NUMBER 034 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.)): Good morning. I'd like to call this session to order.
Let me start by saying it's great to be back in Edmonton. The citizenship and immigration committee is travelling the country to seek input, as you all know, on the issue of citizenship. We're looking forward to getting new legislation.
The next issue is on family reunification as well as international credentials. All of these are important issues facing Canadians.
The first panel is going to be on citizenship. We have Mr. Bill Pidruchney, who's going to be starting off, as well as Miriam Stewart, who's with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Ilana Kogan Gombos. We have another couple of people -- I'm not sure if they're here -- from the Academy of Learning.
What about the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op?
Well, we'll start off with the witnesses we have in front of us.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney, could you make a five-minute presentation? After all the presenters make their presentations, we will go into questions from members.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney (As an Individual): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the beautiful city of Edmonton,
the city of champions, as we would like to believe it. It's very nice to see you here and nice to see you again.
It's very important that we have meetings like this, because even though a new draft of the act has not been produced yet, the current Citizenship Act still contains revocation and deportation provisions, and these, I think, really have to be dealt with because they're fundamental to the issue. They are the source of what has been called denaturalization and deportation. I have dubbed that stripping and shipping -- stripping of citizenship and shipping people out of the country -- so I'm going to refer to it as S and S, stripping and shipping, henceforth.
My position is very simple, and I know most of you have heard it before. It's expressed on the cover of the brief that I presented to you, of which you have a copy. The position simply is to abolish stripping and shipping, revocation and deportation, because it is unconstitutional, and it is unconstitutional in fundamental respects. Also, we should, in any coming legislation, prevent things like the annulment that was proposed in the earlier Bill C-18.
These things, to me -- and I hope to all of us -- are embarrassingly inquisitorial types of activities that do not belong in a country like ours, and that's why I say they're distinctively un-Canadian.
As you're aware, I'm not victimized by this act, because I was born here. But anybody who came to Canada as a citizen by choice, as an immigrant who decided to settle here, is subject to the provisions of this act, and that includes the Governor General of Canada, who came here as a babe in arms. I know it won't happen, but imagine what the country would look like if this act of revocation and deportation were brought against our own Governor General.
The act as it sits now breaches the Constitution and the charter of Canada in what I call the six Ps: philosophy, principles, policy, the processes, the practices, and the punishment or the penalty, which is deportation, and is, I believe, cruel and unusual punishment under the charter.
In the worst possible case, if Parliament does not manage these items -- preferably abolish them from the legislation in the new act -- their constitutionality can be tested in the Supreme Court of Canada by way of a reference.
The fundamental problems we're dealing with here are primarily two. Number one is the inequality the act has caused, and secondly, the discrimination that is created by virtue of that inequality. Equality and freedom from discrimination are fundamental charter rights, and that is why I say I think the Constitution will have to prevail.
Our act created two kinds of citizenships. Two distinct and different standards are established for each of these citizenships. First, we have what I have dubbed a full or a genuine citizenship, which applies to those who were born in this country. Second, we have what I have called a phantom or a shadow citizenship, which is the one that's acquired by somebody coming in as an immigrant. I call it a phantom because it is citizenship in form but not in substance, and it's the substance that counts. I believe, for instance, that a charter test on these particular grounds alone would indicate that they're unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Martin himself spoke about rights in the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 16, this year, as reported in an editorial in the Edmonton Journal on February 20, 2005. He said:
We are saying proudly and unflinchingly that defending rights, not just those that happen to apply to us, not just those that everyone else approves of, but all fundamental rights, is at the very soul of what it means to be a Canadian.
I endorse that comment.
As you know, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Constitution Act of 1982, and in speaking of that on March 4 this year at the federal Liberal convention in Ottawa, the Prime Minister said, “The charter is the heartbeat of our Constitution”. I agree again with that. He also reported that his party was the embodiment of Canadian values and the protector of equality for all citizens. I'm happy that he agrees with us, or we agree with him. Perhaps he will take heed and lead this cause now.
I wish to define citizenship very quickly by saying -- I know it's been dealt with in your paper of November, but I want to go a little further -- citizenship is not merely a contract, not a social contract or any kind of a contract. Actually, what it is is a grant by the state, which is our country, which bestows a status on an individual and endows that individual with certain constitutional rights and privileges. In that granting, the grantee agrees to become a subject of that state. So the grant is a form of a covenant between the state and the citizen, and that's what binds them together in a legal relationship.
How is status different from a contract? Very simply, status is a condition. I can only think of an analogy to help this definition by suggesting one with a woman who bears a child. Forever after the birth of the child, that woman has the status of being a mother -- forever. Regardless of what happens to her, the status is permanent. That's what I believe citizenship is as well, that kind of a status.
There are other grounds of unconstitutionality I believe apply and could be brought up in any reference to the Supreme Court, such as that the Citizenship Act is civil legislation, but now it includes punitive aspects such as deportation and revocation. The Canadian bar has said, as you know, that these are probably the most serious types of penalties you can impose on any citizen of this country. But the act does not give the protections of criminal procedure and therefore becomes susceptible to being a subterfuge for any other unstated purposes. I think this act will fail the charter test.
You would like to say that if we look at this from the other side of the fence -- that is, from the standpoint of the person who is coming into Canada as an immigrant and receives citizenship -- perhaps we owe them an explanation of what it is this citizenship certificate stands for. I've taken the liberty, perhaps in a bit of a teasing way, to say that perhaps we should have a disclaimer or a waiver on each citizenship certificate that will say something like this: “Warning. This citizenship is permanently temporary”; or, “Of course you have rights. You just don't have as many as I do.”
I think on that note I will wind up, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very kindly. I'd be pleased to answer any questions.
Ms. Meili Faille (Vaudreuil-Soulanges, BQ): I will make my comments in French, because it's my language, and because I feel more comfortable speaking French. I missed part of the discussion in the first part of the meeting with Mr. Pidruchney. I'd like to ask him to focus on the problems he sees with the current legislation and the rights of permanent residents, as set out therein.
Does the research centre conduct research relating to regionalization, more particularly? What kind of experience do you have in Western Canada with respect to Francophone and Anglophone immigrants? What types of problems do these immigrants face in the regions? What positive or negative experiences have they had, and what is the status of these two communities?
In Quebec, there is a lot of focus on regional development. We have put a structure in place, and the number of immigrants in the region is steadily increasing. In the West, do people tend to settle in the urban centres, or is an effort being made to draw them out to the regions? Do people see immigrants as a source of energy for the regions, as we do? In terms of research, what kind of suggestions are being made by communities in the regions? Thank you.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Thank you very much, Madam Faille.
I admit that I have really not studied the issue of permanent residency, so I think it would not be appropriate for me to make any comments on that, except that permanent residency falls somewhat into the context of status of a person who has arrived in Canada and has not yet obtained citizenship.
I endorse the position of this committee in its rejection of the idea of having sort of probationary citizenship, or something like that. I think the statuses we have at the present time are probably adequate. A person arriving here would have the right to be here as an immigrant, whether we called them landed immigrant, permanent resident, or whatever, until such time as that person received their grant of citizenship. Then, as you know, I'm saying that once the grant is given it should be irrevocable.
Ms. Meili Faille: So, it should be permanent.
Once acquired it would be permanent.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: It would become permanent and full.
Ms. Meili Faille: Thank you.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Mr. Pidruchney, it's good to see you again. I just wonder if you can comment on the question of fraud and citizenship, and if there should be a time period during which someone can lose their citizenship because they committed fraud in the process of applying and obtaining it. If so, how long should that be, and what's a reasonable restriction in that situation?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Thank you very much. I realize the committee addressed that earlier. I'm glad you asked the question, because this is an area that I think, again, is very dangerous to be in.
As you know, in about 1995 or so the idea of revocation was activated within the act and implemented and so forth, and at that time it was intended only to deal with people who were guilty of war crimes or terrorism or genocide, or something like that. But in the meantime, to the present day, this has been watered down to this particular situation that you've alluded to. Now we talk about revoking citizenship if you have committed a false representation or fraud or concealed a material circumstance. To me, this is a corruption of the original intentions. We're into territory that was not contemplated when this was originally activated. I think there's a dangerous threat to democracy because the act does not define what fraud is or what the materiality is that we're concerned with.
So you have to address some of these issues.
Number one, in my opinion, fraud does not occur, does not exist, unless there is a victim. So if somebody comes in and makes a fraudulent statement that's not material -- and you have the difficulty of deciding what the materiality is -- is there a victim? Is it the whole country, or is it some individual who's been defrauded?
You must distinguish between civil fraud and criminal fraud as well. With civil fraud you have the right to sue in the civil courts and obtain your remedy. Criminal fraud does exist in our Criminal Code, and my suggestion is if anybody in Canada, of whatever status, has committed a criminal fraud, the process for managing it in the criminal courts is already there and it should be undertaken.
But the concern is, what is a material circumstance? What if somebody lied in his application to arrive about speaking one of the official languages? What if somebody said, “Oh yes, I speak English, no problem”, and when they arrived here we discovered they didn't speak English? Do we revoke his citizenship for that and deport him? Is that material?
What about a false representation, which is the third prong of this potential ground for revocation? What if somebody said, “Oh yes, I was really wealthy in my country of origin, I'm a multi-millionaire”, and after he's landed here and has applied for citizenship, or after he has his citizenship, it turns out that he actually was a pauper in his home country. Are we going to revoke his citizenship?
So it's terribly dangerous, and I would, again, like to see that area simply removed totally. If there's a fraud, we have criminal law in place to accommodate it. Otherwise, let's just take it out of this act.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Now we're going to go to Mr. Anderson.
Hon. David Anderson (Victoria, Lib.): As I understand it, fraud, or a material misrepresentation of a fact or misrepresentation of a material fact, take your choice, is the reason for the provision that allows for citizenship to be removed. It's not removing citizenship. It is simply a recognition that citizenship did not exist because it was based on a false statement. If I were to declare myself to be a medical doctor and managed to get away with it for a number of years, it would not make me a medical doctor. Similarly, if I were to acquire title to a piece of land, and my title turned out to be fraudulent, it would be as though I never owned the land. That's the basis, as I understand it, of the denial of citizenship. Misrepresentation of a material fact -- that's what would cause citizenship to be taken away.
My question really is, at what point do you decide that it doesn't matter whether there was a material misrepresentation of fact in the application for citizenship? Is it the day after the citizenship certificate is given? Is it five years later? Is it, as in some jurisdictions, 10 years later? Or is it, as in our situation, whenever the misrepresentation of the material fact is discovered?
I should add that someone who had citizenship by birth, obtained fraudulently, is not a Canadian citizen. That is a distinction I'd like to make and to put to you to comment on. If somebody says their parents were military persons serving the Canadian government overseas, and that they are thus entitled by birth to be Canadian, and it turns out that this material representation is fraudulent, they don't become a Canadian citizen by birth just because they've evaded detection for 10 years or 15 years. They lose their citizenship, even though it was based upon birth.
My question to you is, at what point would you say that we no longer concern ourselves with misrepresentation of a material fact? At what point in the system would you say, “They've got away with it for this long, so we'll accept it as reality”?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: To address your last point first, if a citizen falsely claims citizenship by birth, that's a matter for the authorities to examine. If they accept the birth as having been within the citizenship grant, then it's a matter of interpretation. This is not necessarily a matter of fraud. Somebody could say, “Look, I believe I'm a Canadian because my parents were Canadian and I was born while they were serving overseas.” That's for the authorities to determine. But the thing is, once we have granted citizenship, it is granted forever. Citizenship is a status. It's not a contract; it can't be revoked or cancelled or withdrawn.
Hon. David Anderson: In other words, your position is that the final point is the time that citizenship is granted?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: That's right. It should not be retracted once it's granted. It should be irrevocable.
Once your child is born, you're stuck with that child. The same thing with citizenship: once citizenship has been granted, you're stuck with that citizen. If you made a mistake in granting it, we'll do whatever we have to, but otherwise it's our baby, so to speak.
Hon. David Anderson: I raised the question because we've had a variety of witnesses who have suggested various time limits. Not many have suggested, as you have, that it be at the time of granting citizenship. Your position may be more logical than some of the others we have heard. The principle upon which you base it is clear, and I appreciate the fact you brought it forward.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.): Thank you very much for coming.
I was going to say that Mr. Anderson has just taken the question I was about to ask because I wanted to ask you whether you thought at any time you would see citizenship being revocable and under what circumstances, but you have answered that. However, I think in this instance -- and as an immigrant myself, I have a tendency to ask the question, when do I really get to be a citizen if one can take it away from me?
But are there any circumstances...? Let us imagine that this person has been a criminal outside, has hidden it very well, and after the person has citizenship it has suddenly come to light that the person had been a criminal, whether it's a war criminal or a criminal of any other kind. Let us imagine that the person had been engaged in terrorist activity, etc.
You're saying it should not be revocable in a case like this, but do you see any other penalties that this person should suffer as a result of having fraudulently obtained it? I think the question here is, did the person fraudulently obtain his citizenship? In other words, did he give the wrong information? Did he voluntarily, willingly, hide facts when he sought citizenship?
This is the basic nub of the question that I think people are wanting to get an answer to. I haven't made up my mind; I just want to hear what you have to say on this.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: Thank you.
Let's assume you're talking about a case where the person has committed genocidal acts or crimes against humanity, which usually means having caused death -- in other words, murder. Generally speaking, those kinds of crimes have no limitations on them, certainly not in Canada.
Since 1995 in Canada we have done a number of things legislatively that can address this particular concern, and this concern is legitimate. We will occasionally have people slipping through the system. We are not in support of having people coming in who have very bad backgrounds and as a result are not essentially good, quality citizens.
But in 2001 we domesticated all crimes of terrorism, genocide, etc., committed anywhere in the world by anyone who is now a Canadian citizen by incorporating that jurisdiction, through our Anti-terrorism Act, into section 7 of the Criminal Code. It deems that all acts, regardless of where they've been committed in the world, are deemed to have been committed in Canada and gives Canada jurisdiction over their citizens. We can haul this person up criminally the same way we can haul up somebody who committed a murder in Edmonton.
The other thing we have done is, in the year 2000, Parliament passed the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which addresses specifically terrorism and establishes the procedures for dealing in Canada with people who've committed these crimes abroad. Again, it gives us jurisdiction.
So we have the tools and the law available -- and of course we are signatories to the International Criminal Court in The Hague now, which we were not in 1995 when this revocation was made instrumental. We can send people to that particular court to take their punishment for whatever crimes they've committed, and presumably this would be terrorists who've committed crimes abroad. There are extradition treaties we have with other countries where if the crime occurred in another country we can send the criminal out.
My suggestion is that we have all the tools now that we need to manage people who have committed these horrendous crimes.
Hon. Hedy Fry: So you think that should be done under due process of law? You said extradition, so let us imagine the country in which the crime has occurred wishes to have this Canadian citizen deported to be tried and/or punished in that country. How do you feel about that?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: I'm sorry, I missed the question.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Let us imagine that the country in which the crimes were originally committed, if they were genocidal or war crimes, asks Canada to deport this now Canadian citizen. What is your feeling on that?
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: We call that extradition. That would not be a deportation. And extradition has been a mechanism that's existed for probably centuries between countries internationally. So if some other country agreed to it, we would probably yield and have the person extradited. But as you know, that person has a right to a hearing in Canada before extradiction takes place, and then, as you know, Canada has said, Parliament has said, that we will not agree to extradition if the country receiving him or wanting him has the death penalty, capital punishment, in place.
So we have strictures in place to deal with this situation.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Pidruchney, I want to go back to the points you raised. What I find most outrageous about the current citizenship revocation process is the fact that essentially what the government is accusing somebody of is having committed fraud to get into the country.
Fraud is an issue that is handled by our criminal courts each and every day. It engages section 7 on legal rights of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The process we have doesn't fall under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Justice Reilly ruled in January of last year that there can be no question that revocation of citizenship engages section 7 legal rights of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
That is the one thing I find incredibly offensive, because it applies to six million Canadians who are naturalized Canadians or citizens by choice. When it comes to status of citizenship, citizenship has to have permanence. It becomes very frightening to think that one's citizenship can be revoked outside of the charter.
I'm not sure whether I agree with you that once it's granted it cannot be taken away, but I understand the logic of it. Let us suppose Osama bin Laden somehow managed to become a Canadian citizen. If they caught Osama bin Laden, the prudent thing to do would be to stick him in jail and never let him out, not send him back to the caves in Afghanistan.
Please focus on the process and how it contravenes the legal section of the charter in the way citizenship revocation works now.
Mr. Bill Pidruchney: My main paper, which was sent to you in advance, went through the aspects of the charter and responded, in some measure, by indicating which parts of the process were offensive to the charter statements. In fact, when I prepared the paper it was basically intended to be a structure for a proposed brief to the Supreme Court of Canada, if we ever have to go that far.
There are so many ways in which the charter is contravened by the process. The first one is, there is no individual service on the individual. You're given a letter, which is sent to your last known address. You might have changed addresses five times and never have received the letter in which you're told there's going to be a hearing about your revocation. Secondly, if it went to your actual, real address and you were in Hawaii at the time on vacation, you could come home, be stopped at the border in Vancouver, and told you can't enter Canada because your citizenship is about to be revoked, or has been revoked, in your absence. And so forth: all sorts of ridiculous consequences flow from lack of due process.
Then, of course, there are no rights of appeal. The Federal Court listens and makes a determination as to whether or not there was a breach of any aspect of the statute, and there's no right of appeal. Refugees in Canada have the right to appeal through the Immigration Appeal Board and the courts all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the taxpayer pays for that, even though they're not citizens. Here, we preclude a citizen from appealing a Federal Court first-level judgment.
Then the decision to deport or not to deport is up to the cabinet. The cabinet, who are respectful people chosen because they're very knowledgeable and sensible, are not lawyers; they are not judges; they are not trained in applying the law. Yet they make what is a judicial decision as to penalty. As you know, the Canadian Bar Association has said that the penalty is the most punitive thing; it's even worse than a life sentence in Canada, which is only 25 years and can be shortened.
Every step of the process is unconstitutional. I don't know if I should continue, because there are so many other steps that are not suitable.
Then there are secrecy proceedings. You may not ever know who's even accused you, which opens the process to abuse by somebody who has a grudge against you -- this sort of thing. It's an absolutely inquisitorial process. We got rid of the Spanish Inquisition many years ago, centuries ago, and we shouldn't be restoring it in Canada.
It is not fair, in the context of fairness, and it is an abuse of the charter, etc.
The Chair: Thank you.
The Chair: I would like to reconvene the second panel.
We'd like to start with Mr. Okelu, who's here making an individual presentation.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu (As an Individual): I would like to begin by welcoming you to Edmonton.
I welcome all of you to Edmonton, and thank you for giving us a chance to speak to you.
I'd like to speak about the proposed revision of the citizenship bill.
Being a first-generation immigrant to Canada, and having now lived more than half of my life in this country, I'm really concerned about this proposal that is being put forward. I sense that this is going to end up creating different levels of citizenship in this country, making some people more equal that others. I don' think that augurs well for Canada.
I believe that if anybody in this country has done something wrong, there's absolutely no reason why that person shouldn't be dealt with right here in this country, instead of being shipped off somewhere else. What does that say of the country itself? Does it mean that Canada can just get people, use them, and then toss them out because they have done something wrong?
I believe if somebody has been vetted and admitted into this country as a citizen, he or she should have the same rights as anybody who was born in this country. One doesn't have to live in a shadow all one's life waiting for the day when somebody knocks on the door and says you are now on your way back to where you came from, even though they may not have a place to go.
So I feel very strongly that this issue should be dealt with, and that all Canadians should be treated as equals under the law.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Dr. William Zuzak (As an Individual): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Much of the material I present today is a continuation of my submissions on Bill C-18 to the committee in Edmonton on February 14, 2003, and my addendum dated April 27, 2003. This and other relevant material is archived on my website at www.telusplanet.net/public/mozuz/.
Here, I will summarize the five sections in my written brief on oath of citizenship, revocation of citizenship, Canada's war crimes program, myths of judicial independence, and potential for blackmail.
In section B, on oath of citizenship, I propose:
In accepting Canadian citizenship, I pledge my loyalty to the citizens and land area of Canada, and hereby renounce any other citizenship which I may hold. I join with other Canadians to promote and uphold the five following principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.
You will note that I am not in favour of dual citizenship.
In section C, on revocation of citizenship, I maintain:
Canada, as well as all countries in the world, should adopt the principle that citizenship cannot be revoked by the state. There should be no stateless person; there should be no person with dual or multiple citizenships. On the other hand, a person should be able to give up his/her citizenship to become a citizen of another country, if that is his/her desire and he/she is accepted by the other country.
I further maintain that no person on the planet should possess more than one passport. Passport abuse is rampant in the world today, and was recently illustrated in July 2004 by the New Zealand-Israel spy scandal, wherein one of the felons, Uriel Kelman, used his Canadian passport inappropriately. He presumably retains Canadian citizenship. Both spy agencies and organized crime are deeply involved in passport abuse. I would propose an automatic one-year incarceration for people using a false passport.
Section D refers to Canada's war crimes program. In my previous submissions I have questioned the validity of the denaturalization and deportation process. Since April 2003, the situation has become decidedly worse, as illustrated by the eight points I make in my written brief.
In the past, Irwin Cotler has been obsessed with Nazi war criminals. He has stated, “...every time we bring a war criminal to justice, we strike a blow against the Holocaust denial movement”.
Mr. Cotler is now Minister of Justice, about which department John Bryden has stated:
The Justice Department has a total monopoly over legislation in Canada. It proposes policy, writes legislation and interprets legislation for all cabinet ministers. The whole process is dominated by one single group of bureaucrats, and what makes it worse is that it is a badly abused, secret monopoly.
The media continues to repeat the obvious falsehood that there are thousands of Nazi war criminals in Canada, despite the fact that all the D and D cases since 1995 have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that there are no Nazi war criminals in Canada. In the past, the media demonized and defamed old, decrepit, and defenceless men with complete impunity, and it continues to do so today.
Judicial rulings by Justice Robert Reilly on January 6, 2004, and by the Federal Court of Appeal on May 31, 2004, restoring Helmut Oberlander's citizenship have confirmed that the denaturalization and deportation process utilized by Canada's war crimes unit is invalid. Despite these rulings, Denis Coderre and his bureaucrats initiated revocation of citizenship proceedings against Jura Skomatczuk and Josef Furman. Even more incomprehensible is that on December 14, 2004, Judy Sgro signed directives to proceed with the revocation of the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky, Vladimir Katriuk, and others, exactly one month before being replaced by Joe Volpe as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I submit that these actions are a gross breach of the democratic process, as well as an insult to the judiciary, to Parliament, and to Canadian citizens.
In section E, myth of judicial independence, I question whether the judiciary in Canada is truly independent of outside pressure or political interference. In my addendum I have demonstrated that Kenneth Narvey has, over many years, been deliberately intimidating and influencing the Canadian judiciary. In today's brief, I review the cases of four judges: Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, whose relationship with Israeli Supreme Court judges Shamgar and Barak may have influenced the Tobiass judgment; Supreme Court judges Louise Arbour and Rosalie Abella, both of whom come from highly politicized backgrounds; and Pierre Blais, former Solicitor General responsible for CSIS and the RCMP, as well as the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, who morphed from a politician into a judge ruling on the validity of the so-called “security certificate” issued by Denis Coderre to incarcerate and deport Ernst Zundel to Germany.
This case is particularly relevant here, because the majority of the witnesses on Bill C-18 were very critical of the “security certificate". David Matas, Jack Silverstone, Kenneth Narvey, and the CIC bureaucrats were obsessed with Ernst Zundel and hate-mongering.
In section F, on potential for blackmail, I point out that recent immigrants to Canada often come from very troubled regions of the world. Fear of loss of citizenship makes naturalized Canadians especially prone to blackmail by organized crime, foreign spy agencies, and even CSIS. For all these reasons, I maintain that any new Citizenship Act should adopt the principle that citizenship cannot be revoked by the state.
Finally, I would like to thank the immigration committee for allowing interested Canadians to express their views on these issues. I would also like to commend the people responsible for the parliamentary website, www.parl.gc.ca. In my opinion, you are all performing a very valuable service to Canadians.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks to all the presenters this morning.
I'd like to start with Mr. Okelu. I appreciate your presentation; unlike many presentations, it was very short and to the point, which is always nice to hear. It gives us a chance to expand on some of the things you mentioned.
I understand you clearly when you say that all Canadians should be treated equally under the law and that we shouldn't create different levels of citizenship. I want you to expand in particular on where we should be focusing in the current Citizenship Act and where you see the potential creation of that unfortunate inequality. If you could expand on that, it would be very useful.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Thank you very much, Mr. Jaffer.
What I mean, first of all, is that I believe that before people are admitted into Canada they should all be vetted and be worthy of coming to this country as legitimate people. If by any chance, during the period they're Canadians, they commit any crime or get associated with any kind of crime, my contention is that these people should be treated like Canadians who have committed some kind of crime, and the laws of Canada should apply to them the same way they should apply to anybody born here. Don't treat them differently because they happen to have come from elsewhere, which is the case with the majority of people in this country.
So I insist that they not be treated differently, because there have been instances of Canadians committing crimes elsewhere. I would remind the panel of what happened in Bosnia, where a Canadian-born person tied a Canadian soldier to a tree and was going to shoot him. Now, would we have deported him and sent him back to Bosnia to be tried? This is just a living example that if anybody, whether born in Canada or whether an immigrant, commits a crime, the laws of the country should apply to them.
Do not use whatever is happening elsewhere. I get this feeling that Canada should be acting independently, and not allow itself to be influenced by external forces.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the presentations this morning.
I don't have a question for Mr. Zuzak, but I do have to say, Mr. Zuzak, that I'm very troubled by a certain section of your brief. I find the use of the term “Holocaust Industry” to be trivializing of the experience of the Holocaust and that terrible period in our history. I'm concerned about the conspiracy that you seem to outline there. If my expressing my concerns about that merits my addition to your list of conspirators, I'd be happy to see if they're in a future brief. I don't have a question for you, but I just have to be on the record that I find that extremely troubling.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Mr. Okelu, I wonder if you could comment on an issue that's come up in a number of our hearings. It's the debate about whether citizenship should be absolutely irrevocable, or whether there should be an initial period of say five years during which a grant of citizenship is subject to review. Is this something that you would find acceptable or workable? Do you have comments on that?
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: My problem with this approach is that it tells me that the government doesn't have an efficient way of vetting people that come here. Why should I have to wait five years after I become a citizen to see whether I continue to be a citizen or not? What could happen in five years that couldn't have been detected before that person became a citizen?
If the government makes a mistake in admitting somebody who is not a citizen, and you don't find out for a long time, then it prompts the question: Is there something wrong with the process? If somebody succeeds in meeting all the criteria for citizenship, once you give it to them, they should become Canadians and be treated as such.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I guess the issue becomes when someone who's a criminal becomes a citizen, they become our criminal. If we've granted them citizenship, then I think we have to take responsibility.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: It all depends on when the person became a criminal. There are native-born Canadians who become criminals, right? If that person was a criminal before coming to Canada, he shouldn't have been admitted in the first place. If it is discovered that if he lied, that's a different issue. If he told lies and it's discovered, yes, he deserves to be treated differently.
I have spent more than half my life in this country. Let's say tomorrow you found out that when I was teenager back in Nigeria I committed a crime. Do you ship me back to Nigeria? Is that what you are saying? How relevant is that to my living in Canada and my contribution to this country?
Hon. Hedy Fry: I want to thank everyone for coming and I thank you, Chinwe, for your succinct presentation. You make some good points. As an immigrant as well, I keep wondering whether my citizenship is second class. One has to ask those questions.
Mrs. Nina Grewal: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for your presentations. All of us have learned a lot from you.
Mr. Zuzak, you mentioned in your presentation that you are not in favour of dual citizenship. Please, could you explain the reasons behind that?
Dr. William Zuzak: Thank you, Ms. Grewal.
To me, a person should only have one citizenship, because if you have dual citizenship, it makes it very complicated to keep control of what's going on. As a matter of fact, I wrote to the committee on January 17, and I'll just read it quickly:
The issue of dual or multiple citizenship has been discussed peripherally at CIMM meetings several times. My understanding is that Canadian citizenship was defined in 1947 and dual citizenship was not allowed. Presumably sometimes after 1977, it was introduced surreptitiously by the CIC bureaucracy without any input from the public or Parliament.
In my opinion, the issue of dual citizenship is very important to the concept and definition of Canadian citizenship. It should be discussed at the public hearings and very clearly handled in the Citizenship Act.
I would urge CIMM to prepare a background study on dual citizenship -- its historical development (or lack thereof) and its status in Canada as of 2005. This study should include the number of Canadians, who possess dual citizenship -- complete with a breakdown according to age, gender, education, occupation, residency and the countries involved. There should be a similar breakdown of landed immigrants and visitors (both legal and illegal).
I should just also say the wife of the President of Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko is the President -- had to give up her American citizenship to obtain Ukrainian citizenship, so certain countries of the world maintain that.
Mrs. Nina Grewal: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Temelkovski.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to ask Mr. Okelu something. You mentioned that once acquired, citizenship should not be revoked. I want to ask you, with respect to the time it takes for an applicant to get citizenship, whether the time is currently adequate, long, or short.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: I think it's currently adequate until proven otherwise. If the government feels it doesn't give them enough time to work on this individual and find out more information about the worthiness of the individual, that should be something to focus on, extending it, instead of saying you are a citizen for this period of time and then we'll review whether you are still a citizen or worthy of being a citizen.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: It's the vetting you mentioned earlier. We hear from people right now that it's taking too long to get their citizenship, especially with the security card being required if you're not a citizen. They're looking forward to receiving their passport and citizenship as soon as possible. If we are to take longer to vet this....
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: If you look at the alternatives, I think people would be more than willing to wait to get their citizenship rather than hearing that you can become a citizen and your citizenship could be revoked. If you offer them these options and explain to them why this has to take place, because things have evolved and changed over the years, I think people who are coming into the system will understand it before they come in and know what they're going to face. But I'm concerned about saying to someone who has been granted citizenship, “You're a citizen now, but I'm not sure what's going to happen five years down the road.” What do they say?
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: You also mentioned that if they lied, they should be treated differently. What do you mean by differently?
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: What I'm saying is, if somebody has committed a heinous crime, and if you don't find it out—I mean at the point when you're trying to admit him, not after they have been here.... If you find out they have committed some crime after the fact, I'm sorry, it's a mistake of the system. Isn't there something that's called a statute of limitations, when people have to be punished for a crime they committed 20 or 40 years ago because you found out now? If you deem it necessary to do that, then punish them in Canada.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Should somebody who's committed a crime somewhere else, even after receiving citizenship...? Maybe they should be looking over their shoulder if they committed a crime. I don't have anything I should be concerned about, so it wouldn't bother me.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: I agree with you. All I'm trying to say is that if somebody has committed a crime that is so significant, it shouldn't be very difficult for the system to find out about it. What is the nature of the crime that could be so hidden for 20 or 30 years?
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Sometimes, as you're aware, even in landing somebody in Canada or in the case of someone who has landed, it takes so long to get their correct papers here, we as a government have difficulty obtaining their marriage certificate or their birth certificate from a country. As you are aware, many countries will not cooperate, based on political or religious grounds or on who the person is.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Okay, but my question is, what is the level of incidence of this situation the judge described? Is it so significant, in terms of the number of immigrants who come into this country, as to change the law to affect everybody else?
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Anderson.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Zuzak, I really do not have a question, but in addition to my concern over the Holocaust denial industry, as you talk of it, you have made reference to a number of people in your brief who are, to the best of my knowledge -- and I do know some of them personally -- people of absolute integrity and ability and honesty. I would simply like to make the point for the record that the fact we do not engage in debate with you on the impossibility of such a subject as the character of individuals is not because in any way, shape, or form any member of this committee wishes to accept these allegations about these upstanding Canadian public servants.
I would like, however, to ask a question about Mr. Okelu's references to crime and citizenship. I have listened carefully, sir, and I get the impression that the reason for revocation of citizenship is put down in your mind to criminal acts, whether in Canada or previously.
In fact, the revocation of citizenship comes from the misrepresentation of a material fact; in other words, a fact that would have prevented their entering Canada as a landed immigrant in the first place. Thus they are not losing their citizenship because of any crime committed before or after; that is really irrelevant. The issue is the fact that they misrepresented to the Canadian authorities at the beginning of the process, or somewhere in the process, a material fact that would otherwise have led them to be refused.
The point I'm making is that you have said the Canadian authorities should know everything by the time they grant them the right to come to Canada, or when they grant them their citizenship. But I would suggest to you there are many situations where criminal proceedings have not been completed, and if we said that if there are any potential criminal proceedings we will prevent a person from coming to Canada, we would in fact be pre-judging, and that would not be a wise thing to do.
So my suggestion to you is that it is impractical to insist that the Canadian authorities be absolutely certain there is no possibility of later discovering a criminal action -- a criminal action that may by then have not even been prosecuted in the home country. After all, we get many requests for extradition of people in Canada related to crimes committed some time before.
I wonder, with this little background, whether you would like to comment on whether or not you believe that a person who misrepresents a material fact to get admitted to Canada, who lied to the Canadian authorities, should nevertheless be allowed to have Canadian citizenship and maintain Canadian citizenship despite that lie, or whether you intend to continue to insist that the onus is entirely on the immigration officer to make sure this person is in fact a totally honest person and therefore totally able to satisfy the requirement of the legislation.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Thank you very much, Honourable Mr. Anderson.
I appreciate the difficulty and the enormity of this situation, but everything we talk about is relative. In the case of somebody not presenting material information or a fact that needs to be used to assess that individual, I don't know what it will entail. If somebody told tales about someone else, and then comes here and tells you: I know him; I know his family; he has committed some crime and he never told you that; his family did this.... How are you going to verify that, to make sure this has happened and that this individual should actually pay for it?
Also, I understand that in the case of people who commit crimes—and this society believes that -- you send them to jail, they serve their term, they come back, you give them a second chance to live in the society and to prove themselves productive members of society. That happens. The fact that they have committed a crime once doesn't mean they should be shot or sent to somewhere in a desert where they can dry up, but I'm still saying that this situation lends itself to all kinds of innuendoes, all kinds of rumours, all kinds of people making allegations about other people, and then the system acting on this information.
I don't know, it still boggles my mind that a crime is such that it cannot be dealt with here, once it's discovered—particularly after this person has been here for years.
Hon. David Anderson: I'm still puzzled. This is not a question of shooting someone. This is not a question of sending them to the desert to live. This is a question of a person misrepresenting a material fact to a Canadian government official. There may have been no crime for which they had been convicted; there may have been acts that later would lead to criminal proceedings.
So my point is still this: are you insisting that the visa officer and then the immigration officers will have to be certain that the person is blameless and has nothing in their possible background that could later turn up to be such a bar? I just don't understand how you can say, as you did -- and I believe I've quoted you correctly -- that if he does lie, he should be treated differently. And I'm saying, well, he did lie to get into Canada. He lied about a material fact. You're then switching your ground and saying it's up to the visa officer to be absolutely certain that he's perfectly pure and without sin.
I don't see this being a logical process when you have 230,000 or 250,000 coming into Canada annually. I don't see how we could do such an examination of background to be certain of their qualifications, just as I don't think if you took a quarter of a million Canadians off the street of any city you would be able to be sure that all of them were without something in their background that was reprehensible.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Okay. You didn't go for my further explanation to that. I am saying yes, if it is discovered at the time that you are processing this individual to become a citizen, the system should have every right to reject that citizenship.
As I said, I gave myself as an example. I have lived half of my life in this country. Let's say I lied when I came to Canada. Do you deport me after half of my life has been spent here? Is that what you are saying?
Hon. David Anderson: No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm absolutely not saying that, and the numbers absolutely do not suggest that.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Okay. All I'm saying is that the person could be punished. There should be a way of punishing that individual in this country. That's all I want to say.
If it is discovered right away, yes, you should not admit him.
Hon. David Anderson: Okay. What I don't understand, though, is your statement that if he does lie, he should be treated differently.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: If you get him right away, yes. I said after that person has been here for a very long time and has proven himself to be a worthy citizen, if he hasn't done anything ever since he has become a Canadian citizen and has been a useful and contributing citizen of Canada....
Hon. David Anderson: Can I vary the question? Say we accept your argument and citizenship is irrevocable as of the time it is granted. Then later the Nigerian authorities or some other authorities say to the Canadian government, “We would like you to extradite a Canadian citizen to face trial for murder”, a heinous crime, “in our country, which happened 10 years ago”. Would we then say, “Sorry, the person is now a Canadian citizen, and as we have accepted the fact that he has come to Canada, we will not send him back to face trial”?
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: What I am saying then is if they can prove that I committed the crime, why can't you try me in Canada for committing the crime?
Hon. David Anderson: Because the crime might have been committed in Nigeria 10 years before.
Mr. Chinwe P. Okelu: Okay. I still have some difficulty with that.
I have known about Canadians who commit a crime and they are tried and Canada wants them back to come and serve their term here in Canada. The whole thing is so convoluted.
Hon. David Anderson: I am trying to find a way to explain this.
What you told me is this, that in fact....
The Chair: Mr. Anderson, could we please go through the chair?
Hon. David Anderson: Certainly, Mr. Chairman, but I am trying to find the position of the witness, which is that if the person comes to Canada, we should try them in Canada for a crime committed in the country of previous origin.
The Chair: Mr. Anderson, the witness has made his point clear a number of times. I understand your difficulty with it, but there is a time limit that we have for questioning back and forth.
Hon. David Anderson: Then carry on, Mr. Chairman, and don't waste time now.