He said: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise and speak in the third reading debate on my Private Members' Bill, C-254, which proposes to amend the Citizenship Act with respect to the period of residency.
This Bill, although not a contentious or partisan issue, is of national significance to Canadians from all parts of this country who at any given time are serving our nation abroad in the Public Service. It relaxes the residency requirement for a non-Canadian spouse who, in my opinion, equally serves Canada when accompanying his or her Canadian spouse on duty abroad.
However, when my Private Member's Bill received second reading and went to a legislative committee it became apparent to me, on advice from legal professionals, that it, too, had its shortcomings and needed to be amended. Accordingly, the committee, under the direction of the Hon. Member for Hull-Aylmer (Mr. Isabelle), unanimously decided to amend the Bill as follows:
(1.1) Any day during which an applicant for Canadian citizenship resided with his or her spouse who at the time was a Canadian citizen and was employed outside of Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces or the Public Service of Canada or a province, otherwise than as a locally engaged person, shall be treated as equivalent to one day of residence in Canada for the purposes of paragraph (l)(b) and subsection 10(1).
The need for this amendment arose from an obscure point which, as I am not a lawyer, escaped my notice. If my original Bill had been allowed to stand it would, as an example, have permitted the spouse of someone hired to work for the
Department of National Defence as a clerk to have that time frame counted toward their spouse's Canadian citizenship residency requirement. This was not the intention of my Private Member's Bill.
The difficulty encountered by spouses of Canadians trying to fulfil the first residency requirements is great given the rotating nature of foreign employment assignments. Spouses of these Canadians who serve overseas on an on-and-off basis are never in Canada for a period of time long enough to fulfil the three-consecutive-year residence requirement. Each day of less than three years in Canada is erased. Therefore, one cannot accumulate years of residency during successive stays in Canada and apply them toward residency requirements, even though they are as much a part of representing Canada abroad as their spouse. My Bill would end this inequity.
The Foreign Service Community Association has actively supported this Bill and has stated that the residency requirement of the Act, as it presently stands, is one of the primary irritants of employment with the foreign service of Canada. I am pleased to see that members of the Foreign Service Community Association are today in the Members' Gallery.
It cannot be stated enough that spouses of all Canadians who are in the employ of our Armed Forces, External Affairs, and Public Service abroad deserve better treatment. This inequity makes it difficult for us to keep some of our best and brightest people in these occupations to serve our country. Canada deserves better.
A blatant example of this hardship is illustrated by the circumstances surrounding the wife of former Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Mr. Ken Taylor. Mrs. Taylor was ineligible to receive the Order of Canada for her role in the American hostage episode because she was not a Canadian citizen and could not become one due to the residency requirements. It is the duty of Members of Parliament not to let the renowned quality of our professional people in these occupations decline because of this inherent problem in the present Act.
In closing, it is my sincere hope that Bill C-254 will be concurred in today and unanimously passed so that it may proceed to the Senate for consent and Royal Assent. This would ensure that consistency can be brought back to the Citizenship Act and fairness restored to the treatment of Canadians and their spouses who serve Canada so well abroad.
I am sure that most Canadians are not aware of how difficult it is for a Private Member's Bill to reach the stage which my Bill has reached today. It requires a lot of cooperation. Therefore, I would like to thank the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark), the Secretary of State and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism (Mr. Crombie), and the Minister of State for the Treasury Board (Mr. Lewis) for their support and encouragement.
In addition, I would like to thank all my colleagues and in particular the Hon. Members for Kamloops-Shuswap (Mr. November 5, 1987
Riis), Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier), Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy), Glengarry-Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria) and Grand Falls-White Bay-Labrador (Mr. Rompkey) for their guidance and co-operation.
This goes to show that if a private Member does have good legislation, with the co-operation such as I have received, it can go forward in the short time it has taken this Bill to be passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to have the honour to speak again on Bill C-254 at this third and final reading stage. I will make my comments very brief because the Bill must be dealt with before six o'clock if it is to be adopted this day. That, of course, is my wish.
I would like to congratulate the Member who proposed this Bill as I did at second reading stage. I would like to reiterate his comment that co-operation on a good idea can result in worth-while and productive legislation.
The Bill with which we are dealing may be considered by some to be very minor in that it does not affect as large a number of Canadians as does some other legislation. Nevertheless, it is an important Bill in that some Canadians who assist the Government so well by representing us overseas are receiving treatment which is less than fair under the present legislation. This Bill would correct some of these inequities by allowing the spouse of a Canadian citizen to accumulate the time necessary to become a Canadian citizen while out of the country for the purpose of representing our country with his or her spouse.
The Member raised the case of the wife of Ambassador Ken Taylor who was not able to receive well deserved recognition because she was the spouse of a diplomat who had not remained in Canada long enough to allow her to qualify to become a Canadian citizen under the existing rules.
The average time spent abroad by Canadian diplomats is almost four years. Sixty-eight per cent of spouses of Canadian citizens working in diplomatic and other foreign service postings have accumulated three or more years when time spent abroad is added to time spent in Canada. Nevertheless, under the current legislation, unless the time spent in Canada is consecutive, these people do not qualify.
The Bill as proposed does not qualify everyone who is the spouse of a Canadian citizen who has been working outside the country for three years or longer. It merely enables them to apply. The rest of the tests would remain in place.
Mr. Speaker, for myself, as Member of Parliament for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and as the representative of a number of citizens in the National Capital region whose work could be negatively affected by the existing Citizenship Act, I am pleased to support this Bill to amend the Citizenship Act as it will benefit a great number of Canadians, and especially a
great number of people who will be able to become Canadians once this Bill is passed.
Having said this, Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take up more time because I would like other Members to be able to speak as I certainly hope that this House will agree unanimously to give passage to this Bill today.
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-254 is a triumph of common sense over bureaucracy and fusty thinking which I am afraid has prevailed for some time and has really been discriminatory against spouses of Canadian employees working abroad, particularly in CIDA and Canada's foreign service. Many of these spouses have ably and strongly represented Canada abroad, as diplomatic spouses must, despite the fact they could not, themselves, gain Canadian citizenship because they were not in the country long enough at any one time to meet the qualifications.
I want to congratulate the Hon. Member for Etobicoke North (Mr. Pennock) for his persistence, as well as congratulate the Foreign Service Community Association for their excellent work in lobbying, assisting, and supporting the Hon. Member.
Last night I was thinking that this was actually a time of good news in the world. The Soviet Union is changing its tune and contributing to the United Nations, China has accomplished a revolution as the veterans give way to new leadership, and Jerry Falwell is going back to religion, leaving politics behind. Perhaps we should have a newspaper like this, containing all the headlines of which we have dreamed but have not occurred. I think, in a small way, one of the back pages should reflect that we saw common sense with respect to foreign service spouses and other spouses of Canadian employees abroad.
The amendment which was agreed to in the legislative committee is useful. I believe it demonstrates that perhaps it made sense for some sober second thought on this particular measure. The amendment simply ensures that if a person is married to a non Canadian, who happens to be employed by the Government of Canada, and is posted or working abroad, they would not inadvertently be allowed in the door to gain Canadian citizenship possibly without ever having set foot in Canada.
Much of Canada's foreign service marries non Canadians. I, too, am married to a non Canadian, who has since become a Canadian citizen. The reason is that 1 spent six years in England, at about the time when people become interested in settling down. I met my wife with whom I have been for some 25 years now.
Obviously, the reason that half the foreign service are married to foreign born spouses is because foreign service officers spend half their time abroad at about the time they are
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getting engaged in these types of things. However, I will not interfere with biology and natural predilection, as I am afraid the law was doing until now.
It is interesting to note as was the case with Ken Taylor, our Canadian ambassador in Tehran, that many spouses of foreign service employees could not gain employment with the Government of Canada upon posting back to Canada because they were not Canadian citizens. That is real discrimination, considering the fact that they had no choice but to come to Ottawa where their spouses were being posted. In many cases, their training, education or skills quite possibly qualified them to work in different areas of the federal Government. However, they could not do so.
People who have been married to Canadians and working on behalf of Canada for up to 10 years could not take such jobs because they had not resided in Canada long enough to meet the requirements. Therefore, I am happy to support this Bill. I congratulate the members of the Foreign Service Community Association and I note their presence in the gallery. They have worked hard to see this occur. They have every right to be pleased and 1 am happy to join the House in what I believe will be unanimous consent on third reading of this Bill.
I trust that Government Members will ensure that proclamation and Royal Assent to the Bill will take place as soon as possible so that the spouses of foreign service personnel will have the Christmas present for which they have been waiting so long, and will be able to make their applications to become Canadian citizens.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise once again, this time on third reading, to support the worthy initiative of my hon. friend, the Member for Etobicoke North (Mr. Pennock).
I believe that this Bill to amend the Citizenship Act is a good example of how well this House can work when we seek to redress an injustice in a rational, conscientious, and workmanlike manner. The Bill corrects a wrong that has persisted for much too long. It is apparent that the difficulties faced by the non Canadian spouses of our foreign service representatives present practical and personal problems for Canadians serving their country abroad.
I represent a constituency that has a number of Canada's foreign representatives, ranging from officers in the foreign service and their families to members of our Armed Forces. I am well aware of the importance that this Bill holds for them. It means that their spouses, once citizens, can look to employment with the Government of Canada to pursue their careers. It means that the awkward feeling that comes with uncertainty about citizenship will no longer be a regular feature of a foreign service career. It means that the possibility that some of the best people will leave the foreign service, because their spouse's eligibility for citizenship will be threatened, will disappear.
I am confident that we are not sending out the wrong signal to all Canadians or to the rest of the world. We are not giving preferential treatment to people who want to come to this country. I believe that Members from all Parties in the House will agree that what we are in fact doing is providing the Citizenship Act with fairness and consistency in an area which it previously lacked.
A survey of 160 spouses of foreign service personnel reveals that 108 have been married for over three years. Only 16 have met the present residency requirement of three consecutive years in Canada. It is safe to assume that the large majority which has not met this requirement would have done so if their spouses would have been posted at home.
This Bill directly affects only a relatively small number of people. However, that fact does not detract from its importance. As I said, the Bill is a good example of how the House, in a simple and straightforward way, can provide benefits to all Canadians.
For the foreign service personnel and their spouses, it means the end of frustration and uncertainty. For all Canadians, it means that we can remain confident that our foreign service will continue to attract the best representatives for Canada abroad.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 66 deemed to have been moved.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-NICARAGUA-UNITED STATES FUNDING OF CONTRA ATTACKS/REQUEST THAT GOVERNMENT URGE HONDURAS TO HONOUR ITS COMMITMENTS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to a question that I raised some time ago during Question Period. It is still unresolved and I hope to hear more from the Hon. Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark).
It was almost a year ago when I asked a question in the House concerning events in Central America that are still
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current today. I asked, as reported at page 1402 of Hansard for November 21, 1986:
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for External Affairs. Will the Minister tell the House, when he meets with the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. George Shultz, in what terms he plans to convey the repugnance that Canadians feel toward the continuing violation of the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States by the U.S. continuing funding of terrorist Contra attacks from Honduras into Nicaragua?
With that, and a supplementary question, the answer I received from the Minister was that he would be talking to Mr. Shultz. Otherwise, he said, he would take my question under advisement and perhaps give me a more detailed answer on some other occasion. A year later, Mr. Speaker, I am still hoping for that occasion.
Since that time there has been one considerable development toward peace in Central America, and that is the plan put forward by President Arias and adopted by the other four presidents, with him together, in July at Esquipulas in Guatemala. There is some considerable hope that after many, many years of disappointment, there may be some greater peace in Central America.
Today, November 5, is meant to be a day for identifying the compliance of countries with certain basic requirements of the plan. There has been some discussion about whether certain countries are in compliance and the one which has been the most controversial in our media in Canada, of course, has been Nicaragua. There has been great pressure by the United States Government, and even by President Arias and some others, to have Nicaragua negotiate, enter into dialogue and conversations, with the leaders of the Contra. These leaders of the Contra are not in Nicaragua. They are not among those who are carrying on armed opposition to the Nicaraguan Government. They are sitting safely and comfortably in Miami. They are apparently being funded and fed by the American Government and they and the CIA direct the Contra from a thousand miles away.
The position of the Nicaraguan Government, quite reasonably, has been that it will not negotiate with those gentlemen in Miami because they are not representatives of Nicaraguan elements, they are representatives of the American Government, doing what an American Government tells them to do. In fact, the Arias plan does not require that Nicaragua negotiate with the armed opposition, anymore than it requires that President Duarte of El Salvador negotiate with an armed opposition. What the Arias plan requires is that governments will initiate a dialogue with all unarmed internal opposition groups and those who have availed themselves of the amnesty. The governments of these states commit themselves to undertake all the necessary steps for achieving a cease fire within the constitutional framework.
Nicaragua, I am happy to say, has undertaken those obligations and is carrying them out. It is the first regional
government to establish a commission on national reconciliation and it has taken a bold step by appointing to that commission Cardinal Obando, the most famous and outspoken, unarmed, critic of the Nicaraguan Government. It also appointed the leader of the popular Social Christian Party who leads the largest opposition group in the Nicaraguan legislature. This reconciliation commission has been continuing work that has been done for a couple of years by churches and others within Nicaragua by arranging cease fires on a local basis, and it has had successes.
When I was there a year and a half ago and visited the east coast, I saw the results of some of those successes. They have in fact persuaded some of the groups to lay down their arms. The Sandinistas have also offered an amnesty to the Contras who gave up their arms. They have allowed radio Catolica back on the air and have allowed La Prensa to resume publishing. They have released some of the prisoners. On the other hand, the Contras have been kidnapping more prisoners. They have been carrying on attacks even on unarmed people, as is their custom, except in such cases as the local commission, headed by men such as Cardinal Obando, who have been able to persuade local Contra groups to cease fire.
Therefore, I urge the Canadian Government to support the Nicaraguan Government in its stand to deal with the people as the agreement says, unarmed internal opposition, and it should not be obliged to deal with the Contra leaders who are sitting in Miami.
Mr. Jean-Guy Hudon (Parliamentary Secretary to Secretary of State for External Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, Canada's stand in favour of a peaceful resolution of the crisis that afflicts Central America is well known. We do not support attempts to overthrow the Nicaraguan government by force, the objective the contras are seeking to achieve. We have also publicly regretted incursions into Honduras by the Sandinista army of Nicaragua in pursuit of contra forces. The Honduran government has shown great restraint in the difficult position in which the contras' presence places it, and has sought to keep its own forces out of the conflict whenever possible. There is no scope for Canada to apply special pressure on Honduras on the contra question. Our position opposing third party intervention and supporting the peace process has been made clear on numerous occasions already to all parties in the region.
The persistence of violent confrontation reinforces our belief that the underlying economic and social causes of tension need to be adressed by programmes such as those of Canada's development assistance efforts.
Canada's aid to Honduras is humanitarian in nature and is not given on the satisfaction of certain political conditions. Honduras is the second poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti and the poorest in Central America. It is our only priority country for aid in the region, and has received just under $44 million in the 1982-86 period. These funds have gone to support humanitarian objectives: the development and
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conservation of renewable resources, the creation of employment in rural areas, and the improvement of nutrition and health in rural areas. Projects have been in the forestry, agriculture and health sectors.
The Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark) will be visiting all the countries of Central America later this month and will have an opportunity to discuss these matters with the Honduran government and to visit Canadian aid projects.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to say that I learned today that the peace group set up in Central America to find a solution to this conflict did indeed reach its deadline today, but that it was given a sixty-day extension to find a solution to the conflict.