Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): Good morning, colleagues and guests. We are continuing our discussions on Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, and we are happy to have another full contingent of witnesses here in Vancouver.Mr. Brian Tsuji (Chairman, Canadian Bar Association (BC Immigration Section)):
Dr. Joseph Molnar (President, Hungarian Cultural Society of Greater Vancouver):
Until recently we were all secure in the knowledge that as naturalized Canadian citizens we had equal rights and freedoms with citizens born in Canada. Therefore, it came as a shock to realize that under the proposed citizenship act we could be stripped of our legal rights as citizens as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In actual fact, it renders us second-class citizens.
We support the motion that, one, the revocation process be taken out of the jurisdiction of the cabinet, where no representation is possible for the person whose citizenship is being revoked; two, in the case of criminal charges guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; and three, political interference be eliminated from this process by divesting cabinet of its role and putting it in the hands of the courts to be dealt with under the due process of law in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, as provided for in section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Furthermore, we support, one, that all citizens have equal status no matter how they become citizens; two, requiring a strong attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship; three, ensuring equality of citizens and non-citizens in the courts; and four, requiring a working knowledge of one of the official languages.
Mr. Richard Kurland (Editor-in-Chief, LEXBASE):
Our analysis, just an overview, from our non-partisan policy think-tank is in connection with the statements heard earlier that the bill is in keeping with the overall trend to diminish individual rights and liberties. The proposed law that will potentially affect one-third of our population will actually maintain a climate of fear for a generation of new Canadians, who at any time will be potentially subject to procedures currently illegal in the criminal courts.
Mr. W. Wesley Pue (Professor of Law, Law Faculty, University of British Columbia):
Clauses 21 and 22 of the bill are conceptually wrong and poorly defined. There are entirely inadequate procedural protections for the victims of this new power. They substitute ministerial whim for the rule of law. Finally, they seem to be entirely unnecessary.
Mr. Zale Tanner (Individual Presentation): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm also a member of the Hungarian community, and I have served in the past as president of the Hungarian Cultural Society, various Hungarian organizations, including Hungarian-language television producing here in Vancouver, and also an English-language Hungarian publication. I've been very active in the community in the past, as I am right now.
I was surprised at how it is possible that in the first place our politicians brought in and allowed such an act to come into being. Secondly, I'm very concerned about the fact that it takes such a difficult process for some of our politicians to realize how unjust this is and why we have to go through this rigorous process in order to make this change.
Mr. Richard Kurland: I'd like to express profound agreement with your comments earlier regarding the democratic process from a non-partisan point of view. I think the portions of the bill that are currently controversial are what Canadians want. A democratic process is here to provide for venting or reflection on the needs or wants the Canadians as espoused in the proposed of bill.
But as a witness I want to offer the committee my own experience over the years in dealing with retired personnel of information agencies, intelligence agencies, from within Canada, Canada's friends, and countries that are not Canada's friends.
My concern is this. Intelligence agencies provide accurate and intentionally inaccurate information regarding individuals. The bill in its current form, with its inadequate provision to safeguard the rights of an accused person and to test information source and credibility, is wrong. Injustice will be done. I hope some judge in the future will take note that Canada and other countries have provided, in specific cases, information that is knowingly false.
Here in Canada last year $75,000 was paid to an Ontario family because CSIS knowingly provided false information to the immigration department. That was a settlement out of court that was widely reported in our Canadian media. If this bill had been in effect and if this had been a situation where there was citizenship revocation, no defence would have been possible for this family.
Mr. Brian Tsuji: In a perfect world we would get exactly what Wesley has been asking for, but in a practical world we may not be able to get things pulled out. Andrew's advocating that we might want to get things pulled out. But if we have to come to a compromise, negotiate, and deal with some of the things that are there, there are some changes we can put in there. That is the position CBA national has adopted.
The new regulations have been proposed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and they have sent their proposal to CBA national. I have been given the dubious honour of responding to that and have prepared the first draft of our comments. CBA national is reviewing it before it goes back to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In the regulations we have a much broader piece of paper to work with because there isn't as much detail as there is in the actual statute for Bill C-18. There is the act, which will be Bill C-18, and then there are the regulations, which are much more vague. There's a lot less coverage of things. You can take a much more aggressive stance there as to what you are going to try to talk about and include because there is not that much there to begin with.
If we could take the things we were talking about out of the act that would be great, but the fact is we have the stuff in the present form, and if we have to work with it we've provided you with what we think the position of the CBA and the CBA B.C. would be on how you could work with it.
The Chair: That was spoken like a good lawyer.
The CBA has been very good in helping this committee in other ways, but a right is a right, and whether or not you start to negotiate rights you are starting to bug me.
But you know, Brian, thanks for telling me that the damn department gave you a copy of the regulations in advance of the frigging bill that hasn't been passed yet, and didn't even have the common courtesy to tell us and start getting our damn thing.
Mr. W. Wesley Pue: I can't begin to second-guess the lawyers who advise departments in Ottawa, but I want to put this on a common-sense ground.
What is more important to a Canadian than being a Canadian? What happens to somebody when they are stripped of their citizenship? Almost all of their other legal rights disappear. While I exaggerate for the purpose of effect, you lose a whole lot. If losing that foundational legal entitlement to be called a citizen of Canada isn't a fundamental interference with everything Canadians hold valuable, I simply don't know what is.