Mr. Kmiec.
     I'm obviously going to be the bearer of bad news. I think it is a bad idea to expand the scope on a private member's bill coming from the Senate, and I'll explain why.
    There are a bunch of reasons each one of us should be worried about this. You open a door for any private member's bill, by any member, that reaches a committee to have this done to it, even after that member testified and expressly asked that the bill not have its scope amended.
    That member of the Senate, Senator Yonah Martin, was very reasonable. She said, if there are language tweaks that need to be done and changes that need to be done for her intent to be captured, which is this two years of lost Canadians, to have their particular issue fixed, that was part of the deal she reached with her Senate colleagues in order to expedite the bill through the Senate and to the House of Commons. This bill did not receive another round of reviews at the Senate. It was expedited to the House of Commons, thanks to the understanding that it was tight in scope and had been already reviewed by the Senate in a previous Parliament. Therefore, when it got here, it got to us without the Senate having looked at it again.
    Regarding the intent and scope of the bill, that member, before this committee, said repeatedly under questioning that she wanted it kept to her original intent and for the scope not to be expanded. The warning to all of us, and to all of you here, is that this could happen to any of you. Any of you who are so fortunate to have a private member's bill pass at second reading and come before a committee could have members come here and either deconstruct or vandalize your private member's bill with other things that were not your original intent.
    I'm an originalist. I would like to keep the intent of the person, even if I disagree with their purpose. I have seen private members' bills before committees from Liberal members, from the Bloc and from the NDP that I disagreed with, and at no point did I ever think it was wise to go into a bill and insert things that a member expressly told me they did not want to see inside it. That's just, I think, good parliamentarianism. I want to be respectful of my colleagues, even those in other political parties and senators, whom I don't often talk to in that other place. The intent in their bill, once it passes to a certain stage of legislation, I want to keep it intact and have a straight up or down vote on the original intent and scope of the bill.
    What's going to happen here is that, if you vote for this, it may happen to some of your private members' bills or Senate bills from your side of the House or from an affiliation with a Senate group that you feel particularly strong about. It might be me who comes to a future committee to sub in and be the one who leads that type of—I'm going to call it—vandalism of the original legislative intent of a legislator.
    For those of you who have been here for quite a long time and who are sometimes nodding with me in agreement, you have seen this happen. I do not like it when it happens, because I think it is a bad idea. We have an opportunity here to pass this piece of legislation before a potential election in a minority Parliament where we don't know what will happen.
    This type of scope expansion on a private Senate bill is going to leave the senators reviewing it at a committee. They're going to do it. They're going to see whether the original intent was kept or not. If they do a single amendment, they're going to send it back to the House and ping-pong it between our two chambers. It's very likely that those lost Canadians, whom Senator Yonah Martin wanted to help with a straightforward, very precise, focused bill, won't be helped. Then we'll be back to the starting point once again after another Parliament, and who knows what that parliamentary makeup may be.
    The government, if it wanted to today, could table a piece of legislation and address whatever concerns there are. Members of the recognized New Democratic Party and members of the Bloc could do the same thing as well. They could propose a piece of legislation and come to parliamentarians, and we could see whether an agreement could be reached to expedite the bill and to have it go through a different process. All of those things could be done.
    I'm just warning you: Expansions of the scope of a bill are a bad idea, especially when they're done expressly against the intent of the senator, who came before this committee, and the House of Commons sponsor did as well, and said expressly that it was not the purpose of the bill.
    I don't know what types of expansions are being considered beyond the scope. I know there's been some debate over what those could be. However, members are free to table-drop amendments that are not submitted through the clerk for consideration, but there could be other ones that could be table-dropped once you expand the scope of the bill.
     I'm warning you that I think it is a bad idea. I also think it is interesting that I wasn't given a heads-up ahead of time with ample time to consider whether this was a wise thing to do and to reach out to our caucus members who have an interest in the contents of the bill on whether it should be done. I have, from the beginning, been very clear and very direct. I don't like scope expansions. I try not to play games. I really try to limit those as best I possibly can. I am not perfect. Nothing is perfect in this world, but I think you had perfection in the way this bill was presented to you.


    Many of the amendments that were submitted to the clerk—I can't mention them until we are considering them—we are absolutely willing to support because they keep the original intent of the mover. Therefore, we support them. That's the principle I'm applying here.
    If you vandalize this bill, I will show up to other committees of your colleagues' bills and I will personally deliver the same type of treatment you're about to mete out to Senator Yonah Martin, who has been nothing but willing to work with stakeholders, with people and with all of us—government side and members of the other opposition parties as well.
    I think you'll agree with me that Senator Yonah Martin is not a very partisan member of the Senate. She takes her work on behalf of constituents in British Columbia very seriously. She takes her work seriously as a legislator, and I hope we would honour her by not expanding the scope of the bill beyond her original intent.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Kmiec.
    Seeing no further debate....
    Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.
    I just need to add a little bit to this.
    The senator isn't here today, obviously, so I just wanted to expand a little bit on things that she's told us and remind this committee of some of the things that Tom mentioned.
    She very clearly did not want this bill to be expanded for the very reason that it will potentially delay or even kill this bill if it sits too long or if it gets expanded too much. As we know, it has to go back to the Senate. Part of the agreement to bring it from the Senate in the first place was that it was the same bill as before. It's relatively simple and the Senate, as I understand it, agreed to that. We're quite certain that this will have to go through the whole process again, which could ultimately result in some further changes. It could end up back here at this committee again, and it just goes on and on.
    I want to reiterate that the senator was very clear on this point. She specifically foresaw the potential for this to happen because, as we know, there are still issues with the Citizenship Act and with other people who have been unable to keep their citizenship or have lost their citizenship. We know that there are issues.
    She specifically said the goal was not to solve all those issues with this bill. That was not the goal at all. The goal was to put a simple bill forward that could zip its way through both Houses and at least fix a portion of the problem. Then some of the other issues that we know of could come back in the form of a different bill. As Tom has pointed out, the government could easily put through another piece of legislation, because I'm sure that some of the work has been done. Those things and what needs to be done are known.
    If we go the route of trying to expand this bill, we very much run the risk of running the bill into the weeds where it will not actually survive the Parliament. It will take too long. This has been going on.... I don't know. How many iterations is this now that we've seen? It just keeps coming back and it never makes it through because it's too complicated. It comes back and it never makes it through. The whole point of this bill is to have a simple bill to deal with one thing.
    We did hear some testimony that maybe there were some issues with the way the bill was written and it maybe needed some clarification, but we're all smart people. We have a lot of smart people behind us. We could make those clarifications, I think, and retain the intent of the bill. We can put the words in that need to be there to properly accomplish what the bill is meant to accomplish without unnecessarily burdening it with expansions that are going to cause confusion, cause a lot of discussion and potentially cause some disagreement—not just in this House but in the other place as well.
    I think we really need to be careful and we really need to be mindful. I think Tom did a good job of explaining the pitfalls and the dangers of going down this road. We cannot abuse the right that we have to take a private member's bill and move it in a way that the member expressly said not to.
    It would be one thing if she didn't have an opinion on this, but she clearly had an opinion. She stated it right here at the committee, and she's told many of us personally that same opinion. I just want to make sure that we all clearly understand that we are going expressly against her wishes on this. I just don't think we should do that. I think we should respect her. I think we should respect any member of our legislative system who puts forward something. We should respect their intent and their wishes, particularly on a private member's bill.
    Those are my thoughts on this, Madam Chair.


     Go ahead, Mr. Kmiec.
    Madam Chair, I'm looking at the wording of the motion. It says, “to expand the scope of the Bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to an application to retain his or her citizenship under section 8 as it is read before April 17, 2009.” When I look at this.... It means we could then propose to amend anything in the Citizenship Act in the consideration of this bill.
    I have very strong opinions about things like citizenship ceremonies being done in person and not having the “click for citizenship” option. Are those the types of table-drop motions members want to open themselves up to? I think it is a good legislative idea. I would like to work on a private member's bill for that to be the first and only option, and then have very strict conditions under which it could be considered.
    There's also the question about “substantial connection with Canada” and how that should be defined. Again, I have very strong views on what it should be, but I am not proposing to insert them into this bill, unless you pass this motion and expand the scope. Then, I may be so gifted as to write it out. Then, we will have debates endlessly on how it should be considered. You've also given an extra 30 days, possibly, to do this. If we're just going to review the entire Citizenship Act.... Let's do a fulsome and complete review if we're going to go completely beyond the scope of the original intent of the bill.
    Again, it's a warning. I don't think this is the right direction to go. I'm willing to put in whatever work is required to get Bill S-245 back to the House in as clear a legal language as the government believes it needs and with members of the public service here to explain what the effects would be of the different pieces of legislation we would be amending.
    The way we would be amending it here.... As I said, the original intent and scope were very specific. Senator Yonah Martin was extremely direct and honest about what she was trying to do. My warning goes back to this. If you expand the scope of this bill, this is an idea: Do it to every single private member's bill from members of the House of Commons and the Senate. Some of us have long memories. We're like elephants. We will do it to every single other bill when we feel there is an opportunity to insert partisan agendas into them.
    I don't think that was the intent here. On government legislation.... That is a different story. I think we all accept that things are done to amend them, but on private members' and Senate bills.... We know these are the initiatives of members. They are not driven by parties. They're driven by individual members who have one issue they really care about. We would leave that intent intact. It would allow members to legislate for themselves and persuade fellow parliamentarians that it is a good idea.
    Again, it's a fair warning: Everything in the Citizenship Act becomes eligible for us to consider. There would be a lot more public servants here from the different branches explaining the impact of different changes we could potentially do.


    Thank you.
    Go ahead, Ms. Rempel Garner, and then Ms. Kwan.
    If I'm understanding my colleagues correctly here, what has happened is that we have now extended the time to review this bill before it's reported back to the House. We have added another 30 days.
    What I'm trying to read between the lines here from all of my colleagues is that, one, we have extended the time for the review of this bill significantly, which means there may be significant delays in getting this bill passed, and, two, if we're opening up the scope of the bill beyond what its tight and narrow focus was, there are two significant risks. First, if things are put into the bill that are beyond the scope of the bill, there may be procedural issues in the House, but also more importantly, if it is referred back to the Senate, it might stall in the Senate again. I don't think anyone here wants to see the original intent of this bill be stalled in any way. To my colleagues in the governing party, I think that's problematic.
    Second, if I'm reading between the lines of what my colleague is saying, do we really want to have the immigration committee all of a sudden drop into a broader review of the Citizenship Act? If we are opening up this bill beyond the scope of what is here right now, I will propose amendments that are well beyond the scope of this bill. There are a lot of things I would like to see changed in the Citizenship Act. I will come prepared with those things, and we will be debating them.
    I would prefer not to do that, out of respect for what my colleagues have just argued. I believe Senator Martin put this bill forward in good faith. She negotiated the terms with her colleagues in the Senate. If others in this room want to put forward amendments that are well beyond the scope of this bill, they have the opportunity to table private members' bills themselves. The government also has the ability to table its own legislation.
    I would just say to my colleagues in the governing party that, if we are proceeding down this path, we will come with other amendments. I would love to talk about citizenship ceremonies being online now instead of being in person. I think we could devote several meetings to that. I don't know. I think that sounds like a good amendment to the Citizenship Act. There are many things we could amend.
    Do we want to do this with a bill, the intent of which is somewhat non-partisan? That's what is on the table here. Think carefully about how you vote. I will not be voting in favour of this motion for all of the reasons just given.
    Thank you.
    Ms. Kwan, go ahead.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    I will just make some very short comments.
    Suffice to say that there is no political partisan agenda here. The agenda here is to try to address the lost Canadians who are, indeed, suffering right now and whose families have been faced with forced separation and all kinds of challenges. I don't think that's what this committee wants to see happen to the community, in the broader community. That's what's happening right now, just to be clear.
    As it happens, today is the 14th anniversary of Bill C-37's coming into force and effect, thereby stripping first-generation citizens of the right to pass on citizenship to their children and subsequent generations. We have people here today who presented as witnesses in the last round and who are gravely concerned. What I have heard from the senator, from Conservative friends of mine, from Liberal friends of mine and from Bloc friends of mine is that people want to address the lost Canadians issue. We have an opportunity to do that, and that's exactly what this is. We can seize that opportunity to see if we can make whole the family members who are suffering as a result of that.
    I am hearing some threats related to it, but, from my perspective, I'm here to try to get a job done, and my motivation here is the people who are suffering. I know many of them. They have contacted me. They have written to me. I have spoken with them. I have met with them. I feel that it's my job to do my level best.
    I understand that this is out of scope. Throughout the entire committee stage when we had witnesses before us, including officials, I asked questions about things being out of scope. I'm motivated to see if we can actually do something that is unusual—not for partisan reasons but for the public good.
    I hope committee members will vote in support of this motion. Let's see if we can get the job done.


     Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    When I think about this, and there have already been some suggestions about what could potentially get added to it, I guess that is the question in my mind. What are we talking about adding? What is the scope that we're trying to expand?
    The problem, the big thing, about unknowns is that they create fear. We all know that in all kinds of different aspects of life. That's kind of what's happening here. We have a lot of unknowns. We don't know what it is exactly that is being asked of us, what kinds of things. We don't know where this could all end up going, so I'm curious to know some of the ideas. I don't know if it's possible to let me know, but where do you want to go? Where would the member want to go with this in terms of the scope? Are we talking about a whole bunch of things, or are we talking about one thing? What's happening there? I think that's something that's concerning to me.
    I think, at the same time, it has also been mentioned today that we have many people who want to see this problem resolved, at least to some degree, and there have been so many attempts that did not succeed. Reference is made to people who are even in this room right now who have been working on this for a long time. This is a very important issue to them, as it is to all of us, and this is just a way to almost ensure that this isn't going to happen, that it's not going to work.
    This is very concerning to me. I want to see this problem solved. Many people have worked very hard to make some progress on this issue, and I recognize that it's not going to be perfect. We're not going to, once and for all, solve every single problem, but I believe that, in some of the discussions we've had, there are some very good solutions to this legislation. Maybe tweak it a little bit within the scope of the legislation to ensure that it accomplishes what it was intended to do and that it doesn't have unintended consequences.
    We heard a lot about unintended consequences from the witnesses who were here, and that certainly goes back to the senator's original intent. She very clearly stated that she did not want to create unintended consequences and create new groups of lost Canadians.
    I've heard some of the discussions we've had. There are some good ideas to maybe patch a couple of holes in this, which I think we're all very capable of doing, so then we can solve at least this piece of the puzzle. It will maybe not be all the pieces in this go-around, but at least we can get it through, move it back to the House, have the Senate approve it and then it's done.
    If we don't do that, it's going to just keep ping-ponging back and forth, as Tom said, and it won't get resolved.
    Those are my thoughts, Madam Chair, at this time. Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Redekopp.
    Go ahead, Mr. Dhaliwal.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
     Madam Chair, hopefully it's not a personality conflict and a political issue, because I want to commend what Mr. Kmiec said about Senator Martin. I have had the opportunity to work with her over the past many years because she's from British Columbia, and I have seen her working across party lines and being very reasonable. I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for her.
    I hope Madam Kwan had discussions with her as well before she brought this amendment. On the other hand, what Madam Kwan is saying about Bill C-37 hit home. You know, I remember those days. There was much uproar in the community. My own brother is a Canadian citizen working for a Canadian company. His son was born outside of the country, and it hit us at home as well. Certainly, when it comes to Bill C-37, which was passed in 2009 under that government, it was not a perfect bill either. That left many Canadians out.
    If we look at it this way, there is a fair chance to have further conversations.


    Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.
    Go ahead, Ms. Rempel Garner.
     Thank you.
    I think that my colleague Mr. Redekopp brought forward some potential questions about what we could consider in a broader open-scope review of the Citizenship Act. I'm happy to discuss what I would like to see, if we are going to open up the scope of the Citizenship Act. Some of the amendments I would be proposing to the Citizenship Act writ large would include things like....
     There is broad disappointment across the partisan divide with the government's decision to eliminate in-person citizenship ceremonies, or to go to online applications. This isn't just me as a Conservative saying this. This is many people from across the partisan divide. There have been many op-eds that have talked about this.
     I would likely be proposing amendments that I'm sure the government probably isn't going to be happy to discuss and that Senator Martin isn't going to be happy will be in her bill, but if we are going to be opening up this bill to look at the Citizenship Act, we should perhaps be talking about an amendment to reverse the government's decision on this front.
    I believe former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi wrote a column about this recently, talking about why these in-person ceremonies are so important. I would be putting forward an amendment to the Citizenship Act to prevent the government from continuing on this course, and I would be holding the minister to account for this decision, as well. I don't think that was the intent of Senator Martin with her bill, but if the governing party decides to go forward with a review of this, that is something I would be seeking to amend.
    Today in the CBC, as well, there's a headline that reads, “Canada's farming future in trouble unless 30,000 immigrants fill gap of retiring farmers”. The article goes on to talk about the fact that the government hasn't done a lot to address pathways for agricultural workers to come into the country on a permanent basis or to look at how we can address immigration to meet that need while addressing the cost of farmland in Canada. I would probably be looking at exploring some sort of amendment in that regard, given that it's a huge issue facing the country.
    I know that many of my colleagues, as well—I would think everybody at this committee—are deeply concerned about the visa wait times from countries such as.... I think my caseworker said that in Vietnam now it's something like 800 days. I'm looking down the table. It's pretty high.
    If we're going to be opening up the scope of the Citizenship Act for amendment with this bill, I would be seeking perhaps some legislated and mandated guidelines around wait times, which the government has far exceeded and which are preventing family reunification and causing other issues. It is actually a detriment to work in the country. That's an amendment I would probably draw up as well. I'm thinking about postgraduate work permits, accreditation for foreign workers, other things that the government has failed on that have created labour supply shortages and the structure of settlement support services for rural communities in Canada.
    I recently had a meeting with.... Many of my colleagues here know that I work closely with the Yazidi community in Canada. The government has never addressed the fact that Canada still utilizes refugee selection criteria that may pose problems for genocide survivors, where the ethnic majority in a refugee camp may be biased against genocide survivors who have just survived ethnic cleansing. That's something the Citizenship Act has never really addressed either. I think I would probably be tabling a motion in that regard.
    The point I'm trying to make here is that, if we as a committee are agreeing to open up the scope of the Citizenship Act much more broadly than what Senator Martin was considering in her bill, then what we're saying is that each of us here now has the opportunity to put forward each of our issues that are individual and outside of the private member's bill process, or outside of the government legislation process, and put them in here.


     Now that I've laid this all out, through the chair, particularly to my colleagues in the governing party, do you understand that this is why the committee has processes around scope on private members' bills? It's so this sort of thing doesn't happen. If the committee is going to override those procedures, then I sure am going to be availing myself of that opportunity. It is going to be long. It is going to be fulsome, and it is going to draw attention to many issues that the government has failed on. I am more than happy to use committee time to do that.
    The thing is, no matter how well-intentioned—and I would think any of the things I just mentioned are a well-intentioned effort—process has to be followed. If we are opening up the scope of this, I am fairly confident that what's going to happen is either the Speaker or the House is going to say that this is not in scope, which is going to delay the bill further outside of the extra 30 days that Ms. Kwan just moved for it to be delayed. Then it is going to go back to the Senate and likely be delayed further. Ergo, justice is not served for the people who are the original intent of this bill.
    If somebody wants to amend the bill or put something forward outside the scope of the bill, the appropriate way to do that is for someone to table their own private member's bill or to lobby the government to put forward a bill because the government has the ability to put forward government legislation.
    If this committee does decide to open up the bill, I have at least five or six amendments to the Citizenship Act that I am very excited to spend a lot of time discussing. I can't wait. I know there are a lot of people in my community.... I just had a long conversation with a colleague who works in settlement services who is very disappointed about the structure of the budget and settlement services, particularly in western Canada.
    Giddy-up, I guess—or we could proceed in scope and get this bill passed to bring justice to the people who are in there who need a solution. We can make amendments that are in scope to address some of the concerns that were raised. Again, for things that are outside of scope, proper parliamentary procedure dictates that they're put forward in another separate piece of legislation.
    Thank you.
    Next, I have Mr. Maguire.
     Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I would like to reiterate some of the things that have been said here in regard to that and maybe add some personal views to this.
    For certain, we had witnesses come before this committee in regard to Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the granting of citizenship to certain Canadians. That is the focus of the bill. It was the intent of Senator Yonah Martin, who brought it forward. It was made very clear at this committee that her intent was to have a specific, narrow focus for this particular bill, so that we can at least help someone. There have been years outstanding in this regard.
    There are other areas, as my colleagues have just said, and there are other means of dealing with those. We dealt with that at the committee when Ms. Martin was here. I don't know why we're trying to extend it to do this now. I get the fact that we were extending it for 30 days. If the intent is not to bring in anything more than the wording changes that my colleague, the vice-chair and critic in this area, indicated, that's one thing. However, 30 days is a long time when you already have a bill that's very focused on what was requested to be done by the person who brought the bill forward.
    I've been on this committee now since fall. I was on it five years ago when we went through a whole list of things. I didn't know my colleague was going to bring up the report today on the 300,000 workers needed in the agricultural industry as well. I come from the agricultural industry, Madam Chair. I can assure you that we dealt with this back in the days of TFWs and the shortage of labour in the agricultural industry then, trying to get people into activities here that could fulfill those spots. A lot of these people we're trying to help are already in Canada. We want to get them their citizenship as quickly as we can.
    I would also agree that I'm not very enthralled with the idea of getting citizenship through the click of a button. I really believe that ceremonies mean something. They certainly do. At the citizenship ceremonies I've been at, the people there take them very seriously. They phone my office. We spend about half of our time dealing with citizenship issues in the Brandon area. We're very thankful to be one of the 15 places in Canada, with the Westman Immigrant Services in Brandon, that has been able to focus on the citizenship opportunities that are arising from the rural and northern initiative.
    We want to make sure we keep this particular bill. There are lots of other ways of expanding it to those outside of this bill who are not included in it. This is very specific to a certain group of individuals. I think it's very important, even though we've extended it for 30 days, to certainly not use that amount of time to deal with it, when it can be done.... If it it is just wording and corrections to the bill, we can do it somewhat more accessibly. This bill is ready to go, as I say.
    The idea of vandalizing the bill is not a threat. I mean, it's about precedent. It's not about whether we like the idea or not, as my colleague and critic from Calgary just indicated. It's about the precedent of what could happen to anybody's bill in the future.
    I brought my own bill, Bill C-208, forward about two years ago, I guess. It was in regard to family farm transfers and family business transfers. We did get that consensus through Parliament, but there were talks about changes. The government decided to do that through regulatory mechanisms. We're still studying those because it was just brought in through the budget. We're very thankful that the bill has moved forward. It is active. People are able to use it across Canada.
    With the type of bill that's before us, if we don't do this in the manner that has been put forward by the mover of Bill S-245—Senator Martin, herself—then it will likely end up doing what my colleague indicated, which is going back and forth with amendments and ping-ponging back and forth.
    Everybody sitting here knows full well that the Senate agreed on this specific wording of this bill. It was the only way it passed the Senate to get here in the first place. I think we should honour the fact that all of the Senate indicated that's the way it should be. It's not just Ms. Martin, even though it's her bill. She was very diligent in making sure she got the consensus of the Senate to bring this bill forward in this manner.


     I would say that it's not about the motivation to pass the bill or the motives in passing it. It's about the setting of this precedent for all future private members' bills in the House of Commons.
    I think we know what she said and indicated in the bill itself.
    There are a number of other issues in areas I pointed out—from the past experience I've had on this committee—that we could be dealing with. My colleagues mentioned some of them already. I've outlined a few more. We travelled extensively in Canada at that time, in order to look at the types of individuals who would be affected by some of the changes required from revamping the whole immigration act.
    We're not suggesting we need to do that with this bill. In fact, we're emphatically saying we don't need to do that with this bill. This bill is very well written and focused on its requested outcomes. Therefore, Madam Chair, I'll be voting against the idea of the motion to put forward further amendments to this bill, which may allow for amendments that would be out of the scope of this bill.
    Thank you, Mr. Maguire.
    Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.
    I'll defer my time for the moment.
    Next, we have Mr. Dhaliwal.
     Thank you, Madam Chair.
    When I hear some of the comments from the opposition, not necessarily relating to the motion that Madam Kwan brought forward, I can't sit back and take this because I have the institutional memory, particularly, of the regressive immigration policies that Conservatives brought in when they were in power. I can talk about those regressive policies for months and can write books on those. Let me talk about a few of the things that were raised on the other side.
    Certainly, from time to time.... We had COVID. We brought in a policy to have the citizenship ceremonies at home. Certainly, I would love to have them in person. On the other hand, I was able to join one of the families, who were very happy to have it at home because the whole family was there. I still remember the name of the person—Sushil Kumar. His family invited me, and we really enjoyed having that ceremony at home. At least they had the option.
    On the other hand, I do agree that there is always the off chance of fraud, as well. When we have online tests, it happens in every test. Certainly there are pros and cons on that particular thing.
    On the issue of agriculture and farm labour that came up. I remember, I wasn't even elected at that time. It was the year 2003 or 2004 when Joseph Volpe was the minister of HRSDC. There was a pilot project that came in to help the farmers bring in workers from Mexico. I can tell you that he did it overnight. When I approached him—because people from British Columbia approached me, the farmers—I went to him and we brought in that pilot project. That project is very successful now across Canada.
    I can talk about the parents and grandparents who were mentioned here. The regressive policies of the Conservatives almost tried to shut down the parents and grandparents—5,000 applications. They lowered the age of a dependent child from 22 years to 18 years so that the families didn't even qualify. I can tell you that I take pride in the Liberals here. When the government took over.... If you look at the past records, since 2015, if you take the average, Madam Chair, we accepted an average of 20,000 applications—four times more than the Conservatives. Not only that, but we've brought up the age of the dependent child from 18 to 22 years, so that more people can participate in those applications and more families can come here.
    It doesn't stop there. I can talk about Bill C-37. That was their creation as well. They should have thought at the time that they were leaving many Canadians out of the Canadian citizenship we are talking about today. We need to talk today about whether that was a well-thought-out process in 2009.
    When it comes to immigration, I don't think there's any government other than the Liberal government that has done more to bring in the people.
    On the agriculture workers, I agree with Madam Rempel Garner that we have to have opportunities for agriculture workers to move from temporary permits or work permits to permanent residency. When we created 90,000 openings, out of that, I still remember, 40,000 were reserved for students and then 30,000 were for those from an agriculture worker to a professional—people who were in the agriculture industry could then become permanent residents—and 20,000 were for health care workers. At every opportunity the Liberals got, they worked hard and diligently to bring in immigration policies that are good for small businesses, good for Canada and good for Canadian families.


     Look at the numbers. I still remember when I first was elected in 2006. If I look at the numbers then, it was in the area of 200,000. Now, we are bringing in half a million in 2025. Why? It's to help farmers, to help small businesses and to help families. I could go on forever, but I know the officials are here.
    I will have to stop here, but at some other point we can have a good conversation on immigration policy.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.
    Next is Mr. Kmiec.


    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I could have listened to Mr. Dhaliwal for another hour if need be, but I do have an amendment I have to get to. I can't help myself but to correct maybe some of what he said.
    I think all of our offices are inundated with immigration case files, more now than at any time in living memory. The department has changed what a member of Parliament can ask for and what information we can get. It is the department that is number one for ATIPs, because people file access for information requests all the time trying to figure out what's happened to their file, 60,000 of which were assigned GCMS codes that nobody was actually monitoring. It was for filing reasons or whatever excuse they're trying to find.
    The backlog reached 2.9 million at one point. There was a backlog before the pandemic. It had nothing to do with the pandemic. It was just bad administration by the Liberal government and the system that they have. All of us get files and people coming to our offices saying, “I haven't received a response”, “They denied me for ridiculous reasons”, “They forgot that I had provided documentation” or “I'm in a loop. They're asking for something that I can't get until I get the next part of the process done.” Many of the things that the member just spoke about weren't problems pre-2015.
    Every single line and every program is more delayed than it has been before. There are written questions in the House that have been submitted that show that the processing times are longer than they were in 2015 and that processing is way down in terms of meeting the service standards set by IRCC. The department sets its own service standard, and it decides at what speed it should be doing the work.
    We could actually legislate a service standard. The member could introduce an amendment now, if this motion to expand the scope of the bill were to go into place, so that people wouldn't be losing status while they're in Canada going from permanent residency to becoming citizens. The member could introduce many different rules. This department has doubled in terms of the budget allocated to it, and the wait times got longer. The backlog got longer despite doubling their budget and doubling the staff who work there. It got longer, not shorter. It didn't become simpler. It became more complex. That's all under the administration of the Liberal government. I'd be careful if Mr. Dhaliwal wants to go down this path and make this very partisan.
    I actually have a constructive amendment for this motion. I'm going to read the amendment and explain the wisdom of this. It's following the version sent by the clerk. At the very end of the English version, instead of a period, it's a comma followed by, “and that the clerk be instructed to accept amendments until May 15, 2023”.


    In the French version, it would be: “Que la greffière reçoive l'instruction d'accepter des amendements jusqu'au lundi 15 mai 2023.”
    I hope that my French is good. As I said in the House, I failed my written French class, in secondary 5, but not comprehension or reading. I think the word “instruction” is used in French.
    This is my amendment, Madam Chair.


    Madam clerk, the reason for the amendment is so that, if this does go through—


    Madam Chair, I have a point of order.
    I am being told that the interpreter is struggling to keep up. We need to slow down, with all due respect for my colleague.


    Can you please go a bit slower, Mr. Kmiec, so that the interpreters can do that?


    All right, Madam Chair. If you want, I can repeat my amendment in French.
    The goal of my amendment is simply to give us more time to consider amendments that may be proposed to this bill.
    I have not heard any opinion other than that Ms. Kwan's motion should be adopted as is. If we move in that direction, I will check with our team to see if we can ask Senator Yonah Martin what amendments she wants to make to the Citizenship Act. My political advisers and I have a number of ideas for amendments. The goal is not just to change the way the act works. It is also to ensure that Canadians will not lose their citizenship and that permanent residents of our country who are in the process of becoming Canadians, as I was in 1989 when I received my Canadian citizenship, will not be harmed.
    We need to have an opportunity to talk to our colleagues who are not on this committee about the amendments that they want to put forward. I think May 15 is a very reasonable date; it's not a full 30 days. That would give us enough time to consider the amendments with our respective caucuses and do the work that our constituents expect.



     Thank you.
    Now we have an amendment proposed by Mr. Kmiec.
     Ms. Rempel Garner is next.
    I'm speaking to the main motion, Madam Chair, so I'll wait for that.
     Seeing no one for debate, we can take the vote on the amendment proposed by Mr. Kmiec.
    (Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)
    The Chair: The amendment proposed by Mr. Kmiec is defeated. We are back on the motion proposed by Ms. Kwan.
    Ms. Rempel Garner, please go ahead.
    Thank you.
    I just wanted to respond to the assertion made by one of my colleagues that the citizenship ceremony change to online was something that was taken very seriously or supported by many Canadians. In fact, there was an article published in the Toronto Star on Monday of this week by Mr. Mansoor Ladha. The title of the article is “I’m horrified by the suggestion of cancelling in-person citizenship ceremonies”.
     He says:
Citizenship ceremonies are emotional and personal experiences, especially for those of us who had the privilege of participating in one. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration is contemplating an end [to] in-person citizenship ceremonies in favour of a “secure online solution.”
    The government is in fact considering this option.
    He goes on to say:
I still remember the citizenship ceremony that I had to attend when I proudly became a Canadian citizen in 1975. I was with my wife and son, all dressed up in our finest (Hugo Boss suit for me), lined up with new Canadians of all backgrounds, happily showing off the Canadian flags.
When the time came to sing the newly memorized national anthem, I was so emotional that my eyes welled up with tears. Every Canada Day, I still have visions of my heartbreaking citizenship ceremony experience.
I am horrified the government is proposing to abolish this special welcoming in-person citizenship ceremonies with an administrative online box and do away with a group singing “O Canada.”
The fact that Canada, the most friendly and welcoming nation in the world, would resort to a computer-oriented system to announce its citizens is appalling. Ceremonies in everyone’s life, be it a birthday or a retirement party, play an important part, signifying milestones in their lives.
    Now, this is a really interesting part, Madam Chair—
    The Chair: One moment, please. I have Mr. El-Khoury.
     On a point of order, Madam Chair, I don't believe anyone ever proposed any change in citizenship to be in person....
    Actually, Madam Chair, that's exactly what the government is doing, and it's why there is an article in the Toronto Star that I am reading for the record. That's exactly what the government is doing, and I'm stating this as a justification that, if this motion is passed, I intend to propose an amendment to the Citizenship Act to prevent this from happening.
     Also, for all the people who are mentioned in this article, I intend for them to testify in front of committee to explain to my colleagues why it is so terrible that the government is proposing to do away with in-person citizenship ceremonies.
    Just to reiterate and to assuage my colleagues' fears, the article says:
A former minister of immigration under then Prime Minister Jean Chretien was so upset that he [also] wrote an op-ed for this newspaper, calling [this proposal by this federal government under Prime Minister Trudeau] “an insult.”
    This is from a former Liberal cabinet immigration minister himself, who said:
For years, my parents would recount how momentous and meaningful (the ceremony) was. Why would government want to rob future citizens of this feeling of attachment?
    Next, we have another prominent defender, and this is really going to shake some of my colleagues on the other side:
Another prominent defender, former Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, also a former refugee and presided over a few citizenship ceremonies herself as an Officer of the Order of Canada—


     I'm sorry for interrupting, Ms. Rempel Garner. There's a point of order.
    Please proceed, Ms. Kayabaga.
    I'm just interested to know, Madam Chair, if we're still debating the motion at hand or if we have decided to venture into other things.
    The amendment was defeated. We are back on the motion proposed by Ms. Kwan.
    Can we go back to the motion proposed by Ms. Kwan? I think the conversation that my colleague on the other side is having has nothing to do with the motion that we're debating right now.
    I have Mr. Redekopp.
    Yes, on the same point of order, the whole point of the motion is to be able to introduce and expand the scope of the bill. I think what my colleague is trying to do is, number one, suggest something that would be a very legitimate way to expand this bill, if that's what we're trying to do, and I think she also is trying to give some background into what that might be.
     I think the subject of expanding the bill is exactly what we're talking about right now, and my colleague is talking about one potential way to do that. There are many others that we could talk about, just to make sure that everybody understands what we're talking about in terms of expanding the bill.
    Thank you.
    Go ahead, Ms. Rempel Garner.
    On the same point of order, Chair, again, for my colleague opposite, we are debating a motion regarding expanding the scope of a bill that is entitled “An Act to amend the Citizenship Act”, so I am giving my colleagues an example. If we expand the scope—if we vote to accept Ms. Kwan's motion to expand the scope—there are no limitations on that. I will be submitting amendments as well to amend the Citizenship Act, and I will be submitting an amendment to ensure that in-person citizenship ceremonies carry on and that Canada doesn't implement the ridiculous and “insulting”—a quote by a former refugee—practice of doing away with these ceremonies.
    Therefore, it is in order, because I am giving an example of what I will do should this pass. I am debating the merits of the motion and giving my colleagues something to consider. To carry on and to finish this article, which is just so devastating for the government, it states:
Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee famous for founding the Nova Scotia-based chocolatier Peace by Chocolate, described Canadian citizenship ceremonies as “the magical rituals that bring everyone together (new and old citizens) to celebrate the true meaning of the Canadian dream.”
“We cannot afford to lose the significance of this celebration of belonging nor can we diminish the value of Canadian citizenship,” he added.
    This article continues, saying that credit should be given to the government for moving a notch forward on indigenous peoples. That's great. That's good.
    He talks about the “new language of the oath”, but what he is saying in this article is that the citizenship ceremony should stay in place. If we do vote for this motion, I will certainly be putting forward an amendment to the Citizenship Act to ensure that citizenship ceremonies stay in person. This is something that, again, goes across political stripes, and I would love to see every person in this article come to this committee and be given a chance to talk about how important this is. This is something that should be amended in the Citizenship Act, given that the government is proposing to do this right now. It's ridiculous. It's crazy.
    Now, if my colleagues would like me to present a private member's bill to do this, or if perhaps the government would like to do this, perhaps they wouldn't want to vote to open up a private member's bill with a very narrow focus—that we all agree on—to put in place amendments that are out of scope.
    Now, I am going to say one thing. I just heard that my colleague from the NDP did a press conference about this prior to this committee meeting. I don't believe that she had talked to Senator Martin about this at all. She certainly didn't talk to us, so I have to surmise that this is now part of the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement and that there's probably some sort of agreement between the House leaders to get this done, which is essentially.... You have to think about this: This is backdoor legislation.
    My colleague does not have a private member's spot, as I know right now, so what they're doing through this coalition agreement is that they're saying, “Okay, we'll go way outside parliamentary procedure and allow you to put amendments into a bill that is not in scope, and that's what we're going to do to preserve this coalition agreement.”
     That's what I have to surmise here. What I'm saying is that, if that's the game we're playing, giddy-up, because I have a lot of things that I would like to see amended in the Citizenship Act—a lot, years' worth of things. There are years' worth of things that I'm so eager to hold the government to on all their injustices towards.... In fact, I think there are going to be amendments to the Citizenship Act regarding the Afghan refugee crisis and all the things that happened around potentially fraudulent visas, which we're about to look at as well. I'm very excited. I have mountains of amendments for the Citizenship Act. Do you know what? Maybe I will vote in favour of this. Maybe I will. I don't know. Maybe I'm convincing myself that this sounds like a good idea. I'm looking down the table. Do we want to? Are we going to review the Citizenship Act? I don't know. It sounds exciting. Now I'm excited.
    I'm not the vice-chair, so I defer to your position, but I'm excited. Let's amend the Citizenship Act and keep citizenship ceremonies in place. That's one thing for sure. I guess I had better get busy. I don't know. Maybe I will vote in favour of this. It depends on what my colleagues in the government do. They won't know what I'm going to do—giddy-up.


     Seeing no further debate, we will take the vote on the motion proposed by Ms. Kwan.
    (Motion agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)
    The Chair: Go ahead, Ms. Kwan.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    Before I move a potential next motion, I just want to get clarification from the clerk in terms of a work schedule.
    From what I understand, Wednesday would be Afghanistan with the senator. Then, I believe on Monday.... I'm not quite sure where things are at with Minister Sajjan, who's supposed to come before committee. I know there was some potential trading going on with Minister Fraser on the mains. I just wanted to get an idea of what the lay of the land is.
    I note that the committee also just got its draft report on processing delays. We have yet to finish the Roxham Road report, which has been sitting in a rock pile there, literally, for us to complete.
    I just want to see where things are at.
    Thank you, Ms. Kwan.
    Right now, for this Wednesday, we have Senator McPhedran confirmed for Afghanistan. On April 26—that's next Wednesday—we have availability confirmed for Minister Harjit Sajjan. As yet, we have not heard back from Minister Marco Mendicino. We have given him the option of April 24 or May 1. For Wednesday, May 3, we have the confirmation of one hour for the Honourable Marc Garneau. For May 10, we have a confirmation from the minister of IRCC on the main estimates.
    I'm sorry. That went pretty fast.
    Did you say that on April 24 we may have Minister Mendicino? Is that correct?
    Yes, we have given him this option. As yet, we have not received any reply from his office.
    We have given him two dates, which are April 24 and May 1. As soon as we get some confirmation—we will find out in a day or so—I will get back with the updated calendar and circulate it to everybody.


    We'll wait and see what the situation is with the minister on the 24th—
    Yes, based on the responses we get, I will update the calendar and we will go from there.
    Mr. Redekopp.
    Thank you.
    I have just a quick question. When the minister comes to speak on the main estimates, does that include supplementary (A)s at that time?
    The minister has agreed to come on the main estimates.
    That means we would have to do another meeting for the supplementary (A)s. Is that the idea?
    Yes. Right now, this meeting is scheduled for the main estimates.
    Mr. Redekopp.
    For a week from today, we don't have anything scheduled at the moment.
    As yet we don't have confirmation. We will check with Minister Marco Mendicino's office, and then we will update the calendar. I'm just waiting for a response from their office.
    Ms. Kwan.
     Thank you, Madam Chair.
    If the minister does not show up for the 24th or is unavailable for the 24th, can we finish Roxham Road on the 24th and just get that report off our desks? We're almost done.
    Let me find out about the minister, and then maybe, I think.... Let's have a discussion based on which date he gives, either the 24th or the first. I will let you know and then we can update the calendar.
    Go ahead, Ms. Kwan
    I think we've completed our business for today. I move that we now adjourn.
     Is it the will of the committee to adjourn the meeting? Ms. Kwan has moved to adjourn the meeting, so we will take a vote on that.
    (Motion agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)
    The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.
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