NUMBER 030 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.)): Good morning.
I would like to welcome the delegation. This is the second day of our hearings. We started yesterday in Winnipeg. We are dealing with three topics, one being citizenship. We are waiting for a new act to be tabled, and as you know, we put out a report from this committee back in November of last year. The other topics are recognition of international credentials and family reunification.
I can't help but be mindful that we really are in the Prairies. Ukrainian Canadians have helped populate this part of the country and have made a tremendous contribution to the life of our country.
So I would like to welcome you all and start off with Edward Lysyk. We have five minutes of presentations followed by questions. I expect some more members to be here in a little while.
Mr. Lysyk, go ahead, please.
Mr. Edward Lysyk (Vice-President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council): If you will permit us, first we will introduce ourselves.
My name is Ed Lysyk. I am vice-president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council, and I am also active on this immigration committee. I am a lawyer by trade, but I am not a criminal lawyer, I am not an expert in constitutional law. I do solicitor's work, so I have been mindful of the Charter of Rights in preparing our submission, but I am not an expert in that area.
With me are two gentlemen, and they will introduce themselves too, if that is permitted, although I will do the main part of the submission.
Mr. Danylo Puderak (Executive Director, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council): Good morning. Bonjour.
My name is Danylo Puderak. I am the executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council, and I am here to support Mr. Lysyk in our presentation.
As well, I wanted to mention that some of my work experience includes working with immigrants and refugees in Saskatoon through the Open Door Society.
Mr. Tony Harras (Standing Committee on Immigration, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council): Good morning.
My name is Tony Harras. I am a semi-retired professional engineer. I belong to and I work with numerous Ukrainian Canadian Congress committees and Ukrainian Canadian organizations in general.
I am also president of the Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages, which works with a whole range of ethnocultural groups, from those who have been in Canada for decades to recent immigrants, so I have a fairly close association with recent immigrants in particular.
Mr. Edward Lysyk: Just to explain what our organization is, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council is an inclusive, self-sustaining, vibrant organization. It serves the Saskatchewan Ukrainian community to maintain, develop, and ensure its Ukrainian Canadian identity, culture, and aspirations.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress does not have individual members in its organization. Rather, it's an umbrella organization and its membership consists of some 210 local community organizations. It was founded in 1972. However, at that time, it really formalized an association that existed of local Ukrainian Canadian Congress branches and other organizations. Some of those organizations date back to their early history in Saskatchewan in the 1890s when Ukrainian immigration really started in earnest in Canada. Today 13% of Saskatchewan's population consider their cultural heritage to be Ukrainian, and we're proud of the role our ancestors played in building Saskatchewan and Canada.
It's with keen interest that UCC has participated in the development of national policies and programs that impact not only on Ukrainian Canadians but on Canadian society as a whole. It's in that vein that we want to share our views today and our opinions as to what Canada should include in its new citizenship act.
We read with interest the November 2004 report by your committee and we commend the committee on its work to date. We concur that an overhaul of the existing Citizenship Act is overdue and we are hopeful that this will happen sooner rather than later. In fact, regarding the report you people produced, we are in agreement with substantially almost all of the recommendations. We would tweak a few themes in it, though, and we will speak about those during our presentation.
On February 28, 2005, the committee issued a press release, and it identified certain issues they wish to consult with Canadians. We are going to focus our presentation on a few of these issues rather than on all of them. We have a particular interest in some of those issues and we'll focus on that.
You are no doubt aware that Ukrainian Canadians across Canada have been troubled greatly by proceedings taken against various elderly individuals to remove their citizenship on the basis of misrepresentations that are presumed to have been given at the time of their admission to Canada almost 50 years ago. These proceedings highlighted to us the need to revisit whether proceedings are appropriate after such a time span, when records in question no longer exist and relevant witnesses have long since passed away. We recommend therefore in the new act that a limitation period be included that precludes revocation or annulment of citizenship after a reasonable period of time.
We also concur wholeheartedly with the committee's recommendation that all determinations under the act should be made by an independent decision-maker in a judicial process that's free from political influence. Not only do we feel that the courts should make the weighty decisions that can remove citizenship, but those affected should be protected by procedures and rules of evidence that befit a decision of this magnitude.
We recommend that proof beyond a reasonable doubt be required in actions that could result in the removal of citizenship. We feel it's logical that the burden of proof in these matters be no different from that required in criminal courts, as we feel the removal of one's citizenship in many cases is more serious than conviction under certain criminal offences. We agree with the view that the current law requiring proof on a balance of probabilities is not compliant with section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights, and we also feel that fundamental justice requires additionally a right of appeal and also requires evidence that is admissible in a court of law.
Your press release invites us to comment on the desirability of a preamble, and your November 2004 report suggests that it include seven general principles. Whether each of these principles is stated in the preamble or simply followed with respect to the drafting of the new act may not be important. However, we do agree with most of those principles, save for one.
We recommend against including a requirement that the legislation enhance English and French as the official languages in Canada. We feel including this could be highly exclusive and could have the effect of almost automatically denying citizenship to many immigrants to Canada from countries that do not have English or French included as one of their official languages. We believe it might serve to foster a policy of assimilation for Canadians whose heritage is neither English nor French.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act, in its own preamble, states that the Canadian Constitution and the Official Languages Act provide that neither of the official languages of Canada abrogate or derogate from any rights or privileges acquired or enjoyed with respect to any other language. Further, we would submit that history has shown that given time, most families of immigrants in Canada will develop proficiency in either or both official languages. It's our view that immigrants face considerable intolerance and ridicule for the way they look and speak without our entrenching such a requirement in the act.
Notwithstanding whatever language an immigrant may speak when they come to Canada, given time they will develop sufficient proficiency to meet their needs, and their children will almost certainly be fluent in one or both of the official languages. And if we are lucky, those children will in addition also retain the language of their forefathers.
Summing up, we make these recommendations with a belief that they're consistent with Canadian values and beliefs, and if followed in the new legislation, they will enhance the value of Canadian citizenship for all Canadians, whether they have obtained their citizenship by birth or choice.
Thanks for listening to our submission. We look forward to any questions you might have.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Now we're going to go into questions, and our challenge is to be able to go through all the people. So if we can have short questions and short answers, we'll be in good shape.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, CPC): Thank you.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for their submissions this morning. I appreciate their feedback.
I just have one quick question.
Mr. Lysyk, could you expand on your point of view on the right of appeal under the current Citizenship Act? I know we've had some different feedback on that, whether that process is in the case of a revocation or with regard to someone's citizenship. Do you think that under the current Citizenship Act the right of appeal is significant enough, or should there be certain changes to that?
We've heard some different points of view on this. I was just hoping you could expand on it.
Mr. Edward Lysyk: This is where it would be more helpful if I were more of a criminal lawyer and understood the process a little better. But as I understand it at this point, the types of court applications that are brought after decisions are made are really judicial reviews of decisions; they're technically not appeals. The existence of an appellate structure in an act makes it much more accessible to people, and the process is much more certain.
From what I recall from my days in law school when we discussed what natural justice required, a right of appeal was considered a fundamental tenet of natural justice. As a result, when you read provisions in the act and say certain decisions are made and no appeal is possible, if you have to go through contortions and make applications, that ultimately may have some assistance. But you also have to get over major hurdles in order to get to the substance of what you're dealing with and why it is just that the decision would be overturned. It would make much more sense for a higher level of court to be able to get to the substance of the argument and review that decision.
If they continue to have no right of appeal on a matter involving the removal of your citizenship, it just seems to me that the value of citizenship is not really considered to be very high.
The Chair: There's no right to appeal right now. That's been one of the huge points of debate.
Mr. Roger Clavet (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is a pleasure for me to welcome before us the members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Saskatchewan Provincial Council. On behalf of the Bloc Québecois I wish to underscore the importance and the great contribution of the Ukrainian community to Canada as well as to Quebec. I would like to salute this contribution.
I myself spent five years in Western Canada, namely in Winnipeg. The importance of the contribution of the Ukrainian community is obvious every day.
I would like to come back to what you were saying. I will not dwell on the issue of the preamble on linguistic duality, because that is the very foundation of the country which is yours. This is a debate you will have amongst Canadians.
For now, I would like to come back to the limitation period, with regard to citizenship removal. Indeed, there are citizens that are directly targeted by citizenship revocation. You talked of a reasonable period of time. What, in the view of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, would be a reasonable period of time for the revocation of the citizenship of a citizen presumed to have entered the country under false identity or other?
Mr. Edward Lysyk: If we look at the types of limitation periods we have for various other legal matters, we will see that for civil matters in Saskatchewan they have recently been made more uniform—two years from the date of discovery. Then they put in a 15-year overall period. So no matter when they discover the problem, after 15 years you just cannot deal with the matter any further.
If we consider the length of the human memory and availability of witnesses, in my own view 15 years is too long. I think somewhere between five and ten years would be a reasonable length of time. I know our national organization has suggested five years. I don't think we're hung up on the precise number of years, but we want to see something that protects people, so if they do have to face that type of hearing they will still be able to find witnesses to support their side. People will still be alive, and documentation will exist so it can be produced and credible evidence can be put forward in the trial. If you go much beyond ten years, I question whether that's going to be the case.
Mr. Roger Clavet: You stated that 13% of Saskatchewan's population is of Ukrainian descent. Is this proportion on the rise, stationary or dropping off? Do you foresee a new increase of this proportion with the arrival of more Ukrainian immigrants?
Mr. Edward Lysyk: Danylo probably could answer that question.
Mr. Danylo Puderak: Sure. Actually, the numbers for the past couple of censuses have been fairly constant. I think it's important to realize that many of those are not just single-origin Ukrainians. They can come from mixed families but choose to recognize themselves as Ukrainian Canadians.
Mr. Roger Clavet: So, it's roughly the same from one year to the next?
Mr. Danylo Puderak: Over the past couple of censuses it has been fairly constant, yes.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Mr. Siksay.
Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): I wanted to come back to the issue of enhancing English and French as the official languages of Canada. You're concerned about that, and I know Mr. Harras said that he was involved with heritage languages here in Saskatchewan. Maybe you could expand on that and just tell me why you think there might be a concern related to including this in a preamble to a new citizenship act.
Mr. Tony Harras: I don't think we are suggesting in any way that the fundamental principle of French and English as being the official languages of Canada should be degraded or challenged. The point we're making, though, is that if you make the statement that the immigrants should enhance the status of the English and French, that kind of thing implies automatically that these people have a capacity for English and French that would enhance the status of English and French. So just by reverse logic, it tends to be exclusive. If immigrants are coming from countries where they don't have a good basis for English and French, that would detract, not enhance.
I think what we're trying to say is that if we are looking at enhancing the country in terms of the quality of citizens -- not necessarily the immediate parents who would be coming but in the long term -- I think what we want to do is make sure the quality of people who come to Canada and become citizens enhances our nation. Whether those parents themselves have an enhanced capacity for English and French should not be an issue.
Mr. Bill Siksay: In our immigration process, we do give people points for speaking one of the official languages. It's a pretty crucial grouping of points in the process, if you're coming as a skilled worker or as an economic refugee. So we already have this kind of built in to the system.
How would you respond, given your concern around citizenship?
Mr. Tony Harras: I think the issue is the word “enhance”. It implies that this is more than, let's say, meeting a point system. And by the way, there are other programs under the immigration policies that allow people who don't have a good knowledge of English or French to come into Canada, and the nomination program is an example.
But that point we're trying to make is that, to be come citizens, those individuals shouldn't necessarily have to have such a level of competency in the languages that they will enhance the status of English and French.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Do you have concerns about the level of English that's required to take a citizenship test, to swear the oath, those kinds of things? Should those be offered in languages other than English or French, or is that a reasonable requirement in those processes?
Mr. Tony Harras: My position would be that in terms of enhancing Canada as a nation by attracting people who could become worthy citizens of this country, we obviously need to have a certain requirement for being able to communicate in one of the official languages.
When it comes to some of the points you've raised right now, I would think if that particular circumstance existed, I certainly would not be opposed to it. But I don't think that fine point about taking an oath is the major one that should necessarily influence us to any particular degree.
I think the issue when it comes to citizenship is what kind of people we are trying to attract to this country, what kind of contribution they'll be making to this nation. And if we have people who came through, let's say, a nomination program who aren't competent to the same degree as other immigrants in either of the official languages, we should not try to preclude those people from becoming citizens.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Do you have any concerns that if we didn't include something about enhancing English and French as the official languages, that might be an excuse for taking away language training, or diminishing our commitment to language training for new immigrants?
Mr. Tony Harras: Again, I think it's the word “enhanced”, because that implies that those people would enhance the current status of English and French. I don't think taking that word away would in any way be an excuse to not provide ESL or French language training.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Temelkovski.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski (Oak Ridges—Markham, Lib.): Thank you for appearing in front of us today.
Edward, you mentioned, in terms of the limitation, five to ten years. I just want to probe a little bit before that. Should there be removal of citizenship?
Mr. Edward Lysyk: I think the public of Canada would demand that. Even though the process of getting into Canada and ultimately becoming a citizen takes a period of time -- you're not a citizen overnight -- there are still going to be mistakes made. There are going to be people who deceive people and this is going to be discovered afterwards. We've seen it in Saskatchewan with a doctor from Kipling who turned out to be an evil person, and he had his citizenship revoked and he was shipped out of the country. The public was totally behind that. They all thought that was appropriate and I think everybody in our community thought that was appropriate.
We just feel that, given the passage of time.... When we say five years at the lower end, five years might be more like eight or nine years since the people first got into the country, because there's a period of time to go through the process. So even if you go up to 10 years, you have 13 or 14 years of having been in the country and since you made your first representations on getting into that country.
I don't think we're going to argue that you can't remove a citizenship. We're just saying that after a certain period of time, people should be comfortable that they're not going to be called upon to perform the impossible task of defending their entry into the country, because so much time has gone by.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: For which situation should one be removed? Is it because they told us they didn't have any children and they have children? Or is it because they were in the army in the Ukraine before and didn't tell us they were? Or is it because they are three inches shorter than they said they were?
What would be comfortable for your organization?
Mr. Edward Lysyk: I've seen regular community situations when people have had problems with having not disclosed children, say from Jamaica or somewhere. I remember being involved in a case in that regard twenty-some years ago. And I thought to myself, is that a good reason -- somebody hides the fact that they had a child -- for them to be thrown out of the country? My own feeling at that time was that it wasn't sufficient reason.
I think there are different reasons that might put somebody into the category of somebody we want to remove from Canada.
The other thing we have to bear in mind when we're talking about a limitation period on revoking citizenship is that we're in no way suggesting that people should not be prosecuted for crimes they may have committed, whether they're war crimes or whatever. We fully support that they should be prosecuted and punished under the criminal laws that exist in Canada. There is no limitation period for that, and we're not suggesting there should be a limitation period for criminal activities.
We don't have limitation periods in our Criminal Code other than for summary conviction offences. So if we're dealing with the criminal law in terms of prosecuting somebody for a crime, that's different. But when we're removing citizenship, the penalty -- it's not a criminal proceeding, but it's so close to it -- is different.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: I have one more quick question. Should someone be stripped only of their citizenship and deported, or should they be stripped of their citizenship and be able to remain in Canada as an immigrant as opposed to a citizen?
Mr. Edward Lysyk: It would seem to me that if we are prepared to let somebody stay in the country, why would we be removing their citizenship? If somebody has done something so awful that we need to remove their citizenship, then obviously we don't want them in the country.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: We will take their rights to do something as the rights that are given when you become a citizen.
Mr. Edward Lysyk: Indeed. On the point of their having made such a bad representation on coming into the country, it would have to be something that would have precluded their entry in the first place on reasonable grounds.
One of the things that members of our community also believe is that there should be some ability for those judges who make these decisions to make decisions on compassionate grounds as well. If somebody has been here for a considerable period of time and has demonstrated that they are a good citizen -- maybe there was some form of misrepresentation early on, but it wasn't so terribly serious, and the person has in effect proven that they are a good citizen since then -- perhaps we shouldn't remove their citizenship. Maybe the judge should have the discretion to make decisions and not be given a minimum “thou shalt in these circumstances” to automatically remove the citizenship.
We have seen the public perceive injustices even in the criminal courts in cases where there aren't minimum sentencing requirements for certain offences, and you do get the odd situation where the judge would even want to ignore the law and impose something less than the prescribed penalty. We have seen that in Saskatchewan in fact in recent years. So I think there needs to be the ability for judges to have some discretion in what they do.
I don't understand why we would.... If it's so serious as to remove citizenship, I think it would have to logically flow that the person isn't welcome in Canada anymore. But I preface this by saying it would have to be such a serious matter, such a serious misrepresentation, to have removed that citizenship in the first place. You gave some examples about appearance and height and stuff. Obviously those are situations that people normally would not worry about. There are various other things that could be done or not done, and some will be serious and some won't.
The Chair: Okay. Thank you very much.
We have now run out of time. I want to thank you all for appearing and making a presentation.
We have the Minister Responsible for Immigration, the Honourable Pat Atkinson, who is going to be speaking. I mentioned to you that you might want to stay to hear her presentation, but I want to thank you very much for coming forward and being our first witnesses in Saskatchewan.
Mr. Edward Lysyk: We thank you for giving us this opportunity.
The Chair: We will take a short break and then we will have the minister.
The Chair: Gentlemen, members of the committee, we have blown the schedule a little bit, so we'll be going into the lunch hour.
Mr. Haimanot, welcome to the committee. Please go ahead with your presentation of five minutes. Then we'll go to the question session. You'll be with us a number of times today.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot (Member, Board of Directors, Saskatchewan Intercultural Association): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
My name Kebrom Haimanot. I am a member of the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association. This board represents the multicultural community of Saskatoon and the surrounding areas. I am here today on my behalf, basically, but the board knows I will be discussing our association today. I am also involved with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union, as an executive member of the crown sector.
I have been in this kind of situation, discussing our participation, for many years; it has been over 25 years. I was a member of the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, which is an umbrella organization that represents all the cultural organizations of Saskatchewan.
So many interesting discussions have been brought up. As late as last week, on Saturday, the PC Party was collecting the same information as you guys are collecting. They asked us to help them formulate their policy, and I happened to be a participant in that too. So I was able to gather some information from other individuals as well.
As I said, I am privileged to be invited to give my input into the new citizenship act. That is what I will be discussing at the moment.
The new citizenship act should have a preamble on the questions that you are asking, stating Canadians' commitment to human rights and mutual respect, and our Canadian values of multiculturalism, gender equality, and linguistic pluralism, with official bilingualism -- French and English -- should be part of the preamble. Of course, you have heard that French and English has been.... That's the reality. We cannot avoid it. That's the nature of the country. It should be there, in my opinion.
This will clearly set the tone that, unlike in the United States where there is a melting pot situation, in Canada there is only one citizenship, with the same equal rights regardless of your place of origin, whether you were born in Canada, came from another country in the world, or are of aboriginal ancestry. In short, there are no second-class citizens in Canada. We are all equal citizens in this land.
As the saying goes, with a bundle of rights comes a bundle of responsibilities that citizens should do for their country -- in this case, Canada. Those responsibilities, such as abiding by its laws and changing those laws that are not in the best interests of Canada or Canadians, changing them by orderly democratic means, which is the process we are going through right now -- this is part of the means of changing what you think is disorderly.
There should be no limits placed on the way citizenship can be obtained by birth. We don't believe a Canadian citizen by birth should have any limitation as to acquiring his citizenship, and on the contrary, it should be expanded to include all children born of a Canadian parent.
I stress that I didn't say “parents”; I said “parent”. As a Canadian citizen, my children should be entitled to become Canadians regardless of where they were born or when they came to Canada, and not only that, but anybody who is legally adopted should also be an instant Canadian.
On the issue of criteria for the granting of citizenship to newcomers, the three-year waiting period plus knowledge of Canada, its people, its general laws, and the way the government gets elected and operates at the three levels of government -- the municipal, provincial, and federal levels -- is important. Emphasis on the knowledge of our election system is important, for many come as refugees from non-democratic, dictatorial governments where no elections are carried out. So knowledge of that becomes imperative in order for them to become good Canadian citizens.
Input from other Canadian citizens about a person who wants to be a citizen should be seriously considered, so other Canadian citizens should be able to give their input about the person who wants to join the Canadian citizenship.
Anybody with violent crime in Canada that resulted in more than a year of incarceration should not be allowed to be a citizen, for it could serve as a deterrent to the person's reoffending again, because if the person has done violent crime and has been incarcerated for over a year or two, then that person doesn't deserve it. He should not even wait for three years to be a good citizen.
At citizenship, swearing allegiance to Canada, its constitutional Charter of Rights, and its people is good enough,as far as I am concerned.
In case of a citizen of Canada who is in contravention of the law, regardless of the seriousness of the matter, the person should be allowed to exhaust all steps of our legal system, with no consideration of the number of years it will take. In some circumstances the government.... One hears that Canadians by choice have a secret tribunal hearing, with facts and figures being hidden from the respondent. You hear those things. This kind of thinking defeats the very fabric of our democracy and it creates two-tier citizenship, one for the Canadian by choice and the other one is for the Canadian by birth. In fact, it even goes deeper than this, in that a child born in Canada has a due course affair, an open, transparent trial, while his parents born outside of Canada have a closed, one tribunal hearing. This kind of thinking in the name of expediting the trial attacks the very fabric of our democracy, which makes Canada an undemocratic country lower than the country of origin of the person who ran away from persecution, where a pseudo-trial at three levels takes place.
In those dictatorial governments, believe it or not, there are three levels in the court system -- the lower court, appeal court, and supreme court. The only exception is that the odds of being acquitted are stacked against you if the dictatorial government wants to imprison you. In other words, there are three levels of court in those places, and they allegedly exhaust all of that, but you know that whether you are guilty or not guilty, you are always guilty. The odds are stacked against you, because the government doesn't want you, or wants to imprison you or get you away from the system.
So here when we say we don't even give them the three court levels because of the time it takes, that becomes troublesome. It is an erosion of the very fabric of this country, which is democracy.
It is ironic that notorious murderers, serial killers such as the ones in B.C. here, because they are born in Canada, are allowed to go through three levels of our court system -- we feed them, we shelter them in the jail -- yet the Canadian by choice is denied all this and is deported to his place of origin.
It is my opinion that we should task our court system to come up with the right verdict. If we want, let's shorten the stay period at each level of the court system. Otherwise, as each naturalized citizen is told at their citizenship ceremony, he or she is as Canadian as those born in Canada, including having the right to vote and even the right to be elected to the highest government position -- to become the Prime Minister of Canada.
I sympathize with some officials who are frustrated, but unfortunately that is not the solution, for it attacks the very reason that many immigrants come to Canada, seeking democracy, fairness, and equal treatment of all citizens under the law.
Thank you very much.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Thank you, Mr. Haimanot. I appreciate your comments to us this morning.
We are now going to go to our questions and comments round. We'll have five-minute questions and comments, for both the question and your response to them.
So we are going to begin with Mr. Jaffer.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thanks, Mr. Chair. I will stick to the rules here, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for your presentation. I have one question on something I wasn't clear on, which I think you may just have to clarify for me. When you mentioned the Citizenship Act, I believe you said that Canadian children born outside the country don't automatically get citizenship. Did I misunderstand that?
I have forgotten what you said. It should be extended to them, but I think I just wasn't clear on the scenario of this.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: If there is a new citizenship act, it should include any child born to a Canadian citizen, including a child born overseas, who should instantly be a Canadian citizen. It should be the same thing for anybody who is out of....
I'm not sure about the law as it reads today.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Yes, it is extended to them now, isn't it? Yes, it is. Okay.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: But if there is any change, that should not change. That is what I'm trying to say.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Yes. Fair enough.
That clarification is really all I had to ask for.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Monsieur Clavet.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you very much, Mr. Acting Chairman.
I would first like to congratulate the witness for his excellent presentation and his very interesting comments about the preamble. For example, you emphasize the linguistic duality of this country. I wish you would speak with our previous witnesses, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who do not believe in this principle, to remind them of its importance. I find very interesting the notion that there should be no second-class citizens.
You also suggest to add knowledge of the Canadian electoral system as a condition for getting citizenship. Could you elaborate on the importance of the knowledge of our electoral system?
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: Can someone translate that for me, please?
Mr. Roger Clavet: Oh, you missed it. Well, I will ask you directly.
What is the importance, to your mind, of the knowledge of our election system for granting citizenship to a newcomer? What would be important to you?
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: Well, it would be very important to have a good knowledge of the electoral system, because if you didn't know anything of that nature.... If you have, say, an election under a dictatorial government, you will see that everything's already set up for whomever they want to be elected, and that's what generally takes place in those countries. But they have to be aware there is a democratic system here, where there are proper scrutineers and electoral bodies. They have to be made aware of the whole electoral system, so they have nothing to fear. When I am voting for any of you, I should be voting because of my conviction, not because somebody is watching me while I am voting or I'll be in trouble. They don't know those kinds of things in some cases, as many of you will know. Another thing is that having knowledge of the electoral system will help the new immigrants understand that there is a fair, equitable system by the law.
Mr. Roger Clavet: My first comment was about the preamble, where you emphasize the principle of two official languages, English and French. I said this was excellent and suggested you may want to discuss this with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress whose representatives dismissed this principle. So I wanted to congratulate you on reaffirming this principle.
I will conclude with a final question on professional associations. You seem to say that the Canadian Medical Association does not always recognize the credentials of newcomers.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: At a different stage, I'll be discussing those credentials. So far I'm discussing citizenship only, and then we'll go to the next step and the next step. That's the way the meeting is set up. Am I right?
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Mr. Clavet, he will be presenting on that later today.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you very much.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: As he said, the bilingualism of Canada is entrenched in the Constitution and all that, and it is a given. I think it is generally accepted by most immigrants that this country is a bilingual country with a multicultural framework, a multilingualism framework, which means nobody is chastised or feels it an affront if an immigrant uses his language, promotes his language, and educates his children in his language.
To me, any language... My limitation isn't only English and French, but it could have gone to other languages. I personally speak five languages, and it is a plus. Some of them I picked up from my colleagues. I picked up Italian from friends out playing. You would be amazed when you travel across the world how beneficial those things can be. Even the words “good morning” and “goodbye” would do a lot of good work for a person to create harmony and understanding among mankind.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Do we still have some time?
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): No, you are actually just on the button of five minutes. Time's up.
Merci, Monsieur Clavet.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thanks to our witness.
I have two questions. Number one is on the oath. You mentioned that in the oath we should swear allegiance to Canada, to its laws, to so on and so forth, and nothing else. I am not sure if I am reading you correctly here as to whether you are saying we should not be swearing allegiance to the Queen, and if you are saying that, please say it clearly.
Number two, you mentioned that other persons should be intervening or putting forth support toward someone who is about to become a Canadian citizen, to speak on behalf of them. Could you tell us a little bit more of what you mean by that?
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: On the swearing, there is a lot of discussion going on -- I am sure you are well familiar with it -- on owing allegiance to the Queen and allegiance to her heirs. It's a controversial situation. To me personally, it doesn't matter whether I have allegiance to the Queen or to her heirs or whatever. But I see in the community where I come from, which is a multicultural community, that some people have trouble with these kinds of things, because they didn't go to England; they came to Canada. Perhaps some of them had the change to go to England; there they swear allegiance to the Queen. Once they pass all the exams and everything just before swearing, as was covered in CBC -- I am quoting CBC here -- some of them say, no, it might be okay to say allegiance to the Queen, but not her heirs, from what I see; they are not good examples for me. That kind of statement has been made, and because of those kinds of things a lot of people have been deterred.
I think we are first and foremost Canadians, and as Canadians we have to have allegiance to the Constitution of this land, not the constitution of England or any other land. First and foremost, our allegiance is to the Constitution of this land, and if we abide by the Constitution of this land, I think we have fulfilled our mandate as citizens. So why put a lot roadblocks in it? First and foremost is to ensure that we have allegiance to the Constitution of Canada.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Okay. The next question was about support when someone --
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: As for the support, I was just thinking, in the way you put it, of the different angles. For some people, with the current state of the nation -- you hear about terrorism and what have you -- the whole thing is becoming.... You make punishments as you go, and that's dangerous.
It's exactly like Pope John Paul II, who's quoted in the media as saying he cannot change the theology to fit the current system. There should be something concrete that we all look upon, instead of saying, “There's terrorism today; let's make a rule that fits this. Lets make this,” and making a rule based on exceptions, rather than on the dominant state of what's happening in the country.
So 99.9% of Canadians are law-abiding citizens, but there are exceptions as well. We have prisoners. If there were no exceptions we wouldn't have these prisoners. Let's not make rules based on the 1%, the exception; let's make our rules based on the majority. Let's look at the majority when we set up rules, and they will serve the 99%. When you make a rule for the 1%, that affects the 99%; it affects the rest of us. The question is to be cognizant of those things.
What I was saying was, if I know somebody who is of an evil nature, I should have the right to say to Citizenship and Immigration Canada that this person is an evil person, that this is what I know, and that he should not be joining the club of citizenship, if you want to put it that way.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: That would be intervention, that's right.
I have one other quick question. You mentioned two-class citizenship. I'm assuming you're opposing that.
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: Yes. The way things are right now, we should all have one citizenship. Actually, there are people who say they don't approve of deportation and all that sort of thing. If we accepted a person as one of us -- he's a citizen -- and he breaks the law, regardless of where he was born or where he came from, he should be chastized or persecuted here in Canada, not sent out because 20 years ago he used to be in Yugoslavia, so he's sent to Yugoslavia or whatever. That doesn't make sense.
If we call him a citizen, exactly like the child who was born and raised here, he should be facing the laws of this land and should be imprisoned like the rest of us would be. But before we make him a citizen, we have to be very careful who we are making a citizen. That's all I was saying.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Thank you.
Hon. David Anderson: Here are two quick points. One is that I want to stress that in our court system not all cases hit all three levels; in fact, the Supreme Court of Canada may only hear about 120 cases a year, some of which are immigration and refugee cases, such as the Singh decision. I think it is important at least to get it on the record that the immigration system does provide some of those Supreme Court of Canada cases.
The second is that we do not swear any oath to the Queen of England in Canada. Anyone swearing the oath is swearing it to the Canadian Constitution, and the Crown is an integral part of the Constitution. It's perfectly legitimate for anyone to suggest that should be changed, but at least if it's to be changed it should be changed on the basis of what it actually is, rather than what it is not.
The issue, however, that I would like to add a couple of more words on is from the last question of my colleague, with respect to two levels of citizenship. Do you believe we currently have two levels of citizenship, strictly on the issue of the possibility of revocation of citizenship by reason of the discovery later in time that a material fact that would have led to exclusion at the outset was concealed? Do you feel that issue is sufficient to declare that we have a double system of citizenship?
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: The way you put it now, no, we do not have it. That would simply be if a person has lied about his landing or his citizenship. That's a different ball game, because he is guilty from the outset; if this person is the one we are talking about being deported, that's a different ball game. But regardless of the situation, if the person has committed a crime of any nature, as a citizen he should be imprisoned like any one of us would be.
There is another thing we have to do very carefully. In the name of expediting the process is where we have trouble. The due course of the law, the three levels... I should be allowed to go through lower court. If I have reason to appeal, I should be allowed to appeal, and if I have a further appeal, I should be allowed to go to the Supreme Court. Those avenues should be open. That's what makes this country different from any other country in the world. This is what makes Canada what it is today. But if we start tinkering around, to expedite Ernst Zundel kinds of people who have made drastic or stupid statements or done stupid acts...to deport them might take 20 years, but that's part of democracy. For serial killers like Olson in B.C., they exhaust all the avenues for trial, and this person is in jail -- not only in jail; we are feeding him, dressing him, and what have you. Or Paul... whatever you call him, in Toronto -- we have all sorts of people like that out there. We are not going to claim all immigrants are angels; we are not going to claim all people born in Canada are angels, either. Otherwise we don't need those jails.
Hon. David Anderson: Okay. Am I to understand, then, with respect to any material misrepresentation on an application form, you would agree revocation of citizenship is not unreasonable and would not lead, as a result, to any double class of citizens?
Mr. Kebrom Haimanot: Yes, I agree with that.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Thank you, Mr. Anderson.
Thank you, Mr. Haimanot, for your presentation on the Citizenship Act. We appreciate your coming this morning and sharing your thoughts on this important subject with us. Thank you very much.
I'd like to ask the committee if we might propose a bit of a change to our agenda. Since our next two witnesses are both here and are both appearing on the same issue, we were wondering if we might combine them into a panel, hear both presentations, and then do a round of questioning. If that meets with your approval and if that would be possible, we could continue with it.
We'll take a brief break now. We'll begin on schedule, at 11:10, with the next two presentations.