May 3, 1993

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

CITIZENSHIP

LIB

Shirley Maheu

Liberal

Mrs. Shirley Maheu (Saint-Laurent-Cartierville) moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the Canadian Citizenship Act to ensure it reflects the evolving nature of Canadian society and considers Canada's commitment to diversity and individual human rights.

She said: Who are we, Mr. Speaker? For many years we tried to define who we are, to define a national identity. We know we are not American, yet we probably have more in common with our southern neighbours than anyone else. We know that we are no longer British, yet we have inherited many of our political traditions and symbols from Great Britain.

Canadians are aboriginal people who were here for a millennia before Canada was settled by Europeans. We are French and British whose ancestors laid the framework for a nation that today is the envy of the globe, a nation where citizens speak two primary languages, live in many different regions, belong to a host of different religions, ethnic groups and races, yet are fundamentally Canadian.

[ Translation]

In our northern country, it is our citizenship which unites each member of this House, regardless of our political stripe. Whether federalists or separatists, socialists or conservatives, we are all citizens of this great country.

Citizenship also unites millions of men and women who choose the Canadian citizenship. In spite of that, our citizenship is too often taken for granted. Too often, we think that citizenship has no real value.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Canadian citizenship is the key to our common future. It is a heritage that reaches back across the ages to our native roots and looks forward to a time when all Canadians will be equal, not simply on paper but in reality.

During the first decades of our existence as a nation, we, Canadians, did not have our own citizenship. It is only in 1947 that Paul Martin senior, a minister in the Liberal cabinet and a great statesman, brought in the first Citizenship Act in the Commonwealth.

Before any other nation of the British colonial empire Canada acted on its own to bring our own identity.

I believe that the passage of the first Citizenship Act was as a significant moment in history as choosing the maple-leaf for our national flag, the patriation of the Constitution and the proclamation of the charter of rights.

The passage of this first Citizenship Act meant that our community was evolving as a nation and demanding its place among other states, but citizenship, just like Canadianism, is a vague concept. As a country we change and evolve and so it must be with the notion of citizenship. This is why a Liberal government passed a new Citizenship Act in 1977.

The changing nature of our immigration necessitated a review of the original act. It has been 16 years since the last changes were made, and I believe that a review of our Citizenship Act is overdue. We should not merely examine the act as a legal concept, but also in terms of its emotional implication. We must come up with a concept

May 3, 1993

Private Members' Business

which enables us to take down the barriers between us, so that we can work together to build a better Canada.

I was hopeful in 1989 that the Conservative government would re-examine Canadian citizenship. I listened with interest to the throne speech on April 4, 1989 when the Governor General uttered the following words: "My government will introduce a new Citizenship Act".

This promise came along with a commitment to establish a race relations foundation and, Mr. Speaker, did you know that neither of them are in place today?

The government is quickly coming to the end of its mandate and after four years has failed to live up to its commitment.

Over the last few years, I tried to bring the matter before the committee, but the Conservative members refused to show up and, more importantly, the chairman of the committee refused to call the meetings. It is frustrating for members of the House to try to discuss an issue in committee. It is simply not acceptable to have a forum but to be denied the opportunity to look into the issue.

These frustrations motivated me to table motion M-731. Because the minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship refused to look at the issue, I decided it was my responsibility to bring it before the House.

.(1115)

I believe every member of this House has the right to address the issue of citizenship, explain what it means for them personally and share their ideas on the possible changes to the present act.

I believe that by debating this issue and then voting in favour of this motion we would be sending a clear message to Canadians about the value that all of us must place on citizenship, and we must be sending a clear message to the minister that we want the Citizenship Act revitalized.

We want the federal government to promote the concepts of citizenship and Canadian identity in order to enhance our pride in what we are and to build a sense of belonging among Canadians.

As a matter of priority, this policy should develop a sense of pride and inclusiveness. For too long, citizenship has meant equality in our laws only. We must make it an everyday reality for all. I know that such concepts are difficult to translate into legal texts, but we must accept that challenge.

Despite the difficult nature of attaining this goal I feel that these concepts can be incorporated into the spirit of the legislation. We can create the sense of inclusion by writing a preamble to the act that describes who we are. We can foster a sense of belonging by changing the nature of the oath of citizenship by making it more relevant to those who aspire to the title. We can create a stronger sense of identity by clearly outlining the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Finally, I believe that we need to re-examine the criteria for citizenship as outlined in the act.

There are also a few issues pertaining to citizenship that are directly related to the act and that must be addressed. Since they have not been discussed for a certain number of years in this House, I believe it is important to take note of them since they are essential to an active and efficient citizenship. I am speaking here of problems concerning civics courses, second language training and promotion of citizenship.

Canadians have the right to know where we stand on these issues which are fundamental to defining our identity.

We must realize that citizenship is not reserved for immigrants alone. It is something that affects each and every one of us whether we are first or fifteenth generation.

However, there are some things that affect naturalized citizens and do not touch native bom Canadians. People who aspire to obtain citizenship need to have information provided to them as to what is expected of them. They need to know what Canada expects from them to become citizens. In order for people to know what is expected we need to provide material that is sensitive to cultural diversity, and accessible to people who may be either illiterate or visually impaired.

May 3, 1993

On that point, I believe that learning material in civics could be available in audio and video forms. Written material should also be available in the mother tongue of new citizenship claimants.

Citizenship education courses should be made more accessible. All Canadians should learn more about then-past, learn about their political institutions and be encouraged to participate actively in society. We need to encourage a sense of unity and our diversity, a sense of belonging to a country in whose citizenship we have the right and opportunity to be different. We also need more effective second language training initiatives. If new citizens do not have command of either official language, they become marginalized. People are literally left mute by a country that does not give them the tools they need to be active citizens.

For years the government did not provide all new immigrants with the opportunity to learn one of the official languages. What this did was marginalize many immigrant women who found themselves in a new country with no linguistic skills.

Mistakes such as these should never be repeated and we must do all that we can to give these people the tools they need to become effective citizens.

The minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship must do everything in his power to promote the value of our heritage.

I congratulate the minister on his efforts to help Canadians reaffirm their citizenship. This is something all of us should do as it is a symbol of our faith in our country and its future as a nation.

The act needs to be changed as well. I believe that an important element in revitalizing Canada's Citizenship Act would be the drafting of a descriptive preamble. We need to consult broadly with Canadians on what should be included in the preamble. Canadians need to tell us how they want to describe themselves. Nevertheless, I

Private Members' Business

believe that certain descriptive characteristics need to be included to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion in Canadian citizenship.

We should define ourselves as a bilingual nation with great pride, and as a nation with a wide variety of cultures. We should also recognize the special place of the Quebec society and native peoples in our country. Moreover, I think we should stress clearly the rights and responsibilities associated with our citizenship.

We know that we expect citizens to obey the law, but how about a more detailed outlining of our responsibilities? I am not suggesting that people be punished for not fulfilling the responsibilities directly outlined in the Citizenship Act. However, I do feel we can tell people what we expect from ourselves. We should all be expected to respect the environment, to be responsible for the well-being of our family. We should have a sense of responsibility toward the well-being of our community and our fellow human beings.

People know their rights. They should be just as familiar as to what they should do to help Canada and Canadians prosper not only economically, but also socially and culturally.

I want to make it clear that I support the suggestion of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace that we amend the Canadian Citizenship Act.

As the oath currently reads, new Canadians and those who reaffirm their citizenship swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth and her heirs and successors. I believe it is time for a change. It is time for people to swear allegiance to Canada and Canada alone. This is not a rejection of the monarchy. It is time that new citizens pledge allegiance to something which is more relevant to our and to their experience in this country.

I also believe we have to look at the criteria for those to whom we grant citizenship. I am not convinced that the present day political geography quiz is the proper test. We need to re-examine this issue and perhaps look at different standards.

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Private Members' Business

It might be important to ask them how they will contribute to the Canadian society, why they want to become Canadian citizens, and what the word "Canadian" means to them. Being able to tell the citizenship judge who is the premier of Nova Scotia or who is the member of Parliament for one's riding has nothing to do with being a good and deeply committed citizen.

These should be the criteria for citizenship. The qualities of a person and their commitment to this countiy, not some Jeopardy quiz.

A few technical amendments are also in order. There should be a direct link between the multiculturalism and citizenship minister and the act, and the discriminatory section 3(b) on adopted children should be struck out.

Finally I believe there should be limits on the automatic loss of citizenship. A person must be notified that he or she is being stripped of citizenship pursuant to other sections of the act or if the person decides to renounce his or her citizenship. In this I refer specifically to section 8 where a person born outside of Canada to Canadian parents automatically loses his or her citizenship on reaching 28 years of age unless he or she expressly applies for citizenship. Why should a person not be allowed to renounce it if he or she does not want it?

I think all those points should be examined if we are to make our Canadian Citizenship Act more representative of the Canadian society. We should amend this act to better reflect the evolving nature of our society if we want citizenship to have a real meaning to our Canadian people. I hope all members in this House will join me in sending a clear message. We want a new citizenship act, a more modern act which would better reflect our current reality. I hope they will join me and vote for motion M-731.

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Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
Sub-subtopic:   CHANGES TO ACT
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PC

Peter L. McCreath (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter L. McCreath (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate.

I commend my hon. colleague for bringing this very important subject before the House. She is very right in saying that it is perhaps overdue that we should take a look at and make revisions to the Citizenship Act. Perhaps the time is appropriate for a more comprehensive set of inclusions within the Citizenship Act.

I know my hon. friend is very pleased to be aware of the fact that the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship has been participating in very extensive coast-to-coast consultations with Canadians which are targeted at responding precisely to what she is looking for.

I particularly find it interesting because five years ago David Crombie, the then secretary of state, the minister responsible for multiculturalism, initiated a process. He was very interested in doing some revisions to the Citizenship Act. I am sure members will recall the paper called Being Canadian that he published as a white paper or green paper. I do not know what kind of a paper it was but I know it was printed on white paper. I remember that at least.

In that paper he addressed a number of the issues that my hon. friend brought before the House today. I personally had an opportunity, as I was mentioning to her prior to the debate, to do a study on behalf of Mr. Crombie. I just found a copy of my paper.

Along with listening to her remarks I was reviewing some of the recommendations that I made in that paper at that time. It is kind of interesting. I would like to read some of them because I know they are things she would like to see in the act. I can read them since I wrote this paper and recommended them. Obviously, I think they are good ideas. Here is just a sampling of them:

Canadians who adopt the citizenship of another country should

not automatically lose their Canadian citizenship though the option

of revocation should be available to them.

May 3, 1993

One of the things we have done in Canada under the current act is to allow people to become Canadians without necessarily having to give up their former citizenships.

When I did this study this was something that was reacted to by native-born Canadians, people who were bom in Canada and became Canadian by birth. Some of them reacted to that. It is important to remember that as individuals we are what we are.

There are advantages to Canada in having citizens who can flow freely back and forth between this country and others. Here are some more:

That persons should not be required to renounce former citizenships as a condition of becoming Canadian, although the option should be available to them.

That Canadians who voluntarily give up their Canadian citizenship should normally have an automatic right to renew their citizenship if and when they wish.

That is an interesting one. All members of Parliament are faced with this situation from time to time. Perhaps a Canadian marries an American and goes to live in the United States.

Recently I was dealing with a case involving an elderly woman in her early eighties. She had become a widow. She lived in the United States and was no longer a Canadian citizen. That was 35 years ago. Her husband passed away. She wanted to come home to Queen's County, Nova Scotia and all of a sudden, she discovered she was not a Canadian. She would have to go through a complicated process. At one point, it was even suggested that she would have to apply in the normal process. That is ridiculous. Here is another one:

That Citizenship Act amendments re-establish two original requirements for citizenship. Specifically, that applicants be "of good character" and that they indicate their intention to reside permanently in Canada.

The point being made is that a Canadian passport is not intended to be a passport of convenience but something that is available and is one of the privileges and rights of being a Canadian citizen.

Sometimes one wonders, with all the things going on in the world today, if people are seeking Canadian citizenship not because they want to live in Canada but because they want access to a Canadian passport.

That the length of residence for citizenship qualification remain at three years.

Private Members' Business That is what it still is.

That the definition of residence for citizenship qualification purposes should normally necessitate the presence in Canada of the applicant for at least 75 per cent of the time required to qualify for citizenship.

That again addresses the whole issue of seeking citizenship for convenience rather than as a commitment to this country.

That for compassionate reasons the government should grant statutory exemption from the requirements for adequate knowledge of one of the official languages to applicants over the age of 60 who have come to Canada to live with one or more members of their immediate family.

That only makes sense.

That where citizenship has been acquired through fraud, false representation or concealment of material circumstances that citizenship should be revoked through a process in the courts by a justice in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Here is another one that was kind of interesting. It is a recommendation that the title of the office of citizenship judge be changed from judge to commissioner. When I did this study a number of the respondents indicated that for people coming from countries where there may have been oppression a judge was kind of a terrifying figure. The suggestion was made that to many immigrants the idea of going before a judge was scary whereas if the term was "commissioner" it was a less frightening prospect. That is where that recommendation came from.

The last recommendation that I will mention from this study, which I know my hon. friend will be pleased to hear, reads:

That the Citizenship Act be amended to include a general preface setting out the fundamental principles of Canadian citizenship.

I think that is one of the main thrusts of her motion. I see there is a certain harmony of opinion with respect to this and, if I do say so myself, it was not a bad paper now that I have had a look at it five or six years later.

One of the things the member mentioned in her remarks that I would fully endorse is this notion that our Citizenship Act tends to be targeted at merely the process of acquiring Canadian citizenship and does not address the whole issue of what it is to be a Canadian citizen because most Canadian citizens did not acquire

May 3, 1993

Private Members' Business

citizenship by immigrating to this country but were born into it.

I often wonder about the test that is given in the process when a person becoming a Canadian citizen goes before a citizenship judge and has to answer a quiz on Canada. I wonder how people would do if that test were applied to all Canadians. I wonder if they would all be successful on it.

She made reference to the quality of citizenship education and civic education in Canada. We in this place all realize that education is primarily a provincial responsibility, but the diversity of curricula across the country has always been a barrier to effective Canadian studies in my opinion. It is extremely important that there are certain basic pieces of knowledge about this country that should be a part of the fabric of every Canadian. They should know certain things about the country, what it is, what it comprises, how it is governed and that sort of thing.

Whether it is appropriate to address this in the Citizenship Act or not is another question. My inclination would be that it is probably not, but there definitely should be some interest. It seems to me that there is a federal interest in the quality of civic education, particularly in terms of responsibilities of citizenship as opposed to rights of citizenship.

She mentioned that the criteria should be re-examined. Perhaps so. Certainly in the study I did we took a look at that. We concluded that the basic three-year requirement with a residence requirement should be essentially the same.

She mentioned language training. One of the requirements of the Citizenship Act is that an individual should have to be able to function in one of the two official languages, which imposes an obligation on the government to ensure that opportunity is there. She raised the problem particularly faced by immigrant women who tend to be more in the home than out in the community and do not have the same opportunity to learn the language.

There is no question that if people do not speak the language of the community in which they reside they are at an incredible disadvantage, not just economically but socially in every way. It is one of the reasons that

immigrant women in many instances, and perhaps more so than other groups, face barriers to full integration and participation in our society socially, politically and economically.

Therefore there is a strong need there, which perhaps is greater than official language training to which we devote a tremendous amount of public resources in this country. Yet one would have thought that it was a basic part of being Canadian to learn to speak both official languages. It is an opportunity that should be there, though it is an opportunity that would not necessarily be taken up by all people.

I see that I am getting the sign that my time is up. I could go on at length on this subject but in closing I will again commend my hon. friend for bringing forth this motion. I assure her that it is a very high priority with the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship. I assure the member I will be supporting the motion when it is put before the House.

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Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
Sub-subtopic:   CHANGES TO ACT
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NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell

New Democratic Party

Ms. Margaret Mitchell (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of the motion by the member for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville and commend her for bringing this forward.

The motion asks the government to:

-amend the Canadian Citizenship Act to ensure it reflects the

evolving nature of Canadian society and considers Canada's

commitment to diversity and individual human rights.

I agree with most of the points that both my colleagues have raised. This is certainly a non-partisan issue. This is a question of great importance to all Canadians. The point the hon. member raised about swearing allegiance to Canada rather than to the Queen is again something that we should move to as quickly as possible.

For five years the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship-and I wish we could reverse the importance of those two words-has been proposing amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act. Amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1974 are long overdue. Our population has greatly changed and greatly increased. In 1974 we were a country of 12.5 million people. Now we have over 27 million people. We have maintained about the same proportion of immigrants each year, 16 per cent, but the numbers have greatly increased and the countries of origin have changed.

May 3, 1993

It is veiy important that our concept of citizenship and our Citizenship Act must reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada. It must be concerned to a greater degree than it is at present with the rights and responsibilities and the education of all our citizens, both native-born and immigrants. The present act pertains mostly to new immigrants.

As a country that is rich in cultural and racial diversity we have much to learn from each other as we forge ahead to redefine ourselves as a country and to clarify our goals as a unified nation. Any changes to the act should involve wide public education and consultation, which is in itself an educational process. Canadians should be encouraged to carefully reconsider what it means to them to be Canadian.

I agree with my Conservative colleague that we need more emphasis on civics and Canadian studies in all our educational systems, including adult education.

The Citizenship Act needs to be reviewed and updated to truly reflect the nature of modern Canada. We have come of age. We are a bilingual country that recognizes the two official languages of our founders, but we are no longer a white colonial society that can ignore the rights of aboriginal people and newcomers who are not of English or French heritage.

Canadian society has evolved and changed over the past 46 years. In the 1960s four out of five immigrants were from Europe, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. By the 1980s two out of three immigrants came from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Inherent aboriginal rights are now recognized by all governments and by most Canadians. Persons who used to be referred to in the Trudeau years as "others" and are now referred to as allophones, have full rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens, and they should not be seen as an adjunct.

We are all citizens of a multicultural Canada with equal rights and responsibilities. Although our Canadian culture is constantly evolving we have developed a common sense of beliefs and values. Canadians believe in democracy, justice, and the right of individuals to be free of hunger, violence and poverty. Canadians want a caring and compassionate society that cares for children and the elderly, that ensures education and jobs and promotes the universality of health care, the kinds of things that we were proposing in the social charter in the

Private Members' Business

constitutional draft. Our national values are reflected in the pride and participation of our citizens. Last summer's Voyageur program was very successful for young people. It was an exchange between different regions of Canada and should be an annual event to promote friendship and understanding between regions, francophones, allophones, aboriginal people and anglophones.

Our national symbols, our role in the United Nations and our international peacekeepers promote pride. These are the kinds of things we should not be shy about. We should be proud we are Canadian. Certainly those who travel realize very quickly how fortunate we are to be Canadian citizens.

Citizenship requires responsibility as well as rights. Citizens participate in the political process, in strengthening our communities, in eliminating discriminatory barriers and in supporting social justice ideals. The Citizenship Act needs to be revised to reflect these values and to include the commitments under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states in section 15: "Every individual is equal before and under the law".

New and old Canadians must accept this as a given. We no longer should have to challenge these rights under the charter. We must work vigorously to eliminate the inequalities and injustices that unfortunately exist in our daily lives and in society as a whole. Racism must never be tolerated.

Canadian citizens want to have equal opportunities in jobs, education and training. We prosper as a nation when people reach their full potential, when they are not ghettoized in dead end, minimum wage jobs, when the cycle of poverty is broken and violence in all forms is ended. The Citizenship Act must clarify policies for newcomers, as it has in the past, how they apply for citizenship, what are their rights and so on. It should be available to citizens, as my colleague has stated, in their first language.

There must be an increase in language training opportunities for all newcomers in order that they will be able to participate fully in Canadian life. This is something that has been very lacking. The cutbacks in language training and the cancellation of the SLT program are a real detriment to citizenship.

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The Citizenship Act should also be reviewed so that the legitimacy and the integrity of citizenship judges are clear. Judges should not be political patronage appointees. A review of the Citizenship Act must address how appointments are made, what qualifications judges should have and why citizenship judges are different from judges and courts other from the legal courts of Canada.

Amendment to the Citizenship Act must include a responsibility to develop citizenship education programs. This I cannot stress too strongly. I am very concerned about the cuts this government has made to citizenship training. Many new Canadians are better informed as to what it means to be Canadian than are those of us who are bom in Canada. We need to broaden citizenship education and make it meaningful to all segments of Canadian society, in the schools, through public programs using modem media techniques such as videos and television.

We must all have a better knowledge of Canadian history, including our ethnic history. The recent referendum showed that Canadians want to revitalize their citizenship and have an active say in public affairs. It is time for a review of the 1947 Citizenship Act. In amending the act we must do away with the distinction between Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice. Every citizen is part of our Canadian family with equal rights and responsibilities. Citizenship is a commitment between citizens with each other and with Canada. It is an active partnership.

I say to the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, let us get on with this important job right now.

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Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
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LIB

Mac Harb

Liberal

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be rising to speak in support of the motion of my colleague from Saint-Laurent-Cartierville. It is a very timely motion and I hope we will be passing this resolution unanimously at the end of the day.

I am happy and proud to be a member of the Liberal Party that introduced the first Citizenship Act in Canada, the party that has given Canadians the right to citizenship. From 1947 till now we have had a number of amendments to this act but it was not until lately that I

began to have direct interaction with the act as well as with the system as a whole, only to realize the large number of deficiencies that exist in it.

Currently a landed immigrant after three years is eligible to apply for citizenship. The first step for that person is to call the citizenship office in order to obtain an application. Like any other department, the person phones in and is told to drop by and pick up an application form. This is the first hurdle an immigrant is faced with, the fact that it takes not one day, not two days, not three days, not one month, not two months, but up to nine months to obtain an application form for citizenship.

The act says one is eligible for citizenship after three years but now it is three years plus nine months to obtain the application form. One obtains the application form, fills it out and then submits that form. You would be surprised to learn, Mr. Speaker, that it takes up to one year after having made the initial application, not to obtain your citizenship, but to have an interview with a judge. It is now three years, plus nine months, plus another year or four years and nine months before being able to see a judge in order to obtain citizenship.

I could repeat some of the horror stories I have heard in my riding of Ottawa Centre and throughout the national capital region. If it happened that the applicant was one of those unfortunate ones who had not received an education back in the old country, and had come here 30 years ago from Italy or 40 years ago from mainland China or Hong Kong, then he or she was not really provided with the tools necessary to obtain an education, never mind in English or French, but even in his or her own mother tongue. We are faced with the horror stories I am about to begin telling the House.

An applicant, a 63-year old lady, who had never been in school in her entire life and who had been in this country for over 37 years wanted to have an interview with the citizenship judge, only to be asked-and I will say this in French because I have the question here in French-

"What province produces the most oil and the most electricity?"

May 3, 1993

[English)

I do not know how many people would know nowadays. The level of production changes from day to day pretty well. Probably Newfoundland now can claim it has the potential to produce more oil than any other province.

Another question is: What province has the most forests?

It depends which province has cut the vast majority of the trees out there.

Another one is: Name the five Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

Another question is: Name the three levels of government.

This one intrigued me: Name the three levels of government.

I was a municipal politician and I was told, as are Canadians told, that we have, depending on the province you are in, four levels of government: the federal level; the provincial level; and in our case in Ontario we have what we call the regional level; and then we have the municipal level of government. Do not tell that to school-boards because they might get all upset because they consider themselves as another level of government.

I want to share with the House one question one applicant was asked. She was denied citizenship because she was asked: How do you vote? The applicant said she had put a check-mark in the box. She was denied the right to citizenship because she was told she had to put an x.

Private Members' Business

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LIB

Shirley Maheu

Liberal

Mrs. Maheu:

That is not true.

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LIB

Mac Harb

Liberal

Mr. Harb:

Mr. Speaker, I do not know. Many people vote with a check-mark or an x. Both of them are accepted.

Another applicant was rejected because one of the questions she was asked was: Where does the Queen sit? Innocently the applicant said she sits on a chair. That was wrong. She sits on a throne. Along with a couple of other questions the applicant was denied citizenship.

This applicant is 63 years or 64 years old and has no choice but to apply again. Five years later the applicant will apply and the same story will repeat itself.

I have a confession to make. I challenged all those applications that were rejected when I had had a chance to examine the background of the people. I discovered they are illiterate not only in English or French but also in their own mother tongue, especially those over the age of 55 years. I took their cases to the Federal Court. There again you are faced with a lengthy delay of up to about one year because there is a backlog.

The ministers already know about those difficulties and have not taken any action on them. To add to the agony of all the people in Canada in 1990 we had 114,478 citizenship applications and guess how many judges we have. We have 48 judges to deal with 114,478 applications in 1990. This adds up to about 2,000 applications per citizenship judge. It is highly unfair and cannot be done unless the system is looked at and unless the Citizenship Act is overhauled altogether.

I say this because a Gallup poll has released information indicating that 30 per cent of Canadians cannot pass the citizenship exam or test.

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LIB

Shirley Maheu

Liberal

Mrs. Maheu:

And foreign Canadians.

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LIB

Mac Harb

Liberal

Mr. Harb:

That is almost one in every three Canadians would not be able to pass the citizenship test.

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LIB

Shirley Maheu

Liberal

Mrs. Maheu:

Born Canadian.

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LIB

Mac Harb

Liberal

Mr. Harb:

Bom Canadian. I am not sure if native Canadians have been taken into consideration as part of the statistics. If not that will increase the statistics by 10 per cent.

Who are we kidding? The citizenship test as we know it, the Citizenship Act as we know it, does not fit the need and does not help to build a better citizen. We have

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Private Members' Business

to overhaul it so that we are bringing people into the system and integrating them, not scaring them away.

It is really quite intimidating for immigrants when they are told they have to appear before a citizenship judge. It is well known everywhere that when you go before a judge you are either guilty or innocent, so you go in with that feeling when you make an application or pass a test. To some of these people who are over the age of 60 and have not had a chance to go to an educational institution, it is quite intimidating.

I do not want to be the one who is always going after the department without making some tangible recommendations. I will run down these recommendations very quickly.

We have to acknowledge the problem of illiteracy and ensure the Citizenship Act takes that into consideration. We have to ensure that there are citizenship courses that are equally accessible to all applicants nation-wide.

As my colleague has suggested we have to overhaul the Citizenship Act to reflect the realities of the nineties. We have to ensure that citizenship judges are fully qualified. We have to make sure all references to judges in court have also been looked at.

We have to consult with all levels of government to ensure we have an educational system that in fact is educating the people about citizenship.

Finally we have to co-ordinate our efforts as a whole from the school-boards, the municipalities, the provinces and the federal government in order to find out what it is we are teaching those arriving in this country and what it is we are teaching our children when it comes to real Canadian citizenship.

There is a lot of work to be done. We have not yet begun and this is a chance for the minister to move quickly on this issue.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
Sub-subtopic:   CHANGES TO ACT
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PC

Louise Feltham

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Louise Feltham (Wild Rose):

Mr. Speaker, I too welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion of the member for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville because I agree with the principles contained in it.

Over the last year our government has indicated that it intends to introduce a new citizenship act as part of a comprehensive approach to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. The Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship feels that a new act should, to use the words of the member's motion, "reflect the evolving

nature of Canadian society and consider Canada's commitment to diversity and individual rights".

The issues covered in the motion before us today are already part of the basic premise of the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship. The department ensures that the evolving nature of Canadian society is well reflected.

This government takes very seriously its commitment to Canada's diversity and individual human rights. We are building a Canada in which our institutions, our laws and our way of life reflect the values all Canadians share.

What are these values? They include a spirit of generosity and compassion, a belief in equality and fairness, a commitment to consultation and peaceful dialogue, and a respect for diversity. Canadian citizenship reflects these values. Canadian citizenship is about promoting a sense of community affiliation, national identity and shared purpose. Canadian citizenship is about building a Canada where everyone feels at home. Canadian citizenship is about making sure everyone participates in building our future together.

Canadian citizenship should also be about responsibility. One of our colleagues has mentioned responsibility: the responsibility Canadians feel toward peace, order and good government, and the responsibility to ensure that true family values are promoted, that law and order are cornerstones of our society, and that we help the less fortunate, especially the elderly, the disabled and the children. There is a responsibility to be productive members of society.

Canadian citizenship ultimately is about full and equitable participation of all Canadians in their communities. We are already committed to diversity. Our multicultural society and its linguistic duality are founded on mutual respect. The right to freedom of expression, religion and culture is enshrined in Canada's Constitution and laws.

Increasingly Canada is drawing strength from this diversity. Newcomers to Canada are welcomed and encouraged to contribute to our future on an equal footing with all Canadians. Canada's commitment to human rights already is well established. The fight for a Canadian bill of rights and later the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Multiculturalism Act and the proposed amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act all indicate that entrenchment of human rights has been a major concern of all Canadian governments past and present.

May 3, 1993

Government Orders

However the government is not prepared to rest on its laurels. Our commitment to diversity and individual rights is not dormant.

We have an expanded view of Canadian citizenship that focuses on inclusiveness, equality of opportunity and responsible participation by all Canadians.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
Sub-subtopic:   CHANGES TO ACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the list of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   CITIZENSHIP
Sub-subtopic:   CHANGES TO ACT
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GOVERNMENT ORDERS

EXPORT DEVELOPMENT ACT


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-118, an act to amend the Export Development Act, as reported (without amendment) from a legislative committee.


SPEAKER'S RULING

PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-118, an act to amend the Export Development Act, all in the name of the hon. member for Cape Breton Highlands-Canso.

Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows:

The vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 4.

The vote on Motion No. 3 will apply to Motion No. 5.

Motion No. 6 will be debated and voted upon separately-

Motions Nos. 7 and 8 will be grouped for debate and voted on separately.

Motion No. 9 will be debated and voted upon separately-

I will now submit motions Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to the House.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SPEAKER'S RULING
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MEASURE TO AMEND

May 3, 1993