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A permanent resident of Canada who has made an application for Canadian citizenship is deemed to have withdrawn their application if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian armed forces.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.