Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): Welcome to the public portion of our clause-by-clause review of Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.
I want to welcome back Rosaline [Frith], Daniel [Jean], Patricia [Birkett], and Paul [Yurack] as we head on to the home stretch of this bill.
Let me just make some opening comments. I think of how the committee wants to be guided. We've had some very good discussions among ourselves, and the feeling right from the beginning and also from our witnesses has been that we have some very substantive changes to the bill in various sections. Therefore, I'm sure we will debate certain clauses with the passion they deserve.
One of the things we learned in our travels is that citizenship is a very treasured right, once you've acquired it, and a privilege for those who want to apply for it. I was really struck, as the committee was, as we travelled across the country, by how people, by birth or by choice, feel about citizenship. In fact, it's interesting that we should talk about a little card for national ID, but at the end of the day, citizenship is all about identity, is all about who we are as persons, who we are as a people, and how proud we are to be Canadians.
I said right from the beginning I'm determined to try to get the best bill we possibly can, I hope unanimously, because I know this committee has done some good work together, and I think that's possible. I think there's a feeling here that after 25 years, this is history in the making, because this is a new act. It hasn't been changed in 26 years, I suppose, now. This is the third attempt at doing it, so other parliamentarians have taken this job very seriously, as we have. I'm going to be guided by the principle that citizenship is held with reverence by everyone who has it and everyone who wants it. As I said before, I want to create one class of citizen in this country, whether by birth or by choice, and we want to make people feel they are Canadians alike, without different classes. I think we can accomplish that.
While we talk about the great Canadian values and our charter and the rights and freedoms and those cherished Canadian values, we also want to make sure that at the same time as we talk about them at the front end of the bill -- and we may introduce, if not a preamble, because we may not be able to in the purpose of the bill, something in glowing terms of what this country is all about -- the due process also reflects what this country stands for. We're going to be guided by those principles, because at the end of the day, this bill will have to serve this country for, hopefully, the next 25 years. We want to make sure anyone who wants to become a Canadian citizen has the opportunity to do so. We also will deal with those who think they can misrepresent themselves and citizenship is something they can acquire illegally. That's not in the cards either. I want to protect our citizenship, and we have to do it by being very vigilant, while not giving up on any of our values. It's been a long road as we've talked about our new immigration bill, talked about provincial nominees and our settlement document, which we talked about yesterday and tabled today, which talks about integration. The ultimate integration into society is citizenship.
Again, we're going to do some hard work. There's going to be some tough debating here. At the end of the day, let's keep in mind what it is we're trying to accomplish as a committee.
We're going to be all over the map with clauses. We'll do as much as we can for the next hour today.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Why are we going to be all over the map? Usually, a committee would go through clause by clause, starting on page 1, and that's how we've ordered our work. I just don't understand why we're going to go all over the map. There's a certain rationale in going clause by clause as they appear in the bill.
The Chair: You would think so. Clause by clause doesn't necessarily mean you have to do it in numerical order. Let me give you an example. Clause 1 is just the title, that's a simple one you can deal with. Clause 2 is the definitions. I guess each chair is a little different and each committee is a little different, but we've done it this way. You may not want to deal with clause 2 until you've actually finished the bill. What if you've changed definitions, what if you've changed a number of things? Every clause ties together with the rest.
The other thing I've also said in camera, and I'll say it publicly, is that there are some clauses, and I'll name them right now, where we're going to need a lot of time and debate, and that's okay. I don't think we're going to get done. If we started our discussions on clauses 16, 17, 18, 21, and 28, which are probably the most controversial of all, we probably wouldn't get through them today. What I would like to do is deal with the ones that can be done more quickly and more easily at the beginning of the process, and there are some logical reasons as to why some should be dealt with thereafter, because they all tie in together. I agree, the logical mind would say you start at 1 and go to 2, 3, 4, 5. Unfortunately, sometimes that's not the way bills really work. So let's see what we do.
Ms. Libby Davies: Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to say on the record I don't agree with that. I can see that with definitions, you might leave that clause to the end, but on everything else, I'm quite prepared to enter into a discussion or debate clause by clause as they appear in the bill. That means some periods will go relatively quickly, because there are things that are non-controversial, and then we'll come across something that will take a much longer time. So be it.
The Chair: I'm trying to get as much as possible done in the hour we have today. You can question how I want to operate, but it's worked in the past for me. I'll give you again another example. I can't deal with clause 2 -- or clause 1 for that matter -- because it has to be postponed, subject to Standing Order 71. There are reasons certain things flow. You probably wondered why we had general discussions before, but it was to see whether there was consensus about where certain things can move fairly quickly. We're taking much more time than is necessary discussing this procedural thing, as opposed to moving. I'm going to deal with clause 3 first, if I could.
On a point of order, Sarkis.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian (Brampton Centre, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, when you've finished your monologue, I want to make an intervention with my colleagues. Is that okay?
The Chair: No. I'm moving to clause 3.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: I have no say in this business?
The Chair: No, it's procedure. I've already made the decision.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Can you cite the procedure where I cannot speak as a member of this committee?
The Chair: What's your point of order?
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Can you point to --
The Chair: I want to know what your point of order is. I'm starting on clause 3.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: I want to have further explanation of why we have to jump all over the map.
The Chair: Because that's what I'd like to do.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Do you want to ask other members if that's what they want to do?
The Chair: Do you want to challenge the chair?
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Yes, I want to challenge the chair. I want to go step by step.
The Chair: Let's proceed.
(On clause 3 -- Purpose)
The Chair: We have BQ-2 first. Do you want to speak to that, Madeleine?
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Chairman, there's no need for you to ask me if I wish to speak.
I admit that I don't see how acquiring citizenship can be subordinate to the requirement of having a strong attachment to Canada. Attachment, either to a person or to a state, is not something a person can order up, as if a person could be somewhat, not very, or strongly attached.
Therefore, I suggest we simply delete this reference.
The Chair: The amendment's on page 9 of your package.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I'm sorry, but I thought this was in the document. I'll try to make it easier for everyone.
The Chair: Do it again, Madeleine.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Everyone understands then that we're talking about paragraph 3(e) which, in my view, is totally illogical. Since no one seems able to say exactly what is meant by “strong attachment”, that is attachment either to a person or to a state, I think I would delete the reference. We already have enough elements in place to make the legislation clear.
The Chair: Mr. Bryden.
Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I support the amendment of my colleague, and not quite for the reason that she's just stated. The reason I support it is that it suggests this legislation can require strong attachment. It's not the definition of strong attachment that's the problem, it's the suggestion that any piece of legislation can require, essentially, something from the heart, an emotional attachment. It's impractical, it just doesn't work. I think the member has spotted a genuine problem, a genuine inconsistency, and I think the clause should be deleted, as she suggests.
The Chair: Raymonde.
Ms. Raymonde Folco (Laval West, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I object to the request made by the Bloc and by my colleague. Further on in the bill, persons wishing to become citizens are asked to demonstrate their attachment by residing here in Canada for a given period of time. I believe the word “attachment” is appropriate in this case. I realize that this is something we'll be discussing later, but I think we have the right to ask persons seeking Canadian citizenship to live in Canada for a minimum period of time, to demonstrate their attachment to the land and to Canada. In my view, it's important to show this attachment.
The Chair: Libby.
Ms. Libby Davies: I do support deleting paragraph 3(e), because I think it's really problematic actually defining what that means, and in some ways I think it's very judgmental. When you go through a process of citizenship, you are implicitly going through that process because you want to become a citizen of Canada, but to spell out in the legislation that somehow we will require a strong attachment to Canada could be really difficult for people. There's always this debate, are you a Canadian or are you still somehow attached to your own country? I always think it's something of a false debate, because in this global world, we can be Canadians, but we can also still have strong attachments to the country we came from. People in Quebec can have a strong attachment to ideas about their own determination in Quebec. Singling out that the purpose of this bill is to require a strong attachment to Canada acts in an exclusionary way. People may feel somehow they're making a choice, whereas, through the very citizenship process, they are implicitly showing that they want to be a citizen.
So I don't have a problem with deleting it. By not having it there, I don't think the bill would be any weaker, and I don't think how potential citizens feel about the country would be any weaker.
The Chair: André.
Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Quickly, without repeating what Libby just said and which was summarized so very well, including this paragraph in the legislation isn't absolutely essential. Therefore, we'll gladly support the amendment.
I'm having a problem with the translation. I admit this is the first time I've laid eyes on the bill. I have no problem with the use of the word “require” in English. However, I have a big problem with the word “subordonner” in the French version. “Subordonner” is much stronger than “require”.
As I said, Mr. Chairman, it's the first time I've seen the bill and I'm bothered by this. Therefore, we'll gladly support the Bloc amendment.
The Chair: David.
Mr. David Price (Compton—Stanstead, Lib.): To follow up on André's, in the French translation I have a major problem with
“Profond” is considerably stronger than “strong”.
It doesn't fit at all. I don't have any problem with eliminating that. It's very complicated. Even if we take out the “profond” or “strong”, how do you prove the attachment, how do you tie it in?
The Chair: One of the things you might want to think about, rather than deleting the whole clause, is that “requires” seems to be the big stumbling block. This is requiring strong attachment, as opposed to, maybe, encouraging, fostering. It seems to me that “require” is the problem.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Thank you very much.
The government position is that they will not support this amendment, Mr. Chairman, for the following reasons. The purpose of the bill is to demonstrate attachment to Canada. Attachment to Canada is one cornerstone of the bill, and it is reasonable to expect an individual's attachment to Canada before they acquire citizenship. Further, this does not exclude attachment to any other country. The bill specifically calls for attachment to Canada for a citizen, not attachment to any provincial jurisdiction.
The Chair: Jerry.
Mr. Jerry Pickard (Chatham—Kent Essex, Lib.): I would have to ask everyone around the table, if a person didn't have a strong attachment to Canada, why would they want Canadian citizenship? I believe very much there should be a strong attachment to this country. Further, a strong attachment to the country does not mean you don't have strong attachments to other things. It is not an either/or. Clearly, in my mind, I can have a strong attachment to my wife and to my children, and one does not exclude the other. We expect people who are applying for citizenship in this country to have a strong attachment. I think that's a motherhood statement and must remain.
The Chair: Sophia.
Ms. Sophia Leung (Vancouver Kingsway, Lib.): Thank you.
If we wish to be citizens, we must have some sense of belonging to this country. I do agree that attachment is very difficult to define, but I suggest that to have identity, we must identify with this country. This to me is very logical. You will have a sense of belonging to this country.
The Chair: John.
Mr. John Bryden: I think what we're looking at here, at least in the English version, is some poor writing, if you don't mind my saying so. I repeat, you can't require an emotional attachment, it's impossible. Obviously, it's the verb that's the difficulty, and the adjective is strong. Again, you can't determine strong or weak in somebody's attachment, but what you tend to do is require people, as in the legislation, to demonstrate an attachment. I think Madeleine has identified a genuine problem. It can be saved, I think, by another form of amendment. Otherwise, I think it should fail entirely. I don't know what the procedure is.
The Chair: We'll get to that in a moment. I think that's been very useful.
One of the things Madeleine can do is withdraw this one. I see that there is some sort of consensus. I agree there might be a clause in there talking about attachment to Canada, but there are two words that are causing some problems, “require” and “strong”. The deletion motion is the one we have before us, and I have to deal with it unless Madeleine wants to withdraw until such time as we could have her, in conjunction with other people, come up with some better words.
Mr. Janko Peric (Cambridge, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I did have a problem with these two words as well. I know for a fact that there are many Canadian citizens who come on government sponsorship -- and I don't want to mention the name of the country. They are here for three years on social assistance, they get citizenship and a passport, and then they leave and work in Europe -- they're probably hiding money. Then they come back after a few years and go on social assistance again. To me, those people do not deserve to be Canadian citizens and to have a Canadian passport. They are abusing the system. I believe, as one who came to this country when I was young and good looking --
A voice: And smart.
The Chair: You may have been young, but definitely not good looking.
Mr. Janko Peric: I'm still good looking -- and mature, Mr. Chair.
When somebody decides to come to this country, it doesn't matter whether by government sponsorship or on their own, when they apply to be a Canadian citizen, I think the Canadian citizenship is not just some paper that anybody can obtain, but it is a privilege to be a part of the best society on this globe. They must show some respect and willingness to be part of this society.
The Chair: We're talking about the purpose of the bill for now. That was a great speech, Janko, but I'm just dealing with the purpose.
Mr. Janko Peric: I would appreciate that you not interfere when members are speaking. When you speak, members don't interfere, so let me finish it, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: I know this is your first meeting of this committee, and I appreciate your attendance, Janko, but --
Mr. Janko Peric: Mr. Chair, I've been here for ten years and I've been on a lot of committees. I listen when other people are saying something.
I would recommend just changing the wording, but the attachment to Canada should stay.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Absolutely. Raymonde.
Mme Raymonde Folco: Well, Janko has taken the words out of my mouth, but there is something.
I'd just like to add to what André said about the use of the word “subordonner”. In my view, there's the issue of the concept of attachment to Canada that I'd like to keep in paragraph 3(e).
It comes down to the way in which the provision is drafted. I agree with my colleagues that the wording used... There are all kinds of things, in the English as well as in the French versions, and John and others alluded to them. Mr. Chairman, I ask that both versions of this amendment be redrafted to preserve the concept, but to alter the wording.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Maybe the officials can help us here. Was this paragraph meant to talk about a strong physical commitment to Canada by a certain term of residency or a strong emotional commitment to Canada? Because the two are quite different.
The Chair: Yes, I was going to ask the administration why they use “require” and “strong”.
Ms. Rosaline Frith (Director General, Integration, Department of Citizenship and Immigration): The purpose clause is meant, all of it, to reflect various clauses that appear within the act. So when it says “to require strong attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship”, it must be interpreted according to what appears within the bill itself, and the only place we talk about attachment relates to demonstrating attachment through physical presence in Canada. That is all it means, and legally, that is the only way it can be interpreted. It is not a matter of feeling.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Yes, because you can't judge people's feelings, but you certainly can judge whether they have some kind of real and substantial connection in the sense that they've spent time here or have some experience in our country. I don't know whether this is clear enough for those of us who are concerned about the paragraph, but I certainly would support the intent Madam Frith has put forward.
The Chair: Madeleine, it's your motion. I think it's the words that are a problem. You could have “demonstrate attachment” or something like that.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: One thing is clear. The purpose of the bill is set out in clause 3. The legislation can define who a citizen is, encourage the acquisition of citizenship, protect the integrity of citizenship and reaffirm that all citizens have equal status. However, it makes no sense for legislation to “require attachment”.
In light of the comments made by Raymonde and Ms. Firth, the only measure of this strong attachment is the time spent in Canada. My problem then is this: what do we do with persons who spend six months in Canada, and then six months in the United States, Greece, Italy or God knows where?
I don't have an answer to that question, but I think we're opening up a can of worms by going down this road. Therefore, I would delete this reference. It's the simplest solution.
The Chair: So you want us to stick with that amendment?
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Yes, it's a shame, but that's how it goes.
The Chair: John.
Mr. John Bryden: At least in English, it can be easily fixed, given what the witnesses have said, by simply saying “to require a demonstration of attachment”. What's missing is the key word, “demonstration”. So all you have to say is “to require a demonstration of attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship” -- problem solved.
The Chair: John, if Madeleine wants to accept your friendly subamendment without deleting it, I'll allow that to happen, but if she wants to stick with the deletion, it's pretty clear.
Madeleine, what do you want to do? It's your motion.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Regarding the purpose of the act, we could say this: “the purpose of the act is to specify that which constitutes a sufficient degree of attachment to Canada to obtain citizenship”. That, I could understand and indeed, everyone would understand that we're talking about residency requirements. Otherwise, I don't see how one can measure a person's strong attachment. However, it's possible to determine if a person is sufficiently attached to this country.
The Chair: I think we're talking about different things here.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.): When you look at the other clauses, how do you measure “to require”? The rest says what the bill does. If it were “to promote strong attachment”, the bill can do that, but how would you end up measuring the requirement?
The Chair: I got a sense that the wordsmithing is possible, but I have to deal with Madeleine's amendment.
Ms. Libby Davies: Based on the debate we've had, I think Madeleine is still right to delete it. Look at how many interpretations we've just had around the table. We hear from the department that the only reason for this particular paragraph is that it relates to physical attachment to Canada. Then it should say that. They say it's only within the legal purview of the bill, but maybe that can be challenged at some point.
I'm quite surprised to hear an example brought up where, if you come to this country and you end up on welfare, somehow that means you're not showing a strong attachment. That's how I heard it. Look at how it can be interpreted, what we mean by attachment.
The Chair: I think we have made our points, and we've had an explanation on “require” and “strong” by the administration, like it or not. The fact is that we have a motion, BQ-2, before us, and it is to delete lines 4 and 5, so we'll deal with it.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: I just want to be sure. My intention is to accept this motion from Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral in the hope that I or someone else can present a new amendment to paragraph (e). Am I doing this correctly?
The Chair: It could be accomplished both ways: you could agree with deletion and then introduce one, or you could wait and have someone move an amendment to change the word. The motion before us is to delete.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, could we propose another amendment to paragraph 3(e) at this time?
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Given your extensive experience, I'm totally astonished that my colleagues seated here at the table haven't understood the thrust of the vote taken, a process that had to be repeated three times. I admit I'm surprised. And, as you know, surprises make me uncomfortable...
The Chair: No, they understood precisely what the vote was. I just wanted to make sure everyone knew exactly what it was, and you could only get three in support. A friendly amendment would have.... I would have given you all the credit for it Madeleine, but now Diane may take it.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Mr. Chairman, I move that we amend paragraph 3(e) by inserting after “strong” the word “residency”, so that it reads “to require strong residency attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship”. Mr. Chairman, I would like to have the officials give an opinion as to the adequacy of that amendment to achieve the purposes of the committee.
The Chair: You will know that clause 7 deals with residency, and there are going to be all kinds of changes with regard to that and the strong attachment, however you define it. Before you put that amendment, Diane, let me ask our officials what the effect of that wording would be, and then I'll go to John. I'm just trying to be facilitative here.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: I have a wee bit of difficulty with that. The idea is fine, but “residency” may be confusing, because in the act we use “physical presence”.
The Chair: So if she put “physical presence”, would that still cause you some difficulties?
Ms. Rosaline Frith: No, it wouldn't, but it wouldn't read very well, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Okay.
Diane, do you still want to go ahead with that or take the good advice?
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I'm happy to change it. I think we should be as consistent as possible in language.
The Chair: Do you want to move such a thing with the words “physical presence”?
Mr. John Bryden: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to move an amendment to paragraph (e). What I propose is, on line four, to eliminate “strong” and after “require” insert “a demonstration of”. So it would read, “to require a demonstration of attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship.”
The Chair: Diane, did you say you were going ahead with that one?
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Yes, and I'll have to reword it a little, because the official is right. “Physical presence” doesn't scan quite as well there.
The Chair: Then I'll deal with John's amendment first, okay?
Ms. Libby Davies: On a point of order, Ms. Ablonczy brought up hers first, so we should be dealing it first.
The Chair: I know, but she asked for a little time to write it properly. Would you say it, if you can't write it properly?
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: It would read, “to require strong attachment to Canada through physical presence for the acquisition of citizenship”.
The Chair: Okay, it's been moved.
Mr. André Bachand: Thank you. We were having problems with the translation, not because it's poorly done, but because the word “subordonner” establishes a link, or requirement. If you have no objections, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to hear the French translation before I vote. It's important to me.
The Chair: I'll say it in English. Whether or not our translators can get it in perfect French, it will say, “to require strong attachment to Canada through physical presence for the acquisition of citizenship”. If it's approved, obviously, the French translation would have to be perfect.
Ms. Libby Davies: I'm not in favour of this particular amendment. I think people will remember that there were quite a number of delegations across the country who told us of their concerns about using “physical presence”. In fact, a lot of people told us they preferred the definition that exists now. If we make it “physical”, it's going to make it very complicated and very difficult for a lot of potential citizens who have a business in other places. What I got from the witnesses is that they would prefer to see more flexibility with that. So if we include this now, by using the word “physical”, not only are we prejudging clauses that are yet to come, we're also tying ourselves into this issue of a physical presence.
The Chair: That's why I think the administration wanted to use “attachment”, without trying to further define it, because there are certain clauses in the bill that talk about it.
The Chair: John, now we have yours.
Mr. John Bryden: With my motion we get around that problem of physical presence by saying, to repeat, “to require a demonstration of attachment to Canada for the acquisition of citizenship”. It makes it broad at the same time as it reflects what is actually in the legislation.
I would like, Mr. Chairman, for the officials to comment, but before they do, I wonder if my colleague Raymonde Folco could give a translation in French of my motion.
The Chair: Raymonde.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: We've come a long way in six years, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to suggest the following in French, and I'd like my francophone colleagues to help me out. Paragraph 3(e) could read as follows in French: “requérir la demonstration d'un profond attachement au Canada pour l'acquisition de la citoyenneté”, which eliminates any notion of subordination, as per Mr. Bachand's wishes.
The Chair: It's been moved, it's been seconded. Are there any comments on that one?
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I'd like to comment on the expression “profond attachement”. I'd like to know if paying federal and provincial taxes and owning a home reflects a person's “profond attachement”, or strong attachment, to Canada.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: I misread the text...
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: That's the way I heard it.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: I asked for comments and I got them.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Fine then.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: Do I have the right to speak?
I didn't read the amendment right. The word “attachement” is always, or almost always, associated with the word “profond”. Let me reread the translation I'm proposing: “requérir la démonstration d'un attachement au Canada pour l'acquisition de la citoyenneté”.
The Chair: Madeleine, you were saying.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Then I would ask you the same question. Does the fact that a person pays school and municipal taxes in Canada adequately reflect an attachment to Canada? Does it?
Ms. Raymonde Folco: The legislation will decide that. That's why we have legislation in the first place.
The Chair: I'm sorry, Raymonde, it's not up to you to answer her questions. She has the opportunity to speak. Thank you.
(Amendment agreed to)
The Chair: We'll go to NDP-3 on the same clause. Libby.
Ms. Libby Davies: This is our amendment, that this clause be amended by replacing line 8 on page 3 with the following:
event worthy of celebration;
(f.1) to foster the recognition of English and French as the official languages of Canada; and
This amendment was actually proposed by the Commissioner of Official Languages. I think it is important in the purpose section of the bill to clearly spell out that the intent of the bill is to recognize both official languages of Canada. I think it's a fairly straightforward amendment.
The Chair: The government agrees with you. That's why G-1 says exactly the same thing. We're going to defer and make you do this, so you can claim credit for it.
Ms. Raymonde Folco: Mr. Chairman, I'm simply asking that the order be inversed in the proposed French translation. Instead of saying “de favoriser la reconnaissance de l'anglais et du français”, since we're dealing with the French version, I think the text should read “de favoriser la reconnaissance du français et de l'anglais comme langues officielles du Canada”.
Does Ms. Dalphond-Guiral agree with me?
The Chair: We've already spent a lot of time changing it, we're not going to get into it. Thank you very much for your input, but I think it reads wells the way it is.
(Amendment agreed to)
The Chair: Thank you very much, Libby and the government, for cooperating on this one.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: I lifted up my hand, and I would appreciate it if you give everybody a fair chance.
The Chair: I did.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: When the voting was done, I don't think anybody knew what they were voting for.
The Chair: Some of us are paying attention, Sarkis. I asked for NDP-3. and I said G-1 and NDP-3 are essentially the same thing, and therefore everyone approved it.
Sorry, G-1a covers the top part, not Libby's stuff, which we've already approved. They had no problem with that at all. Sarkis, you seem to know a lot about G-1a. Tell us about it.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Libby's motion is G-1a, but G-1b is going to change paragraph (g) to “values essential to a free and democratic society, including respect for the inherent dignity of a human person, commitment to social justice” --
A voice: Hang on a second, I don't have the amendment.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Wait until we get the amendment. I think it's probably better.
The Chair: That's why I was trying to say NDP-3, which we just adopted, was very similar to G-1, but I didn't know, because nobody told me, there was a G-1a, which is what you are talking about. So NDP-3 and G-1 are the same thing, as I said in the first place. I think the chairman sometimes knows what he's doing around here. We adopted that one. Now we have a G-1a. Sarkis, talk to us about G-1a.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Mr. Chairman, G-1a, to emphasize the purpose of this bill and also the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, makes references to Canadian linguistic duality. This amendment responds to the concern of the Commissioner of Officials Languages, who was here as a witness. The government urges everyone to support this G-1a.
The Chair: Are there any comments on G-1a?
Mr. André Bachand: G-1A cannot be amended because of the previous amendment agreed to. Therefore, if the government could first amend its motion by deleting paragraph 3(h), “to foster the recognition of...” that the committee has just adopted, then we could proceed to discuss the new paragraph. The reason is that the reference to “to foster” is repeated, and we've just adopted that motion. Therefore, we simply need to make an amendment. Then we can move on to technical matters.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: I should point out, Sarkis, that the government's amendment is wrong, and I'll tell you where. The (h) has to be deleted, because we've already taken care of the recognition. So we're really only dealing with the (a) and the (b) part. So, Sarkis, am I allowed to take that (h) part out of G-1a, because we've already dealt with it under NDP-3?
Mr. John Bryden: Mr. Chairman, this amendment proposed by the government is actually an amendment to paragraph (g) that they've tabled here at the very last moment, when last January 15 I tabled a similar amendment to paragraph (g), which replaced “a free and democratic society” with “the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. Other members would have received a memo I circulated pointing out that the use of “free and democratic society” is, at the very best, a liberal interpretation of the mere musings of the Supreme Court and not reflected in law at all. I would urge members to reject G-1a absolutely and give their consideration to the motion that follows or defer this until we have a debate on the motion I moved months ago, rather than just at this table.
The Chair: That was L-1, I believe.
Mr. John Bryden: Yes, L-1, coming up next.
The Chair: Yes, parliamentary secretary, you'll get your chance. So far you've put it forward, I have other people who want to speak to it, but before you get to that, I want to hear the administration's view of G-1a.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: In G-1a, Mr. Chair, what we tried to accomplish is very similar to what appears in NDP-3, except that you will note in the French version of “to foster the recognition of English and French” it says
“de promouvoir la reconnaissance du français et de l'anglais”.
That's the order in which one would normally put the languages when writing in French, and that is different from NDP-3.
The Chair: Yes, that's a technical thing, we'll fix that. Thank you. I want the substantive issue of (a) and (b) here.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: The language is different in French. Substantially, the verb “promouvoir” is not the same as “favoriser”.
The other part, section (b), where we have added some clarification to “a free and democratic society”, is very similar to two motions we have not discussed, PC-3 and BQ-1. My understanding of those motions is that we were looking to add more information on what is meant by “a free and democratic society” in the definition section, and rather than doing it in that way, it is put here directly in the purpose clause. Again, they can only be interpreted as they're set out in the act. If you turn to clause 33 of the bill, it speaks to the various ways we would be using that in a concrete fashion. That's where we talk about encouraging citizens “to give expression to their civic pride by respecting the law, exercising their right to vote”, etc.
The Chair: We're only on clause 3 yet, Rosaline.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: But that's where the definition --
The Chair: I know, but a lot of things tie in. I want you to get to the essence, so it's clear to us what we're voting on. You're getting rid of paragraph (g), as I understand it, in the bill as written, which says “to promote respect for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society”.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: Yes, and it would be replaced by:
to promote respect for the principles and values essential to a free and democratic society, including respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, commitment to social justice and equality, accommodation of a wide variety of beliefs, respect for cultural and group identity and faith in social and political institutions that enhance the participation of individuals and groups in society.
The Chair: I just want to make sure. I know everybody wants a reference to another part of the bill. These things all hang together, and that's why we should be very careful to take them one step at a time.
Ms. Libby Davies: Mr. Chairman, I think this is why it would be useful to actually follow the book as it is. What's happened now is that we've jumped to G-1a, and as a result, we've completely jumped over BQ-1, L-1, and PC-3. They're all dealing with the same thing, but we had them in a certain order, and we get handed down at the very last minute some sort of hybrid from the government. I would prefer that we stick to the order, because it's going to make it very complicated, for one thing, but also, if you are going to insist that we proceed with G-1a, what I would like to know is how G-1a is different from BQ-1 precisely. If you're saying they're generally the same, why wouldn't we just go with BQ-1?
The Chair: That would be a very good point. The only reason I did clause 3 first is, as I said, that you shouldn't do the definitions clause until you fix all the other things. You're absolutely right, BQ-1 and PC-3 started to talk a little bit about what G-1a does. Maybe we can fix it. Can I just ask, Rosaline, that you answer Libby's question?
Ms. Rosaline Frith: The difference is the location. Wherever possible, when we were writing the law, our drafters preferred to put the meaning within the law, as opposed to within a definition section or an interpretation section. So we've taken BQ-1 and put it right within the actual purpose clause, so that it isn't required in the definition section.
The Chair: I think there was an attempt by the government in drafting G-1a to be respectful of what BQ-1 was all about and everything else, and I don't want to disregard them, because I think they're all very good and have been worked in. I think there was consensus that it was probably better in the purpose clause than in clause 2. I'm prepared to move BQ-1 and the other to G-1a and take them all into consideration.
The Chair: Madeleine, do you want to consider BQ-1 under the purpose clause? I'll allow you to do that, along with PC-3, which is the same thing too.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: We deliberately included this in the definitions, because definitions are probably the most significant components of all laws in that they give the meaning of the expressions used. We're very pleased that the government is including this in clause 3 which sets out the purpose of the act. However, I'm wondering if perhaps this would carry more weight with a judge if it was included in the definitions. Often, legislation is repetitive and since these are important considerations, I think they could be included in the interpretation section and in clause 3 as well.
The Chair: We'll think about that.
Mr. John Bryden: Let me help my colleagues a little bit here. The words you see in this G-1a clause are directly taken from a Supreme Court of Canada decision. However, the Supreme Court was deciding on an entirely different case. When the Supreme Court spoke, it made reference to section 1 of the charter, and the judge, in commenting on the case, took it upon himself to define what “free and democratic society” means in the preamble of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are some of us who feel very strongly that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually defines the values and principles of a free and democratic society. The words the government is putting forward are merely the words of one judge musing about what he thinks a free and democratic society is. The justice actually said “the court must be guided by the values and principles essential to a free and democratic society, which I believe embodies, to name but a few”, and then he named but a few, some of the things you see in this clause before you.
I would submit to you very strongly, indeed passionately, that we should not allow legislation, particularly legislation this sensitive, to be framed in the language of the courts when a court is only expressing an opinion, not a judgment on the charter. This issue runs through a number of amendments you will see before you, where some of us want to be specific in the legislation and say the purpose of the act is to promote the values and principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That's it, simple. I don't blame the officials. I believe the officials are receiving advice from the Department of Justice, which is afraid to see this legislation actually cite the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would urge you to reject this amendment, so that you can consider the amendment that will follow. That amendment would simply say the purpose of the act is to promote the values of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Let me first agree with John, but while we've got Rosaline here, I wonder if she could tell me, when she says the human person, is there any other kind of person? Do we have to say it's human?
The Chair: Rosaline, we sometimes wonder, but go ahead.
Ms. Rosaline Frith: I do believe, Mr. Telegdi, persons are normally humans and humans are normally persons.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: So we could drop “human”, could we?
Ms. Rosaline Frith: Yes, we could.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Okay.
The Chair: André.
Mr. André Bachand: I don't know if I'll have the privilege of serving on this committee again with you, but if we had received the amendment in advance, we might have been able to vote on many of the proposed changes. As it was, the chair was not aware of the amendment in question. Therefore, if there are any surprises in store, we'd prefer to know about them at the start, not at the end, of the meeting.
The Chair: André, that's a very good suggestion. I'd like to invite you back for Tuesday, because I'm adjourning the meeting. We're not going to consider anything more, including the preamble, until we come back here on Tuesday, when we'll work out some of these issues. Thanks.