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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
Thank you very much, everyone, for having me here today. Before I begin my remarks, I would like to introduce Isabelle Mondou and Natasha Kim, both of whom work in the Privy Council Office. They are exceptional public servants and they know more about all of these subjects than I do. I'm very pleased to have them at the table with me. I feel assured to have them at my side.
Without any further ado, Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure to address the committee on the citizen voting act. The bill will strengthen Canada's democracy by reinforcing the integrity of the special ballot voting system and ensuring fairness for resident and non-resident votes. The citizen voting act proposes to reform the vote by mail procedures set out in divisions 3 and 4 of the special voting rules of the Canada Elections Act.
The last major update to these procedures was back in 1993. The citizen voting act is in keeping with the government's objective to strengthen the integrity of our electoral process. It builds on the rules enacted by the Fair Elections Act in June of 2014, a bill with which I know all of you are deeply familiar.
The citizen voting act proposes six key measures to reform the special voting rules in the Canada Elections Act and proposes objectives of integrity and fairness.
First, the proposed legislation creates a single process for residents and non-residents who vote by special ballot. Special ballot voting procedures applicable to resident and non-resident electors will be harmonized. Non-resident voters will no longer automatically receive a ballot at election time, mitigating the risk that ballots will end up with unintended recipients. The citizen voting act requires that non-resident electors wishing to vote by special ballot must apply for one at each election, just as resident electors do now.
Second, the bill stipulates non-resident electors will only receive a ballot for the address at which they last resided in Canada. Non-resident electors will no longer be allowed to choose the riding in which they wish to vote.
Third, the bill builds on the Fair Elections Act by requiring all electors voting by special ballot, both residents and non-residents, include in the application proof of identity and residence according to the rules that are similar to those set up in the Fair Elections Act. At the moment, proof of residence in Canada is not required for non-residents. This shortcoming will be remedied, and as with other Canadians, proof of prior residence will be required for expatriate voters.
Under the citizen voting act, resident and non-resident electors voting under the special voting rules will have the same three voter identification options available in order to cast their ballots: a government-issued photo identification with name and address; two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer, one with an address and both with a name; or two pieces of authorized identification with an oath or declaration of residence that is attested to by another properly identified elector from the same riding.
Fourth, the proposed legislation requires that electors voting from outside of Canada provide proof of citizenship. Currently, providing proof of citizenship is required administratively by Elections Canada for non-resident electors. The citizen voting act makes this a legislative requirement, including for resident voters temporarily outside of the country.
Fifth, the citizen voting act extends the special ballot voting procedures to the mandatory post-election audit that was introduced in the Fair Elections Act. As you will recall, we required that the Chief Electoral Officer appoint an auditor to ensure identification rules were administered in the course of a general election. That mandatory audit was to apply to domestic voting. The citizen voting act will see to it that it also applies to those voting from outside of the country. To this end, the Chief Electoral Officer will be required to engage an external auditor to carry it out, and he will also be required to report the results of this audit. The audit will look into election workers' compliance with resident and non-resident special voting procedures after every election.
Finally, the citizen voting act adds a new provision authorizing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information such as the name, gender, date of birth, and address of persons who are not Canadian citizens, for the purpose of cross-referencing registrants in the national register of electors. This is to assist in deleting the names of non-residents from the register who are not qualified to vote. This suggestion came to me from the Chief Electoral Officer. He was concerned that there are people on the voter list who are not citizens, and one of the ways that Elections Canada can identify these non-citizens and remove them from the list is by having data on the identity of non-citizens who reside within Canada. So we have agreed to his suggestion and with the passage of this bill, we will permit the immigration minister to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with that data.
Before concluding my remarks to the committee, I would like to report that, following consultations with Elections Canada, and after looking at some of the issues that were raised during the debate in the House of Commons, the government will be proposing seven minor amendments to the citizen voting act.
First, the current bill provides that the Chief Electoral Officer may authorize types of identification issued by, among others, an entity that is “formed in Canada”. This ensures that identification documents must always be Canadian documents and thus reinforces the integrity of the identification procedure. Moreover, foreign-issued identification is likely to be harder to verify, and in some cases, it could be in another language. This requirement raises concerns that it would be difficult to determine whether an entity is Canadian. In particular, it has been argued that it would be difficult for poll officials to make such a determination.
We have noted the concerns and will be proposing to limit the application of this requirement to only electors voting by special ballot under divisions 3 and 4. This means that front-line officials at the polls will not have to evaluate whether a piece of identification was issued by an entity formed in Canada. Rather, this determination will mainly be required when Elections Canada reviews the identification documents provided by electors with their applications for special ballot prior to election day. In other words, it will apply to those voting by mail and those voting outside of the country, but not at the voting booth.
Elections Canada has access to more resources and will have more time than poll officials to assess whether pieces of identification have been issued by a Canadian entity. I believe this amendment will ensure not only that electors voting by special ballot provide Canadian identification to prove their identity and residence, but also that it will be easier for election officials to verify the acceptability of such identification.
Second, another concern that has been raised relates to the requirement in Bill C-50, the citizen voting act, that residents wishing to vote by special ballot using the attestation procedure to prove residency must obtain an attestation from another elector from the same polling division. For those listening who are not familiar with the complexity of local voting, there are electoral districts that each elect one member of Parliament, but within those districts are polling divisions that break down the voting locations where people go to cast their ballots. The reason that the distinction is important is that it is much more difficult to find an attestor who lives in the same polling division or even to know if that voter lives in the same polling division if you are voting from outside of the country and you are resident abroad. This is not a problem when you're actually voting at the polling division location because you're physically there and the person attesting is physically with you, and they would know very well if they are at their appropriate location.
That brings me to the proposed amendment.
Because the requirement would be problematic, we would seek to change the requirement for the fact that the boundaries of the polling divisions are not published by the Elections Canada website until 24 days before the polling day. To facilitate the process, we will propose an amendment to allow non-resident electors voting by special ballot to obtain an attestation from an elector from the same electoral district instead. In other words, anyone living in the same district would be able to act as the attestor for the non-resident voter lacking proof of prior address. They will not have to be from the same polling division. These electors will therefore be able to kick-start the registration process from the day the election is called.
The third amendment that we propose, Mr. Chair, relates also to the attestation process. Bill C-50 currently provides that as part of the attestation, resident and non-resident electors voting by special ballot may sign a declaration to prove their residence instead of taking the oath. Those who attest to the residence of an elector who are abroad may also sign a declaration instead of taking an oath. An amendment will be proposed to clarify that the declarations signed by attestors from abroad will not need to be administered by another person. Signing a declaration will be sufficient to prove or to attest to the residence of an elector. This will simplify the process for electors and attestors abroad.
The fourth proposed amendment relates to the proof of citizenship that electors voting by special ballot would have to provide, if making their application from outside Canada. We will clarify the language to specify that proof of citizenship is required when the ballot is being sent outside of the country rather than to special ballot voters within the country.
The fifth amendment relates to post-election audit. Bill C-50 proposes to extend the audit to include voting by special ballot and to give the auditor access to all documents necessary to perform the audit. A technical amendment will be proposed to ensure that the auditor has access to all documents necessary to perform the audit for voting at the polls as well.
Sixth, an amendment will be tabled to mitigate the risk of a voter identification card being sent to Canadians at an address at which they no longer live, which would increase the risk of such cards falling into the hands of people who are not eligible to vote in our elections. This technical amendment will provide that all non-residents will not receive a voter information card. Under clause 3 of the bill as currently drafted, that exception would apply only to some non-residents.
As amendment number 7, finally, we will propose an amendment for resident electors who vote in person through special ballot initiatives. For example, such initiatives could be held at hospitals, universities, or at remote work locations, as has been done in the past. An amendment will enable those electors, like electors who vote at the polls, to present an original piece of identification, and not only copies, as is currently provided by Bill C-50.
I hope that committee members will support these amendments. I believe they are sensible and that they are consistent with the goal of the bill.
I can just wrap up by highlighting the principle at stake here.
Mr. Chair, we believe that people should provide ID when they vote. This ID should show who they are, where they reside, and in the case of people living abroad, where they used to reside. Those people voting outside of the country should be required to prove that they're Canadian citizens. The Constitution does give every Canadian the right to vote, but that right is predicated on citizenship—explicitly predicated on citizenship—and so too should be the identification requirement for those who are casting a ballot from outside Canada's borders.
Thank you very much.
View Blake Richards Profile
View Blake Richards Profile
2015-05-28 11:43
Okay, that's good to know. I'll be quick, then.
Minister, according to Elections Canada estimates there are approximately 40,000 non-citizens who are currently on the national register of electors. That means, obviously, that receiving voter information cards that would tell them how to vote would certainly mean, upon arriving at a polling station, that they could be permitted to vote legally because they had received this information.
I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how Bill C-50 solves that particular problem. Then I have one other question.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
This is a very important question. As you know, citizenship is the basic key that unlocks voting rights in this country. That's what the Constitution says in black and white. The Chief Electoral Officer informed me that there are tens of thousands of non-citizens who are on the voters list. He asked for access to Immigration Canada's data on non-citizens who are in Canada. The bill authorizes that transfer of information and will hopefully allow us to remove those thousands of non-citizens from the list.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-05-11 16:06
A case that may not have been initiated by the Government of Canada but one that's being prolonged by virtue of the Government of Canada's appeal is the Ishaq case involving the niqab at the citizenship ceremony. Can you give us some sense, Mr. Minister, of how much that case has cost the taxpayer to date and whether you have an envelope set aside for the future proceedings in that case?
View Peter MacKay Profile
Well, obviously not.
This is a case that's before the courts and so for that reason, as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, I'm not going to comment on cases that are still before the court.
These are cases like others that make their way through the courts. They are a direct response to an issue that is, in our view, of importance to Canadians. It deals with fundamental values and rights that do sometimes come into conflict and like previous governments we've taken the position that we will advance and will do so through the courts in a transparent way.
Caitlin Imrie
View Caitlin Imrie Profile
Caitlin Imrie
2014-11-17 16:39
The change that occurred was that in July of 2013 accountability for the passport program moved from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, however, is supported by the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada who is now responsible for the delivery in Canada of the passport program through the Service Canada network, and overseas by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development. So Foreign Affairs will continue to play a role in assisting Canadians overseas.
The change was prompted by quite a bit of analysis of the alignment of the previous passport agency to see whether it was properly set up to meet the challenges of the future. Obviously we have an increasingly complex global world with IT challenges that are coming at us and it's very important that we're able to meet all of those challenges. There was analysis that looked at the program and where it best fit. That analysis demonstrated that there was a high degree of alignment between the passport program and Citizenship and Immigration's core business, as in, for instance, citizenship. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is responsible for determining who is a Canadian citizen. The passport is the best proof of citizenship that we have out there, so there's obviously a high degree of alignment between those programs. But in addition, the IT system that the passport program was running on previously was what we call a legacy system and it was not up to the challenge of the future. Citizenship and Immigration has a global case management system that has been in use for 10 years that allows us to move work around and to offer e-applications, and it has allowed us to modernize our programs and services.
This change also allows the passport program to benefit from our IT infrastructure.
View David Tilson Profile
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, meeting number 31. We are studying, clause by clause, Bill C-24, which is amending the Citizenship Act and other acts.
We have the same officials before us that we had yesterday from the department, in case members have technical questions.
(On clause 8)
The Chair: I think we finished Green-4, which failed, and we now have Green-5.
Ms. May, I assume the legislative clerk has spoken to you and he has pointed out to you that he's recommending to me that the amendment proposed by you is inadmissible. I concur with him. Do you wish me to go further?
Basically the amendment intends to delete the entire clause. When you do that it's out of order because simply voting against the adoption of the clause would have the same effect, and that comes from O'Brien and Bosc at page 768. So the ruling essentially is that parliamentary practice does not permit a member to do something indirectly what cannot be directly. Therefore, Ms. May, I declare that the amendment is inadmissible.
So, we now proceed to....
Well, there doesn't seem to be anyone to move, so we will proceed with Liberal amendment 7. I don't see anyone making the amendment for that either.
You know, I'd like to be reasonable here.
I'm going to suspend for a minute.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Yes, Mr. Chair.
This amendment would require that a Canadian facing citizenship revocation would be entitled to a hearing if they request one, and that the minister must notify them of that right. We are fundamentally opposed to the new powers of citizenship revocation. However, we recognize that the Conservatives have a majority and tend to ram these provisions down Parliament's throat regardless of what the experts say; therefore, we have also made a number of amendments to these provisions that we think can add, at the very least, a few checks on these new powers, and we hope that members of the committee will seriously consider these amendments.
We think it's crazy that a Canadian, born here to Canadian parents, a Canadian who goes back generations, could have their citizenship revoked through an exchange of letters. It's one of the most basic principles of due process that people are entitled to a hearing. This amendment would guarantee a hearing for any Canadian facing revocation.
View Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This is a major problem that witnesses pointed out during the study of Bill C-24. One witness even said that a person whose citizenship might be revoked had fewer legal rights than another who had received a parking ticket. I think that shows how ridiculous this provision of Bill C-24 is. For that reason, the NDP will support the proposed amendment.
View Costas Menegakis Profile
Mr. Chair, the impact of this amendment would require the minister, or the minister's delegate, to hold the hearing upon the request of an individual, an individual who is subject to a revocation process, which may lead to a less efficient process.
The government does not support this amendment because we feel it is unnecessary and is not consistent with the structure of the new revocation model. The factors that the minister must consider in deciding whether to hold a hearing will be prescribed in regulations. As a majority of revocation cases are likely to be straightforward, an oral hearing may not be necessary. The new model will improve the efficiency of the process, while ensuring fairness and a recourse mechanism for affected individuals. Under the new model, revocation decisions will be made by either the Federal Court or the minister.
Revocation cases decided by the minister would include those related to various revocation cases decided by the CIC minister or delegate. Under the new grounds, the minister would make decisions based on objective evidence where there is a conviction on a limited list of offences. The proposed system includes many safeguards, including the person's ability to make submissions and seek a judicial review. We feel those are appropriate.
As is the case for any other administrative decisions, the minister's revocation decision could be judicially reviewed with leave to the Federal Court. Decisions of the Federal Court would be subject to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal if the Federal Court certifies a serious question of general importance.
Now it will also make it easier to revoke citizenship from those who hid crimes committed abroad, which would make it easier to get war criminals out of Canada.
For those reasons—and we could elaborate a lot further on them, but I won't in the interest of time—the government will not be supporting this amendment.
View David Tilson Profile
All those in favour of Liberal amendment 6?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Mr. Regan, just so you're clear, because you're filling in for another one of our colleagues, I'm not asking that the amendment be actually read. I'm assuming that when you speak in support of the amendment that it's been done. You don't have to read it, you can just say why you're making the amendment. We all have copies of that amendment.
You can proceed, if you're going to proceed, with Liberal amendment 7.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Liberal amendment 7 would reverse the onus in Bill C-24 so that the minister would have to prove that the affected Canadian has a second citizenship. In our view, reverse onuses are rarely used in Canadian law. When they are, it's only in the most extreme of circumstances. If the minister has gone through all the work to prove that a Canadian should have their citizenship revoked, then they should also be able to prove that their target also has a second citizenship. It shouldn't fall on the shoulders of the Canadian to prove a negative.
View Costas Menegakis Profile
It's hardly proving a negative. But anyhow, the impact of this amendment of proposed subsection 10.4(2), with regard to revocation, would put the onus on the minister to prove that the individual in question is a dual citizen. Obviously, the government does not support this amendment and we don't feel this amendment is necessary. Before requiring an individual to establish that they are not a citizen of another country, the minister would first have to identify, based on reasonable grounds, the other country of citizenship.
Also, as this provision only applies to dual citizens, the intent is not to render individuals stateless.
So we're not supporting this amendment.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
To quote Mr. Menegakis, to prove you are “not a citizen of another country”, that surely is proving a negative. He used the word “not”, for starters, but it's clearly proving a negative.
View Costas Menegakis Profile
We can argue on words, but that's not our purpose here today. We're ready to vote.
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