I do not think I can agree to the suggestion made by the hon. member. We have been through all this before. I know the representations which have been made to him presumably by the same persons who have seen me.
Yes. As the hon. member knows, we discussed this at some length- perhaps not this particular detail, but the over-all theory of immigration-when we were revising the Immigration Act two years ago. And all but one member in that committee-and I think this was endorsed by the house-held the view that immigration could not possibly become a matter of law, and we did not want to get into the system which obtains in some other countries whereby we would try to define in a law those persons who could be admitted to Canada, so that one could approach the courts in this country and have a judge decide in an action at law whether an applicant came within the terms of the law.
We went into that matter at some length, and indeed the minister brought it to the attention of the committee, pointing out that the discretion vested in the minister was so extensive that, as the Leader of the Opposition said today, the power was so great that "even the minister might not wish to exercise it."
Nevertheless the committee did decide that the theory of immigration in Canada must be that the minister would be responsible to parliament to explain the policy in detail, and his administration of it; and if the administration of the act and of the policy did not meet with the approval of hon. members, then the minister would be subjected to such criticism as members felt they should make. It was felt that we could not have these things going through our courts with decisions being made on the law.
Starting from that, it seems to me it would not be possible, nor would it be desirable for that matter, to disclose to the applicants information which is on the file in this department, and which would lead the minister and those under him to come to a conclusion in a particular case. I did not understand my hon. friend's concluding words, when he said that hon. members do not have access to these documents. I have never hesitated to offer a file to any member who asked for it, always knowing that, under his responsibility as a member of parliament, such member would consider it confidential. Yet at the same time I know the hon. member has in mind cases where, to the applicants, it would seem that if they knew the problem in the mind of the official they could meet such specialized objection by producing new evidence. I shall not attempt to make a joke of a serious matter, but I could say that we have people who come to our office and say, "I am so and so; what do I have to tell you in order to get into Canada?"
That is something we do not want to encourage. So that I think we ought to leave it the way it is. I grant you that quite probably members of parliament in particular should be given all the information available to enable them to criticize a minister of the government. But I do not think that we can have an applicant going outside the department and suing in the courts in an attempt to prove his right to enter Canada. As I say, the committee decided that should not be done.
Yes, they did. And it was on the basis of Chinese who alleged that under the law they were Canadian citizens. They were applying for admission to Canada, and their admission had been refused by the departmental officials. The courts said that there is a legal right, and that this right is conferred upon them under Canadian legislation as it exists today. The departmental officials were ordered to review the decision that they had made, as a matter of law.
One of the cases involved the question of whether an adoption in China was legal, and whether our courts should recognize it and, if so, whether the immigration branch should recognize it and give effect to it on this application for admission to Canada. Therefore it is not correct to say, whatever may have been the intention when the committee had the Immigration Act before it, that there are no legal rights involved here.
Then, further, this applies, as I pointed out, not only to applications from these Chinese but it applies particularly where a deportation arises. I referred the committee this monring to the case where a judge of the Ontario supreme court felt it was inconsistent with standards of Canadian justice that the reasons for the deportation order should not be communicated to the person concerned so that her counsel could meet the case in court. I think, particularly in the case of deportation-
I am not familiar with the case the hon. member referred to first about the adopted child. I must say that my former remarks would be subject to that. But referring to the other case the Supreme Court of Canada did not say anything about legal rights whatever except that the department should process the case. The difficulty there was that the application was sent in. The officer concerned wrote a letter saying that because of certain circumstances we cannot proceed with the application you filed. The supreme court said that is not so; you must proceed with it. They made no decision whatever on the merits of the case, recognizing I think that they did not have the authority to do so.
With respect to the case in Toronto, my hon. friend is taking advantage of me just as his leader did, because it is before the courts in Toronto. I can show him that file,
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Supply-Citizenship and Immigration and I am satisfied, even though he is making the speech, that he himself would do as I did and order the deportation of that person.
That may be so. Mr. Chairman, but my point is this. I am not discussing the case or the merits of the case, I am discussing what was said by the judge obiter dictum. He could see no reason why the reasons for the deportation should not be communicated.
Good heavens, that indicates to me something which I find quite unacceptable, that the judges of our courts cannot be told the reasons for these things. The minister says he has adequate reasons, but that to me is perfectly unacceptable. Personally, the minister would have to do a great deal more arguing to satisfy me it was an acceptable proposition. I have a specific question to put before the committee with respect to the implications in these cases where the applicant urges Canadian citizenship. I have discussed this matter generally with the Chinese benevolent association, and it is my understanding that they are not really satisfied with the investigation that is made in Hong Kong. I do not want to be unfair to the officials there. They probably work under pressure and under difficult circumstances, but where these people claim and say that they can provide prima facie proof that they are in fact Canadian citizens by birth and have been back to China, then they should have the right to come here.
I understand they would not object to posting a bond or purchasing a return ticket. They should have the right to come here if their application is rejected and prove their case to the minister before a Canadian court. The minister, at least by inference, suggested that where there was a matter of law involved it might be regarded as a case not to be entirely at his discretion. There is a question of law involved as to whether this person is or is not a Canadian citizen. If they cannot prove that in court in Hong Kong, if they cannot assert their claim there, then I suggest it would be fair, and I think it would relieve the pressure on the department and might cut out a lot of correspondence, to have them come over here and submit their case to Canadian courts. Until they get the permission from the department they cannot make arrangements with the transportation company to bring them.
I have just one word on that. We are in a rather awkward position on these cases. There are not very many of them. I know of only three or four at the moment. These are people who approach our officers in Hong Kong and say: "We are Canadian citizens." It happens that the immigration department has nothing to do about Canadian citizens. They have a right to enter Canada by law. We cannot bar them and do not. It is the responsibility of the Department of External Affairs to deal with Canadian citizens abroad who wish to come to Canada. Nevertheless, it happens, as a matter of convenience, that our senior officer in Hong Kong functions in this particular case for the Department of External Affairs. I recognize the difficulty that confronts a person who says: "I am a Canadian citizen" to prove it, and of the officer abroad who has the responsibility of making a decision. Representations have been made about this matter, and I have been considering it to see if I can find a way by which no Canadian citizen would be barred from re-entering Canada because of the lack of information which there may be at the port where he is, if there is such information available in Canada.
I was glad to hear the minister say that the case of the children of Canadian citizens over 21 years of age- the father living alone in this country- would be given special consideration. That is the situation in many of these cases because of the fact that the families have been separated for years. I want to press the inquiry a little further, because I was of the understanding that the emphasis was just the other way; that if there were any members of the family remaining on the mainland, regardless of the situation of the father in Canada, that case would not be considered.
One question arises from the letter I read. What instructions are given to our representatives in Europe at the moment? When they are giving a picture of the situation do they take into consideration the fact that employment is not as good as it was a year ago? Are there instructions to try to give the clearest picture they can of the actual problem?