NUMBER 040 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Andrew Telegdi): Thank you very much for a very compelling presentation.
We have Ms. Desil.
Ms. Junie Desil (Volunteer/Resource Coordinator, Vancouver Status of Women): Thank you.
My name is Junie Desil and I'm from the Vancouver Status of Women. We would like to respectfully recognize that the preparation of this submission and the standing committee hearings are on Coast Salish territories.
We appreciate the opportunity to appear and present our submission, which will bring forth a feminist and anti-racist analysis of Canada's citizenship legislation. In particular, our focus is on what the appropriate reasons are to remove citizenship, what process would be most appropriate, and what the criteria should be for granting citizenship to newcomers.
We understand equitable access to citizenship in Canada is a right and not a privilege. The Canadian government supports international agreements that allow the free movement of capital, business, and goods across the globe. While businesses are free to move across borders to find thriving economic conditions, these same agreements deny people the same type of free movement.
We're really concerned with the revocation of citizenship. The revocability of citizenship necessarily creates a hierarchy of citizenship, as it applies solely to naturalized Canadians; this undermines the value of equality of all Canadians as enshrined in sections 7 and 15 of the charter. Recent proposals found in clauses 16 and 17 of Bill C-18 have created a revocation procedure for those accused of terrorism, war crimes, or organized crime that mirrors the security certificate provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In the current atmosphere generated because of the threat of terrorism, the section is prone to abuse, as history has demonstrated with the Japanese Canadians interned and deported from Canada during World War II.
While we recognize that terrorism and war crimes are extremely serious, those accused of such activities, whether they are born Canadians or naturalized citizens, ought to be dealt with in the criminal justice system and ought to be provided with the minimal protection provided by Canadian law, such as the right to full answer and defence.
Our recommendation is, therefore, that there be no revocation of Canadian citizenship under any circumstances. Further, a discussion about granting citizenship involves participation in a nation-building exercise, to ask the state and the government to reassert itself and make decisions about who is desirable and who is undesirable. The prohibition of criminal activity under which a grant of citizenship can be denied is unjust and places a double punishment on migrants.
Jean McDonald at York University writes that:
Many non-status immigrants and community activists argue that this criterion imposes a ‘double punishment’ -- a non-status immigrant could ‘serve their time’ in jail, but then face deportation afterwards. Citizens, on the other hand, are only punished once.
Our recommendation is that we eliminate discriminatory criteria for granting citizenship. The current refugee system is plagued with disregard for the rights of migrants. This is seen clearly in the Canadian government's refusal to implement the Refugee Appeal Division approved by Parliament. More systemically, the definition of refugee in the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol is no longer consistent with the actual causes of flight, in many cases, and these include people fleeing civil war, general political unrest, extreme poverty, and those displaced internally as a result of civil war, ethnic strife, or forced relocation.
This is just a short summary; the rest is obviously in our brief.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Next we have Mr. Petriw.
Mr. Myroslav Petriw (Past President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, B.C. Provincial Council): Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Mr. Myroslav Petriw and I'm the past president of the British Columbia Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Thank you for allowing me the time to make this submission to your committee. The council notes with pleasure recent reports of new-found enlightenment on the part of members of the federal government, especially that of Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Anne McLellan, who became well known to us as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada from 1997 to 2002.
It is with renewed hope that the council expects the enlightened position regarding the deportation of flying squirrels will be expanded to encompass naturalized citizens of Canada. It is also instructive to note that Sabrina, the squirrel in question, was admitted to Canada because of an error on the part of a Canadian official and not any intentional misrepresentation. This goes to the heart of the “on a balance of probabilities” versus “beyond a reasonable doubt argument” regarding denaturalization and deportation provisions of current citizenship legislation.
This committee is well aware of the inequities of the current Citizenship Act in that it creates two classes of citizen under subsection 10(2), namely, first-class citizens, Canadians by accident who are born in Canada; and second-class citizens, Canadians by choice, who obtain their Canadian citizenship after immigrating to Canada, thus becoming naturalized Canadians. It must be aware there is a further injustice, that any alleged misrepresentation when applying for citizenship needs to be proven only on a balance of probabilities, rather than to the stricter standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. To add injury to insult, the courts are not given discretion in sentencing. Denaturalization and deportation is the only possible sentence for any such finding of misrepresentation.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, British Columbia Provincial Council, believes that revocation of citizenship is not an appropriate remedy for any misrepresentation that occurred over 50 years ago. 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 of citizenship is not a punishment that is proportionate to the allegation of ordinary fraud, and the judicial standard of balance of probabilities is certainly inappropriate for allegations of criminal activity.
We note that the Canadian Bar Association, in its brief to this committee on November 28, 2002, submitted that “Revocation or annulment of citizenship are amongst the most serious penalties that the state may invoke against its citizens”. The government should investigate the fact of and reason for any misrepresentation and begin criminal proceedings against a naturalized citizen just like it would against a citizen born in Canada. To do otherwise creates a two-tiered system of justice and violates section 6 of the Citizenship Act:
6. A citizen, whether or not born in Canada, is entitled to all rights, powers and privileges and is subject to all obligations, duties and liabilities to which a person who is a citizen under paragraph 3(1)(a) is entitled or subject and has a like status to that of such person.
It also violates section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
15. (1) 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 and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Subsection 10(2) creates a parallel and separate channel of legal proceedings and penalty that can be applied only to naturalized citizens. Furthermore, denaturalization and deportation proceedings are a political, not a judicial, process because the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is given the power to sentence a naturalized Canadian to a loss of citizenship and deportation, stripping the courts of the prerogative of mitigation of sentence.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, British Columbia Provincial Council, makes the following recommendations:
The first is that the Government of Canada immediately cease all cases under denaturalization and deportation provisions until such time as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration reviews the report of this committee and makes the necessary amendments to the act.
Second, in all cases where the underlying accusation of misrepresentation is an allegation of a war crime, a crime against humanity, or terrorism, the Government of Canada can and should prosecute such individuals before Canadian courts in accordance with Canadian criminal law -- i.e., Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act -- and Canadian standards of evidence and criminal proceedings.
Three, the Citizenship Act should be amended to reaffirm that all Canadians are equal and to introduce the following amendments: one, a requirement of a higher standard of proof in denaturalization and deportation proceedings, namely, the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”; two, the return of discretion over sentencing to the prerogative of the courts; and three, provision of a right of appeal.
In conclusion, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress British Columbia Provincial Council, stands for single-tier Canadian citizenship and a single justice system for all Canadians. Recognizing the painful political reasons for immigration from their homelands to Canada of many of Canada's naturalized citizens, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, British Columbia Provincial Council, strongly opposes any creation of a Star Chamber type of political justice system in Canada.
Canadians of Ukrainian descent have recently witnessed the battle for the rule of law in Ukraine and will strongly oppose the imposition of anything less than the rule of law in Canada.
Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning to each one of you. Thank you for appearing before the committee this morning.
Many of your concerns have been heard, and certainly this past week, as we hear over and over again about the revocation issue and the current Citizenship Act. We've talked about it to death during these hearings, and certainly over the last five years of my involvement with this committee, we've spoken about it, and we've spoken about it in the House. I think the message is very clear that you can't have two classes of Canadian citizens. As a country that believes in the rule of law, I think we have to take it out of the political arena; if we trust and have faith in our judicial system and procedures, then that's were we should go. I don't think you'll have any arguments with any of us sitting here, or with most of the people in the House of Commons.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: I understand. Thank you.
Myroslav, you mentioned that revocation is not a proportionate penalty. Can you give us a little bit more on that?
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: The penalty of revocation is applied to a misrepresentation. The court does not have control of the sentence. The sentence can be one sentence only, and that's revocation of citizenship.
The transgression of a misrepresentation is not great enough to justify this.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Just so I understand it, in your view, if misrepresentation of facts has occurred at time of entry or at the time of granting citizenship, should Canada have the right to review somebody's misrepresentation of facts?
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: Could you say that again?
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Should Canada be able to review the fact of misrepresentation upon the person's receiving Canadian citizenship?
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: Yes. Once citizenship is received, that should be done on the basis of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Up front, right, not later on?
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: I'm saying after citizenship has been granted.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Okay.
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: Prior to that, I agree with you, we should be reviewing it.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Is there any timeline we should look at, so there would be a sunset clause of some sort -- maybe 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, or one year -- and after that it should not happen?
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: The timeline is with the granting of citizenship. Once citizenship is granted, any such review should be to the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Which is judicial.
Mr. Myroslav Petriw: Yes.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
Junie, you mentioned double punishment. I'm not fully familiar with that. I'm not sure even what context you're using there.
Can you expand on that, please?
Ms. Junie Desil: Double punishment is if there's a revocation of citizenship and the intent is that you could potentially be sent back to your country; you're not only stateless, you now also face violence or persecution, those kinds of things. These are things that Canadian citizens don't have to go through.
If I misrepresent or make a statement, or I'm punished for some reason, I go through courts. I don't get sent back to face persecution, as I've said. So it's a double punishment -- you're punished twice, not just the one time.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: So if somebody is found guilty, maybe citizenship can be taken away from them and they can stay here, or... what are you suggesting?
Ms. Junie Desil: What I'm suggesting is that these kinds of things can go through a regular judicial process, through the courts, just as any offence that Canadian citizens go through. The point is that as a Canadian citizen, one who's been granted Canadian citizenship, you should get the same rights, due process, and you should have the right to be treated as a Canadian citizen.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Okay. So with your scenario, I hear you saying that yes, we can re-examine somebody's citizenship sometime later on, and it should go through the judicial system.
Ms. Junie Desil: I'm saying that if there is an offence that comes to light, your citizenship should not be at stake.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Okay. So if there is a fact that is brought forth twenty years later and a person is found guilty, would you not assume that person might not have been granted citizenship had we known that fact at the time of application for citizenship?
Ms. Junie Desil: Yes, but I think that's the same with anything.
You are taking the person at their word, and to the best of their knowledge, and to the best of the facts that are presented to Immigration, you go with that. I think innocent until proven guilty is really what we're thinking of. So once you've granted that citizenship, unless something comes to light, I don't think we need to be going through papers to look for these offences. And if such an offence comes to light, again, as I've said and as has been mentioned before, it should go through the court system as it would for any Canadian citizen.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Desil, I was glad you raised the issue of the Refugee Appeal Division. Certainly it's something that I, as a member of Parliament, have been struggling with. Why won't the government implement its own legislation in regard to a merit-based appeal for refugees in the system? Many people around this table have been working on the government to get on with this important task.
When you were discussing it, it sounded like you were asking for a reconsideration of the grounds on which we receive refugees. You included extreme poverty in the list. That hasn't been a criteria, even though I certainly come from a long line of economic refugees, of peasants fleeing Hungary for a better life economically, and farther back there were probably Irish, Germans, and Scots doing the same thing -- all folks who wouldn't get in under the current criteria. I'm just wondering if you could talk a little more about those criteria, and if you think extreme poverty should be one of the things we consider in that process.
Ms. Junie Desil: I'm obviously not going to go into a huge, extensive discussion about how globalization and all kinds of agreements that we've made contribute to these disparities. I would say that as much as people make choices to come here, many of these choices are forced choices. In fact I wouldn't use the word “choice” because when you are living in conditions of extreme poverty or in war-torn countries or with famine, these kinds of things are conditions that we, as citizens, don't have to face right now. We wouldn't, I think, in all good conscience, expect people to live through these things. I think given the kinds of agreements the Canadian government has made, and other governments, we owe that much in terms of allowing people to make those choices, to come to countries that are much more accessible and have much more privilege.
I don't know if this quite answers your question, but I think that would make more sense and be much more humanitarian.
Mr. Bill Siksay: You came to talk about citizenship issues this morning. Are there particular aspects of our citizenship laws that affect women more adversely than men? I wonder if you could comment on that.
Ms. Junie Desil: Our system, unfortunately, is gender-blind, as are other countries that are letting people leave. For example, when citizens are experiencing violence and sexism in their countries of origin and come here and face that in other subtle forms -- but it's there anyway -- it does have an impact. It has an impact on how we, as policy-makers, make decisions and frame our citizenship acts and policies.
Historical evidence has shown things like the head tax or allowing men to come in alone but not allowing women to come in unless they were attached to men. Our current policies as well ensure that women have to depend on men to come here and perhaps face sponsorship violence, which is one of the issues increasingly coming to light in different communities. Women might come in under work agreements like the live-in caregiver program, which disproportionately affects young Filipino women -- those kinds of things. I can't summarize it in anything small, but I think those are some of the major concerns that come out through gender analysis.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I recently met with two of the families of men who've been held under the security certificate process. Hearing of the difficulties that their families face was quite stunning. In one case, the children haven't been allowed to touch their father for the five years he's been incarcerated. The wife still doesn't know what the charges are, what the evidence against him is. She hasn't been able to witness the trial.
Yet, when we asked how she explained this to her children, she said she told them that sometimes people make mistakes, that in this case the government made a mistake, and that they all just have to hope that someday the government will see the error of its ways. I was overwhelmed with the grace of that response, given what the family has gone through. I think that in this case there really is a disproportionate effect on the family.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
It was a very good panel. This is the seventh hearing, and there's a real commonality that's starting to emerge.
The student issue is critical for Canada. It's almost like part of our international development policy; it has all sorts of great tie-ins to international trade. People come here, and when they return we are left with the benefit of having made those contacts. This is something we must continue and do better in.
As for family reunifications, we have to get the government to think outside the box. In many of the emerging cultures that have been coming here, parents stay with their kids after they immigrate. We can't look at these things through our particular perspective.
The issue of revocation has been a long battle of mine. At one point, under Bill C-63 they were going to make it even more draconian than the draconian system that now exists. We had a professor here from Simon Fraser University who, though she wasn't making a presentation on revocation, managed to get it in there. She asked the question, when do I become a Canadian? The reality is, it's bad public policy. For the sake of a few cases, you end up condemning six million naturalized Canadians to a life of uncertainty. As Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”.
I would like to thank you all for your presentation, and we will forward you copies of our report. We'll suspend the hearing now for 10 minutes.
Mr. Aziz Khaki (President, Committee for Racial Justice): Am I supposed to go now? It's me, is it?
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Aziz Khaki: Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, we are indeed very pleased to appear before your committee to submit our views on citizenship and immigration.
The Committee for Racial Justice is an umbrella group made up of community, religious, and service organizations. CRJ has been working for 22 years to promote respect for human dignity, fairness, and equality for all.
Canada is a country of immigrants. Aboriginal people have been here for thousands of years. To give legitimacy to our settlement, the concept of Canadian citizenship was introduced. It was confined to a select few in the beginning, mostly the Europeans. Only in recent years have we opened our doors to give citizenship to others.
It is recognized that citizenship comes with certain rights and responsibilities. Those applying for citizenship are required to familiarize themselves on the rights and responsibilities attached to their citizenship. We therefore feel it is appropriate to include a preamble setting out the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the new citizenship legislation.
We cherish with honour and pride the possession of our Canadian citizenship. We attach great value to it, and we definitely do not want to see two classes of citizenship: one for those who are born here and another for those who obtain it through naturalization.
Under Bill C-18, which died on the floor of Parliament, clauses 16 and 17 provided for the revocation of citizenship for those accused of terrorism, war crimes, and organized crimes. Those proposals lacked basic protection of procedural fairness.
First of all, we are against the provision of revocation of citizenship. In very rare cases, if deemed necessary, it should be under the full protocol of procedural fairness. The revocation of citizenship for terrorism, war crimes, and organized crimes must meet the standards of fundamental justice without violating the rights of the person. In cases where national security is a legitimate concern, a balance must be struck with the legitimate expectation of a fair and open hearing.
Citizenship is our Canadian heritage. It is our identity. Canada has not repudiated its beginning as a nation of immigrants. Immigration is an integral part of our tradition and should continue as such.
Professor Julius Grey, in his report, “Equality for All”, stated that the objective of the immigration policy should contain standards of admission that do not discriminate in a manner prohibited by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The charter of Canada under section 27 states, “This Charter should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”.
Canada is a pluralistic society. We are proud of our Canadian multicultural heritage. Section 15 of the charter recognizes equality rights -- “equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law”.
Former Chief Justice of Canada Brian Dickson, in his introduction to the “Equality for All” report”, stated:
...while the courts are the guardians of the Constitution and of individuals’ rights under it, it is the Legislature’s responsibility to enact legislation that embodies appropriate safeguards to comply with the Constitution’s requirements.
We must be vigilant against the use of power. We should guard against the surrender of part of our liberty for security needs. We should work for open and fair process and justice for all.
I would like to say a few words here. In this forward for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau, used these words:
The difference is that now they will be guaranteed by our Constitution, and people will have the power to appeal to the courts if they feel their constitutional rights have been infringed upon or denied.
Further, Chief Justice Bora Laskin, on May 14, 1972, stated:
Our society is anchored...on openness of our courts, and of our Legislative Assemblies, underpinned by a universal franchise, on fair procedure before adjudicative agencies, be they courts or other tribunals which, at least, means a right to be heard or to make presentations before being condemned criminally or made liable civilly.
We submit that while we are an independent nation, we have Queen Elizabeth II as our queen, and the text of a new citizenship oath should also incorporate our loyalty to the Canadian monarch.
We celebrate July 1 as Canada Day. On this day almost everywhere in Canada citizenship ceremonies take place. We need to hold a number of hearings to reaffirm the dignity of our citizenship, and this should occur at an organized level to remind people of their responsibilities to uphold and celebrate their citizenship.
I would like to say just a few words on family reunification issues. We have heard that there are long delays, especially in the developing countries, on the verification of documents presented for processing. With regard to delays in reuniting the families of refugees who have been granted Canada's protection following the Immigration and Refugee Board determination process, there have been cases where the children got their landed papers in their own countries before conventional refugees got their papers in Canada.
We hope our views presented this morning will assist your standing committee in making the final recommendations for the new bill that will come before Parliament for discussion.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you.
Mr. Aziz Khaki, you mentioned citizenship revocation. Do you think there is a time when citizenship revocation should not take place?
Mr. Aziz Khaki: First of all, I am against the whole concept of revocation of citizenship; that's our bottom line. But I qualified it by saying that in some extreme cases, if it becomes necessary, then there should be a fair process --
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Judicial.
Mr. Aziz Khaki: Judicial and others.
For example, for Bill C-36 I appeared before the parliamentary committee. There is absolutely no respect for civil liberties. The government, the politicians, and the bureaucracy have even failed to define who is a terrorist.
I come from Africa. Nelson Mandela was detained for 27 years as a terrorist, and then all of a sudden he was released and became a national figure. The whole concept of labelling people as terrorists has to be looked at very carefully and must not be used as a political football.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Bill Siksay): Thank you, Mr. Khaki.
Our time is up for that round.
Mr. Mark, for five minutes.
Mr. Inky Mark: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
That's an excellent response you made about this whole business of labelling and terrorism, and I'll follow in the same vein of questioning. In fact I'll ask each of you one question, which relates to the whole business of Canada's multicultural diversity.
In this community, as in a lot of the larger urban communities in this country, my opinion is that sometimes the ethnic communities get to be very concentrated in different areas. I'd like to hear your honest opinion as to what the state of race relations is in the community of Vancouver and area.
Mr. Aziz Khaki: Racism has been with us since the first human being came on the face of this earth. In our role in Canada, racism is not as prevalent as we are trying to.... But there is definitely an element of racism.
When we started the Committee for Racial Justice 22 years ago, there were fire bombings of Indo-Canadian homes in Surrey, graffiti on Jewish homes, and torchings of some Afro-Canadian restaurants. There were many unsatisfactory acts leading to human acts of violence. We came together -- religious groups, service agencies -- to try to see how, through education, through talking to each other, we could create a better understanding of the pluralistic society of our nation. We have, to a large extent, made some progress, but we have a very long way to go.
I believe, and this is my view, we cannot entirely eliminate racism, but we can create an environment of better race relations and respect for the diversity we have and of how we can use that diversity as a strength.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: I'm going to be a little controversial.
For Mr. Khaki, I personally feel that Bill C-36 was a very pathetic mark on us as politicians to jump into the paranoid fever of what had happened. However, we also have the security certificate that is issued to immigrants, and Bill C-36 covers Canadian citizens as well now. Without mentioning names, I was just in a Metro west detention centre two weeks ago, visiting someone who has been in prison for five years -- no charges, everything's secret -- and he's not seen his children, or been able to touch his children even, for five years.
At one point you say that no one should be denied Canadian citizenship when they're landed. On the other hand, we're saying there should be no revocation of citizenship. So where do we come in a balance with all of these things?
Mr. Aziz Khaki: I did not make an absolute statement. I did say I was against the concept of revocation, but I did say that in some very special circumstances we need to look at it with the full protection of the civil liberty of the person. You don't do it because you feel you cannot prove the guilt of a person. You cannot prove the criminal activity of the person and you want to hide behind your legislation in order to say no, this is for security purposes.
Since September 11, there has been unfortunate, complete targeting of certain groups. As a Muslim I have experienced it first-hand, and this is where I have my problem. On the entire question of how do you deal with the security of a country, the safety and the security of a country is paramount for all of us, but it does not help to make an excuse to deny the civil liberties and freedom of others. There are ways and means of dealing with it. We have seen historically in Europe before the Second World War what happened when people's civil liberties were taken away, and we still have that fresh in our memory. We cannot allow that to occur again.
The Chair: We're going to start this session. The way we do it is that everybody makes a five-minute presentation, after which we engage committee members in questions and answers.
Thank you very much for being here. We're doing cross-Canada consultation on citizenship, international credentials, and family reunification. We have heard a great deal of input. We look forward to your presentation.
I would like to call on Ms. Manvell to start off the presentation, and that's for five minutes. When you get close to the time I'll give an indication.
Ms. Kate Manvell (Mediator and Immigration Practitioner, Member of Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, As an Individual): Thank you very much. If I have the reading glasses on I won't be able to see you waving; however, I'm always very brief. I may not even take up my five minutes.
Good morning. I'm not going to apologize to any of you coming from the east, which most of you have, for this embarrassing outbreak of summertime that we have in west Vancouver, because it's like this, of course, 12 months of the year.
My name is Kate Manvell, and I am an immigration practitioner. I've done that work for the past 11 years. Prior to that, between 1989 and 1994, I was a full-time citizenship court judge based here in B.C. and the Yukon region. Prior to that -- because now all of you are going to ask, how did she get that Privy Council appointment -- I was a parliamentary spouse. My husband at the time was a member of the PC Party of Canada and a member of Parliament for Nanaimo -- Alberni, Nanaimo -- Duncan, or whatever the riding was at the particular time.
I tell you all those boring facts because for the past 16 years my work has been solely to do with immigration to and citizenship in Canada. For the record, this is the third or the fourth time I have appeared before a standing committee for citizenship or immigration.
We do not have a new Citizenship Act to look at, but we have been asked, in our notes from Mr. Farrell's office and on your guidance, about a few things you'd like to hear from us on. I'm going to speak this morning briefly on the criteria for granting citizenship to newcomers, because this is something that has, in my opinion, for 16 years been lacking in the Citizenship Act. It has to do with the residency requirements of citizenship.
I agree that all the other criteria that are in place right now, such as to do with the language requirements, the knowledge—paragraphs (a) through (f), I believe it is, other than paragraph (c), of subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act.... It's paragraph 5(1)(c) I would like to speak about, in regard to residency.
The current requirement is that a landed immigrant must have resided in Canada for three out of the past four years when applying for citizenship. At the time I was a citizenship court judge, there was a flexibility. A judge could approve people who had not remained in Canada for that whole physical time. That has now changed, with the immigration and citizenship departments coming together eight or nine years ago. The citizenship court judges do not have the same flexibility or the same free will they had before. They are very influenced by the grantor's end result. As you all know, the grantor must approve the judge's decision in order for someone to be granted or to receive citizenship in Canada.
Now we have seen, for many years, that it has been virtually impossible for our international business people, whom we also refer to as our astronauts, to gain citizenship. In hundreds of thousands of cases their families are all Canadians and they are not; they are landed immigrants. That wasn't too bad until IRPA came into play a few years ago, where the residency requirement is that you must live in Canada for two years out of five—for 730 days.
I'm now seeing in my work thousands of landed immigrants who are losing their status in Canada because of this requirement under IRPA. Not only, as before, would the international businessperson landed immigrant who didn't remain in Canada be unable to get Canadian citizenship like the remainder of his family, but we're now finding that he or she is losing the existing status, so there is a total divide in the families.
The irony is, those people I'm referring to are business immigrants, under the business category, and it's their hard-earned money that they've brought to Canada and invested in Canada. They've brought property and furniture and have educated their children, and their families are here. They are the ones who are now literally being thrown out of Canada, because they are being served with orders of removal. Fortunately for me, that's great for my business, but it's sure not very good news for a lot of law-abiding, permanent residents.
If IRPA is not going to be changed, that could be changed by the Citizenship Act allowing people to maintain and establish a home in Canada. If they cannot physically stay here, they could also get citizenship waiving that physical requirement.
Are you waving your arms yet, Andrew?
The Chair: No, but I will be soon.
Ms. Kate Manvell: I know, and I'm just finishing.
I've gotten off the bit of the script that I was going to say, but basically that's what I wanted to share with you this morning.
I would like it if you would consider what I have said in regard to the current requirements of paragraph 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act in whatever new act there is. We live in a world of international travel and that's only going to continue. If we are to continue to encourage business immigrants to come to this incredible nation of ours, then we will have to make some changes so they are not removed from Canada three years later because they have not been able to fulfil the requirements of immigration.
The Chair: Thank you.
Next we have Lilian To.
Ms. Lilian To (Chief Executive Officer, Success): Honourable members, my name is Lilian To. I'm the chief executive officer of Success. This is Ansar Cheung, director of immigrant services for Success.
On behalf of Success, I'd like to thank the parliamentary standing committee for this opportunity to present our views and to propose changes to the citizenship legislation.
Success is a community-based, non-profit service organization. We're about 30 years old, and every year we service around 500 clients, most of them immigrants. Actually, half of these are new immigrants who have been here for less than one year, but the rest may have been here a bit longer. We have 12 locations to service immigrants, with a staff of about 350 and about 9,000 volunteers.
I am very pleased to let the honourable members know that Success was granted a citation for a citizenship award from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in recognition of the organization's achievements in exemplifying Canadian values and the principles of Canadian citizenship.
Again, thank you very much.
We'd like to respond to the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act. Maybe Ansar could start.
Ms. Ansar Cheung (Program Director, Public Education and Settlement, Success): We are indeed encouraged by the government's determination to reform and improve Canada's citizenship legislation and policies. However, we wish to submit concerns regarding provisions for obtaining citizenship and loss of citizenship in four major areas: one, residency requirement; two, power to refuse and prohibitions for granting of citizenship; three, revocation of citizenship; and four, the ministry's authority to annul citizenship.
I'll talk briefly about the first one: residency requirements. We would support a proposal under Bill C-18, the previous proposed Citizenship Act, for a permanent resident to be granted citizenship if he or she has accumulated at least three years of physical presence in Canada out of a total of six years. However, we are concerned that this provision under clause 7 of the proposed bill does not provide sufficient discretion or feasibility to take into consideration permanent residents who are students or business people who may not be able to comply with the above requirement.
Canada prides itself as a country built by people from around the world. In a global environment, where mobility and travel are becoming more important to business people and students, the ability to travel is becoming a necessity in order to function competitively in the world market. We must not penalize business immigrants, immigrants who are employed overseas, and students studying abroad. We submit that Canada should not limit and restrict employment, business, and educational opportunities for qualified and talented immigrants.
Our recommendation is that the proposed changes in the citizenship legislation include provisions for discretionary recognition of residency for spouses and employees of Canadian companies abroad. We also recommend that the minister be authorized, in compelling cases, to exempt citizenship applicants, such as students and business immigrants, from compliance with strict residency requirements.
Ms. Lilian To: I'd like to briefly go over how to review prohibitions for granting citizenship. Initially, under Bill C-18, the government would be given the power to refuse citizenship on the basis that a person has “demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society”.
We have a concern that if any new changes in the Citizenship Act go along with that kind of proposed change, it could lead to inconsistencies and possible abuse, which could arise from undefined and broad powers. With a lack of definition of the principles and values, any decisions made would be inconsistent. In addition, with a lack of due process and right of appeal, this is unfair and would be subject to abuse, given the state of uncertainty the world is now in.
Our recommendation is that any proposed changes in the refusal and prohibitions for granting of citizenship should include an expanded list of prohibitions against the granting of citizenship and allow a person who has been denied citizenship to have access to due process and to be treated fairly under the law.
On the other issue of revocation of citizenship, we believe that citizens are entitled to a transparent and fair hearing for revocation of citizenship. As well as knowing the case against them in revocation proceedings to determine misrepresentations or inadmissibility, there should be a review committee to investigate the source of evidence and the individual should be given a fair hearing.
Our recommendation is that in the case of revocation of citizenship, a review committee should be given the mandate to investigate evidence of inadmissibility against a citizen. We also recommend that citizens who are alleged to be inadmissible should be granted entitlement to appeal with leave by the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
The third is on the minister's authority to annul a decision. Under any of the new changes in the Citizenship Act, if the minister is given the authority to order citizenship to be annulled, there should also be independent hearings or judicial determinations if he or she believes that citizenship is acquired by false representation or under prohibited grounds.
The minister's new power to annul citizenship may be deployed without regard to the principles of justice and the procedure of fairness. Individuals wrongfully accused of acquiring citizenship through illegitimate means may be caught by this particular provision because of political reasons. Then they will have no opportunity to prove their innocence or to confront their accuser.
We recommend that when the minister is given the authority to annul citizenship, there should be provisions for an independent hearing and procedural fairness. People whose citizenship has been annulled should be entitled to the right of appeal and judicial review to the Federal Court.
The community generally welcomes improvements in the proposed citizenship legislation that comply with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. We hope the committee will carefully consider our observations and help build a country that is open and welcoming, as good citizenship legislation is vital to the interests of Canada.
This concludes our remarks. I will be pleased to answer questions from the committee.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Next we have Mr. David Choi.
Mr. David Choi (National Congress of Chinese Canadians): Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, I'm a national director of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians. The congress is represented in every region of the country -- the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Quebec, the prairie provinces, and the Pacific region.
By profession, I'm an entrepreneur. I'm the president and CEO of the Royal Pacific Real Estate Group. Our group does real estate and export of Canadian building materials. I was selected as a “forty under 40” entrepreneur by business in Vancouver. I'm also an adviser to the dean of education of UBC, to the dean of graduate studies of UBC, and a founding and current council member of the Centre for Dialogue for Simon Fraser University.
I'm appearing before you here today to speak about citizenship revocation. I have spoken on this issue before, as a matter of continuing concern for the last several years, and through the various evolving bills, with Bill C-63, Bill C-16, Bill C-18, and now the proposed Bill C-29.
I came to Canada when I was nine years old. I went through elementary, high school, and the University of British Columbia here, and I became a contributing member of the Canadian community. I was interviewed by CBC two years ago when your predecessors on this committee were here in this room. There was also a rally by the multicultural community in Success at the Choi Hall, and the chairman was present at that meeting.
I have said that because I have been here since I was nine, have been educated and have considered myself a Canadian, I take offence to now finding out that I would be treated any differently from any other Canadian in terms of my legal rights just because of where I was born.
Canada prides itself on being a fair and just society, and it's high time we look at our history and the mistakes we have made, which must be corrected under the terms of the current proposed Citizenship Act.
I would like to make the point that we must not politicize citizenship. That is why we have the judiciary. In order to prosecute the few, we should not terrorize the many -- the many being the six million Canadians who were not born in Canada. This would simply make bad public policy.
Today, as many as 40% of our sitting members of Parliament were not born in Canada, so I do not understand why, on the subject of revocation, we cannot make the necessary corrections. Indeed, among the six million Canadians who were not born here are the spouses of many MPs sitting in Parliament today.
The governing party, the federal Liberals, in at least four regions that I know of, and those are B.C., Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec, have made a priority resolution on this subject matter.
I would also like to address the current proposed Bill C-29 on citizenship revocation.
The Chair: Bill C-29 is the existing bill.
Mr. David Choi: Yes.
The Chair: Unfortunately, we don't have a bill right now, because we haven't received one, so we're doing consultation. We're hoping they'll use that consultation in drafting a new bill.
Mr. David Choi: Okay. I'd like to point out that under the current system, on the subject of revocation, the matter is referred to a federal court judge on the balance of probability, and the judge does a report and then it goes to the minister. And really, what this means is that it's taken to a committee of the cabinet to make a decision in secret.
The person in question for revocation has no standing; that is, he has no legal representation and no lawyer to represent him. This is really a decision that's made in secret star chambers, and I think this is wrong, under Canadian values.
I want to point out in particular that as we are a society that believes in the rule of the law, Justice Reilly of the Ontario Superior Court ruled last January 2004 that as far as citizenship revocation is concerned, section 7, on the legal rights of Canadians and under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under our Constitution, must apply.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you.
Next we have Mr. Andrew Jakoy.
Mr. Andrew Jakoy (Vice-President, Hungarian Cultural Society of Greater Vancouver): Honoured Chair, esteemed committee, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Hungarian Cultural Society of Greater Vancouver, Mr. Les Szanyi, our president, I would like to make a presentation. We would like to make the following comments.
My first point is about the recognition of international experience and the credentials of immigrants. We would like to see that immigrants who have desirable credentials and would be useful for Canada would receive a smooth transition into Canadian life, that is, the process of their immigration to Canada would be speeded up.
My next point is about the treatment of citizenship obtained through birth and naturalization. We would like to see these two forms treated as equal.
The third point is that revocation of citizenship should be decided through court procedures and not follow a political process.
The family reunification issues were covered, so I'll leave them out.
The following two comments are not entirely related to Canadian citizenship, but they are rather important. First is the visa issue. The treatment of Hungarian citizens as citizens legally equal with others in the European Union is important. Since Hungary is a member of the European Union, the same rules should apply to Hungarian citizens as apply to, for example, Austrian citizens, when a Hungarian decides to travel to Canada. A Canadian who tries to travel to Hungary is not required to have a visa, but Hungarian citizens, if they want to come to Canada -- for example, if I want to bring my sister out -- have to arrange for a visa.
The last point is a general comment. We would like to see the Canadian judiciary system and judges enforce the law. If a citizen is convicted, then the law should not be lenient towards that person. I'm thinking of impaired driving charges and commonly occurring problems.
Thank you very much for letting us speak.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Our first questioner is Ms. Ablonczy.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I thought you forgot my name there for a minute, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you for these good presentations. Mr. Jakoy, as you know, I was married to a Hungarian refugee until his untimely death. So I have a very warm spot in my heart for Hungary and Hungarians.
That includes you, Mr. Chairman, of course.
I want to start with a question for Mr. David Choi.
You talked about, and others have talked about, the offensiveness of revocation, and particularly the secret ceremony by which that happens. I completely agree with you. The problem, I guess, is how to deal with people who obtain Canadian citizenship under false pretences. If there's no revocation in the new act -- whenever that might come forward -- do you believe it would be appropriate to have, then, much greater scrutiny of citizenship applications, which would slow down the process, of course, and would perhaps be tougher in granting citizenship?
The second question I have for you is this. We, of course, are anxious to uphold the equality of both naturalized citizens and citizens by birth. The problem is that citizens by birth have one citizenship; they have one allegiance. But others have mentioned -- two other witnesses -- that many naturalized citizens have dual citizenship. So their loyalty and allegiance is not as clear cut, shall we say, as in the case of Canadian-born citizens. I would particularly like you to address those two issues because I know you've given both a lot of thought.
Mr. David Choi: First I'd like to say, as a naturalized Canadian, that I only have one citizenship. I'm a Canadian, and I would like to be treated equally with any and all other Canadians.
I am not opposed to stricter scrutiny. I think that would be good, but you've mentioned equality, and that is what's at issue with me. It is very important that Canada be a welcoming home to all Canadians, whether they were born here or they are naturalized. One does not feel welcome if one does not receive equal treatment.
For those who enter the country under false pretences, I'm advocating that in the revocation process they be entitled to legal rights, just as other Canadians are entitled to legal rights, when they're being accused of wrongdoing that has infringed on Canada. Why would we exclude certain Canadians from these legal rights just because they were not born here? Does that not set Canadians into two classes of citizenship?
I was born in Hong Kong, which is, as you know, a British colony. The reason why I now only hold a single citizenship, and that is Canadian, is because I felt I was a second-class citizen. I understood it in my early teens when I qualified to become a Canadian. I chose to be, and I gave up my Hong Kong citizenship. That is because with my British Hong Kong passport, in order to travel to Britain, I had to apply for a visa. That was second-class citizenship.
Now after all this time of having been in Canada and being recognized here as a contributing member of society, I and others would not like to feel we are second-class citizens. That is very easy to understand if certain of our rights are being alienated, and I don't understand why in this process, when we are a country of the rule of law, we would deny certain legal rights to certain Canadians.
I also want to bring up the issue of extending revocation to kids. You have children here in Canada. We accepted these children as part of us, as Canadians. You can take a case where children come here, and some 50 years later, for instance, we discover that their father entered the country under false pretences. The children are innocent, but now you expel these children. Expel these children to where? They don't have any other citizenship. Do they become international refugees, when we are a compassionate country that in fact has made it a policy to take in refugees? That to me is inconsistent treatment -- inconsistency in terms of the legal rights of our citizens.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Excellent points. Thank you for them.
I did want to talk to Ms. To as well and ask her the following questions. When you were talking to the committee about residency requirements, you mentioned that you felt that a proposal of three years out of six would be acceptable. Did I hear that correctly?
Ms. Lilian To: Yes, it would be an improvement to what we have now with the current Citizenship Act, which requires you to be here three years out of four. So it would be an improvement, but there are concerns, because even in the current legislation there are provisions recognizing that some people on business, or who are away for other reasons, are not able to be physically present. If they're employed by a Canadian company abroad or something, they would be considered physically present and be able to acquire citizenship. But if any of the new changes, like Bill C-18, were enacted, there would be no provision for people who are on business, or for students, to be away.
We have a lot of immigrants who may be studying abroad. Some may have a scholarship to study at Harvard, which might take six years, meaning they will not be able to be physically present for three out of six years. There's no provision for this in the proposed bill. So we're hoping that any new changes in the citizenship legislation will take into consideration people who are studying abroad or who are on business.
We actually have a global village now, and with the encouragement of trade with different countries, it is very likely that an immigrant would actually stay in different countries for several months. They may have difficulty accumulating three out of six years of physical presence. Again, these people may be Canadian citizens, pay taxes, and fulfil all the obligations of a citizen, but then they should not be penalized because they're doing business for Canada or because they're studying abroad.
The Chair: Madame Faille.
Ms. Meili Faille: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to speak French. We'll need interpretation.
I believe we're lucky to be able to hear a person like Ms. Manvell, who has worked in this field and has come to explain it to us.
Certain elements must be in place for natural justice to be done. It must be possible for the citizenship judge...
Ms. Kate Manvell: Oh, I am so sorry. All those three years of French in Ottawa, and other than hearing my name... I wasn't getting anything. Thank you.
Ms. Meili Faille: We're talking about natural justice. For there to be natural justice, it must be possible for the judge to interpret the law. There must be a possibility of appeal to ensure a certain uniformity and true justice. Does the fact that there is no citizenship appeal section make the judge's role harder?
You also referred to a grantor, who comes and sees the work the judge has done. First of all, should the judge have more power to grant citizenship?
Ms. Kate Manvell: Thank you.
I'll answer the second part of your question first because I want you to clarify the appeal.
When I was a judge -- it sounds like a fairy tale story -- all of our decisions were looked at by the grantor, and that must stay in place because you have to have an executive senate; you have to have that sober thought. But we had free will not to approve or to approve a residency case, for example.
The grantor generally, 99.9% of the time, agreed with the judges unless they found they were way out of line. Then they would refer it to Ottawa and they could then appeal that judge's decision, but that was really rare. Out of hundreds of cases we did in Vancouver every year, I think maybe once in my five years was one of my fellow judges appealed. Now it isn't; it is the grantor who looks at all of the applications.
I would say in my business now, as an immigration practitioner, I'd probably have about 80% or 90% of my astronaut clients who would be approved. Now you're lucky if people are here less than 730 days out of their four years... maybe 4% or 5%... to the point where citizenship now has become a very small part of my business.
Your other part was about appeal. If someone is not approved by a judge, they can appeal to the Supreme Court. Could you just clarify what your question was?
Ms. Meili Faille: They can appeal to the Supreme Court, but there's no lower....
Ms. Kate Manvell: Do you mean an adjudication level like the one they have with immigration?
Ms. Meili Faille: Yes.
Ms. Kate Manvell: No, there isn't.
Ms. Meili Faille: In the context of the review of the act, I am sensitive to the contribution of business people. We considered that important because it's a modern reality. We have an increasing number of businesses working in various countries. We find ourselves with people who have come through immigration and are in a process of becoming Canadian citizens. In the meantime, they have to earn a living here, but elsewhere as well.
I hope we'll find a solution to that. Could you make a recommendation or proposal in that regard?
Ms. Kate Manvell: I would love to. Again, my basis, as Ms. To has already spoken about with the residency...that there could be part of that residency requirement where the physical aspect is waived in lieu of either study or, on a business person's level, where they would have to show.... I'm not talking about people landing and leaving and then coming back four years later, but where, say, two-thirds or a large majority of their family actually stayed here, which is generally the case...and that perhaps they had to fulfill returning to Canada two or three times a year for a minimum of two or three weeks. There would have to be some guidelines that could be followed with that, and they would have to prove they had established and maintained a home and bought a car and paid their taxes and everything else.
It's not brain surgery. It's quite doable and it's way overdue.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I wanted to say that Mr. Jakoy and Mr. Szanyi were explaining to me before we began our session that they're both from the Sopron School, which was relocated here to the University of British Columbia after the Hungarian revolution. As the chair has taken pains to point out to us and has shared with us, I think, both in Victoria and here on Saturday, that really was a glowing and triumphant moment in Canadian immigration policy, where Canada responded in a very dramatic way to the situation folks were experiencing during the Hungarian revolution.
It's great to have you here as representatives of that moment in our history, so thank you very much for being here.
Mr. Andrew Jakoy: We're very grateful for that. Thank you.
Mr. Bill Siksay: I appreciated all of your presentations, and I hope folks on the committee know that Ms. To's organization, Success, is an incredibly important community agency in Vancouver and the greater Vancouver area. She mentioned that there were 350 employees and over 9,000 volunteers. It is an amazing organization that has been of absolutely crucial importance to our community and continues to be. This is an important group here in the Vancouver area.
I wanted to pursue the issue of the residency requirement a little further. I'm wondering, how else do we prove attachment to Canada? The issue is attachment to Canada, not whether you've put up money here to buy a house, or whether you've bought a car. How do you prove attachment to the values of Canada? If you're outside Canada for a long time, it becomes even more of a question. So I'm concerned about the issue of attachment to Canada.
It also seems to me that we're going out of our way to accommodate wealthy people. In our immigration process, people of modest income can have real difficulty. For instance, when a family member comes for a visit, and we have a question about the legitimacy of that visit, we immediately go to financial requirements. We see if they have the ability to sponsor them, as if they were sponsoring for permanent residents. Families of modest incomes lose out. We haven't been doing very well at accommodating such people. I'm just worried that we are making this a system that accommodates the wealthy and leaves other folks out of the equation. With regard to family reunification, parents and grandparents are way down the list. Comments?
Ms. Kate Manvell: Now you're talking immigration. It's immigration policy or the act that lets them in, not the Citizenship Act. You better get your bureaucrats in Ottawa to change the immigration policy, so that it accommodates lower income levels. We are talking about business, refugees, skilled workers, family reunification—it doesn't really have to do with citizenship.
Ms. Lilian To: I fully agree with you about family reunification. Financial considerations should not be a deterrent to it. That's really important because family is the cornerstone of our immigration policy. I know we're addressing citizenship at this point. But when we talk about business immigrants, we're also talking about students, who may lose their citizenship if they're away more than three years out of the six.
About 70% of the B.C. businesses are small and medium-sized. There are only a few huge businesses. Many people employed by Canadian firms may also, out of necessity, have to work elsewhere. There are others who engage in very small businesses. They're not necessarily wealthy people. This is related to the issue of not being able to get accredited or get jobs. Some of these people have connections overseas and use their skills to run small businesses. We should have provisions for these people. Self-employment is a legitimate form of employment. They should not be penalized for doing this, especially when we're encouraging international trade.
It's important to have an open policy. I agree with you that sometimes there's abuse. People take advantage of the system. I think there has to be some way to deal with it. People who actually work overseas or who have businesses overseas should pay taxes. There should be ways to make sure that they're not abusing the system.
Mr. Bill Siksay: So in terms of attachment, we're talking about houses in Canada, paying taxes in Canada. What are the criteria for attachment?
Ms. Kate Manvell: To that I would add, what other greater attachment, Bill, than that your family lives here? That was my point. And family should be as in the spouse or children, or something to that level of...whether it's two-thirds of your immediate family who live here, but not your great aunt or somebody. That's a huge attachment to a country. You can tell them you want memberships and everything else, as well as their buying a house, but anybody can go out and get a membership in their library. It doesn't prove anything. But if the family is living here....
That also, then, keeps the status equal. They come. They land. They become permanent residents together. And at the end of three years, they can apply for citizenship. That's the end of the process. They're now citizens. They're now attached to the country, rather than having their landed immigrant status ripped away, which is what we're doing now under IRPA.
The Chair: Okay. Thank you very much.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the panellists.
Madam Manvell, you've been a citizenship judge. What a great honour and privilege it must have been. Now you've moved on to being an immigration practitioner.
Can you give us some of your thoughts about the job of the immigration practitioner -- the licensing and what's going on with that issue? That issue has come up for us.
Ms. Kate Manvell: I'd be happy to.
For my first 10 years as an immigration practitioner I was very involved with what was then OPIC. We were great supporters and were the pushers behind getting us regulated. Unfortunately, it was probably too little, too late -- too late, too little. It's now in place. It's cost us a huge amount of money. Our membership dues are exorbitant. Our liability is also high, exorbitant, compared to that of other societies I'm affiliated with.
I don't know at the end of the day what difference it's going to make, because we hear through our worldwide community that there are still the unscrupulous practitioners who will not put their names on application forms. At the end of the day, the best thing the Government of Canada has done is that you've done it, and you've put the word out there. So if people still hire a consultant who is not a member of either the bar association or CSIC, then buyer beware again.
Yes, it was a long time coming. We were glad it was here. It's a little more heavily top-sided than what we'd like, but that possibly will change in the future.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: I have another question.
There are two issues: citizenship and immigration. I would say they may be somewhat different.
Ms. Kate Manvell: Yes, entirely.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Would you be in support of having two departments? What's your thinking on splitting those two from one department?
Ms. Kate Manvell: It was for so many years. There were such huge changes when they did come together, eight or nine years ago. Immigration, about nine or 10 years ago, became very enforcement minded compared to what it was before -- a facilitator. Now that huge group of... I think in some areas, like Victoria, 70% of the immigration department has now left to be in the Canada Border Services Agency. Immigration had grown to be huge enforcers rather than facilitators.
I hope Immigration will get back to being able to welcome people to Canada, rather than keeping them out, telling them to stay out. From that, then, to me it's only natural that citizenship is that very happy ceremony. I know for members of Parliament it's probably one of your finest joys to go to a court and officiate or speak, be part of that. To me, that should be a happy time for people, not something that is perhaps as stringent as it's become.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Now, we've also heard there's been some delay in the processing of citizenship applications. Where in your view would that delay come from?
Ms. Kate Manvell: I think it was Diane who mentioned that if we went back to the old system.... In the old system, when I was a judge, you had citizenship officers who interviewed every applicant. So they physically touched them, physically met them, and they looked at the passport. Then we got rid of all of those people -- hired them into enforcement, probably -- and then everybody just mailed in their applications.
That's where it all started. They didn't ask for passports. So now people can just lie like crazy, because they have nothing to prove. The courts are now asking for passports afterward.
The big delay was with the RCMP. I used to have, say out of 100 files a year, maybe five clients who were fingerprinted. Then after 9/11, the RCMP... now it's maybe two-thirds of your clients who are being fingerprinted -- wives, little children. Never, ever has anybody.... It's just the same name.
The RCMP have this huge backlog. Fingerprints used to take three months; now it's six to eight months. Citizenship is now running into two years, even for straight files. When I was a judge, we could put them through in three to five months, with nothing changed. It was actually a heavier system, because you had to make an appointment with the citizenship officer.
Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Having seen somebody's face after they have received their citizenship, could you envisage somebody's citizenship being removed, and under what circumstances?
Ms. Kate Manvell: I still think it's probably such a small percentage.... I had not even heard that it was actually happening, and to enforce it is going to be.... If we're going to be taking citizenship away, because we feel someone's lied about their absences, for example, we can't prove it; we can't prove they weren't in the country. So until customs starts to stamp those passports on re-entry, this is not going to be enforceable, unless you're going to put the RCMP outside everybody's house for three years, which we're not going to do.
I think, again, probably 99.9% of the applicants are very proud to be citizens and have gained their citizenship honestly.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Inky Mark: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for being here, and thank you for giving us all that information, because you do present other viewpoints.
I think one of the problems we have today is what you indicated, Kate, that we're so paranoid about terrorism and security, it has really bogged down the whole system. As you know, we all agree that 99% of the time people are pretty honest, especially when their lives rest on their applications to come to this country.
When we hear of the backlogs, especially on the family side, we are overwhelmed, and they themselves are wondering why. In my own riding, I have constituents who are trying to get landed, yet the officials check back.... This is in England, where the individual had a drunk driving infraction. Well, the individual didn't know; it's all based on the context at that time of application. We hear this constantly throughout our own constituencies, the fear of visas. That's why even with the numbers.... In fact, one of the members asked about the numbers -- 1%. We know that the greater the number of immigrants who come to this country, the more pressure it puts on every component of immigration. We know that 60% are skilled labour, which leaves very little for the protected class and the family class. So if the demand is continuing to increase, how are we ever going to get to the bottom of this, really? We never will.
I guess my first question is, should the department be split? Would it help if it were split, so that citizenship had a separate department from immigration?
Maybe all of you can respond to this.
Ms. Kate Manvell: I think it should be, because they're entirely two different things, but a lot of the backlog has been created because of the huge downsizing of both departments many years ago, or eight or nine years ago. It's a human resources aspect.
The trouble with it when it takes so long is that it just adds to it. Rather than having an application for immigration being processed within 12 months.... And I think they physically walk through how quickly they can land this person, and it's something scary, like it takes three days. If someone could take you physically from the moment you apply, through all your security clearances, to issuing the visa, it's frightening. But when people are not processed quickly, their circumstances change. So a year later maybe a baby has been born or somebody got married; then you have to add supplementary applications to it, which slow it down. It's the cause and effect that creates it as well.
A lot of the requests are unreasonable compared to the way they used to be, as they'll ask.... I've just finished with one client where it's taken us 12 months to get a student visa through New Delhi. The visa was for a very nice young man who's already been here and already had his visa; we were changing something, and it was a nightmare. They kept asking three or four times for something from UBC, and it took weeks and months between requests. Well, they already had it the year before. So it's the little, tiny things, whether it's communication or the foreign nationals hired in overseas posts or the human resources; it's a whole combination.
Mr. David Choi: To me, this issue really lies in effectiveness and efficiency. Part of the problem is how we look at immigration. We look at it as a cost. What is the sustaining model?
It's time in the review that we must look at the goals. I can't understand why we cannot set the benchmark and look at the mega-goals. If the mega-goal was to process 200,000 or 250,000, then I understand that cannot be done overnight. Based on our situation in Canada, we need these immigrants. So if we set those mega-goals and say there is a process to get up to those numbers....
I don't think it's a matter of whether to split the department, because you could end up with the same kind of bureaucratic jam we're facing right now, and the problems will continue to exist. The problem, really, is setting the benchmarks and setting the goals. We could even set, for instance, a benchmark, that we must process a certain percentage of the numbers within a certain period of time. I think that's the job of the politicians, to set those goals. It's up to the bureaucrats to tell you what resources they need to reach those goals.
We should ensure a fair system in the first place. That was my point in the presentation. Next it's a matter of management, but in management we can't keep dealing with the bits and pieces of it. We have to deal with the overall setting of those goals, and reaching them, and demanding that certain benchmarks be reached. I think that's the way to go about it. I don't think we start with splitting or not splitting departments if the problems are not resolved.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I'm going to go to Ms. Beaumier.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On Friday, these questions would have not even have occurred to me; however, on Saturday we had a gentleman here doing a presentation, and along with his presentation he brought some pretty horrific photographs. I don't think the intent was to have the effect it did on me, but I'm going to pose these questions to you based on new questions and new concerns that have come to me.
You're talking about not ever being able to revoke citizenship. I really don't understand, David, when you talk about your citizenship being a second-class citizenship. Unless you were a warlord somewhere, I can't imagine why you would feel any more at risk of losing your citizenship than I would at having been born here.
I'm going to describe these photographs to you.
The Chair: They're horrific photographs.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: Horrific photographs, people grinning with human heads on things.
We know that in Toronto a couple of years ago there were Rwandan refugees, citizens, who on the bus saw warlords that they had been involved with or had seen in their country of origin. How do we protect those who have fled here for safety and security from those who caused the terror from their country of origin without having some provision for revocation of citizenship?
Mr. David Choi: First, I'd like to clarify something on revocation. I'm not saying you cannot ever revoke someone's citizenship. I'm saying that in the process of revocation you must afford people equal rights and not decisions made in secret star chambers, with no legal representation for the accused. I think that's very important. I think in revocation we must also address issues relating to it, to innocent victims.
I give the example, again, of innocent children. For instance, if the father was expelled for false pretenses when entering this country 50 years ago, then we ask the question, could that child, who at the time may have been one year old, or three or six, have been assisting the father in that false pretense? Where do you now expel this child to? Do you expel this child to become an international refugee? These are the kinds of inconsistencies.... In order to prosecute the few, do we prejudice the many, those of the six million Canadians who were not born in Canada?
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: You've just cited the child case. Has this occurred?
The Chair: Actually, that was the proposal under Bill C-63, that if you took away the citizenship under the present, what I consider fraudulent, process, then cabinet at its discretion could make the determination as to whether they would take away the citizenship of that child. It would be totally a political decision. That was enough to scare the hell out of everybody.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: So basically we take the politicization out of this and leave it to the courts in an open judicial process.
Mr. David Choi: Why can't we set firm rules regarding the revocation of the citizenship of children? If we say in society that a five-year-old cannot possibly have assisted the father in false pretences, then we should set some firm rules. I'm not here to say what they should be. I think it's your job to determine whether someone is old enough to be part of that scheme. But I don't think leaving it to the political process is the best way.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: I don't disagree with you on many of these issues. But when someone tells me that they feel their citizenship is second class, it makes me feel very bad.
Mr. David Choi: How would one not feel like a second-class citizen when one's legal rights are different from those of other Canadians? Put yourself in those shoes. Canadians born here are entitled to legal rights for whatever accusations are made in this country. Then there are a certain number of Canadians who, when they're accused under false pretences, are not entitled to legal rights. And they're not the few. That's why we're here and you're having the hearings. There are six million of them.
Ms. Colleen Beaumier: Point taken.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: In terms of wrapping up, I know we've had a great deal of discussion around residency requirements, and I have what I believe to be a fairly simple solution to the whole thing. If you require that somebody be present in the country for, say, 1,000 days, then you keep counting until you get to 1,000 days. If it takes you six years, so be it. I never did understand what was so artificially compelling about saying you had to be here three out of six or three out of four. If the requirement is that you serve a certain number of days, you do that. What I saw as a horrific possibility, as you pointed out, is challenging people's citizenship on the basis of, “You took that weekend trip down to Florida and we found out, and now we're going to revoke your citizenship”. To me it was so simple when I looked at it, but for some reason the bureaucrats over at the department advised the minister against it.
The other issue -- and I think it's important that we've been talking about this a fair amount -- is the whole area of revocation and what it means to naturalized Canadians.
I'm glad to see there are some people here, such as Mr. Andrew Jakoy and Mr. Szanyi, who went through the same experience I did. When you leave a particularly bad regime, which we did -- we left a Communist dictatorship -- quite frankly, you don't trust politicians and you certainly don't trust the president of the country when it comes to your civil liberties and human rights, because you have seen them abused time and time again.
When you look at this current citizenship revocation process, you see that it's a very abusive process. It does not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At some point in time, surely to God, we should be the same as all other Canadians, equal before the law, and have the charter apply to something that is so very important to us.
We had before us a professor from Simon Fraser. She was making a presentation on credentials, but she got into this whole issue of citizenship revocation, and she said, “When do I become a Canadian?” Well, I think you become a Canadian as soon as you become a Canadian citizen. That's what the charter is about.
I would like to thank you all for your contribution. When we finish the report, we will send you each a copy. I think in a way you're talking about good citizenship by becoming part of this process. Thank you.
We'll reconvene in one hour.
The meeting is adjourned.