Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Jerry Pickard (Chatham—Kent Essex, Lib.)): Ladies and gentlemen, our other committee members are here now and we're ready to get under way.
Mr. Joe Byrne (Member of the Board, PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada) Note to Publications--Affiliation should read : Mr. Joe Byrne (Member, Board of Directors, PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada)
On the other hand, my comments are more directed toward the Citizenship Act, Bill C-18. The general tone in the introductory level should be applauded. There is a nice sense that our experience gives us here in Canada that people come looking forward to the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
We have, as undefinable as they may be sometimes, a sense of good Canadian values. And with newcomers coming in and having to deal with so many side issues and baggage that they bring from countries in war zones or with family de-unification, it's hopeful. If that tone could just continue to be reflected in the act it would give that sense of hope from us. It would also give that sense that we can take care of each other, not only in this country but towards the world.
There are some concerns that basically emanate from a general insecurity in the country that a number of mostly men behind closed doors can make decisions about people's lives without the proper checks and balances that come through a legal system.
Unfortunately, even though these bills are supposed to reflect the interests of the citizens, there's often not the buy-in at that level that we can have things in clause 17 or in the first legislation that allows a Federal Court judge to revoke the citizenship of Canadians without those individuals having the opportunity to hear the evidence or appeal the decisions. That should be revoked.
Also, that the minister would have the right to annul citizenship without the individual receiving the direct evidence, not a summary, is not acceptable. It denies the due process and doesn't meet the standard of procedural justice that we should be aiming for in this country.
Clauses 21 and 22 give cabinet the power to refuse citizenship without a hearing to due process. I would recommend that the committee give very clear guidance to the minister not to go there. That the minister has, in a lot of cases, some capacity to make decisions based on ministerial prerogative is fine. Revoking or annulling citizenship is not something that should be done without the person who's going to be suffering the revocation of that citizenship having the capacity to directly confront an accuser and respond directly to the evidence that's presented. That's much different from giving a minister the power to do that as opposed to giving the minister the capacity to override the denial of a visitor's visa to come visit Canada. The level is completely different.
I think it's pretty clear that the commitment that we have to fairness has to be not only outlined in the legislation but it has to be perceived to be present. The minute we give a whole series of opt-outs to the minister or to Federal Court judges to examine evidence behind closed doors and present summaries without identifying where the evidence emanates from or not giving people proper procedures to appeal a decision, then I think we're running the risk of actually degrading Canadian citizenship.
As citizens, we have to recognize we all have rights and responsibilities, and that means the right to appeal those decisions that are made contrary to our best interests. That's my comment for the citizenship.