Mr. Chair, the members opposite referred to members of the governing party on the committee. I would ask you to review what they said. I think you'll find that this is true; I did not make this up.
But I will speak to the issues at hand here, because I think it is important for Canadians to know and for all members in this committee to know the accurate facts in the legislation.
First of all is the issue of constitutionality and whether the bill is charter-compliant. I think the minister was abundantly clear, when he was asked that question when he appeared before the committee, that the bill went through a judicial review within the ministry of justice. The Minister of Justice was very clear that it is compliant with the charter. Had it not been, we certainly would not have tabled it, as a government, in the House. So we're convinced about the constitutionality of the elements of the bill.
Let me just say that experts—we heard the members opposite speak to experts and expert witnesses and what experts have to say here and what experts had to say there.... We have many experts here. Experts begin with our officials, who are dealing with these matters on a daily basis, who were here and appeared before us, Mr. Chair.
We heard support for the bill from many witnesses. We heard opposition to the bill from many witnesses. But we were trying to determine, in all of that, the pertinent points, so that we could take them into consideration when reviewing the amendments proposed to this bill.
I think it's worthy to note, and I'm going to say this, that on February 27, before we even met a single witness here—we hadn't even heard from a witness—the opposition stood up in the House and moved that the bill not be heard at second reading, before we even heard any witnesses.
I can go on forever as to how much credibility the opposition actually gives the witnesses, when they want to move not to hear the bill before even having had the opportunity to listen to witnesses who they are now claiming are so important to them, moving forward.
Nevertheless, this clause 8 does deal with the issue of revocation. Revocation is an important issue. If I got the gist of what the members opposite were saying, basically they were asking how it is fair to revoke citizenship for a foreign offence. They are asking such things, perhaps, as what the assessment of equivalence between a foreign and domestic offence would include. Will it include equivalence of a judicial process, and so forth?
I'd like to answer that question, because perhaps that will give them some additional information so that they can reflect on clause 8 of this bill.
The bill does introduce a new power to revoke citizenship on the basis of a person's having been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment. In the case of a foreign terrorism conviction, it would have to be shown that if the offence were committed in Canada, it would constitute a terrorism offence in Canada. Revocations based on other convictions listed, such as treason or spying, would require a Canadian conviction.
Essentially, officers would assess whether the foreign offence could be equalled with an offence under a Canadian federal statute, in this case the Criminal Code offence of terrorism. They would follow the test established by the Federal Court of Appeal in the context of criminal inadmissibility assessments under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The CIC minister has the authority not to proceed with the revocation or to bar someone from acquiring citizenship in exceptional circumstances. This authority would be available for use in cases in which there are concerns about the judicial system in a particular country that could lead to an unfair trial or to politically motivated convictions for terrorism.
Individuals would also be provided with a safeguard in the form of judicial review recourse, which is available to individuals in all revocation cases.
Now, here is the point at which we have a fundamental difference with members of the opposition. We believe that if you commit a crime against the country—of treason, terrorism, against the Canadian Armed Forces—you have committed a crime. This is not an attack on those who have a dual citizenship. I might add that I know many people who have dual citizenship and are not criminals.
I can tell you that dual citizens themselves don't want terrorists that happen to have dual citizenship around them; Canadians have told us. They've told us in our ridings. They've told us in our deliberations. We've heard it from witnesses. We ask that question: who would want a terrorist to be their neighbour?
Also, why would you not want to take away citizenship from someone who obtained it fraudulently? There are benefits when it comes to citizenship, Mr. Chair. Those who have dual citizenship have an additional benefit in another country, which a Canadian citizen doesn't.
Now, we are subject to the international protocol that prevents us from rendering somebody stateless, but let me be clear about one thing. Someone who perpetrates a crime against Canada, such as treason or terrorism, is not absolved of the judicial system here. If they're concerned about their children.... I believe it was Ms. Sitsabaiesan who asked, “What about the babies, the children?” Well, those children aren't going to see their parents for a very long time. Because whether you're a dual citizen or not, if you perpetrate one of those crimes, you're going to be charged, convicted, and put in prison. It's not like you do the crime and it's goodbye; you will still be held accountable. That's the law in Canada. You can't come to Canada, walk around, perpetrate that kind of crime, and then say, “Oh, you lose your citizenship, goodbye.” That's not what we're saying here. I want to make that very clear. That's not what Canadians want. That's not what anybody wants.
There will be due process for those who are accused. Once convicted—convicted by a court of law or a jury—these people are going to lose the Canadian citizenship if they have dual citizenship. We think it is fair to protect the value of Canadian citizenship. Those who obtain it should respect all the pluses, all the benefits, and the rules of the land.
It's abundantly clear in comments we heard from several witnesses, including the minister and the officials, and it's something we hear from Canadians. We're not talking about...you know, this is like an attack on dual citizens.... It's not. I've heard members opposite refer to it as two tiers of citizenship. Well, there are two types of people. You either have dual citizens and citizenship or you don't have dual citizenship.
If somebody chooses to retain their citizenship or ask for the citizenship of another country, or to retain it if they got it at birth, they can always renounce it. You can always renounce your citizenship from another country if you're concerned about this particular piece of legislation.
But here's the thing. Law-abiding citizens will never do that, because they don't think.... Why would they renounce their citizenship? Because 99.99% of the people are law-abiding citizens, and they're not going to think, “I'm going to renounce my citizenship.” We're talking about those who would perpetrate a crime. We're talking about criminals. That's who we're talking about here.
I want to make that very clear to anybody who's listening to us here and to all members in particular. We are talking about criminals or those who obtain citizenship fraudulently. We're not talking about law-abiding citizens. I can't for the life of me understand why members of the opposition would want to provide protection for those people who would perpetrate those crimes by removing clause 8, by not supporting clause 8 in this legislation. That's the issue of revocation. It's not an attack on law-abiding citizens. It is the will of the government to ensure that our population is protected, and protected at all times.
The issue of equivalency of a crime performed in another country will have to be proven. It will have to be a crime that is recognized in Canada as equivalent, and obviously it would have to be recognized by a country whose judicial system is of the calibre—of the quality they use, I think—that it is in Canada. Certainly, there are provisions in the bill to prevent this kind of thing happening in despotically governed countries. The revocation factor in the bill is I think a critical component of this bill, because it sends a very strong message to those who perhaps would want to use Canada as a haven by retaining their Canadian citizenship, but who perform a crime either within Canada or outside of Canada.
I would submit to the honourable members here that nobody wants to have a person like that as a neighbour in this country—nobody. I haven't met a single person who says, “You know what? I know this crime was committed but it didn't happen in Canada, so I really don't care.” I don't know of a single person who would say, “You know what? Don't take away their citizenship even though they have dual citizenship because they're Canadian citizens, and what about their children?” Outside of things I've heard in this committee, I certainly have not heard that.
It is something that we will vigorously defend, because it is incumbent upon our Parliament, and we believe, incumbent upon us as a government, to ensure that there is protection in our immigration system for all Canadian citizens. We're a very welcoming country, Mr. Chair. We want people to come here. We want the best and the brightest and those who are in need. We want people to come to our country, but we want them to be law-abiding citizens. We want them to respect the laws of the land.
We're talking about revocation. There is no provision in this bill to revoke the citizenship of a law-abiding Canadian citizen, whether they have dual citizenship or not. There is no provision in this bill that provides that.
Having said that, I will note that we just went through clause 8 and there was not a single amendment proposed by members of the New Democratic Party for clause 8. They're opposing the entire clause with no amendment to it whatsoever. We will be supporting clause 8.
I'll reserve the right to come back to the point before we vote on it, of course. I would ask, Madam Clerk—through you, Mr. Chair—that my name be added to the list again.
Thank you very much.