Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price (Compton—Stanstead, Lib.)): Good afternoon. We're back, and up and running.
Welcome, Mr. Pidruchney. It's good to have you with us. We'll get right to your presentation, and we'll see if we can find some questions after that to try to wind it up even a little bit more.(1320)
Mr. Bill Pidruchney (As Individual): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the panel. It's a pleasure to be here. Welcome to Edmonton. Thank you very much for the opportunity to make a presentation.
I know you've heard a lot of material on this topic, particularly on citizenship and Bill C-18, so perhaps there'll be some overlap with points that have already been made. But the issue is important and I think it's important to collect views on each particular point.
The first thing I'd like to do is acknowledge and thank your excellent staff for looking after us so well and arranging all of this. Mr. Farrell and his crew have been very polite and helpful in all respects, and it's certainly nice to welcome them aboard as well.
I have provided you with my notes for an address in the package that I've provided to you, as well as a copy of a brief that is more detailed in quoting clauses of the bill that I refer to. In addition, as one of the appendices to my brief, I've added an excerpt from the Canadian Bar Association brief prepared by their citizenship immigration section in November 2002. You undoubtedly have that in your records somewhere as a committee, but they make --
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Did they present that before us in committee in Ottawa?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Yes. They make very good points.
My background is that of a lawyer. I am a retired lawyer now, and I've been very involved with multicultural and ethnocultural communities for many years in our community. I was born and raised in Vegreville, right next door to Edmonton. I don't fall under the duress caused by either this particular legislation or the current act in section 10 on deportation and denaturalization, but my concern is primarily that of a Canadian who is hoping that our country is going to maintain its reputation in the world as being the haven of freedom, the haven of security, and the haven of opportunity without any kind of cloud hanging over us.
Essentially, what my material says is that part 2, as proposed, in Bill C-18 is bad law. It is bad law in the legal sense and it is bad law in a moral sense, and as a result, my proposition is that part 2 in its entirety should be deleted from the bill.
Realizing in practicality that this bill may never come to life, my alternate proposal is that section 10 and the corresponding sections related to denaturalization and deportation in the current act be withdrawn, retracted. It's a two-prong approach, because it is a heinous section whether it's in one act or the bill.
I think Bill C-18 breaches law so extensively that it is probably subject to a constitutional challenge. The problem with a constitutional challenge is that it has to be initiated by citizens, it's an exceedingly costly process, and it takes a great deal of time. That is why we hope our Parliament will see fit, as a matter of fact, to make the changes that are necessary without the necessity of putting citizens through that mill as well.
It is my submission that the existence of the ability so summarily to denaturalize people and deport them creates a climate of fear in the country, in Canada, and that's a circumstance in which we do not wish to live. In preparing for this, I've spoken to a large number of people, and they indicated that they didn't realize this power even existed in the hands of the government. It's only now that this realization is coming to fruition.
I would point out that the Governor General of Canada is a naturalized Canadian whose family came here as immigrants and she too is subject to this act being applied to her. I cannot foresee anybody in the country agreeing to that being a satisfactory law.
Of course, the entire legislation is terribly discriminatory and contrary to all laws against discrimination because it selects its audience with partiality in that it selects only naturalized Canadians. People born here may be as bad as they possibly can be and yet not suffer this very severe penalty of deportation.
Clifford Olson cannot be deported for murdering 12 to 15 young ladies in this country. Gingras, who is still in the penitentiary here in Edmonton and who has killed three people in Calgary and Edmonton, cannot be deported. Yet here we have legislation that says that for possibly lying on entry or making misrepresentation or some falsehood at the time of entry to Canada, which may or may not be provable, or only has to be proved to a balance of probabilities as beyond a reasonable doubt, people can be deported. That is an extreme and cruel and unusual punishment in the terms of the Constitution Act, in my opinion, and in the terms of the charter, and probably contestable as well as to whether it is a suitable penalty.
We should be living in a society that is striving very hard with a vision to become and continue to be the foremost model of democracy. The question now is whether we are making advances in this direction, and I submit that this legislation is a reversion to a less democratic society.
We live in a democratic society, we say, and this means that we have government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and that the individual is paramount to the state. In other words, in a democracy the individual is really the state, and the state is a servant to its citizens and provides those things that the citizens can't provide as individuals, which are things like protection, safety, and security, as a minimum, and of course, it to be the guardian of the laws and ensure that the laws are administered in a fashion whereby they provide that safety, security, and protection.
So if we get bad laws and bad administration of them, I submit that this amounts to a breach of faith, a breach of promise, a breach of guarantee. But bad laws and bad administration do happen, and part 2 of Bill C-18 is very bad law. We have been let down and it's our job to correct it.
Citizenship is one of the most valuable things that a person can have. Without citizenship, you are like a ship floating on the open sea; you are stateless. One of the bad aspects of denaturalization and deportation is that once you lose your citizenship you are probably stateless. You have no right of entry to any country in the world. You may just have to spend the rest of your life on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
I find this law so offensive that I have given it a label called stripping and shipping. It will strip your citizenship and ship you out of the country.
To me, it's significant that citizenship is a status. Status means a relationship. It is not a licence like a driver's licence that can be withdrawn; it's more like a relationship between a parent and child. Whatever happens between a parent and child through their lifetime, good, bad or indifferent, the relationship of parent-child exists, and that's what citizenship is in relation to its government and to its other citizens.
So it can't be dealt with lightly. We have these promises that were actually made and are documented by our government respecting the rights of citizens. In his poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, Robert Service said that “a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code”. From what I see of it, the act with its current D and D, or strip and ship, and the proposed Bill C-18 create a trail that is paved with broken promises.(1325)
I know you're familiar with them, but I'd like to quickly refer to section 6 of the Citizenship Act, which confirms that the citizen has status. It says:
|A citizen, whether or not born in Canada, is entitled to all rights, powers and privileges and is subject to all obligations, duties and liabilities to which a person who is a citizen under paragraph 3(1)(a) is entitled or subject and has a like status to that of such person.|
That is confirmed again in Bill C-18, which says virtually the same thing. In clause 12 in particular, under rights and obligations, the citizenship bill says:
|All citizens have the same rights, powers, privileges, obligations, duties, responsibilities and status without regard to the manner in which their citizenship was acquired.|
That says two things. It says you have status, and it says we have equality without discrimination.
Section 15 of the charter also strengthens that under the heading of equality rights. It says:
|Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular|
and it goes on to list the kind of discriminations.
So we have the promise of equality, and this legislation contravenes it. We have the guarantee and the promise of status as a citizen, and that is contravened by the legislation. We have a promise of equality. It's locked up in the law, in the charter. It's being broken. We have a guarantee of no discrimination in the law, and that is broken as well.
We can't have laws that are bad. Section 7 of the charter, of course, as you know, promises us security and the right of no deprivation thereof. And we don't have that, because the processes involved here breach fundamental justice as it relates to the conduct of criminal or other kinds of cases. The process -- and you're very familiar with it, I'm sure -- ignores the presumption of innocence, which is preserved in paragraph 11(d) of the charter.
I know the charter applies particularly to criminal proceedings, but it is my submission that these laws do a very sneaky thing. They avoid coming under the description of being criminal in order to avoid the burdens of proving criminality beyond a reasonable doubt. And they slide off, as it were, they pull a subterfuge on us by holding immigration hearings based on the issue of entry.
But they breach another very fundamental part of our law. The Federal Court is involved in listening to and making a determination on facts of the case, but it has no right to make any decision on the disposition of the case. That disposition is made by politicians, namely the cabinet. This is unique, I think, in the history of the world. I call it a split trial thing, the two shoes.
A respondent in this situation has to go through one process with the courts and waits for the outcome and for the first shoe to drop, and then if it drops, he has to wait for the second shoe to drop from a different place. If I understand the legislation correctly, he has no right of appeal to the cabinet decision, perhaps no right of representation to the cabinet about whether or not he should be deported, and he has no rights of appeal that are inherent in ordinary criminal matter, because the courts have said, if the Federal Court has not made a decision, there is nothing to appeal from.
So this is very clever boxing. If it was intended to deprive anybody of their rights, it was very cleverly planned. I hope it wasn't planned to deprive people of rights, because that would be terrible.
The legislation requires that the respondents be compelled to be examined on discovery in this process of an immigration hearing, before any hearing takes place. That doesn't happen in a criminal situation. In a criminal situation, Charter section 11(c) says you have the right to remain silent in a criminal proceeding. But here you're compelled to report for an examination for discovery, which is a civil procedure. Failing that, if you don't show up or you refuse to answer questions, you can be jailed for contempt. So you're stuck in a box. It's either/or; you're going to be punished in some fashion, one way or the other.
In the matter of deportation, I think it's cruel and unusual punishment. It's unusual because it happens very rarely anywhere in the world, but what it does is make the respondent a stateless person. It takes his nationality from him, and nationality is something everybody should have. As I understand it, there is no consideration given for the deportee's family. That person can be deported and his family left at home to go on welfare, or become a burden on society, or do whatever else they wish. Presumably, after deportation, visitation within the family is not going to be as frequent as the family would prefer. Infants can be left, children can be left without a parent.
For a capital murder in Canada, you can be sentenced for a maximum of 25 years in jail, or life, but that's reducible, as we know, on various kinds of appeal—faint hope and parole, and all sorts of things—and even if you go to jail in Canada, it's a fairly comfortable place, from what I'm told, and at the taxpayer's expense. But deportation is being sent out now.
Deportation may cause international problems as well. Other nations may not want to receive deportees. After all, why should they take our junk from us, as it were? If these are really bad people, they don't want them any more than we want anybody else's offcasts to be sent to Canada.
So it is cruel and unusual in an unusual way, but I believe it probably can be challenged on that alone.
And if we're an honourable country, if we take our place among nations as we're supposed to, we should deal with our own problems.
One of the answers here to this whole situation is for Immigration to do a better job of screening at the time of entry. There is no obligation on the government to grant citizenship. After the three-year interval here as a permanent resident, they can review a person, review the record, and say, “I'm awfully sorry, you're not a citizen. You're not entitled to it. Now you'll have to do what every other non-citizen does, perhaps go back to your home country.”
There is some suggestion of preserving and enlarging section 10 of the current act into Bill C-18, likely because there's a post-9/11 fear about terrorists gaining entry into the country. That's where we have the opportunity to stop them. We don't have to accept them. We should bear in mind that down in the neighbour U.S.A. some years ago there was an inordinate fear of communism. It gave rise to what is now known as McCarthyism, which I think now, in the hindsight of history, we can understand is an inquisitorial and a very damning and destructive process. That kind of process probably damaged the United States and the integrity of that country more than communism ever did.
We have to ask ourselves the question: are we looking at a form of Canadian McCarthyism here, where we're picking out classes of people, labelling them, bringing them into a process that is incomplete and not fair, and then burdening them with a very serious one?
In World War II we confiscated properties and interned thousands of Japanese Canadians for the duration of the war, and longer in some cases. Now we realize that this was a monstrous event. It was an overreaction to a fright that existed at that time. Our laws failed to protect them, and I remember people saying and the government saying, never again will we discriminate like this; we have learned. Yet these things are still within our memory. We have obviously forgotten. We are going to continue to discriminate. So we have to resist this kind of overreaction.
It's not a justification abrogating the legal rights of citizens. Of course there will be undesirables trying to enter Canada. Our system cannot be perfect. We will allow some of these people to come in. But we have a process of dealing with them now through the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act passed in 2000. We have the ability to prosecute people in a proper criminal fashion, whether they committed their atrocities internationally or domestically. We have broad jurisdiction to deal with anybody in Canada through that act. We are a signatory now to the International Court. We have our rights of extradition. We can ask that people be extradited for crimes they've committed in other countries if we wish.
In other words, we don't need this legislation to begin with. We really don't need it if we have a problem here. There are other processes and agencies with which we can handle this thing.
I don't think we should be casting a blanket of suspicion over the 6 million naturalized Canadians who are with us today, virtually all of whom are law-abiding, contributing members of our society. By doing this, we hold them hostage in a constant climate of fear of the possibility that they may be the next victims of stripping and shipping, regardless of the time that has passed. I know that a limitation of five years has been proposed. There shouldn't be a limitation at all. Let's do our due diligence in examining them when they come into the country. If we are satisfied that they are acceptable as citizens once we've given them the citizenship, that's right. It appears to me that a refugee who has just touched Canada's shores, has not done anything more than that, has more rights in the legal process than do naturalized citizens. I think this puts this in total context.
The courts and the justice system are already regarded dubiously. I have a quote from the former justice minister, who's an Edmontonian, in which she says our courts are in bad shape, our law is disregarded, and the state of justice is in disrepute generally and is going downhill; we have to do something about it. That's from a speech she made in Edmonton in 1998. The answer is yes, it is, and the reason it's going into disrepute is because of stuff like this. Parliament and our political institutions are held in low esteem. I think the only comfort lawyers have -- and I can say this because I am a retired lawyer -- is that probably the only group of people held in lower esteem than lawyers are politicians, present company excepted.
Parliament, as you know, has been accused of being dysfunctional lately. It was just a few weeks ago that Mr. Preston Manning from Calgary, in an article published in our local paper, talked about the democracy deficit that exists in this country, which he very much wanted to change. Bad laws and processes such as these are samples of why Parliament is losing its credibility. The average Canadian is an educated, intelligent, and concerned citizen who knows what's going on. We understand what's going on there, and we understand the disabilities. We know when we are being flummoxed, and on stuff such as this we are being flummoxed.
We can screen out undesirable applicants through the immigration process at their entry to the country or at the time they apply for a grant. We can refuse to grant citizenship whenever we are in doubt or whenever we wish. Our criminal laws and judicial system provide all the processes we need to prosecute improper cases.
One of the solutions is perhaps to turn any inquiries in this area into actual criminal procedures. I have already mentioned the new Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which gives us a brand new venue of prosecution for war crimes and crimes in the international domain, and I have mentioned extradition.
In conclusion, I submit that we should repeal the offending sections of the current act, which are sections 10, 11, and 18, and totally scrub out part 2 of Bill C-18. We should not agree to the retention of any of part 2 . I have heard some people say that we can fine-tune some of these sticky things. I don't think so. Part 2 is fundamentally sick law. It really should be eliminated. We should make it clear to the world, particularly to our naturalized citizens, that citizenship is something that's not going to be trifled with, for any excuse, lame or otherwise, in any fashion at all, not even the tainted, undemocratic, un-Canadian, and contemptuous inquisitorial process that I think part 2 is.
The whole concept of revocation, annulment, and deportation is offensive to democracy, fundamental human rights, and the Canadian conscience. Better that we should act on this now and cure the problem rather than watch the slow disintegration of our democracy, judicial system, and parliamentary system into governance.... Unfortunately, this is how nations and democracies fail -- by small increments, one little step at a time. It's never one big collapse that happens; it's little increments that may not even be noticed by people until it is too late.
So the time to start the rescue of our democracy is now.
Thanks very much. I'll be pleased to answer any questions.(1345)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much.
I have a couple of short clarifications. By the way, I liked your S and S instead of D and D. That's interesting.
You said you're a retired lawyer. What field of law did you work in?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Primarily civil law. I did civil court work, a lot of real estate work, mortgage work, etc. I did the occasional civil pro bono trial, etc.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
The only reason I asked is that we get accused a lot of the time of having immigration lawyers here on a regular basis, and they tend to have biased views, let's say.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: I've never done one in my life.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): That's great.
One other thing, are you saying that there should be no revocation of any kind, under any means at all?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Absolutely -- except by a Canadian criminal process. If Parliament decides it really has to have revocation, let's have a full-fledged judicial process to make the determination, not leave it the way it is now, where it could be politically driven, politically motivated. That is terribly dangerous.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Okay.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, Canadian Alliance): Very good. I reiterate your thoughts. Do it at the front end with due diligence and due process. Make it difficult to become a citizen, and once you become one, you cannot lose your citizenship.
So how would you do that? How would you make it tough enough? Once they get through the immigration, is it enough to ask them to know Canada, to have the attachment, say the oath, and have the ceremony? What would you say we should do to make this very important step?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: If I were a dictator of this country -- and I would be a very benevolent dictator, just to make that clear -- I would restructure the system very dramatically.
First, I would make the immigration and refugee process a proactive one, where we have a team of people who, in the first instance, would set out a schedule of the countries they would visit in due course, over the next few years, say a 10-year program or something, and realize our team would be there. We would review people in their home country. We would get the feeling of what the population of that country is saying about some of the people. If we have a deposed dictator or some terrible person in that country, the citizens will know about it. So we will do the first blush of a really good review abroad. We won't even do it in Canada.
It's the same with the refugees. I believe we should go out and select our refugees. I think the law is making a big mistake in saying anybody who touches our soil has the right to come here. We've seen the consequences. They're all floating around without citizenship, lost, off the map, as it were. There are a few thousand people in that category. It's not fair to them and it's not fair to us.
I would say let us go to the countries that have a refugee problem. Let us select the refugees and let's ensure we have a really good program to make sure they fit into society when they get here. We can do our worldly function that way.
I would do the same thing with immigration. Just say that we will select them in their country rather than having them select us, and then, when they come to Canada, they'll have the three-year period of permanent residency before they can even apply for citizenship. At that juncture we just need a lot of good investigative sources to check out their backgrounds.
The interesting thing is you can just about do that by going to whatever cultural group comes from that particular ethnic or national group, because these people know each other; they are all working together.
I've had friends say to me, I don't know why we admitted that person, because I'm from this African country, and that person abused people I know, etc. Sometimes these are actually false things said to get revenge, as we know, and you have to work your way through that. But the thing is that if it's legitimate you know it. So our immigration people should be dealing with the ethnocultural communities closely as well.
Yes, we may have to put a few more resources into Immigration. But we have resources we can allocate them that are sometimes misallocated right now to other sources that are wasteful.(1350)
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Concerning your comment that citizenship is a status, what do you say to those people—and we heard this more times than I have ever heard it defined as status—who say it's a right? Some people will say it's a privilege, but more people have tended to say at these hearings that it is a right.
What do you say to that?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: That the status is a right: is that the question?
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: That citizenship is a right. You say it is a status. You say it is just that, that citizenship is just a status. You're not saying it's a right; you're saying it is a status—right?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Citizenship springs into existence only when one person makes the oath and the government accepts the oath.That's it. There's nothing before that point that counts.
I don't think anybody is entitled to citizenship. If they are, I believe the current act makes provision for somebody to take action to try to get citizenship. I think there's a provision to go to the court or a hearing of some sort. I'm not sure of that section of the act.
No, I'm sorry; maybe it's that if a person is declined a grant, the person may be able to have that reviewed in some fashion. But I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that part.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: What do you think of citizenship judges? Are they an important part of determining citizenship? The role is being turned over to citizenship commissioners, and I'm just wondering what you think of the role the judge plays. Or are you very familiar with what kind of role they play?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: I'm somewhat familiar, but I don't believe their role is fully investigative. It's more of an administrative role, just to make sure people pass the examination and qualify in other respects and so forth. I know some of the judges and have been in the courts from time to time to address and welcome newcomers.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: What you're saying is if all the investigation is done at the Immigration level we wouldn't need any changes at all as far as citizenship judges go; it's just an administrative duty they have.
Do you have any comments on dual citizenship at all? What do you think of it? Given that you have really emphasized the status of being Canadian, what do you think of allowing people...? Not that it's even up for debate—it's not—but I just wanted to know if you have any comments on allowing people to have dual citizenship.
The question was brought to my attention at coffee break: which one of the two countries, if they are having some problems, do they swear allegiance to? If there are two countries at war with each other, which one do they swear allegiance to? If it were, let's say right now, with Iraq and Canada and they have dual citizenship, which one do they swear allegiance to?
Do you see where dual citizenship maybe is not a good idea? Or do you have any comments?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Well, it does exist, and I think Canada recognizes dual citizenship. You're quite right, once you take an oath—an oath is an oath, and you've taken the same oath essentially to both countries—it poses a problem. We may want to perhaps establish a primary citizenship where there is a duality.
My very limited experience with persons who have dual citizenship is that it is largely an administrative matter. Somebody living here from Italy, for instance, can get his pension from his work and time in Italy without any problem, because he has a citizenship in that country.
I myself, whose ancestors are from the Ukraine, had the experience during the time of communist rule in Russia of being encouraged by a letter sent to me to apply for dual citizenship in Ukraine. I was very suspicious of that, and I tracked it down and discovered that as far as I could tell, one of the reasons was very, very political. They wanted me to have citizenship so, should I ever visit the country of my ancestors, they would have jurisdiction over me immediately and could nab me and jail me for something that perhaps my ancestors might have done there in their time.
That in fact actually happened to a few people who took out citizenship; they then couldn't get back out of the Soviet Union and come back to Canada, because the Soviets said, I'm sorry, you are one of our citizens; we can keep you in jail on our terms.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.): Thank you for your testimony.
You mentioned Clifford Olson, and I couldn't help thinking that if Clifford Olson were a naturalized Canadian, he would have the same outcome: he'd go to jail. I mention that because it really clearly demonstrates that one of the most horrific crimes can be committed, yet when Clifford Olson was convicted for the dastardly deed he did, we could not strip him of his citizenship. Meanwhile, if you can prove under the present faulty system that somehow an immigrant did not disclose something when coming into the country, you can.
So we have a way of handling people who commit very, very serious crimes in Canada, people such as the terrorist who was convicted of being part of blowing up the Air India plane; we are dealing with that person by locking him up in jail.
The absurdity in some ways is that if we had a rule in Canada that if you are a visitor to this country and you rob a bank, we are going to take away your visitor's permit and deport you out of the country, no doubt paying your airfare back to where you came from. Of course, we would never want to do that, because if somebody does that kind of crime, we want to put them in jail to let the world know there is a cost to be paid if you commit a crime in Canada; otherwise, we would have all sorts of visitors buying one-way tickets and robbing banks. I think that's important.
One thing that bothers me is -- and maybe you can make a comment on it -- suppose we don't have a bill that will replace the existing one. We have real problems for real people and real tragedies taking place right now, and of course a little more than a half-dozen caught up in the present system. If we don't have a new bill, do you think it would be advisable to make a reference to the Supreme Court as to the legality of the bill?
I say that because it's very difficult for an individual to finance, to survive, a very lengthy process to get to the Supreme Court, whereas the government could say, we have questions about the legality and we want to make a reference to the Supreme Court to have a ruling.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: It's a good question, and I think a reference to the court is one of the possibilities in this case. My concern as a lawyer is, if I referred part 2, there would probably be 25 issues within part 2, legal issues the court would have to deal with. Now, it might just declare part 2 unconstitutional on just one of those grounds, but there would be plenty of grounds, so it would be a substantial brief to the court.
But yes, the court is there. As both of us realize, I think, it's a terribly expensive process for individuals, and it takes time. Of course, commencing a reference, even if we did it today, would not stop any difficult proceedings against anybody who's in the mill. So should we consider that? If this bill dies on the Order Paper and if nothing is done about section 10 by withdrawing it from the current act, then perhaps we should consider something like an amnesty on all cases and just stop the process there.
There are two things. There's the law, and the law may lie dormant. If you don't use it, it doesn't hurt anybody. That's the way D and D sat in the old act for many, many years. It was only in 1995 that Minister Rock pulled it out as a backstop because of the fact that he couldn't get any criminal prosecutions for war crimes and said, well, we're going to throw people out of the country on a pretext, as it were, under the subterfuge argument.
We have the law, and then we have the process itself. We have people in the process, and I think it would be a very fair thing to hold off on all further steps until it's clarified by the Supreme Court.(1400)
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: There's one thing I want to sort of defend in our present system, and that's taking refugee applications inland. It is fine when there is a situation where someone can go to a safe place to escape persecution. The situation comes to mind where the Americans were very much supportive of the Pinochet dictatorship after Allende was overthrown. We had thousands of people from there making their way to Canada because they felt it was the only safe place where they could apply for refuge. Going to a refugee camp was not an option for them because the Americans would systematically ship people back to that regime. They found their way into Canada and made application here, and I think a little more than half are still here and making a contribution to the country.
I put that out there because sometimes we try to say that there are good refugees and bad refugees, but sometimes good refugees don't have an opportunity to apply for refuge any other way. I'll just put that out.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Point well taken, but in an emergency situation like that, in a perfect world, maybe our immigration team could go to that country.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Sit on the border, then, or just this side of it and say, all right, we'll talk to every refugee who comes in here; we're going to find out whether or not you're a legitimate refugee or whether you're going to plead that your husband will abuse you if you go back home, that type of thing. That is, as you know, a case that actually happened.
That process is much abused largely because it's in Canada. If it happened in another country, it wouldn't take as long to resolve those things.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
I have one little question just on the end of things. I have been asking everybody if they have any thoughts on this new Canadian national identity card, if you've already seen anything about it or have any thoughts. It's just an idea that's floating around out there now. There's nothing solid done on it, and we're really looking for input on what people think of the possibility of doing that.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Well, I didn't come prepared to talk on that topic, but I was warned by previous witnesses that I might be asked this question. It seems to be one you're putting to each of us, and I guess that's fair enough.
As a matter of fact, I can go on the record because I've taken a position in a newspaper column I wrote. I used to write a column for a number of years. I said at that time, the technology is such that it allows us to use microchips as a system of identification. This is already being done with animals -- no disrespect to animals -- so it could be done to humans as well.
Again, it doesn't offend my sense of anything -- privacy, propriety, morality, or anything else -- to have everybody in the world identified under a universal system, preferably one every country subscribes to. The installation of a microchip is at the moment one of the most secure ways of doing this because it overcomes the problem of all the fraudulent cards that are around, credit cards, passports, driver's licences, etc. These things proliferate. You can buy them downtown in Edmonton if you need any before you leave. I'm not suggesting it, but it's a big industry now, this falsification, so it's a very appropriate question to consider.
Prior to microchips being invented, I would have said use a tattoo, but the moment you mention that, of course, you bring back all the horrible memories of Hitler and Germany and the Holocaust. People are repelled by the idea of that form of identification, not because of the form of identification but because of the association with the camps, which were very inhumane and very terrible.
But I have no problem in saying that as a child is born or as the immigrant comes in, give him an identifier and it will save everybody so much trouble. You put your hands up; it's like going into a dance hall where you get a rubber stamp.(1405)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I want to be clear on that. We aren't talking about anything like that.
What we are talking about really is a citizenship card with biometrics, and that is open, too. It could be an eye scan; it could be a fingerprint, or a photo, but at least a couple of forms to make sure the person who is claiming to be that person is that person.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: We already have an identity card from Canada. I have a SIN card that has been allocated to me. I have a card to prove it and I have, I think, a senior's card with the same number on it. So what are we talking about?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): But they're very easy to forge and copy—
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Of course.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): —and that's what we are trying to get away from. At least, that was the idea behind it.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Well, with respect, you can lose your card; it can be stolen from you; it can be duplicated, etc. The card isn't going to cure it. And if you set up machinery to scan the eyes and scan the fingerprints, etc., the cost is going to be horrendous.
One microchip, once in your life, good for life anywhere in the world.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Okay, thank you very much.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We now have before us the Alberta Association of Immigrant-Serving Agencies. We are going to be talking about Canada's settlement and integration programs.
Welcome. Since we don't have a brief in front of us, I guess you have the floor and can present your brief directly. We have to pay attention; we can't just read.
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul (New Neighbours Coordinator, Edmonton Immigrant Services Association, Alberta Association of Immigrant-Serving Agencies): It won't be very long. Good afternoon.
I'm Dulari Prithipaul, the coordinator of the New Neighbours program at Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. I have my co-presenter with me, Dr. Ana Maria Fantino, who is with the Catholic Social Services.
We are both speaking on behalf of Alberta Association of Immigrant-Serving Agencies, which is an umbrella organization of most Alberta immigrant-serving local agencies. This association was formed in 1980 and it serves as a platform for most of the local agencies to identify and recognize the needs and concerns of immigrants and refugees in the province.
The organization is comprised of 17 member agencies from seven communities across Alberta, and we serve a minimum of 14,000 new immigrants and refugees annually. In addition, AAISA has a strong volunteer base. Over 3,000 volunteers are involved in the delivery of support services.
AAISA works very closely with all levels of government, national organizations, mainstream agencies, ethnocultural communities, and business communities across Alberta.
Our representation, what I will address, has to do with Bill C-18 in regard to citizenship.
AAISA is committed to the principle that all citizens should be treated equally, regardless of their place of birth or their religion. However, the association feels Bill C-18 does not reflect this principle, as one's citizenship could be annulled or revoked without access to a transparent and fair process.
The association finds that Bill C-18 fails to protect the rights of citizens to a fair and transparent hearing. A Federal Court judge can revoke an individual's citizenship without that citizen being permitted to see the evidence against him or her. We've been apprised that they get only a summary of the investigation.
Now, in this position, AAISA members feel they're supported by the position of Mr. Gordon Maynard, vice-chair of the national citizenship and immigration section, who said, “As it stands, the legislation allows for the use of secret evidence against citizens in hearings where their citizenship is being revoked. Canadians will not tolerate 'star chamber' hearings”. That is a quote from the Canadian Bar Association, November 29, 2002.
Furthermore, under Bill C-18, we find that we only get a summary, and AAISA recommends that annulment of citizenship should be made by an objective, independent decision-maker. If citizens are to be treated equally, they should have the right to a hearing with full due process rights, including the right to notice, to disclosure, and to counsel. This is a position also taken by the Canadian Council for Refugees during the November 21, 2002, hearings in their comments to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Furthermore, AAISA members feel that Bill C-18 denies some children a certain right to citizenship, making them stateless. Second-generation Canadian citizens born outside Canada do not have the right to pass Canadian citizenship to a child born outside of Canada. This will result in the statelessness of the child. AAISA affirms the position that a child born to a Canadian parent should not be allowed to remain stateless.
With the increasing global statelessness of persons, AAISA recommends that the Canadian government be a signatory to the 1954 convention relating to the status of stateless persons and that it align the proposed citizenship act accordingly.
We hope the government will effectively communicate the changes to Canadians, particularly to immigrant communities.
Thank you. I'll pass the word on now to my friend and co-presenter, who will address integration and settlement issues. We will take your questions jointly afterward.(1410)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino (Program Manager, Language Assessment Referral and Counselling Centre, Community and Immigration Service, Catholic Social Services, Alberta Association of Immigrant-Serving Agencies): Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing us to make this presentation to you.
Alberta's immigration is on the rise. From recent statistics we know Alberta welcomed over 16,000 newcomers to Canada in the year 2002, which is an increase of 14% from 2000. The increase has continued throughout 2002.
On a national level, Alberta welcomes the fourth-highest number of immigrants among all provinces, taking approximately 6.5% of all immigrants to Canada. We all know new immigrants face a variety of challenges and sacrifices as they begin the long-term process of settlement. They certainly need assistance at different stages—not just at the very beginning, but at different stages of their lives and adaptation process.
AAISA and its member agencies provide services to facilitate the timely settlement of immigrants. However, there are some key issues that require attention as we enter into a decade of escalating immigration to Alberta.
First, the composition of immigrants has changed in two different ways. There are more people with higher levels of English and professional qualifications who expect to be able to participate in a more significant way in the life of the province. And—this is the other extreme—there are more people coming from very troubled conflict areas, particularly refugees who have complex challenges and problems when they arrive. Excellent services to both of these groups are certainly now more expensive than the service we provided historically.
The settlement sector suffers from chronic underfunding and lack of recognition as a bridging service to the mainstream Canadian society. AAISA strongly supports the recognition of settlement services as essential services in the integration of immigrants and refugees.
We are certainly appreciative of the federal programs, particularly from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The programs are ISAP—I'm sorry to use acronyms; ask me if you have doubts—ISAP, LINC, HOST, and RAP. We should, however, point out some limitations.
First is the restricted eligibility criteria. Only recent newcomers are eligible for these services. They exclude anybody who has taken out Canadian citizenship and, of course, refugee claimants. There is also a very limited number of hours allotted to initial settlement—sometimes a matter of minutes, if you divide the number of newcomers into the hours allotted to each agency to serve those immigrants or refugees.
There are limitations to the number of hours allotted to learning English or French as a second language. There is a lack of learning opportunities for immigrants with medium to high levels of English. LINC, the national program, covers only very basic levels of English. Once you have learned that, you are supposed to get employment. But sometimes these are highly qualified people who cannot find any meaningful employment.
There was in the last few years a shift from case management, which we used to do in the past, to only a limited service of information and referral. When counsellors have only the time to say “go there”, that's the only possibility.
We certainly support accountability for our programs in all ways. We have always supported that throughout our history as agencies. However, we experience now an excessive demand for reporting, and it's leading to micro-management of what we do, which takes time away from the real work we need to do, which is to assist immigrants.(1415)
As to the national funding formula, despite a 14% increase in immigration to Alberta, federal government funding for settlement and language programs in Alberta was reduced by 2.26% for the fiscal year 2002-03, and further cuts are expected in the next fiscal year. There is an urgent need to address this situation. A new formula that brings more funding to Alberta out of the national total is necessary and fair in the intermediate term.
Given the need for more immigrants in Canada and the more complex needs of some immigrants, there is also a need for the federal government to increase funding to CIC—Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Based on the numbers we have presented and the future trend of immigration to Alberta, we believe some action should be taken to change the current distribution of settlement funds across Canada and also to work towards increasing overall government funding to CIC, which will ultimately permit settlement agencies to meet the increasing demand for these services.
We propose a revision of the current formula for allocating funds across Canada such that provinces receiving 10% or fewer of immigrants receive a base level of funding that ensures an adequate level of services regardless of the number of immigrants.
In this area, the last point is the recognition of credentials and past experience of immigrants and refugees. There is a waste of time and resources, and particularly a frustration on both sides, when people who are highly qualified can only find employment in entry-level jobs. More coordination is needed among numerous departments at the federal, provincial, and professional association levels; in particular, at the federal level, coordination between CIC, Human Resources Development Canada, Industry Canada, and Heritage Canada.
We have strong support. In terms of the provincial settlement, we have here in Alberta strong support from the Province of Alberta through the joint federal-provincial integrated service program, which I believe is unique in the country. It has been working quite well for about 20 years in joint decision-making in funding, planning, and delivery of settlement services, which include interpretation, orientation, information referral, supportive counselling, employment counselling, job search, etc.
Also, we have strong provincial support in the delivery of the English as a second language program.
They support the settlement of immigrants and refugees in smaller centres throughout Alberta and they support, obviously, the infrastructure that is needed to be able to do that. In a sense we have created welcoming communities, and they are able to retain immigrants.
In terms of the geographic distribution of immigrants and the proposal to encourage newcomers to settle more widely, AAISA supports the settlement of immigrants in smaller centres, but with certain conditions: that there be an overall respect for mobility rights, so that people still have the option to leave if they don't feel accepted; and that there be investments made in securing meaningful employment, access to services, opportunities for learning, and a welcoming environment for newcomers. Alberta has always supported this mix of helping newcomers go to smaller and larger urban centres in the province by supporting settlement services in those centres.
A last point is on immigrant health issues. Of particular emphasis is the need to increase access to counselling and mental health services—especially for refugees, although not exclusively for refugees—and the need for delivery of health and social services in the French language.(1420)
Thank you very much for your attention.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much for your presentation.
We'll start with Lynne for some questions.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: I just want to know, Ana, do you have a budget for the body you work under? Are you the ones who are allocated the funds or do the funds get allocated to you as the service provider?
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: Right now we are making a presentation for AAISA, which is an umbrella organization of all the agencies. Yes, the individual agencies are funded through what's called ISP, the Integrated Service Program, which is a joint program with funding from the federal government's ISAP program, or HOST, or LINC, or RAP—any of these four programs—and the Province of Alberta.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Do you have an idea how much per immigrant you would like to have? Do you have some dollar value in mind to cover the program?
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: Not really.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: You said that sometimes they are not provided these services for long enough, that they are cut off these services far too soon. How long would you say some of these services should be available to newly landed immigrants? It would vary, of course, from refugees to sponsored immigrants.
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: Well, of course the priority would be refugees. They -- not always but usually -- require a more intensive type of attention at the beginning and then some follow-up afterwards.
But in general the consideration here is that settlement is not a very quick process. It takes time; it takes longer, certainly, than the funding allows us to help or assist people. We—all agencies—work not to create dependency but to make people as independent as possible as quickly as possible.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: You said your funding has gone down, even though the immigration level—
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: The federal funding.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Oh, the federal funding. Who now does the counselling for mental health and mental health services?
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: We don't do it. There is no funding in the federal or provincial finance sources for professional counselling. It's only a support type of counselling, which is not professional counselling. The mainstream agencies, Alberta Mental Health and the hospitals and so on, are doing it. As we know, mental health is an issue for all Canadians, not just for immigrants. But immigrants get certainly less than mainstream Canadians.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Okay, I'll pass it on.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Thank you very much. You obviously have been doing some preparation, following the work of this committee. I commend you on your research and your input, particularly about having all citizens being equal before the law and having the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I said earlier this morning that Pierre Trudeau must be smiling as we see people from the ethnic communities coming out fighting for his dream, which he enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It certainly is a wonderful legacy that he left.
Regarding your comments on credentials, my family went through it. When we came to Canada, we first moved to Vancouver. My father was a planner and an architect. He couldn't get recognition for his degrees. After five years, they sent him to a trade show in Montreal, because he could speak French, and on the way back from Montreal, he stopped at Toronto City Hall, and he was hired within two weeks of going there. That determined that we as a family moved to Toronto.
That's a very, very important issue we are dealing with, because a lot of people talk about the brain drain. The thing I have a real problem with is the amount of waste that goes on in this country. Study after study has shown it hurts the economy, and when we go out about the country having hearings, we hear about how physicians aren't allowed to practise here, that they get recruited by Americans, and they are forever lost to us.
We complain when a physician from Canada goes to the U.S., but we should be complaining a lot louder that we turn away physicians who are qualified to practise here. We can't have false borders, obviously. You are going to have people coming, they'll have freedom of movement, and if somebody wants to go to the U.S. to practise, then so be it. But we are denying not just physicians but engineers and all sorts of trades personnel, creating a real tragedy for them, and we are hurting the dream. We've heard that time and time again. They had a perception of Canada, and it's tough.
So keep fighting on the brain waste issue, because that's a much bigger problem than the brain drain issue.
One of the things we talked about in committee, something I would like to get a response on, is that we set the selection criteria too high. We get a lot of complaints -- I know in my community and in all sorts of other communities, you have the same experience -- that you have jobs going begging because there is nobody to do them.
Virtually all people coming to this country and wanting to succeed do succeed and do very well, yet there is no way to somehow reflect it, and we bar a lot of those people. People with fewer skills will sometimes work much harder than people who have higher expectations, who are told that they will be able to get a job in their profession. When they get over here, they will not move down too far on the ladder from where they think they should be.
We came as refugees, so we didn't have a whole lot of choice. My mother and my father got involved in doing menial jobs until they could essentially obtain what they wanted.
How do you feel about the terms and the standards we have for people coming into the country?(1430)
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: I'll address part of it, and maybe I'll let my friend carry on, because I have two angles on it. I'm English-speaking and I've been in different agencies at the university as well, and I deal with questions of people with English qualifications from certain countries. They have not been able to make a breakthrough either because of a lack of auditable qualifications or because they are people such as doctors who haven't had an opportunity to do a residency here. This is another aspect of it, where English-speaking refugees or immigrants go.
I have also had the chance of being quite involved with the francophone community because I happen to be French-speaking.
May I continue in French?
I have been in this country for more than 30 years, and I realized that there were no services for Francophones abroad, particularly for immigrants. We worked very hard to establish an association which now helps Francophone immigrants look for ways of retraining in order to find a job here.
It has taken many years to get an organization going for francophone immigrants to be recognized.
As to that community, through my job as new neighbours coordinator, I personally know more than a dozen doctors who joined the country, or law specialists from different countries of francophone Africa, who for the six or seven years I have known them have been doing janitorial jobs. I don't know when or if ever these people will find a job that is compatible with their training or their experience.
I think there is a lot to be done. We are now beginning to speak of offering French as a second language, which is again a very good, commendable measure. But there are people coming in with good competence in French and with professional skills who, I'm afraid, have not been accommodated in the employment sector yet.(1435)
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: Let me add one little comment to that, referring to your former comment. Certainly Canada needs all kinds of people with different levels of education. I will make a case also for the people who do not have high qualifications but are very crafty in what they do and have excellent work experience.
Canada needs all people, and the present Minister of Immigration, Mr. Coderre, has himself acknowledged that his own father would not be able to be admitted to Canada now with the present high conditions. I think that variety is in order to bring the best people we can.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Oh, probably most Canadians wouldn't be able to—
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: To qualify either.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: We've set the bar pretty high.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you, Andrew.
Thank you very much for your presentation.
Thank you very much for your presentations. We appreciate them very much.
I have another brief question for you. Minister Coderre wanted to know what people thought about a national identity card, so that Canadians can prove that they are really Canadians. I am not talking about immigrants, but rather about all Canadians. We are trying to find out what people think about this and whether they have any suggestions for us.
I would also like to mention that you can visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada' Web site and that you can submit written comments as well, if you like.
Do you understand French?
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: I was going to translate it for her, but go ahead.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): What I'm talking about is the national identity card the minister is looking at—it's very much out in the open—just to get some ideas on it. As you know, we've had problems in the past of forgeries of all different kinds, and we're trying to find a way where we can say that person is really that person. We're probably looking at something like biometrics, a fingerprint—a combination probably—an iris scan, photo, something like that.
I'd like comments on it.
Ms. Ana Maria Fantino: The general sense we have from our partner agencies and the people we serve, particularly from clients—immigrants and refugees—is that we do not support the idea of a national identity card. If you want, I can give you further elaboration on that.
Basically, we support the view of the privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, who has found no justification for a national ID card. We are concerned about increased scrutiny in the lives of Canadians and loss of privacy. In addition, we are concerned that Canadian citizens born in other countries who cross the U.S. border will have additional risks. The identity card as it is proposed will certainly show the country of origin and will create a second-class type of Canadian citizen.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Actually, that is totally open at this point. I think the minister is being very open. That's why it's very preliminary. He wants to get the input of people: what they think of it, what should appear, what could appear.
In fact, we've heard an awful lot about that—that no, the country of origin should not appear on it. We hear that pretty well right across the country.
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: I think my colleague expressed the view shared by the various agencies that work in this field.
I would add that those of us who work with immigrants realize that this would be placing an additional responsibility on their shoulders. Our opinion is that we must inform new arrivals who come into our office of this possibility and to warn them about it. Once again, we would be required to provide assistance. So, this means an additional responsibility for us.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Actually, I do not think this would be a new responsibility, because this card would replace the citizenship card.
We would all have a card. Rather than have a special card for citizenship, there would be a Canadian card, for everyone.
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: But people are very reluctant about this.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Yes, but that is what we want to hear about—
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: Yes.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Of course, we hear more about people's reluctance than about the advantages of such a card.
Thank you very much.
Merci beaucoup de votre présentation.
Ms. Dulari Prithipaul: Thank you very much.
Mr. David Price: Will you be speaking English or French, Mr. M'pindou?
Mr. Luketa M'pindou (Coordinator, "Alliance Jeunesse-Famille de l'Alberta Society"): In French.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Fine.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We are pleased to have you with us this afternoon. The time is going by so quickly, that we are starting to run out of time.
Please proceed with your presentation.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Hon. members of the standing committee, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to take this opportunity to thank you and your whole team for giving me this opportunity to share with you some of my concerns about Bill C-18 respecting citizenship in Canada, and specifically the provisions governing cancellation, revocation and refusal of citizenship.
I should like, if I may, to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Government of Canada, which is striving at the national level to ensure that the rules relating to citizenship better reflect the fundamental values of our society.
I would also like to praise the efforts being made by the Canadian government at the international level, where it is teaching certain countries, such as China, how to observe the rule of law.
Mr. Chairman, like many naturalized Canadians, I have always considered myself to be a full citizen of Canada since the day I swore the oath of citizenship. I should add that since that day, I have said “alleluia” because I had just entered a new stage in my life, having made the transition from a landed immigrant to a Canadian citizen enjoying the same rights as all other citizens.
With Bill C-18 on citizenship in Canada, I feel as though I have been reduced to a second class of Canadian citizenship, because I was born outside Canada. I have to ask whether I can still feel protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
All Canadians enjoy certain rights based on the democratic traditions of Canada and on respect for freedom and human dignity. These rights are set out in the human rights codes that apply in Canada and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I should like today to consider in particular the equality rights, which mean that every individual has a right to equal treatment under the law, to equal benefit and protection of the law, without discrimination.
A moment ago, I praised the efforts of the Canadian government at the international level for the way in which it is teaching certain countries how to observe the rule of law.
In my view, the passing of this Bill that we are considering would constitute a blatant violation of subsections 15(1) and (2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Subsection 15(1) states:
|Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.|
Subsection 15(2) states:
|Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as his object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.|
Mr. Chairman, the Canadian government played a very significant role in the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. This action will remain imprinted in the memories of black people and we shall tell our children about it for a long time to come.
With Bill C-18, as a naturalized Canadian citizen, I feel rejected by a country to which I felt I belonged and in which I thought I enjoyed all my rights. Accepting Bill C-18 would display an attitude of contempt towards immigrants generally.
Mr. Chairman, I understand that the question of security has become very important since September 11, 2001. The Canadian government has loudly condemned the attitude of American officials at the border towards Canadian citizens of Arab origin. A senior official in the Canadian government stated that there were not two types of citizenship in Canada.
How, then are we supposed to interpret this Bill C-18? Is it not discriminatory? Does it not create another type of probationary citizenship for a period of five years?
I am not a lawyer and cannot therefore suggest amendments to the wording of Bill C-18. Our organization, the Alliance Jeunesse-Famille de l'Alberta Society, is an organization involved in the areas of education and crime prevention through social development programs for young immigrant Francophone individuals and families with a view to highlighting Canadian diversity.
All that we can offer is the contribution we made in working with you to prevent crime in our communities and to develop strategies to promote citizenship in our Canadian society.
Having said this, I should like to recommend that this Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration promote the implementation of the most economical and most effective mechanisms possible to improve the procedure for processing applications for Canadian citizenship; facilitate the creation of a joint committee including members of the community organizations, to prevent crime and promote citizenship in Canadian society; encourage the creation of a special interdepartmental communication network with respect to immigration that would include all departments involved in this issue.
Thank you. I would be pleased to answer your questions on Bill C-18, or proceed directly to some comments on the settlement program.(1445)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): You do not mind answering a few questions on Bill C-18 first?
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Not at all, we can start with that.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. David Price): First, I would like to thank you, because I think this is one of the first presentations we have heard that actually makes some suggestions. Most of the time, all we hear are negative comments, with no suggestions.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Go ahead, Andrew.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Merci beaucoup pour votre participation in this democratic process.
I might say to you that I used to be in crime prevention before I became a member of Parliament. That was one of the things I used to work on.
I am very touched by your brief, and as a naturalized Canadian who came to this country in 1957, I feel very deeply about what you have to say on the importance of citizenship and on the fact that we should only have one class of Canadians.
You mentioned equality rights in section 15 of the charter. I would also direct you to section 7 of the charter, which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person...”. Of course, citizenship is very much involved in the “security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”.
Unfortunately, this is not totally new. It exists at present, and it wasn't until I was a member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and I was studying the Citizenship of Canada Act, that I discovered I was a second-class Canadian. I always thought I was like any other Canadian, and I believed the part where it said that once you became a citizen you had the same rights and responsibilities as every other citizen.
So thank you very much for that. I refer you to the particular section I mentioned. And I will let you know there are many voices like yours across this country who are picking up on the issue and saying, we don't want differential treatment before the law; we want the law to apply equally to all Canadians. It's the basis of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which should apply to all Canadians. There shouldn't be a first class, second class, or third class before the law. Unfortunately, this bill introduced a couple of more classes.
So thank you for that, and we will be taking it forward. It's great that you are speaking French, because it gives our people some practice.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Bilingualism is a very important and fundamental thing in this country. We are the federal government of a bilingual country, so we have to be prepared to hear Canadians in either one of the official languages. I think it points to it. It's not inexpensive; it's costly. But we pay for it because we believe we are a bilingual country. This has been settled.
So I look forward to the rest of your presentation on settlement.(1450)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): The next part of your presentation is on settlement and integration, is it not?
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Yes, may I continue?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Please do.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Okay.
Once again, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the members who organized this public hearing for inviting me to appear before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
I find it extremely meaningful that the settlement and integration program strengthens the feeling of belonging that newcomers have in a multicultural Canada.
This program also helps to promote an environment in which immigrants and refugees feel completely welcome and a part of Canadian society. This settlement and integration program has substantial ramifications.
It begins with Canadian guidance abroad and continues in Canada with various programs such as LCIC (Language Courses for Immigrants Canada), the ISAP (Immigrant Settlement and Adjustment Program) and the Reception Program.
In my opinion, this settlement and integration program should focus more on the economic integration of newcomers to this country. Experience shows that this program has not had the expected results in terms of jobs for new immigrants.
I have had the opportunity to take part in a series of information sessions offered by francophone providers of services and francophone organizations in Alberta that were held in Edmonton and Calgary. I am afraid that I have to inform you that there is no francophone organization that has the status of a provider of settlement services to welcome francophone immigrants and to help them to adjust.
Settlement does not simply mean having a receptionist who speaks French, an advisor who speaks good French or teaching new immigrants how to find a job.
Settlement services should include the most important feature, namely training and work in the actual workplace, especially for immigrant professionals who have gained experience outside of Canada.
Settlement services should have a follow-up system for new immigrants in order to determine how these immigrants are faring in the host society.
In the French-speaking community in Alberta, we have a fair amount of interprovincial migration. Francophones from all parts of this country settle in our province. Their initial reflex is to find out where the organizations that offer reception services in French are located. We call these people newcomers in Alberta because it is the first time that they have set foot in this province and they need reception services. This having been said, settlement services should not apply solely to immigrants and refugees. All Canadians, all institutions and the whole public sector should become involved in implementing this program.
Mr. Chairman, the new arrivals need programs that strive to emphasize the skills they have acquired earlier abroad so that they can make a reasonable contribution to the economic development of Canada. As in most industrialized countries, immigration makes a significant impact on the economy. Immigrants feel discriminated against, their rights are infringed and many experience problems in finding jobs, either because they do not have enough Canadian experience or because of problems linked to racism, problems relating to the recognition of foreign professional qualifications and the fact that their work experience was obtained in other countries.
The administration of this settlement and integration program is very complex and it is sometimes difficult for francophone organizations to have access to it. To substantiate this claim, a number of studies have been conducted, including two by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and one by the CIC Steering Committee on francophone minority communities in Canada. These studies have shown the need for settlement and integration services for new francophone immigrants in their communities.
Mr. Chairman, this settlement and integration program assists and prepares newcomers to become active members of Canadian society by providing them with possibilities to learn about their rights, their obligations and the laws that govern them in Canada so that they can live and adjust to life in this country. To this end, the strategies developed to make this program effective must also include effective measures to raise awareness in the host community concerning the importance of immigration by stressing the positive impact it makes in terms of the economy, demographic, politics, society and culture.
It is all very well to have 100 or more reception centres for new immigrants. As long as mentalities do change, we shall find it difficult to attract and to keep newcomers in our communities.
In this context, I should like to make the following recommendations: that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration offer support for the initiatives of the CIC Steering Committee on francophone minority communities in Canada to better enable francophone minority communities to provide reception services; support continuing activity by the CIC Steering Committee on francophone minority communities in Canada after its initial mandate is complete; and that this Steering Committee become a permanent working body responsible for following up and liaising with the francophone minority communities and the Canadian government on matters relating to Canadian immigration; support the representation of Canadian diversity as part of Canada's Innovation Strategy; and support the increased budget allocated to the Settlement and Integration Program for new immigrants.
I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate and to thank you for the work you have already done across the country. On behalf of all the members of our organization, Alliance Jeunesse-Famille de l'Alberta Society, I wish you good luck and every success in your endeavours. Thank you for your attention.
I should be happy to answer any questions you may have.(1455)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much. In fact, it is we who thank you for your presentation. In my opinion, it is very important—as Mr. Telegdi said—to hear the francophones in the West. I come from Quebec and my situation is somewhat similar to that of the anglophones in this province. But I think that your situation is nonetheless somewhat more difficult here.
I have a question. You are talking about expanding and strengthening an already existing organization. In Alberta, there are quite a few francophones in the Calgary region and, as we can see, it is also the case here, in the area surrounding Edmonton.
If we look at the province as a whole, how can you succeed with this project? Will it be limited to these two places? We still have a problem with the rural areas; we would very much like more people to settle in the rural regions. How can this problem be solved?(1500)
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: I did not understand the question. Could you repeat it?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I gather that you recommend creating reception service organizations.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Yes.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Actually, I imagine that you intend to set them up in major population centres.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: In fact, here in Alberta, two big cities are receiving immigrants.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): That is right.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: These are Edmonton and Calgary. At first we want to focus our effort on these two cities, because francophone immigration is an entirely new phenomenon, at least here in the West.
We would like to have a reception centre for new francophone arrivals here in Edmonton, which would be managed by organizations that work with immigrants. It could also be done in partnership with other francophone organizations. We want to open the door to everyone.
I already mentioned that this program was not only meant for immigrants and refugees. As far as we are concerned, we request that the committee also recognize all new arrivals from Quebec, New Brunswick or Newfoundland, for instance, who are setting foot here for the first time. Those people also need reception services. Their Canadian citizenship should not exclude them from benefiting from some reception services. Under the Immigration Act, they are not eligible for reception services because they are only meant for people who have just arrived in Canada or who have been in Canada for less than three years.
As far as we are concerned, we would like a budget to be granted to help these new arrivals. Thus, people from Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick who come to live here in Alberta for the very first time could benefit from such services.
This has already begun here in Edmonton. Calgary should follow suit and begin setting up reception centres.
I strongly insist on this recommendation.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): As you surely know, outside of the major centres, there is always a need for people with certain skills. Are you looking for a way to solve this problem?
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: The minister mentioned a social contract, and we would like to meet his requirements; however, we do not have funds.
If the committee could also recommend that a given sum be allocated for research within our rural areas, we would be ready to do this work. Alberta also needs immigrants who can settle in St. Paul or Fort McMurray, for instance. But we do not know what kind of manpower Fort McMurray and St. Paul need, given that no research has been done yet.
As it stands now, if an agronomist wanted to settle in Alberta, I would not know whether it would be better to send him to Lethbridge, Camrose or St. Paul; first we must identify what each rural region needs so that we may know what kind of immigrant professionals we want to bring in. The study has not yet been done.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Merci beaucoup.
Andrew, do you have any other questions?(1505)
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: I just have one question. Maybe you can inform us on how the francophone experience is in a province such as Alberta. I would just like to have an understanding of it. Give me some wisdom on this.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: You are asking about the francophone experience as part of the Settlement and Integration Program?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Yes.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: The experience is negative, and I mentioned that in my brief. We lack infrastructure. As I said, to date, no francophone organization has an official contract with Citizenship and Immigration Canada for settlement services. As we speak, there are none.
I know what I am talking about, as I represent the Alberta francophone community on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Steering Committee. I am very familiar with the file. There are still no organizations.
Some organizations exist in name. They supposedly offer services to newcomers, but they do not offer those services. There is no budget for providing those services to newcomers who are francophone.
We have a problem with immigration. Other services tell us that there are problems with numbers. That is true. The ?Steering Committee? was created to increase reception capacity for newcomers, but this is still the beginning. We still do not have the tools to start increasing this capacity.
So generally speaking, the experience is still negative. It is perhaps up to you to help us make it positive.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: With respect to your living situation in Alberta, I would have a difficult time if I went off into a section of Quebec where it was totally francophone. I know I would have a difficult time operating or trying to fit in. How is that in Alberta? I'm just trying to get an understanding of it.
If one is unilingual.... Now, the Chairman is bilingual and has the best of all worlds, but I'm just trying to think of myself. How would it be if I went to some part of Quebec? It would be somewhat similar to a totally new experience such as when we came to Canada from Hungary. I didn't speak any English, and we struggled, but we got there. My father was actually the quickest of us all, then came the kids and then my mother.
I'm wondering, how does one go about daily life in Alberta if one is only francophone? It must be really challenging.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: It is indeed difficult to be a member of a francophone minority in a province that is for the most part anglophone. That is why the unemployment rate in Alberta is higher for francophones who do not speak English perfectly. That is the problem.
There is another obstacle, even in francophone institutions, jobs are not open to everyone. It is difficult.
Those people, with their limited English, are forced to accept work well below their level. That is the situation.
It is difficult, as you say. The situation is different for an anglophone living in Quebec. I spent 10 years in Quebec, and I worked with people who were unilingual anglophones. These people are welcomed in Quebec even though they are unilingual, but that is not the case for us here. That is the problem we are facing here.
An anglophone does better in Quebec. He can spend 15, 20 or 30 years without ever speaking a word of French. He has a well-paid job and everything. For us here, the opposite is true. That is the challenge we are facing. Yet French is an official language as is English. They are both official languages in this country, but there is always one that is taken... I do not want to say the word.(1510)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I can tell you that that is not the case everywhere in Quebec.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: But if we compare large cities, I think that people do better especially in Quebec City and Montreal than in Edmonton and in Calgary, for example.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
I'd like to welcome Deborah Grey, member for Edmonton, to her own home. We are hosting her here. It's nice to have you here.
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.
Luketa, bienvenue à Edmonton. It's good to see you again. I know we had a visit some time ago in my office when you were getting your organization up and running.
Just in terms of numbers -- after Andrew's question -- to say that unilingual anglophones are more welcome in Quebec is one thing. Given the numbers and the practicality of it, I thought I heard you say in the translation that the unilingual francophones were not welcome here. I don't know if I could make that stretch. I think we could have quite a long discussion about this.
You know that I represented Beaver River, which has the second-largest francophone population in Alberta. There certainly are services available. If you say it's difficult, that's clearly the case, but if you say that someone is not welcome here, I'd need to see some empirical evidence on that. I know people would have hurt feelings. In fact, I'm not the most popular girl in Ottawa and I could say I'm not welcome there either. Nonetheless, it's difficult.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: The problem is the language. It's sometimes difficult for people to get jobs with their background.
Miss Deborah Grey: Tell me about the settlement issues you were just speaking with Andrew about, in terms of any assistance you get. We have a marvellous community at Faculté Saint-Jean and some of the other groups that are tied with that. So there is a fairly strong francophone presence in our city here.
What dealings does your alliance have with them? What assistance are they able to give you with the people in your group, if any?
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: You are asking how the francophone community established here helps immigrant francophones like me, for example?
I can say that some steps have been taken in this regard to make the environment more harmonious. I am speaking here as an immigrant. It was difficult in the beginning. We felt that franco-Albertans, as a minority in the province, had trouble accepting francophone newcomers like us. That is true. And I can still not say today that this francophone community has fully opened its arms to francophone immigrants. But steps have been taken to achieve some harmony, and I can attest to that.
The Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta has existed for 75 years, but it was only during the 76th general assembly that Black francophones were accepted as members of the Association's executive for the first time—and I emphasize that it was for the first time. I am one of the vice-presidents of the provincial Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta. That means that one person has been accepted. It is not over and done with; it is ongoing. I am one of the Black members. There is another Black member. There are two of us on the executive. That does show some openness. And the fact that I am the Alberta community representative on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Steering Committee on francophone minority communities is a positive step.
So some work is being done and there is some openness. It is up to the francophone immigrant community to seize this opportunity and see how it can establish links and enrich the franco-Albertan community.
We are starting with the francophone community, and then we will see how we can improve links with the Government of Alberta.(1515)
Miss Deborah Grey: Yes, I know.
I find it very interesting that it's not just a matter of maybe not feeling welcomed here by the larger society, if you will. I think I heard you say that the francophone community here was not terribly open to francophone immigrants. Is that what you said? Okay.
So we have a kind of world view and then a world within a world. Maybe that answers your own frustration and your own question earlier. Within that group there are francophones and then francophones.
I am a unilingual anglophone, but when I taught on an Indian reserve, for instance, I was still in that community of English-speaking people, even though I was on a Cree reserve. It became clear pretty fast that I was in a minority within my own unilingual anglophone group.
So as human beings, we all need to somehow come to grips with how we can deal with it rather than just kind of ranting about the whole outside world. There's the world view, but within that there are also lots of subcultures that you've broken into.
You're now serving as a vice-president and a black francophone. So good for you. Keep fighting.
Mr. Luketa M'pindou: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much. You made an excellent presentation, and there were many questions as well. That means it was interesting. Keep up the good work. Thank you.
We'll take a five-minute break.(1514) (1525)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We'll get going again.
I'd like to welcome the Council of India Societies of Edmonton. Please proceed, and then we'll ask questions.
Mr. Ashok Sharma (President, Council of India Societies of Edmonton): Good afternoon, respected members of this task force, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Ashok Sharma. I'm president of the Council of India Societies of Edmonton. With me are Mr. Naresh Sharma and Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj. They'll also be participating in this presentation.
The Council of India Societies of Edmonton recognizes and appreciates the continued efforts of our federal government to look after the welfare and safety of all Canadians. We believe that the repeal of the Citizenship Act and the introduction of Bill C-18 is an attempt in this direction.
We also commend the efforts made by the task force to hear all concerned Canadians on Bill C-18. Although we feel comfortable with part 1 of the bill, part 2 has a few clauses that are illogical and blatantly discriminate. Our analysis of Bill C-18 is based on moral, ethical, economic, social, political, and humanitarian issues and the practical implications of the bill being passed.
The government has too many lawyers anyway, and the Canadian Bar Association has already made presentations on legal points. The bottom line is that the minister or a delegated officer can take away citizenship without a regular court hearing or court decision, and the person would be deported immediately.
A minister can do that if immigration or citizenship was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation of material circumstances, for national security reasons, or for flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society. These terms are not clearly and definitively defined in the bill, so it would be the police, the RCMP, CSIS, and foreign secret services like the CIA and FBI whose reports would be considered in deciding any of these offences.
Subclauses 16(2) through 16(6) violate the principles of full judicial disclosure of evidence against the accused. They violate the normal rules of evidence that are the soul of Canadian values and Canadian democracy, and they violate the very definition of evidence, because secret reports and rumours can be considered as evidence.
The government knows and should know that all intelligence reports come from CSIS and the RCMP, which may be acting on a rumour sent by a foreign intelligence service, as in the story spread by the FBI and Senator Clinton that five terrorists had entered from Canada, when one suspect was sitting in Pakistan and had never seen Canada.
These reports would not be shown to the accused or his lawyer. Nothing can destroy Canadians' faith and the world's faith in Canadian democracy more than this new bill. By this bill, the government itself shows flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society. How do they expect the citizens to practice democratic values? Even some MPs, including Liberals, admit the bill may violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution.
The bill is worse than past internments of the Japanese Canadians, the treatment of Chinese Canadians and Ukrainian Canadians, and the Asian exclusion act. Those shameful events occurred on Canadian soil in another century. This time, families and people would be uprooted and deported one by one by secret trial without the knowledge of this country and the world.
The minister did not ask the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion on whether this new bill is constitutional or not. Why not? What is the Supreme Court for? That is what the government must do before forcing people to go to the Supreme Court. That is what Mr. Trudeau did during debate over the Constitution.
Is this Liberal arrogance, because immigrants always vote for them anyway? Are other political parties silent because most of their members are from countries above suspicion? Are MPs silent because they think nobody can touch a member of Parliament? They are gravely mistaken.
There are living examples that the lives of at least two premiers of British Columbia have been destroyed by mere investigation by the RCMP. The RCMP and the Crown did their best to convict Mr. Clark, and even though he was cleared by a court, his political life and name has been destroyed.
Former Prime Minister Mulroney was not spared from destruction by RCMP investigation either. It was because of leaks from the RCMP that Canada had to pay millions of dollars for his legal fees, but nothing happened to the head of the RCMP in either of these situations. Neither Mr. Clark nor Mr. Mulroney could have cleared their name without the basic principles of the Canadian judicial system.
New citizens would not have the same financial means or knowledge to clear their name, especially when the evidence is secret reports and when a judge is acting in private, which means in secrecy.(1530)
Clause 17 amounts to secret trials, with no right to judicial review, no test of evidence, no rules of evidence, no appeal, and not even regular judicial review. This bill murders the basic fundamentals of British or English law. Secret trials are a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society. All those immigrant citizen MPs who vote for this bill are guilty of flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society. Their citizenship should be cancelled first, which would be a good starting point to implementing this law.
If we want Canadian citizens to practise the five principles of the charter—equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law—then the government must observe the same principles in Bill C-18. The government is violating a citizen's fundamental right to justice by using secret information from Canadian and foreign security and espionage agencies, and not producing this evidence in open court.
Such secret information may be unfounded, mere guesses, and even deliberate misinformation. Secret services collect information by dubious means from dubious persons and informants. The list of the failures of the RCMP, CSIS, CIA, FBI, MI5 and other secret services are well known. They have not even found Osama yet, and the U.S.A. has issued many false alarms. Canada wants to take away a person's citizenship based on hearsay from these spies.
The Homolkas, Clifford Olsons, and the accused in the B.C. pig farm murders have a right to the best lawyers to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court with taxpayers' money. But naturalized citizens, immigrants who became citizens, cannot get a regular court hearing, trial, or right to appeal under the new bill, even when cancellation of their citizenship destroys their whole family.
The bill discriminates between born Canadians and immigrant Canadians. Is this one of the principles and values underlying a free and democratic country? Is this the Honourable Mr. Chrétien's legacy? Maybe the Prime Minister should delete his signature from the repatriation of the Constitution. Even Great Britain, who has millions of citizens and immigrants from suspect countries, has not passed anything like this bill.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution died with the death of Trudeau. All immigrant citizens must have the same rights as born Canadians if they are expected to be committed heart, soul, mind, and body to Canada and to have fundamental values. It cannot be a one-sided love affair.
To where will removal and deportation be done? A person whose citizenship is cancelled automatically loses his immigrant status and will be removed immediately. I admit that removals are part of Canadian and world history; they are not a theory or assumption. Hitler did it by expelling people, especially Jews -- who were refused acceptance by Canada. Idi Amin of Uganda did it. Their ancestors' countries and their country of birth refused to take them in. The Canadian government knows that some people from India have lost their citizenship in their country of birth in becoming Canadian citizens.
When such persons are deported, where are they supposed to go? This is the question lawmakers must answer before passing this law. Why would any country accept a Canadian citizen who is presumed to be an unfit citizen, a fraud, or a threat by Canada? Where are such persons going to be shipped, to a U.S. base in Cuba, or to China, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, or some place like Siberia? Stalin sent his enemies to Siberia, which is one place Canadian citizens can be sent if Canada can reach an agreement with the Russians.(1535)
The government is deceiving Canadians by appointing a retired judge, because a judge appointed by politicians must keep information confidential, examining the information and evidence in privacy or secrecy. The judge must decide informally, quickly, without applying rules of evidence. All this is done in the absence of the accused or his lawyer. Canadians would not and cannot accept this as justice. This system of justice is neither seen nor done. Appointing a retired judge is just a fig leaf ---
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Excuse me, Mr. Sharma. I just want to let you know that you have about 20 minutes left, and we want to have time to ask questions. Now, it's up to you. If you want to continue reading your brief, it limits the time for questions, that's all.
Mr. Ashok Sharma: I'll take just another two minutes.
Appointing a retired judge is just a fig leaf that would not cover the ugly reality of this bill. Neither this Parliament nor any judge worth his or her salt should accept such an appointment.
What about families of persons removed? When a person's citizenship is cancelled and the person is removed, what happens to the spouse, children, dependants, and others who obtained their status because of that person?
Because of the consequences of this type of loss of citizenship and removal based on secret and flimsy evidence, to plan for this contingency would force new citizens to keep their assets and investments in some neutral countries, in Swiss banks or others.
This bill would prevent citizens from developing genuine emotional ties and dedication to Canada and its values, as they may fear deportation if they have misspelled their name in the application.
There is a failure of government in cases of false identity, war crimes, and organized crime. The use of false identity, false papers, and manufacturing false passports is unacceptable. Why can't the government prosecute such people in open court? Why can't penalties for such offences be made more serious? We do not have to destroy the Canadian justice system.
The bill seems to be an extreme response of the government under pressure to satisfy the critics of Madam Justice Louise Arbour's decision in the Imre Finta case, because Madam Arbour sided with the majority and she also agreed with the majority of the appeal court judges in holding Finta innocent of all crimes.
The solution to the problem of false, forged documents, crimes against humanity, organized crime, treason, and national security lies in making distinct and definite laws applicable to people involved in such crimes. To make one law for every citizen and to paint everybody with the same brush is an attempt to reach the Mount Everest of stupidity.
As a nation, we remain guilty of what was done in the past to various ethnic groups and nationalities. Now this bill is a singularly bigger step in destroying Canada's reputation as a true democratic society.
Thank you for your consideration.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Mr. Sharma, would it be possible to get a copy of your presentation for our files?
Mr. Ashok Sharma: Yes, I gave one at the front.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much for your presentation. I'm glad to see you didn't pull any punches. It was pretty straightforward.
But you have to admit, we wouldn't be here today if we and the minister didn't think there may be changes that should be made to it, that we should look at it. And that's what we're here to get, an on-the-ground feeling of what people think of it. That's the nice thing about Canada. Isn't just laid down and that's it.
We're here to look at it.
Mr. Ashok Sharma: We do appreciate that, but we are more concerned about why it is not more in the open, because a lot of the public don't know that this is going on, that this change is coming. Why don't MPs send a regular newsletter to the public? We found out just last month, as a council. We were not even informed that there were two readings already done on this. It should be more open. More of the public should be involved.
What you think is best at this point. I'm not blaming, but I'm saying it should be more open. The public should be informed. There should be some newspaper ads to say that this thing is going on.
That's our main concern.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): As you say, it's part of the MP's job. I think many do.
Mr. Ashok Sharma: That's right. Many do, but--
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I certainly do.
But anyway, thank you.
Deborah, we'll start with you.
Miss Deborah Grey: Thanks, David. And thank you all for coming.
If you think you're surprised by some things that come up, you should see us in Parliament. I think all of us would agree with the government members here, sometimes they see the Order Paper and they think, where did that come from? So we appreciate that.
I'm grateful too, David, to hear that you are concerned about travelling across the country. I think many of us, you folks included, know that these were already done and organized. Special people are invited. I think there is a frustration and a deep sense of cynicism that the thing has already been done long before you do the dog and pony show across the country. So I really hope the minister does this very carefully.
I know, Andrew, you have been like a dog with a bone on this whole issue. You're an expert at it too. I really hope there will be some changes. If there are, that will show us that the system really does work. Those of us who have been around awhile sometimes do get a little cynical about it.
I appreciated your remarks very much. Thank you.
You talked about the members of Parliament being silent. I suspect in many respects that's true also, but you said something about some of them coming from countries that were above suspicion. Could you just read that phrase again? Is that close to what you said?(1545)
Mr. Ashok Sharma: That's what we feel, maybe. We don't know why they're silent.
Miss Deborah Grey: I appreciate that.
I'm not sure if you know -- I don't know whether it's a big deal -- that my caucus is the most ethnically diverse caucus in the House of Commons, with people from various countries. I think that's pretty good, given what you've watched over the years with some of the branding that's gone around it. I know, as we're sitting here in Edmonton, young Rahim Jaffer is from Uganda.
I don't think any of us wants to be above suspicion. I don't think any of us wants to be above the law. I was interested in your remarks about Gordon Campbell and Brian Mulroney. I don't think any of us here deserves to be above the law in any respect.
You talk about new immigrants and part 2 of the bill, about no right of judicial review, no appeals, no evidence. You say by some definition some person would be just presumed to be guilty and sent out of the country or have citizenship revoked or stripped, and what about the spouse, what about the family? Those certainly are concerns.
What gave rise to that was probably the whole September 11 thing. In some form this is a response to that. There are times and places where you would need to act quickly, but to jump on that bandwagon, if this is what we have to do for everything, defies logic. There may be some ways we can look at this. Dear knows we don't want this to keep going round and round in the courts. We have enough of that already. I think your line was that the government has too many lawyers anyway. I'm very grateful today to tell you that I'm an English teacher by trade, not a lawyer. So we won't even need to fight on that one.
As you expressed really well in your brief, give me a scenario of what could happen to someone if the minister presumed they were guilty. Draw this line for me, because I don't sit on the immigration committee. What's the route and how do you think it could be made better?
Mr. Ashok Sharma: Do you mean how should we deal with that?
Miss Deborah Grey: Yes. You've shown us how you think it's going to happen under this new bill where you would have no right to appeal. You would be gone. So how do you think that could be made better?
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj (Past President, Council of India Societies of Edmonton): Once you are a Canadian and have Canadian status, if you are guilty of anything, accused of anything, I think you should be tried in Canada by Canadian laws. Any screening of any sort should be done before Canadian citizenship is granted.
One of the questions no one has been able to answer for me is, what is a status and how can you take a status away from somebody? To me it doesn't matter whether you are Canadian by birth or Canadian by choice. I can't figure that out. Once you've given somebody a status, how can you take that status away?
My answer to you, Deborah, is that if you are convicted, if you're suspicious of something, once you have Canadian citizenship there are laws in Canada, and every citizen of Canada or every Canadian should be treated on par and tried in a Canadian court of law. If you have to go to the international law we should go to Holland, where Canada is a signatory anyway. Why should there be all of a sudden this deportation?
Miss Deborah Grey: What if somebody is charged and convicted of some terrorist offence? I think you made mention of that to Ashok in your remarks about whether they are filtering through Canada down into the States, especially if they are a sizeable presence. As you know, we just added three more groups to the banned list yesterday, but I think there are probably still lots of groups operating in Canada.
What about these circumstances under which someone is convicted of terrorism? Will they still have the status of Canadian citizen, but go through our courts?(1550)
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj: Are they Canadians or not? You have given them Canadian citizenship.
Miss Deborah Grey: Yes.
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj: How could you revoke somebody's status is the question I can't get an answer to. This is my question: how can you revoke a status?
Miss Deborah Grey: Do you guys have any answers on this?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Andrew. Oh, I'm sorry --
Miss Deborah Grey: Well, I'm here to listen too, so go ahead, Andrew.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Thank you very much.
I'm very pleased to see that you mentioned this a couple of times today. If you look at all the past injustices in Canada's history, they really are the reason giving rise to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I commented today on what a wonderful legacy it is for Pierre Trudeau to have all these people from right across the country coming to fight to ensure his legacy is sustained, which I'm really touched by.
I think what's being asked for, and what's so wrong with this bill, is that it is not just because of 9/11. The revocation process has always been wrong, which is why I resigned as parliamentary secretary and voted against the bill. To the eternal credit of the Alliance, they supported me at the time, and so did the Bloc Québécois and some members of my own party. The issue we are dealing with is such a fundamental human rights issue.
You can look at Inderjit Singh Reyat, who just got convicted for the Air India bombing, which was an obvious act of terrorism. This person is in jail now. I think he should be in jail for a longer time, but he is in jail. We have ways of dealing with very bad people like Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo, who are in jail for life. But we also have people who have been wrongfully convicted, such as Guy Paul Morin, Milgaard, and all of those people. So in terms of dealing with very serious issues, we as a society have decided that, yes, this is the best process we have for determining guilt or innocence.
What is so incredibly fraudulent and fundamentally wrong about the present process, which has been made much worse by the hysteria, is that it doesn't jive with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are supposed to be a nation under God, governed by law. If you are going to accuse somebody of these kinds of fraud, let's say—because we have tens of thousands of fraud cases in Canada every year—you do it under the criminal standard and have the presumption of innocence. In this case, you have no presumption of innocence.
You have the right to a trial with the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, and then you have the right to appeal. What you have in the present situation is the minister and cabinet ending up revoking citizenship. Under the new system, the best interpretation I can put on it is that you might get a civil standard, and that is not beyond a reasonable doubt; that's a balance of probabilities.
Stalin would be proud of clause 17. There is secret evidence, you don't know what you are charged with, and you can't face your accuser. My God, Saddam Hussein could lay a charge under this. It's the government, and it doesn't define bad or good government. There are no tests of evidence; the test of evidence doesn't apply.
So you are right, because when the FBI came out with those five Canadians who didn't exist.... I read in the paper the other night that the latest informant, whose rumours caused the red alert, has been put under a polygraph test and failed. So we are feeding hysteria, and rumours are not facts proven in court. If we applied both the legal and equality sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I think it would go a long way toward satisfying most people.
You must have heard this all sorts of times on your side from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, when she would say that the Charter of Rights should apply to all of the people all of the time, not to some of the people some of the time. The reality is that the Charter of Rights only applies to some of the people some of the time. We citizens by choice are not going to stand for it.
Keep battling. I'm not sure how you heard about it. I've been beating the bushes on it for a long time. But I'm glad you did . All sorts of people in this community have taken up the call, and that's happening right across the country.(1555)
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj: One question still remains unanswered by the government and the members of Parliament: what is meant by Canadian status? I'm a Canadian by choice. I think you are, too, Andrew. Why have a double standard and discriminate between the two?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: This law predates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the point in time when a decision was to be made, the Minister of Justice made the decision for the government. I regret that he made that decision. Instead of correcting the legislation, he started exploiting the legislation, and that's why we have this mess. But I think there's enough awareness of it, and we have to keep raising our voices until this is changed.
Mr. Naresh Sharma (Committee Member, Council of India Societies of Edmonton): We just admitted that there are lots of lawyers in the government. Knowing that this bill goes against the Charter of Rights, I can guarantee you that the Council of India Societies will take it to court, as will many others. The lawyers can simply tell them this is against the Charter of Rights. Look at something that at least conforms to the charter.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Ten different lawyers will argue ten different ways.
Mr. Naresh Sharma: I can guarantee you that if it is passed like that, it will go to the courts. Not only the council, but many other societies will take them to court.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: It's very difficult for an individual or an individual organization to get to the Supreme Court. The federal government has the capacity to refer a question to the Supreme Court. I suggested, as did someone else, that it should be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada unless we change it so that we are comfortable with it. Ultimately, it's Parliament that makes the laws. The spirit of the charter is definitely lacking in this legislation. But keep fighting.
Mr. Naresh Sharma: I'd like to ask you a question. Let's take my family as an example. If we came to Canada with our dad and he was found guilty of something after 20 or 30 years, under this bill would we all have to go back with him?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Not specifically under this law, but under Bill C-63, which was one of the proposed citizenship acts, there was a proposal. I said this in the House. My parents came from wartorn Europe, my stepfather a Jew, my mother a Catholic. They lived through Stalin and Hitler. This shook me to my foundation. It's not everyday that you resign as parliamentary secretary. But I saw that under this proposal not only are we going to revoke the citizenship of this person by this fraudulent process, but we're going to extend it to any person who came with them. In my case I wouldn't have even had the right to go to court. So all of a sudden my security of the person is offended rather severely.
Miss Deborah Grey: I was at a citizenship court this morning, and I saw many young people being sworn in as citizens. This afternoon their status technically is that they're Canadian citizens forever. Hopefully, that's the case. It was exciting for me to be there this morning and then here this afternoon.
If this has been your home and then dad gets sent over, whether they want to throw you in with the whole package and get rid of you or not, if you were lucky enough to have the.... This is your home. It's all you've ever known. So by extension, to just get shipped off from all you've ever known, because you've grown up here in Canada, that's a very difficult situation, which I hope we get resolved.
Mr. Naresh Sharma: Maybe we could add another clause saying that if Canadian-born citizens, such as Clifford Olson, are found guilty of a crime, then they also could be sent somewhere else. They are citizens who have committed a crime, so they also should be sent somewhere else. Treat everybody equally. They're all Canadian citizens.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I want to thank you very much for your submission. We would appreciate receiving a copy of it. It's important so that we can get it into the record.
Just in passing, as one more item, you have probably heard that we are talking about a Canadian national identity card. All I would ask at this point is if you have any thoughts on it, could you drop us a note. We are interested in hearing everybody's thoughts on that item.(1600)
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj: I just want to make one last comment in terms of public awareness.
I don't think there is enough public awareness. I am a high school teacher. In our school, the vast majority of the grade 12 students, who are voters, have no idea this is what's happening. The majority of teachers, let alone in other areas such as social studies and English, are not aware of what's happening. That's because, when you read the paper, you may see a little thing in one corner.
I think government must take a real proactive approach and reach out to Canadians to get their views on some of these issues before making a change, especially a change of this calibre.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): That's what we're trying to do right now.
Mr. Naresh Bhardwaj: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
Miss Deborah Grey: Mr. Chairman, just before the next group comes, I was just whispering to you, but you know I never talk about anybody behind their backs, so I will put this on the record. You are not in your hometown, and I'm sorry about that on Valentine's Day. I am, and I have a Valentine, and I have a date with him tonight. So I'm going to take my leave. I was glad to spend an hour with you.
Thank you all for coming.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): That's very nice, and I did speak to my Valentine this morning.
But it's nice to see you dressed as usual in your Valentine colours. You notice this time I didn't say Liberal colours, but Valentine colours.
Miss Deborah Grey: Because you know what I'd say back to you, that this is the colour of my flag, and you do not own that colour.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Absolutely.
Miss Deborah Grey: Thanks, David.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Mr. Dai, we want to welcome you to the committee. You have 10 minutes, and we won't be bothering you with any questions because we don't have the time. We have a little time constraint here.
We will give you your 10 minutes to give us your opinions.
Mr. Jonathan Dai (As Individual): I hope I can consume these 10 minutes with my presentation or comments.
My name is Jonathan Dai and I represent the Canada-China Council for Cooperation and Development. I'm also a past federal candidate from the 2000 federal election on behalf of the party that is in Parliament, the Liberal Party.
I regret that Miss Grey has left, and I had hoped that Mr. Telegdi would be here.
Mr. Chairman, committee members, ladies and gentlemen, the first part of my presentation will deal with direct reference to the clauses of Bill C-18.
Even though clause 12 of Bill C-18 states that “All citizens have the same rights, powers, privileges, obligations, duties, responsibilities and status without regard to the manner in which their citizenship was acquired”, some clauses in the bill discriminate against immigrants and prove otherwise.
Clause 16 empowers the state to strip the citizenship of a nationalized Canadian without offering him or her the same protections a Canadian-born citizen who has been charged with a similar crime is entitled to.
Clause 17 allows the judge to deal with all matters regarding the denaturalization of a person who is being accused of acquiring citizenship by false representation or fraud, in secret and in the absence of the accused and his or her counsel. This definitely violates the charter rights of the accused.
Clause 18 virtually permits the Minister of Citizenship to denaturalize a citizen by merely the bureaucratic procedure. This opens up to abuses that have not been uncommon even in Canada.
According to the 2001 census, 5.4 million people, or 18.4% of the total population of Canada, were born outside the country. I think by today it may well have reached 6 million or 20 %. This is very large number. And if you pursue the matter a little further to ask Canadians where their grandparents or great-grandparents came from, you will probably find out that, other than aboriginals, everybody's grand or great-grandparents were born elsewhere.
Why is Canada such an attractive place to the rest of the world? Certainly not because of our economic power or our military might. It is because Canada is viewed as a great champion of civil liberties. For the same reasons, Canada has been dominating the United Nations' top rankings ever since the human development index was launched in 1993.
It is true, after September 11 we have all lost our innocence. But it does not mean we have to go berserk. Sacrificing our hard-earned civil rights to pursue something that may or may not be true is simply not worth it. Other nations may choose to use force to curb violence. But Canada has a superb weapon, our prolific, all-inclusive society, a model for the whole world to emulate in the fight against terrorism.
To go back on this winning formula and to seriously breach civil liberties as a portion of Bill C-18 is inconceivable. Without a doubt, this would alienate one-fifth of Canadians and Canadians-to-be. This would hurt Canada's reputation and curtail Canada's ability to become the world's most liberal and democratic society.
On a personal note, I was born outside of Canada. I was born in China and grew up in China and came to Canada at the age of 30. I'm a Canadian by choice, but does that mean I'm less Canadian? No. I want to say this is a country I love. I choose to live in it and choose it to be my home and a home for my children and generations to come. I love this country. If this country is in danger, if its security is in danger, I will not hesitate to take up arms. I would die for this country. Canada has won my heart. That's why I made a choice.
And it is so wonderful to think that at the age of seven I could run for a political office, one of the highest political offices in Canada. When I say “at the age of seven”, it's because I got Canadian citizenship seven years previously. I became a Canadian citizen seven years before I was nominated to run. What an honour. What a trust. What a love.
So Canada has won my heart, and I think there are millions of Canadians who have hearts like mine. I hope the Canadian government and Canada do not lose their heart. Keep the heart. Keep the hearts. And win them.(1605)
With today's challenge of terrorism, I think this is the best answer to terrorism. This is the best way to combat terrorism. Thank you.(1610)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much. I appreciate very much your presentation.
Unfortunately, I will give you just one quick question with just a yes or no. Do you think the whole bill should be scrapped?
Mr. Jonathan Dai: I think that some sections, these sections, should be.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.
Mr. Jonathan Dai: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Mr. Nickel.
Mr. Mike Nickel (As Individual): Do I have time left to make my presentation?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We still have a little more time to go yet, but you have a short stand. You have the same thing as Mr. Dai.
Mr. Mike Nickel: I have five minutes of comments, and then if there are any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
First of all, let me begin by thanking the committee for this opportunity to speak on what I think is a very important matter. To me, it's always an honour and a privilege to be allowed to express my opinions on legislation, and particularly on what I think is a very important bill.
I wish to voice my objection to this bill and, more specifically, to the bill's position on the revocation of citizenship.
Given that I only have five minutes to speak today, I'm not going to belabour the committee with mechanical and/or technical arguments as to why this bill is in error. Many have spoken before me today, and I'm quite sure that many will speak after me across this country to the many gaps that present themselves from both legal and theoretical perspectives.
Instead, I wish to present to you what I feel are the political failings that readily present themselves with the changes in this bill. It is so often the fact that legislators begin with mechanical and technical arguments, yet at the end of the day it is most often the political ones that carry the most weight.
Citizenship is a primary tenet of nationhood. Without citizenship as an absolute, there can be no nation. Although many cannot define what it truly means to be Canadian, the fact that we are Canadian has been more than enough to hold this vast nation together for more than 135 years.
But after September 11, a new focus for our nation seems to have been found. It would seem rational on the surface that we, as an open and tolerant nation, have been taken advantage of by the most undesirable elements -- those of organized crime, terrorists, and war criminals. Let me say in no uncertain terms, no right-minded person would allow or want these kind of individuals from any country, or of any generation, to be residing in Canada and, more importantly, to be citizens of this nation.
So it certainly seems on the surface that revocation of citizenship of these sorts of elements would be a logical extension of a nation protecting itself and supporting its notion of justice.
But we must dig deeper than that. Citizenship, like most freedoms, is not a matter of convenience, to be pulled and manipulated as political circumstances change. Citizenship, like the freedoms granted within our charter, are not what I would define as transmutable commodities.
If an individual is suspected of activities such as terrorism or war crimes, then surely our courts, our judicial reviews, and other venues -- the war crimes court in The Hague, for example -- are best to handle these matters in an open and transparent fashion. The courts are here to uphold our rights and protect our citizenship. If they are not allowed to do so for whatever reason, then we are simply a police state.
For example, try explaining to a 60-year-old European who has lived here more than 40 years that he or she may have fewer rights under this bill as a citizen than a Chinese refugee landing on the shores of B.C., who, as soon as he sets foot on Canadian soil, is granted full charter rights by the Supreme Court. You are saying to that individual, who has paid his or her taxes and contributed to his or her community for decades, that their efforts to abide by our laws, to be part of our society, thereby living up to their oath of citizenship, have earned them nothing.
Some may argue that certain individuals might have come to this country under false pretences, that they lied about their activities before they arrived on our doorstep, and would continue to argue that the citizenship granted to these individuals under these circumstances was not valid. Whether or not an individual may have lied to gain access to this country is not for politicians to judge. It is not their job, but that of the courts.
Any process of revocation of citizenship, whatever the reasons, that is not transparent and open undermines our nation and the people's faith in the nation. The bill allows the minister, at present under the guise of, say, national security, to circumvent our courts and suspend our legal rights as citizens. This is too much power to be placed in the hands of a group of people behind closed doors. You are telling thousands of Canadian immigrants who have come to this country over the past 40 years that their citizenship, far from being absolute, can be placed in jeopardy by dubious accusations.
If we have no right to face an accuser and no right to judicial review of evidence, then we live in fear that our citizenship can be taken away at any time as political circumstances change. Frankly, this is not what Canada is about.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much for your presentation. Unfortunately, we have had to fit you in, so we don't have any time for questions.
Mr. Mike Nickel: Thank you, anyway.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We now have the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association.
As I mentioned a couple of times today, I would ask everybody in the room to note that we are looking just very generally at a national identity card. So if anybody has any thoughts on it, we would appreciate an e-mail from you. Take a look at the websites of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and our committee, where there is a little bit of general information about it. So we would appreciate any input you could give us on the card.
Ladies, welcome. I'm glad to see you here. You're the last group of the day, but we are still very fresh.
Ms. Diane Pask (Past Member, Board of Directors, Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA)): My name is Diane Pask, and with me is Corinne Dabreo. We are both past members of the board of directors of the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association.
On page 3 of our paper, we describe briefly some of the work of CIWA, and we have also given you a copy of the annual report. Basically, CIWA is a settlement or immigrant-serving agency, unique in serving only women. This is a rather unique, extremely valuable, and important position because it allows for the fact there are many women who would otherwise, for cultural or religious reasons, perhaps not take part in the community. They are able to come out and take ESL classes and the various programs that CIWA offers from this unique perspective.
As we only have five minutes, I would just like to address Bill C-18 rather briefly. Then my colleague will address settlement and integration issues.
We mention two matters in our paper with respect to Bill C-18, the concern about second-generation children and the need for a fair process with regard to lost citizenship under clauses 16 and 17. I would like to deal very briefly with the second-generation issue under clause 14.
We see three problems with clause 14. First, we are concerned people will lack knowledge of its provisions. If this is passed into law, there will be a heavy onus, then, on second-generation children to fulfill the requirements of clause 14. We know right now that there are many people in Canada who came to Canada at a young age with their families who are permanent residents and who do not realize that they have citizenship. I've discussed this at board meetings and I've talked about it with various women clients of CIWA, and they're always absolutely astonished when I tell them about the difference as it exists currently between the ramifications of permanent residency and citizenship. So we have no reason to think that children who are born outside of Canada are going to have any more knowledge than the ones who are in Canada at present.
The second point we want to raise is that we think this creates -- we would argue -- four separate classes. Obviously the first class is those born in Canada. The second class is the second generation. Then there's the first generation, who are the parents of the second generation, and the fourth class is the grandparents to the second generation. We see those as separate classes and contradictory to clause 12, as the last speaker also noted.
The third problem we see with clause 14, and the bill as a whole, is that we do not see any fair and financially accessible process available to deal with the humanitarian issues that I feel are going to arise under this legislation should it come into force. I think one can envisage family tragedies, and it doesn't take much imagination to do it. If this comes into force, we need to include in the legislation some reasonable process that people can take either to challenge the question of the lack of citizenship or to obtain access through Canada to relatives, because of the separation of families that will likely occur.
Finally, I want to ask the question of why we are bringing this into place. We know Statistics Canada recently indicated that by 2011 an estimated 100% of our labour market growth will occur as the result of immigrants. So the question that is asked is why we are putting these draconian measures into place against the children and grandchildren of Canadian citizens, and then spending settlement money on bringing in other people to assist in our labour market requirements. Why not use our children and grandchildren?
I'll ask my colleague to speak on settlement and integration.(1620)
Ms. Corinne Dabreo (Past President, Boards of Directors, Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA)): Thank you, Diane.
I will refer you now to page 8 of the document we submitted. We identified a number of barriers and clustered them into categories. With the time limit we have, I will look just at the educational barriers, beginning on page 9.
What CIWA wants to identify is that most immigrant women lack basic English language skills and they've had no formal education. The challenge for CIWA has been to identify and develop a functional program to address the needs of this population. So Pebbles in the Sand was born. It has proven CIWA's ability to meet these needs and challenges.
We're talking about women in these groups who had never used pen and pencil or paper or had any form of academic or formal learning at all. They had zero to three years schooling in their country of origin. They had anywhere from five to ten children under sixteen years of age, and in that group of about ten to fifteen women, nobody spoke English.
So you can visualize the challenges the facilitators had to make them into a cohesive unit and bring them to a point where CIWA now boasts a success rate of 70% of Pebbles participants having moved on to employment and further education. And that's within a 10-week process in our Pebbles program.
Pebbles has received international recognition for the development of this unique and successful program. They have presented in Sweden, South Africa, and Brazil.
Part B of education is also about immigrant women, but we recognize a different group. These are highly educated and qualified women, but they're underemployed or unemployed. CIWA has developed programs to mentor this underserved group. My Shadow and Me, Making Changes, and No Canadian Work Experience are some of the projects and programs that CIWA developed to meet the needs of that particular group of women. The programs, My Shadow and Me and No Canadian Work Experience, were presented at the National Settlement Conference in July 2001.
I would like to refer you to page 11, about halfway down the page. CIWA has identified masked barriers. There are apparent barriers such as poverty and the number of children, but there are also masked barriers. The one I'd like to identify, under the second bullet, is that learning how to learn is not a skill they have, and that's not easily identified. For example, a significant number of these women do not know how to read or write in their own language, and the first thing they get when they come is ESL classes. It makes no sense to them. They have no benchmark, no foundation, from which to begin. That's a challenge for CIWA.
We've included a case study, which begins at the bottom of page 12. We'd like you to refer to that because it does tie in with education. It talks about two immigrant youths who entered the school system in Calgary.
If our future workforce is going to be reliant on immigrants, we need to do a much better job of receiving and supporting them as adults and their children so that they have a chance to develop as many skills early on as possible, so they're prepared and have the foundation. Then as a country we can continue to build on our immigrant population.(1625)
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much. Obviously, that was a very good presentation. It's very complete, and I'm sure we'll be able to get a lot out of it. Granted, much of what you've mentioned are things we've heard before. That's good. The more we hear about certain subjects the better, as it provides reinforcement. Each one is an additional brick to build that little document we have to try to improve.
Andrew, do you have some questions?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: I just have some brief remarks.
Thank you very much for your presentation.
Canada being a nation of immigrants, it's obvious that if they succeed, then we as a nation succeed. Sometimes they say, we don't want to spend any money, but they're being penny-wise and pound foolish because the sooner you can get a person contributing to their full potential, the better off we all are.
Thank you for your presentation and for the work you do in assisting those people to reach their potential.
Ms. Diane Pask: One of the major challenges facing settlement agencies -- and you have probably heard this one before--is the problem of funding. The reason I mention it is that it manifests itself in most aspects of day-to-day work. Most agencies, I think, are constantly scurrying to find money, and this naturally detracts from the substance of the work they're doing. It's very hard to do both. It's very hard to find the core money that enables you to develop the innovative and creative programs that everybody wants to fund. But you won't have them unless the core is funded, and that's a real challenge.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I think one of them that brings it out quite clearly, where I know you lack funding, is the “learning how to learn” skill. It's quite understandable that you would lack funding there, because it's not recognized.
I have just another couple of points. You mention several programs in here: My Shadow and Me, Making Changes, No Canadian Work Experience. Do you have any documentation on them?(1630)
Ms. Corinne Dabreo: We have summaries in the annual report. They're broken down into program areas and service areas, so they're easy to find.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Very good. Thank you very much.
Ms. Corinne Dabreo: My Shadow and Me is on page 27.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Do you also have physical assets? Do you have some homes?
Ms. Diane Pask: If you're asking if we provide sheltered housing, CIWA can barely afford its offices. We're very careful with our funding because we see the benefit it brings to people, and starting a building program is not in the game plan.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Okay. I was just asking, because in Calgary I visited a couple of shelters for refugee women and children only. There were no men. I was quite taken by the setup they had there, but I don't really remember what group it was.
Ms. Diane Pask: There is a further point that comes out of what you have just said. The real problem agencies like CIWA have in areas of fast growth, like Calgary and undoubtedly Toronto, is just finding premises for their day-to-day operations.
If you look at some statistics on page 3 of our own paper, last year CIWA served 4,000 clients from 138 countries at one downtown site and 60 off-site locations. Of course, it's very helpful to the refugee and immigrant women to have the 60 off-site locations because they're placed in districts where it's easiest for them to get to the programs being offered. But part of the reason we've had to do that is because office costs have been quite expensive in Calgary and we can't afford to buy the space. In the suburbs it is cheaper.
You'll also note that those figures I quoted to you represent a 533% increase in workload over 10 years with a budgetary increase of only 47%. Who can match that?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): They don't balance out, do they?
Again, thank you very much. We appreciate very much your input into this.
With that, I'll declare the end of this session in Edmonton. Thank you very much, everyone.