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Results: 1 - 100 of 115
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2013-06-18 20:00 [p.18580]
Mr. Speaker, I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:
Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), shall be deemed reported back from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration without amendment.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2013-06-18 20:00 [p.18580]
Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2013-06-17 15:05 [p.18431]
Mr. Speaker, the situation in Syria is catastrophic. While the fiercest battles have raged in recent months, the Canadian government has even recognized the use of chemical warfare against the Syrian people. Without any help from the government, I identified 17 Canadian children who are caught up in this hell and cannot leave Syria without their immediate family—father, mother, sister or brother—who do not have Canadian citizenship. I have been forwarding this information to the minister for the past week, but he has done nothing about it.
I gave him this information again today. What does he plan to do? We are talking about the lives of 17 Canadian children.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2013-06-17 15:06 [p.18431]
Mr. Speaker, as I have explained to the hon. member, my office receives several thousand claims a month. I personally receive over 100 immigration files a week. I am sorry, but I am not a fast-food joint, and I cannot give answers to such complex cases in just a few hours.
That being said, I am happy to say that we have nearly completed processing all of the family reunification applications for people in Syria who were already in our system.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-06-13 14:10 [p.18294]
Mr. Speaker, the NDP has reached a new low. It is defending the interests of terrorists rather than protecting law-abiding Canadians. The NDP has been instructed to try to block my private member's bill, Bill C-425, in committee and prevent it from moving forward.
Bill C-425 would strip convicted terrorists of their Canadian citizenship. Eighty per cent of Canadians support strong measures like this to combat terrorism.
The leader of the NDP and his party are completely out of touch with Canadians.
Our Conservative government is committed to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. We do not think convicted terrorists deserve the privilege of calling themselves Canadians.
I urge the leader of the NDP to stop trying to dilute the values of Canadian citizenship and standing up for the interests of terrorists, and let us move forward with my bill.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-06-13 14:59 [p.18303]
Mr. Speaker, recently there have been disturbing reports about Canadian citizenship being used as a flag of convenience for terrorists to commit violent acts against innocent civilians.
Our Conservative government believes that Canadian citizenship should be stripped from convicted terrorists. Although the NDP leader does not stop at stop signs, the NDP is trying to stop my bill by filibustering at committee.
Can the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism inform this House where our government stands on my private member's bill, and the NDP's attempt to destroy it?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2013-06-13 14:59 [p.18303]
Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Calgary Northeast for his bill that would strip citizenship from convicted terrorists and traitors.
Eighty percent of Canadians agree that if someone violently demonstrates their disloyalty to Canada by committing a serious act of terrorism, this should be understood as a renunciation of their loyalty to Canada and their citizenship.
Only 6% of Canadians strongly disagree with that proposition. Regrettably, that includes 100% of the NDP caucus who are leading a bizarre filibuster against Bill C-425 at the immigration committee. We call on them to listen to Canadians, let the bill go to a vote so there are consequences—
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-05-09 10:12 [p.16539]
Mr. Speaker, I feel I need to address the question of privilege raised by my hon. colleague opposite regarding my private member's Bill C-425, which amends the Citizenship Act. From the time I tabled my bill, I have been clear in saying that I am open to friendly amendments that are in line with the aims and intent of my legislation, which is to create more pathways to integration, reward those who put their lives on the line for Canada and underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship.
The second part of my bill revokes citizenship from a person who demonstrates deep disloyalty to Canada and Canadian values. My colleagues opposite want the House to believe that amending my bill to articulate acts of terrorism is not in line with the original intent of my bill. I can tell the House, as the author of the bill, that strengthening it to include acts of terrorism in addition to treason is well within my stated aims and intentions.
I also want to remind my colleagues opposite that as feared, the threat of terrorism has become very real to Canadians in recent days and months. I believe we, as members of Parliament and members of the committees of this House, have an obligation to take these threats seriously and need to be able to deal efficiently and effectively with the issues that touch the lives of Canadian citizens in a timely manner.
The members opposite perhaps forgot that a national poll conducted on this matter showed that over 80% Canadians agreed that the citizenship should be revoked of those who commit acts of terrorism. I hope my colleagues opposite are not using delay tactics to thwart the will of Canadians, but from this side of the House I am afraid that it looks as though they are. Perhaps they should be clear about their intentions. Do they oppose stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists? If they do, they need to come clean and say so.
Adding serious convicted terrorists to my bill wholly conforms to the spirit and intent of my legislation. I have been talking about stripping the citizenship of those who act against our Canadian values and commit violent acts of disloyalty. Being a terrorist is absolutely against our Canadian values and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
I would hope the opposition members would appreciate an extra three hours to debate my bill and make their case. Perhaps they could use the extra time to clarify their position. Do they support removing citizenship from convicted terrorists or not? Canadians need to see their Parliament able to act and act quickly in the interests of safety and security of its people.
I urge opposition members to stop playing politics with this issue as it can have dire consequences. Or they should tell Canadians why we need to keep convicted terrorists in Canada. The House should be allowed to have a debate regarding the scope of my bill, especially in the light of recent, timely events that have put homegrown terrorism front and centre in the minds of Canadians and have put Canada's reputation at stake at the international level.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the interventions made by the hon. members for Toronto Centre and Saint-Lambert concerning the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
This report contains the request that the committee be granted the power to expand the scope of Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), such that the provisions of the bill not be limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.
One member suggested that the report itself is out of order, while the other suggested that the recommended instruction is deficient and, therefore, out of order.
I disagree with both of these assessments.
Let me address the first of these objections, the one put forward by the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
At the core of his presentation, he argued that Standing Order 97.1 excludes the possibility of a committee seeking an instruction in relation to a private member's bill, because that Standing Order enumerates three reports—not two as the honourable and learned member said—that a committee may present within 60 days of an order of reference.
The hon. member made reference to one approach to legal interpretation in support of his view. On the other hand, I would offer a different school of thought on interpretation, the mischief rule; in other words, what problem or mischief was being remedied when a law was enacted.
To this end, I would refer members to the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented during the first session of the 36th Parliament, back in 1997.
In the section on the disposition of bills by committees, the report observes:
A number of private Members' bills that have received second reading and been referred to committee have unfortunately disappeared and never been heard from again.... We are not in a position to comment on specific cases, but we do wish to prevent this situation from arising in the future.
There you go, Mr. Speaker. The intent was not to interfere with or restrict the manner in which a committee can consider legislation, but just that a committee cannot sit on a private member's bill indefinitely.
This was echoed in the Private Members' Business Practical Guide, 9th edition, which was published in October 2008 under the authority of the Clerk of the House of Commons. At page 16, under the heading of “Committee Consideration of Bills”, one reads that:
A votable Private Members' bill follows the normal procedure for a bill: if second reading is agreed to by the House, the bill is referred to a committee for the hearing of witnesses, clause-by-clause study and possible amendment.
The guide then discusses the rules that are particular to private members' bills: deadlines to report and proceedings on recommendations not to proceed further.
Nothing is suggested in this publication of the House to suggest that these types of bills are exempt from procedure on instructions.
I would further argue that Standing Order 97.1 has also not been circumvented by the eighth report. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration remains seized by Bill C-425, and it remains subject to the 60-day sitting deadline established by that standing committee to dispose of the bill. Indeed citation 684.1 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 6th edition, advises that:
The Instruction should not be given while a bill is still in the possession of the House but rather after it has come into the possession of the committee.
Therefore, it follows that the committee remains seized with Bill C-425 and, consequently, has not made, yet, any of the reports required by Standing Order 97.1.
Having demonstrated that Standing Order 97.1 does not exclude the ability of the House to give an instruction to a committee on a private member's bill, as argued by the hon. member for Toronto Centre, I will now turn to the argument advanced by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert about the requested instruction itself.
Instructions are not common in our contemporary practice, which page 752 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice explains:
Motions of instruction derive from British practice during the second half of the nineteenth century. They were carried over into the practice of the Canadian House of Commons, although they have rarely been used.
Therefore, I will be referring to some of our older texts and United Kingdom authorities in addition to our contemporary procedural books.
Page 752 of O'Brien and Bosc states:
Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as...expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
Then at page 992, the manner for committees to obtain additional powers is described. It states:
If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House...or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.
Indeed, the chair of the citizenship committee cited this at the committee's meeting on April 23, and then added, “That's what...[the hon. member for St. Catharines] is doing with his motion”.
Citation 681(2) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, observes that:
The purpose of the Instruction must be supplementary and ancillary to the purpose of the bill, and must fall within the general scope and framework of the bill. It is irregular to introduce into a bill, by an Instruction to the committee, a subject which should properly form the substance of a distinct measure, having regard to usage and the general practice of enacting distinct statutes for distinct branches of law.
Citation 222 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, fourth edition, traces that proposition to an 1893 ruling of Mr. Speaker Peel of the United Kingdom House of Commons.
In the present instance, we are considering a proposal for the extension of the objects of Bill C-425. These types of instructions are explained in citation no. 686(1) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition. It states:
An Instruction is necessary to authorize the introduction into a bill of amendments, which extend its provisions to objects not strictly covered by the subject-matter of the bill as agreed to on the second reading, provided that these objects are cognate to its general purposes.
This statement, as distilled from citation 226(2) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, fourth edition, quotes at length pages 398 and 399 of the 13th edition of Erskine May. There is one portion of that passage that I would like to add to the record. It states:
The object of an instruction is, therefore, to endow a committee with power whereby the committee can perfect and complete the legislation defined by the contents of the Bill, or extend the provisions of a Bill to cognate objects....
Page 559 of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 24th edition, offers the same abbreviated advice we saw in Beauchesne's sixth edition. The British text then goes on to recite several examples of instructions to this effect. The first bill on that list offers a compelling parallel. It states:
The Public Bodies (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Bill 1959-60 was limited to the single purpose of admitting the press to meetings. An instruction was necessary to extend the bill to the general public.
The Chair may be interested in knowing that the bill was also a private member's bill. In fact, many of the bills on that list, as I understand, were private member's bills.
As a historical aside, members may be interested in knowing that the sponsor of that 1959 bill was a then young, up-and-coming member of Parliament by the name of Margaret Thatcher. To be clear, though, the text of the instruction in relation to Mrs. Thatcher's bill bears similarities to the case now before us. The British motion is found at column 1,064 of volume 619 of the United Kingdom House of Commons Debates for March 14, 1960. It states:
...That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they have power to make provision in the Bill for requiring members of the public other than representatives of the Press to be admitted to meetings of bodies exercising public functions, and for matters arising out of their admission.
In the case of Bill C-425, we have legislation that proposes to make two changes to the Citizenship Act with reference to the Canadian Armed Forces. The eighth report simply proposes that the citizenship committee be empowered to consider amendments that extend the application of those two objects to circumstances not involving the Canadian Armed Forces specifically.
As I understand the context, it became apparent at committee that the “act of war” is not defined clearly in either our domestic law or international laws, so that those references in Bill C-425 needed to be clarified. Amendments were to be proposed to address and clarify this.
Moreover, the committee heard suggestions about convicted terrorists in the context of the provisions for deemed applications for renunciation of citizenship. Amendments were also to be proposed in this vein.
I am further informed that there was an interpretation by the committee clerk that these amendments could be outside the scope of the bill. I am also told that the 8th report, which is now before the House, was drafted with the assistance of one or more committee clerks.
This report specifically addresses what committee members have been grappling with through their study of the bill, while at the same time being careful not to hamstring their own deliberations or to risk bringing forward a report with inadmissible amendments, as contemplated at pages 775 and 776 of O'Brien and Bosc.
Additionally, there was a view that this action was consistent with the intentions of the sponsor of Bill C-425, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
Ultimately, it is up to the House to decide what to do with Bill C-425. The discretion of the House and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration remains unfettered. Should a motion to concur in the 8th report be moved, the House would have a concurrence debate and vote in which all members would have an opportunity to have a say on the proposed instruction. Should the report be concurred in, the instruction to the committee would be permissive; that is to say that the committee is not mandated to amend the bill in such a manner.
Should the committee report the bill with amendments consistent with the instruction, it remains up to the House to accept the amendments, reverse them or propose further amendments when Bill C-425 is considered at report stage. Alternatively, the House retains the option of defeating the bill.
In summary, the intention of the instructions sought by the citizenship committee is not overly broad and results in an intelligible outcome. It is consistent with instructions authorizing the extension of the objects of a bill. It is for a purpose cognate to Bill C-425. It does not import a different subject matter into the bill or seek to amend other parent acts.
Finally, it does not propose an alternative scheme contradictory to the principle of the bill adopted at second reading.
Therefore, I respectfully submit that the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is admissible.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-05-09 10:28 [p.16541]
Mr. Speaker, I will be somewhat brief, but it is important that we be perfectly clear about what is happening here.
I sit on the citizenship and immigration committee. I am very familiar with the motion that has been proposed by the government and I want to make two quick points.
It is interesting to note that both the mover and the parliamentary secretary who spoke to this issue are implying motives in one sense. We are not using this in any form to filibuster or to prolong debate on Bill C-425, and that is important to note. We raised it as a question of privilege a couple of weeks ago because we believe it is important that private members' bills be respected for what they are as they go through the process, and you, through your office, Mr. Speaker, will be reviewing that. This is not a delay tactic in any way.
The parliamentary secretary made reference to “perfect and complete”. He is suggesting that the amendments that the government wants to propose at committee stage are going to make it “perfect and complete”, and he cites Beauchesne's and other rules of order to substantiate that comment, but what is clear is that the government, and particularly the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, intends to change the scope of the legislation.
The legislation can be best described as proposing two things. First, it would reduce the amount of time that a landed immigrant would be required to be here in Canada in order to receive his or her citizenship. As opposed to waiting three years, the individual would only be required to wait two years to acquire citizenship if that individual is a member of the Canadian Forces. That is the number one reason behind Bill C-425. Second, if a Canadian citizen commits an act of war against the Canadian Forces, that individual would be deemed to have denounced his or her Canadian citizenship.
Those were the two issues related to Bill C-425. Then guests were invited to participate in the committee hearings, and individuals started to change the focus of the bill. Then we found out that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration wanted the principle of the bill to be about terrorism as opposed to the issue of citizenship and the act of war on the Canadian Forces.
As a result, government members on committee recognized that they were attempting to change the scope of the private member's bill, and that was the reason government members put forward a motion for the bill to be brought back to the House before we went into clause-by-clause consideration: it was because they recognized that they had to change its scope.
I cannot tell the House how many times I have sat in a committee or in caucus where there has been a discussion about members not being allowed to change the scope of legislation. That is very clearly what is happening here. My concern is that the government wants to use its majority in the House to override a very important principle of private members' bills as well as the process involved with them.
Let me talk about the process of a private member's bill very briefly. First there are two hours of debate in the House, and then the bill goes to committee. The bill can be discussed for 60 hours at committee stage; it then comes back to the House, where it is debated for two hours and then ultimately voted on.
We do not want to use private members' hour as a back door for government legislation, and that is what we would be opening it to.
I caution all members of the House to review what has taken place and what the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration hopes to do. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration should be bringing in his own piece of legislation.
My advice to all members, and particularly to you, Mr. Speaker, is to protect the rights of individual members to bring in their own bills without having them hijacked by the government making changes to their scope.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2013-05-09 10:33 [p.16542]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to one brief point made by my friend from Winnipeg.
He cautioned you, Mr. Speaker, against allowing private members to propose legislation that might have the same scope as the government can propose in legislation. That would be a very alarming interpretation.
I understand that for the Liberal Party, it has always been about ensuring that individual members of Parliament do not have any power here. However, in the rules of the House, they do have the same power as the government to propose legislation. It is a strong power, and we believe it is important that private members be allowed that power.
There are some who argue that private members do not have as much power in this day and age as they once did. The reality is that in Parliament, more private members' legislation is becoming law than in any other Parliament in Canadian history, because we finally have a government that empowers private members in its caucus to bring forward legislation on important issues. It allows them to do that. It gives them the freedom to participate in a meaningful way in the legislative process on matters that are important to them.
I have to respectfully differ with my friend when he says that private members have to be restricted in some way, shape or form, have to be prevented from introducing meaningful legislation. The proposal from the deputy House leader is a very dangerous proposition.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I will be extremely brief. Suffice it to say that there is clearly no privilege in this case.
No privileges of any member have been impugned because, as I pointed out in my intervention, procedurally, we are—“we” being the House—absolutely within our rights to give instructions to a committee to expand a bill.
I gave the one reference and the one example in my intervention of the 1959-1960 bill by Margaret Thatcher. The intent of that bill was to allow members of the press, and only members of the press, to attend committee hearings. Mrs. Thatcher wanted to expand that to allow members of the general public to also attend hearings. Therefore, the House gave instructions to that effect to the committee, which then made the proper amendments, and the resulting bill allowed both members of the press and the general public.
The point is that the House has the complete authority to give instructions to a committee to allow it to expand the scope of a bill. That is the procedure of this place. Therefore, there is no privilege argument to refute that.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2013-05-09 10:36 [p.16542]
I thank all hon. colleagues for their further contributions.
As the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons just stated, and as I stated last week when this issue was first brought to my attention, I am not treating this as a question of privilege but as a point of order, because it has to do with procedural reporting of the committee. There is no evidence of members' rights and privileges having been affected.
I think that when the hon. member for Toronto Centre raised this issue, he should properly have raised it as a point of order, and that is how I will be treating it.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2013-05-07 19:43 [p.16459]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I appreciate the humanity that was evident in his remarks.
In Quebec, especially, I have met a number of families of Syrian origin who told me about Canadians who are stuck in Syria right now because their child was born there. The father and mother are Canadians, but the child is Syrian.
I can recall quite clearly that we allowed Canadian families to get visas for their immediate family during the Israeli-Lebanese conflict. I would like to know if my colleague will work with the Minister of Immigration so that we can bring these Canadian families here, as well as persecuted minorities, including Christians, Kurds, Assyrians and certain refugees—in fact, refugees in general.
I understand that Canada cannot take in everyone under the sun, but it could welcome and protect a certain number of refugees, including the little girl the minister mentioned. It would be a truly great gift to humanity.
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2013-05-07 19:44 [p.16459]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks by the hon. member from Quebec. I appreciated the tone and spirit of her comments.
If she would like, I would be willing to speak with her about this policy after question period tomorrow. Our concern is not just about the current refugees, but also about what will happen with the Christians, the Druze, the Alawites and the Ismailis after Assad leaves the government.
That is one of our biggest concerns and something we are increasingly focusing on. Not only do I appreciate her question, but I also appreciate the vast majority of the comments in her brief speech, with which I completely agreed.
View James Lunney Profile
Ind. (BC)
View James Lunney Profile
2013-05-07 22:06 [p.16478]
No, we do not. I am sure the member will check and find that it is the international convention. It is for the simple reason that we all hope they will be able to go back to a normalized nation and be given the choice of where they would like to live. We presume that the majority of them would like to go back to their homes in their own country in a stable, secure Syria.
Second, the member mentioned the crisis in Lebanon. Many of the people Canada flew out of Lebanon were actually Canadian citizens with dual citizenship.
Another point I would like to respond to was, in fact, the point raised about the minister's comment that there is a need for more and that we will do more. What the minister actually said, because I was listening to that debate, was that as time goes on, we will do more as the opportunity becomes available, in concert with our international partners. Canada has done more than almost any other nation, at this juncture, in providing aid to refugees, and we will continue to do so, as the minister said.
I will be sharing my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
Mr. Speaker, nearly every passing day, more shocking reports emerge of the atrocities committed against the Syrian people by the ruthless regime of Bashar al-Assad. The horrific toll of the conflict on the Syrian population is staggering. To date it is estimated by the UN that 80,000 people have been killed. More than 4.25 million have been internally displaced by the violence. In terms of refugees, we estimate that 1.4 million people, possibly as many as 1.5 million, are currently refugees from the conflict in Syria. They are in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some are in Egypt, and some are in Iraq. According to the UN High Commission, they are registering as many as 7,000 refugees a day. We heard the minister say earlier that in Jordan, as many as 2,000 are arriving each day. This is a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale.
Reports on the ground detail a litany of horrific human rights abuses committed by the Syrian regime. Tragically, with the conflict now in its third year, the human rights and humanitarian situation in the country continues to deteriorate. The UN commission of inquiry on Syria has now issued several reports documenting widespread, systemic and gross human rights violations by Syrian security forces, including arbitrary arrest, detention, sexual violence, pillaging and the destruction of cultural and other protected properties.
Our government, and I am sure all Canadians, continue to be deeply concerned about ongoing reports of sectarian violence, which has been exacerbated by the crisis in Syria. Upon their liberation from Assad's iron fist, the Syrian people must not find themselves threatened by those who seek to impose a new type of tyranny or those who threaten the security and stability of Syria's neighbours.
Our government has for some time been speaking up for religious minorities in Syria. Most recently, on May 4, following a deeply troubling incident of violence in the coastal city of Banias, Canada's new ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, condemned the violence and urged respect for religious minorities. The Syrian people have a strong cultural pluralism, acceptance and coexistence that is at odds with recent attacks singling out individual groups.
There was another troubling incident recently. Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, of the Syriac Archdiocese, both of Aleppo, were abducted while returning to Syria from Turkey, where they had been doing humanitarian work. Once again, on April 25, our government spoke out against these events and called for the immediate release of their eminences.
Sadly, even women and children are not safe from the violence. There are deeply troubling reports from Syria consistently suggesting that sexual violence has become prevalent, both on an opportunistic basis and as a deliberate method of warfare. There have also been disturbing reports of displaced women being abducted. Trafficking of women, as well as girls, is well documented.
The Assad regime has indiscriminately killed and injured great numbers of civilians through the use of heavy weapons in populated areas. It has launched scud missiles at the northern rebel-held cities in Syria, with no apparent effort to distinguish between civilian and legitimate military targets. There is also credible reporting that suggests the Assad regime has used cluster munitions as a weapon of war against its own citizens, including dropping bombs indiscriminately from attack helicopters on densely populated urban areas. More recently we have heard reports on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. The UN has established a fact-finding mission to establish whether such weapons have been used and by whom.
Canada has contributed some $2 million to these efforts. Unfortunately, I suppose we could say unsurprisingly, the Syrian regime and authorities have yet to grant the mission permission to visit and begin its investigation.
I think we heard the minister say earlier that if chemical weapons have been used, it would be important to determine who they were used by. If they were used, it would be important to determine when they were used and, as we said, by whom, because that would be essential in holding the perpetrators to account. There are conflicting reports, as to whether it is the regime or the rebels who have used chemical weapons. In either case, the use of chemical weapons is a huge escalation, and all of our international partners are duly alarmed by this escalation and determined to hold the perpetrators to account. Ultimately, Assad and his supporters, if they are culpable, will be held accountable.
Canada's objectives in Syria support a transition to a stable, democratic, pluralistic post-Assad time, while addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of those affected by the crisis. Through this difficult and violent period, one that has claimed the lives of far too many innocent civilians, we remain committed to a democratic transition in Syria.
Canada will continue to express the need for respect and promotion of human rights, particularly for religious minorities. It is vitally important that all Syrians can contribute to development without fear of violence. It is our hope, in fact it is our belief, that the regime's strategy of ruthless repression will not succeed in crushing the spirit of the Syrian people.
We are all hopeful that out of this terrible carnage and devastation will emerge a better future for the suffering people of Syria. I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2013-04-30 13:37 [p.16089]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the question of privilege—which is not truly a question of privilege—raised by my colleague from Toronto Centre. The question has to do with the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which recommends to the House that it:
...be granted the power during its consideration of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces) to expand the scope of the Bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.
I want to share why I think this question should be ruled out of order. However, before I share my arguments, I would like to correct what has been said so far. When the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for York—Simcoe, spoke on April 25, 2013, he misled he House. In speaking about the amendment, he implied that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is:
...asking the House to debate it for a number of hours and decide whether we think it is within the scope [of the bill]...
As you know, Mr. Speaker, that is not at all the case. This report does not ask us to determine whether the proposed amendments are within the scope of the bill. On the contrary, as I will explain later on, the committee clearly showed that it knows the proposed amendments are outside the scope of the bill. The report asks the House to give the committee the power to expand the scope of the bill and not to make judgments about amendments that could be made in committee.
I must also add that the member for Toronto Centre clearly did not do his homework before he spoke prematurely on the concurrence of this report before a motion to concur even made it to the order paper. A committee may seek an instruction from the House to expand the scope of a bill. In the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, O'Brien and Bosc are clear:
Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example...expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
That is exactly what the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is trying to do with its eighth report.
However, and this is the reason for my speech, there is a limit to the instruction that the House can give to a committee. I would like to quote from O'Brien and Bosc once again:
A motion of instruction will be ruled out of order if it does not relate to the content of the bill, if it goes beyond the scope of the bill (for example, by embodying a principle that is foreign to it...
That is why, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that you must intervene and rule that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration's request for instruction is out of order. This request is far too broad and does not allow the House to determine if the committee is likely to include a principle that is foreign to the bill.
There is some precedent where motions of instruction were deemed to be in order and were debated in the House. However, in each of those instances, the instructions were far clearer than those sought by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration today. One example is from April 27, 2010, when the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan moved the following motion of instruction:
That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, that it have the power during its consideration of Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs), to expand the scope of the Bill so that a grandchild born before 1985 with a female grandparent would receive the same entitlement to status as a grandchild of a male grandparent born in the same period.
This motion was very clear and was ruled to be in order with good reason. It gave the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development permission to expand the scope of the bill in question, while providing strict limits as to how the committee could do that. By voting on this motion, the House was assured that the committee would not include a principle that is foreign to it in the bill.
In contrast, the motion of instruction that we have before us is simply asking the House for the power to expand the scope of the bill so that it is not limited to just the Canadian Armed Forces. What does that mean exactly? What amendments does the committee want make to the bill so that it applies to more than just the Canadian Armed Forces?
As it currently stands, the bill allows permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces to get their citizenship more quickly. By asking that the bill apply to more than just members of the Canadian Armed Forces, is the committee suggesting that it would like to amend the bill so that permanent residents who are working in professions that are not related to the Canadian Armed Forces can also get their citizenship more quickly?
It is not at all clear. How can the House decide on such a motion of instruction when it does not know how the committee will proceed or whether the committee will try to include a principle that is not foreign to it in the bill?
I would also like to add that, if the committee's motion of instruction were to be found in order, it would set a dangerous precedent. By allowing a standing committee to expand the scope of a bill without specific instructions, we would be going down a very dangerous path under the current circumstances. Given this majority government's tendency to use private members' business to forward their own agenda, private members' business would be used as a way for the government to get around the rules.
Catherine Dauvergne, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, appeared before the committee as an individual during the examination of Bill C-425. She could not have provided a better explanation of the danger associated with such solicitation of instructions. She said:
...such a profound change to our Citizenship Act such as the one the minister is proposing must not be done by a process like this, by a private member's bill. That process reduces the time allowed for debate and for this committee to do its work and it protects the changes that the minister is proposing. This is controlling democracy.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations states:
In the case of every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown, the Minister shall, forthwith on receipt of two copies of the Bill from the Clerk of the House of Commons, (a) examine the Bill in order to determine whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms...
By asking standing committees to broaden the scope of bills to include suggestions from ministers, the government is not fulfilling its responsibility to examine the bills, as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations.
Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(1), the constitutionality of private members' business is studied only by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, before a bill is debated at second reading.
By trying to expand the scope of the bill after second reading, the government is avoiding the constitutional test and will therefore be able to amend private members' bills as it sees fit, instead of presenting those concepts in government bills that must pass the constitutional test of the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by urging you to pay particular attention to the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which the NDP feels should be ruled out of order.
Such a request for instruction is much too broad for the House to be able to ensure that the changes subsequently made by the committee will not include concepts that are foreign to the bill and will not violate the charter.
Giving such latitude to a standing committee will set a very dangerous precedent that this majority government will certainly use in a partisan and anti-democratic fashion.
Thank you for your attention. To help you with your study of this important issue, I will provide you with the evidence from the study of Bill C-425 conducted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
I am convinced that, once you look at the evidence, you will also agree that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is out of order.
View Barry Devolin Profile
CPC (ON)
As mentioned, when this matter returns before the House, the hon. member for St. John's East will have eight minutes remaining in his speech.
Statements by members, the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-04-26 11:57 [p.15971]
Mr. Speaker, processing times for citizenship have been an absolute and total disaster under the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Having said that, we have been challenging the government and the minister to take action on this front. Finally, in committee yesterday, we got a commitment from the minister. He has now established the Liberal idea of a 12-month target in terms of processing citizenship.
Could the minister give us an indication as to when he is going to implement this good, sound Liberal idea of 12 months?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2013-04-26 11:58 [p.15971]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Winnipeg North, because the first question he has asked on immigration in weeks he managed to get in at the end of question period on a Friday. That just shows how much the Liberals regard immigration matters.
The Liberals never achieved a 12-month processing time for citizenship applications. They left behind a massive backlog, just like they left behind a backlog of nearly 900,000 applications for permanent residency—people were waiting for seven to eight years—just like they imposed a $1,000 right-of-landing fee and froze settlement funding for newcomers. Their record was one of abysmal failure on immigration.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2013-04-25 15:20 [p.15923]
Mr. Speaker, there has been a fair bit of discussion in code here about what is being discussed.
In its original form, the private member's bill, Bill C-425, intended that if individuals with dual citizenship, those with citizenship in another country and in Canada, were to commit an act against a member of the Canadian military, they would be subject to the sanction of losing that citizenship. This was very much inspired by events in Afghanistan in particular, where the Canadian military were constantly exposed to these kinds of acts by people from all kinds of places.
As we have seen in recent events, such as the situation at the Algerian gas plant where Canadians were involved in a terrorist act and the recent events that have gripped us across North America, including the recent arrests in Canada, there is a concern that the kind of terrorist act that was captured by the original drafting of the bill perhaps could be worded a little differently to capture the full intent of what was intended. I understand that is the purpose of the amendment, so let us understand what we are talking about here.
The member for Toronto Centre and the opposition House leader are trying to find a way to prevent that particular definition that members of the committee thought they would like to have. There may be a legitimate difference of opinion as to whether it is beyond the scope of the bill or not; some believe it is within the scope of the bill, some believe it is not. Therefore, they are asking the House to debate it for a number of hours and decide whether we think it is within the scope, whether it should be within the scope and whether it is important for Canada to have the ability to provide that sanction against those who decide to take up arms as terrorists as well as those who take up arms against the military. It is part of the same thrust.
It is important for everyone to understand that this is what the member for Toronto Centre and the opposition House leader appear to indicate they wish to defeat on this kind of a technicality. They are raising it so that if they are successful in the arguments they are making to you, the consequence will be that the genuine will of members who are observing events and dealing with legislation in front of them to try to address this terrorist threat will be frustrated.
The easy answer to that is to say that it does not matter, so let us just go back and do another bill and take time and delay, because we do not really need to respond to these things quickly and in a decisive way. That is reminiscent of the theme from the Liberal Party for the past week and a half, so it does not surprise me that it is coming from them. We also saw how the New Democrats voted this week on the bill to address terrorism, so we clearly know how lacking their view is on how urgent and important it is to be able to address these threats.
That said, I would like an opportunity to explore this issue fully, because I did not anticipate this. Frankly, I must say that I am quite surprised that those parties would take this position on an issue of such contemporary urgency to Canadians, the issue of protecting us from terrorism, and I was unprepared for these kinds of procedural arguments. I would like the opportunity to come back and fully discuss the procedural aspects.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-04-25 15:23 [p.15924]
Mr. Speaker, maybe I could add to this. The government House leader could not be any more wrong on what the facts are.
Let me read exactly what was moved in committee and was tabled. This is what it says:
That the Committee recommend to the House that it be granted the power during its consideration of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces) to expand the scope of the Bill...
The motion itself is asking us to expand the scope because the government knows full well that the amendments it is proposing, which consist of a couple of pages, have absolutely nothing to do with the bill itself. The bill deals with citizenship and being able to denounce the citizenship of individuals who commit acts of war against the Canadian Forces. That is one part of the bill. The other part of the bill deals with reducing the requirement from three years to two years if people are landed immigrants and they apply for citizenship. That is it. That is all this private member's bill was meant to do.
If we read the debate that occurred at second reading in Hansard, we will see that is, in essence, all it was about. Those were the recorded words at second reading. If the government wanted to do what it is hoping to do, there is a proper course of action for it to take. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism should be introducing his own piece of legislation. In essence, what the Conservatives are proposing to do by changing the scope, and they have admitted they want to change the scope of the bill, is throw in some issues related to terrorism.
There is not one Liberal in the House who does not feel offended and outraged by what took place. We extended our sympathies on what happened a week ago in Boston and we applauded the efforts of the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies with regard to the prevention of a potential terrorist attack here in Canada. That is not what this is about. This is about a private member's bill. The government is now seeking the consent of a majority of the members in the House to legitimately change the scope of a private member's bill. That is not in question. It is in the motion itself.
If we read the motion that I just read, it states that they want to change the scope. If we then go to the rule which the member for Toronto Centre just read, Standing Order 97.1(1) specifically states:
A standing, special or legislative committee to which a Private Member's public bill has been referred shall in every case—
And I underline the words “shall in every case”:
—within sixty sitting days from the date of the bill's reference to the committee, either report the bill to the House with or without amendment or present to the House a report containing a recommendation not to proceed further with the bill and giving the reasons therefor or requesting a single extension of thirty sitting days to consider the bill, and giving the reasons therefor. If no bill or report is presented by the end of the sixty sitting days where no extension has been approved by the House, or by the end of the thirty sitting day extension if approved by the House, the bill shall be deemed to have been reported without amendment.
Within our own Standing Orders, it is very clear that we cannot change the scope. The government knew that in committee.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you take a look at the motion itself and review the Standing Orders, after which you will see the government has admitted that it wants to change the scope. That should kill it right there.
If we do not take some action against it, we would be allowing the government to go through the back door of a private member's bill to implement government bills when in fact the bills should be going through first reading, second reading, committee stage, third reading, and so forth, on their own merits.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
View David Tilson Profile
2013-04-23 10:03 [p.15755]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
View Brian Masse Profile
2013-04-23 12:41 [p.15777]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this important bill. It is not much of a debate, as there has been silence from the other parties for the most part. However, as a New Democrat and someone who lives on the border, I believe it is important to talk about some of the issues with respect to Bill S-7, because the bill would indeed affect our lives.
I will start by recognizing the families and victims of Boston, which was a horrible crime perpetrated against not only those individuals but also against free people across the planet. It is sad to see things turn that way. Our thoughts and prayers are with those people as they try to move on with their lives the best they can at this moment.
I always remember when 9/11 took place. I was working as a youth coordinator at the multicultural council. In that program we had eight youth from Canada who were making bad decisions about their lives, and their lives were not on track. Then we had about nine to ten youths who were new to Canada within the last couple of months or the previous year who were having a hard time adapting to Canadian culture and society, so we were doing a program together. We had anti-racism, volleyball and basketball programs. There was a lot of integration into the schools and a series of different things for people who had been identified as youth at risk. We had a good program, because it had a 90% success rate of youth either going to school or returning to a job somewhere once they completed the program.
I mention that because I was in my office and saw the second plane go into the tower on 9/11. I will always remember that moment when I had to go and talk to the students right after that, knowing that this atrocious act of terrorism was forever going to change the future quite significantly for all of us, not only in the way we perceive the world but also in the way we go about our business in the world, such as in the consequences we faced at the border, which was lined up with trucks. The border was virtually shut down. There were lineups on the 401 all the way back to London, Ontario. It got to the point where diapers were being handed out and porta-potties were being placed along the route because there were so many people stuck in their vehicles.
The trucks could not go anywhere. At that time, around 10,000 trucks crossed via the Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and the haz-mat ferry per day.
We still have consequences of that remaining with subsequent policies. A lot of the focus has been on militarization. In some respects there has also been a focus, to the point of obsession, regarding civil liberties, and it has altered our lives.
Bill S-7 is one of those issues. We saw it come through the House originally. The U.S. had what is called the Patriot Act, which infringed civil liberties there, and it was fought diligently by the civil liberties associations and others in the U.S.
We eventually had the original security certificate before Bill S-7, which is now amending it more strongly, despite the fact that we know it was not needed to solve some of the issues we have had to deal with because it contained a sunset clause.
I want to congratulate and thank the men and women who were responsible for making sure the VIA incident did not take place. They are to be commended for their hard work. It is an example showing that we do have laws in this country that can be very useful in combatting terrorism and crimes of that nature.
It is important that we talk a bit about militarization of the border and a change in attitude that is affecting our economy and the way that we interact in this world. I have seen this at the border.
I will go back to the Oklahoma City bombing. Two Muslim men in a car were the original suspects. Later on it turned out that it was Timothy McVeigh, a white Christian male who was part of the Michigan militia, who was the primary person responsible for that bombing.
I mention that because we have seen racial and ethnic profiling occur at the border, and it has affected a lot of people. I often remind Americans, especially when I am in Detroit, that thousands of doctors and nurses cross the border every single day to save the lives of American citizens in their hospitals and in other services.
It has been challenging. At times when there have been other acts of terror, profiling was targeted at communities. Sometimes it was the Pakistani community or the Somali community, and other times they were thrown in with the lot. That was unfair.
In fact, one of the biggest changes that I saw take place was when the US-VISIT program was implemented. The government, similar to previous governments, has not opposed the U.S. on the tiering of Canadian citizenships. It first happened when I was in Washington. I was at the embassy, and we became aware that they were going to put five nations on a list. If a person was born there, he or she was going to be fingerprinted and photographed, despite becoming a Canadian citizen.
The first list came out, which basically had a tiering of Canadian citizens. It did not matter if a person had only been in a country for a brief time as a child, or had come to Canada later on in life, that person was seen as a lesser Canadian. I asked the ambassador at that time if we were going to challenge it, and he said no. It was subsequently never challenged by any prime minister. To this day, we have a tiering of Canadian citizenship, which is not the right way to go.
It is also important to note that when we have these issues over privacy and identity, there have been times when it has been used against individuals, and later on they have been found to be innocent. The case in particular that I would like to raise, which has been raised often in the House, is the one of Maher Arar.
Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who was detained not by one but by two significant law enforcement agencies in North America, the RCMP and the FBI. He was exported outside of the country and he was terrorized. It was a terrible experience, affecting him, his life and his family, whom I have met, and it was sad to see. Basically, a lot of people at this odd time did not even think to stand by him. We had to stand by him. We found out later on that the evidence was not right. We found through the inquiry that it was not right, to the point where he has actually received reparations for it, but his life can never be made the same.
What concerns me with regard to Bill S-7 and some of the clauses that are in it is that the detention elements are for up to 12 months. If one has a detention of up to 12 months, that is a significant departure from a person's family, friends, relatives and the life that they are building in the country. Let us imagine being taken out of the workforce for 12 months and then see how one can actually get it all back later on.
Even if the person is cleared, the people around them in their life, whether they be friends and family, or just acquaintances or neighbours, will continue to harbour potential fears or different myths about the situation. They will not be as intimate with why the person was detained or what the reasons were, and if the person is later released, whether or not the person is still a threat.
I worry about the special process and stigma that are placed on those individuals, because it is inevitably going to lead to their having a different experience in Canada than other people, and why? Because we were creating a special law—a super law, so to speak—that is supposed to combat terrorism. We are going to see individual repercussions on that person and his or her family, which are heightened and very significant, and which will lead to long-term issues.
It is ironic that we are discussing this legislation, which very much does infringe on some personal rights, and we do want to act on terrorism, yet at the same time, through the budget and process, the government is cutting the things that can actually combat terrorism. I would like to talk about a couple of those things on the border.
I know I only have a minute, but I would highlight that we have over 100 CBSA investigative officers and other officers who are going to be or have been cut from their jobs. They have also been told to stand down if they find exporting guns, drugs, or criminal activity if they do not have an investigator when things are going to the United States. Those things come back as guns, money, and other weapons.
I cannot agree with Bill S-7. It goes far too far. We have the provisions in place right now to actually have a safer society.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-22 10:46 [p.15080]
Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is in regard to the issue of citizenship. The government has made a commitment to give $40 million toward the speeding up of processing times. We need a goal established by the government to have citizenship applications processed in a timely fashion, within that 12 months. That is the most important thing. At the very tail end of the budget, it implies there is going to be a citizenship fee increase. Could the member provide comment in terms of tax increases versus user fee increases?
View Ray Boughen Profile
CPC (SK)
View Ray Boughen Profile
2013-03-05 14:08 [p.14621]
Mr. Speaker, new Canadians must learn about Canada to become citizens, and it follows that all Canadians should be able to answer the same questions about their home and native land.
The Historica-Dominion Institute challenged youth from grade 7 to 12 to put their national knowledge to the test by studying for and writing a mock citizenship exam. Yesterday, I had the honour of meeting two winners of the 2012 edition of the Canadian Citizenship Challenge. Carly Firth, from my riding of Palliser, and Jason Losier, from my colleague's riding of Acadie—Bathurst, have shown their pride in Canada by working through and learning about our history and the people who made Canada what it is today.
I congratulate Carly, Jason and all the 44,000 students who discovered Canada through this challenge.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-05 18:25 [p.14658]
Mr. Speaker, it will be interesting to see who answers the question. I was somewhat hopeful that it would be either the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration because I have been raising a very serious issue. Not only was it a number of months ago that I raised the issue about services, but I have been talking about this issue as recently as the last few days in the House.
There is a great deal of concern from residents across this land, from coast to coast to coast, in regard to how long it is taking to acquire citizenship. Back in 2005, the Liberal government committed close to $70 million to speed up processing times for individuals who met the residential requirements and wanted to get citizenship. I have no idea what the government has done with that money. What we do know is that the processing times have gotten worse and worse every year. This is completely unacceptable. We want the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to deal with this issue. He seems to be more preoccupied and focused on his potential leadership ambitions or whatever it might be, as opposed to dealing with what is important to Canadians. What is important to Canadians is to speed up the unacceptable processing times to get citizenship.
We are not interested in the rhetoric from the government. We want to see tangible action. What is the government going to do to speed up processing times for citizenship? It is not acceptable that it now takes two years and longer, especially if people want the residency test applied. Then we are talking four, five or six years before people can get citizenship.
I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is somewhat aware of the issue. The minister addressed it when I first asked the question, and the parliamentary secretary addressed it the more recent times I asked this question. He needs to be straightforward with residents. We are talking about more than 300,000 residents all across Canada who have been waiting in excess of two years to get their citizenships processed. That is just not good enough.
The question I would now pose to the minister is the same question I posed last Friday. Will the government acknowledge that it needs to speed up the processing time for people applying for citizenship and agree to have a specific target of less than a year as a goal? Is he prepared to make that commitment today?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-03-05 18:28 [p.14658]
Mr. Speaker, it is great to hear the Liberal Party, while it is now sitting in third place in the House of Commons, talk about expediting, rushing, hurrying, being fair to citizens, being fair to those foreign skilled workers who are trying to come to this country and being fair to temporary workers who are trying to fill positions here that cannot be filled by Canadians.
It is great to finally hear the Liberal members. It is too bad that while they were in government, they did not even think about trying to tackle the immigration file, about trying to make it better, trying to make it more efficient and trying to make it more responsive. It is great to hear them finally acknowledge all of the mistakes they made while they were in government. They turned them over to us and are now starting to complain about the fact that they should have done a much better job.
It is good to hear that they are finally on the right track when it comes making sure that we are moving forward on the backlogs, because immigrants from across this country resoundingly rejected the Liberals' handling of the immigration file in the last election. When we look at their record, it is no surprise as to why.
We will not take any lessons from the Liberals on how to manage this immigration system, based on the kind of wait times they left for those who are trying to become Canadian citizens and those who are trying to come here through the various other areas of immigration that we have.
It is important to point out that the ministry is now accepting applications and payment online for a growing number of immigration streams and is moving toward a paperless system. This means that much less physical space is required. We are able to expedite individual files on a much more timely basis, while at the same time maintaining a ministry office in each and every province in our country.
We have also revamped the website, including online wizards, how-to tutorial videos, and online help centres, so that applicants can receive the information and help they need. It is a lot more convenient, and it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When it comes to processing times, the member has asked on a number of occasions about this question. Let us look at the facts.
First of all, Canadians should be proud that there is such a high demand for Canadian citizenship. After all, who would not want to be a citizen in the greatest country in the world?
Second, I am not sure what the Liberal Party is bragging about, because under the Liberals, in 2005, one year before we took office, the processing time for citizenship was 17 months. Between 2006 and 2011, the average processing time for citizenship was 17 months. It was exactly the same.
What the member is purposely not mentioning is the fact that our government has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history. That means there has been a significantly higher demand for citizenship. We have processed 30,000 more applicants on a yearly basis, and we have maintained that 17-month processing time.
I think we have addressed the issue. We are going to do some more work. We are obviously trying to make sure that we expedite every single backlog that we have in each individual area within this ministry. In fact, 185,000 individuals have become Canadian citizens each and every year since we have been in government.
We have made improvements and we are going to continue to make improvements. One thing we are going to make sure of is that the threshold for Canadian citizenship in this country will continue to rise because of this government.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-05 18:32 [p.14659]
Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals were in government and recognized the processing times were getting lengthy at 17 months, we made a commitment of $69 million to speed up that processing time because we believed that it needed to be under 12 months.
Today it has become a lot worse. There are a lot more residency requirements, and individuals are waiting two, three, and four years, and even beyond that. The area that the minister is responsible for has gotten a lot worse. We budgeted additional money to reduce the time.
The question is actually very simple: when you think ahead to the 300,000-plus people, which is a record high number, when are you going to be able to deliver citizenship in a more timely fashion? We need to speed up the processing time. Will you set some goals?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-03-05 18:34 [p.14659]
Mr. Speaker, I have addressed the question. In fact, this government and the Minister of Immigration have addressed the question.
Since we took government, we have lowered the backlogs in every category we received from the Liberals, whether it be foreign skilled workers, or those seeking refuge in our country or those seeking citizenship. We have ensured that all wait times and backlogs dealing with family reunification, sponsorship and adoption are down because there is a higher demand for those who want to become Canadian citizens and permanent residents because of the last six years of this government. We are processing faster and processing more.
I can assure the House that we are delivering on the time frames to which we have committed.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-04 14:52 [p.14556]
Mr. Speaker, in 2005 the Liberal government allocated some $69 million to reduce processing times for citizenship applications. Today, under the Conservative government, the processing time has increased and waiting times are over four, five, six years and beyond. Now there is a record high of over 300,000 residents waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed.
The Conservative record is a disgrace. When will the minister finally focus on his job and take concrete actions to decrease the processing times for citizenship applications?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-03-04 14:53 [p.14556]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians should actually proud that there is such a high demand for Canadian citizenship. After all, who would not want to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world.
Part of the increase in wait times has resulted from the fact that our government has maintained and sustained the highest levels of immigration in Canadian history. We welcome approximately 30,000 more newcomers each year than that administration did when it was government.
We will not take any lessons from the Liberals on how to manage an immigration system. They left wait times, whichever category anyone wants to pick, a lot longer than it ever should have been, and we are fixing it.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-01 11:52 [p.14501]
Mr. Speaker, well over a quarter-million people living in Canada are waiting for their citizenship. Many of those are waiting for years—four, five or six years, or even greater than that. At the end of the day, the government, year over year, continues to get worse in terms of delivering citizenship. Will the minister commit to working toward a goal of six months for processing citizenship?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-03-01 11:53 [p.14501]
Mr. Speaker, that is a little rich coming from the Liberal Party across the way, which when in government actually decided it would delay and continued to delay citizenship wait times here in our country.
Canadians should be proud that there is such a high demand for Canadian citizenship. After all, who would not want to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-03-01 11:53 [p.14501]
Mr. Speaker, do not let the facts confuse you. The Liberals gave $70 million in the last year to speed up the process.
Every year the list and the processing time continue to get longer. Those are the facts, Mr. Minister. The reality is, these individual residents should be processed in a much fairer and timelier fashion. When will the government speed up the processing time so that citizens of this country can, in fact, get their applications in a more timely fashion?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-03-01 11:54 [p.14501]
Mr. Speaker, only the Liberal Party would say that adding facts to a story would actually make it more confusing.
In 2011 there were 2,204 citizenship ceremonies held. One hundred and eighty-one thousand newcomers became Canadian citizens between 2006 and 2011. Canada averaged close to 200,000 new citizens each and every year. It is an honour to become a Canadian citizen, and we are taking it to another level.
View Irwin Cotler Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Irwin Cotler Profile
2013-02-15 13:31 [p.14218]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate on Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.
This private member's bill, at present, makes two changes to the citizenship process. First, it reduces the time a permanent resident must wait for citizenship if he or she completes basic training and has signed a minimum three-year contract with the Canadian armed forces. I would just note here that if this were the entire bill, I think it might well be passed by unanimous consent and we would not be having this debate today. I wholeheartedly support this provision.
The second element of the legislation provides that a person is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship or is deemed to have withdrawn their application for Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
What complicates and indeed invites today's debate are the public statements by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that he seeks to modify the bill to revoke the citizenship of those who have engaged in acts of terror. Regrettably, we do not have his legislative amendments before us in the House. We do not know the exact wording he proposes. This may make all the difference, not only from a policy standpoint but from a legal and constitutional perspective as well.
The minister has argued that the power to revoke citizenship in such cases is a necessary one. He is quoted in La Presse this morning.
The amendments that I suggested will finally make it possible for Canada to harmonize its approach with those of other liberal democracies and will strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. This will send a clear message that Canadian citizenship has real meaning and is not just a pass that violent terrorists can use with impunity.
The rhetoric in this statement certainly resonates and appears compelling on its face. Indeed, a commentator on this point, Mr. Ibbitson from the Globe and Mail, said something to the effect that if nothing else, this is good politics, and the immigration and citizenship minister is certainly a good politician.
However, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been in this role since October 2008. He has, since then, introduced seven immigration acts, none of which have called for such a provision. Questions arise. Why now? Why this bill? Why in this way?
What Canadians may not know, though the issue is drawing more attention of late, is that a key difference between a private member's bill, such as that which is before us, and a government bill, such as would be the case if the minister were to introduce stand-alone legislation in this regard, is that government bills require the constitutional approval of the Minister of Justice pursuant to the Department of Justice Act.
In other words, by introducing such items through this private member's route, one circumvents the long-standing process by which legislative proposals are vetted for compliance with Canada's Constitution, including an assessment by the Department of Justice for litigation risk. This, of course, invites the question of whether there is an issue here of constitutional concern. As well, is there a related litigation risk?
Simply put, while we have a process allowing for the revocation of citizenship, as per section 10 of the Citizenship Act, in cases where a person obtains citizenship, for example, through false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances, we do not have other ways of revoking citizenship at present. This new proposal, by way of a private member's bill, raises serious constitutional concerns given, inter alia, the Charter's guarantees in sections 6, 7 and 15, particularly where it engages matters of national or ethnic origin, or potentially the recognized analogous ground of citizenship.
Moreover, there are concerns with respect to the Canadian Bill of Rights, which reads in part, “no law of Canada shall be construed or applied so as to...authorize or effect the arbitrary detention, imprisonment or exile of any person”. The Bill of Rights also prohibits an act that would “deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations”. I should note, however, that there is a notwithstanding process in that regard.
At its core Bill C-425, and this is the key point, goes to the heart of the question of citizenship in Canada, a concept that is actually quite fluid and flexible, perhaps more than most Canadians think, with attending constitutional concerns.
Indeed, it remains unclear under what circumstances the revocation of formal citizenship, as opposed to the denial of an application for citizenship by a permanent resident, would implicate charter considerations. It is for this reason that rigorous debate by the members in this place is so important with regard to the bill, as it would implicate our constitutional responsibilities as members of Parliament with respect to public oversight of the legislation, as well as trustees of the public with respect to any risk litigation.
Let me be clear. There is no question that an act of war against Canadian armed forces represents a repudiation of the values that we associate with the concept of citizenship, namely democracy, security, freedom, and equality. However, it is critical that we closely scrutinize any proposed legislation that would implicate rule of law considerations.
As I have noted, the concept of citizenship in Canada is flexible and the question of under what circumstances the government is entitled to revoke citizenship has perhaps not been fully yet determined by our courts. However, unlike questions of naturalization, the revocation of formal citizenship raises important questions pursuant to sections 6, 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Indeed, despite the repugnance of the crimes at issue, namely, the commission of an act of war or terrorism against one's own country, constitutional rights and the rule of law are not negotiable. Therefore, the fundamental questions we must ask, and it is our responsibility to address these questions, is to what extent these constitutional rights would be implicated by this legislation.
If the members in this place are to enable the revocation by the Government of Canada of Canadian citizenship in instances of criminality such as this, we must, simply put, ensure that such revocation is consistent with the rule of law, as defined by the charter and the related jurisprudence.
As I have mentioned, there are three distinct charter provisions engaging a panoply of rights that may be implicated by changes to the Citizenship Act such as proposed by this bill. These are sections 6, 7 and 15 and which together provide for a necessary starting point in discussing the constitutional contours of the legal concept of Canadian citizenship and the implications of such revocation.
Section 6(1) of the charter provides for the right of any citizen to “enter, remain in and leave Canada”. This is one of the charter rights that applies only to citizens, rather than to permanent residents, whose constitutional mobility rights are separately provided for by section 6(2). Certainly, the revocation of citizenship in a particular instance would result in the inapplicability or denial of section 6(1)'s mobility rights.
Accordingly, on this point, it is precisely for this reason that it is of critical importance to ensure that the revocation of citizenship is consistent with procedural due process requirements. Moreover, because the revocation of citizenship would result in the revocation of section 6(1)'s mobility rights, it would also raise concerns with respect to section 7 of the charter and the right to liberty. Indeed, the Supreme Court has determined that section 7 rights apply universally to anyone present in Canada, regardless of citizenship status. As well, it would implicate the rights of security of the person also in section 7. Therefore, we would have a panoply of rights here implicated. It is a central constitutional question that we cannot avoid addressing.
Finally, we must consider section 15 of the charter, which constitutionally prohibits the federal government from passing discriminatory citizenship laws. The courts have recognized that citizenship status is an analogous ground to the enumerated section 15 protected categories, thereby providing for constitutional protection against discrimination based upon citizenship.
Moreover, section 15 has been deemed to apply regardless of citizenship status. Therefore, by allowing for the revocation of citizenship, even in cases of commission of acts of terror, but only in cases where an individual is also a citizen of another country, Bill C-425 would raise section 15 equality concerns. Simply put, the bill would potentially discriminate against those Canadians who are also dual citizens of both Canada and another country.
Some may wonder why I raise the right to a fair hearing to which I referred to earlier. Since we do not know the language of the legislative amendments proposed by the minister, it could be that the proposed revocation of citizenship is automatic, thus, depriving one of a fair hearing. In the alternative, it could be that the proposal deems an application for renunciation to have been made by the person with respect to the person who has perpetrated the act of terror. The question then becomes one of whether the person could withdraw his or her deemed renunciation or make a further submission as to why the deemed renunciation should not be granted.
I raise these questions not as arcane procedural questions or trivial debating points but as serious considerations that need to be determined and debated in committee. Indeed, there is no question that the first time this revocation process is used, for whatever reason, it will be challenged in the courts, and the government will be obliged to defend it at taxpayers' expense.
Accordingly, we must have—
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2013-02-15 13:42 [p.14220]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the member for Mount Royal. It sounded to me to be a somewhat speculative perspective on what may or may not be an amendment to the bill. I would suggest to the member that he would be wise to use his time to speak specifically to the bill in front of us versus speaking about amendments when he is not sure what they are going to look like or what they are going to propose. It is the process we use here in the House of Commons.
Further, the citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism committee is going to be reviewing this private member's bill when it passes through second reading. He can rest assured that it will get the due process and time necessary.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to rise and speak to Bill C-425, which is the private member's bill introduced by the member for Calgary Northeast. It is not surprising to me that such a bill was introduced by a member of Parliament who is an immigrant to Canada. I have found that naturalized Canadians often have a more acute understanding of the meaning and importance of Canadian citizenship, having made a deliberate choice, and often great sacrifices, to attain it. It says a lot that the bill was introduced by this member of Parliament, an immigrant to Canada himself, and that his bill has received overwhelming support from new Canadians especially.
I want to commend the member for Calgary Northeast for bringing forward a bill that is based on principle and on strengthening the value of our Canadian citizenship. In fact, no government has done more to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship than our Conservative government. For example, we introduced the new citizenship study guide, entitled “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”. The guide provides essential information for anyone preparing to become a Canadian citizen. This helps ensure that all newcomers have more knowledge of the country they are joining.
In our country, if someone sells 5,000 or 10,000 new books, it is considered a bestseller. What is interesting is that “Discover Canada” has literally been taken off the shelves across the country. Literally thousands of copies have been requested by individuals and schools. It is a testament to the fact that we actually have a document that shows that the honour of citizenship bestowed on an individual requires research, study and commitment from those who anticipate and expect Canadian citizenship.
To add to that, it provides a much better overview of Canada's traditions, our values and our history, including our immigration history, than its predecessor. The old guide contained no reference, for example, to the Remembrance Day poppy and little mention of the stories and symbols that made us who we are, including the first and second world wars. We are pleased that it has been a tremendous success and is popular, not only with applicants who are seeking Canadian citizenship but with established Canadians as well.
Furthermore, our government has taken action to crack down on citizenship fraud. We are ensuring that anyone who lies about who they are, their residency in Canada or hidden past criminal activities has their citizenship stripped. We have created a citizenship fraud tip line so that Canadians can anonymously report fraud. There are currently 11,000 fraud investigations underway, which include 3,100 Canadian citizens. We are sending a clear message that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. We are applying the full strength of the law to those who have obtained their citizenship fraudulently.
The first part of the bill should be something all members of the House can easily support, which is fast-tracking Canadian citizenship for permanent residents who serve in our Canadian armed forces. More specifically, Bill C-425 proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian Forces who are permanent residents by reducing the resident requirement for citizenship by one year. This would be for Canadian Forces members who have signed a minimum three-year contract and have completed basic training within our armed forces.
It is true that permanent residents cannot easily join the Canadian Forces, but if the forces have a position that requires skills and expertise for which a Canadian citizen may not be available, they can recruit permanent residents for that position. While it is also true that this would not impact a great number of permanent residents, it does not make it any less important. It is important recognition of the loyalty, service and willing sacrifice shown to our country by the individuals, regardless of how small or large that number may be.
The second part of this bill has received quite a bit of attention recently. As currently written, it would result in anyone who commits “acts of war” against the Canadian Forces having deemed renunciation of their Canadian citizenship.
Recently the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism suggested that the bill could be expanded to include terrorist acts against Canada and its allies. The reaction from Canadians was perhaps not the same as from those who sit across from us in the House of Commons. However, certainly Canadians across this country responded to the recommendation. A poll commissioned by the member for Calgary Northeast himself on this bill found that almost 85% of Canadians agree or strongly agree with stripping Canadian citizenship from terrorists, and a petition posted on the minister's member of Parliament website was signed by an astounding 10,000 people in less than five days.
I know that since the introduction of this bill almost a year ago, the MP for Calgary Northeast and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism have been speaking about ways to enhance and expand this section, despite what the opposition claims, as it tries to desperately find a criticism for such a popular proposal. It sometimes does leave me astounded. When a good piece of legislation is brought forward in the House of Commons that is stripped free of partisanship, the simple thing the opposition needs to do is to support it.
There have been several examples in the past, unfortunately including very recently, when this has happened. The recent discovery that one of the organizers of a horrendous bombing in Bulgaria, which killed several innocent people, was a dual national Canadian citizen, disturbed Canadians across the country, including me, and I am sure all members of the House of Commons.
The 1947 Citizenship Act actually included the power to revoke citizenship from those who were guilty of treason. The removal of this provision, in 1997, made Canada's citizenship law an aberration, as virtually all other liberal democracies have the legal authority to strip citizenship for such crimes as treason and terrorism. In Australia, for example, and the United Kingdom, a person can be stripped of citizenship if it is in the public interest, a much lower and more vague standard than the sponsor of this bill or the minister have suggested. France, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil are a few examples of countries that can strip citizenship for treason or terrorism, among other things.
The fact is that Canadian citizenship is already not inalienable, as it can be renounced voluntarily, or revoked, as I mentioned, from those who have obtained it fraudulently. Like the 1947 Citizenship Act, the premise of the bill put forward by the MP for Calgary Northeast is that citizenship is predicated on reciprocal loyalty. If a Canadian passport holder maintains another nationality while waging war against Canada, this should be construed for what is so obviously clear; it is a deliberate renunciation of one's citizenship. In other words, renunciation of Canadian citizenship should be possible, not just through the legal formalism of signing an application, but also a logical consequence of one's violent actions against one's country.
The question that has been raised is whether this principle of deemed renunciation of citizenship should also apply to Canadian passport holders who are convicted of serious terrorist acts. Given that Canada is an enemy of terrorism and proscribed terrorist organizations in particular, it is very reasonable to suggest that participation in terrorist crimes be considered a voluntary renunciation of one's loyalty to this country and consequently of one's citizenship.
To conclude, the member for Calgary Northeast's thoughtful private members' bill, and the amendments that have been suggested by the government, would finally bring Canada in line with other liberal democracies and would strengthen, again, the value of Canadian citizenship. It would also send the message that Canadian citizenship has real meaning and cannot be used as a flag of convenience by violent terrorists.
I hope the NDP and Liberals will listen to the vast majority of Canadians. If they do not want to listen to this side of the House, they should listen to the vast majority of Canadians and support this important piece of legislation going to committee for a thorough review and study. Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. I hope the NDP and Liberals will work with us instead of against us in this regard.
If the NDP and the Liberals do not want to listen to this side of the House, they should listen to the vast majority of Canadians and support this important legislation going to committee for a thorough review and study. Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. I hope the NDP and Liberals will work with us instead of against us in this regard.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2013-02-15 13:52 [p.14221]
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-425, introduced by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
First, it is important to mention that the main principle behind this legislation seems laudable, even though some parts have serious flaws that would also have serious consequences.
The hon. member wants to reward permanent residents who join the Canadian armed forces by speeding up citizenship approval, and the official opposition supports that idea.
The suggestion to reduce from three to two years the required period of residence in Canada to grant citizenship to a member of the armed forces meets several objectives.
It would allow us to better recognize and value the contribution of the newcomers who join our armed forces.
Our military make sacrifices. Sometimes, they even make the ultimate sacrifice. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to give them all the recognition they deserve. Therefore, acknowledging this exceptional contribution by speeding up citizenship approval would be welcome.
Moreover, this initiative would support the Canadian Forces' will to promote greater diversity in their ranks.
Currently, visible minorities account for only 6% of the Canadian armed forces. That is clearly not enough, considering that, by the end of the decade, visible minorities will account for 20% of the labour force. If the proposed measure can promote greater representation for ethnocultural communities in our armed forces, we will be happy to support it.
After all, the Canadian Forces serve the community and act as representatives abroad. Therefore, it is essential that they reflect the diversity of Canadian society.
That said, several aspects of Bill C-425 are quite problematic.
First, I am particularly concerned about the issue of renunciation of citizenship.
The bill provides that a citizen or a legal resident of a country other than Canada is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of his Canadian citizenship if he engages in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces. Also, a permanent resident who commits such an act would also be deemed to have withdrawn his application for Canadian citizenship.
The fact is that there is no definition of the expressions “act of war” and “legal resident” in Canadian law.
Also, there is no mention in the text submitted by the member for Calgary Northeast of the processes that, for example, would follow an accusation of act of war. Consequently, the bill does not have the necessary legal basis for its implementation and it would be totally dependent on judicial interpretation.
The scope of the legislation proposed by the hon. member is very broad, unless benchmarks are included regarding its legal basis and the resulting processes.
So, it is essential that the committee look at ways to define the terms used in the bill and spell out the process related to this possible renunciation of citizenship.
The operationalization of Bill C-425 is also problematic.
First, the basic requirement to join the Canadian Forces is to be a Canadian citizen. The only possibility for a permanent resident to join is to get an authorization from the Chief of the Defence Staff to fill a special need, or because of a significant lack of human resources, which is presently not the case.
Only a very small minority will be able to take advantage of the bill’s positive aspects.
As a matter of fact, during the discussions that have taken place at second reading, the sponsor of the bill has been unable to provide us with information about the number of people who might be affected by this measure.
There is therefore some research that should be conducted on this point. In addition, we think it is fair to wonder whether the government’s real objective here is not the renunciation of Canadian citizenship much more than it is the recognition of military service.
The delays in obtaining citizenship also deserve particular attention.
Right now, nearly 300,000 permanent residents are waiting to be granted Canadian citizenship. Consequently, despite the good will of the bill’s sponsor, the reality is that departmental cutbacks have significantly reduced the pace at which files are handled at all levels.
The handful of permanent residents who, according to the current version, will be able to take advantage of the proposed measure will not be much further ahead because of the huge backlog of applications.
In addition, I am wondering about the way in which the government has prioritized its action. The minister announced cuts of $80.3 million in the last budget, he is shutting down visa application centres and scaling down client services at CIC.
Delays in all immigration programs are escalating all the time. People are having trouble reaching staff members, and thousands of applicants are paying for the minister’s mistakes.
There is therefore a dichotomy between the bill introduced by the member and the decisions being made by the current government. As the system is being gutted, my colleague is proposing to accelerate processing of citizenship applications for permanent residents who might be able to serve in the Canadian Forces.
That being said, I agree with the bill’s principle and direction, and I think it necessary to support the bill at second reading, so that it can be reviewed in depth in committee. However, several elements that will make the bill acceptable in both its content and its implementation will have to be included.
The notions of “act of war” and “legal resident” should be defined in the bill in order to limit the potential for judicial interpretation. The process surrounding the renunciation of citizenship must also be considered. We will have to debate this part of the bill and flesh it out. It would be completely shameful for the government to create two classes of citizens without any debate or real consultation.
We must also consider the scope of the bill and potentially broaden it. It would be short-sighted to make legislative amendments that affect so few individuals.
In closing, I believe that we must consider Bill C-425. However, it seems clear to me that we must work together to limit its potential for abuse and optimize its application. This will allow us to come back to the House with a document that meets its original objectives.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Don Davies Profile
2013-02-15 13:59 [p.14222]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak to Bill C-425, which introduces three new grounds for citizenship, or its removal, under the Citizenship Act based on relations with the Canadian armed forces.
The bill introduces, first, a new ministerial power to shorten permanent residency requirements for members of the Canadian armed forces seeking citizenship. This would give a new power to the minister for the purpose of alleviating special and unusual hardship or to reward service of exceptional value to Canada. On application, it would also reduce the residency requirement from three years to two years for members of the Canadian armed forces seeking citizenship, so long as that member has both signed at least a three-year contract and has completed basic training.
Second, it contains a deemed application section for renunciation of Canadian citizenship if that citizen engages in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces and that same citizen is also a citizen or legal resident in a country other than Canada.
Third, there is a deemed withdrawal provision of an application for Canadian citizenship where a permanent resident who has made that application for citizenship has engaged in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
I must start by pointing out a classic bit of hypocrisy, which we often see from the Conservative side of the House, where the parliamentary secretary stood up and lectured the member for Mount Royal for bringing up the musings of the Minister of Immigration this past week of adding a section that would also allow the government to strip citizenship of those accused of terrorism. The parliamentary secretary berated the hon. member on this side of the House for bringing that up and considering that. He then proceeded to do the same thing in his own speech.
One wonders whether basic elements of consistency and principle have any traction on that side of the House. By the way, I want to compliment the member for Mount Royal on a thoughtful speech that points out what Canadians really want to see in their immigration policy and in policy in general, which is well-thought-out, rational, policy-based, evidence-based and constitutional legislation.
The background to the bill and the context in which it occurs is important for Canadians to remember. Since March 2008, over 25 major changes have been made to immigration procedures, rules, legislation and regulation. These have increased dramatically since the Conservatives formed a majority government. Among other changes, the Conservatives have used their majority to freeze parental sponsorships, to weaken family reunification, to punish vulnerable refugees and to increase the number of temporary foreign workers to meet the demands of their friends on the employer side of the equation. Most of these changes are politically motivated, invariably heartless, always without evidentiary basis and frequently unconstitutional.
Bill C-425 attempts to fast-track the time within which certain permanent residents may apply for citizenship. New Democrats think the government ought instead to be working to address the exceptionally long processing times for citizenship applications, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada currently reports is an almost two-year wait for processing. In other words, no one in this country gets their citizenship recognized anywhere near the time they are legally entitled to, and as such Bill C-425 is making a hollow and, I would respectfully submit, politically motivated promise.
Two years is the average. I have constituents waiting for citizenship, and I think every member in the House does, who wait between two and five years. These are permanent residents who came to this country, did everything they were asked of by this country, have worked hard, paid their taxes and want to become citizens so they can vote in this country, fully express their democratic rights and get a Canadian passport.
Instead of taking care of these unbelievably appalling and outrageously long lines, the government does nothing and instead fiddles with these relatively arcane issues that do not affect very many people at all. This private member's bill would get at an extremely limited number of cases as the circumstances under which a permanent resident would be able to enrol in the Canadian Forces are currently extremely narrow.
The Canadian Forces website and the Canadian Forces Ottawa recruitment office have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that a permanent resident may not enrol in the Canadian Forces. A permanent resident may only enrol when the Chief of the Defence Staff of Canada or such officer as he may designate authorizes the enrolment of a citizen of another country, which would only happen if he is satisfied that a special need exists and that the national interest would not be prejudiced thereby.
How many permanent residents do we really think are in the Canadian Armed Forces who have served three years, who have completed basic training, who are permanent residents, who are applying for Canadian citizenship and are residents and citizens of another country? However, I can tell the House how many permanent residents are waiting right now for their citizenship: hundreds and hundreds of thousands. One might ask, why would any member of the House target a bill that might affect six people, a dozen or a couple of dozen, instead of dealing with 300,000 Canadians? That shows misplaced priorities.
In terms of the other part of the bill, deemed stripping of citizenship, I want to repeat the remarks of my friend, the hon. member for Mount Royal, who points out the very delicate matter of stripping citizenship from people.
It may be good policy, because I have noticed in the House that whenever the government gets in trouble, whenever one of its members gets criminally charged or is under ethical investigation or the government is having a bad week, the government turns to one of two things, a crime bill or an immigration bill. Invariably, it seeks to marginalize and attack a certain group.
Right now we have a member from Edmonton who is charged for failing to take a breathalyzer test; we have Senator Brazeau who is charged with domestic and sexual assault; we have four senators now who do not seem to know where they live despite the constitutional requirement to reside in the province to collect their money. In fact, they are collecting money and per diems from Canadian taxpayers to live in Ottawa based on the fact they are away from their homes, but they have homes in the Ottawa area.
Marginalizing and attacking certain groups is a constant theme of the government, but Canadians are not fooled. They are not fooled because if the government were truly interested in dealing with citizenship and immigration, it would be attacking the real problems facing people in this country, including appallingly long wait times to sponsor one's parents and unite one's family, for employers to get their workers here, and for skilled workers to immigrate to this country.
Right now, despite all the rhetoric and fast talk of the Minister of Immigration, the truth, as members will find out in talking to any immigrant community across this country from coast to coast, is that wait times are as long today as they were five years ago. There is no progress. People do not mind waiting six or 12 months, but wait times are now measured almost in decades. People wait 10 years to sponsor their parents.
I have a real case from one of my constituents in the armed forces, who is serving with distinction. He is from Vietnam. He applied in October 2006 to sponsor his widowed mother in Vietnam. The sponsorship was verified and first-stage approval was given in 2009 and it has been in transit for second stage approval, which was received in Singapore in 2009. The most recent status update that we did for this gentleman in December 2012 indicates that the application was received in 2009, that it is in queue and that there is a 49-month wait.
Thus, there is a four-year wait from now, plus the three years' wait from 2009, on top of the wait from the time he applied in 2006. This member of our armed force, who is proudly serving our country, defending our interests, putting his life on the line and who wants to sponsor his mother, has been waiting since 2006, some seven years, and has another four to wait. This person will wait 11 years to sponsor a parent. He is not alone.
Is the government doing anything to speed up the process? No, it is cutting the number of officers around the globe. It is cutting funding for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and wait times will get longer.
While all the fast talking is being done by the minister, Canadians know the truth, that the government is using immigration as a political football, not trying to improve the process.
I also want to point out that the parliamentary secretary said that the Conservatives had strengthened our Canadian citizenship. I ask, when was it weak? Who thought it was weak, because we on the New Democrat side of the House have always valued Canadian citizenship? We think all Canadians have as well. The Conservatives act as if Canadians took their citizenship lightly before 2006. In Vancouver Kingsway, consisting of some 70% new Canadians or at least second or third generation Canadians, these people take their Canadian citizenship extremely seriously. I do not know what kind of mind could conjure up the idea that someone is taking Canadian citizenship lightly, but it is surely no one on this side of the House.
I will conclude by saying that the New Democrats will support the bill's passage to committee, because we want to study the bill and pursue amendments. The idea of doing anything that might speed up citizenship for any member of our forces is an idea worthy of exploration, but let us be clear: Only a New Democrat government will ever bring in the kind of immigration reforms necessary to actually satisfy the needs of the immigrant community in this country. We will do that in 2015.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-02-15 14:10 [p.14224]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members for their contribution to this bill, as well as the thousands of Canadians who have given their active support since this bill's infancy. Once again, my bill is based upon three beliefs: more pathways to integration, that our troops deserve the highest respect, and that Canadian citizenship is a privilege which deserves the highest esteem.
As I said at the outset of this debate, I am a proud immigrant to this country. I believe that citizenship is enormously important. Citizenship is about our culture, our heritage and our loyalty, and there is no group that stands for these values more than our Canadian armed forces. They defend our nation and our values by putting their lives on the line each and every day. Joining the armed forces demonstrates a profound belief in, and commitment to, defending this country, which presents an excellent opportunity for integration, something this bill seeks to reward.
The second part of this bill is something that I sincerely hope will never be used. The same love for our country that inspired the first part of this bill necessitates the second part of this bill. Those who seek to harm Canada should pay for their actions. In the case of treason, perpetrators have shown they have no loyalty to Canada, and in fact find no value in Canadian citizenship. As such, they do not deserve the privilege of being Canadian citizens.
This bill is not unprecedented. Numerous western democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, already have similar laws that allow for the renunciation of citizenship for acts of treason. Furthermore, this law is simply a necessary step in widening Canada's existing legislation. Section 10 of the Canadian Citizenship Act already provides for the deprivation of citizenship and section 46 of the Criminal Code clearly identifies treason as a crime.
Until 1977, people who committed acts of treason would be punished by the removal of their Canadian citizenship. Citizens of Canada want this to be returned to law. My bill would expand existing laws to see that those who commit acts of treason meet proper justice, with all due oversight and rights of appeal outlined in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Citizenship Act. Of course, we would also uphold our international obligations and agreements.
We have an overwhelming mandate from Canadians who want this bill to succeed. I sent a householder survey to residents in my riding and the bill was supported by 87% of respondents. On October 30, the National Post reported on the results of an NRG poll of 1,001 Canadians from coast to coast to coast asking their opinion on the renunciation of citizenship. The poll showed that more than 8 in 10 Canadians are in favour of this bill.
Furthermore, the Calgary Herald editorial board, along with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, the Somali-Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization, Immigrants for Canada, the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, the Muslim Canadian Congress, B'nai Brith Canada, and many more organizations, have endorsed my bill, demonstrating the wide array of support of Canadians from all backgrounds and walks of life.
I am optimistic that the opposition will choose to support new immigrants and will not oppose giving our armed forces the support and respect they so definitely deserve. I am sure members of all parties will continue to be as open-minded to having a real discussion on this important issue at the committee stage as members from both the NDP and Liberal Party stated they were in the previous hour of debate. In that spirit, I want to once again reiterate that I am open to any and all amendments that are in line with the aims and intent of this legislation.
I want to do the following: create more pathways to integration, support the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces, and underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship. The bottom line is that we should reward those who are willing to put their lives on the line for Canadians and ensure that those who would attack the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom pay for their actions.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2013-02-15 14:15 [p.14224]
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 27, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, February 25, 2013, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:16 p.m.)
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned that if permanent residents committed a crime that received more than six months or more as punishment in Canada, the government wanted to deport them, but it was not separating families, that the rest of the family had a choice to stay here or leave the country.
As an example, if children are brought into our country when they are three years old, they grow up here, spend their entire lives in Canada and because of their home country or because of their understanding, assume they are a naturalized citizen. Then they have their own children. Therefore, their children are Canadian citizens and grow up in our country as citizens. Then the original children, who are still a permanent residents, are now being deported. Is the government now saying that those children, who are Canadian citizens, have the choice to leave the country if they want to or they can go live in another country?
The original people are now being sent to another country, which is not home for them. They do not know anything about that country. They grew up in the country, lived as Canadians, but did not take out citizenship. Is that fair?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2013-02-06 15:57 [p.13797]
Mr. Speaker, what is not fair is committing a serious crime and expecting there will not be consequences for it. What is not fair is victimizing Canadians, sometimes repeatedly, and violating the privilege of one's residency.
Under Canadian law, there are, and always have been, two categories of nationals under immigration law. They are either Canadian citizens or foreign nationals. Foreign nationals who obtain permanent residency can remain in Canada in perpetuity as long as they are residents here for two out of five years and do not commit a serious crime.
The question from the opposition implies that the government should somehow create a third category. We should somehow automatically grant citizenship to people who do not even bother to apply for it, who may not qualify for it.
If that is the position of the NDP members, I invite them to put forward a bill proposing to do just that. I suspect it would not get much support.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-02-06 16:54 [p.13804]
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question and, sadly, we heard that at committee. A professional came before the committee and made that case. The quote I referred to actually came from the committee. The government has failed to address that issue of someone using false identification.
As the minister tries to make himself look good, it will be achieved at substantial cost because of how far-reaching this legislation is. Many people will have to pay the price of the House passing sloppy legislation. It has gone too far. No one in the Liberal Party is trying to prevent people who have committed serious crimes like rape, murder and so forth from being deported. We are not trying to do that.
Earlier today the minister had another news flash. This time it was that he was going to take away Canadian citizenship from those who have dual citizenship but are deemed to be a terrorist or something of that nature. I might be putting it a little out of context, but that was the news flash. We will find out in tomorrow's new media.
Again, why does the minister not focus on citizenship? We have people who have qualified for citizenship waiting for years. We are not talking about a few; we are talking about hundreds of thousands who have qualified but are still waiting to receive their citizenship. However, because the minister is so negligent in providing the direction and resources necessary, he is missing the point and not doing what he should. He could be doing so much more, whether getting criminals out who should not be in Canada or making sure that people get citizenship in a timely fashion. The minister needs to readjust his priorities.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-01-31 14:02 [p.13513]
Mr. Speaker, two days ago I had the privilege of presenting to the House my first private member's bill, Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces).
I want to thank all colleagues for their comments and the informed and respectful debate that occurred in the House. It is my understanding, from the first hour of debate, that we all agree with the sprit of the bill, that we all desire to see our men and women in uniform honoured and that we all hold the value of Canadian citizenship to the highest esteem.
I look forward to a second hour of debate that is as constructive as the first hour. I want to thank all members of the House in advance for their anticipated support to send the bill to committee where it can be thoroughly reviewed.
I wish to reiterate that I am open to all friendly amendments that will strengthen the spirit of the bill.
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak again on Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
Sitting on the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration is certainly a privilege and responsibility that I take very seriously. Immigration issues are the number one issue that constituents in the fantastic riding of Scarborough—Rouge River come to me my office about when looking for assistance and support. They are concerned with the direction of Canada's immigration policy as well as the priorities of the government when it comes to immigration.
The citizenship application process in this country can take over three years. Some families are waiting four years or more to be reunited with their loved ones and visitor visas continue to be denied without a reasonable explanation. The residents of Scarborough—Rouge River are looking for action from the government on these problems.
Since the vast majority of newcomers to Canada are actually law-abiding people who want to build a better life for themselves and their families, the Conservatives should be making a greater effort to ensure that they are treated fairly, have the resources they need and can be reunited with their families.
It is clear to me that it is the New Democrats who stand with newcomers and who want the government to focus on making the immigration system faster and fairer for the vast majority of people who do not commit crimes and who follow the rules.That is what my constituents are asking for.
During the study of Bill C-43, committee members were able to hear hours of expert testimony. We all agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada should be dealt with quickly. However, the NDP, along with many of the witnesses who came to speak on the bill, had some serious concerns with what the government was proposing. Lawyers, front-line service workers and policy experts all had a lot to say about the bill. It is disappointing that their concerns are not reflected in the bill now back before the House. New Democrats wanted to work across party lines to ensure the speedy removal of serious non-citizen criminals. Disappointingly, the Conservatives did not want to work with us to make this legislation better.
A particular concern of ours is the extraordinary discretionary powers given to the minister in this bill without any checks and balances. Bill C-43 concentrates more power in the hands of the minister by giving him or her a new discretionary authority over the admissibility of temporary residents. The minister can declare a foreign national inadmissible for up to 36 months “if the Minister is of the opinion that it is justified by public policy considerations”. The minister may also at any time revoke or shorten the effective period of a declaration of inadmissibility—but public policy considerations are never spelled out for us or defined. Bill C-43 relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian concerns. It also gives the minister a new discretionary authority to provide an exception for a family member of a foreign national who is inadmissible.
It was extremely disappointing that the Conservatives rejected the reasonable NDP amendments that addressed this chief concern and would limit the excessive new power the bill gives to the minister. The NDP moved an amendment that would have enshrined the minister's own proposed guidelines, word for word, on negative ministerial discretion into Bill C-43. Even that was rejected, despite the fact the minister himself suggested to the committee that we look at such an approach.
Another concern of witnesses and the NDP with the bill was the loss of the right of appeal. Previously, a conviction in Canada resulting in a prison sentence of two years or more constituted an automatic revocation of a permanent or temporary resident's right of appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division of the IRB. Bill C-43 would revoke the right to appeal a determination of inadmissibility where there is a conviction of six months or more. The bill would remove any discretion of a judge to consider the nature of the crime and the context in which it was committed, including potential mental illness in refugees from war-torn countries.
We need to have a fair, transparent and impartial process to review removals and take into consideration individual circumstances. We do not support closing the door to an appeal process, as it is an essential component of checks and balances in our immigration system.
In addition, we heard from numerous witnesses who argued that this bill casts too wide a net. As one expert argued:
The vast scope of the inadmissibility provisions, combined with the dismantling of the only available legal safeguards, will result in the removal from Canada and exposure to persecution of clearly innocent people....
We were also warned that the bill would have a serious impact on the young and people with mental health issues. In committee the New Democrats introduced nine reasonable amendments to this bill, taking into account the concerns of the experts who testified, in order to curb the excessive powers of the minister and to restore some due process. Yet these were all rejected by the Conservative majority on committee.
We support the principle of removing dangerous, violent non-citizen criminals in a timely manner, which is why we introduced reasonable, moderate amendments that would have made the legislation fairer. Unfortunately, once again, these were rejected by the Conservatives on the committee.
New Democrats want to prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process, but to do so without trampling the rights of the innocent. I would add that rather than tabling legislation that portrays newcomers negatively, the government should focus on giving border and law enforcement officials the proper resources they need to keep Canadians safe from criminals of all backgrounds. We need to stop criminals and terrorists before they arrive in Canada. However, the Conservatives' cuts will mean that Canadian officials will have to do the best they can with less.
The 2012 budget plan announced cuts of $143 million to the Canada Border Services Agency. These reckless cuts are certainly going to have an impact on the safety and efficiency of our borders. Members know, from the customs and immigration unit, that 325 jobs on the front line at border crossings across the country will be cut. The intelligence branch of the CBSA has been hard hit, losing 100 positions, and 19 sniffer dog units are being slashed due to the budget cuts.
In addition, the government needs to address the lack of training, resources, and integration of information and monitoring technologies within the responsible public service agencies. These are not my own recommendations, but have been repeated by the Auditor General for years.
We should focus on making improvements to the current system and administration of laws currently in place, including proper training, service standards, quality assurances, and checks to improve our Canadian border security and public safety.
Members have just returned from their constituencies. I always enjoy speaking with constituents and sharing in community events throughout Scarborough, a great and dynamic community. However, community safety and well-being are on the minds of constituents. The constituents of Scarborough are looking for leadership on these issues, including support and prevention strategies to keep our communities safe. Instead we are being subject to a huge, $687.9 million cut to public safety by 2015, the bulk of which will fall on the Canada Border Services Agency, at $143 million; the Correctional Service Canada, at $295.4 million; and the RCMP, at $195.2 million.
Proper training and resources are certainly ways to increase border security and public safety. The government needs to stop criminals and terrorists before they arrive in Canada. However, thanks to Conservative cuts, Canadian officials have to try to do the best they can with less and less.
The government needs to start listening to Canadians. It needs to listen to newcomers, who have repeatedly said they want a faster and fairer immigration system, not a process that may be beyond recognition once the government is finished with it, given the current direction the immigration minister and the Conservatives are taking immigration policy in this country.
In this bill alone there is a system that concentrates power in the hands of the minister and removes appropriate checks and balances; negatively portrays newcomers; calls permanent residents foreigners when in reality they are residents of our communities who work, pay taxes and raise their families here in our country and communities; and relieves the minister from taking into account humanitarian and compassionate considerations.
New Democrats had hoped to be able to work together to prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process, without trampling on people's rights but upholding our Canadian values. Regrettably, this was rejected by the government. That is why we cannot support this bill.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-01-29 18:33 [p.13422]
moved that Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House for the second reading of my first private member's bill, Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces).
I would like to start by thanking my family for putting up with the crazy hours and travel schedule of a member of Parliament who is also a husband and a father. I thank my wife, Neetu, my children Jatin, Chetan and Arisha, and also my dearly missed parents, Bindra Ban Shory and Maya Shory, who have already gone before me but whose love and blessing on my life I still feel every day.
I also thank the staff and volunteers who have helped me work on this legislation, men and women whose creativity, insight and hard work have helped make the second reading of this legislation possible today. They are: Laura Koch, a member of the Canadian Forces and my legislative assistant who helped with the formulation of this bill in its infancy; Wala Azimi, a proud Canadian who was born in Afghanistan and who nevertheless is understanding my Punjabi more and more each day; Kenton Dueck, my former executive assistant in Calgary Northeast, a man who has been as passionate about this as I am; Patrick Tuns from my Ottawa office and Daniel Boucher from my constituency office, both of whom have demonstrated their support for this bill from their first day; and, my constituency assistants, Sukhi Dhaliwal and Raman Brar, who eagerly help my constituents of Calgary Northeast each and every day.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the hard-working ministerial staff, Chris Champion and Leigh Johnston, as well as Madame Marie-Andrée Roy from the House of Commons legal team who helped put these thoughts into bill form.
I would also like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have offered their support for this bill.
In this legislation, my goals are to promote integration, to better recognize permanent residents who serve Canada, to honour our Canadian troops and to underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship.
To some who see the colour of my skin or hear my accent, the word “immigrant” probably immediately jumps into their minds. I may have been born, raised and educated in Barnala, Punjab, India, but the fact is that I have lived in Canada for more than 23 years and Canada is now my home. Like millions of others, whether they were born here, flew here or drove here, I believe that our wonderful democracy, Canada, is the best in the world and worth protecting with every resource at our disposal. In that spirit, I tabled this legislation and encourage the support from all sides of the House.
Canadians not only expect but have also told us again and again that they want us to restore the value of Canadian citizenship.
I want to thank the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for introducing a new citizenship guide to inform newcomers of their rights and responsibilities when they come to Canada. The minister not only introduced a citizenship fraud tip line, but also recently announced efforts to crack down on citizenship fraud, which are paying off.
My Bill C-425 adds to our government's efforts to strengthen Canadian citizenship and would also reward those who are willing to put their lives on the line. It provides citizenship more quickly to those who take on the responsibility honourably serving our country. At the same time, it takes the privilege of Canadian citizenship away from those who betray Canada and everything it stands for.
I urge all members to support this bill going to committee for a thorough review. I am open to looking at any amendments from that review that respect the spirit of this bill and strengthen Canadian values.
It would be safe for me to assume that we all are committed to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. We also recognize the importance of the Canadian Forces and its commitment to serving Canada in defending its values, interests and sovereignty.
Along those lines, the House is a place where tough determinations are made on behalf of Canadian men, women and children and our brave men and women in uniform. The House is the place where we debate military budgets and deployments.
Unfortunately, these debates can sometimes become politicized and doing the right thing for our country and our troops can become obscured by the spin and rhetoric. Nevertheless, we all share a duty to support our troops and to do so with our very best judgment on behalf of our constituents.
We parliamentarians from all sides are entrusted to make the kinds of decisions that affect not only Canada, but also the brave souls into whose hands we place our security. I felt it was crucial for me to experience first-hand a glimpse of a day in the life of our courageous Canadian forces. That is why I spent several days in a uniform alongside our Canadian army during a reserve training exercise in Wainwright, Alberta in August 2009, along with colleagues from both sides of the House, as well as my “brother from a different mother”, the member for Medicine Hat. It is also why I spent time at sea off the east coast aboard the HMCS Fredericton in the summer of 2010.
I also want to thank the Minister of National Defence for ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the people, equipment, infrastructure and readiness required to defend Canada and Canadian interests now and well into the future.
Since 2006, under the solid leadership of the Minister of National Defence, the defence budget has grown by over $6 billion and key acquisitions have been made. Our men and women in uniform not only deserve the best equipment to get the job done, but also the best, the brightest and the bravest to be fighting alongside them and to have them at their back.
When Canadian permanent residents who are not yet Canadian citizens answer the call to serve under the red and white banner of this great nation, they are not just performing a duty. They are not simply working nine to five. They are putting their lives on the line for their new home for millions of Canadian men, women and children in the greatest country in the world.
For their demonstrated honour and courage to stand in the gap when least expected, but when most required, a one-year credit toward Canadian citizenship is the least we can do. Under the proposed change, a permanent resident who is a member of the Canadian Forces and has completed basic training and has signed a minimum three-year contract to serve the forces will be given a one-year credit toward his or her residence requirement for acquiring Canadian citizenship.
Also, under the proposed change Canadian citizens with dual citizenship and permanent residents applying for citizenship would lose their citizenship or become ineligible to become citizens if they commit an act of war against our troops.
I remember once seeing a bumper sticker that said “Stand behind our troops...otherwise, please feel free to stand in front of them”. Of course, the humour was dark, but the underlying truth about our parliamentary responsibility still rings true.
Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable. Members of the Canadian Forces risk their lives to defend it, so it makes sense that those individuals who choose to attack our Canadian Forces should not have the privilege of calling themselves Canadian citizens.
In referring to another key aspect of the second half of this legislation, I would like to make a very simple and direct point about safeguards. Most of us have sprinkler systems in our homes and hope they will never have to be used. Most of us have airbags in our cars and hope they will never have to be deployed. However, safeguards stand in place to protect our homes and protect our lives.
I pray that, like the fire sprinkler in our homes and the airbag in our cars, the second half of my legislation will never have to be used.
I firmly believe this is an excellent bill for Canadians from all walks of life. It is good for longstanding Canadians and good for new Canadians. It is another pathway to promote integration by encouraging new Canadians to serve alongside our armed forces. It supports our troops. It also underscores the immense value of Canadian citizenship.
Therefore, it is with deep Canadian pride and gratitude for our men and women in uniform, the new Canadians who bravely join them in the air, on land and sea, and it is with a profound respect for the Canadian citizenship you and I share, Mr. Speaker, that I proudly stand today on behalf of the men and women of Calgary Northeast in seeking support for my first private member's bill, Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces). I look forward to receiving the support of all members so that it can be sent to committee for a detailed review.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-01-29 18:44 [p.13423]
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the member could provide some comment in terms of the reserves. Many individuals see the reserves as a wonderful opportunity to serve our country. Has any consideration been given to Canada's reserves?
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-01-29 18:44 [p.13423]
Mr. Speaker, the bill would apply to people who sign the minimum three-year contract and complete basic training. Although we do not have specific numbers at this time, we do know that it would affect a number of skilled members of our Canadian armed forces. It would also serve as an added incentive for new talented immigrants to join our military.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am a person who supports the idea that our provincial, municipal and federal institutions should reflect the full diversity of our population. Our young children need to see themselves when they look at those who govern us and those who serve us.
We all honour the service of those who are in the armed forces and we support that. Did my colleague consider other important contributions to our country made by doctors, firemen, police officers, nurses, teachers, et cetera?
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-01-29 18:46 [p.13423]
Mr. Speaker, the bill was inspired by my belief that our troops deserve the highest respect. Service in Canada's military is unique because it calls on its members to lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen and women. It is for this reason that I believe we should reward their demonstration of patriotism by shortening the amount of time they must wait to become Canadian citizens. Furthermore, this is another pathway to integration.
View Pierre Jacob Profile
NDP (QC)
View Pierre Jacob Profile
2013-01-29 18:47 [p.13423]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his speech.
Given that the term “legal resident” is not defined, this bill is at risk of rendering citizens stateless, which is in contravention of international law.
Could the member please explain how this term might be interpreted?
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2013-01-29 18:47 [p.13423]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague should know that my bill would apply to those who have dual citizenship. This bill would strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship by rewarding those who bravely serve our country.
However, those who commit an act of war against our Canadian armed forces would forfeit the right of Canadian citizenship. Of course, due process would be available and would be followed. Individuals would have the right to make their case before a judge. It would go before a judge and then the Federal Court and on and on. That due process would be done. Of course we would always comply with the Convention on the Reduction Statelessness. This bill would make no exception to that.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in this important debate on my hon. colleague's private member's bill.
The Conservative sponsor of this bill seems to be trying to do two contradictory things: to fast-track citizenship for some and then to make it easier to strip it from others. I would like to address each of those issues separately.
The bill would offer a new ministerial power to shorten permanent residency requirements for members of the Canadian armed forces who are seeking citizenship.
I want to make it clear that New Democrats support efforts to honour the permanent residents who serve in the armed forces as indeed we should honour all our veterans and current service members.
We also believe strongly in a military that is reflective of Canada's diversity.
In 2006, the Canadian immigrant population rose to 6.2 million, accounting for almost 20% of the Canadian population. It is projected that by 2017 the visible minority population will represent approximately one in five Canadians. However, data from the 2008 census also shows that the Canadian Forces do not reflect the same level of ethnocultural diversity. A small proportion of Canadian Forces personnel, only 6%, were non-Caucasians compared with 17% of the regular working population.
If my hon. colleague's intention is to bring greater diversity to the military, then that is a concept I can support. However, I think it is important for the House to examine this aspect of the legislation very carefully. The reality is that circumstances under which a permanent resident would be able to enrol in the Canadian Forces appear to be extremely narrow. In fact, the Canadian Forces website and a call by my office to the Ottawa recruitment centre have made it clear that a permanent resident may not enrol in the Canadian Forces. It appears that the only way for a permanent resident to serve is if he or she is authorized by the chief of the defence staff to fill a special need or it is in the national interest.
I do become concerned that yet again we have a Conservative member proposing legislation that would affect a tiny minority while ignoring the broader concerns of the majority of newcomers. In fact, the member belongs to a government whose radical overhaul of Canada's immigration system is turning Canada into a less welcoming country. The changes the Conservatives have made limit the possibilities for newcomers to be reunited with their families and help build stronger communities. Under the Conservative government too many newcomers are not getting the fair treatment they deserve. Instead of welcoming skilled immigrants and addressing Canada's long-term needs, the Conservatives are prioritizing temporary work visas to help big businesses pay lower wages.
I want to return to the issue of honouring the armed forces by making another point. Headline-grabbing legislation is not enough. We need real action to truly honour all of those who serve.
A few months ago it was revealed that nearly 70% of applications for financial help to bury homeless or low-income veterans are rejected by the Conservative government. This latest report just adds to the many embarrassing failures of the Conservatives on the veterans affairs file, from debilitating red tape to failing to transition ill and injured personnel to civilian life due to harmful budget cuts.
It is our collective duty to care for the veterans who gave us the freedom and peace we enjoy in this country. To undermine the sacrifices they made is to take everything we have today for granted. This is not a partisan issue. Canada's veterans fought for all of us.
The second part of the bill seems to strip citizenship from those who are engaged in acts of war against a member of the Canadian armed forces. On its face, this too may seem reasonable. We certainly want to make sure that Canadian citizenship has real value and that we protect our service men and women as much as possible. However, the aspects of the bill that deal with the renunciation of Canadian citizenship raise more questions than they answer and seem ill-considered. I will explain in more detail what I mean.
The bill is not clear that due process before the law is necessary to determine whether someone has committed an act of war, nor is it clear who would make such a determination. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the members of the government seem fond of stripping due process with very little accountability.
Additionally, some key terms are not defined. The terms “acts of war” and “legal resident” are not defined anywhere in Canadian law.
Without a definition for what would constitute a legal resident of another country, the bill would pose a serious risk of rendering Canadian citizens stateless, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, to which Canada is a signatory.
The Conservative sponsor of the legislation has framed it as creating another pathway to integration for permanent residents, as well as underscoring the incredible worth of Canadian citizenship and honouring the contribution of our men and women in uniform.
On these principles, members will not hear any argument from this side of the House. Like many things from my Conservative colleagues, the devil is in the details or, in this case, the troubling lack of details.
As I have mentioned, Bill C-425 attempts to legislate the time within which certain permanent residents may apply for citizenship, but my New Democratic colleagues and I think the government ought to be working to address the exceptionally long processing times for citizenship more broadly. At the current rate, no one gets their citizenship recognized anywhere near the time they are legally entitled to it. As such, Bill C-425 is making a hollow promise to these permanent residents.
Our citizenship application processing backlogs only seem to be increasing. The data make it clear that even though CIC has been receiving more citizenship applications year after year, the department has been processing fewer and fewer, and there are far longer wait times.
Instead of supporting the immigration department with more resources to reduce the backlog, the government is cutting its budget and closing down its regional offices.
Last week we learned there has been a 73% drop in the number of permanent residents receiving Canadian citizenship under the Conservative government. The minister even acknowledged it is because there are fewer people to process more applications. That is not good enough and it is a failure of the ministry for which he is ultimately responsible.
We know the department is cutting almost $200 million over the next two years and has closed 19 regional offices. These cuts are affecting front-line services and causing backlogs to grow.
A perfect example of this is that nearly two years after paying the required fees and sending their permanent residence applications to Buffalo, thousands still have not received a response from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
To make matters worse, their files still have not been assigned to agents, and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism will not even bother to answer their questions.
This Conservative boondoggle transformed the Canadian dream of thousands of people into a total nightmare. I only wish my hon. colleague were spending more time pressuring his government to make the immigration system more fair and accountable to newcomers and Canadians alike.
In closing, I want to reiterate my very strong support for our men and women in the armed forces. We should honour their tremendous sacrifice and do all we can to keep them safe.
However, I would urge members to take a close look at what is in the bill and, more important, what is not.
The bill would do nothing to fix some of the tremendous problems we see in our immigration system. It would do nothing to speed up processing times for hard-working newcomers who want to become citizens. It would do very little to truly honour and support veterans who have served this country with honour.
Let us take a serious look at this proposal, but let us look at the bigger picture.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-01-29 18:58 [p.13425]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address Bill C-425. I also acknowledge the efforts of the member.
I listened to the member's opening remarks in the introduction of the bill, and a number of thoughts came to mind. One of them is that we do have a citizenship and immigration committee and it would be wonderful for us to have some sort of discussion about the benefits of citizenship and how it can be used to promote and encourage what we think is important not only to select groups but to all Canadians.
It was not that long ago that I had an interesting discussion with someone who was talking about volunteers. Many immigrants who come to Canada spend endless hours volunteering for many worthwhile organizations, charitable groups and so forth. We were discussing whether there would be an opportunity for us to be able to do something with regard to that.
More specific to the topic we have at hand, I approach this particular bill with an open mind. I have had the opportunity to check the website that the Canadian Forces provides on the Internet. If one hits the Apply link, for example, one will find there are certain restrictions. One has to be a Canadian citizen in order to apply to become a member of the Canadian Forces. I suspect that is something that needs to be looked at.
The minister responsible for the Canadian Forces will find that the Liberal Party is open to good ideas. Maybe we need to relax the way in which we recruit members of the Canadian Forces from our country. Should only Canadians be allowed to apply? Why not encourage landed immigrants to become members of the Canadian Forces? If we agree that should be done, then let us look to the minister responsible for the Canadian Forces and allow that to take place. All day today I have been talking about 1.5 million landed immigrants in our society. That is a very conservative number to which I have been referring. It is actually a lot greater than that. According to the Canadian Forces website, these people would not be eligible to apply to become members.
We do need to have a debate. That is what I like about Bill C-425. The member has brought forward a piece of legislation that could ultimately pass to committee stage. There is some value in having the citizenship and immigration committee look at the bill. I would like us to possibly go further, however. As much as I believe there could be opportunities in granting citizenship to those who would serve in the Canadian Forces, I am more interested in how more landed individuals could participate in our Canadian Forces.
Members of the forces get an immense sense of pride serving our country. I was a member of the Canadian Forces. I remember going to the recruitment office and signing up. I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege and the honour of being a member. I would not want to deny that opportunity to others, whether they are Canadians or permanent residents who really want to become members of the forces. There would be some benefit to having that dialogue in committee. I recognize that the government does have a majority, but given that this is a private member's bill, there is a very good chance it will pass and go to committee.
Therefore, the challenge I would put to the Conservative Party is to do what I am going to be recommending my Liberal caucus do. That is to approach the committee in a very open fashion. Given the importance of our Canadian Forces, given the importance of our citizenship, there is great value in allowing for that debate to occur.
The member will not receive any opposition from me in trying to encourage that debate to occur. In fact, what I would like to do is to have a page provide a copy of the Canadian Forces website that I am referring to, where it states one has to be a Canadian citizen. That is one of the things we should be talking about.
I was somewhat touched by the member's comments. He talked about how he came from the Punjab and how Canada is his new home. It does not necessarily mean one forgets about one's old home, but one takes a great sense of pride in one's new home. We want to be able to encourage people who have chosen Canada as their home to participate in our many different national institutions. I believe there are many who would have an interest in serving our great country.
To that extent, I suggest that we allow Bill C-425 to pass second reading. I do have other concerns that I would like to address, but I believe that the issues I have and would like to see addressed will be addressed in a forum that would ultimately allow for a bill to pass that makes sense. Hopefully, we will see the minister responsible for the Canadian Forces see the merit in what we can do to encourage the Canadian Forces, as one of our national treasures, to possibly consider incorporating more landed immigrants.
With that, I look forward to the ongoing debate. I will have a page bring over the sheet, which is a printout of the Canadian Forces recruitment website.
View Chungsen Leung Profile
CPC (ON)
View Chungsen Leung Profile
2013-01-29 19:06 [p.13426]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-425, put forward by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast. Bill C-425 proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian Forces who are permanent residents, by reducing their residence requirement for citizenship by one year. This would be for the Canadian Forces members who have signed a minimum three-year contract and have completed basic training. It also proposes to take citizenship away from, or deny citizenship to, those who engage in an act of war against the Canadian Forces. Such individuals would permanently be barred from reapplying for citizenship.
I applaud the hon. member for Calgary Northeast for introducing this important and worthwhile bill. Indeed, Bill C-425 is consistent with the government's commitment in the 2010 and 2011 speeches from the throne to support Canada's armed forces and to protect the safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security. Bill C-425 is also consistent with key objectives of Canada's immigration system, such as ensuring that newcomers and citizens participate to their full potential in fostering an integrated society. For all those reasons, we support Bill C-425 moving forward to committee stage for a thorough review and study to determine if it could be effectively implemented and that Canada's international obligations would be respected.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the Canadian Forces and our commitment to serve Canada in defending its values, interests and sovereignty. We are committed to ensuring that those who serve Canada are recognized for their service.
Generally speaking, Canadian citizenship is a requirement for enrolment in the Canadian Forces, but permanent residents may also be employed in exceptional circumstances. The problem is that their lack of citizenship and challenges related to security clearance and passport arrangements can make it difficult to deploy them for service abroad. Introducing a fast-track to citizenship for permanent residents serving in the Canadian Forces, as proposed in Bill C-425, is a win-win situation as it would honour their services to Canada and make their deployment abroad much easier.
In fact, last fall our Conservative government announced that members of the Order of Military Merit at the colonel level and above are now eligible to preside in citizenship ceremonies. The Order of Military Merit, established in 1972, recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service deployed by the men and women of the Canadian armed forces. Many of these individuals demonstrated dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty, and the order honours them for their commitment. It is therefore fitting that recipients of this award can preside at citizenship ceremonies, an occasion at which we reflect on the value of Canadian citizenship and the responsibilities we carry as Canadians, a value that the members of our armed forces so courageously defend.
In regard to the proposal to take citizenship away from, or deny it to, those who engage in acts of war against the Canadian Forces, I was interested to learn that some of the provisions to take away or bar citizenship already exist in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable. Members of the Canadian Forces risk their lives on a daily basis to defend it. So, it is definitely worthwhile to further study the proposal that those who would attack our Canadian Forces should not themselves have Canadian citizenship. Canadian citizenship is about far more than the right to carry a passport or to vote. Citizenship defines who we are as Canadians, including our mutual responsibility to one another. This is why we launched a citizenship action plan three years ago, to strengthen the value and meaning of citizenship.
As part of the action plan, we produced a new citizenship study guide entitled “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”. The guide provides essential information for anyone preparing to become a Canadian citizen. This helps ensure that all newcomers have more knowledge of the country they are joining. “Discover Canada” provides a much better overview of Canada's tradition, value and history, including our immigration history, than its predecessor. The old guide contains no reference to the Remembrance Day poppy, for example, and little mention of the stories and symbols that make us who we are today.
We are pleased that it has been a tremendous success, popular with citizenship applicants and established Canadians alike. Furthermore, our government has taken action to crack down on citizenship fraud. We are ensuring that anyone who lies about who they are, their residency in Canada or hidden past criminal activities would have their citizenship stripped.
We have also taken action against unscrupulous immigration representatives who fraudulently establish evidence of residents in Canada while living abroad most if not all of the time. This is perpetrated so that individuals can fraudulently maintain their permanent residence status and later apply for citizenship. There are currently 11,000 fraud investigations under way, including 3,100 for citizenship fraud. We are sending a clear message that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. We are applying the full strength of the law to those who have obtained their citizenship fraudulently.
I am sure all hon. members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective. Its spirit is laudable. It deserves a thorough study at committee to ensure that the bill achieves what it intends to achieve, that it can be effectively implemented and that Canada's international obligations continue to be respected.
I look forward to working with the sponsor and the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the hope that the good intentions of Bill C-425 are achieved.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces). The bill would create a new ministerial power to reduce the length of residency in Canada required for a member of the Canadian armed forces to obtain citizenship.
This bill would make it possible to renounce Canadian citizenship from a Canadian citizen who is also a citizen or a legal resident of a country other than Canada if he engages in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
The same goes for a permanent resident who has applied for Canadian citizenship. The application would be deemed to have been withdrawn if he engaged in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
I will focus on the accelerated citizenship process that the minister could request for a member of the Canadian armed forces.
This bill grants the minister a new power. This power would allow him, on request and to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value, to lower the length of residency in Canada required for a member of the Canadian armed forces who wants to obtain citizenship from three years to two, provided that the member in question has signed a minimum three-year contract and has completed basic training.
I want to make it clear that since we are talking about a member who has signed a contract for at least three years, we are of course talking about a regular forces member. Members of the reserve forces do not sign three-year contracts. We are definitely talking about a regular forces member.
This bill is divided into two parts. The first part is about members of the Canadian Forces obtaining Canadian citizenship and the second part is about revoking Canadian citizenship when a CF member engages in an act of war against someone.
I would like to come back to the first part of the bill. I would point out that it is really quite rare for someone who is not already a Canadian citizen to serve in the Canadian Forces.
When I read the bill, I immediately wondered about the relevance of introducing such a bill. You cannot be a member of the Canadian Forces unless you are a Canadian citizen. I began to wonder if what I remembered was incorrect. So I went to the website, and it said repeatedly that you have to be a Canadian citizen in order to become a member of the Canadian Forces. So then I asked the Library of Parliament to do a little research, and I was shown the regulations in question, the Queen's Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces, which included the following exception:
...the Chief of the Defence Staff or such officer as he may designate may authorize the enrolment of a citizen of another country if he is satisfied that a special need exists and that the national interest would not be prejudiced thereby;
Such exceptions are therefore quite rare and I must say, I doubt that most recruitment officers are even aware that this exception exists. When you go into a recruitment centre, they tell you that you have to be a Canadian citizen. If someone says they are a permanent resident, they are usually told to come back once they have obtained their citizenship. Since this is an exception, I have to wonder about the usefulness of such a measure, but I understand why it is there.
If we want to have this provision in place for highly exceptional cases, then I think we must examine this issue and determine whether the enlistment process for the Canadian armed forces needs to be reviewed. This would allow landed immigrants or even people from safe allied countries to enlist. For example, could an Australian say that he wants to serve in the Canadian Forces, since Canada is a relatively safe Commonwealth country?
An Australian has an allegiance to the same Crown and this would be reasonable, for example. Could this person with very specific training enlist in the Canadian Forces any way other than with authorization from the Chief of Defence Staff? We must think about that, but in this bill there is unfortunately no reference to the changes that could be made to the National Defence Act regarding enlisting in the Canadian Forces. I think that is the main flaw.
I will support sending the bill to committee, but I think this type of bill cannot be introduced without also introducing measures or making suggestions about the parameters of enlisting in the Canadian Forces or what reforms are necessary.
At the time, when I read the bill for the first time, I spoke briefly to the Minister of National Defence to find out whether he planned to change the laws on the requirements for joining the Canadian Forces so that permanent residents could serve. However, no changes were planned. I do not believe that he was against such changes either. I will therefore support the bill, but I think that we really have to have this discussion about whether National Defence's rules can be changed to allow people who are not Canadian citizens to join the Canadian Forces, whether those rules are still appropriate and whether they should be modernized and updated. It seems strange to me to have a bill that pertains to exceptional cases.
I served in the Canadian armed forces for three years. Many of my colleagues in the House served for a number of years. I, for one, have never met a soldier who was not a Canadian citizen. All the soldiers with whom I worked were already Canadian citizens.
Introducing a bill such as this that pertains to an exceptional case seems a bit strange to me and I am not sure that it is necessarily useful. I think that this bill should have included measures that establish who has the right to join and then it would have been useful to also refer it to the Standing Committee on National Defence. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
As I said, I will support the bill, but I think that there is really something missing. I understand the intention of the member who is introducing this bill, but I think he simply did not realize just how exceptional it is for people who are not Canadian citizens to serve in the Canadian Forces. Perhaps he did not realize that this measure is not necessarily very relevant in the context of serving in the Canadian armed forces. I understand the point of the bill and I thank my colleague for introducing it, but I really believe that he should find a way to make this discussion happen.
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
View Roxanne James Profile
2013-01-29 19:21 [p.13428]
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to add my comments to Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces). I would like to extend my congratulations to my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for Calgary Northeast, who introduced this private member's bill. By doing so, the hon. member has demonstrated an admirable commitment to recognizing the exemplary service of Canada's men and women in uniform, the very worthy individuals who stand on the front lines and put their lives at risk to defend our safety and liberty.
This private member's bill proposes to fast-track citizenship for members of the Canadian armed forces who are permanent residents by reducing the residence requirements for citizenship by one year for those members. It also proposes to take citizenship away from or deny citizenship to those who engage in acts of war against the Canadian armed forces.
Canadian citizenship is extremely valuable and I commend the member for recognizing this through his private member's bill. Canadians, whether established or new, must take our responsibilities as citizens very seriously. From generation to generation, thousands upon thousands of Canadian soldiers have given their lives for this country. Countless more risk their lives and some are doing so right now.
While enrolment in the Canadian armed forces is usually limited to Canadian citizens, permanent residents who have not yet acquired citizenship are sometimes employed in exceptional circumstances. These are people who dedicate their lives to protecting Canada yet they do not possess the fundamental membership in Canadian society. Their lack of citizenship often correlates with challenges in acquiring security clearances and arranging passports. This creates problems in deploying these individuals abroad.
Introducing a fast track to citizenship for permanent residents who serve in our country's armed forces, as the bill proposes, would help mitigate these types of problems. The proposals in the bill to honour the Canadian Forces are in line with other measurements the government has taken in the past few years. This includes recognizing the distinctive merit and exceptional service displayed by recipients of the Order of Military Merit.
The Order of Military Merit established in 1972 recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service displayed by the men and women of the Canadian armed forces. Many of these men and women have demonstrated dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty and the order honours them for their commitment to our country.
Last fall, the Government of Canada announced that members of the Order of Military Merit at the colonel level and above are now eligible to preside at citizenship ceremonies. The Order of Military Merit honours military service to Canada. It is therefore fitting that recipients of this award can preside at citizenship ceremonies, an occasion at which we reflect on the value of Canadian citizenship and the responsibility we carry as Canadians.
The Government of Canada launched the citizenship action plan three years ago in order to strengthen and preserve the value of Canadian citizenship. First we developed a new citizenship guide “Discover Canada”, which explores our history, shared values, symbols and institutions in a more in-depth way than its predecessor. In addition, we improved the knowledge requirement for Canadian citizenship with a new test. We did so to ensure that new citizens can appreciate the foundation upon which our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law were built.
We have also taken action to address the problem of residence fraud in our citizenship program. As the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced in September, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is now investigating more than 11,000 individuals from more than 100 countries for attempting to cheat Canadians and Canada. In order to help detect fraud we have also introduced a citizenship fraud tip line. We are also taking action to crack down on crooked consultants who often help people maintain a Canadian address to appear as though they are living in Canada, even though in some cases they never have.
Canadians should be proud that so many people around the world want to become Canadian citizens. It is a testament to what a great country we live in. We can often take our citizenship for granted though. It is easy to forget how many people do not enjoy the liberty, security and freedom that we as Canadians do.
Our government believes that citizenship is precious, that it is a privilege and we have sent a clear message to those who would lie and cheat to obtain it that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. Bill C-425 aims to protect the value of citizenship by giving citizenship sooner to members of the Canadian Forces and by taking it away from those who undermine our country by taking up arms against Canada. In principle, it makes sense that those who commit violent acts against Canada and our armed forces, who do not believe in Canadian values or the value of Canadian citizenship should no longer hold citizenship in our great country. However, this proposal requires further study.
The bill contains certainly laudable proposals. That is why I personally support the bill moving forward to committee for further review and study, and I hope all members in the House will also do the same.
View Annick Papillon Profile
NDP (QC)
View Annick Papillon Profile
2013-01-29 19:27 [p.13429]
Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today about Bill C-425, which introduces new grounds for granting or revoking Canadian citizenship.
Under the Citizenship Act, Bill C-425 would, under certain conditions, allow the immigration minister to reduce from three years to two the required years of residence to grant citizenship to members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are permanent residents.
In addition, under this bill, an individual would be deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship if they engaged in an act of war against the Canadian Armed Forces.
The NDP is in favour of expediting the process of granting Canadian citizenship to reward the dedication of permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. We also want the Canadian Armed Forces to reflect Canada's diversity. However, in terms of the specifics set out in Bill C-425, there are currently very few situations in which a permanent resident would be able to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces.
If Canada wishes to recognize the extraordinary contributions of future citizens, why not offer this same advantage to new Canadians who make remarkable contributions to Canadian society in other sectors, and not just through military service?
While Bill C-425 is meant to reduce the timeframe required to obtain citizenship for certain permanent residents, the NDP believes that the government also needs to work on reducing the exceptionally long wait times for the processing of all citizenship applications. I think it is important to point out that the sweeping changes the Conservatives have made to the Canadian immigration system in recent years have not made it any more efficient or fair.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the processing time for citizenship applications is nearly two years. Furthermore, the self-described “forgotten ones of Buffalo”, whom I saw at lunch time, actually, were on Parliament Hill today to continue to pressure the government. These immigrants, many of whom live in Quebec City, are still waiting for the federal government to settle their status. So what happened?
The Canadian visa office in Buffalo, where their applications were being processed, suddenly closed up shop in the wake of the Conservative government's budget cuts. Many of them submitted their applications two or three years ago and are still waiting to hear from Citizenship and Immigration, which is giving very little information about how long it may take to process their files. The upshot is that over 10,000 immigrants are still waiting for their application for permanent residence to be processed, and meanwhile, they are left completely in limbo.
Unfortunately, it is just the tip of the iceberg: as of last June, 285,000 people were waiting for their applications to be processed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials. At the same time, the department was cut by 5.3% as a result of the last federal budget. Even though waiting periods continue to grow, 285 positions were eliminated across the country.
There is a significant backlog in more than just citizenship applications. According to an article that appeared in Le Droit in November 2012, more than one million people who want to come to Canada are still waiting for a decision on their immigration file. It seems that this backlog will not be cleared before 2017, according to a report released last winter by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
This same report recommended that Citizenship and Immigration Canada modernize several of its immigration practices as soon as possible. According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada dismissed 75 employees at its Montreal call centre, where the department's telephone services for clients across the country are centralized.
Unfortunately, according to the same information obtained by Radio-Canada, officers could only answer 9% of the 30,000 calls received daily. David Chalk, chair of the Quebec association of immigration lawyers, says he is worried about this situation.
Mr. Chalk got his lawyer colleagues in Canada to phone the call centre in Montreal. They had to wait an average of four hours to speak to an agent. Is this normal? Citizenship and Immigration Canada defended itself by saying that it was possible to file a complaint about the abnormally long wait time. However, to get in touch with the complaints department, you have to go through the call centre.
In my Quebec City riding office, I often receive calls from claimants in distress who do not understand why the process is taking so long. These immigrants contribute to Canadian society. Most of them are permanent residents and are already participating in society. They sometimes have children who are Canadian citizens. Unfortunately, on this government's watch—
View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2013-01-29 19:33 [p.13430]
Order. The hon. member will have four minutes to finish her speech when we resume consideration of the motion.
The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, it is really delightful to be back on the Hill. However, I had an amazing time while in the riding of Newton—North Delta, meeting with my constituents, going to events and listening to their concerns. It is good to be back here so I can bring their concerns into the House. I want to thank them for the amazing busyness they provided for me while I was in the riding. It certainly was delightful.
Once again, we have another omnibus bill that is close to a thousand pages and thicker than most of our communities' phone books.
This omnibus bill is a lot different than the Trojan horse budget bill in which the government buried everything that it did not want Canadians to know about, whether with respect to the degradation of environmental protection, changes to refugees or EI and a huge number of other protections. All of those were embedded in the Trojan horse budget bill, which made it very unpalatable, as was the bill we debated just before the House rose. There was also so much stuff in there that was not related. However, under the guise of the budget, the Conservatives were trying to carry out their agenda so we as parliamentarians could not debate it.
However, this bill is a little different. I know this will come as a shock, but I rise today to support the bill because the legislation has been a long time coming.
When I look at the history of when the last changes were made, the last technical tax bill was passed in 2001. When I think about that, so much has changed and yet we have not had clarity there for either investors, the business community or for Canadians who want to try to understand the tax system.
What does disturb me, though, are the changes that should have happened under the Liberal government too. Therefore, I am not just saying that this has been a delay from the side of the Conservatives. Rather, my colleagues in the Liberal caucus, while they were in government, were very remiss in not providing the kind of clarity that we all needed when dealing with taxes and people's money. They avoided doing that too, so we are pleased to see this here.
Before we go any further, let me make it perfectly clear that the New Democrats absolutely believe in cracking down on both tax avoidance and tax evasion, while ensuring the integrity of our tax system. We are pleased the government, although very late, is trying to clarify some areas and close some loopholes to avoid getting into difficulties where people can manoeuvre the system and also avoid paying legitimate taxes, which help to provide Canadians with the services they so cherish. Therefore, we support the changes being made to the bill, especially those that tackle tax avoidance.
However, in 2009 the Auditor General raised concerns with respect to the fact that there were at least 400, not 5 or 10, outstanding technical amendments that had not yet been put into legislation. That is a lot of technical issues within our income tax laws that were there but not made legal through the legislative process.
I am concerned and I hope the Conservatives will look at addressing the 200 amendments that they have not included in this legislation. We really have to take a look and pay attention to the Auditor General.
When I visit my constituents in Newton—North Delta and other Canadians, whether in Edmonton, or Saskatoon, or Montreal or any of our other great cities and communities across the country, they expect something from the government. They expect us to do the work in the House with a fair and open debate, not closure after closure to shut down debate. It is only when we debate that they get hear what is happening.
However, there is something else they expect and that is transparency. I believe this legislation would give greater clarity and more transparency that would have be legislated and people could get to know this.
I do not often feel sorry for accountants and tax consultants and all those people who do a job I could not possibly do. However, I get a headache just thinking about the hundreds of amendments they will have to deal with if they are to do their job well. We want them to do their job well and we also want our Canadian citizens and residents to know what the rules are, but a lot is being dumped on them. At the same time, at least it will give them some clarity.
What I hear from my constituents and from Canadians in our diverse communities, whether rural or urban, is that they want transparency. I think they are looking for transparency from the Conservative government.
Sometimes I am amazed. I am glad we are dealing with these amendments and previous colleagues have gone into a lot of the technical side. However, why do we have these amendments to give clarity and transparency and yet we have a government that does not believe in that when it comes to its own actions? After all, the Parliamentary Budget Officer had to threaten to go to court and had to take steps to get the government side to put on the table information that should have been available to him so we could look at it and examine it. That should cause us a great deal of concern.
It is one thing to say clarity for others, but it is time that the government and my colleagues across the aisle start to take a look at their own actions and how they run government, whether it shutting down debate in the House, moving time closures, rushing through legislation and burying legislation in omnibus budget bills that really have very little to do with the budget. More or less they are trying to cover and hide things from Canadians.
We really have to urge the government to think about how it portrays itself to the greater public.
When I was in my riding, I kept hearing people say that they were concerned about the taxes they paid, that they expected some services for those taxes. One of the things I kept hearing was that service centres were being shut down and that people who needed to go on EI kept phoning 1-800 numbers and would have to wait for hours and even then they did not get any great satisfaction, and that was even before they had filled out their forms.
There are a lot of questions about why the government is cutting so much of that front-line service, whether it is shutting down our Canada service centres where people get all kinds of assistance, or whether it is shutting down our CIC centres around the country and people are left without any services in those areas as well.
People are concerned about transparency, which is what this legislation is all about.
I also heard from community after community about the long waits for citizenship. I found out that in order for a family with two children to get Canadian citizenship, even after they have met all the requirements, they have to pay a fee of $200 per adult and $100 for each child. In order for them to get their Canadian citizenship they have to save. Many families work two or three jobs to make ends meet. They save that money and with a great deal of pride, they apply for their Canadian citizenship thinking they are going to get it within six to twelve months. I saw a room full of files. A citizenship judge told me that he would not get to them for two and a half years.
Our front-line services are being cut. Residents of Canada who qualify to vote and have other rights as citizens are being denied those rights because so many front-line workers who are absolutely critical are being cut.
Not an hour goes by that I do not get either an email in my riding office, or a phone call, or a message on Facebook or through the Twitter world asking why people have to wait so long. People who work here and pay their EI dues wonder why they have to wait. People who live here and meet all the criteria wonder why there has been no action and why they have to wait so long for their citizenship.
The other thing that came up, which again has to do with transparency and priorities, was the debacle the government made of its procurement. It is a well-known story to men, women and children across the country. It has become a joke at the kitchen table. We have been told it will be a few billion, or $17 billion, or such and such billion. Then we are told the government does not have a contract so it will start again.
People want to know about transparency. They want to know the government's priorities. The Conservatives talk about job creation and the economy. To my constituents the reality is that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider.
Many residents in my riding of Newton—North Delta are working two or three jobs at minimum wage or a bit higher in order to make ends meet and they have to pay more user fees for different things. They look at our priorities and transparency around the hospital in Surrey. For one of the fastest growing cities, our hospital is in dire straits. I have nothing against the staff members. They do an amazing job. I had the misfortune to go with someone into the emergency room and I realized that we needed to look at priorities. We need to address key health care issues across the country. We need to address the issue of doctors. Once again it is about where we put our resources.
I talk to taxi drivers. I talk to people who work on building sites. I go door-to-door and talk to people. I talk to thousands of people at big events. Over and over these people have told me that they have heard the government say that it will do something about credentials, but they have not seen the government take any action. Words do not cut it anymore.
My constituents are looking for clarity from the government. It is really time for the government to look at its priorities and start to address the dire needs of many of our citizens.
In my riding, the food bank does an incredible job. I am so grateful to the communities of Surrey and Delta because they donate so generously, both businesses and individuals. It breaks my heart to see the children of the very families who have received help from the food bank come in to donate because they know what it is like to be hungry and financially stretched.
These are the kinds of priorities we should be investing our resources in. We know that if we addressed the issue of poverty, it would have a huge impact on health care costs. If we invested in education, it would have a huge impact on health care costs, resulting in huge savings.
It is a very technical bill. The consultants, lawyers, accountants and business community will spend days perusing this bill because there is a lot of stuff in here, and we will tackle all of these issues at committee. As I said, we are supporting this piece of legislation, but at the same time we are questioning where the government's priorities are when it comes to the utilization of taxes paid by the Canadian public.
I want to thank my colleague who visited my riding. We canvassed the business community on Scott Road and the Scott Road Punjabi Market. For members who do not know that market, I have to say that the first time my granddaughter went there she told her teacher that she had been in India on the weekend. My daughter lives on Vancouver Island. It is a diverse community with a very strong South Asian community with lots of businesses.
A businessman there showed me his credit card bill, and even though he had a negotiated rate of one-point something percent, because of the kind of credit cards that are being used, his bill was actually at a rate of 3.64%. He said he was struggling daily to keep his business going, because that rate eats into his profit margin. Small businessmen live in a very competitive world. It is a business community that we need to support because those jobs stay in our riding and that money gets spent in our ridings and communities right here in Canada. It almost broke my heart listening to him tell the kinds of struggle he was having. Of course, when we told him that come April 1 there would be a further increase, he said he would just have to tell people that he would not take credit cards any more. That, he said, would lose him a lot of business because a lot of people do not carry cash but use their cards for all kinds of things. That is really critical.
I met with young people from different schools, and in my riding office as well. I asked them what their priorities were and what was important to them. They told me that the number one issue was the environment. The second issue was affordable housing and addressing the gap between the rich and the poor, and the poverty issues. The third thing they said was that we have to address the issues of our aboriginal communities, which I was delighted to hear. They were sensitized to that because of the Idle No More movement, which has done a lot to raise the average person's awareness of these issues. The students then mentioned the need for decent paying jobs right here in Canada. Their point was that when we extract our resources, we should do it in an environmentally safe way and then develop decent paying jobs right here in Canada so they can have a future without having to work two or three minimum wage jobs and wonder whether they can ever afford to have a family.
View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2012-11-06 18:41 [p.12041]
The hon. member for Calgary Northeast is not present to move the order as announced in today's notice paper. Accordingly, the bill will be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2012-10-19 11:48 [p.11238]
Mr. Speaker, my constituency office is overloaded with immigration work after the closure of the Edmonton immigration desk, this after the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has left northern Albertans in legal limbo with no citizenship judge for 10 long months.
I wrote to the minister demanding that he appoint a new citizenship judge for northern Alberta last June. He found one for his home town of Calgary months ago. Why has he left the rest of Alberta out in the cold for so long? Will he immediately appoint a citizenship judge?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2012-10-19 11:48 [p.11238]
No, I will not, Mr. Speaker, because the cabinet approved one two weeks ago.
View Glenn Thibeault Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Glenn Thibeault Profile
2012-10-19 11:49 [p.11238]
Mr. Speaker, in Sudbury, the closure of the immigration office means small business owners now need to drive four hours to Toronto for meetings with immigration officials in order to hire the foreign workers they need to continue to operate.
Instead of waiting two weeks for labour market opinions, small businesses will have to wait 14 weeks. Some of Sudbury's small business owners are now foregoing expansion because of the extra, unneeded hassle.
Why is the government stifling economic growth with reckless cuts?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2012-10-19 11:49 [p.11238]
I have two points, Mr. Speaker. First, the NDP calls on us to shut down the temporary foreign worker program, except for when the NDP members ask us to provide temporary foreign workers for employers. I would ask them to pick a position.
Second, employers do not need to meet with officials to access work permits. Work permits are processed from abroad. Service Canada does the labour market opinion and then CIC does the work permits from abroad. It would be helpful if the member would inform himself about how our system actually works.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2012-10-15 15:01 [p.10981]
Mr. Speaker, another day, another case of preferential treatment by the Conservative Party. The Canadian Olympic Committee asked that the immigration process for a table tennis player be accelerated just before the Olympic Games. Who could have made such a request, if not Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's former communications director? Did he have any influence over this free pass?
As we saw in the case of Robert Abdallah at the Port of Montreal, Mr. Soudas likes to take advantage of his connections at the Prime Minister's Office. Why? What do they still owe him?
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2012-10-15 15:01 [p.10981]
Mr. Speaker, the Citizenship Act actually allows, when there is an unusual case of hardship or reward to an individual for service to Canada, an individual's citizenship to be expedited. It has been there since 1977. Over 500 cases have been determined to work through the same way. Many athletes have been granted this exemption because their intense and tough training does not allow them to go through the process as quickly and efficiently as other citizens do. What has happened since 1977 and will continue to happen is that we will give those who have earned it the opportunity to participate.
View Andrew Cash Profile
NDP (ON)
View Andrew Cash Profile
2012-10-03 14:13 [p.10753]
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today to inform the House of the death of Charles Roach.
As my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River pointed out yesterday, Charles was a great community leader in Toronto who fought for human rights, social justice and founded the Caribana festival.
Charles passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. Although he is no longer with us, his work for a more just and equal Canada will live on well past today.
Over his 57 years in Canada, Charles proved himself to be an exemplary Canadian citizen in every way but name. Charles wanted very much to become a Canadian citizen but he never received that honour because he wanted to swear his citizenship oath of allegiance to Canada directly rather than to the British Crown.
I ask today that the Government of Canada honour this great man and grant Charles Roach's last wish by awarding him posthumous Canadian citizenship. His commitment and contribution to our great country speaks for itself. This would be our way to thank him.
View Tarik Brahmi Profile
NDP (QC)
View Tarik Brahmi Profile
2012-10-03 16:43 [p.10778]
Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to speak today on behalf of the people of my riding about Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the short title of which is the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act.
One of the reasons why I am interested in this subject is because I am an immigrant myself. My father was also an immigrant to the country in which I was born. Before becoming a Canadian citizen, I was a permanent resident. I heard the many very relevant comments of my colleagues in this regard. However, we have not yet heard from the Conservative members, which is unfortunate.
Like my NDP colleagues, I have many reservations about this bill. First, there is the short title: the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act. Instead, we should talk about serious foreign criminals.
Bill C-43 refers to two types of people who do not have Canadian citizenship. There are newcomers, who are called “foreign nationals”, and long-time residents with permanent resident status. Permanent residents are in a different category than so-called foreign nationals because, under the bill, permanent residents can be temporary workers or students, for example.
One thing that seems to come back in all the pieces of legislation that have been introduced since the beginning of the 41st Parliament is the constant need to give more discretionary power to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Frankly, this is a trend that I find very threatening as a citizen. Every time that a power is taken from the courts and judges and given to a minister, we have cause for concern. What is strange is that many reports have demonstrated that the law is not properly and fairly applied because of the lack of resources in the ministry and in the agency in charge of immigration.
One of the problems with this bill is the removal of the right to appeal in certain circumstances. That is dangerous, in my opinion. Obviously, nobody likes long appeal processes that last for years. However, the other extreme, which is, namely, no right to appeal, is certainly no better. I see nothing in this bill to prevent the possibility of abusing the system and this is something I would like the justice committee to be able to modify at the next stage.
This is another immigration bill. That is quite strange, because the government tells anyone who will listen that its priorities are the economy and job creation. As it says, it is focused like a laser on the economy and job creation.
We have a number of reservations. Reports from the Auditor General have uncovered serious problems in the processing of immigration files. Specifically, there have been problems with transparency and with information management at the Canada Border Services Agency.
The Auditor General has mentioned that the act is applied randomly and that is very troubling. It is all the more troubling given the Conservatives' current tendency to concentrate decisions more and more in the hands of a few responsible people. But they are reducing the staff tasked with conducting the investigations that lead to the conclusions that allow those decisions to be made.
When you are a member of an immigrant community, as I am, you are inevitably very sensitive to the way in which immigrants are treated when they are convicted of crimes, especially those that the government is now calling serious crimes.
So that brings us back to the famous definition of a “serious criminal“. Previously, it was someone sentenced to more than two years in prison. From now on, it will be someone sentenced to more than six months in prison.
While, in theory, serious criminals are the only ones responsible for their actions, in practice, we see that crimes committed by a handful of people actually spill over onto the entire immigrant community to which those people belong. One of the direct consequences is that, more than anyone, immigrants themselves want a justice system that is effective, but above all fair, a system that ensures that crimes committed by a handful of people, however serious they may be, do not reflect negatively on an entire community that is living and working honestly and taking its place in the economy of this country.
I would also like to refer back to Bill C-31 that was brought before us in the spring and that received royal assent in June. Once again, it is very important not to lump together immigration and crime, not even by association, because too often, even systematically, when immigration and crime are lumped together, the result is xenophobia. Xenophobia is a real cancer for any open society, like ours in Canada, and for any country that has decided to use immigration as a way to replace the generations that have passed on.
Generally speaking, it is risky to examine an immigration issue in the context of a bill that targets a minority made up of foreign criminals among which only a very small number are serious criminals.
Let us now talk about the right of appeal. A number of my colleagues pointed this out. In a process—and this is a concern everyone shares—whenever the opportunity to appeal is removed, the image of justice is damaged and there is a risk of adding to the cynicism of a segment of the population that does not believe in our justice system.
There is a risk to the credibility of the justice system. That is why I am rather critical of this bill. There is a risk of adding to the cynicism of a segment of the population that does not believe in justice or in the justice system.
There has also been much talk about the case of new permanent residents who are awaiting their citizenship. There is also another situation that we do not talk about, namely that of people with dual or multiple citizenship. Quite often, people, immigrants, will not apply for Canadian citizenship. This is not because they do not want to participate in the life of our country but, rather, because they already hold citizenship that they would automatically lose if they took Canadian citizenship. This decision not only has consequences for the person who decides not to take Canadian citizenship, it also has an obvious impact on the children who did not make that choice, who did not have the opportunity to express their views on the fact that their parents decided not to take Canadian citizenship.
I am going to conclude by saying that, for all these reasons, we will support Bill C-43 at second reading. However, given the strong reservations that we have, we will give the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights an opportunity to hear expert testimony that may support the serious concerns raised by my colleagues and myself during this debate.
View Tarik Brahmi Profile
NDP (QC)
View Tarik Brahmi Profile
2012-10-03 16:54 [p.10779]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for her question. She actually referred to many different cases. I am going to talk about a case that I found particularly touching, given that I come from an immigrant community. As I said, some people choose not to apply for new citizenship because they would lose their former citizenship. Consider two well-known cases: Indian and Chinese citizens. Those are the two most populous countries in the world. And the legislation in those countries does not recognize dual citizenship. So if Indian and Chinese citizens apply for another citizenship, they will automatically lose their original citizenship. We can understand that some immigrants have a sentimental attachment to their citizenship by birth.
As the hon. member pointed out, when they come to Canada, some parents with young children choose not to get this new citizenship. As a result, if one of the parents commits a serious crime, he or she can be deported. This means that children who have not reached the age of 18 can also be deported from Canada even though they are not responsible for their parents' actions.
View Paul Calandra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Paul Calandra Profile
2012-10-03 17:12 [p.10781]
Mr. Speaker, my parents were immigrants to Canada and they worked very hard to help build this country.
A couple of examples that NDP members have used have been about individuals who come to Canada but choose not to become Canadian citizens.
In one example the member talked about someone who came to Canada at the age of seven but at the age of twenty ran into difficulties with the law.
Another example from the previous speaker was about somebody who comes to Canada but has such an attachment to the country he came from that he chooses not to take out Canadian citizenship, although his kids are Canadian. He gets into trouble with the law and is sent back to his home country.
Is it the position of the New Democratic Party that the value of Canadian citizenship is so weak that the Government of Canada and the people of Canada should continue to carry on their backs individuals who do not make a commitment to this country?
Is it the position of the NDP that those individuals who break the law should not suffer the consequences of not valuing Canadian citizenship enough to take out Canadian citizenship after many years, and of breaking our laws?
Is it the position of the NDP that the value of Canadian citizenship is so low that we should not have laws in place to protect Canadians from coast to coast to coast? Is that what the NDP is saying?
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2012-09-19 14:11 [p.10138]
Mr. Speaker, on Saturday night, I returned from a multi-party trade and Commonwealth delegation to southern India and Sri Lanka.
In India, we met political and business leaders in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
In the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Sri Lanka, I lead a workshop on conflict resolution and peace building. There I emphasized that while parliamentarians have a duty to represent their constituents, they also need to work constructively with other parties.
In that spirit, my private member's bill, Bill C-425, is soon up for second reading. My goals in this legislation are to promote integration, better recognize permanent residents who have served Canada, honour our Canadian troops and underscore the value of Canadian citizenship.
With these worthy goals, I humbly request and anticipate that my colleagues from all sides of the House will support this legislation.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I recently introduced Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian armed forces).
First, it outlines another pathway to integration for permanent residents. Second, it underscores the incredible worth of Canadian citizenship. Third, it honours the contribution of our brave men and women in uniform.
According to the bill, permanent residents who sign a three-year contract with the Canadian armed forces would receive a one year credit toward citizenship. Additionally, a Canadian who commits an act of war against the Canadian armed forces would be deemed to have renounced his or her Canadian citizenship.
To serve Canada in our military is a patriotic act of service worthy of reward. Conversely, to commit an act of war against Canada's armed forces signals a clear rejection of Canadian responsibilities, values and citizenship.
In the coming months, I ask for support from all sides of this House for the bill.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, a couple of months ago, the citizenship and immigration minister stood in the House and blamed civil servants for a botched citizenship ceremony staged for TV. Now we discover the truth: that the network and the minister's department knew that the “oath fakers” were actually government employees. The minister blamed officials while in fact his office knew the truth.
Will the minister now admit the truth and apologize to the citizenship employees he blamed for his scheme?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, every year we have dozens of special ceremonies, including many that are televised, including on the CBC, for example. At every one of those ceremonies, Canadian citizens, including public servants, reaffirm their loyalty to Canada through the oath.
In this particular instance, the documents that have come to light today reconfirm that in fact I and my office were not aware of the fact that there were only a few new citizens sworn in at that ceremony. In fact, this reconfirms what we have said.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, citizenship ceremonies are solemn and significant, as is ministerial accountability, but the minister has made a mockery of them both. After pressuring his department to rush a ceremony, the minister then insisted he was duped by civil servants. We now know the minister and his political staff knew the truth.
Why did the minister mislead Canadians, and will he apologize for his involvement in this embarrassing fiasco?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
I did no such thing, Mr. Speaker. The member should apologize for the tone of that outrageous question. The reality is that every year we have dozens of special ceremonies, some of which are televised. In this instance, officials reaffirmed their citizenship, which, by the way, they do all the time at ceremonies. The fact of the matter is that the documents that have been released today demonstrate that neither I nor my office were aware of the fact that most of the people participating in that particular ceremony were officials.
In any event, we are strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship and we are proud of our record in that respect.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, citizenship ceremonies are a key part of the process to become a new Canadian citizen. They should not be a partisan tool. Yet the minister did not hesitate to use them as a vulgar backdrop for political purposes.
Together with a television network, the minister's communications team organized the broadcast of a ceremony featuring departmental employees. Then they tried to bury the story.
When will the minister formally apologize for his role in this matter?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, clearly the NDP does not understand that citizenship reaffirmation ceremonies take place every year and that some of them are televised. In fact, many of these special ceremonies have been broadcast by CBC. It is completely normal for Canadians, including government officials, to reaffirm their loyalty to Canada during such ceremonies.
As to whether it is difficult for new citizens to attend these ceremonies, I was not aware of that, and neither were the people in my office.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, politicizing bureaucrats is bad enough, but now we learn the government was deceiving Canadians about the fake citizenship ceremony. The whole mess began when the minister ordered bureaucrats to stage the event, ignoring their advice to simply film an existing ceremony.
It now turns out that the minister's line that bureaucrats deceived the network was not true, and they knew all along these were not real new citizens.
Why did the minister deceive Canadians and try to make public servants take the blame for this fiasco?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I did no such thing. The reality is that every year there are dozens of special citizenship ceremonies, many of them produced specifically—
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, many of them are produced specifically for broadcast on television networks, as was the case in this instance.
Many of the special ceremonies are in fact reaffirmation ceremonies. At every citizenship ceremony, Canadians are invited to reaffirm citizenship, including public servants. In this case, public servants could not get enough new Canadians to fill the studio, so some of them reaffirmed their citizenship, which is perfectly normal and legitimate—
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jason Kenney Profile
2012-06-04 15:24 [p.8755]
moved:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen in the following words:
TO THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN:
We, Your Majesty's loyal and dutiful subjects, the House of Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg to offer our sincere congratulations on the happy completion of the sixtieth year of Your reign.
The People of Canada have often been honoured to welcome Your Majesty and other members of the Royal Family to our land during Your reign, and have witnessed directly Your inspiring example of devotion to duty and unselfish labour on behalf of the welfare of Your People in this country and in the other nations of the Commonwealth.
In this, the Diamond Jubilee year of your reign as Queen of Canada, we trust that Your gracious and peaceful reign may continue for many years and that Divine Providence will preserve Your Majesty in health, in happiness and in the affectionate loyalty of Your people.
That the said Address be engrossed; and
That a Message be sent to the Senate informing their Honours that this House has adopted the said Address and requesting their Honours to unite with this House in the said Address by filling up the blanks with the words “the Senate and”
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in celebration of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee.
We salute today the 60th anniversary of Canada's Queen.
On June 2, 1953, Her Majesty was asked in the Coronation Oath, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent, and the Canadian delegation at Westminster Abbey, to “solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of”, among other realms, “Canada...according to their respective laws and customs”, This the Queen solemnly promised to do.
This solemn oath, made 60 years ago in the presence of the Canadian prime minister and officials, the Queen has upheld to the fullness of her considerable ability and with the magnificent charm and grace for which Her Majesty is known throughout the world.
How many peoples around the world, torn apart by war and corruption at the highest level, would rather be in Canada, where we have stable institutions, peace and good government by the head of state, the Crown? How many sensible people have observed with envy the strength, dedicated perseverance and great wisdom of our most gracious head of state?
Two years ago, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh made their 22nd official visit to Canada. They have met more Canadians and shaken more hands and opened more events and institutions than even the most experienced members of this House can claim to have done in their long career.
She has served as Colonel-in-Chief, Captain General and doyenne of the captains of proud regiments, including the Royal 22nd Regiment, the Régiment de la Chaudière, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Calgary Highlanders.
She is patron of over 33 charities in Canada, including the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Canadian Cancer Society and Save the Children, among many others.
In a life dedicated to serving others, Her Majesty has served Canadians and become intimately acquainted with our country, its regions, its peoples and our hopes and aspirations.
It is Her Majesty the Queen who opened the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, invoking the allied victory in which Canada and the United States shared 14 years earlier, and calling the seaway “a victory of another kind”. In English and French, she invoked Canadian history from the times of Cartier and LaSalle to the present, the scene of so much of North American history.
Her Majesty's life has been the history of Canada. She has known personally every prime minister since Mackenzie King who she met as Princess Elizabeth in London in the 1940s. While it is not known if she met R.B. Bennett, she did meet Arthur Meighen during the 1951 royal tour a year before she became Queen.
Canada has had 22 prime ministers up to today and the Queen has known 13 of them, more than half of all the prime ministers in the history of Canada since we re-founded our country with Dominion status in 1867.
In fact, the story goes that even Pierre Trudeau was known to admire the Queen personally. It is even said that so great was his personal regard for Her Majesty as a stateswoman with encyclopedic knowledge of Canada, that he deliberately entrenched the monarchy in the Constitution Act of 1982, which, of course, can only be amended in this respect with the unanimity of all provinces.
It was Her Majesty the Queen who opened the Canadian Centennial celebrations of 1967, the Centennial of Confederation. It is the Queen who signed into force the Constitution Act of 1982 in front of these Houses of Parliament.
The Queen, then, has been with us on all the most important occasions of our modern national life. She has borne with us through thick and thin, through peace and war, as she did in the service of His Majesty's forces during the Second World War, through prosperity and times of economic downturn.
Continuity is a central theme in Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee. We are very proud that Her Majesty is carrying on the great tradition of the Crown as the guardian of our rights as Canadians, including protection of freedom of religion, language, and our civil law system. Our constitutional monarchy has survived every war and revolution, remaining loyal to the Canadian people and their rights.
She shares with that powerful and evocative symbol of Canada's founding, Queen Victoria, who chose the location of the capital in which we sit, the achievement of 60 years on the throne.
In 1897, the then prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was in London for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. A few years later, this great Quebecker, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, known above all for his Canadian patriotism, celebrated the Canadian role in uniting the Canadian family throughout, at the time the British Empire, during the South African War.
Laurier overcame his earlier opposition to that conflict and instead came to recognize that Canada's service under the Crown on the African veldt was a source of pride and international prestige.
Laurier said in this House in 1900:
is there a man whose bosom did not swell with pride, the noblest of all pride, the pride of pure patriotism, the pride of the consciousness of our rising strength, the pride of the consciousness that that day the fact had been revealed to the world that a new power had arisen in the west.
This quotation from 112 years ago is how I answer that charge that Canada's monarchy is somehow a hindrance to our sense of nationality in 2012.
The Queen is Canadian. All of the proud associations we share with the monarchy are Canadian through and through. Canada, in fact, Canadianized the monarchy in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster. Before then, it could be argued that we shared a common imperial crown. However, after 1931, Canada had a monarchy in its own right.
In this era of internationalism and in a country with many regions, three founding peoples and two official languages, we benefit greatly from having a head of state who resides not in Quebec or Ontario or any other region, but who can visit each region as equally as possible. Queen Elizabeth represents all regions and all Canadian peoples equally.
When we speak of the Crown in Canada, whether in this Parliament or in a myriad of institutions across the country, we are speaking of a uniquely Canadian institution, shaped and tailored by Canadians over the decades and generations to our own needs and requirements. It is not something imposed on us. We ourselves have chosen it and continue to choose it every time we reopen this House and this Parliament in Her Majesty's name and under her mantle.
Every day we Canadians enjoy the protection and benediction of that crown and mantle, and every day we open this House, praying for our sovereign lady, the Queen.
Let me close with a prayer, one that is an invocation from the Canadian Book of Common Prayer for the Queen in celebration of this remarkable achievement, her diamond jubilee:
O Lord...the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth...that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity.
It is a great honour and privilege, on behalf of all members of Parliament from all regions of Canada and on behalf of the Canadian people, to congratulate Queen Elizabeth II on her 60 years of service to the people of the Commonwealth and to the people of Canada.
It is an honour to congratulate, on behalf of the Canadian people represented here in this Chamber, Her Majesty upon achieving by the grace of God this tremendous milestone of 60 years as our gracious and faithful Queen.
God bless Canada, and God save the Queen.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
View Devinder Shory Profile
2012-05-30 15:29 [p.8572]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will begin by thanking my colleague for Medicine Hat for seconding my bill.
I rise today to introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-425, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces). This bill is much more than another pathway to integration. It also signifies the deep respect the people of Calgary Northeast hold for Canadian citizenship and for the brave men and women of our Canadian armed forces.
Once passed, the Citizenship Act will require the minister to reduce, on application, the requirement of residence to become Canadian citizen by one year for a permanent resident of Canada who is a member of the Canadian Forces, who has signed a minimum three-year contract and who has completed the basic training.
It would also amend section 9 of the act to provide that individuals are deemed to have made applications for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship or are deemed to have withdrawn their application for Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
View Francine Raynault Profile
NDP (QC)
View Francine Raynault Profile
2012-05-10 12:10 [p.7859]
Mr. Speaker, it is inconceivable that the Conservatives could present a bill that is 421 pages long and then limit debate to the bare minimum. It is clear they want to pass this bill quickly, but does that not suggest that perhaps they are afraid of the public's reaction to the bill if we were to take the time to properly examine it?
I have examined this bill thoroughly and I can assure you that I have never seen such a hodgepodge in the House of Commons. In true Conservative style, this document is not at all what it claims to be: rather than a budget implementation bill, it is a bit of a free pass for businesses and politicians who have no use for transparency.
Bill C-38 is much more than just an omnibus bill, like those we have become accustomed to with these Conservatives. This bill constitutes a brutal and unreasonable seizure of power that leaves Canadians unable to challenge any of it. We are therefore very surprised as we watch this government getting rid of anything that could limit the damage caused by its blind ideology. After taking a laissez-faire approach for so long, now they want to dismantle everything.
This bill ridicules the institutions of the very government that introduced it. Is that not ironic?
We have already seen the Conservative government's bias in favour of employers in certain disputes, for instance, those involving Air Canada and Canada Post. However, this government does not seem to care at all about well-paid, stable jobs for Canadians, because this new bill will cause even more poverty.
This government is allergic to basic rights and has restricted the right of free association by giving a minister—a minister, mind you—the power to veto collective agreements.
In other words, this government thinks it is okay to scuttle a good-faith negotiation between two parties to further a partisan and ideological political agenda. That applies to all workers. In addition, a significant number of federal government workers will also be affected: women.
I have fought for women's rights for 40 years. There are no words strong enough to describe how angry I was when I realized that the government no longer intended to make its contracts compliant with the Employment Equity Act. The Conservatives seem to believe that father knows best and a woman's place is in the home. All the historic progress we have made toward achieving equality is being recast as purely cosmetic.
Women have the right to be treated fairly, and trying to make women pay the price for the government's penny-pinching is downright disgraceful. How can the government justify such an irresponsible decision?
By so doing, the Conservatives are saying that feminist struggles, which were particularly successful in Quebec, were simply a glitch in history's patriarchal plan. Well, that is not how I see this country and I am certain that many of my fellow Canadians agree with me.
While the Conservatives are throwing the door wide open to privatization, I am saying that we are soon going to take over this government and give the control and the benefits back to Canadians. This government, which seems to work harder for shareholders, has gone too far this time. Canadians are not fools and they can see that the Conservatives are trying to deceive them.
And what is all this for? Over a third of this giant bill is dedicated to doing away with environmental protection measures in a clear path that goes from the plains to the Pacific Ocean, where the Conservatives hope to get a share of Asia's wealth. What a plan.
Promoting the economy is not a bad thing in and of itself. However, Canada used the approach of putting all its eggs in one basket for too long for us to want to go back to it.
Focusing all our energy on oil can only lead to a historic dead end of monumental proportions. It is a well-known fact that the wealth of economies that depend on a single resource is short lived and poorly distributed.
In any case, sustainable development is not of interest to this government, which is also doomed to be unsustainable. The champions of “bigger and better” will end up realizing that irreversible climate change has already begun to transform things.
Although some believe that they are in the Texas of the 1950s, I would like us to be rooted in 21st century Canada.
In terms of the environment, it is not surprising to learn that the Conservatives intend to broaden the definition of prohibited political activities for environmental groups, but only so they can place more restrictions on these groups.
While this government cozies up to oil companies and eliminates all the so-called legislative constraints with respect to the environment, it is also limiting the fundamental right of freedom of expression for hundreds of Canadian groups.
Do Canadians who have been given the right to assemble under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and who choose to express their opinions, again by virtue of this Charter, not have the right to enjoy the full benefits of their citizenship?
On another matter, Bill C-38 confirms what we already knew: Rights & Democracy will be abolished. It was obviously an embarrassment to this government to support an organization that was neutral, independent and dedicated to the cause of democracy. Totalitarian governments, oil dynasties and, worse, communist dictatorships do not favour the independence of institutions. Have the Conservatives become communists?
For the Conservatives, it is all about the open market, except for matters under state control, which they manage with an iron fist. The Conservatives seem quite motivated to give more and more arbitrary powers to their ministers. That is the case for the Minister of Health, who will now be able to approve certain products without having them go through the usual inspection process, which is supposed to take place with any imported product.
Based on the government's priorities, Canadians' health has taken a back seat to profitability. But who will benefit from this profitability? When we consider that so much freedom is being given to business and so little to the people, we are justified in wondering who this government is working for. The answer is obvious.
More proof that this government does not care about well-paid jobs is that it thought it would be a good idea to enshrine in this bill the possibility of allowing 2,500 foreign workers to fill highly specialized positions in Canada and then leave again. Now the government wants to contract out Canadian citizenship.
Neo-liberalism loves outsourcing because it sets workers in a race to the lowest wages. This government has taken that to a new level. If it cannot outsource our resources, then it will import workers. Importing workers means the commodification of human beings by virtue of an ideology that would eliminate all trade barriers, but add many barriers to life for the general public.
With the Conservatives, it is law and order for the people and anarchy for big business. It was not enough for the Conservative government to considerably reduce the powers of the Auditor General and to completely get rid of the Inspector General of CSIS, who was getting in the way of its agenda; now the government is opening the door to privatizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
In other words, by playing with alliances and subsidiaries, a business could wind up doing its own inspections. Is that the kind of rigour that Canadians deserve? In addition to the Conservatives' devious behaviour and their refusal to submit their bill to thorough examination, we also see a threat to freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, transparency and oversight.
While perhaps not an outright coup d'état, this bill places Canada on a dangerous path towards dictatorship. This bill's shortsighted short-term vision is eclipsed only by the long-term, harmful effects it will have. We all want a prosperous economy, but that should not be a government's only goal, since a government has many roles to play. There are many important responsibilities that only a responsible government can assume with authority. Otherwise, it would be too easy.
With this bill, the Conservative government is undermining its own legitimacy and giving up on what it sees as inevitable. It is high time that this government started showing some leadership and did us the honour of behaving like a real government for this orphan country. Instead, it seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy our institutions, sully our international reputation and shoot down everything that reflects basic common sense.
The Conservatives do not think like us. They spend. They spend money on prisons, on F-35s and on $16 glasses of orange juice, yet they slash away at the very essence of our democratic way of life. It makes no sense. This government already looks old, used up, wasteful and tired. It seems incapable of assuming the most basic responsibilities towards the public. The government must always remember this: Canadians are not fools. No, we are not fools.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that ruling and I thank my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I hope he does not find this speech too stimulating.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: I am just trying to focus you.
Mr. Peter Julian: I appreciate that, and the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is right: there is absolutely nothing on jobs in the fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget that was brought forward last Thursday. In fact, this budget is the antithesis of jobs. It is the exact opposite of what one would do if one were to create a jobs strategy. The budget contains exactly what the government should not be doing.
It is perfectly relevant for us to raise the fact that this is an anti-jobs, fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget, which is what we have been saying all along. Hopefully that has been part of the narrative that we have been establishing, including for example by a former Conservative voter from Surrey, British Columbia, who wrote in to say that through this debate he was becoming disillusioned with his Conservative government and did not think that he would be voting Conservative any more.
The reason we are bringing all of this to bear in our narrative is that Canadians need to know that this budget destroys jobs. We have been saying all along that Canadian families deserve better than that; they need a government that is actually creating jobs.
I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and all of the members who are showing such great support in the House today. It is a terrific team that we have in the NDP caucus, as it has been in all of the classes, in 2004, 2006, 2008, and the very dynamic class of 2011 in particular, whose new members are doing a phenomenal job.
As I promised to do yesterday, I will start reading into the record the details of the slashing and cutting that will take place. I have just explained our first evaluation of what this budget actually means in terms of job losses, explaining that we are talking about over 60,000 lost jobs across the country. We now know what regions those job losses will come in, which is very important for Canadians to know.
I would like to detail the service cuts that we are seeing in each of the ministries. I will start with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
Our former leader, the member of Parliament for Hull—Aylmer, went with the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay up to the community of Attawapiskat in James Bay. We saw the appalling state of funding and the appalling state of housing in the area of Attawapiskat. I heard from so many people in my constituency who were profoundly concerned about what they saw, that Canadians were being treated as second-class citizens. Although there is some renewal in the budget of previous programs that were cut and there is some lip service paid to issues around first nation education in funding, here is what is being cut from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
In 2012-13, we are seeing total cuts of $26.9 million. We know how deep the needs are. The government is cutting $26.9 million out of the budget for Aboriginal Affairs. In 2013-14, the amount rises to $60 million. In 2014-15, $165.6 million will be cut out of Aboriginal Affairs.
We have an educational funding crisis among aboriginal communities. We have a housing crisis among aboriginal communities. We have an infrastructure crisis. There are communities that do not have running water. There are communities that do not have access to safe water. There are communities that do not have sewer systems.
What the government is doing is gutting Aboriginal Affairs. In the long term, on an ongoing basis, $165.6 million will be cut.
It does not just stop there. When we look at these departmental estimations of the massive cuts that are taking place, there is the First Nations Statistical Institute. The First Nations Statistical Institute provides facts, the understanding of what is actually happening with aboriginal communities, what is happening with first nations communities and Canadians.
We see here that in the budget itself, First Nations Statistical Institute will see $2.5 million cut from its budget this year and in 2013-14, the guillotine will be applied. First Nations Statistical Institute, $5 million, will be cut completely. There will no longer be that development of facts which is so vitally important for an understanding of how, as Canadians together we address what is an ongoing crisis among aboriginal communities, the lack of infrastructure, lack of services, lack of housing, lack of educational opportunities. This is a national shame.
The government is hacking, slashing and gutting the services that need more funding. We need to provide it in very effective ways. To cut $165 million a year out of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development portfolio is simply irresponsible. First nations Canadians, aboriginal Canadians deserve better than those massive cutbacks.
Let us move on to the agents of Parliament.
As we know, the government has been willing to invest whatever it takes on the F-35s. That was a $9 billion budget that has bloated up to, according to the PBO, $30 billion. That was before the latest cost overruns, which put us somewhere and nobody really knows, between $30 billion and $40 billion.
I detailed yesterday the government's misguided prisons agenda at a time when the crime rate is falling. The Conservatives want to put more non-violent criminals away for longer. It wants to take away the rehabilitation programs, the addiction programs, the crime prevention programs. It wants to take away all the programs that actually work in the criminal justice system and replace them with prisons.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: Flying in the face of facts.
Mr. Peter Julian: That flies in the face of facts, Mr. Speaker, but then there seem to be fewer and fewer facts available to the government.
It wants to cut back on crime prevention when we know that if we spend a dollar on crime prevention, we save six dollars later on, on policing costs, on criminal justice costs and on prison costs. The government gutted crime prevention programs. It gutted addiction programs. It gutted rehabilitation programs. It gutted all those programs that actually save money, and came forward with this wacky and irresponsible prisons program at a time when the crime rate is falling.
The government has never come clean on how much it costs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer made some estimations that are quite different from what the government says. The only valid analysis that has been done of the prisons agenda is a $19 billion cost to the taxpayers to build those prisons.
My point is we are talking about $30 billion to $40 billion for the F-35 fighter jets, $19 billion and $3 billion or $4 billion a year more in maintenance costs for these new prisons that are needed when the crime rate is falling. That is where the government wants to invest.
We have just talked about the sorry situation in so many aboriginal communities, and there the government is hacking and slashing. We are saying our priorities are different. We believe Canadians' priorities are different.
We believe that what Canadians want to do is build the kind of country where there is prosperity right across the country, where there is real, solid investment in job creation, where there is real investment in dealing with our infrastructure problems. When 300,000 Canadians are sleeping on the main streets and in the parks of our nation, we need to reinvest in social housing. I know it was cut by the Liberals, but the Conservatives should have restored those social housing investments.
We believe that how we move this country forward is by investing in job creation through infrastructure and social housing, providing for Canadians, making sure that our pension system is working effectively, keeping citizens out of poverty. By doing that we actually build the kind of Canada which the vast majority of Canadians want to see, not by throwing away tens of billions of dollars on prisons or F-35 fighter jets, but by prudent and effective financial management and putting the money where Canadians' priorities are.
Canadians really want to see this country grow and prosper. They do not want to see Canadians out on the street. They do not want to see Canadians hungry. They do not want to see senior citizens working in blueberry fields as one constituent mentioned. Canadians want to see the kind of Canada they deserve, which is a Canada where everyone matters and where no one is left behind.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleagues share with their energy and enthusiasm that vision of tomorrow.
What has the government done instead of that vision, instead of investing in those kinds of things that Canadians need and want? It has thrown away tens of billions of dollars on the F-35s and on prisons. Here is where it is cutting. I mentioned Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but let us move on to the agents of Parliament.
The Auditor General of Canada is a position that has so much respect across the county. The Auditor General is the person who actually identifies when there is misspending and protects the taxpayers' interest, protects Canadians' interest. To do that, the Auditor General needs the resources to undertake the audits that auditors do.
I mentioned on Friday that before I was elected to Parliament I ran a social enterprise. We won a couple of business excellence awards; I am very proud of that. In running that enterprise, making sure that we were making payroll for over 50 employees, we made sure that we had careful auditing of all of our expenditures. We were providing services to the deaf and hard of hearing communities. We were providing a full range of goods as well. We had a store across the province and a virtual store as well. We were selling equipment. We were providing services. All of it was on a fee-for-service basis. I am very proud of that. I am very proud of the record of that social enterprise.
We made sure that as we balanced that budget and as we moved forward we paid down some debts as well. We were debt free by the time I finished there, before I was elected to Parliament. We made sure that we had auditors carefully evaluating every single step of the way. That is how it is done. I am a financial administrator. That is my background. There has to be those impartial auditors looking over things, making sure there is a maximization of the effectiveness of the investments.
The Auditor General does that for the nation. The NDP has always said that the Auditor General needs more resources to audit effectively more of the expenses of government. If the government had been listening to the Auditor General, it never would have gotten into the F-35 fiasco in the first place. It would not have blown tens of billions of dollars on the F-35s.
If the government had done that careful evaluation with the Auditor General, it never would have gotten into this misguided prisons agenda. The Auditor General would have said, “Hold on, you do not have the budget. You do not know how much it is going to cost. You have to be a little more rigorous in your cost accounting on the prisons. You cannot just throw legislation before the House of Commons and do it in such an irresponsible way”.
If the Conservatives had done that with the Auditor General, they would not have seen what they have seen over the last few months, which has been a steady erosion in public confidence in the government's ability to handle money.
What the Conservatives should do is learn from the New Democrats. I have mentioned a couple of times the annual fiscal returns that are done by the federal Ministry of Finance, and there are not a lot of NDP members hanging out there. Annually for 20 years the federal Ministry of Finance has done an evaluation of NDP governments compared to Conservative governments, Liberal governments and governments of other parties. The NDP governments, for 20 years running, year after year, have come out number one in terms of balancing budgets, managing money and paying down debt, number one in the nation every year.
We are number one in the nation. The Liberals are not even close. I think they are fifth. They are worse than the Social Credit Party and the Parti Québécois. The Conservatives simply are not as good as the NDP, because the Conservatives erode the public institutions that are supposed to do the monitoring. As I said, when I ran my social enterprise, the auditors have to be involved at every stage to make sure that we are maximizing those investments.
What has the government done with respect to the Auditor General of Canada? If what the government really intends to do is to try to save some money, but if it is being spent effectively, one would assume we would see an increase in the budget for the Auditor General of Canada. That just makes common sense. The government should not cut back on its monitoring agency. It should do the opposite and invest more, because that monitoring agency can help save the government further money down the road.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: Unless it has something to hide.
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, unless the government has something to hide.
Here is the problem. The Conservatives are so poor at managing money. We have seen that with the F-35s and with the prisons agenda. They are so appallingly bad at managing taxpayers' money that they have done exactly the opposite. In 2014-15, they are slashing $6.7 million out of the Auditor General of Canada, and we say shame on them. Canadian families deserve better. They deserve the protection of the Auditor General of Canada. The Auditor General of Canada deserves an increase in funding.
That means the Auditor General will be able to monitor fewer departments. The Auditor General will be cut back in a dozen cases and will not be able to oversee the Conservative government's wild expenditures. The government is wild in its excess. We have seen this with the F-35s: $30 billion or $40 billion, “Hey, it is all okay. It is our pet project. We do not want to control expenditures”. For the Conservatives to cut back on the Auditor General of Canada shows complete disrespect for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to say to Canadians to send tweets, post on Facebook or write emails telling their Conservative MPs what they think of their decision to slash the Auditor General of Canada, to slash that protection that belongs to all of us to make sure these incredibly irresponsible spending decisions of the Conservatives are actually reined in. If folks want to write in, we would love to hear from them.
It is not just the Auditor General who the Conservatives are attacking. I will read a couple of tweets that have just come in. Buswell says, “$7.5 million a year cut to Elections Canada in the midst of the robocall scandal but $12 million spent on budget 2012 promotion. Responsible government?” This is the reaction that Canadians are having to the second item among eight agents of Parliament, which is the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, as we know, is now investigating the robocall scandal and what has been a wide variety of violations of the Canada Elections Act. We know the government has been ruled guilty as charged in previous violations of the Canada Elections Act. It seems to not respect the law. It seems unable and incapable of respecting the law. It seems to be quite willing to break the law when it comes to election campaigns and Canadians feel differently about that. Canadians have a profound belief that political parties and all Canadians should respect the law and that a party that forms government should be respecting the law at all times.
We must respect the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate alleged violations of the Canada Elections Act, of which we are all aware. One does not cut back on police officers when they are investigating crimes. We ensure the police officers have the wherewithal and resources to actually fully investigate.
What is very disturbing is that on page 260 we see the results of the Chief Electoral Officer wanting to investigate these allegations of widespread law-breaking of the Canada Elections Act. In 2012-13, $7.5 million will be cut from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. In 2013-14, $7.5 million will be cut again. In 2014-15, it will be cut again. On an ongoing basis, it will be cut again. The government is punishing the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and Elections Canada for doing their job. Their job is to maintain the law and ensure there are no violations of the Canada Elections Act. If the government really believes in being tough on crime, it can start by fully funding the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada so that Elections Canada can conduct the investigation into what happened in the last election campaign.
What else do we see? The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has been critical, as we know, about the Internet snooping bill introduced by the government. The government wants to snoop in people's homes and pry into their private lives and what they read and see on the Internet. We remember the despicable reaction of the Minister of Public Safety on that. We have an impartial servant, an agent of Parliament, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada that speaks out on violations of our civic rights and privacy such as that.
This is what will happen. In 2012-13, $0.7 million will be cut from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Can anyone believe the government would do that? In 2013-14, $0.7 million will be cut from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and in 2014-15, $1.1 million will be cut.
These are institutions that protect the public interest. The Auditor General of Canada, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will all be slashed and burned because the government does not like having impartial, independent protectors of the public interest standing up for Canadians.
I would ask all Canadians who are concerned about these mean-spirited cuts to tell their local Conservative member of Parliament. They can phone, email or tweet their member and ensure they copy it to an NDP MP as well. This can only be considered abuse of what is parliamentary funding and is something that should not be supported or condoned. These agencies protect the public interests and we are saying that Canadian families deserve better. These agencies should be fully funded so they can do their job.
I will move on to what else the government has hacked and slashed. I will move on to Agriculture and Agri-food. My colleagues from the eastern townships who know the agriculture industry backward and forward are concerned about this. Canadians should be concerned as well because one of the components within Agriculture and Agri-food is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and we know what it is responsible for. This is a pretty vital and important Canadian public service. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency ensures that when Canadian families get a food product that they are giving to their kids and family that the product is safe. Members who have talked to the public in any capacity across the country or members who have seen any of the opinion polls that have been taken, know full well that, with some of the outbreaks we have seen that have killed Canadians, food safety is a primary concern of Canadian families. Listeriosis is one example. We have seen many other cases and we need to ensure that the public interest is protected, that there are expanded food safety inspections and that Canadians have an even greater sense of well-being around food safety.
What did the government do around food inspection and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency? It is appalling for all of those Canadians who are concerned about food safety and inspection and who want to know that the products they are serving to their kids are safe. Is that not a very fundamental thing in an industrialized country like Canada? In a country that is as well developed as Canada, should we not have the ability to sit down to an evening meal and not have to worry about what the consequences may be?
This is what the Conservative government did to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. For 2012-13, it is cutting $2.1 million out of its operations. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will not have a greater ability to ensure that the food we eat is safe. It will have less of an ability. In 2013-14, it gets even worse. The cutbacks to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are in the order of $10 million at a time when there is adequate inspection and supervision of only an estimated 2% of Canadian foods. The risk of the kinds of outbreaks that have killed so many Canadians will be greatly increased when $10 million are cut out of the budget. Canadians all know that the Food Inspection Agency is vitally important but what happens in 2014-15? The Conservative government will cut $56.1 million out of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is gutting the agency. It is not just that year. It is from then on.
As long as the Conservatives are in power, Canadians should be concerned that the food inspection process will not fully protect their families. There could be outbreaks of other problems with our food supply because of the government's irresponsibility. However, for those Canadian families who are concerned, on October 20, 2015, when there is an NDP government in place, we will ensure that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and food inspection is fully funded so that families right across the country are protected.
At a time when the Canadian Wheat Board has been gutted and when the government has mused about cutting back on supply management, we know how important that is to sustain rural communities right across the country. The supply managed sector is the only sector where farmers have been able to make a decent living. As I have mentioned before, Alberta has the lowest farmer seats in the country because the Conservative government, both provincially and federally, have not taken care of Alberta farmers in any way. When we look at the supply managed sector, we get that stability that has allowed farm families and farming communities to prosper. With all of these hits, threatening supply management and gutting the Wheat Board, what is the government doing? Overall for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, next year it is cutting $15 million from the budget, in 2013 it will cur $158 million from the budget and in 2014 it will cut $252 million out of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. We say that Canadian farmers deserve better than that, better than the neglect of the government, better than the government cutting back on support for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Tragically, I must go on because we are seeing so much money that the government is willing to put away on F-35s, on prisons and on corporate tax cuts but it is not cutting into the fat. It is cutting right through to the bone in a most irresponsible way. We talked earlier about the 60,000 jobs lost as a result of this budget and at the worst possible time for the economy. Now, as we detail the cuts, we are seeing what is happening in every case.
I will move on to Citizenship and Immigration because that is an area that I know well. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, over 100 languages are spoken. There are new Canadians who come from around the world to join us in Canada and help build our country. They come with a variety of skills. They have a passion for Canada when they arrive that is exciting to see. When I walk through Richmond Park in the summertime I see those new Canadian families. In one area I will see a number of families from various parts of Africa, from Sierra Leone, the Congo, South Sudan or Ethiopia. I will walk through another section and see Indo-Canadian families or families that have come from China, Taiwan, Vietnam or Thailand. I will walk through another park and I will hear Spanish and see people from South America. In other parks I will see people from Europe, Romania or Russia. All of them have come to Canada with the idea of building this country and, in a very real way, to build a new life.
I do not mind telling the House that often it is tragic for them because of the cutbacks of the mean-spirited government. Over the last few years there has been no progress on credential recognition at all. People who are trained as doctors and engineers, except in a few minor cases, are simply unable to practise and contribute what they know, their experience and education, to this country.
What is worse under this government is the situation around visitor visas. We can imagine someone coming halfway around the world to start a new life in Canada and wanting their sister to visit for the birth of a new son, or wanting their cousins and aunts to be with them on the day of a parent's funeral. Like any family, they want to be together.
Under the Conservative government, there have been such substantial cutbacks that now, in virtually all cases, visitor visas are denied. I have had to fight for families to be together for the birth of their child, an important anniversary, a wedding or a funeral. Under this government, even with an NDP MP fighting like heck to get a visitor visa accepted, more often than not, it is denied. What a mean-spirited government. What that means is those new Canadians are treated like second-class citizens. They cannot have the support of their families at a critical time. That is what we all want. That is what Canada should be delivering.
We have heard from new Canadian communities for years that we need more funding in citizenship and immigration to handle the workload, the piles of unprocessed visitor visa applications and the long lineup for sponsorship applications that take decades to resolve. We need a government that cares about new Canadians and invests to improve the poor state of those services that treat new Canadians as second-class citizens.
Here, we see the results of what any new Canadian who voted for the Conservatives actually got on May 2. The government promised it would improve those services for new Canadians and improve their quality of life so they could fully contribute to the country. The member for Newton—North Delta is absolutely right. The government is slashing $29.8 million from citizenship and immigration in 2012-13. Shame on the government. It gets worse. In 2013-14, $65.2 million will be slashed, and in 2014-15, nearly $85 million will be slashed.
New Canadians have done so much to build our country. In fact, all of us, except first nations, have come to Canada through immigration over the centuries. We need to make sure that the services are there for new Canadians when they need them.
With the slashing of the citizenship and immigration budget, the government has repudiated its commitment to new Canadians, many of whom voted for Conservatives in the last election because Conservatives said they would make those investments and improve those services. We are saying new Canadians deserve better.
For those new Canadian families who are watching today, I would like them to send their comments to Conservative members of Parliament and copy NDP MPs. NDP MPs know about the problems because we are involved in casework. We are helping new Canadian families every day who have seen their loved ones' visitor visas rejected. They see that they are not being recognized for their credentials, skills and experience. We would like them to let us know their stories, because we will make sure that the government is aware of what it has done to new Canadians by slashing those budgets.
It gets worse. We see the cuts that have been made in every area of service upon which Canadian families depend.
The government is not cutting the F-35s. It is not cutting the prison program. It is willing to spend any amount of money, tens of billions of bucks. It will throw money away. It will just shovel it off the back of a truck.
However, as far as prudent monitoring of spending that comes from the Auditor General, as far as dealing with the crisis in aboriginal communities, as far as actually responding to the needs of new Canadians, nothing. It is slashing. It is cutting. It is a modern group of political Vikings running roughshod over key services to Canadians.
Let us move on to the environment. I hear some groans from my colleagues behind me. Prior to May 2, remember the Prime Minister looking Canadians in the eyes and saying, “We're going to protect the environment”? Then it withdrew from Kyoto. Then we saw the real face over the last few months. The environment ministry is going to endure cuts at a time when Canadians want the environment protected more than ever. In 2012-13, we are seeing cuts of $19.5 million in the environment ministry.
My colleague from Sherbrooke asks what happens in 2013-14. There will be $56.4 million cut out of the environment. In 2014-15, it rises to $88.2 million. That includes Environment Canada and Parks Canada. The national parks that are a national trust for all of us and a source of inspiration for so many Canadian families. When they can finally get away for their two weeks of annual vacation, often they will go to Canadian parks. Canadian families under the current government are struggling harder than ever to make ends meet. Occasionally, when they get a weekend off, they will go to a national park. However, we are seeing cuts of $30 million to Parks Canada.
The purported goal of the government was to bring together the environment and the economy. The place to do that was at the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Next year, it is cutting $200,000 out of its budget. And then comes the guillotine. Another organization sacrificed to Conservative ideology. In 2013-14, a $5.2 million cut, and the organization is killed.
Nothing on climate change. Nothing to respond to the concerns of so many Canadians on the environment.
Here is tweet from Black Spruce, “Budget 2012, no climate change discussion, zero funding, $99 million to deal with 2011 flooding and no reference to climate change”. This will affect future generations. On this side of the House, we have strong environmental advocates. We say Canadian families deserve better. We need a government in power that respects the environment and puts in place protections for the environment. That is what we promise to do in 2015.
It is a tale of woe when we look at where the Conservative government is cutting. We will move on to something that is extremely important to my colleagues on the east coast and the west coast: Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
I will speak from a personal perspective. We have seen the near collapse of the salmon fishery in British Columbia. We have seen, over the last few decades, a neglect of the fisheries in British Columbia that is beyond belief. For a government that purports to represent British Columbia, the underfunding has been staggering. Many fishers and people in the community have called for adequate funding for Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the west coast and the east coast. When we talk to NDP members who represent east coast ridings, they say the same thing, “We need more funding to make sure that the fisheries are sustainable.”
With the salmon fishers in British Columbia, we need improved salmon enhancement and monitoring so that we can understand the impact of sea lice on juvenile salmon. A lot of people make that connection, but we simply have not had the resources to find the facts that seem to be cut out of every aspect of this Conservative budget.
For years, British Columbians have said that they need more resources for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to make sure that we are adequately addressing a near collapse. There has only been one year in the last four where we could say that the salmon fishery was alive and well. However, at a near collapse, it has been three years out of four.
What will happen to Fisheries and Oceans Canada? One would expect a government to say that it would invest and make sure that those resources are there on the west coast and on the east coast. Tragically, that is not the case.
In 2012-13, $3.8 million will be gouged out of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In 2013-14, it goes to $13.4 million and in 2014-15, it goes to $79.3 million. This at a time when we need increased resources to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of our salmon fisheries and other fisheries.
As my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has mentioned, we are also seeing an attack on the inshore fishery in Atlantic Canada and the Quebec region. It is tragic.
The reality is that those Canadians who are involved in the fisheries deserve to have a government that keeps the commitment it made on May 2. They deserve a government that actually provides support for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Frankly, Canadians who are in the fisheries deserve better from this government than these cutbacks.
I am not going to be able to detail all of the cuts that are in this budget prior to question period because there will not be enough time. I will come back to this after question period if my colleagues permit me.
I will quickly mention some of the other cuts. Within the health portfolio, we are talking about cuts of up to $310 million by 2014-15. There are massive cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.
All these cuts were not supposed to happen. In every case, the Conservative government promised to maintain those services prior to May 2.
We talked earlier about a fact free government, a government that wanted to banish facts from consideration. When we look at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, what disappears? It is the National Council of Welfare, which provides supports so the government can understand the facts around public policy, particularly relating to poor Canadian families. What is the government doing? It is cutting away those facts. It is cutting out that source of factual information. Poor Canadian families deserve better than that. They deserve better than just being thrown out the door because the statistics do not keep with the government's own narrative.
Let us look at the industry portfolio. As mentioned earlier, the government wants to be fact free. It is a government that believes itself to be in a fact-free zone. It does not mind manufacturing its own facts; it just does not want to have facts come from a factual basis. There is a war against facts by the government.
With Statistics Canada, we can all recall, and it almost ironically funny, the war of the government on the long form census because it was somehow an invasion of privacy. Then a few months later, the government came forward with its Internet snooping bill to snoop into every affair of Canadians. Canadians get that the government does not want the long form census because it does not like facts. Statistics Canada will have a $8.3 million cut in 2012-13, a $8.3 million cut in 2013-14 and a $33.9 million cut in 2014-15, cuts from statistics and facts.
Though I could share a lot more, including the cuts in the regional development agencies, I would like to mention one more area before question period. I promise my colleagues I will come back after question period.
At the city hall In New Westminster, there is a cenotaph for the veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean Conflict. Two members of the Julian family are on that cenotaph. Thousands of Canadians gather in front of it every year. They do it on Remembrance Day, like they do in small towns and cities across the country, to honour our veterans. They believe profoundly that we owe a debt of gratitude to the veterans of our country.
I feel profoundly saddened by what the government has done to Veterans Affairs. After all that our veterans have done, and the new veterans who have shown such courage and bravery, the Veterans Affairs portfolio has been slashed by $36 million in 2012-13, $49.3 million in 2013-14 and $66.7 million slashed in 2014-15.
Our veterans have given so much to our country and a grateful country says “Thank you” and “Treat our veterans with respect”. The government has chosen not to do that and has cut back on veterans' programs and supports. Our veterans deserve better than that. They deserve the respect of the government. They deserve a government that will stand up for them.
What is wrong with the budget is it is a repudiation of everything the government promised when it ran for election. It is a repudiation of the kinds of things that Canadian families feel very strongly about: food safety; protecting and supporting our environment; ensuring that veterans are taken care of; ensuring that Canadian rural communities are supported. All of the things that, over time, Canadians have grown to support the government is hacking and slashing. It is not cutting the F-35s and its prison program. It is cutting into the bone.
Since the budget was tabled, we have been raising our concern about where the government is heading. That is why so many Canadians over the last few days have been writing, tweeting, posting on Facebook, faxing and emailing NDP MPs, so their voices can be heard. Canadian voices have been heard today and we will continue to support them and have their voices heard in the House of Commons because that is what we do. We stand up for Canadian families and we will continue to do this throughout the entire budget debate. We will support Canadian families, we will stand up for them and we will be there for them because they deserve better—
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View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
View Roxanne James Profile
2012-03-15 11:53 [p.6346]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-31 protecting Canada's immigration system act.
Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. However, our immigration system is open to abuse. Canadians are generous people, but we have no tolerance for those who abuse that generosity and who take unfair advantage of our great country.
Canadians have told us, loud and clear, that they want us to put a stop to this type of abuse. Our government has listened and we are taking action. That is why our Conservative government introduced Bill C-31. It would make our immigration system faster and fairer. It is the latest step by our government to ensure that our immigration system is no longer abused by foreign criminals, bogus refugee claimants and human smugglers.
This bill includes three major components. First, it includes much needed reforms to our refugee system. Second, this bill includes the provisions in C-4, preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. There is one important difference to note. It has been brought up in the House today, but it is important to stress once again, that there is now an exemption from detention for anyone under the age of 16.
Third, and the focus of my remarks today, is that this bill would provide the government with the authority to collect biometric data, specifically fingerprints and a photograph from foreign nationals who seek to enter Canada.
Canada welcomes thousands upon thousands of visitors each and every year, tourists, family members and business people, among others. In 2010, under our Conservative government, over 920,000 temporary visa permits were issued. That is a 13% increase compared to the previous Liberal government.
We have also increased the maximum length of multiple entry visas from 5 to 10 years to make it easier for eligible applicants to visit Canada and come back. Our government introduced the parent and grandparent super visa so that loved ones can visit their children and grandchildren for a period of up to two years at a time. Since 2006, our government has also lifted visa requirements from eight countries: Taiwan, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary and Lithuania.
Our government is facilitating the travel of legitimate travellers to Canada. I want to stress the word “legitimate”. It is no secret that there are countless numbers of people, each and every year, who are not allowed to come to Canada and who nevertheless find their way in.
There are countless examples on almost a daily basis of violent criminals, terrorists, human smugglers and war criminals, among others, who have entered Canada using false or fraudulent documents. There are several examples of criminals entering Canada on multiple occasions even after they have been deported. There are even examples of criminals re-entering Canada using false identities and documents up to 15, 19, 21 different times.
We must take action. We cannot allow this to continue. This has to stop. Biometrics would help our government end this fraud and the obvious abuse. Biometrics would help our government protect the safety and security of all Canadians. That is one of the number one priorities of any government. Biometrics is one of the most effective ways to correctly identify individuals. Biometrics would be an important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft. As fraudsters become more sophisticated, biometrics would improve our ability to keep violent criminals and those who pose a threat to Canada out of Canada.
Let me explain how biometrics would work. When foreign nationals apply for a visa to enter Canada, they would go to a visa office or one of the many visa application centres located around the world. They would provide their fingerprints and have a high quality, digital photo taken.
This data would then be checked against other databases. If no flags were raised and they met all other criteria, they would be provided with a visa to visit Canada. However, if a flag were raised and a person found to be inadmissible, that person would be denied a visa to enter Canada.
When the visa holders enter Canada, they would again be asked to provide their biometric data. This would ensure the person who is entering Canada is the same person who provided the data when he or she applied overseas and who was approved to travel on that visa.
In other words, we must ensure that “who applies is who arrives”. Needless to say, biometrics would be an effective security tool.
Understandably, there are concerns about privacy when it comes to the collection of biometric data. I would like to be perfectly clear. Biometric data would not be required of Canadian citizens or permanent residents. The personal information of visa applicants would be used, retained, shared and disposed of in accordance with Canada's privacy laws. Citizenship and Immigration is working closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner on the implementation of biometrics. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner's office has stated that it is “satisfied that CIC is taking its privacy responsibilities as part of the protocol seriously, and with the fact that it has been receptive to much of our advice”.
It is also important to note that if someone acquired Canadian citizenship before their biometric data was due to be disposed of, it would be disposed of immediately upon the individual receiving citizenship.
The collection of biometric data makes such common sense that the only question it begs is why it was not done decades ago. In fact, it was done decades ago in many other countries around the world. Bill C-31 would finally put us in line with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, countries of the European Union, New Zealand, the United States and Japan.
Biometrics would not just help our government keep those who pose a threat out, it would also facilitate the travel of legitimate visitors, and again I stress “legitimate“. It could lead to faster processing times.
There has been widespread support for biometrics. In fact, a Globe and Mail editorial on Bill C-31 stated:
The bill will also implement biometric identification, such as fingerprints and photos, for people who apply for visitor’s visas. This welcome change will guard against the use of false identities.
A Montreal Gazette editorial gave the following praise. It stated:
And it allows for the collection of biometric data--fingerprints and digital photos--of people entering Canada on a visitor visa, a work permit or a study visa. Both of these measures are advisable.... The collection of biometric information is a sensible security precaution that will be a valuable tool in preventing people from slipping into the country with false identities.
I know that all Canadians want our government to strengthen our security screening process to ensure that serious criminals, terrorists, bogus refugee claimants and war criminals, among others, are not permitted to enter Canada. My constituents in Scarborough Centre do not want these criminals to be able to enter Canada or live in our neighbourhoods. I am certain the NDP and Liberal MPs' constituents do not either. That is why I was so shocked to learn that the opposition parties, both the NDP and the Liberals, are voting against this bill and against the use of biometrics. Not only do they oppose the provisions to give the government the authority to collect biometrics, they also voted against the funding necessary to start the collection of biometric data. In other words, the NDP and Liberals have voted against and continue to vote against one of the most important measures to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering our great country. They are voting against a tool that would help protect the safety and security of all Canadians, including their own constituents. For that they will be held accountable.
Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration systems act, would make our immigration system faster and fairer. Most importantly, it would help protect the safety and security of all Canadians. I implore all members of the House to support this important and much needed piece of legislation.