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View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you for giving me the floor, Madam Chair.
We are resuming this meeting after it had been suspended, and it is very late: it is 11:25 p.m.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
We have been getting used to these unusual schedules over the past few weeks. Yesterday, I sat until 12:15 a.m., and I got home at 12:45 a.m. I can tell you that my night was very short, hoping that...
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair. This is just a reminder and a nod, if I may say so, to the incoherence of this government that is forcing us to spend impossible hours in the House for debates.
Let us come back to the issue at hand. I would like to point out that we have gone from an in camera meeting to a public meeting, which will allow us to resume debate on this Conservative motion which, I might remind you, seeks to extend the deadline by 30 days in order to submit a request to Parliament to broaden the scope of Bill C-425.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Things have changed since yesterday. Yesterday, the Conservative majority on this committee forced us to go in camera. We were opposed to that, saying that the debates that we could have had in public could have helped us make progress on this matter in a much more transparent fashion. Today the government has changed its mind and is asking us to continue this meeting in public, something that we had adopted earlier.
As concerns the fact that we were forced to go in camera, the way it happened was...
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
As concerns your observation to the members of this committee, I would just like to mention that I was particularly referring to the process used by the government regarding in camera meetings. I am certainly not going to address the content of the in camera meeting. This imposition of an in camera meeting by the Conservative majority is certainly regrettable, but not at all surprising. It is perfectly representative of the attitude that prevails both in the House and in committee. It was particularly clear during our study of Bill C-425.
This study was hampered by the government's will to considerably amend the content and scope of Bill C-425. All of this was orchestrated by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who dictated his amendments to the committee. These amendments were then introduced word for word by his parliamentary secretary.
The main consequence of this was to transform a private member's bill into a government bill. Given the refusal of the committee chair to recognize that these amendments were in order, the committee produced a report, without the consent of the opposition, calling for the scope of Bill C-425 to be broadened. The purpose of this was to impose the minister's amendments.
Obviously, this is the aspect that I am talking about today. We expressed our concerns, which were echoed by the Speaker of the House of Commons when the request concerning the adoption of the eighth report was submitted to him. A point of privilege was raised concerning this report. This is what I stated at that time, that is, on April 30.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Chair, with your permission, I would like to come back to the important matters that I have just mentioned, so that they can be recorded clearly once and for all, and I hope that I will not be interrupted.
It is certainly unfortunate that the Conservative majority is forcing us to meet in camera, but it is certainly not surprising, because their attitude is absolutely consistent with what is going on both in the House and in committees, especially during the study of Bill C-425.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Madame Groguhé.
I do want to remind my colleagues on both sides of the table that we are in a committee. We are trying to listen and be respectful to one of our colleagues while she speaks. It would be appreciated if the noise could be kept down. We have extra people in the room, and we're not saying we're not delighted to see you. Who wouldn't want to see extra friends late at night? But we're going to suggest that you take your conversations outside. If you're going to be in the room, a slight whispering in the distance is fine. But if the chair hears your conversation, then I have to think about interference with the speaker, and I cannot accommodate that, because it's my job is to make sure that the proceedings go along in an orderly manner.
We will go back to Madame Groguhé.
Madame Groguhé.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Chair, I would like to raise a point of order. I think that it is important and necessary to genuinely insist on decorum. This is often done in the House. So I think that this reminder is very important, because we need to respect decorum once and for all in this committee.
This committee meeting is currently being held in public, and the image being conveyed to Canadians by the attitude of certain members is quite deplorable. Bill C-425 nonetheless raises a very important question.
Madam Chair, decorum must be respected, and I would ask you to ensure that this is done.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much.
What I'm going to do now is go back to Madame Groguhé. She's going to go back to speaking on the motion.
Once again, I want to remind people of a level of behaviour and decorum that is required. The chair, if I find things are getting out of line, is going to end the meeting. I'm just giving everybody fair notice of that.
I'm going to go to Madame Groguhé.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will thus go back to what I was saying about the imposition of an in camera meeting, which, coming from this Conservative majority, is certainly regrettable but not surprising. It is perfectly representative of the attitude that prevails both in the House and in committee, especially during the study of Bill C-425.
This study has been hampered by the government's will to considerably amend the content and scope of the bill, which was orchestrated by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who dictated his amendments to the committee, and these amendments were then introduced with no changes by his parliamentary secretary. The main consequence of this was to transform a private member's bill into a government bill, and that is the gist of the matter, which is why we were so concerned about this procedure. Indeed, the procedure seeking to broaden the scope of this bill raised many questions.
Given the refusal of the committee chair to recognize that these amendments were in order, the committee thus had to submit a report, without the consent of the opposition, calling on the scope of Bill C-425 to be broadened in order to be able to impose the amendments of the minister. A point of privilege was raised concerning this report, and this is what I stated at that time, that is, April 30. But for...
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
As I was saying, Madam Chair, further to the request to broaden the scope of Bill C-425 in order to impose the amendments of the minister, we had to submit the eighth report to the House and to the Speaker. The Speaker then ruled on a point of privilege that I had raised on April 30. 
However, before coming to said point of privilege, I would first like to come back to the content of Bill C-425, remind people of its purpose and put it into context.
The question before us concerning this motion to extend the deadline by 30 days in order to broaden the scope of Bill C-425... 
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to remind members of the purpose of Bill C-425 and its background, and to draw a parallel with the motion that has been introduced in order to show how incongruous this motion to go ahead with the bill is.
Bill C-425sets out three major reasons for granting or revoking citizenship to members of the Canadian armed forces, pursuant to the Citizenship Act.
Clause 1(2) of the bill replaces section 5(4) of the act by providing in subsection (b) new ministerial authority to reduce residency requirements in Canada for Canadian armed forces members who wish to acquire citizenship. The bill gives this power to the minister in order to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada, and, on application, to reduce from three to two years required residency in Canada for Canadian armed forces members seeking citizenship, on condition that the members have signed a minimum three-year contract and completed basic training.
Clause 2 of the bill adds two subsections to section 9 of the Citizenship Act. Section 9(1.1) would provide:
That a Canadian citizen who is also a citizen or a legal resident of a country other than Canada is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
Clause 9(1.2) would provide the following:
A permanent resident of Canada who has made an application for Canadian citizenship is deemed to have withdrawn their application if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.
This bill's purpose is to further integrate permanent residents and underscore the exceptional value of Canadian citizenship, thereby highlighting the contributions of our brave military members. Obviously, we were in favour of that part of the bill, because it is very important to value the contributions made by our military and to underscore their engagement and courage in the defence of our country.
We are in favour of the idea of expediting the process to obtain Canadian citizenship in order to reward permanent residents for their dedication to serving in the Canadian armed forces. We were also in favour of the Canadian armed forces reflecting, in a significant way, the great diversity of Canada, and this bill would contribute in part to that objective.
Unfortunately, some aspects of the bill relating to applications for renunciation and withdrawal of applications for Canadian citizenship are a problem. According to the wording, the bill provides that a citizen or an authorized resident of a foreign country who commits an act of war against the Canadian armed forces is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship. Similarly, a permanent resident who would have committed the same act would be deemed to have withdrawn their application for Canadian citizenship. The bill does not state clearly that legal proceedings are necessary to determine whether someone has committed an act of war or who would be making the decision. Moreover, certain key terms are not defined. “Act of war” is not defined in Canadian law. There is no definition for the expression “legal resident of a country other than Canada” either.
Broad changes brought about by Conservatives to the Canadian immigration system have unfortunately not made it more effective nor fair. We New Democrats are in favour of the idea that Canadian armed forces should better reflect Canadian diversity. However, the circumstances under which Canadian citizenship could indeed be revoked or an application for citizenship withdrawn should be entirely legal and subject to regular judicial proceedings.
This bill contains notions that are not very clear and parts that are limited in scope. I would like to get back to an idea mentioned in this bill which will create two classes of citizens, on the one hand, individuals with a single citizenship and on the other, those who have more than one. The latter may risk losing Canadian citizenship, even if they are born in Canada and have never been to the other country they are citizens of.
Canadian citizenship should not be considered a privilege that can be withdrawn like a driver's licence can be revoked. It is useful to point this out. Indeed, this is undeniably discrimination. It creates two-tier citizenship whereby people are not treated fairly. Several witnesses have appeared before this committee to discuss the arbitrariness of these measures and the potential for discrimination towards citizens who may be considered different.
I would like to get back to the question of privilege I raised in the House and that the Speaker replied to. This will also shed light on the procedure to broaden the scope of this bill. This motion, I would remind members, provides for 30 additional days and a broadening of the bill. TheMinister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism wants to pass amendments to broaden the scope of Bill C-425.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Chair, the broadening of the scope of this bill has been a grave concern to us, because it would radically alter the original bill. As we have mentioned, the initial bill should have been reviewed and revised. And because it imposed certain limits in its wording, we worked on the issues together as a committee for several sittings to finally propose some amendments.
In the meantime, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism decided to broaden the scope of the bill, as I have just stated, and he proposed his own amendments. However, the minister's proposed broadening distorts the very nature of the initial bill. Now, we cannot even refer to this bill as a private member's bill because it is actually a government bill as moved by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
That said, let us get back to the question of privilege I raised in the House. I will start by reiterating the content of the question and then read the speaker's reply. My question was the following:
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...
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
I was mentioning the question of privilege I had raised before the Speaker of the House, to see about the relevance of tabling the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
So I will resume my reading of this question of privilege raised in the House:
[...] 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 Honourable Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for York—Simcoe, spoke on April 25th, 2013, he misled the 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...
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome to our officials. I am likely going to split some of my time with my colleague Mr. Menegakis.
I'll start by asking a couple of questions on user fees, specifically on costs associated with processing citizenship applications. Do you have on hand what it costs someone to apply to have it processed and go from start to finish?
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 9:37
Thank you for your question.
Right now, the fee for a citizenship application is $200 for an adult and $100 for a child. The actual cost to the Government of Canada to process the application for a grant of citizenship is based on our 2010-11 data of costing, which was $555 for the total cost.
Caroline Melis
View Caroline Melis Profile
Caroline Melis
2013-05-23 9:43
We understood we would be coming to discuss the issues related to the changes in the User Fees Act as they relate to the citizenship program, and also the issues in the bill related to the refugee appeal division.
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 9:45
As I mentioned earlier, right now the fee for an adult is $200. The fee is composed of two elements: $100 for the processing of the application and $100 for the right of citizenship. The actual cost of processing an application based on our 2010-11 costing model, where we captured all the costs of processing an application for a child or an adult, was around $555.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
They have no right to appeal, but a judicial review. I understand that. Thank you.
My next question is around citizenship. You have thrown quite a few numbers out about the cost you have put on processing citizenship fees.
When I look at the current costs of paying $100 towards processing and $100 towards getting citizenship.... I've been to some of those citizenship ceremonies, by the way. A room is rented; there's a judge there; there's red serge there, right? The ones I've been to have been beyond that. That's about it. People walk in, get their certificates, and they leave.
When you're taking into consideration the costing, are you taking into consideration the rental of those rooms and everything?
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 9:52
Yes. The average cost I mentioned is the total cost of the process, so it includes the ceremonies, the processing of the application, the security screening, and the costs of all the processes we need to follow for the citizenship grant.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Paré, when you mentioned a $550 average cost for citizenship and yet we're charging $200, I could imagine Ms. James in particular, but we'll no doubt hit the cabinet table, which is going to be thinking that this is another area where we could possibly get some tax hikes.
I would like to caution the government that at the end of the day we need to have a better understanding of exactly what is happening at Citizenship.
For example, how many individuals would have been given citizenship in the year in which you came out with the average costing of $550 per person?
Alexandra Hiles
View Alexandra Hiles Profile
Alexandra Hiles
2013-05-23 9:54
Thank you for the question. I can give you an answer regarding the volumes.
In 2010 there were 143,595 people who became Canadian citizens. In 2011 there were 181,288 people who became Canadian citizens.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
All right. So the costs really fluctuate depending on the number of individuals who are becoming citizens. Is that not a fair assessment? In one year if you give out 250,000 citizenships, for example, compared to a year in which you might give out 150,000 citizenships, that $550 variable might change by $20 or $30. Is that a fair assessment on my part?
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 9:54
Thank you for the question.
As I mentioned earlier, the budget for CIC is appropriation based, which is pretty fixed in terms of capacity. Usually the budget we have to process citizenship applications allows the department to process 170,000 applications per year. That was in 2010-11. It's been a bit less in the last few years.
We are able to process a bit more—and my colleague mentioned 181,000 for one year—when we have an injection of temporary funding.
The cost is a unit cost, so it's the cost of processing the application. It's not related to the volume we process, because it's a unit cost.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
When we talk about the huge increase in processing time—and we have been strongly advocating the need to reduce the amount of time it takes to process a citizenship application—is it because of not having enough money, or is it because of what we're asking individuals to go through in order to get their citizenship?
What is the root cause of the increase in time to process a citizenship application?
Caroline Melis
View Caroline Melis Profile
Caroline Melis
2013-05-23 9:56
If I may just say here that over the last decade or so, we've had the highest sustained rate of immigration to Canada in our history. In that timeframe many more new immigrants have come to Canada. Canada continues to have a high interest in making new immigrants Canadian citizens, and many of those new immigrants want to become Canadian citizens. About 85% apply. So the volume is what has—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I'm going to stop you there for just a moment. With all due respect, we have also seen a larger percentage of immigrants landing who are not applying for citizenship. So I don't think it's a fair comparison.
What is causing the delay in processing times? Is it strictly money?
Caroline Melis
View Caroline Melis Profile
Caroline Melis
2013-05-23 9:57
It's volume, the number of people in the process. We are funded to a particular base level. We have increased our capacity to process more cases by injecting fee-based money, which is money from within the department which we internally reallocate to help maintain and not increase the processing times.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Can you provide the committee with a graph that clearly shows the number of individuals applying for citizenship for the last 10 years?
View Chungsen Leung Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a question and any remaining time I have I will share with my colleague, Roxanne James.
In order for Canada to remain competitive in this global economy, we need to track both capital resources and human resources. We attract capital resources by having a stable economy, a stable political system, and a low-tax regime. To attract human resources, we need to have qualified immigrants, and so on. How does Canada compare with countries like the United States and Australia, which I believe are our major competitors, in terms of service fees for visas, applications, and processing times? Perhaps you can share with us our competitiveness on a global scale.
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 10:00
For Australia, the fee is around $275. In New Zealand, it's $385, approximately. The fee in the United Kingdom is around $1,500. In the United States, it's approximately $675. Those are all in Canadian dollars.
Alexandra Hiles
View Alexandra Hiles Profile
Alexandra Hiles
2013-05-23 10:01
On average, our competitor countries take about two to six months in terms of their processing times for citizenship. I don't have the breakdown per country.
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
I just want to go back to the citizenship processing fees. You've said that the last time we made changes to that fee schedule was back in 1995.
We've heard the question from my colleague across the way about the number of applications that have been processed. I apologize if I missed it, but I didn't hear him ask this: what was the actual cost of processing applications back in 1995? Do you have that?
I'm just trying to get it in relation to what we charge to process compared to the actual costs and the fact that we haven't done anything on this in almost 18 years. I would imagine that the costs have gone up. I'm just wondering if you have that type of statistical information on hand.
Karine Paré
View Karine Paré Profile
Karine Paré
2013-05-23 10:02
Unfortunately, I don't have that information with me. I can tell you, based on the trends, that the cost went up, but I don't have that information for 1995.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
You'll find that everything I'm saying is actually quite accurate. It just doesn't have the Tory spin on it. That's the primary difference.
If you take a look at the citizenship file...as I was saying, 338,000, it's far too many. They're waiting far too long. The minister talks about how, yes, they're putting in a sum of money. Paul Martin's government did designate some $60 million to try to shorten that processing time.
I've asked the minister inside question period to deal with this issue, Mr. Chairperson, and, at the end of the day, the minister has failed to recognize it.
What the Liberal Party would like to do is to see the minister at least make a commitment to get that processing time under 12 months. He was not able to demonstrate that. I would look to the minister, whether it's today or some other point in time, to address the House or the committee and make that commitment. That is that for at least 80% of those individuals who have landed in Canada, who have met the time requirements and other eligibility requirements, they will be able to get their citizenship within the 12 months. That is something that's reasonable, and I think most Canadians would respect that fact, if the minister would make that sort of a commitment.
The other point, which is a major issue, is in regard to the temporary foreign worker program. Like the NDP, I also met with some of the teamsters and actors and actresses who expressed concerns, but I also met with pilots and have had many discussions with constituents. At the end of the day, this minister is responsible for the issuing of temporary work permits. There's no way we can justify a need for 338,000 foreign workers here in Canada.
This is not something that's completely new. The minister has been aware of it, Mr. Chairperson. At the end of the day, he has to take responsibility for the 338,000-plus. What we would like to be able to do is to see the minister make the commitment, a serious, genuine commitment to fix the program.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's interesting. I did write a letter to the Minister—if he actually read the letter and I assume he did—regarding the temporary worker program. You have an individual who comes to you and says, “Look, I'm establishing a business here. We want to bring in some machinery from overseas, and he wants to come in and set up that machinery." So he's looking for someone to come over to help him set up the machinery and then ultimately go back to China.
The Minister uses that as an example. I have news for you: it's called being a member of Parliament. You represent the interests of your constituents. You're supposed to be doing that. Having said that, I should also remind the minister that the program is a Liberal initiative. The difference between a Liberal government and a Conservative government is that we know how to manage the program whereas this government has abused the program. That's the difference, Mr. Chairperson. Canada does not need 338,000 temporary foreign workers, no matter which way you want to cut it, Mr. Minister.
The issue of the global case management system is, again, something that was initiated under Mr. Chrétien's term, and I appreciate the minister raising how effective that particular program has been, and we would expect that as technology is brought forward. We should pay compliments to our civil service who do an outstanding job, whether it's within Immigration, Revenue Canada, or OAS. All of these technological developments allow us to provide improved services in many different ways.
Then there is a responsibility of the minister, on the other hand, to ensure that there are feet on the ground. Trying to get immigration services or talk to someone live can be a challenge. We have a 1-800 phone number that is very difficult. The last time I tried it, I was literally waiting 45 minutes, depending on the day of the week. They recommend you call on a Thursday or Friday because then you don't have to wait the hour or however long it might be.
There's an issue of providing service to people who really need the service. The government's response to that has been cutting services. You've cut many offices all over the country from individuals who do need these services. I would be interested at some point, maybe not today, to get a response to that particular question.
I raise the issue of citizenship. I asked and emphasized how important it is that the minister deal with the issue of the processing times with Citizenship. It is, today, completely unacceptable. I'd like to give the minister a question, and hopefully he'll actually stay focused and try to answer this specific question. Are you prepared to commit to a minimum target of processing citizenship applications to within 12 months?
I recognize that we're not talking about 100% of all applications. We're talking maybe a minimum of 80%, but will the minister, at the very least, make that commitment today? Will he say to Canadians that he's going to take the issue of citizenship seriously, because he has been negligent, and will he make that commitment today?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
The answer, Mr. Chairman, is yes. I'd be delighted to have a processing time of 12 months or less for citizenship applications.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning. This is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, meeting number 77. We are studying Mr. Shory's bill, Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, honouring the Canadian Armed Forces.
We are into clause-by-clause. We have some witnesses here to assist us if needed. Most of the people you've met from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. We also have representatives from the Department of National Defence. They're available for questions.
We can start on the clause-by-clause.
Mr. Dykstra.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Two things are going to happen this morning that are not normal to our committee process. The first is that I realize that the members of the opposition are much further away than I would like. Usually we're much closer than this; obviously there's an extra table in here this morning. I'm not quite sure why, but it must be because we have lots of staff here and we have lots of witnesses.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
That's definitely one thing that's a little different this morning.
Before I start, I would like to apologize to our witnesses. We are going to do something a little different this morning than move through clause-by-clause, and I'll explain why. Given the recent events in the news, such as the VIA Rail terrorist plot yesterday, and none of us has to go too deep into our minds to think about what happened in Boston over the last number of days, we can't deny the reality that we are living in a world that has terrorism in it. It's a real threat, and we've offered our positions on these issues. We've offered words of comfort.
We have spoken about this bill over the last number of days and weeks. There's no question in my mind that the direction we need to take is stronger and more confident than just what is set aside in a private member's bill that was moved by Mr. Shory. We must act. There should not be any ambiguity in the words that we use; we should be direct. They should be firm, and our legislation should coincide with that. I believe it's imperative to ensure that every single amendment the government has moved plays a role in this piece of legislation, which I think is timely, which I think is correct. It needs to ensure that every single one of our amendments is included in it.
I cannot stress strongly enough that no words or actions can be ill-defined, and the bill cannot be either. As such, Mr. Chair, I would like to move the following motion: 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 such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.
It's been clear over the last number of days...and I appreciate the efforts by our legislative clerk to do his best to inform us as correctly as possible how the bill should be read and how our amendments should be interpreted accordingly.
So I move the motion here this morning. I know it is not normal procedure to do this prior to moving on clause-by-clause, but make no mistake, Chair, we're going to act not only in response to what we see in the world today, but we're going to ensure that a piece of legislation that moves forward has proper scope, has proper language, and is interpreted according to the witnesses we have heard over the last number of weeks, the advice we have received, and the direction we should move in.
I so move that we bring this back to the House and be given the opportunity to expand on the scope of the bill.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Chairperson, when I think in terms of the Boston tragedy, there are a number of thoughts that run across my mind. Right at the get-go, I want to acknowledge that no matter where you live in North America, what took place in Boston was horrific and at the end of the day we want to be able to see that there is justice done. We've heard from everyone from the President of the United States to the average Canadian in terms of how they feel about what has taken place. We give our best wishes and condolences to family members of victims and those who have been directly touched by this particular terrorist act. We can't say enough in terms of just how horrific this was.
Having said that, yesterday members of our law enforcement agencies, in cooperation with others, were able to discover a plot that would have led to Canadian lives possibly being lost and in many ways destroyed. Again, we congratulate all those involved in it and thank them, ever so grateful that we were able to prevent it from happening.
Yesterday I spoke at length on Bill S-7, combatting terrorism. It's now in third reading inside the House. Individuals are being afforded the opportunity to get on the record. We're doing what we can. In fact, the Liberal Party of Canada has indicated its support of Bill S-7, wanting to see the bill passed for all the right reasons. Yesterday I questioned why it is that the government was bringing forward Bill S-7 at that time, believing that maybe there was some political manipulation that was being conducted here, maybe even taking advantage of that tragedy that took place in Boston. I think there is a great deal of merit in terms of many of the things we're saying in terms of motives that were being used yesterday surrounding Bill S-7.
Now we're in committee, and there are two things that I get out of what Mr. Dykstra has said. Number one is the fact that in the motion it's very clear, Mr. Chairman, that the government does want to make significant amendments to Mr. Shory's bill, and he realizes, as the government has realized, that it is really out of scope, if we take a look specifically in terms of what it is that Bill C-425 was attempting to do. It's very precise. All you have to do is take a look at the summary. There are two things:
This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to require the Minister, on application, to reduce by one year the required years of residence in Canada to grant citizenship to any permanent resident who is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who has signed a minimum three-year contract and who has completed basic training.
That's the number one objective. If we look at what happened in second reading, most of the discussion was on that issue. If we take a look at the reports that were coming out and being commented on, even by Mr. Shory himself, that seemed to be the primary reason for the bill itself.
The second part of the bill, Mr. Chairperson, is in regard to this:
It also amends section 9 of the Act to provide that an individual is deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship
What's important here is that it's very specific. It's saying “if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian Armed Forces”. That's all that was meant with this particular private member's bill.
Why it's important for us to make note of this, Mr. Chairperson, is that the government has acknowledged that it is outside of the scope. But now the government wants to allow us to be able to make any sort of change we see fit, even though they would be out of scope. The biggest problem I have personally with that is that the rules that apply to a private member's bill are significantly different from the rules that apply to a government-sponsored bill.
I would be a whole lot more sympathetic to what Mr. Dykstra was talking about if we were suggesting that, given the situation that has been taking place over the last number of days, we should bring this bill back into second reading and allow for a more wholesome debate. We only allowed for one or two hours of debate, because it was a private member's bill. I can assure you that we would have critics—whether it's the member from Mount Royal, or our public safety critic, not to mention the leader of our party—who would love to contribute to the debate. Given the manner in which we're proposing legislation, this is really way outside the scope.
We talk about the manner in which citizenship is going to be changing, the establishment of a two-tier type of citizenship. We were provided a series of amendments that the government was possibly considering to bring forward to the committee. Late last night, I was told that what I was provided has now been changed. So I don't really know what to expect from all these amendments. I don't believe we're doing a service to private members bills when we break the rule and go beyond the scope.
I would recommend that we continue to move forward with Mr. Shory's bill at this time, clause by clause, as you suggested at the opening, Mr. Chairperson. If the government wants to bring in amendments, we can listen to them, and you'll rule whether or not they're within the scope of the bill. Even by his own admission, Mr. Dykstra has said he wants us to go back to the House because the amendments they want to move are beyond the scope of the private member's bill. I think that gives us some direction.
We might want to consider having a recess. This would allow our respective House leaders to see if they can work out a compromise that would achieve something that would protect the integrity of private members bills and at the same time respond to the government's need to bring in something more all-encompassing regarding terrorism/citizenship and so forth.
Mr. Chair, my recommendation would be that, if anything, we leave it to our House leaders and see what they come up with. If we want to continue on clause by clause today, I'm okay with that. But I would be very reluctant to suggest that we recommend to the House that we allow this committee to change the scope of the legislation.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Lamoureux. The motion is in order, and I'm sure the House leaders at the appropriate time will be having a chat on Bill C-425.
Ms. Sims.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
There are two prongs to this private member's bill, and both are being articulated—speeding up citizenship, and renunciation for those with dual citizenship for engaging in acts of war, etc.—so I'm not going to waste the committee's time.
I'm pleased to see that the government has come to the determination that the amendments were outside the scope of this bill. We continue to have concerns with the bill, which we feel is very ambiguous in some areas, in the way of terms. We continue to have concerns around statelessness.
We're also very concerned about the co-opting, let's say, of a private member's bill. There are many different ways governments, especially majority governments, can get their legislation addressed and into the House. We have a bill here that in part is very difficult to understand and needs major work. We have said that before, and we continue to have our original concerns as expressed.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
I will not take long. I just want an opportunity to respond to three objectives that I think Mr. Lamoureux is trying to come to a conclusion on, or at least to make, and also to respond to two points made by Jinny in terms of their position.
First, speaking directly about Mr. Shory and his bill, regardless of the number of parties we have in the House, who sit in the House of Commons—opposition or government—this is a bill moved by a private member, who has the opportunity, based on his time and the allocation given to him, to introduce a private member's bill. He chose to introduce this bill I think based on a need. He didn't introduce it based on reaction to what has happened, even in the past short while. I congratulate him for doing that, because he did it based on an objective that he wants to accomplish, not to be self-serving, not to do something that would respond to something that has currently happened.
He has made it very clear from the beginning, in meeting with both the minister and his colleagues over the last number of days, weeks, and months, that he's open to amendments to this bill. Through that entire process he has made it clear that he wants a bill that meets with the acceptance of Canadians from one side of this country to the other, and that when the opportunity comes forward for amendments, he is prepared to study them, to look at them, and to accept them if they improve the content of the bill. He has reviewed each and every one of these amendments; he agrees with every one of them and he agrees they should be worked into his bill.
Second, Mr. Lamoureux speaks to time in the House. If you review the speeches that were given and the public comments that have been made with respect to this bill, it has been clear from the very beginning that we wanted to seek amendments to the bill. Mr. Shory made that very clear in his comments in the House, and I made that very clear in mine. In fact, all members, regardless of which side of the House they sit on, indicated that there were improvements that needed to be made to the bill.
That is what we attempted to do during the extended period of time we've studied this bill, and with the great number of witnesses that have come forward to speak to this bill, it was clearly evident that there were opportunities to make improvements to the bill and that it needed to go further than here at our committee to be able to do that.
That's why we're being upfront about it. We are not trying to move this through committee to find out whether or not we can get this by without huge objection from you. We want to go back into the House of Commons. Mr. Lamoureux, you're going to have an additional three hours that we wouldn't have had if we were to go through the process today, an additional three hours in the House of Commons to do exactly what you've requested, which is to debate the very content of what should or shouldn't be in this bill.
I look forward to that. It is with deep hope that you spend, and the Liberals spend, all of their time speaking in support of the amendments in this bill. I don't know whether that's going to be the case or not, but if I could get an early word into the creation of those speaking notes, if they in fact include the positive side of what this bill is going to do and what it means for Canadians and for the country, that's the part I want to conclude on.
We're going to have another opportunity to go at this. We're going to go back to the House of Commons, and as critics and as members of this committee, we're going to be able to speak to the bill again, in part or in whole, directly within the House of Commons.
Jinny, your point around statelessness is something that witnesses have pointed out. It's a concern that ministry officials have pointed out as to why they support the amendments that have been put forward. I think all of us around this table heard very clearly from the United Nations' representative that indeed we need to set this bill up so that it does not put individuals in a position of statelessness. That's what the amendments do. Unfortunately, we need to go back into the House of Commons to get those amendments into the bill itself. But I appreciate your comments on that, because that is where we're driving to in working through this.
As to your final piece about the bill needing work, that's why the amendments are here and that's why we're going to go back to the House of Commons, Mr. Chairman, and that's why we'll come back here, once we've been through the House of Commons, to get this bill passed with the amendments necessary to strengthen the bill itself and the legislation it carries with it.
At this point, I'm going to thank Mr. Shory for moving this bill and allowing the government to suggest amendments to the bill, because this is going to be a piece of legislation that is going to make all of us proud. It's going to be a piece of legislation that doesn't just respond to incidents of horror that we have seen over the last number of weeks. It actually sets us up to lead, to be an example, and to say to the rest of the world, if terrorists are going to take this kind of action, we're going to work on two things: we're going to ensure that they pay a serious, heavy price for those actions, and we're going to put ourselves in a position to make sure that we prevent those actions from happening in the first place.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to my colleagues as well.
Mr. Chair, I want to remind my colleagues of one thing. When this bill was tabled, the intent was very clear: we must reward those who give their lives to protect Canadian values; on the other side, those who participate in destruction of those values must pay the price for that. As far as the intent is concerned, since the tabling of this bill, in the House and outside the House, in public and in private, I have been very clear that I am very open to any amendment that will strengthen the intent of my bill. While I'm reading about and watching all the events, I'm of the strong view now that Canadians who commit acts of terror clearly demonstrate that they reject the value of Canadian citizenship and they have absolutely no interest in citizenship.
As far as the scope of the bill is concerned, Mr. Chair, since the beginning in this committee, and as a matter of fact in the House, during the second reading, all parties have been talking about terrorism. We have been discussing terrorism. All three parties had an opportunity and made some proposals on this. As a matter of fact, we seldom talked about the first part of the bill; most of the time we talked about the second part of the bill and terrorism. That's what happened in the committee.
I once again want to reiterate that this bill was conceived and introduced by me. It is meant to amend the Citizenship Act, as the title says.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
We're all bound here by rules, the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and sometimes we rely on others to point these out to us, but definitely it's our reference point.
When I look at Standing Order 97.1 on page 71, Mr. Dykstra, just in case you were wondering, its says that within 60 sitting days from the date of the bill's reference to the committee we “shall”—it's not “may”—
...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.
This doesn't say to go and ask for an expansion of the mandate. The report that goes back to the House is the bill, with or without amendments, or it is asking for an extension of 30 days, that we need longer to study the bill. I just wanted to point that out for those who are considering.... I thought the second part was interesting as well, that we have to end our report either recommending...we can recommend not to proceed with the bill further and then maybe a new bill could come forward.
I don't know, but in reading this, I don't see how the recommendation you moved fits in with this. I'm waiting to be enlightened.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
The report that Mr. Dykstra is suggesting is a separate report. The report that you were referring to expires June 21. We must submit it by June 21 or it's deemed to have been reported, or we can ask for an extension of another 30 sitting days.
Yes, Ms. Sims.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
Just for clarification, I'm looking at the recommendation that has been moved here. It says “within sixty sitting days” shall “either”—it doesn't say you have other choices—“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....”
The Chair: Well....
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims: I'm just reading the rules.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
No, I understand.
I'll discuss this with the clerk, but my understanding is that the report, if it carries, that Mr. Dykstra is asking me to submit to the House—and hopefully we can do it today, unless we continue talking—is a separate report. I'm having the clerk look at what you just said.
Mr. Weston.
View John Weston Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will be brief.
Yesterday, around 1 p.m., several hundred people came to the Hill to express how they felt about what took place in Boston a week ago. New Democrat Paul Dewar, Liberal Kirsty Duncan and I were there, and we had the opportunity to speak to those people.
We wanted to see the spirit of that crowd of individuals who wanted to tell us they were there to protest against terrorism, but also to try to obtain some concrete answers on what we can do to protect Canadians and all nations around the world. I think that, if we are sincere about this, our party leaders will be able to find a way to resolve the issue raised by Ms. Sims.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
Messrs. O'Brien and Bosc, at page 992, talk about this. This is an exceptional rule; this is an exception to everything.
Obtaining Additional Powers
If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House—by far the most common approach—or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.
That's what Mr. Dykstra is doing with his motion.
Mr. Dykstra.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
I want to respond to the comments made by Ms. Sims. They're basically very straightforward. In fact, I'll borrow some of the language that Mr. Lamoureux used in moving this forward.
First, we have until June 21 to get the bill through in its original form. Second, I don't want to say we're drawing a line in the sand here, but there is an opportunity for the opposition to play a key role in this process. That is to get this bill into the House as quickly as possible, in terms of the concurrence motion, and do so in a way that is going to meet the objectives required of us legislatively and legally. But let's get on with the discussion in the House and get it back here to the committee so that the witnesses, who got up bright and early this morning to attend, the next time they're here, will actually be dealing directly with the bill.
I submit—as a request, as colleagues, not as members of other parties but as colleagues—that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get this bill back into the House, have the discussion, present our arguments, vote on it, and get it back here so we can complete the bill and get it into legislation as quickly as possible.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
The amendments that have been circulated are obviously quite substantive. My question is, if we feel that after going through the amendments you propose that we would like to see changes, will we be eligible to resubmit new amendments?
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, but I'd rather wait. This motion may not carry. I expect it will, but it may not carry.
In answer to your question, assuming the motion carries, I would think the answer is yes. I'll have some comments after we see what happens to the motion.
All those in favour?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Chair, can we show that it was on division?
The Chair: Is there any disagreement with that?
Okay, we'll make it “on division”.
(Motion agreed to on division)
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
The motion is carried. I will endeavour to try to get into the House to do that report today.
I have a couple of comments. Thursday, our next meeting, will be in either this room or the other room. It's for estimates with the minister.
I want to draw to the critics' and parliamentary secretary's attention that the amendments you've given to the clerk, together with any others—it's possible other amendments may be made—would have to be reintroduced, would have to be sent to the clerk. Depending on when this is dealt with in the House, we'll have to decide now or we'll have to have a subcommittee meeting to decide when those amendments should be filed. It's probably premature to do it now because we have no idea when the House will deal with this.
I'm thinking out loud. If we are authorized to expand the scope of the bill by the House, one raises the question, would there be further hearings, or do we jump into continued clause-by-clause? It's just an observation. If we're asking for this further expansion of the bill, it's conceivable that the government and members of the opposition could have further amendments. I don't know whether I'm right or wrong, but that's just something for you to think about. We would talk about that in a subcommittee meeting.
Does anyone have any comments?
Mr. Dykstra.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Chair, I was going to make a suggestion, or start to make suggestions, as to when we could allow for amendments to come in, but I think you've made a great suggestion for the steering committee or subcommittee process, that once we have finished in the House the steering committee meet for half an hour and we make a determination on the issues you've brought to our attention.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
NDP (BC)
I concur that it would be premature for us to be setting out any kinds of timelines or amendments. Only once we realize how the House disposes of this can we then make a determination of further witnesses and amendments. I think we need to hold off.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
This is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, meeting number 76. It is Thursday, April 18. This meeting is televised. We are studying Mr. Shory's private member's bill, Bill C-425.
We have one witness. We will be going for one half-hour. Our witness is B'nai Brith Canada. Mr. David Matas is the senior honorary counsel. He has appeared before this committee at least twice that I can think of. We also have Marc Chétrit Rieger, who is the legal counsel. Good morning to you, gentlemen.
Mr. Chétrit Rieger, I gather you're going to introduce the program. You have up to eight minutes to make a presentation.
Marc Chétrit Rieger
View Marc Chétrit Rieger Profile
Marc Chétrit Rieger
2013-04-18 9:17
Good morning. My name is Marc Chetrit Rieger. I work in Montreal as a criminal and human rights lawyer. I also have a master's degree in international law from the Sorbonne.
B'nai Brith Canada has been active in Canada since 1875 as the Jewish community's foremost human rights agency.
I will turn things over to my colleague, who will expand on the brief we submitted on behalf of B'nai Brith Canada.
David Matas is an immigration and refugee lawyer from Winnipeg. He is the senior counsel for B'nai Brith, and he was awarded the Order of Canada in 2010.
David.
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:18
Thank you very much.
I've prepared a 15-page brief, which I gather has been circulated to the committee. To start, I'll go through the recommendations at the end. I have seen the proposed amendments and they have been helpful.
The brief makes 10 recommendations. The first is that the bill encompass all acts of war or acts of armed conflict rather than just attacks on Canadian Armed Forces. I can see that the amendment picks up that suggestion.
The second proposal is to apply the bill only to citizens of a country other than Canada and not to legal residents of a country other than Canada, when it comes to laws of citizenship. Again, the proposed amendment to the bill picks that up.
The third proposal is to not apply the bill to persons born in Canada whose primary connection is Canada. That's not something in the amendments.
I'll point out that the bill right now could potentially apply to somebody who was born in Canada, has never left Canada, and has no connection with the other country of citizenship other than the fact that, potentially, one of the parents is a citizen and had that citizenship passed on. That parent may never have been to that other country in his or her life and may not speak the language of that country.
We have to think about what would happen if other countries were to pass the same legislation we did. I think we would be dismayed if we found another country shipping to our borders someone who doesn't know English or French, has never been here, and has committed an act of terrorism abroad.
The fourth proposed change is to change the consequences of the acts encompassed by the bill from deemed application for renunciation of citizenship to revocation of citizenship. One of the anomalies of the bill was that it was in a deemed application. The amendment, to a certain extent, corrects that by saying you can't withdraw the application. We still have terminology that doesn't reflect reality. This is not an application for renunciation. It is revocation, and it should be called revocation, simply to use language that conforms to the reality. Another reason, which I will get to later, is that we should have the same procedure for the same consequences.
The result of the different labelling—and this has to do with the fifth recommendation—is that we have different procedures for this type of revocation than we do for other types of revocation. For this type of revocation, which is a deemed renunciation, there would be a decision by the minister and then access to the Federal Court by way of judicial review. For other types of revocation already in the act, the issue goes to the Federal Court on the merits of misrepresentation. It's our position that in both cases the procedure should be the same and should use the same terminology.
We also say—and this is recommendation 6—there should be a removal order issued within the same procedure as the revocation or deemed renunciation. There should be consolidation of proceedings. This government proposed this in Bill C-37 in a previous Parliament. It was also a proposal to a previous government, in Bill C-16, that revocation and removal be consolidated. The way it stands now, if this bill is enacted, you'll have a revocation, but the person will still be in Canada. So there would have to be some consideration of removal procedures.
B'nai Brith has had extensive experience with revocation. Our experience is that revocation alone is not sufficient to deal with the problem the legislation is directed towards. One has to consider removal, and removals have not been working well in conjunction with revocation.
The seventh recommendation is to limit the ground of revocation or deemed renunciation relating to acts of war or armed conflict to personal participation in such an act or membership at the time of war or armed conflict. This component of the law, for membership at least, must be prospective only. Right now we have it, even with the amendment going before the bill, as well as after the bill, and not limited to membership at the time of the armed conflict.
This is an issue that arises very often in immigration, where membership before the act or after the act is sufficient to allow for loss of status, and presumably that jurisprudence would be carried forward here. If somebody is a member before the act or after the act, but not at the time of the act—and particularly if that's the case before this legislation is passed—it would be improper to revoke citizenship or deem renunciation.
The eighth proposal is to provide as an exception to the ground of revocation/deemed renunciation for conviction for having committed an equivalent foreign terrorism offence that the conviction was imposed in disregard of accepted international standards. Again, that's an exception in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for the refugee protection definition. Right now the bill proposes that you could lose status for having committed a foreign terrorism offence, even if there was a conviction for that offence abroad, even where that conviction was imposed in disregard of accepted international standards. The reality is that many repressive governments accuse their opponents of being terrorists, and convict them of being terrorists, when the real crime is being opposed to the repressive government in place, and one has to make some allowance for that.
The ninth proposal would expand the grounds of revocation/deemed renunciation to include complicity in war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism, and genocide. Right now we are limited to armed conflict and a few other specifics. We believe the concept applies, and should be applied, to these other grave international human rights offences.
Finally, we propose authorizing revocation/deemed renunciation only where prosecution is not reasonably practical, because revocation/deemed renunciation is a remedy, but for some people who are already living abroad, it doesn't have much of an impact, and prosecution, if it's available, is preferable in terms of its deterrent effect.
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for coming this morning.
Mr. Chair, as everyone knows, this bill is based on my three beliefs: I believe in more pathways to integration; our troops deserve the highest respect; and in my view, Canadian citizenship is a privilege that deserves the highest esteem.
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the committee members' taking this bill very seriously and putting in all their time. I also appreciate the witnesses for their input, and specifically those witnesses who lost their loved ones in this kind of activity. They had to listen to all the other witnesses, to an extent, with my colleagues from the opposition basically shrugging away the victims' concerns and trying to defend offenders, I would say.
In my view, Mr. Chair, the individuals who attack those who give their lives or put their lives on the line to defend Canadian values, to defend the rights we enjoy here, should not have any right to Canadian citizenship or the privileges that come with that citizenship.
Mr. Matas, as you know, eighty percent-plus Canadians from coast to coast to coast have supported this bill, and of course your organization has supported my bill—I thank you for that. On top of that, during break weeks, etc., I had an opportunity to meet numerous Canadians from numerous provinces, and I have not found one single Canadian who would not support the intention of my bill, which basically says that those who protect our privileges and the rights that come with citizenship should have the right to citizenship as well.
I have attended all the meetings during this bill's study in this committee, and it saddened me, to an extent, when I saw some witnesses—and, as a matter of fact, some of my colleagues—suggesting that there is no due process in my bill. For the benefit of those members and, if they are watching, those witnesses, assume that section 18 of the Citizenship Act simply puts up the process under which the minister is obligated to, first, notify the person or individual affected. Then there is a judge who will make a decision, and that decision is appealable in the Federal Court. On top of that, the minister will also have the right or authority to change that decision.
My question, Mr. Matas, is very simple today, because we are talking about the bill and the assumed amendments, which I have to go through minutely.
In your view, once someone is convicted of any of these offences—terrorism, act of war, or, as you call it, armed conflict, or whatever we eventually call it—what minimum sentence should be required to apply to that convicted individual?
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
What will happen, Mr. Matas—and this is my understanding and this is my intention—is that once someone gets involved in the actions to attract my bill, which is terrorism or, as you talked about, an act of war, that individual has to go through the criminal procedure here in Canada. Obviously, that person will be convicted. Once that individual is convicted, what minimum sentence should apply? Do you think the minimum should be ten years, five years, two years, or one day? Do you have any opinion on that?
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:30
The amendment says sentenced to at least five years, in proposed paragraph 5(g), and for an equivalent offence it would also be five years—that's paragraph (c).
View Devinder Shory Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Matas, let me ask you this directly. In your view, should it be five years, or less, or more?
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:31
The issue of what the minimum sentence should be is not an issue that B'nai Brith has taken a stand on.
I noticed you referred in your preamble to the due process, and that's something we did address in the bill. I appreciate that there is a process. As you point out, there is the section 18 process.
The concern we have is that that's a different process from the process for revocation for fraud and misrepresentation that exists now. We should have a uniform process for revocation. It shouldn't be a different process depending on the grounds of loss of citizenship. It just gets too confusing.
As well, the process we have for revocation now, in my view, is a better process than the one that's set out in section 18. It goes straight to the Federal Court, rather than to the minister, the citizenship judge, and then to the Federal Court by way of judicial review, which is a lot more limited review.
I would encourage an amendment to the bill to have the same process for loss of citizenship under this bill as already exists for loss of citizenship under the Citizenship Act.
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to start by saying thank you. I think all of us, as parliamentarians, have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure we are doing our best to write legislation that is sound and is not in contravention of Canadian values or principles. With that in mind, I'd like to once again thank you. Your submission is very thorough.
Mr. Matas, in your opinion, will those with dual citizenship be targeted for further scrutiny if this bill is actually passed?
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:33
Certainly people with dual citizenship would be in a different situation from people with single citizenship. They would become vulnerable to this type of revocation or deemed renunciation, which persons with single citizenship would not become subject to.
I suppose it's true now that people who are not born in Canada and come into Canada can potentially lose citizenship through misrepresentation, which obviously somebody who is born in Canada could not. But this expands the potential vulnerability of people with more than one citizenship.
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
You spoke quite a bit about the revocation of citizenship for people who were born in Canada, and only know Canada as home, but may have dual citizenship.
Canadian citizens who are convicted outside of Canada of certain offences that are equivalent to offences in Canada are the people I'm going to talk about right now. The concern that many other witnesses in previous meetings have brought up is particularly of countries that do not share the same type of respect for judicial due process as Canada does, or rule of law or human rights.
Are there any safeguards in this bill to protect these individuals?
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:34
The answer, in a word, is no, not in the bill itself.
David Matas
View David Matas Profile
David Matas
2013-04-18 9:35
Yes. We propose the phrase for an exception where the conviction was imposed in disregard of international standards. That's recommendation 8.
That phrase is drawn from the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That phrase is found in section 97 of the act. The way the present law works is that you cannot get refugee protection if you've been convicted of a serious criminal offence abroad, except for an offence that was imposed in disregard of international standards. It would mean using that phrase in this context. That's what we're proposing.
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
If I heard you correctly, you mentioned that recommendation 8 is actually language that you borrowed from IRPA itself?
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
We heard from witnesses previously that this is really creating two classes of citizenship, those who are born Canadian and those who are naturalized Canadians.
Would you like to comment a little bit further on that?
David Matas
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David Matas
2013-04-18 9:36
Of course one would hope that most dual citizens would not be involved in these types of acts, so I wouldn't say that every dual citizen is somehow tarred by this brush. But we are dealing with serious offences and they need to be treated seriously.
Our first position, and what's preferable, is that people should be prosecuted. That's why we put in, as the last recommendation, that it should be preferred where “reasonably practicable”. It should be the first option.
But when you're dealing with a serious offence, I think it's important to bring the perpetrators to justice. It may well be that prosecution is not a viable option in those situations. I wouldn't say, well, we can't prosecute and we're not going to do anything. I think we have to use every legal means available to bring to justice the people who have committed these grave acts.
View Rathika Sitsabaiesan Profile
NDP (ON)
Along those same lines, I 100% agree with you that the majority of our dual citizens in Canada, and the majority of the people in Canada, are law-abiding citizens.
With this bill, with the revocation of citizenship, Canada as a country actually loses the jurisdiction to be able to prosecute. This is what we learned from a human rights lawyer, a professor, at the last meeting.
Is it important for Canada to maintain that ability to prosecute?
David Matas
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David Matas
2013-04-18 9:38
In the Canadian criminal jurisdiction for prosecution, the basic principle is territoriality, not personality. We would maintain an ability to prosecute.... I mean, we can prosecute foreigners who commit crimes in Canada. They don't have to be citizens of Canada. We can extradite people from abroad, whether they're citizens of Canada or not, for prosecution here if we have other jurisdictional ties.
Our position is that you do prosecution if you can, but if you can't, then.... I'm not even sure that worrying about maintaining the ability to prosecute is that valuable.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
NDP (QC)
Right.
Thank you for your presentation.
I have a question about what you proposed. You said:
The right to citizenship is a constitutional right.Revoking citizenship for whatever reason of a person born in Canada, raised in Canada, whose primary connection is Canada is arguably a violation of the constitutional right to citizenship.
Could you please expand on that?
David Matas
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David Matas
2013-04-18 9:39
Sure. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has rights granted to citizens. Section 6, for instance, says that every citizen has the right to remain in Canada.
As well, because the word “citizen” is embedded in the Constitution, it has constitutional significance. It is not necessarily limited or defined by the way the Citizenship Act defines it. There's jurisprudence in other countries.
In the United States, for instance, its Supreme Court has developed a constitutional jurisprudence—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Matas, it's great to see you here this afternoon.
When Mr. Shory introduced the bill—and we were there for second reading. I had always thought that the big push during second reading was to try to recognize the importance of landed immigrants who come to Canada, and that if they joined the forces, their citizenship requirement would be reduced from three years to two years.
Shortly thereafter, the members started to get a bit of attention or play on it. We had a Minister of Immigration who thought he would possibly exploit this particular bill's position on the order paper and bring in a totally different agenda. Now the focus seems to be more on terrorists and taking away citizenship, as opposed to bringing in his own bill. I suspect we will have a great problem with it because it denies us the opportunity to have a good, thorough discussion about what the government, as opposed to this particular private member, might be trying to do.
The charter does give rights to Canadian citizens, and they do have a right to be able to remain in Canada. With some of the suggestions that are being made in terms of potential government amendments, we could see that issue, in particular where there is dual citizenship. As you pointed out, someone could be born, raised, and spend their entire life here in Canada, and then maybe marry someone from another country, and as a result, that individual, because he or she has dual citizenship, could have their citizenship taken away.
Given your background, do you see any potential charter issue here? I would think I would have a right to my citizenship if I were born and raised here and had never experienced any other country. The only reason I might have access to another citizenship is through marriage or something of that nature. Do you see the establishment of two-tier citizenship here?
David Matas
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David Matas
2013-04-18 9:43
I was interested in your comments about the process, which relates to your question. I'll try to connect the two.
There's been a long history—over 10 years now—of various governments introducing amendments to the Citizenship Act to deal with revocation, for example, Bill C-16, BillC-18, and BillC-37, which have some good suggestions in them that we like. We've proposed that some of them be incorporated in here.
It's of some concern to us that all these proposed amendments—which would change the revocation process, which is not working now—are put aside, and instead we have this bill. There are some good things in the bill, and we support many of the components of it, but because it's a private member's bill—and this is a point your colleague Irwin Cotler has mentioned—it doesn't go through Justice charter scrutiny the way government bills do.
To answer specifically, yes, there's a charter right of citizenship, which is not limited necessarily to the way citizenship is defined in the Citizenship Act. It's open to anybody who loses their citizenship to say that this is a violation of their charter right to citizenship, regardless of what the Citizenship Act says.
I can't tell you whether a charter challenge like that is going to succeed or not, but it's certainly potentially there.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
In terms of that process being a government bill and the requirement to have some sort of a charter test done on it, would you suggest this is something on which there should be some sort of a legal opinion coming from the Department of Justice, as to whether or not it would meet a charter challenge? Should the government be concerned in any way with regard to what they're doing in terms of conflicting with the Charter of Rights?
David Matas
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David Matas
2013-04-18 9:45
I suppose all members of Parliament should be concerned at all times about that issue, absolutely.
I would say that generally, when the government endorses a private member's bill, it would be useful to have a Justice charter scrutiny on it. Of course we have some whistle-blower litigation right now indicating there's been a problem with that scrutiny, and it could probably be enhanced, but it certainly is better than having none at all.
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
We will reconvene.
We have representatives from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, all of whom have been here before.
As well, we have a representative from the Department of Justice, Mr. Glenn Gilmour, who is a lawyer with the criminal law policy section. I think you have not been here—though maybe you have—but welcome.
All of you have up to 10 minutes to make a presentation, which I gather is going to be made by Madam Girard.
You may start.
Nicole Girard
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Nicole Girard
2013-04-18 9:49
Thank you.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Nicole Girard. I am the director general responsible for the citizenship and multiculturalism branch at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
As the chair has mentioned, I am accompanied here by my colleagues, Ms. Mary-Ann Hubers, acting director of legislation and program policy; Mr. Eric Stevens, legal counsel for CIC; and Mr. Glenn Gilmour, legal counsel at DOJ.
I'd like to thank the committee for providing us with this opportunity this morning to contribute to your discussion of MP Shory's private member's bill.
As you are aware, the bill consists of two key elements. First, the bill proposes to fast track citizenship for members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are permanent residents by reducing the residence requirement for citizenship by one year for members.
The second element of the bill, which has generated quite a bit of discussion, consists of provisions that would deem a person to have applied to renounce their Canadian citizenship or to have withdrawn, in the cases of permanent residents, their application for Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian Armed Forces.
I'd like to take just a few minutes to address some of the concerns raised by the committee members, other witnesses, and stakeholders over the course of recent hearings. These include concerns about the term “act of war”, concerns about statelessness, and some of the issues raised about due process.
First of all, concerning an act of war, as the committee has heard, the term “act of war” is problematic. This is because there is no clear definition in law of the term “act of war”. As a result, the term “act of war” would be very difficult for us to apply and could render the deemed renunciation provisions in the second part of the bill ineffective.
To address this issue and to ensure that the bill achieves its intent, Minister Kenney proposed that the committee consider amending the bill by replacing the reference to persons who commit an act of war and specifying instead that the act would apply to persons who have served as a member of an armed force of a country or any organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada; have been convicted of high treason under section 47 of Canada's Criminal Code; have been sentenced to five years or more of imprisonment for a terrorist offence as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, or an equivalent foreign offence for terrorism; or have been convicted of specific offences under the National Defence Act involving traitorous or terrorist acts.
These amendments would be in line with one of the main objectives of the bill, which is to deprive or deny citizenship to those who commit acts of violence and treason against Canada.
It is worth noting that similar provisions existed under the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act.
Under that act, for example, Canadians could have their citizenship taken away if they committed acts of treason, if they served in the armed forces of another country that was at war with Canada, or if they unlawfully traded or communicated with the enemy during a time of war.
Under the current act, as was noted this morning, citizenship can only be revoked in cases where it has been obtained by fraud. Other democratic countries have analogous legal provisions to deprive people of their citizenship for reasons of treason or terrorism. For example, citizens of the United States can be deprived of their citizenship for being a member of an armed force at war with the United States and/or following a conviction for high treason. Australia also has a provision where citizens who become members of the armed force of a country at war with Australia can be deprived of their citizenship.
With regard to statelessness, the committee has heard and expressed concerns that Bill C-425's provisions could render people stateless. The deemed renunciation provisions, as currently written, would apply to dual Canadian citizens as well as legal residents of a country other than Canada. The challenge with this is that the potential result is that a Canadian citizen who is a legal resident of another country but who does not have another citizenship to fall back on could be rendered stateless. This would be in contravention of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, to which Canada is a party.
To ensure that Canada respects its international commitments in this area, Minister Kenney asked the committee to consider an amendment to ensure that only Canadians with dual citizenship, whether they were born or naturalized in Canada, would be deemed to have renounced their Canadian citizenship. It's important to note that similar provisions to take away citizenship in other countries, such as in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, also include restrictions to apply such provisions only in cases where it would not lead to someone becoming stateless.
With regard to due process, concerns were also raised in this area under the proposed bill and ensuring there would be appropriate safeguards in place. Under the current act, citizenship judges, who are independent decision-makers, are the decision-makers for renunciation cases. As the minister explained, for deemed renunciation of citizenship under this bill, the appropriate legal safeguards would be in place. CIC would gather available information to determine if the deemed renunciation provisions apply. The individual would then be notified and given an opportunity to provide additional information relevant to the decision. A citizenship judge would then make the decision as to whether or not individuals are deemed to have renounced their citizenship. In addition, individuals would be able to seek review by the Federal Court of a decision to take away citizenship.
Concerns were raised with regard to the possibility—and it was mentioned this morning—that an equivalent terrorism conviction may be from a country where there are questions about the independence of the judiciary or where membership in an armed force may have been the result of coercion. As the minister explained, to ensure that individuals in these situations are not unfairly penalized, the minister would retain discretion not to pursue applications for deemed renunciation for individuals, for example, where they may have been compelled to do something against their own volition. Such a provision would be in line with discretionary provisions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Once again, Mr. Chair, I wish to thank you for inviting us to appear before you today. I hope these remarks have been helpful, and we would be happy to answer your questions.
Thank you.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, through you, Chair.
One of the repeated questions that has been asked of witnesses seems to be perhaps what I feel to be a misinterpretation of the words. One is renunciation and the other is revocation. I'm wondering if you could just briefly explain the differences between those two.
Nicole Girard
View Nicole Girard Profile
Nicole Girard
2013-04-18 9:56
Thank you.
There are some key differences. This bill opens up section 9 of the act, which relates to the renunciation of citizenship. The key differences between renunciation and revocation of citizenship under section 10 of the act are as follows.
Canadian citizens can renounce their Canadian citizenship, whether they were born in Canada, whether they were born abroad to a Canadian parent as a Canadian citizen, or whether they're naturalized citizens. That decision is made by an independent decision-maker who is a citizenship judge.
This contrasts with section 10 of the act, which is the revocation provisions. The revocation provisions only apply in cases where citizenship has been obtained by fraud, and the revocation provisions only apply to naturalized citizens.
The third difference is that in fact it's not the Federal Court that makes a decision on revocation cases. That is a decision made by cabinet. The step of the Federal Court is an interim step, but revocation decisions are made by cabinet.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much. It's excellent to identify the differences.
The second is, again, that questions come up with almost all witnesses on the whole issue around charter compliance. In terms of reviewing a government piece of legislation and the legislation in a private member's bill, each individual ministry does indeed look at charter compliance. I'm wondering if you could comment on that.
Nicole Girard
View Nicole Girard Profile
Nicole Girard
2013-04-18 9:58
That's absolutely correct. I'll make a couple of comments and then I'll ask Mr. Stevens to add comments if he wishes.
We do that review. I think the question has been raised at this committee with regard to whether these provisions would be applying equally to Canadian citizens, and they would. A number of witnesses have taken pains to point out that the bill would address Canadian citizens equally, regardless of whether they were born Canadian citizens in Canada, or to a Canadian parent abroad, or whether they're a naturalized Canadian citizen.
Mr. Stevens, would you like to add some comments about the charter aspect?
Eric Stevens
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Eric Stevens
2013-04-18 9:58
Okay. There may be a slight misunderstanding here.
While it's true that the private member's bill is not drafted by the Department of Justice and therefore doesn't go through our process, what we're dealing with here is a situation where the issue that is most contentious, I suppose, is provisions about loss of citizenship. The minister has appeared and has suggested replacing the provisions that are in the private member's bill with a series of amendments. Now, all of those amendments have been drafted and approved by the Department of Justice and therefore have gone through the charter compliance test.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
One of the aspects of the amendments includes a provision for where a minimum sentence would be five years. When we went through Bill C-43 in terms of the issue surrounding the faster removal of foreign criminals, we actually lowered the bar in that regard to make it six months for serious crimes.
I wondered about your thoughts on a position in terms of how the amendments speak specifically to the length of time. If, for example, a judge were to hand out a sentence of five years less a day, would we still, based on the amendments, be able to have that individual say or state that they've actually renounced their citizenship?
Nicole Girard
View Nicole Girard Profile
Nicole Girard
2013-04-18 10:00
The short answer to that question is no. The amendments to the bill contemplate a threshold of a minimum of five years. Where a minimum of five years or more is imposed, someone could be subject to the provisions of the bill, but not in a situation of five years less a day.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Perhaps you could just comment on why the amendment suggests five years and why that was determined as a threshold.
Nicole Girard
View Nicole Girard Profile
Nicole Girard
2013-04-18 10:01
As members of the committee may be aware, terrorism offences under the Criminal Code cover a wide range of conduct. There is a maximum range for the offences, and it varies. For example, participation offences, which involve the offence of knowingly participating in any activity of a group for the purposes of enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to carry out a terrorist activity, have a maximum punishment of 10 years. The offence of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity has a maximum punishment of 14 years' imprisonment.
Much of the conduct captured by these Criminal Code offences is very serious. Some may even lead to a life sentence in prison. But there are other cases that may be less serious, so depending on the charge laid and the circumstances of each case, it's possible that a person may be convicted of a terrorist offence and may receive a much lower sentence than five years in prison.
The main consideration is that given the seriousness of the consequence of taking away someone's citizenship, even recognizing that they have another citizenship to fall back on under the amendments proposed for the bill, this would only occur in relation, it is proposed, to a terrorism offence following a conviction for terrorism where the court imposes at least five years, as you've noted.
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