Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price (Compton—Stanstead, Lib.)): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're off and running again.
It's nice to have Mr. Tarlochan Binning in front of us, who will speak to us on Bill C-18. We'll probably have a couple of questions for you afterwards, so please proceed.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning (Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Port Alberni): Thank you very much, first of all, for allowing me to be here. I sincerely apologize for not having sent this in earlier so our friend Mr. Plamondon could have it translated for him and he could understand it. I really apologize. I know how hard it is to second-guess the other language.
I'll tell you upfront that I'm not a public speaker. This is not my first language and I'm going to have a little bit of difficulty pronouncing, so please bear with me.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Don't feel bad. For most of us, as members of Parliament, public speaking wasn't our first issue either.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: Thank you.
I'd like to begin by applauding the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for refining the Citizenship Act of 1977. The purported objectives of reasserting the rights and freedoms of Canadians, reinforcing the responsibilities associated with being Canadian, and underlining the importance of a strong commitment to Canada are noble and long overdue.
The proposed changes for adopted persons, where an adopted person can acquire citizenship without becoming a permanent resident; compliance with the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, with equal treatment of married couples and common-law partners; as well as commitment to Canadian values -- these are all steps in the right direction. However, there are a number of clauses in the bill that I take issue with, and I welcome the opportunity to provide comments on them.
In particular, I will be concerned with the proposed provisions relating to citizenship revocation outlined in clause 17 of Bill C-18. Clause 17 outlines a new revocation process that is judicial in nature, although in some cases the proposed process would occur in secret, with no right of appeal. In fact, in some cases the accused will not even be permitted to view the evidence against him or be present when it's being evaluated.
There are three elements to clause 17. The first element relates to cases of misrepresentation. In cases of misrepresentation, the Federal Court Trial Division will make their finding and an appeal will be allowed. However, in cases where the judge deems that the information that will be used against the accused is dangerous to national security or the safety of any person, as outlined in paragraph 17(4)(e), the judge will view and deliberate on the information in private, and his decision will be final, with no right of appeal. More importantly, these clauses apply only to naturalized citizens and not to those who are Canadian-born.
In short, my contention with clause 17 boils down to four main issues. Number one, the creation of a subclass of citizens is discriminatory, offensive, and quite possibly in contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Number two, its administration as outlined in the bill violates the principles of fundamental justice guaranteed in section 7 of the charter.
Number three, there are several policy gaps—questions unanswered—that need to be resolved before such a provision should be passed.
Number four, there should be studies done to determine whether certain groups in Canada will be affected more than others. I will deal with each one of these in turn and then proceed to offer recommendations.
Concerning a two-tiered system of citizenship, by its very nature the process of citizenship revocation is unfair. It only applies to naturalized citizens, creating a two-tiered system of citizenship. If foreign-born citizens should have the protection of the bill of rights, when does a citizen become a full-blown citizen? When can he feel this is his home? If Bill C-18 passes in its present form, he can never feel at home in Canada.
One of the primary functions of Citizenship and Immigration, especially on the citizenship side, is to promote successful integration of newcomers to Canada. How would a policy of selective citizenship revocation further that objective? Those of us who have left third world countries to avoid crime and corruption and to enjoy the safety and security of Canada would feel quite misled when our adopted nation decides to send us to a country we no longer consider home.
In contrast, refugees enjoy the full protection of the Charter of Rights. It seems short-sighted if more protections and rights are afforded to refugees than to long-standing citizens.
As to due process and principles of fundamental justice, in the process outlined in subclause 17(4), paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), and (j), the presiding judge must not divulge information, even to the accused or his counsel, that he deems could be injurious to national security. He may accept information that would not be permissible in normal court proceedings and may deal with all the matters expeditiously, ignoring established rules or protocols of court proceedings.
At the minister's request, the judge may be provided with any other information the minister may deem appropriate. All of the information and evidence would be examined in private, without the presence of the accused or his counsel. The evidence that leads to the judge's ruling may be provided to the accused in summary format, with information considered injurious to national security omitted. Finally, the judge's decision will be final, with no right of appeal.
I ask you, what about this process is just, in keeping with due process, and in keeping with the principles of fundamental justice? A fair and just process would be transparent, consistent, and as a minimum would allow an appeal. The appeal process is a fundamental component of our justice system.
Turning to policy gaps and questions unanswered, how will this program be administered? In cases where the minister has a discretion, will the extent or the nature of the minister's discretion be clearly defined? How about the cases where the accused's Canadian children's best interest is to remain in Canada? Will this be considered? If so, to what extent? In cases where national security is at stake and allegations are enough, what will constitute legitimate information?
If a country with a poor human rights record and perhaps a hidden agenda, such as Iraq, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, etc., were to provide information, would this be taken at face value? What if a country like Iraq were to request that a naturalized Canadian citizen be returned to face execution? Would this be acceptable?
Who will be the main target of this policy? On the face of it, it would seem it would be primarily applied to visible minorities. Having researched this extensively, I have found that no analysis has been done to determine whether visible minorities would be affected more than other groups by this policy. At the very least, research should be done in this area to determine whether this policy will affect one group over another.
In addition, has the responsible government department, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, undertaken studies to determine whether the creation of a lower class of citizens could serve as a legal precedent for further discrimination in other matters? As far as I can tell, no research or analysis has been done in this area.
Where will we send those who have their citizenship revoked? Will it be back to countries with poor human rights records that are corrupt and poorly administered; to countries that they have never returned to in years, where they have no friends or means of support, away from their families? This seems to fly in the face of one of Citizenship and Immigration's primary objectives of family reunification.
What happens when a country that we wish to send our second-class citizens to will not accept them? Will they then be stateless like the Palestinians? What will be done in these situations? Are we to give a blank cheque to our judicial system to figure out such matters for themselves? It seems that a number of policy gaps need to be addressed before we can even consider instituting these provisions.
On recommendations, ideally the clauses on revocations should done away with. Not only do they create a fundamental distinction between those citizens born in Canada and those who are naturalized, but they also go against one of the purported objectives of the bill itself, increasing the value of Canadian citizenship.
If anything, such provisions lower the value of citizenship. Why bother to become a citizen if it can be taken away one day by a judge who the accused never sees, using evidence that the accused is not permitted to see, whose eventual decision will be final with no right of appeal? In addition, what will the source of this secret evidence be? Will it be countries that are human rights violators, corrupt, arguably illegitimate, and with their own hidden agendas? At a bare minimum, the rules of evidence should apply in these cases.
If this law were to pass, one would have to wonder if it would then warrant discrimination on these grounds in other areas. For example, perhaps Canadian-born citizens would be given preference over foreign-born citizens in federal government hiring, an area where the federal government itself has noted that visible minorities are seriously underrepresented.
How far would this inequity be permitted to carry? Which group would this policy affect more than any other? Visible minorities. After the unfortunate and tragic events of September 11, visible minorities have forfeited more of their civil liberties than any other group. For example, shortly after September 11 the media reported that the Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration directed immigration officers to apply racial profiling at our borders.
If a distinction between Canadian-born and naturalized citizens were to be made, then as a minimum there should be studies conducted to determine which group, if any, it would affect more than others. Good governance demands that policy analysis be complete, differential impacts be considered, and policies be equitably applied.
It is my contention that such a study will conclude that visible minorities will be affected more than any other group. Can the Canadian government tell us conclusively this is not the case at this time? If they find that visible minorities are more affected than any other group, can the government explicitly state why this is acceptable?
Furthermore, an extensive publicly acceptable study should be undertaken to determine whether the distinction between naturalized and Canadian-born citizens proposed in this bill would lead to further discrimination if it were to be used as legal precedent in other cases.
Finally, given the fundamental inequity of a two-tiered system of citizenship, it is doubtful whether such a distinction would survive a charter challenge. Equity is a cornerstone of our charter rights. It is inconceivable to me that the charter would allow that a second class of citizens could live in fear of being displaced in the nation they had adopted as their own.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much for the presentation.
Lynne, would you like to start?
Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, Canadian Alliance): I just have one question. It's not even up for debate, but I'm curious. When I read your presentation, you asked, when does a citizen become a full-blown citizen; when can he feel this is his home? I'm wondering what you think of dual citizenship -- whether when they want to become a Canadian and have the protection of the bill of rights and want the Canadian charter to protect them and never want to lose that citizenship -- if they, in fact, should just be that, a Canadian citizen, and not retain a dual citizenship. You can never have it revoked, because you could never become stateless; we have signed an international treaty saying we're not allowed to make anybody stateless. If you were just a Canadian, would that help with some of your concerns about revoking? I just want to know what you think of that.
It was brought up to me at another committee, actually. The people asked -- because you brought up Iraq -- how can you pledge allegiance to two countries? It's that sort of thing; that's why I brought it up. I just wanted to know what you thought.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: At this moment, I don't think the Government of Canada has a treaty with the Government of India for dual citizenship. For me—I can't speak for anybody else—this is my country. This is my home, and I would never consider going back home to India.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: So you're happy with having one citizenship and not—
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: I am happy here, and I wouldn't even dream of asking anybody to.... I don't want to be a dual citizen of anything. I'm a Canadian. I want to stay here. I want to be a part of Canada.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: I think a lot of people have the very same concerns as you. In fact, I'd be very surprised if these clauses stay in that easily, because there's lots of concern, just as you outlined in your presentation so well.
I'd like to thank you for your presentation.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: Thank you.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: That's a very interesting question. This was not a part of my presentation, but I will deal with it.
How to determine if the refugees are genuine or not is the first step. But obviously when we determine that a certain person is a refugee, we allow him to stay here. I think, if I'm not wrong, it takes three years to get citizenship. By this time, it is our duty to find out if they're genuine or not. If they're not, that can be dealt with. But after three years, if we fail to determine it, then part of the blame lies with ourselves.
I'm not putting myself out of the government. I'm part of it too, because we vote and we select the MPs who make the laws. So if we're feeling bad, then we're partly responsible for it.
But once a person gets citizenship, he lets go of the other country and he is then our problem. We cannot dump a citizen on somebody else once he's given the piece of paper saying, okay, you're a citizen. How can we tell somebody, okay, you're a citizen, and the next day come up with something else saying, you're out? A citizen is a citizen, and this is the only view I will take.
As I said on dual citizenship or a two-tiered system, what do we do if we say we're going to deport somebody and take his citizenship away? If this sort of system doesn't work, then what do we do and what is the next step? Do we kill the person and get rid of him? How far are we going to go? This is the wrong way to go.
There is enough in Canadian law to deal with all the matters that are there. I think this is coming out after the tragic events of September 11. But we are going too far and dealing with it in the wrong way. Let's deal with it in our court system, which works pretty well. We still make mistakes in the court system, but at least it's the best in the world. Let's stay with it.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: Thank you very much. Could I just add one more thing?
As I was trying to determine where Bill C-18 came from, everything pointed to it coming out of the bureaucrat thing. What I want to say is, as Ms. Sheila Copps said the other day, the face of Canada is changing. If the face of Canada is changing, let's get some minorities into the place where these decisions are made, so we don't have to deal with this sort of thing the way we're doing now. I'm sure if some minority kids or young persons were sitting in where they were writing these things, they wouldn't be in. This is pure--I don't want to say the word--garbage. It has nothing to do with the justice system. It has everything to do with racial hatred. That's what it seems like to me.
How far is the government going to go?
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): I think that's why we're sitting here.
Mr. Tarlochan Binning: Thank you.
That could have been hard, but I just had to say it, and I'm glad I did. If I hurt anybody by saying the wrong things, please forgive me. I didn't mean to.
The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Mr. Anttila. First of all, welcome to the committee hearing.
You don't have a written submission? Okay. The floor is yours.
Mr. Matti Anttila ( As Individual): Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I hope to give you a perspective that might be a little bit different. It's my own perspective based on being an immigrant from Finland and coming here at the age of seven, being brought to Vancouver by my family. It comes from the experiences I've had of a lifetime in Canada -- most of the time in Canada -- and also as a student of history, economics, and money. I was a financial planner for 15 years, and at that time I was a keen student of money, economics, and the cycles of economics. I think there are some lessons to be learned from the financial arena for the political arena.
What I see occurring in our country today -- and I say “our country”, as this is my country -- is that we may very well be going into Canada's darkest hour, and Bill C-18 is just another indication of that. Within each of us, we have the impulses for good and evil, the whole spectrum of good and evil from one end of the spectrum, such as a Mother Teresa, to the other end, a Saddam Hussein or an Adolf Hitler. What I sense and feel occurring now is that our fascist tendencies are being triggered and supported.
It's a mania, and from the financial arena, the study of markets, for investors arguably the single most important piece of work is a book that was written in the 1800s, called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I would argue that the lessons from this book for investors also apply as lessons in the political arena. And I'll draw some comparisons.
I believe it was in the 1500s when Holland had a tulip mania, where tulips became fashionable to the point of ludicrous prices being paid for tulips. They set up a tulip exchange much like a stock exchange. And at one point before the mania collapsed, people were paying the price of a house for one single tulip bulb. Madness, some might say. But, you know, it's just human nature to get involved in these manias, and human nature doesn't change.
Again, from the financial arena a more recent example would be the era of 1979 to 1981, when interest rates went very high, gold shot up to over $900 an ounce, and real estate went through the roof. Interest rates -- here we had very intelligent, solid, two-feet-on-the-floor bankers lending money at 22% mortgage rates, fully expecting interest rates to continue going up and fully expecting real estate to continue going up. Was the banker stupid? Not at all, and this is the point. There is no connection between intelligence and the ability to fall into mania. In other words, an intelligent person is not immune from manias.
You may have heard the story in which Jean Chrétien, the world's smartest man, a priest, and a hippie are the sole occupants of an airplane. There are only four parachutes and the plane is going down. The pilot comes out of the cockpit and says, “The plane is going down. Save yourselves.” He grabs a parachute and jumps out. Jean Chrétien says, “I am the Prime Minister of Canada, I owe it to my country to save myself.” He grabs a parachute and jumps out. The world's smartest man says, “I'm the world's smartest man and I owe it to the world to save myself”, and he grabs a parachute and jumps out. The priest says to the hippie, “My son, I've had a good life, and if the Lord is calling me, I'm willing to go. You take the last parachute.” And the hippie says, “No sweat, man, we're both safe. The world's smartest man just grabbed my knapsack.”
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Matti Anttila: Why do we laugh at this story? We laugh at it because on some level we understand that the world's smartest man, or the world's smartest person, can still have a blind spot, if you will. And this is the point. There is no immunity that intelligence gives to be free of mania.
What I see happening today, which Bill C-18 is a testimony to, is a headlong rush into giving up our freedoms for supposed security. Since the tragedy of September 11 in the United States, in New York, legislation has been passed on both sides of our border, with the U.S. to supposedly shore up our security against future terrorist attacks. But the price to be paid for that in legislation both in the U.S. and Canada has been a lessening of our freedoms.
The difficulty with Bill C-18, as I see it, is that it lacks accountability. Normally in the course of events, if a crime is committed, one gets taken to court and one can have representation, make arguments, and present evidence in a public court, and the judiciary is separate from the government and supposedly not influenced by the government. What we have with Bill C-18 is that it's giving the power to strip citizenship to the minister, which means the bureaucracy, bureaucrats.
I would draw your attention to a saying: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you give this power to bureaucrats, the question you must ask yourself, and the government must ask itself, is by giving this power to bureaucrats to strip citizenship from individuals who are not born in this country, behind closed doors, without representation from the individual and with no right of appeal, at some point in the future will that mean that some bureaucrat or bureaucrats will abuse that power? In a heartbeat. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
That's why the intention was always to have the checks and the balances. That's why the judiciary is separate from the government, for that reason, to have the checks and the balances, to have the accountability.
If there were two minor changes made to Bill C-18, it might be an acceptable bill. One minor change that could be made would be to make the minister and his staff involved in the stripping of citizenship personally liable. In other words, if a citizen has citizenship stripped from them, they should be able to take the minister to court and hold him personally liable. That would at least produce some accountability to the bill.
The other saying that I would draw your attention to is, if we don't learn the lessons of history, we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. I heard Mr. Telegdi make reference to Hungary and the Hungarian revolution; it occurred in 1956, and he came in 1957. There are lessons to be learned from those kinds of situations.
The second amendment, or change, I would suggest to Bill C-18 would be to require all MPs and senators to take university-level world history and Canadian history courses and pass them before being eligible to become MPs, thereby hoping that these lessons of history are not lost and that we would not be doomed to continue cycle after cycle to repeat those mistakes. History is replete with the same mistakes being made by the next generation. Perhaps a requirement of intensive world and Canadian history might do something to ameliorate future mistakes that have already been made by previous generations.
As we continue moving into this post-September 11 world, with all of the changes that have already occurred and that are coming, what I see that we as Canadians, including but not limited to the MPs and senators, need now more than ever is humility, honesty, and courage. We need humility to admit that we, as individuals, don't know everything, and therefore to undertake the study of history and to learn the lessons of history. And I need honesty with myself to draw the right conclusions from that history, no matter what the consequences, no matter how painful those conclusions might be.
I was talking with a friend last night about a researcher in the arena of nutrition who for 30 years had believed that high carbohydrates were the way to go. They did some long-term experiments and discovered that it wasn't true. He had to go through a lot of soul-searching after 30 years of believing something to change his mind, but he had the hard data to draw on. So this honesty is very difficult for those of us who have lived for a while on this planet if we have to change our mind about something we've believed for a long time.
Third is courage. Once we've gone through that process of learning, we need the courage to stand alone, if necessary, and speak our truth as we see it. We need the courage, regardless of the consequences to our career, our pocketbooks, our investment portfolios, to speak the truth as we see it and let the chips fall the way they may.
In conclusion, I draw your attention to a quote from Reverend Martin Niemoller, a German priest, in 1945 following the experiences of War World II that he experienced from the German side. He said:
In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.Then they came for the Jews,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.Then came for they trade unionists,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.They came for the Catholics,and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.Then they came for me -- and by that time no one was left to speak up.
I thank you for the time.
Mr. Matti Anttila: No, I haven't studied that area of the bill, and the focus of what I've been looking at is this ability of the bill to strip citizenship behind closed doors without representation from the citizen and without right of appeal.
By way of example, I was born in Finland, and I received my Canadian citizenship when I was underage, when my parents went for the citizenship. So technically and theoretically, the bill would allow a bureaucrat to strip my citizenship away. If that were to happen, then I guess they'd ship me back to Finland, and if that were to happen, then I would just go with the flow. I'm one of the fortunate ones in that I can speak the language a little bit, and I have some relatives there. I'd probably get set up, and I would survive and I would thrive.
In my family, my mother just turned 91 last month. She's bedridden and has to be fed and taken care of. Technically, a bureaucrat could strip her citizenship under the provisions of the bill. So I see that lack of accountability as being a major problem with the bill.
Mr. Matti Anttila: I understand the comment and concur with it. The thought that comes up is that certainly no country is perfect, and Mr. Telegdi has drawn some examples of our blemishes and imperfections in the past.
The study of history is so important; for example, the internment of the Japanese, the treatment of the natives, the turning back of the ship you were talking about. I've heard of all of these things, but they make very little impact on a visceral emotional level because I didn't live them. Maybe that's the problem. I don't know.
We certainly also have instances of individuals, not just groups, being targeted with unfair treatment. So in the midst of all of that, if we entrench in procedure -- which Bill C-18 does -- the ability of a bureaucrat to strip citizenship from a citizen, we simply give more impetus to that process. We almost sanctify it by putting it in there. It gives the unelected bureaucrat the power to do something that was never intended.