NUMBER 032 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.)): Good morning.
I would like to call this meeting to order.
It's great being in Calgary, the home city of a member, Diane Ablonczy. I welcome the delegations. As you know, we're dealing with citizenship, family reunification, and international credentials, and we're very pleased to be here.
The way we operate the session is that you each have five minutes to make presentations, after which we go into questions and answers. Try to keep it to five minutes or less so we can get through everybody.
Mr. Parvez, could you please start with your presentation?
Dr. Masood Parvez (President, Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
To be very honest, I'm new in this field. I'm a university professor and I've never attended these kinds of meetings. This is my first chance to present myself and my community.
I represent the Pakistan Canada Association. I'm president at the moment and I took this as a sort of challenge. I had a meeting with Pakistani community members and I put forward the points that were given to me to discuss. I will summarize the responses resulting from the discussion with the community members.
Yes, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship should be defined and the newcomers or the new citizens should be made aware of these. Most of the people don't even know what their rights are when they become citizens.
Last week for the first time I read the Citizenship Act myself.
Should there be limits placed on the ways citizenship can be obtained by birth? Yes. Children born to parents living in Canada as landed immigrants or working under a visa should be automatically granted Canadian citizenship, and there should not be any question about this.
What should be the criteria for granting citizenship to newcomers? There are several categories of people. Newcomers or landed immigrants should complete their three years of residence, as is the case right now, before they can apply for citizenship. Work permit visa holders may be required to complete x number of years before they are given landed immigrant status and treated likewise; x can be defined as anything from one to three years, depending on the circumstances.
Refugee claimants who have stayed in Canada for three years or longer should be allowed permanent residence, leading eventually to citizenship.
All newcomers intending to acquire Canadian citizenship must have no criminal conviction and not be involved in anti-state activities during their stay in Canada. Within Canada we should be concerned about their activities. There must be proof of such activities, and whether citizenship is denied a person should not be based on mere suspicion.
The appropriate reasons to remove citizenship and the process: in order to remove citizenship, a thorough process, fair to all, should be applied, not to those who are born... or who have acquired citizenship. We should not treat our citizens in a two-tiered system. Landed immigrants and those who acquired citizenship should not be treated like second-class citizens. They should have equal rights to those of people who were born in Canada.
Criminal activities should be dealt with within the jurisdiction of Canadian laws and punished as such. Somebody who commits a crime here should be punished accordingly. Involvement of an individual in anti-state activities or someone's obtaining citizenship through false statements should be valid reasons for removing citizenship.
The text of a new citizenship oath: I do not see any problem with this in my community. As the law goes and as Parliament decides, we're happy with it.
The last one was, what sort of citizenship engagement strategy does Canada need to make sure its citizenship is recognized and celebrated? It is fine as it is. We take the oath and we abide by the laws of the land.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express our views on this.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Certainly, Professor, you've done well. You've kept within your timeframe, which doesn't happen too often.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk (Director, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association Calgary Office): Good morning.
I am also not a professional presenter. I'm a pharmacist by profession, so please forgive me for.... I'll treat you as patients and teach you about your medications.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to appear before you on behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Our association has been in existence since 1984, when it was known as the Civil Liberties Committee.
At that time, we were actively involved as participants in the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada, headed by Mr. Justice Jules Deschênes. Our organization's mandate is to champion human rights issues. To that end, we are very interested in the Citizenship Act, because we believe it violates a basic principle -- that being equality of all people. I believe that's a part of our charter as Canadians.
Canada, in 1987, passed legislation that gives Canadian courts jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world. It covers crimes in the past, the present, and the future.
After the jury in the Imre Finta case found that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to support its case, and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the verdict on the appeal, the federal government abandoned criminal trials. The government considered that the quality of evidence required for conviction in a criminal case could not be met in the cases tendered to it.
The federal government then commenced denaturalization and deportation proceedings without a criminal trial in the cases of central and east Europeans accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The process is applied to people accused of working with Nazi Germany. It is not, to date, applied to people who committed crimes on behalf of Soviet Russia or any other Communist regimes.
As an aside, I would like to mention that the fifth annual report of the current war crimes program states that:
In 1985, the government established the Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals which produced three lists of suspects containing 883 names. The principal recommendation of Mr. Justice Deschênes was that the RCMP and the Department of Justice be mandated to carry out investigations of these suspects.
That's from their program. This is clearly incorrect, since the Deschênes commission recommended that 622 of those 883 cases be closed immediately. This also perpetuates the initial 400% exaggeration of the number of alleged war criminals living in Canada that led to the creation of the Deschênes commission. This is a serious error in a government report.
A Canadian-born citizen must be proven guilty in a criminal court in Canada. A citizen by choice, an immigrant, does not have the protection of the standards of evidence afforded a Canadian born in Canada, but is condemned on the basis of allegations that are not proven in a criminal court. This process creates two classes of citizens -- those by birth and those by choice.
The process of denaturalization and deportation within the Citizenship Act raises two fundamental issues: are all Canadians equal, or are Canadians born outside of Canada inferior in rights to Canadians born in Canada? Secondly, are Canadian citizens by choice from central and eastern Europe inferior in rights to other Canadians born outside of Canada?
The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes that all Canadian citizens, whether they are Canadians by choice or by birth, have the same rights and obligations. Canadian citizenship should be irrevocable. All persons residing in Canada should be subject to the same laws, applied equally and without prejudice with respect to racial, ethnic or religious origins, or heritage. To that end, we call upon the Government of Canada to make amendments to the current Citizenship Act, and we call upon the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Joseph Volpe, to table a bill in the House of Commons that reflects the equality of which I spoke.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Sydoruk.
Might I say that one of the things that we found out in our hearings, both in Ottawa and elsewhere, is that we have a real shortage of pharmacists in Canada.
Anyway, starting off this morning is Ms. Ablonczy. As I mentioned, she is representing Calgary in the House of Commons.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC): Yes. I have some of my bosses here. I have to behave myself. But we do appreciate your interventions today, and my first question is for Dr. Parvez.
Your Pakistan Canada Association has a number of business and professional people, and one of the concerns this committee has -- and it's been one of the causes I've been pursuing -- is the recognition of international credentials and experience.
I wonder if you could tell the committee whether you and members of your association have had difficulties in having credentials recognized.
The Chair: The topic is the citizenship issue.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Is that all I can talk about?
The Chair: Pretty well, because then we go on to different panels, which will have different issues.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: You mean I can't talk about my pet topic?
The Chair: Well, you can, but it will be coming up later with a different panel.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: If you don't rule it out of order, I would like to pursue this line of questioning.
The Chair: The only problem is that we've split up the panels, if you look at it, as we have....
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: We won't have Dr. Parvez here.
Hon. David Anderson (Victoria, Lib.): Could I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if any one of the members of the committee wishes to question, they may? Of course, they also have the right of not questioning, so if we have a panel later, Diane may decide not to question because she's already asked a question. Therefore, it would not be repetitive because we'd all be here and we'd hear the answer.
The reason I say that is that all of us pick up different messages from witnesses, different things of interest, and I wouldn't want to be too confining if it turned out later that for some reason, maybe because of a shortage of time, Diane did not have a chance to question, or I did not have a chance to question.
It seems to me that we should be given a fair bit of latitude at this point.
The Chair: The only issue we have is that witnesses indicated which issues they wanted to address.
I guess you don't have your afternoon sheet there with you, but....
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I have it here.
The Chair: It's then that we'll be dealing with the issue of international credentials. I would say on the first round we should deal with the issues the witnesses came expecting to talk about, because they could have elected to address each of the topics, if they'd so desired.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Of course, I do defer to the chair, as always. However, I do point out that Dr. Parvez would have some very special expertise in this area of credentials. Of course, I can talk to him any time, but the rest of the committee doesn't have that ability.
However, if you wish, I can certainly redirect my question to the issue of citizenship.
The Chair: That would be good.
And by the way, the panel can send information to us on the other topics we're on tour about. Otherwise, we're not going to deal with the citizenship issue anyplace else.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Okay. Let me continue then.
Dr. Parvez, I will withdraw the brilliant question I was just about to ask you, and ask you the following. There have been a number of concerns raised to members of Parliament about the length of time it takes to receive citizenship. Some of the delays have been of real concern.
I wonder if you and the people you are acquainted with, your organization, have any concerns about the process of receiving citizenship.
Dr. Masood Parvez: Yes, there has been a lot of concern about the length of time people are spending here to acquire citizenship, especially those who are under refugee status. For landed immigrants, they complete their three years, then they apply for citizenship and everything is fine. But when it comes to some other people applying for permanent residence and staying here legally, on legal grounds, being given permission to stay here permanently and then eventually become citizens, I have known some cases where it has taken nine or ten years. People have spent their lives -- that's a big chunk of their lives -- waiting for their cases to be heard.
I think there should be a much faster process. Either give them an honourable stay in the country or decide on their fate. I mean, there was a man here last year who passed away after living here in Canada for ten years. He was waiting for his permanent resident status to be given to him, and he was here as a refugee. His family requested that his body be sent to Pakistan, and we did send his body back to Pakistan. He was here for ten years. He came here when he was 52; he passed away when he was 62. His wife and kids had not seen his face for ten years, and they were really desperate to have his body back...with their respect.
There are many examples like this.
I think they should cut it short as much as possible. If there is a case against some person, it should be dealt with very promptly and be denied or accepted in the minimum possible time, instead of wasting any time or a big chunk of his life.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: That's good information for the committee.
With respect to this whole matter of so-called war crimes, I've always been puzzled about the vigour with which the government is pursuing cases like Odynsky and Oberlander, who have been found by the courts not to have been war criminals, particularly when the government recognizes that the number of war criminals in Canada increased from 75 last year to 125 this year. There doesn't seem to be a vigorous pursuit of those individuals. Of course, stripping someone of identity -- citizenship -- behind closed doors is completely repugnant to the democratic process.
My question for you is this. We all know what's happening; we all know the problems. Do you see any justification, post-9/11, for this kind of summary treatment of people, not in the situation of Mr. Oberlander or Mr. Odynsky or any of those ancient cases, but in cases where people may be found after the fact to be war criminals of more recent vintage? Do you see any justification for a summary stripping of citizenship behind closed doors?
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: Our position is to maintain the charter. If in this example you're using they are Canadian citizens already, then the charter must be maintained. They should be tried in Canada under Canadian criminal law. That is very important. As you know, the rules for evidence are much stricter than in civil proceedings, for example, where they allow hearsay information.
If the example is of someone accused of a war crime who is now a Canadian citizen, they should be afforded the rights of a Canadian citizen according to the charter -- and that's very important, “according to the charter”, so that they don't become a second-class Canadian citizen -- and be tried in Canada. You don't get rid of garbage.... These people are not garbage; they're Canadian citizens. If they're guilty, if they're accused and there's evidence, nail them as a Canadian citizen no different from anybody else who's born in Canada. Canadians by choice have to be afforded that right, as are Canadians who are born here.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman -- I think.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Roger Clavet (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'll start with a question for Mr. Parvez. I'd also like to congratulate him on the work he is doing with Calgary's Pakistani community.
You stated that criminal activity by immigrants should be dealt with under Criminal Code provisions. Given the present situation, do you think it's possible to deal with these criminal activities solely under the Criminal Code? In other words, do you feel it's possible for the Citizenship Act's provisions to apply only after charges against certain groups have been substantiated? Are any exceptions possible? For example, mention was made earlier of war crimes. Do you think we shouldn't restrict ourselves solely to acting within the context of the Criminal Code?
Dr. Masood Parvez: The viewpoint of our community is that when somebody is living in Canada he has to be dealt with within Canadian laws, and that if there's a crime committed outside Canada, then the crime should be dealt with by the government where it was committed. This is simply the position of our association, of our community members. When living in Canada, they should be treated equally with all other Canadians. Canadian laws should be applied, and the person committing the crime should pay for it -- whatever is decided by the courts in Canada.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you.
I have another question, this time for Mr. Sydoruk.
You stated in your presentation that in the opinion of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian citizenship should be irrevocable. Are there any exceptions to this rule?
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: It becomes a very judgmental issue at that time. I'm going to use the war crime story we've had in Canada for the past 15 or 20 years.
When Justice Jules Deschênes said we should try people in Canada who are Canadian citizens as Canadians, under Canadian criminal law, the first case was with Mr. Finta, and enough evidence was not found. Then we said, we have to go after these people -- and that's my take on it -- so let's change the rules; let's not treat these people as Canadians. So we have second-class citizenship right there.
As you heard in my presentation, we now have denaturalization deportation, which is basically a civil proceeding rather than a criminal proceeding, where the rules of evidence are very different. They're much more lax than criminal law.
Here we're talking about a very serious thing. If you're accusing someone of a crime against humanity or as a war criminal, then they should be treated at the appropriate level of law.
So my question to Canadians would be, accept denaturalization and deportation of people who are just accused, with no proof.... As Ms. Ablonczy said, they're at least giving two examples of Oberlander and Odynsky, who were not found to be Nazis, and they were stripped of their citizenship because they thought they might have lied coming into Canada.
If citizenship is treated like a commodity, then, yes, we can do that, but I think citizenship is a sacred thing. And at what point do we strip people? I really don't know. My gut feeling is that no one should be stripped. If Mr. X or Mrs. Y committed a war crime, then nail them by their toenails, in Canada under Canadian criminal law, and make sure they truly are guilty.
I'm thinking, as you are aware, of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine this past winter. I have family in Ukraine, and law there was treated as a political matter, not as a judicial matter. If someone wanted to be found guilty, they could be found guilty. Would you send someone back, let's say, to Ukraine, in a post-Soviet environment prior to December 26, where we've sent you out of Canada, we've stripped your citizenship away, and now, for political reasons, you're going to be prosecuted there unjustly?
I think if you've passed the test of time and you have applied, citizenship should not be treated in a two-tier manner. The charter must be maintained and citizenship is not taken away. If you're guilty, you're guilty in Canadian courts and under criminal law, of course, in a crime of this manner.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: You're welcome.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you both for your presentations this morning.
I have two questions. I wanted to just comment at the beginning. We've struggled on this committee a number of times about people who are Canadian citizens and people who become Canadian citizens, and we're dealing with the whole question of lost Canadians, people who have lost their Canadian citizenship due to an anomaly in the Citizenship Act that we're hoping to see corrected. The question with them was while they were Canadians who lost their citizenship through no fault of their own at some point, and who might want to come back to Canada, do we put the usual requirements before them, or do we just accept them back as Canadians, recognizing the error that was made? Some people were concerned about security issues there. What if they're criminals? I think some of us came to the conclusion that if they were a criminal, then they were our criminal because they were Canadians and should be seen as Canadians in our minds.
I think your comments this morning reflect on that as well, that once somebody becomes a Canadian citizen, if they are shown to be a criminal, then they're our criminal and we need to take responsibility as a society for that as well. It's not without its difficulties, but I think that's what it comes down to.
Professor Parvez, you mentioned that people should be prosecuted for proof of anti-state activities in Canada. Did you mean that narrowly, to mean only if they had committed those activities in Canada, or that they shouldn't be prosecuted for those kinds of activities that happened outside of Canada?
Dr. Masood Parvez: If somebody living in Canada has intentions against the Canadian state, then we should take appropriate action, not just throw them out of the country and strip them of their citizenship. Even insulting our country is not acceptable. We have criminal laws here to take care of these infractions.
We should have punishment according to the crime. That's what I meant by that.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I think I know, but I'm not sure, so maybe I'll ask both of you if dual citizenship is possible with Pakistan and with Ukraine. How does that affect people's understanding of their Canadian citizenship, in your experience? Does it cause divided loyalties? It wasn't something that used to be possible, and now it is possible. How do people in your community see that possibility?
Dr. Masood Parvez: There is no conflict whatsoever with people having dual nationalities when they come to Canada from Pakistan. I have lived in the western world for more than half of my life. I have been here since 1977, and I'm a proud Canadian citizen. This is my homeland and I'll sacrifice my life for this country.
Pakistan is a country where I was born and raised, and I have my heart there as well. I respect Pakistan, but when it comes to choosing which country I side with, of course, this is the country where my family, my kids, my next generation are going to be raised, and our heart and soul is with Canada.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: My understanding is that Ukraine does not allow dual citizenship.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I'm wondering, given that the world is shrinking and it is easier to travel back and forth, do you see any change in the attitude of people towards citizenship, or dual citizenship, in a particular country, given the shrinking planet we have?
For instance, when Hong Kong was having its difficulties, we heard in Vancouver of people having a back-up plan if things didn't go well in Hong Kong. I think some people, but not myself, raised the question of their commitment to Canada in that circumstance. It was as if they were hedging their bets.
Do you have any experience or see any of that kind of thing happening, for instance, in the Pakistani-Canadian community?
Dr. Masood Parvez: In the Pakistani-Canadian community, most of the people who have moved to Canada have come for economic reasons, to a country where life is respected and individuals are respected. For these law-abiding... or in these circumstances, the first reference for them is to live in Canada. At a certain stage in their life, if they find it has become difficult because they cannot find a job or cannot adjust, they do go back to Pakistan, but the number is very nominal or small.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Mr. Sydoruk, you said that citizenship should be irrevocable. I think I agree with you on that. There is a provision that if someone has committed fraud in the process of obtaining their citizenship, it can be revoked in that circumstance. Would you support that? Would you support a time limit on that possibility? What's your response to that?
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: This will be a personal opinion, because my background is not in law and I can't say I've studied it.
My question about time limits for revoking citizenship because of fraud -- if it's truly proven -- is what is the time limit? Looking at people who came post-World War II, you have immigration officials with memories of 60 years ago, saying they did this or they did that. So the whole question of memory comes in. I don't have an answer for that; I really don't know.
I'm a Calgarian, or was born in Calgary. I remember when the tallest buildings in Calgary were the Palliser Hotel and the Hudson's Bay building.
Let's say I came to Canada and intentionally lied. If the rules or the law said they didn't like pharmacists, to use a silly example, I intentionally said I wasn't a pharmacist. At what point in time can my citizenship be revoked: 10, 20, 50 years, or near death, when I'm 85 perhaps? I can't tell you; I really can't. If being a pharmacist were a crime and if I were a Canadian, I think my charter rights should be upheld; I should be charged as a pharmacist, be treated as a pharmacist, and be imprisoned as a pharmacist in Canada, not sent someplace else.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Anderson, go ahead, please.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am a little concerned by how far the logic of your arguments would take us. For example, if it's a question of a Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen, it seems to me there's no reason for any time limit for knowledge of material misrepresentation at the time of application. Once you have it, that should be it.
Now, I don't know whether you're arguing that or not. I think some of our witnesses have been on both sides on this. It seems to me that if that is the case, that's the logical case. But to say that somehow or other, well, 15 years after, then it becomes simply a question of validity of proof, as you mentioned just a moment ago, of how good the memory of a visa officer might be some years later. So I would just like clarification on that as the first question. Where does this start? Is it a question of principle or is it a question of just practicality of evidence?
The second question, which is related to it, is if you had to be convicted of a crime before citizenship could be revoked on the grounds of misrepresentation of fact in the application, should we then, at the time of considering the person for coming into Canada, also insist that there could be no reference to potential membership in any organization unless it was proven in a court somewhere -- in other words, it would be off the table completely? That would be the second question.
The third question is this. A lot has been said about the two categories of citizenship.This is a personal opinion based on many state practices around the world. The citizenship of people born in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States can be taken away.
Let me give you an example. If we had a case of someone who had dual citizenship because of their parents' citizenship, and who went to fight in, say, the former Yugoslavia in the Balkans, and they fought against Canadian troops who were there on a peacekeeping mission and we felt somehow that was entirely reprehensible behaviour, I think we should have the right to say we would lift the person's citizenship because they had clearly, by their actions, indicated that they supported the country of their parents' origin and not Canada. So in terms of discussion, would you agree that would be a legitimate position for a state to take?
It goes to your comments, Mr. Parvez, with respect to you feeling yourself a Canadian and you feeling that Pakistan, of course, is a country dear to you and important to you, which you feel as a Canadian. There are other people who come from Pakistan who may feel quite differently; it's the reverse. So this is the question I put to you. It could also be the case for a person who is Canadian born. Again, it would be very unusual, but I could see circumstances when the Canadian Parliament -- those of us who are here, plus our colleagues -- might decide that even Canadian-born citizens should have their citizenship taken away because of actions they've taken subsequently that would indicate a lack of loyalty to Canada.
Those are the three questions I put to you. You can puzzle with them as best you can.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: If I may answer first, on the last part, the example of going to the former Yugoslavia, if they have dual citizenship, I think they should be tried as a Canadian citizen.
I'm not familiar with the laws dealing with traitors. If you have a Canadian citizen fighting against Canadian troops, then that would be an act of a traitor, I would assume -- again, not having a law background -- and I think that individual should be treated in Canadian criminal law, and perhaps after serving time, the decision could be made at that point. But I think that person should be tried in Canada and not just gotten rid of. If they were disloyal, and it was an act of being a traitor, then I think they should be treated as a Canadian who was a traitor. Removing a person's passport is not punishment enough. They should, again...Canadian criminal law.
To go back to the two-tier, if Canadians by choice, immigrants, can be easily denaturalized and deported on hearsay information that would not stand up in criminal court, with the rules of evidence, based on the balance of probability, that's a pretty big thing to take away from a person. We've seen this in very recent years in the cases of Oberlander and Odynsky, who were found not to be Nazi war criminals, but still the proceedings continued. So this becomes a very political issue, not an issue of justice. Those are two very clear instances of Canadian citizens being treated as second-class citizens That could not be applied to a Canadian-born citizen -- if my logic makes sense.
Dr. Masood Parvez: My response to your third point is the same as my colleague's, that once we have given citizenship and the person commits a crime against the laws of the land, they should be held responsible and treated accordingly.
The other point for citizens not born here.... I can give you my example. My kids do not know much about Pakistan, and if their kids are born here, they will have less interaction with the Pakistanis. If at any time they are stripped of their Canadian citizenship -- assuming they have dual nationality because of myself and my children -- where would they be sent? Would they be sent to Pakistan? They would not survive in Pakistan. They would not be able to do anything. They are as much Canadian as any other Canadian is.
Holding dual nationality should not be a reason for another country taking care of this person. That is not going to be very fair. If a person commits a crime in Canada, he should be treated accordingly, with Canadian laws.
We should not have a two-tier system because of dual nationality or because of not being born in Canada. These points should be raised at the time the person is given permission to come into Canada. Exhaust all the possibilities. Exhaust all the resources to verify that the person has no criminal record, has no criminal activities, before that. Check with all the possible ways at hand and available. Once you've admitted them to the country and given them citizenship, it should be a privilege, it should be an honour, and it should be respected.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Just one issue around this comes to mind. Bobby Fischer, who used to be the best chess player in the world, went and played in the former Yugoslavia when there was a ban on U.S. citizens travelling there. Recently, in the past year, he was arrested in Japan because there was a warrant out for him, and the Americans tried to get him extradited back to the United States to face the charges. While in jail, Mr. Fischer, through a special act of the Parliament of Iceland, got Icelandic citizenship, because I guess he played in the world championship there. So now he's an Icelandic citizen. That's how that was handled. The United States was trying to get him back to the United States to face criminal charges, but since he got citizenship in Iceland, Japan sent him there.
Mrs. Nina Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells, CPC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen, for your time and your presentations.
Could you both please tell us in a nutshell what the drawbacks are in our present Citizenship Act so that we can make it more effective and efficient for all of us?
Mr. Sydoruk, you asked in your presentation, “Are all Canadians equal or are Canadians born outside of Canada inferior in rights toCanadians born in Canada?” Can you please explain this to us, or could you justify this in your opinion?
Dr. Masood Parvez: To be very honest, please accept my apologies for not answering your first question because I just read the Citizenship Act for the first time last week. The way things have been going on.... Before September 11 was a different story. Now things have changed, and we are hearing that there are a lot of concerns amongst the Pakistani community about the way things are being treated. There are several Pakistani Canadians who have been held in Canada without any charges against them. They are not being treated very well, and the community is concerned about these things.
I think we should treat the criminals accordingly, as I said earlier. Everything should be in the public knowledge. Nobody should be just taken from the street, and none of his or her relatives should be kept in the dark as to what's going on there. They should not be deported to other countries without any reasonable actions taken in the country. We have Canadian laws. Why don't we use those Canadian laws?
That's my position on this issue.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: You asked for examples. I'll reiterate the examples of Mr. Oberlander and Mr. Odynsky. Here you have two gentlemen who were not tried under Canadian criminal law because the Canadian government decided it would be too tough because of the evidence requirements in criminal court. They were tried in immigration court, on the grounds that they must have lied to come into Canada. The whole issue of memory -- the immigration officials who did the interviewing -- came into play. Did these individuals lie? Did they not?
They were both found not to be Nazi war criminals. They were not found to be Nazis, yet they are treated as second-class citizens. Their citizenship has been revoked, or attempted to be revoked, and they live in limbo. If those are not two great examples of second-class citizens.... We treat people differently if they're born outside of Canada versus those born in Canada. They are not afforded the same rights under the charter; they're guilty until proven innocent. And those two families... their lives are destroyed. They're totally in disarray, personally paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which would bankrupt most families.
Those are my two examples of second-class Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski (Oak Ridges—Markham, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for appearing before us this morning.
I'd like to go back to the citizenship requirements of three years and the type of information one must have to obtain citizenship, such as answering questions like, what is the longest river in Canada, what is the tallest mountain, and what are the levels of government?
I want to know specifically, from both of you, a comment on whether Canadian-born Canadians should also go through these types of questions, because it might give us a little bit more wealth, number one. Second, in terms of languages, what is your opinion?
Dr. Masood Parvez: Knowing the geography and the history of the country you are living in is always beneficial. Kids who are born in Canada go through the local system of schools, and they have a fair knowledge. There's no harm in somebody coming here and being expected to learn about our rail system, our geography, and history. We should expect them to know who was the first Prime Minister of Canada, what kind of geography we have. This is the kind of information one should know about. We live in this modern world of information technology, and all these things we really should be aware of. There's no doubt about it. The expectation is not beyond the reach of ordinary people who want to become Canadians.
As for whether we expect the same kind of knowledge from the people who were born in Canada, they go through the school system and they learn these things.
About languages, yes, a knowledge of the second language is always beneficial. If I want to work in Canada anywhere, all I need is a SIN number. I go and apply for a job and I get a job. But if I want to work in Quebec, I should be aware of and I should be fluent in French. Otherwise, I limit myself to the areas where English is spoken. If somebody is French speaking, they'll have a hard time finding a job in English-speaking Canada. We should give emphasis to both languages, yes; they're both official languages. If somebody is knowledgeable in one language and fluent in one language, I think it should be equally acceptable. Now the choice is limited to where the person can live.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: I enjoyed your question about Canadian-born Canadians and whether they should pass a quiz on Canada. We would assume that a person who has gone through certain grades of education in Canada would have a basic understanding, but sometimes I find it humorous when I meet Canadians who don't. But that's an aside. If they're born in Canada, we would assume they know enough about Canada, and I respect that. Canadians by choice should be expected to know something about Canada.
On the language issue, we have two official languages and both should be respected. If someone chooses to become a Canadian, they should do their utmost to know both, if not just one. As my colleague here, Dr. Parvez, says, the reality will be that wherever they settle will determine how they can function in society.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: We have Canadians who were born outside Canada to Canadian parents. For example, if I move to the Ukraine and I have children who are born there, they would be natural Canadians. They would go to school in the Ukraine. What kind of Canadian citizenship information would they have? You see, it's not that simple.
Mr. Borys Sydoruk: I almost think we're splitting hairs a bit on that one. You have people living in Canada their whole lives not speaking either official language. Does that make them less of a Canadian? My personal feeling is it does not.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Dr. Masood Parvez, we're having a talk about credentials this afternoon, and we have some room. We'd love to have you if you could make it at 3:30 p.m. We're talking about recognition of international credentials. Given where you come from, your background, I'm sure you have a lot of people who are making the point that they're engineers and are driving cabs.
I think you'd be a really good addition to this. Ms. Ablonczy and the rest of the committee would very much appreciate it if you could do that.
Dr. Masood Parvez: Sure.
The Chair: I want to thank you very much for your presentations.
I'll make a comment. It's funny, when you come from a troubled part of the world and get citizenship, it becomes very emotional. It's part of your identity. The sort of realization I've come to -- and I came here as a refugee -- is you can take the refugee out of the refugee camp, but you never take the refugee out of the person. This applies to anybody who came through that kind of tough situation.
If you look at the x million Canadians we have in this country, many of them came from pretty bad places. Many were DPs after the Second World War. The more conflict you have had, the more personally you feel about your citizenship. I know that with what happened in the breakup of India you had people deported from one part of India to another, or to Pakistan, and when they come here they feel very attached to their citizenship and want to be treated as Canadians.
Thank you very much.
Dr. Masood Parvez: Thank you.
The Chair: We'll take a break until we get the next group in here.
The Chair: I call the session to order. This is our second panel.
I'll ask Mr. Nallainayagam to start. We'll have five-minute presentations, and then we'll go to questions.
Mr. V. Nallainayagam (As an Individual): First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to present here this morning. I really appreciate it.
I'm a Sri Lankan. I came from Sri Lanka, and I had to leave my country not for economic reasons but for political reasons, because I had to face violence in my country, so I consider Canadian citizenship a very important part of my life. I cherish this citizenship. When I look at some of the issues, I would like to look at both the legal issues and the social -- what happens after citizenship is granted.
We've had a chance to look at the bill. When you apply for citizenship or apply to come to this country, there's a provision that if you make a false declaration, you can be subject to deportation or your citizenship can be stripped from you. There is a provision, and I'm fully aware of it. However, what is disconcerting is the process that would be adopted in order to deny somebody citizenship after it's been granted. That is where the issue is, that the full force of the charter must apply. The process of disclosure, the person having the ability to present evidence....
Knowing the reasons for denial of citizenship is something that is very serious. I think the act should not take away the Charter of Rights, the fundamental principles of the charter, and the person who is being denied or is being accused of some terrorist activities or doing something wrong must be given the privilege of the charter. That is where the legal system has not.... What changes we bring about must reflect that the people as Canadians must be given the full protection of the charter.
I was looking at some of the interesting language of the law. This is an earlier bill. One says here that for a person to be denied citizenship or to have it removed or stripped, a person must have demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles underlying a free and democratic society. Forty per cent of Canadians can be stripped of citizenship on this basis because they don't vote; there is a flagrant disregard for the fundamental principles of this country, you see? In a democracy you have to vote. That's your responsibility and a serious disregard.... Are we going to send 40% of Canadians out of this country because they do not vote? I think the language must be quite specific and very clear as to why the person is being denied citizenship. I would recommend that when you're drafting the legislation, the language used not be ambiguous and confusing, but very clear.
That is my issue, that we do not take away citizenship -- I cherish that -- unless it's proved very clearly that I've done something wrong and unless I'm given the chance to argue or present my own case.
The second issue for me is, after we grant citizenship, how do we deal with our citizens? How do we engage them? How do we have more active citizenship in our society? How do we give them a chance to participate in our society?
I think Canada is a multicultural society. We see this country as a model for the rest of the world. We have brought in people from different parts of the world and they have given us their society.
But I do not think Canada has done enough to promote integration and acceptance of immigrants and visible minorities within the mainstream of society, especially in the power structure of society. New immigrants who come from some of these countries feel a sense of alienation from society because they don't see themselves as being part of the power structure of the society.
I think this is where, in order to promote active citizenship and get visible minorities integrated into society, we have to do a lot more, not only providing language assistance or providing them with job opportunities, but also promoting their representation at different levels of government in different parts of the country. This is where Canada I think has to do a lot more in terms of promoting civic engagement and active citizenship, because we must show that we are a multicultural country, not only in theory but in practice as well, and that we believe citizens who come here should become part of the power structure and will contribute to society.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Next we have Mr. Ilnycky.
Mr. Michael Ilnycky (President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Calgary Branch): Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Michael Ilnycky and I'm the president of the Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Thank you for allowing me the time to make this presentation to your committee.
This committee in its report, Updating Canada's Citizenship Laws: Issues To Be Addressed, is already aware of the inequities of the current Citizenship Act as it creates two classes of individuals, namely, under subsection 10(2), first-class citizens who are born in Canada and second-class citizens who have obtained their citizenship after immigrating to Canada and essentially becoming naturalized.
It is our position that subsection 10(2) exists as an escape clause for the government when it learns that a naturalized individual obtained their citizenship under false pretences. Rather than taking a true leadership role as a highly civilized and democratic country and dealing with the underlying circumstances of the misrepresentation, say terrorism or war crimes, under present legislation the government takes the easy way out by beginning denaturalization proceedings after only investigating the alleged misrepresentation.
Furthermore, that misrepresentation only has to be proven on a balance of probabilities, meaning that it is possible, but not definitive, that the individual was not truthful when being screened by immigration officials. Therefore, if one is being accused of misrepresenting facts, is denaturalization, deportation, a fair punishment? If one is being accused of war crimes or terrorism, then is the balance of probabilities the appropriate judicial standard to be applied?
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress believes that revocation of citizenship is not an appropriate remedy for misrepresentation that occurred over 50 years ago either. Principles of fundamental justice referenced in section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms require that the punishment be proportionate to the crime and to the moral blameworthiness of the accused.
Stripping someone of their citizenship is not a punishment that is proportionate to the allegation of ordinary fraud. The judicial standard of balance of probability is inappropriate for allegations of criminal activity. The Canadian Bar Association, in a brief to this committee, submitted that “Revocation and annulment of citizenship are among the most serious penalties that any state may invoke against its citizens.”
What the government should be doing is investigating the underlying reasons for the misrepresentation and begin proceedings -- criminal or otherwise -- against the naturalized individual, just like it would against a person born in Canada. To do anything else creates a two-tier system of justice and violates section 6 of the Citizenship Act, namely that “A citizen, whether or not born in Canada, is entitled to all rights, powers and privileges”.
It would also violate section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely that “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”.
In the present world situation and under present legislation, Canada could very well be deporting someone with a terrorist background back to a country that does not condemn such activity, allowing that person to continue with their behaviour. Is this the example of international leadership the Government of Canada wants to convey?
Furthermore, denaturalization and deportation proceedings are a political process. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the power to strip any naturalized Canadian citizen of their citizenship and deport them from Canada regardless of their contribution to our country, for no other reason than an apparent misrepresentation.
The Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress makes the following recommendations.
Number one, the Government of Canada should immediately seize all pending cases where revocation is being considered until at least such a time as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has an opportunity to review the report of this committee and make the necessary amendments to the act under review.
Number two, in cases where the underlying accusation of misrepresentation is an allegation of a war crime, crimes against humanity, or terrorism, the Government of Canada should prosecute such individuals before Canadian courts of criminal jurisdiction in accordance with Canadian criminal law, such as Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, and using Canadian standards of evidence and criminal proceedings.
Number three, the Citizenship Act should be amended to reaffirm that all Canadians are equal and introduce the following amendments: one, a limitation period of five years from the date of acquisition of citizenship for all types of denaturalization and deportation proceedings; two, a higher standard of proof in denaturalization and deportation proceedings, namely that beyond a reasonable doubt be used instead of balance of probabilities; three, due process before the courts -- for example, revocation of citizenship should be decided by Canadian courts rather than the government; four, discretion over sentencing should be given to the presiding judge; and five, full appeal rights.
The Citizenship Act requires that all applicants have an adequate knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. Given that the Government of Canada imposes such a requirement on all successful applicants, it is imperative that the government itself reciprocate and acknowledge the same responsibility and grant those same privileges to all citizens.
The Citizenship Act must be amended to ensure the equal treatment of all Canadians. The Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls upon the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to respect the work of this committee by implementing these recommendations.
At citizenship ceremonies we welcome new Canadians and tell them that they now enjoy all the privileges of being Canadian. How will they react when they realize that their rights are very different from those who are born in Canada?
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms. Teresa Woo-Paw (Chair, Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary): Thank you.
Good morning, members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I'm Teresa Woo-Paw, chair of the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary. The council and the committee share a very strong belief, and that is the belief in having people's voices heard.
The Ethno-Cultural Council, ECC, is a non-profit organization with a mandate to facilitate the collective voice of visible minority communities in Calgary and to influence socioeconomic and political change through collaborative action.
So on behalf of the ECC, I'd like to commend you, first, on your commitment to consultation. We appreciate the opportunity to present public reactions and proposed changes to policy that we have gathered through a series of council-led collaborative initiatives that explore the topics and the discussions this morning.
These initiatives include a research-based issue paper, compiled by the council. We organized a committee forum last week, attended by 45 people, to gather their thoughts and concerns on the subject, and aggregate responses from major institutions, community agencies, and academics.
Also, we have with us Dr. Lloyd Wong, professor of sociology from the University of Calgary. He will also comment on some of the issues in our paper. So it will be presented under public concerns in our recommendations.
The concerns we have gathered from our community members are: the bias arising from the distinctions between citizenship acquired by birth versus that acquired through naturalization. The distinction of two classes of citizenship with two separate sets of rules constitutes a basis of discrimination. Section 17 of Bill C-18 states that former immigrant citizenship can be revoked by a federal court on the grounds of national security, violation of human or international rights, or organized crime.
Not only is the individual not allowed to see the evidence against them, but the ruling itself cannot be appealed or be subject to judicial review, thereby denying them the due process of the law. This goes completely against the norms and values of a free and democratic society, which champions fair treatment and does not subject persons born in Canada to this kind of process. We believe these regulations contravene our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially section 15 of the charter on the equality rights.
Proposed recommendation. The bill should be consistent and in compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We recommend the removal of the discriminatory practices in which two classes of citizenship exist, with two separate sets of rules for those citizens born in Canada and for those citizens born outside of Canada. These distinctions between Canadians who obtain citizenship through birth and those who obtain it through naturalization must be eliminated.
Public concern: one concern is the increase in deportation and removal orders issued to new citizens, especially visible minorities. They often cite Canada's national security concerns, as grounds for deportation raise a suspicion on the underlying causes. I'm not going to go into the details.
Our recommendations are: checks should be levied on the power of the minister with respect to revocation of citizenship; legal procedures, such as appeals, are needed to regulate the minister's power. These ensure transparency and accountability in any decision. It minimizes pitfalls like partiality or false allegations, which can institute the loss of citizenship and the statelessness of citizens.
Attention should be directed to the increases in deportation and removal orders. Proper deliberation processes like tribunals and public scrutiny are requisite to minimizing the incidents of undue or unlawful removal of citizens. The deportation and removal embedded within the Citizenship Act should not be misused as a shortcut tool for addressing Canada's national security problems.
Public concern: citizenship judges would be replaced by public sector workers acting under the delegated authority of the minister, which in essence would become an increasingly politicized and bureaucratic process. This is cause for great concern because citizenship judges are governed by more rules of the process of law, which in effect would be applied to the citizenship process. Furthermore, a reduction in accountability would also exist.
Recommendations: Citizenship should remain in the independent and neutral hands of citizenship judges and not the minister, given that the latter has no citizenship or appeal process.
I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the responses we have gathered on some of the specific questions you have laid out in your discussion. The 50 participants in the community forum expressed support for the idea of including a preamble setting out the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, such as the responsibility to participate in elections. This preamble would provide consistency and clarity on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Some of the participants felt that it was up to the judge of the day to tell them what their rights and responsibilities are, so having a preamble would provide greater consistency. However, you have provided us with an opportunity to start this dialogue in Calgary, and members of the community feel that we need to have further discussions.
It was no to the question on placing limits on the way citizenship can be obtained, the criteria for granting citizenship to newcomers, and the text of the new citizenship oath. I think Dr. Lloyd Wong will have some views on those matters.
And lastly, the members of the community forum believe that more emphasis on active citizenship is important. There should be incentives for specific engagements like voting, community involvement, and volunteerism -- from informal to formal, civic and political participation. They firmly believe active citizenship facilitates empowerment and integration and that it alleviates the isolation of newcomers.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Dr. Wong, if you want to keep your comments fairly brief, we have to get to the committee to ask questions and have responses.
Mr. Lloyd Wong (Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary): I will be very brief. My points just supplement some of the points Teresa Woo-Paw has made, but some are slightly different, and maybe I'll just go straight to the questions you've asked in the framework you've provided.
The first question is, should there be limits placed on the way citizenship can be obtained by birth? My feeling is no, there should not be any limits. What is particularly of concern—and there has been some media hype about pre-1997 Hong Kong babies and people coming to Canada and giving birth. I think that's a precarious road to take, particularly for refugees who may in fact give birth to children in Canada. If there are any limitations to birthright, then you're going to end up with children who are stateless in a world where a particular country may not accept them. I have other points, but I won't get into them.
The second question you asked is, what should be the criteria for granting citizenship to newcomers? One of the concerns here...and I know the recent citizenship legislation, which died in the House with the calling of the election, called for a more physical presence in Canada, that is, feet on soil. I'd like to argue that the present arrangements are okay. We don't need to increase physical presence in Canada. It's really the quality of attachment to Canada that's important. As you know, a federal court judge, Jean-Eudes Dubé, wrote in a ruling that residency in Canada for the purposes of citizenship does not imply full-time physical presence. I think that's important in a transnational world, where you have business people who don't spend a whole lot of time in Canada but do spend some quality time in Canada. You have foreign students who are children of immigrants who study abroad. This would jeopardize their citizenship applications in that they can't have that physical presence. So the present regulations there I think are sufficient
Somewhat related to this is the issue of dual and multiple citizenship and the issues of loyalty. The Honourable David Anderson talked about loyalty a few minutes ago with respect to another presentation. I would really hate to see Canada go down the road of limiting dual and multiple citizenship. I know in a post-9/11 era there's a tendency to think of that as a desirable thing, but I'd like to point to some research done in the United States by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Some of their research is pointing to the fact that dual nationalities in fact help immigrants incorporate into the country they're living in. So it sort of eases them into their new country.
The final point relates to physical presence, and this view is not the view of the ethnocultural council of Canada, but I'm of the firm belief that swearing allegiance to the Queen in the oath is outdated. I think the Queen should in fact be eliminated from the oath. As you know, this is a problem anyway for many Canadian citizens. Many Québécois and first nations people would have problems swearing allegiance to the Queen, and I think many new immigrants would as well. This comes back to the point I made about physical presence. It is kind of an irony or a paradox that you're swearing allegiance to someone who actually doesn't have a foot on soil in Canada either.
I will end it on that.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Now we're going to go to the panel.
I'll just remind the panel that a number of the presenters were talking about Bill C-18, which died at the time of the last election, and reference was made to the disregard of Canadian values, which was section 21 of the old act. I remember Diane Ablonczy being quite upset about that. She wanted clarity -- and I agree with her -- the same as she has about the whole issue of revocation.
Now, we're going to have a real challenge among us because I only have 15 minutes. So if you can, be quick, with quick questions and quick answers, so we can get everyone in, maybe, and then that would be really good for the chair -- and you.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, each of you, for your presentations today. They make excellent points and are good input for the committee.
I want to start with Mr. Nallainayagam. I'm still working on that name, but give me points for trying, right?
You made an excellent point about integrating newcomers into the mainstream. That's particularly interesting because some of us have been talking about the fact that it is those things you have in common that allow you to move forward together. It is a very important point you make.
What I think would be helpful for the committee is if you shared some of the strategies you think would be most helpful in leading to this integration.
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: Integration should take place at different social levels as well as economically and politically. Economic integration can facilitated -- and we'll talk about it this afternoon -- by recognizing the experience and the qualifications of immigrants who come to this country, which will help them to join the labour market and be productive citizens. I will reserve my comments about that for the afternoon.
Social integration, again, is where immigrants are given the opportunity to.... Of course, if there is a language barrier, help from the government, financial support or any program, to give them the ability to integrate into society using the different integration programs....
Political integration is very important for me; that's where I find we have failed. The Government of Canada already has so many bodies...the government has the CBC, various commissions. According to a recent study, only 1.7% of the boards of Canadian public agencies are visible minorities, although visible minorities now represent 15% of the population. I'm not saying we should have a quota; no, I'm not interested in that. We cannot. What we need is for there to be a conscious effort made to promote visible minorities to take part in different aspects of political life, not only in political parties but in the power structure.
Now, when appointments are made to various organizations, whether it's at the provincial level or the municipal level, I don't think people make a conscious effort to say, do we have enough representation from...? I must admit, it's a deliberate attempt on their part to keep visible minorities out.
I had a personal experience recently. I was co-chairing a conference, and my co-chair was from the mainstream. She's a white person. She immediately talked about her friend: she should be doing this and that, chairing the various sessions. I had to remind her, you have to reflect the diversity; let us bring more people from different visible minorities to chair the different sessions to show we are more integrated.
I think we need to have people -- I would personally say a diversity officer at some level -- to ensure that Canada promotes diversity at different levels, like an official languages commissioner. I would like to see a diversity commissioner established in order to monitor the progress made by different government agencies in promoting the integration of new Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Do I have one more?
The Chair: No.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Okay. I had questions for others, but I'll leave those to my colleagues.
The Chair: Monsieur Clavet.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
A comment made earlier by Mr. Nallainayagam to the effect that 40 per cent of Canadians do not vote brings to mind a question of a philosophical nature. On a somewhat lighter note, one could question the legitimacy of Members of Parliament who are elected by 60 per cent of Canadians. Does this make us legitimate representatives? I'm not asking you to answer the question. Should we be earning only 60 per cent of our salaries? Applying this type of logic doesn't really get us anywhere.
You did state, however, that Canada wasn't doing enough to accept immigrants. I have a problem with the word “accept”. Not only must we accept immigrants, we must embrace them, and understand that they represent the country's future. If Canada is capable of spending millions of dollars to save the country from the nasty separatists, then surely it can find millions of dollars for immigrants who want to contribute to their new homeland. I'd appreciate some feedback from you on my philosophical musings.
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: I caught only half of what you said. Still, I would say that I fully agree with you that when new Canadians come to this country they expect to be productive, highly integrated, and full participants in the political, social, and economic process. If the government could do much more in terms of providing financial assistance, spending more money to integrate them, it would be much better for the country and for them. It's a quality-of-life issue. When new immigrants come to this country, how much they enjoy the quality of life other Canadians enjoy is an important issue.
Ms. Teresa Woo-Paw: I would like to provide a slightly different but a complementary perspective. I think perhaps our strategies around integration should look at integration as a two-way street. Yes, I think we need to look at strategies to assist the new immigrants to participate and to integrate into society.
I'd like to also take this opportunity to say that the ability to communicate in one of the two official languages is very important. You see that people are isolated and insular when they don't have the confidence and the ability to communicate with their neighbours, the teachers of their children, and their community.
Second, what I really want to say is that I think we need to look at facilitating integration by looking at everybody. I think we all have a responsibility. We all have a role to play to make sure Canada is a socially inclusive society. We need to look at how we include or do not include people currently. Do we really expect that everyone has the opportunity and the ability to participate, from volunteering in their children's school in their community to participating in dialogue and discussions on policies and procedures that affect their lives, whether it's at the civic, provincial, or federal level?
What I'm saying is that our institutions have to take a look at their current practices. Are they responding to the changing demographics? Do their current practices truly attract and retain people who are different? I think they need to look at how they communicate information to people, how they communicate their values, beliefs, and desires to people.
Right now, a lot of newcomers think our institutions do not want their participation, because they have never seen them, they don't hear from them, and they don't feel the processes address their special needs. When our institutions do that, it doesn't only benefit newcomers. It will benefit people with disabilities; it will benefit our aboriginal people; it will benefit people who are aging, as well as our young people.
I think when we really take a good look at how we involve and include people, it will benefit Canada.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's ironic that we have four such great presentations and less time than we seem to normally have. There are things in everybody's presentations I'd like to follow up on, but unfortunately I won't be able to do that.
Mr. Ilnycky, I thought your comment about deportation often allowing that behaviour to continue was a very interesting one and I think a very helpful one. The considerations around how we engage our citizens and how, once people become citizens, we make sure they're full participants is also very important.
I wanted to ask Dr. Wong if he might.... He said he had some other points to raise around the question of not limiting citizenship obtained by birth. You raised the point about refugees who have children here and the possibility that those children could become stateless. Perhaps you could flesh that out a bit further, given that you mentioned you had other points.
The other question I have for Dr. Wong is on the whole question of quality of attachment. How would you define quality? What is quality time in Canada in terms of citizenship?
Mr. Lloyd Wong: With regard to your first question, the other issue surrounding birthright is the opposite side of the coin -- not so much the opposite side of the coin, but the issue of Canadians giving birth to children outside of Canada. Related to that issue is how long will the Canadian government permit the transmission of citizenship to future generations. That's the other side of the issue.
Again, the Honourable Andrew Telegdi mentioned the previous act. They wanted to in fact limit transmission to a certain generation. I think that's an important issue that has to be looked at hand in hand with the birthright issue, because it's now the children of Canadians giving birth outside of Canada. Related to that is the whole issue of pre-Hong Kong 1997 -- alleged hordes of Chinese women from Hong Kong were coming here and giving birth. I think that needs to be verified with some solid research because that's the kind of thing that hit the Calgary Herald a few weeks ago. It's an alarmist perspective.
In regard to quality of citizenship, I think the quality of citizenship should be looked at in terms of how you spend your time in Canada. Ownership of a home, having a Canadian bank account, paying Canadian taxes -- that's very much a quality-of-citizenship issue, as you're contributing to the economy of Canada -- and having family members in Canada I think are some examples of quality. As you know, in child rearing there's always the issue of quantity time over quality time. A lot of people opt for the quality time. I think that's the critical issue. You can have feet on soil in Canada and still be totally isolated and not civically engaged.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I wonder if you count the Queen's time in Canada as quality time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That's a point well made.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I have a question in terms of the length of time it takes people to become Canadian citizens and whether you think three years is adequate, or should it be longer or not?
Mr. Michael Ilnycky: I think the test for that should be whether or not the government has the adequate resources to do the necessary background checks for that. If three years suffices, then so be it. That's why we're recommending that there be a period of five years after citizenship is granted in order to do further checks should that become necessary.
Ms. Teresa Woo-Paw: We believe the term of three years is adequate. I think one of the issues in terms of access to Canadian citizenship is actually the economic ability. Many of the members expressed the concern that they cannot afford to become a Canadian citizen right now.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Do you have a different view?
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: No, I fully agree with the three years.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: In terms of processing the citizenship applications, we hear that it takes too long in some parts of the country to process after they apply for Canadian citizenship.
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: Not only that, but I came to know of a real case yesterday. For some of the people who came from Sudan as refugees and who were given refugee status -- they have been accepted under the refugee convention -- it has taken 12 years and they still have not received their permanent resident status.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: How long?
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: It has taken 12 years. The lady is here. It's been 12 years, after being accepted as conventional refugees, that they are still in limbo in terms of Canadian citizenship. They cannot work and they cannot send children to school because they don't have their landed immigrant status. To me that is very unsatisfactory.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: My understanding on the children's education is that, under law, the schools cannot refuse education to anybody who's in Canada.
Ms. Teresa Woo-Paw: Her children are in school.
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: But they cannot avail themselves of medical facilities. Even employment or to be able to take a bank loan to buy a house -- all that is being denied to these people. To be in limbo for 12 years I think is very unsatisfactory, after having been accepted as convention refugees.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: I'm questioning something else: the length of time it takes somebody to become a citizen. Once you apply for Canadian citizenship, we hear it takes a year, it takes three years, it takes all kinds of time. What is your thinking on that or your experience with that?
Mr. V. Nallainayagam: I think it may depend on the background check on some of the people. I think you have countries they come from where there are reports of police investigations. The differences may be due to some of the institutional factors. Overall I would have thought, and personally my experience is, that things are not overly delayed.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
The Chair: That takes up our time for this panel. I would like to thank everybody very much for your input. Once we have our report we'll make sure we send it to you. We'll take a couple of minutes' break and then we'll reconvene.