CIM#70 - 1: Debating Bill S-245 and Motion on International Students

"Before we get into Bill S-245, I would like to first put on notice the following motion:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by 700 Punjabi international students in which they were unknowingly defrauded by a “ghost” immigration consultant who used inauthentic admission letters for their student visa application; that this study be comprised of two meetings; and that the study consider:

a) how the situation was allowed to happen;

b) why fraudulent documents were not detected until years later when the students began to apply for permanent status;

c) the significant harm experienced by students including financial loss and distress;

d) measures necessary to help the students to have their deportation stayed, inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation waived, and provide a pathway to permanent status; and

e) that the committee also examine how to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

I'm putting this motion on notice, Madam Chair. I fully understand the precedence of the order is for us to finish Bill S-245, for bills to be dealt with. Then we can entertain other studies, so I've put that forward.

The other thing I want to note, Madam Chair, is that, at the end of the meeting today, I would like to move the following motion. The language is as follows—“
"Yes, I just want to let folks know so that they can anticipate this.

The motion would read:

That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent 'ghost consultants' and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted, such as the Humanitarian and Compassionate application process or a broad regularization program.

I just want to let people know that it is my intention to move that motion at the end of the meeting today, assuming we can finish Bill S-245.”
Citizenship and Immigration Committee on June 5th, 2023
Evidence of meeting #70 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session.
 
June 5th, 2023
 
4 p.m.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting number 70 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

I will remind you that we will be meeting for three hours today.

Today, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the committee will resume consideration of Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, granting citizenship to certain Canadians). We will continue our clause-by-clause study of the bill.

When we left off, Mr. Kmiec had just moved an amendment from the floor, which has been distributed to the committee. The floor is open for debate.

I have two people on the speaking list, Ms. Kwan and then Mr. Redekopp.

Ms. Kwan.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Before we get into Bill S-245, I would like to first put on notice the following motion:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by 700 Punjabi international students in which they were unknowingly defrauded by a “ghost” immigration consultant who used inauthentic admission letters for their student visa application; that this study be comprised of two meetings; and that the study consider:

a) how the situation was allowed to happen;

b) why fraudulent documents were not detected until years later when the students began to apply for permanent status;

c) the significant harm experienced by students including financial loss and distress;

d) measures necessary to help the students to have their deportation stayed, inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation waived, and provide a pathway to permanent status; and

e) that the committee also examine how to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

I'm putting this motion on notice, Madam Chair. I fully understand the precedence of the order is for us to finish Bill S-245, for bills to be dealt with. Then we can entertain other studies, so I've put that forward.

The other thing I want to note, Madam Chair, is that, at the end of the meeting today, I would like to move the following motion. The language is as follows—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting. You're saying that you want move it at the end of the meeting.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Yes, I just want to let folks know so that they can anticipate this.

The motion would read:

That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent 'ghost consultants' and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted, such as the Humanitarian and Compassionate application process or a broad regularization program.

I just want to let people know that it is my intention to move that motion at the end of the meeting today, assuming we can finish Bill S-245.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Kwan.

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

It's nice to see the NDP waking up to this issue and basically repeating the motion that I made here. I'm confused, though. Are we studying it, or are we reporting it? It's confusing. I don't understand what the NDP is trying to do here, so that's something we're going to have to talk about. You can't do both. You have to pick one, and I'm not sure that Ms. Kwan knows which one she wants to pick.

I want to let you know I was in the GTA over the weekend. I did meet with these Indian students. I saw them at the protest that they're running near the airport in Mississauga. They're actually staying at this spot 24-7. They're sleeping there. I was—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I think we're getting into.... We're dealing with Bill S-245. We are doing clause-by-clause.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Let me just finish, please.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, it should be to the topic, please.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

All right. That's perfect.

I also want to mention that we have over 9,000 signatures.

Madam Chair, I move that the committee proceed to the consideration of my motion, which reads:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee conduct a study into news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, and that this study undertake at least three meetings; that the committee invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for one meeting along with his departmental officials to testify; that the committee invite the Minister responsible for the Canada Border Services Agency for one meeting along with his departmental officials to testify; that the committee invite affected international students and representatives from Colleges & Institutes Canada; and that the committee request that the Canada Border Services Agency temporarily suspend the deportation of affected international students until those selected as witnesses can testify before the committee.

I'd really like to get started on debate on this. I know that last time the Liberals and NDP shut it down. I would like to continue and see if we can debate this issue today. I think it's an important issue that we just aren't willing to give up. I think it's important. There are deportations that are happening very quickly, so this is an urgent issue.

I met with Mr. Lovepreet Singh, who is the next person on the list to be deported, I believe on June 13. He was very concerned with the situation and what was going to happen.

I just feel that it's very timely and very important and is something that these students—and, frankly, everybody in their community—are pushing for. They really want to see something done. I would like to move that we move to that order of business today.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Redekopp.

This a non-debatable motion. Mr. Redekopp has asked to have debate on his motion. We will go to a vote.

(Motion negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)

We will now resume our clause-by-clause study of Bill S-245. We have amendment CPC-5 on the floor.

The floor is open for debate. I have Ms. Rempel Garner.


Michelle Rempel Calgary Nose Hill, AB
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

In the previous amendment we debated—which was, I think, shamefully defeated—many members brought up the issue of resources and allowing access for new Canadians, in all parts of the country and in all economic circumstances, to ensure they could attend in-person citizenship ceremonies.

One area where we frequently hear from settlement service providers is rural Canada. In order to attract and retain new Canadians to rural communities, particularly where there are acute labour shortages and a great desire to attract higher levels of population.... One of the impediments to doing that is ensuring there are resources for a whole gamut of resettlement services, such as language acquisition services, understanding other government service interface points and—I would add—ensuring there are in-person citizenship ceremonies.

I also think it's not just about having access to citizenship ceremonies where new Canadians live and work, particularly in rural Canada. It's also about allowing rural Canadians writ large to participate in these ceremonies. As some of my colleagues discussed earlier, regarding the previous amendment, when members of either Parliament or the community have the opportunity to attend with new Canadians.... Taking up the oath of citizenship actually builds a sense of community and pride.

Madam Chair, I would reference the previous work of this committee, and even of different Parliaments, on settlement services. Oftentimes, when you talk to rural service providers, they will reference the fact that having those opportunities to provide not just settlement services but also community events that draw the community together and give new Canadians a sense of community is very important to building cohesion in Canada's pluralism.

One of the stated rationales for allowing online—as opposed to in-person—citizenship is that the government doesn't have enough resources to get these done. It makes it easier for people. As I've stated in previous debate, I don't think that answer holds water if our overall objective as parliamentarians is ensuring cohesiveness and ceremonies that allow Canadians to share in our pluralism in a meaningful way. Ergo, I think that, if we accept this amendment, it would send a message to the government that they need to provide resources to ensure there is availability for rural and remote communities to have in-person citizenship ceremonies.

That's my rationale for this. I think my colleague from rural Canada probably has a thing or two to say about that, but I would just say this to the people who are watching: We just tried to put forward a motion on a matter that is very germane and material to many new Canadians in very dire straits: people who want to come to this country but are facing deportation because of fraud the government needs to address.

What's happening with this bill is this. Rather than being allowed to get through this committee in the format in which it was sent to us from the other place—the Senate.... A special motion was moved, supported by the NDP and Liberals, to expand the scope of this bill far beyond its original intent. The expectation was that what's good for the goose would not be good for the gander. If the Liberals and NDP were hoping—when they opened it up far beyond its scope—that other parliamentarians wouldn't avail themselves of the rules they set and look at other aspects of the Citizenship Act.... This is now what we are all doing.

I think this is a very important amendment. However, I support my colleague Mr. Redekopp in looking at this particular issue.

Madam Chair, I would ask that we support this amendment but also recognize this is a situation the Liberals and NDP put themselves in by the government's not tabling legislation to the effect that's in here, as well as cutting a deal with the NDP to open up the scope of the bill in a situation where they could have kept it narrow.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm definitely going to support this amendment. We've talked many times, and I've spoken many times at the committee here, about the whole idea of in-person citizenship ceremonies. I hear this from constituents when I speak to them. Where I hear this isn't necessarily is from people who haven't gone through it yet, because they don't necessarily know what it is or what they're missing. In particular, I hear this from people who have gone through the in-person citizenship ceremony.

They tell me things like they made sure they took time off work to be there because it was so important, or they invited family to be there, or they were excited to see the different dignitaries and the other people who are often there and to hear the important speeches that people give. Mostly, what they're excited about is to actually sit through and experience the moment of taking that oath, particularly when they're called up on the stage and get to shake the hands of the officials and get to receive their actual citizenship papers. It's just the excitement of that. That's from their perspective.

From my perspective, of course, as an MP, and all of us here I'm sure, I have had the ability to go do citizenship ceremonies. It's quite a thing to sit there and to watch the eyes and the faces of those new citizens and to see the excitement they have in their eyes. Particularly, when they're coming up on the stage, too, if I happen to be there, I'm able to shake their hands, and I often give them little Canada pins, or something like that. They're just so excited and overwhelmed.

The other interesting thing that always happens at these ceremonies is the photos. There will be many photos taken not only during the ceremony but also after the ceremony ends, particularly. Of course, the big star of the ceremony is always the RCMP officer in his red uniform. Everybody wants him or her to be in the picture. That's always a great thrill. Whoever happens to be around, whatever dignitaries or other official are there, will often be in the photos as well. There can be a lineup that lasts for quite a long time after the ceremony is over. Often, I'll stay there for an extra hour or more as people come. They want to tell their stories and to talk and to have their photos taken.

It's quite a lot of fun and very meaningful. I think that is my point. It's very meaningful to the people to go through that experience, to have those photos and to walk across that stage, often with tears in their eyes. The stories they tell are often very difficult, but those tears are mostly tears of joy that they are now here and are now citizens of Canada. It's something that, as I said, is very meaningful to them.

Contrast that with somebody who's online. I've heard this from many of my constituents as well who talk about going on a computer and how it's just not the same. You're in your house. You're trying to make it as official as you can, but the phone rings or the dog needs to be dealt with, or whatever happens, and it distracts people from the ceremony. We all know. We have all experienced Zoom meetings. A couple of my colleagues are on a Zoom meeting right now and are probably experiencing that very thing where there are other distractions. It's just not the same as the intense thrill for those of us who are here in the room and who are allowed to listen in person to what I have to say.

That is what I hear from them. Having to sit in front of a computer screen and try to make it a meaningful event is not something they're going to be telling stories about in the future: “In 2023, we all gathered around Dad's laptop, and we tried to see the RCMP officer in the back corner, but we couldn't quite see him, and we got to pretend-walk across the stage.” It's just not a story that tells well, and it's not something that will have the same impact or the same memory as these people get older.

Those are the stories I hear. It doesn't matter where I go. If I'm in Saskatoon, I hear those stories. I've had the privilege of spending time in other areas—


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

I just want to caution that we stay on subject and that we make sure we do not waste any more time than we've already wasted, so that we can talk about what we're here to talk about and we can pass the bill.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

What Mr. Redekopp is discussing is related to the amendment we have on the floor.

Mr. Redekopp, please continue.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

As I was saying, I've had the privilege of travelling to other communities in Canada. Just this past weekend I was in the GTA and visited people in Scarborough, Mississauga, Oakville and Brampton. There, I heard similar stories of the significance of citizenship first of all, but particularity the significance of the ceremony itself. There has been much discussion about citizenship ceremonies in Canada. There has been talk about the one-click idea. There's been talk about the lack of in-person ceremonies.

In the past there wasn't much to talk about because it always was and it was just assumed that you would go to an in-person ceremony. That's just what it was. It wasn't necessarily talked about in advance of them. Now it's talked about more...and about the desire to have the in-person ceremony.

Some will say that it's difficult to do in a rural environment. It's true. They are more difficulties sometimes and it's harder to put them on as quickly as you can. At the same time, it's no less impactful to do it. Just because it's maybe a little harder to do doesn't mean it's not something we should do.

I think that, even in the cases where you are in a more remote environment, it's incumbent upon us as elected officials and it's incumbent upon the government to actually make a way for there to be an in-person ceremony, regardless of where you are in Canada. It's so meaningful to people, I don't think it's fair to take that away and to remove the ability for them to have that.

Whether you live in the GTA or in rural Saskatchewan, I think it's important that the ability is there. As I said, the evidence from those who have talked to me about the value of the in-person ceremony would bear that out and would say the same thing. That's why it's important for us to put this in here.

The other thing I would say about this—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

A vote has been called in the House. The bells are ringing. I need unanimous consent to continue the meeting. We can stop it at five minutes before.


Some hon. members

No.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

The meeting is suspended. We will come back after the votes.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I call the meeting to order.

We are on clause-by-clause on Bill S-245. We have amendment CPC-5 on the floor. Seeing no one....

Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I was speaking, I believe, to this.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, Mr. Redekopp, please continue.

Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you.

I was speaking when the bells started ringing.

Just to quickly reiterate, I believe that it's really important that we do our citizenship ceremonies in person. As I said when I spoke before, people have asked me for that. People have commented on how important it is to them to look back in time and remember that moment when they had their citizenship ceremony with all of the photos they have and the experience they had, shaking hands, the photos with the RCMP officer, the officials and all that. It's a very important thing to them. It is something really important that we should continue and not allow to be minimized by doing it in an online form, where it's just a matter of being on a Zoom call and trying to follow along. That really minimizes the significance of the citizenship oath.

I think it's—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Redekopp. You are repeating things, so please make sure that what you have already said is not repeated.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Yes, and you'll be happy to know that I am pretty much at the end of what I wanted to say. I just wanted to quickly summarize what it was I said. I'm trying to get my thoughts together.

I also want to mention, Madam Chair, before we move to the next clause, that we have another amendment after this one, just so that you know there is another one coming.

I'll leave it at that. Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting. The bells are ringing again.

Do I have unanimous consent to continue the meeting?


Some hon. members

No.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We do not have unanimous consent, so we will come back 10 minutes after the vote happens.

The meeting is suspended.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I call the meeting to order.

We are doing clause-by-clause on Bill S-245.

We have Conservative amendment 5 on the floor, and I have Mr. Maguire on the list.

Mr. Maguire, go ahead.


Larry Maguire Brandon—Souris, MB
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm very much in favour of this amendment, this motion, Conservative number five, if you will, for the new clause. There are many reasons.

I have a very good friend who happens to be the general manager now of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, Mark Humphries. Mark's a great guy. He does a lot of things. He has a band that includes most of the music teachers in southwest Manitoba. He came from England, where he played in big bands over there. He has tremendous experience in regard to a lot of different areas.

I met him a long time ago, just after he came to Canada, about seven or eight years now, maybe 10. I met him when I was a member of the legislative assembly, so it would be more than 10 years ago, Madam Chair. He's quite an entrepreneur. He has worked his way into politics as well. He's a municipal councillor in his local area of western Manitoba. As I said, he has become the general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, which puts on—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Maguire, but could you keep it on topic?


Larry Maguire Brandon—Souris, MB
Conservative

I'm certainly going to be there. Thank you.

This is pertinent because he has mentioned to me many times how important it was for him to get Canadian citizenship in person. He's an entrepreneur, running his own operation in western Manitoba, just to the west of Virden, in between there and the Saskatchewan border. He's hoping that many of these ceremonies can continue to be conducted at future events by the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.

He described getting his citizenship. I was there that day to shake his hand and give him a little Canadian flag and a pin as well. I see that Mr. Dhaliwal knows exactly what I'm talking about. The pride he took that day was exhilarating. I can still remember his smile. He and his family came through the citizenship ceremony that was done live in Brandon. He never knew when he became a Canadian citizen that he would ever be the general manager of the Provincial Exhibition in the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. That's where its headquarters are. He's done a tremendous amount of work to rejuvenate the exhibits and the entertainment that comes from that facility, bringing in musicians and that sort of thing from all over North America. It has been a great plus. His predecessors did a good job as well. I'm not putting anyone down here. The pride Mr. Humphries has shown in having Canadian citizenship is pretty tremendous, having come from England and continuing to develop our whole area. Virtually everybody in the whole region knows him, and he's been here for just over a decade.

To show you the responsibility of that, he's been a municipal councillor, as I said. He runs his own business. He's the general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba now. His wife is also an entrepreneur, and I know the type of operation they have on their own farm in a rural area. She also serves as a substitute teacher. This is a family that feels that education is extremely important. Their daughter is taking her Manitoba bar this month, and their son is in the latter stages of achieving his Ph.D. They know how important it has been to provide the opportunity for their children to be educated and grow up in Canada, and the pride they all felt in getting their—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Maguire, but can you please keep your points on the topic of the amendment on the floor?


Larry Maguire Brandon—Souris, MB
Conservative

It's very important, Madam Chair, because—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, so please keep your remarks in line with the amendment.


Larry Maguire Brandon—Souris, MB
Conservative

I'm just trying to point out, Madam Chair—and I am pointing out—how important it is and how successful this family has gone on, having received their Canadian citizenship, he has felt, in person.

He has another reason for that as well. It is because of the facility that he is now the general manager of, which is where he got his Canadian citizenship. It's what's called the “Dome Building”. It's one of the few buildings left in Canada that was built from the dominion fairs of the 1880 to 1925 period. There's only one left. There's a bit of one that hasn't been rejuvenated here in Ottawa. The other one is in Brandon. It's been fully renovated. It's a great facility for these types of programs.

Being the new general manager, he would like to see that facility used for many more in-person citizenship ceremonies. I'd like to quote what he wrote to me. He said:

As a new ambassador for this much cherished Manitoba organization, I would welcome the opportunity to have physical ceremonies return to our summer event, and indeed suggest the addition of citizenship ceremonies to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair held in the March—

It's March of every year. It's the last week of March. It's a school break, so children could attend this, as well, because they're all out of school at that time.

Of course, the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is only one of two fairs in Canada to get that designation of “royal”. There's the the Toronto Royal and the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon, Manitoba.

He added, “Canada encourages and welcomes with open arms immigrants from overseas. We must return to and recognize the importance of our citizenship ceremonies.

Madam Chair, that is a pretty tremendous—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Maguire. I think the bells are ringing again.


Larry Maguire Brandon—Souris, MB
Conservative

Just in time.... I was wearing out.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

The bells are ringing. A vote has been called.

Do I have unanimous consent to proceed with the meeting?


Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm hearing some noes, so the meeting is suspended.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I call the meeting to order.

We have amendment CPC-5 on the floor. I have exhausted the speakers list. We will go—

Yes, Mr. Mazier, go ahead.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I'd like to speak on the amendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, please.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative
Thank you.

To remind the committee, this is an amendment to new clause 1.4 amending section 24 of the act:

24(2) The Department of Citizenship and Immigration shall arrange for all oath of citizenship ceremonies to be conducted in-person, including in rural and remote communities.

Is that correct?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, that's what we have.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

That's very good.

I thought I'd share with the committee a story. I'm from rural Canada. Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is my riding out of Manitoba. The riding is the size of Nova Scotia. It has over 200 communities comprised of 38 municipalities, 14 first nations and 28 Hutterite colonies. The second most-spoken language is German, not Ukrainian, as a lot of people think it would be.

In there, there's a national park. It's called Riding Mountain National Park. I first got elected in 2019, and I had personally never attended a citizenship ceremony. It was never a big thing. I was a citizen, so it didn't really matter.

In our riding, Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, Neepawa is a growing community. It has a hog processing plant there, HyLife. They immigrate Filipino people, mostly, to work at that plant. The community right now of 4,000 has expanded, and now the second language of that community is 50% Filipino. It's basically changed the whole dynamic of the community that's been there for many years.


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

It is now 7:10 p.m., and I think that it's important that we keep everything in context. I would caution our colleagues not to share personal stories that are not relevant to what we are talking about right now. It's 7 p.m. I think people want this bill to pass. Let's get back to talking about the amendment—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Kayabaga. We are getting into debate.

Yes, I have reminded other members also. I'll remind Mr. Mazier to please keep his remarks relevant to the amendment we have on the floor.

Please, Mr. Mazier, go ahead.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Yes, basically I was setting the stage for why these are so important, especially to a rural community like the people I represent.

In 2019, I attended my first citizenship award ceremony. My predecessor, Robert Sopuck, hosted it. He brought a judge in from Winnipeg. It was a wonderful community, which is three hours away. The judge was there, and the oath directors were there. All the pomp and ceremony was there. Meanwhile, there were 200 people standing below the stage ready to be sworn in.

This was the first time I had ever attended anything. As I got talking to the different people, I realized that someone brought in a sister from California, a Filipino person. They came in through the U.S. side, and they came to Canada to watch them be sworn in as citizens of Canada. I have to tell you, it was one of those moments when you realize just how precious a country we have here. It was all in person. You couldn't have brought these people together.... For people to come up all the way from California, for people to come in and go through the process of absolutely wanting to be Canadian and cherish that moment.... I think it's something magical that we don't need to lose.

That's why I'm so much in favour of this amendment. I'm thankful that my colleagues brought this forward. We all get it. It is pretty special to be Canadian. I think we should really appreciate that and encourage people to celebrate it whenever new citizens come into this country.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Next I have Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Chair.

I want to build upon that. When I did my first citizenship ceremony, I didn't think much of it until I was actually there participating in it. When you have people from different cultures standing there arm to arm in the same ceremony, they start to sense what it is to be a Canadian. We are made up of a variety of different cultures, of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, from different ethnic backgrounds. We are a melting pot. We bring people together. We take advantage of each other's strengths, and we build a better country because of it.

If you didn't have that ceremony in person, you wouldn't see that. If you just click on Zoom and say, “Okay, I'm a citizen,” it doesn't mean the same. I don't think we should belittle the fact that it's an honour to be a citizen of Canada. It is something that they've worked really hard to become. For the hoops they have to jump through to get to that point of being a citizen, we shouldn't shorten that. We shouldn't belittle it. We should make sure they recognize that this is something great and that they've accomplished something great in being a citizen of Canada.

This is a simple amendment that can move that forward. I think it's something that all parties can look at and say, “You know what? This makes a lot of sense.” I don't want to see that taken away from those individuals. I don't want to see that taken away from them and their families. I don't want to see their first impression once they're citizens of Canada to be something they see on Zoom. I want them to experience it with other people at the same time.

That's why I think it's very important that we actually put that in here and we maintain that. Sure, it costs money—everything costs money—but these people become the fabric of our society. They become our next workforce. They integrate right into the rest of Canada. They make us the greatness that we are. Let's make sure that we set them off on the right foot. Having a simple ceremony means so much to them. Why would we reject that or prevent that from happening?

I think this amendment would be a good step in that direction.

Thank you, Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Next is Mr. Aboultaif.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Thank you, Chair, for allowing me the opportunity to speak.

I'm a first-generation immigrant. I had my ceremony around April 1994. That was a good story. When I went to receive my citizenship and take the picture with the judge, there was a gentleman sitting right beside him. He was from Lebanon too. I'd never met the guy before. It so happened that he had my first name and my middle name—the same thing. The judge looked at this distinguished guy and said to him, “Do you think this gentleman is going to be as distinguished as you?” The guy said, “Well, I hope so.”

After the—


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

On a point of order, Madam Chair, I just want to reiterate that we want to stick to the amendments and not tell personal stories.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

I need a couple of minutes—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Kayabaga. This is not a point of order.

I'll just remind you, Mr. Aboultaif, that it should be relevant to the amendment that we have on the floor.


Some hon. members

Oh, oh!


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I request that everyone speak through the chair and not across the aisle. All the questions should be directed through the chair.

I have Mr. Aboultaif, please.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Getting to that, we had an individual who called us last week asking us not to give up the tradition of having people attending those ceremonies, to be there and to have pride to receive one of the most distinguished citizenships. I think the tradition is very important. I think we can afford, one way or the other, to continue having those ceremonies.

It is a great place for people to meet and to get to know each other. It's a place of opportunity. It just makes people appreciate more the many cultures or many people from all different walks of life getting together at one place, celebrating together and having the honour of being Canadians.

I hope the rest of the members around this table from all parties appreciate that and go along with this amendment.

Thank you for allowing me to speak today.

Thank you, Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

I have Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thanks, Madam Chair.

I think we're ready to go to the vote. I just wanted to remind you that we have another amendment after this.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

We will take the vote on amendment CPC-5.

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a new amendment. It's new clause 1.4. I move that Bill S‑245 be amended by adding after line 18 on page 1 the following new clause:

1.4 Section 24 of the Act is amended by adding the following:

24(3) The oath of citizenship cannot be completed through an online web form.

That's the amendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Lberal

Thank you.

Mr. Redekopp has moved an amendment. The clerk is sending it to everyone. I hope everyone has received it in both official languages.

Mr. Mazier.
Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Thank you.

This one is really important, especially when it comes to rural Canada. Connectivity in rural Canada, as you know, is not very good. Over a million homes right now in rural Canada are still not connected, and over 50% of the first nations are still not connected. You might say, “Oh, but we're talking about an oath ceremony. It doesn't really matter.” It matters. You need to be connected to do something online, and I think we all forget that, when it comes to connectivity here in Canada, you don't have to be that far out of a big city or in a rural municipality to really understand how disconnected we are here in Canada.

You can imagine someone living in Neepawa, Manitoba, who rooted up their whole life and all and wants to be a part of this Canadian ceremony but they can't even do that. If anything should be amended on this, this should be. This is something that.... You need to have the ability to be able to connect online. This is kind of really important. You have to make sure that they are connected in the first place.

I think it's something that needs to be addressed. These people have made an honest effort to become Canadians, and I think they need to be included. I don't think anybody gets just how important it is to make sure that rural Canada is connected.

With that, I'm done.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

One thing about rural Canada is that it's where we experience high rates of employment. That's where a lot of immigrants are actually relocating to because of the job opportunities that they have in the smaller communities—for example, in rural Saskatchewan. They become vital members of those communities. They're much appreciated, and the work they do is very much respected and, again, appreciated.

However, it still comes back to the fact that you're going to do something this important in their lives over Zoom. Really...? Is that what we're going to do? Is that what we've denigrated the citizenship of a Canadian to be—just click on Zoom and you're done? It needs to be more. This isn't good enough. This amendment speaks directly to that. Why would you be so heartless and not give them a chance to actually be at and experience a proper presentation of that citizenship? Why would you sit there and say, “Good enough. Zoom is good enough”?

Then you put them into rural Saskatchewan where they may not have Internet access or may have very limited Internet access, so they're halfway through the ceremony and all of a sudden it cuts out. Are they half citizens or full citizens? It's not Ottawa. It's not Toronto. It's not downtown Vancouver. There are some real reality problems with this proposal of doing it over Zoom. I just think it's impersonal. I just think it's wrong. I think it's unimaginable that we think this is a good idea. Why would we go down this path? I just don't understand what we're trying to save or do here. It just seems ridiculous to me.

Hopefully I will see some consensus around this table, just out of common decency and the understanding of the types of people we're bringing into this country—the really, really good people coming into rural parts of our country. Let's give them a proper citizenship ceremony. I'm sorry, but Zoom doesn't cut it. Teams doesn't cut it. You have to be face to face.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just to be really clear on exactly what this amendment is talking about: The minister has proposed that in the future, rather than going to an in-person ceremony or a Zoom ceremony, there would be a button one could click online. They would navigate to a web page and click, and that would be the extent of the citizenship process for them.

We're not even talking now about whether we are in person or on Zoom. There is no ceremony at all. There isn't even a picture of the RCMP person dressed in uniform.

This is an important issue. For all the things we have talked about prior to this, it is so important that citizens have the ability to remember the time they became a citizen. It is important that they have the chance to have the photos with the dignitaries and the people there, and that they receive a memento, even if it's a little flag or a piece of paper, rather than getting a package in the mail after they have clicked. It takes more work to order a package on Amazon than to do this. It's all in the name, supposedly, of efficiency and trying to move people through the process.

I'm all for efficiency. We really do need to improve the way that IRCC works, but I don't think it's right or fair that deficiencies and problems in IRCC get paid for by sacrificing the people at the end of the chain who are getting their citizenship. Effectively, what is happening is that there are problems, inefficiencies and things that aren't working well at IRCC and the solution is to skip over all that, go to the end of the process and have people click to get their citizenship because it will save a couple of months. In reality, that isn't the problem. The problem is at other stages of the process.

I find it disconcerting that this would be a solution that would be proposed for that. Obviously, the real solution is to fix the issues at IRCC. It's to fix the backlogs and speed up the time. That's what we need to do rather than having citizenship by a click.

I also want to refer to the study that was done. The IRCC did some surveying on this. There was an article about that in the news this week. Lots of comments were received on both sides—some positive and some negative.

Looking at the story, of course the government did not release the details or the final numbers of this study because they are keeping that information to themselves. My guess, looking at the comments, is that there was an awful lot of opposition to the idea. A lot of people thought it was a terrible idea and that it shouldn't be done. Apparently there were about 700 comments, which I find surprising. I would wonder if there were more than that.

One person said, “This is a horrible idea!” in big capital letters. I think that would echo a lot of what we've heard from others. It's sort of the same logic that we talked about on the Zoom citizenship idea. It's the same kind of thinking. The same people are going to have same opinions about that. The newcomers to our country who are becoming citizens are going to have the same opinions. They want to be there. They want to feel the moment. They want, as my colleague, Mr. Mazier said—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Redekopp. Can you avoid repeating things? Please stay on the point of this amendment and avoid repetition.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Yes, for sure.

For the people who want to bring in their relatives to be at that ceremony, you can't bring in somebody to watch you click a button. It just doesn't work that way. That is really important.

I am curious to hear from my other rural colleagues. Mr. Mazier spoke a bit about the whole idea of connectivity. If you are relying on the Internet to do this.... We all know that Internet connectivity, as you get outside the major centres, is a problem. I live in Saskatoon. We have reasonable Internet there, but I am curious to hear the points of view from rural Manitoba and rural Saskatchewan. I think that would be an issue with this.

For the moment, I think that's everything I have to say.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

As my colleague, Mr. Redekopp, just brought to my attention, I believe you are officials from the IRCC. Is that correct?

Right now, our reality for dealing with the IRCC online is that we wait for two weeks. We make an appointment or our staff make an appointment, and then they wait for two weeks. They have an hour's window. It's quite a scheduling coordination two weeks out.

I can't imagine if something were to happen with the website or if something were to happen in this process. Has there been any discussion around this amendment to—


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

Madam Chair, I just want to remind members that we are talking about the importance of in-person ceremonies, and what the member opposite is talking about is not in the amendment. I would ask that we get back to the amendment that we have in front of us right now.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Ms. Kayabaga, that's not a point of order.

Right now, the amendment that we have is as follows: “The oath of citizenship cannot be completed through an online web form.” That's the amendment we have.

Yes, Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I have a point of order, Chair.

We can't hear her. When she speaks, I can't hear her. The volume is very low.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'll go to Mr. Mazier.

Meanwhile, I will ask the clerk to please do a sound check.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I was just wondering if the IRCC staff have looked at this. Have they done any studies? Have they looked at it and said, “We can make this work for citizens all the time”? Is there going to be a 1-800 number? How is this going to work?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Ms. Girard.


Nicole Girard Director General, Citizenship Policy, 
Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Madame Chair, thank you for the question.

I am having difficulty hearing the members this evening, so I am using the earpiece.

Can you hear me?


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Yes, we can hear you here.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Thank you.

Could I just ask if those tabling motions during the session could also share those motions with us so that we have an opportunity to review those in real time? That will save everyone time and be greatly appreciated.

In response to the member's question, what I would say is that—


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

On a point of order, if we could take a minute, we could copy this and give it to the officials so that they have this. Could we do that?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, I will ask the clerk to do it.

Ms. Girard, please continue.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

On a point of order, Chair, how can she continue when she hasn't seen it? Let's let her see it before she continues.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

She already started the conversation. Let her continue. It is being provided to her.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

You would agree that if you don't—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

It has been provided to her.

Ms. Girard, please continue.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I have a point of order, Chair. You would agree that she'd give a better answer if she had the information in front of her, so why would—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, I gave it to her.

I have made a decision. The information is going to her. She was already saying something. She needs to complete her information.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Without the information...?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Ms. Girard.
Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Thank you, Madam Chair.

I understood the question. It was just to make a general point, as motions are being tabled during the hearing.

In response to the member's question about whether the department has done a study with regard to people's participation online, I'd like to take an opportunity to correct the record about what the regulatory proposal actually is. It's been mis-characterized in the media and through some of the concerns we've heard publicly but also during these hearings.

The proposal is to maintain citizenship ceremonies. I'd like to be clear that we agree: Citizenship ceremonies are important and they will continue.

Secondly, the proposal is to give citizenship applicants the choice in terms of how they wish to proceed with their ceremony. The first choice that applicants would need to make under the proposed regulatory change is whether they wish to take the oath at a ceremony, as now. That's really important to emphasize. It would be the choice of the applicant. Where they're wanting to do that participation in person, as they do now, and where a connection may be an impediment, that choice will be for the applicant to make.

The second choice that will be available to applicants is whether they would instead take that oath online. There could be many good reasons why people may need to make that choice. We heard of some of them at the previous hearing. Those electing to take their oath online would have the ability to participate in their ceremony once again but at a later date, so that they're not falling behind in terms of their access to citizenship.

In terms of the “why” of this proposal, as we've heard, there are some who may not be able to afford to travel a distance to participate at a ceremony in person. There are some who may not be able to afford to take a day off work. We know that affordability is an issue for many out there.

Thirdly, in terms of accessibility, we have options now, but the Government of Canada needs to do better. This proposal is really looking to give people who may need better options of accessibility—for reasons of disability, for reasons of debilitating illness or for other kinds of reasons that may require accommodation—an avenue where they don't have to make a case to an official and ask for an exception to be made so that they can have a virtual ceremony or some other accommodation to enable them to be citizens and to be like everyone else who can make it to a ceremony, in person or virtually, with a dedicated service channel for them. That's what an electronic oath would provide, in addition to those options to continue to participate at ceremonies to take the oath, as is currently the case.

In summary, we haven't had to do the type of study that the member asked about. I'm grateful for the question. Once again, the proposal is to offer that choice to our clients in order to better meet the needs of a variety of circumstances in cities and in rural communities across this great country.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.

Mr. Aboultaif—


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I still have the floor.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

It's Mr. Aboultaif, and then we will come back to you.

Yes, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

On a point of order, I believe the process you were using before was that if there were questions for the officials—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

But if he was finished—


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

He wasn't. He had just asked a question.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Okay.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Now there's new information. They do have a choice right now. Is that correct?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, the proposal is at the proposal stage. It hasn't been implemented. Currently, applicants are required to attend a ceremony and take their oath at a ceremony, because that is the law. Applicants must take their oath at a ceremony in order to complete the final requirement to become Canadian citizens.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Here's the reality that I just happened to run across. I'm wondering if for people in the rural areas there will be any tools available. Who provides these tools for the local communities for the IRCC? Will they say, “Local citizens are having a ceremony, so here's what the IRCC will supply”? I don't know how that's all going to work. If something goes south, who are they going to talk to? Is there going to be a 1-800 number? Is there going to be a chat? Has there been any allocation or any thought put into that?

Right now, the problem with the websites in general, with any government website—I'm sure the witnesses have some experience with websites—is that government websites are very onerous. They don't act very well. They're not friendly. Then you're on the phone with somebody for many hours. A lot of these new citizens are just trying to keep a job and trying to do their best so that they can get approved to be good citizens.

How are we making that more friendly? How would this process work? What are the plans for that to make it more friendly?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Chair, those kinds of considerations will have to be factored into more detailed implementation plans, which are ahead of us. It's in everyone's interest that applicants receive their citizenship in a timely way, and that this happen more quickly, which is the goal that the department is working towards.

Those kinds of practical considerations will have to be factored into the implementation plans, which are still to be developed because we are at the proposal stage at this point in time.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I'll share with you one last story.

I happen to live here in Ottawa, in an apartment. The concierge downstairs was going to their citizenship award. It just happened I was checking in at 10 at night, and he said that he had a nine o'clock meeting and he would go online for this thing, I think it was next Monday. He said, “You wouldn't happen to have a Canadian flag, would you?” I asked what he meant. He said he'd like to have a backdrop to display that he's going to be a Canadian citizen. I grabbed him one and brought it back for him.

Then, it came to the day and he said, “I don't know, I have to stay here until midnight and it's nine in the morning.” He was going to to go. He was all excited. I said, “No, you go celebrate. You've done a great thing.” On going online, if it weren't for my encouraging him, he would have just gone and click, bang, he would have been, “There you go. I'm a Canadian citizen.”

What I ended up doing that day was that I made a nice certificate up for him. This was in downtown Ottawa. The guy was right here in our nation's capital and he didn't even think it was worth his time to go online to be a Canadian citizen. There's something wrong with that picture.

I ask you to please review that and that somehow, in these regulations, we reflect how much we do appreciate people becoming new citizens in this country.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Aboultaif.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Thanks.

I appreciate the department's being here with us today.

I have a few short questions.

First, has the department done a pilot project to make sure that the system that is proposed is going to work?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, it's not planned to have a pilot project, as far as I'm aware at this point in time. We do have implementation planning to do to support this proposal in the months ahead. Typically, when we develop implementation plans for any regulatory or legislative proposal, there's a lot of effort that goes into it on a lot of fronts to ensure that it can be implemented smoothly.

The department, the experts at this table and I, personally, have a lot of experience in this area in terms of what needs to go into it on the planning side to ensure a smooth implementation.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Thank you.

Based on your knowledge with the application or software, how does the software determine that the applicant is in Canada? As per the existing rules, you have to be in Canada in order to be able to attend the ceremony personally and physically to receive your citizenship. Based on the design of the software, how do we determine that the applicant is in Canada?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


We don't have the software or the system solution in place as of yet, but the member is correct that an important part of our process is verifying the identity of the applicant at different stages, as required in the process. Those verifications that need to be done will be completed as part of those plans to support the implementation of an initiative like this one, as we would with any initiative that we could be working on to implement in this area, including the current bill under study.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

With cyber-attacks, we know nothing's safe online these days. With such an important process, to your knowledge, are the firewalls or the cybersecurity aspects of this software developed, or yet to be developed, in order to be able to ensure that the process is safe and legitimate?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, the implementation of an initiative like this one, as with any implementation plans related to a regulatory or a legislative initiative like this bill, is linked to and reliant on Government of Canada systems that we already have in place, which respect a number of safety protocols and firewalls, as required by various Government of Canada policies. We have to operate within that framework as part of our implementation preparations.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

I have one final question. If an applicant failed to connect due to either a weak or an unavailable connection, what would happen? I guess they would be pushed to another date. Is there any idea how long this could be? Could it be three months or six months? Especially if the applicant is not at fault, is there any idea within the department on how this could be handled? Will it be consistently three months, six months—whatever—or will the computer be given another date automatically? How would that work?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


The member is correct that we currently have systems in place where, if someone, through no fault of their own, is not able to attend their ceremony, we work diligently to obtain another date that's fairly close in time for the person. It's possible that some weeks may elapse.

The goal with an initiative like this one to further leverage technology is to really collapse the wait times for the applicant so that they don't have to wait so much time for that opportunity to come around again, and so that they can become a citizen sooner and attend the ceremony, if that was indeed how they opted to take their oath and complete the final requirement.

Thank you.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

I have one final question, if that's okay.

At some point, do you envision that this process can be done at the embassy level, since it's basically electronic? Has this been discussed within the department, or has it been requested? Again, if we can't guarantee or know that people who are applying are physically residing in Canada and applying for their citizenship, a convenient way to do so could be the next step that staff at the embassy level could say, “I can process it at the embassy level. I can initiate that call. I can have the program run from far away.” That could be what's coming next. Has this been discussed? Is it out of the imagination to think that it could happen one day?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, it hasn't been requested; however, there is already some legal authority in the legislation. I can tell you from years of experience in the citizenship program that those circumstances where somebody may be looking to complete their citizenship process from abroad tend to be exceptional.

I have served abroad in a couple of countries in north Asia and south Asia. I have encountered situations where someone was on the verge of having their citizenship ceremony, had a devastating death in the family and had to go home for a funeral. Sometimes they were back in their home country longer than they intended if they were having to settle estate matters and so on. Then you can have world events like the pandemic. Someone was on the verge of becoming a Canadian, but they couldn't physically get to their ceremony. Then the question is, if they're a permanent resident, whether they can benefit from evacuation procedures, or whatever the circumstances are.

There are occasionally exceptional circumstances where there is some leeway and we get requests, but it's not the norm, obviously. The vast majority, I would say, likely 99% of applicants, are here. They're fulfilling their requirements. They're anxious for their ceremony, but they would like it to happen sooner in time. The department is working on a number of initiatives to offer more options to people in a variety of circumstances, including the really exceptional ones that are through no fault of the person's own actions, as the member mentioned.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I have Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just on that note, Madam Girard, I guess the first question is this. Just to be clear, do you have to be in Canada to swear your oath?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, I'll have to go back and consult the legislation just to ensure I'm giving an accurate answer. We will provide that response to the committee in writing, if that's okay.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thanks. I would appreciate that.

Does the department have numbers on how many people have become citizens, have sworn their citizenship and have been outside the country at that time?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I don't have that information to hand. I would have to check if that's something that we track, because it would be outside of the norm. I will take that back, and if there are statistics available, I will endeavour to obtain them and provide them to the committee at the earliest opportunity.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you. I appreciate that.

It seems like something that the department should know. As you said, it probably doesn't happen too frequently, so I would think that's something that would be known. I would appreciate having that sent.

Just before I go on, Madam Chair, the TV behind me is on. The sound is on. Is it possible to turn off the sound from the chamber?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We can see if we can do that.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I like listening to the chamber myself.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Please go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I have good hearing.

Ms. Girard, on the subject of wait times, because you had talked about wait times, I guess the reasoning that I'm picking up on here is the departmental reasoning that having these alternate methods is to speed up the process. Because this is something that's being demanded by people asking for this option, do you have statistics and have there been studies done on the requests to do that?
Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I can say in general that the department frequently receives representation from applicants who are looking to have their processing time reduced, and that is something that we continue to work hard to do. As I mentioned in a previous hearing, we had a record number of over 374,000 citizenship grants last year, but we have more work to do, including continuing to work on getting those processing times down.

In further response to the member's question about wait times and ceremonies, historically it's been in the range of three to five months. It can go as low as one to two months to wait to get your ceremony, and I believe it's on the lower end of the wait currently, but that can vary depending on the year and the demand and so on.

Part of this proposal is to again give the choice and put the applicants in the driver's seat in terms of what's going to work for them. If they're able to attend that ceremony, they wish to take their oath at a ceremony and they're prepared to do that, they can proceed. If they need to become citizens now and want to take an oath online, if that becomes an option that's available to them, they can do that and can become citizens immediately once the oath is taken, but still have the benefit of taking in that ceremony or participating in that ceremony without having a wait time.

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thanks. I appreciate that.

I guess the real question I was asking was this: Have people been asking for these options? I understand that it seems like it might be a good idea to people in the department, but have people been asking for the option to do it that way?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I'm not aware of all of the client feedback the department receives, so while it's possible that the request has been made, I don't have that information available to me at this time.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

It seems that if a quite significant policy shift like that was being done, there would be a lot of data to back that up.

Here's another way of asking that question then. Is there data to back up the reasoning for this decision, or is this just people sitting around a table who thought it would be a good idea and they thought they should do that?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


This is an evidence-based proposal. It's backed by significant data. The data includes that the processing standard that the department strives to meet is to process citizenship applications within 12 months. Although the department achieved a record number of grants last year—over 374,000, as I mentioned—last April the processing times were around 27 months. Through hard work, those processing times continue to come down, but are still much higher than we want them to be. They are in the range of 21 or 22 months, as I understand it.

It's not an issue where the department needs to wait for specific service improvements to be received. We are constantly looking for opportunities for how to improve service offerings and client service, and how we can leverage technology to reduce processing times and wait times. We are confident that significant progress will continue with the various initiatives we've put in place over the last year or two during the pandemic, including bringing applications online, conducting online citizenship tests and having a combination of in-person citizenship ceremonies and virtual ones.

As the members heard, we will continue to see processing times go down, but we know we have work to do and that the service needs to improve. This is a proposal, among other initiatives that are under way, that is intended to do that.

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Did I hear you say that the wait time for citizenship piece is 22 months? Is that correct?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Yes, that is correct.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I understand that COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench into things.

What were wait times like in 2019 for citizenship?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I believe they were closer to the 12-month processing standard, but as I don't have that processing time in front of me now, we will check and provide that to the committee.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I understand that you don't have that information and this might have come a little out of left field, so—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

If I can interrupt, Mr. Redekopp, can you please keep your comments related to the amendment we have on the floor? These are not related to that.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I believe they are. This has to do with the system of online clicking for citizenship. I believe that is exactly what we are talking about here. It's the process by which the department has sought to implement this system, so I think these are very relevant questions to that point.

We are proposing that we shouldn't be doing that. That is what our amendment is basically saying. The department is actually providing a lot of information on why that might not be the case.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Keep your comments related to the amendment we have on the floor.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Okay.

On the wait time for ceremonies, I'm confused as to why the department feels it needs to make this change in order to get back to the processing standard. Let's say it was roughly on-standard in 2019 and prior. There were no online citizenship tests or there were no “click” citizenship abilities at that time.

Why does the department not believe it can get back to that point without using different technology like this?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Thank you for the question.

The department is constantly striving to improve processing times and to improve client service and accessibility, as I mentioned. Historically, the wait time for a ceremony, once the applicants had completed all the other requirements, was in the range of three to five months.

This is a proposal where the applicant does not elect to complete their oath at a ceremony as they do now, as I mentioned, but elects instead to complete their oath online. Once that oath is completed online, they become a citizen. They no longer have to wait the three to five months to attend the ceremony, but they still have the benefit of being able to participate in that ceremony at the later date.

In a sense, you can describe that as win-win, in that there is greater accessibility and flexibility. The applicant has an option to become a citizen at a earlier point in time, but still enjoy all of the benefits of participating in a ceremony, in terms of all of the important elements of that for inclusion, community participation and those kinds of considerations.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

That's kind of new to me, I guess. What you're saying is that, in the department's proposal, if you were to click your citizenship, you can still attend an in-person ceremony.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


That's correct.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

What are the elements that happen at that in-person ceremony? Could you please enlighten me a little bit? Is it a shortened thing? What happens there?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


As I mentioned, these are the kinds of issues that will be further developed as part of implementation plans to support an initiative like this one. I think it's fair to say that ceremonies could look as they look today. There are not necessarily any plans at this time to change that.

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I just noted in the news article that came out that it said that, for the second half of 2022, less than 10% of citizenship ceremonies were done in person. Therefore, obviously 90% were done online or would be through this if it was available.

Is there's a planned ratio by the department of how many should be one-click and how many should be in person? Is there planning that has been done by the department on where those numbers would fall?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, I'm not aware of any planned ratio.

As I mentioned, as part of our effort to improve service, we're really proposing to give the choice to applicants. Because this is an important day in people's lives, an important event in people's lives, as many have mentioned, we anticipate that there could be some quite significant demand by persons who would wish to continue to take their oaths at a ceremony, as is currently the case.

I'm not aware of any planned ratio. That would be down to the choices of applicants.

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Given the numbers that have been reported, and I assume that they're correct—10% were in person—are we to, then, assume that it was the choice of individuals, that 10% of them chose to do it in person and that 90% of them chose a different method?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, that's not a correct assumption since this proposal is at the proposal stage and has not been implemented.

What the member is referring to are statistics that relate to how the current program is being administered postpandemic. It doesn't reflect what applicants may choose to do once a proposal like this is implemented.

Thank you.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

The current system that's being used by the department is skewing heavily towards Zoom citizenship ceremonies. Is that a true statement?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I don't have statistics for 2023 in front of me.

I'm mindful that the member has quoted statistics from last year, which is a breakdown that I don't have in front of me, so I can't confirm or correct that statement. I'd have to check the data before I could say anything on that.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.

Mr. Redekopp, she does not have those figures. We can try to get them, but it will not be possible for her to provide that right now.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I appreciate that. If you could get them, that would be great because it just seems odd to me that this is how people would request it. It seems to me more like it's something that's being pushed onto people without their having a choice. That's my curiosity on that.

I'm done.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

What is the goal? You mentioned that we're out to 22 months right now and that we want to streamline it. We were at 12 months before. Then you mentioned three to five months.

Ideally, is it, if we could click and pass the test, we could become a citizen? What is the ultimate goal on this whole process?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Currently, the goal is to get back to the 12-month processing standard. The proposal under discussion—the regulatory proposal—would reduce the wait time for those at the ceremony stage. There's potential to get that average processing time down to below 12 months. I'm sure everyone would agree that this would be a good thing because we would like to include new citizens sooner and see that happen a lot sooner.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Aboultaif.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Thank you, Chair.

Thanks again. Thanks for the hospitality today.

I would like to move an amendment to the amendment, which would add, after the words “online web form”, the following: “or click-through option”.

To that end, I would like it if we could suspend to translate this and make sure—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Will you please repeat it in English? Everyone has translation services available. It will be translated.

If you can, please repeat it. Everyone has the translation. Yes.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Yes, I can do that. After the words “online web forum”, it will say, “or click-through option”.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Okay.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

We can suspend to translate this.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Give me one second.

Can I ask everyone to be quiet and direct their questions through the chair?

Mr. Aboultaif, you have repeated that added after “web form”, the words “or click-through option” should be added. That's your subamendment.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Yes, after the words “online web form”, it would add “or click-through option”.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

I'm not sure how to translate that into French.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We have the subamendment on the floor. I think everyone has got it through translation.

Mr. Aboultaif has asked to add after “web form” the words “or click-through option”. We have the subamendment on the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Are we going to suspend for translation or keep going?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

No, I'm not suspending the meeting right now. The meeting continues.

We have the subamendment on the floor.

Could I ask the clerk to please take the vote on the subamendment?


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I'll speak to it, then.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

No one said.... I've asked already for the vote. The vote has to happen on the subamendment.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I was just getting clarification before I went to my question.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

You asked me about the suspension. I told everyone we had the translation.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I still want to speak to it.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Okay. Go ahead.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Thank you.

In light of the new information, I find it relaxing. You are still respecting the fact that ceremonies have some importance, and that option is there. I think that's where the subamendment will maybe clarify that it's not the only way. You can actually click on it, and then still participate in a ceremony and have your grandparents, friends, family and your employer all attend.

I want to confirm that's what they'd be able to do in this scenario. They'd click on it, and then at a later date, they would go to a ceremony. They would be a citizen, effectively, once they click on it, if that's correct.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Ms. Girard.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, could I ask for it to be clarified? Is the question referring to the impact of the subamendment, or is the question about the regulatory proposal?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Hoback, can you please repeat it?

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Yes. I'm looking at the subamendment. The click-through option is what we're putting into the amendment. Basically, the idea there is that it better explains to people that they can click on it and still do the ceremony later on.

When do they actually officially become a Canadian citizen? Is it when they click on it or...? I'd like some clarification around that.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, in response to the member's last question, currently, an applicant becomes a citizen only once they take the oath of citizenship at a ceremony. That's to be clear on that. That would continue to be the case under the proposed regulatory change.

As I understand the member's question as it pertains to the subamendment, the subamendment states that the oath cannot be taken online and cannot be taken through a click-through option, if that's what's being used to describe the proposal. That would appear to mean that none of those flexibilities are available. It would appear to mean that an applicant would be required to take their oath at a ceremony, as now, before they could become a citizen.

It would appear to preclude any kinds of flexibilities for people who are disabled, who cannot afford to travel to a ceremony, who cannot afford to take a day off work or who may have a variety of circumstances that may justify some of those other options we have been discussing this evening.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.

Mr. Dhaliwal.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I was going to speak on the point of order, but thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak.

We, on this side, understand and see the motive the Conservatives have behind all this discussion that's going on.

I have a vote of thanks, Madam Chair, to all the staff and to the interpreters, who I know are putting in long hours. Particularly, when it comes to family matters, that becomes even more important. I would love to single out one person today, and it's my understanding that Ms. Girard's husband's birthday is today. We wish him a happy birthday, and we want to thank Ms. Girard for sacrificing that as well. Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.

Thank you, Ms. Girard. We really appreciate your being here in spite of your husband's birthday.

If we can have all the conversations done, we have a subamendment on the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you.

It's too bad that Mr. Dhaliwal and the Liberals forced poor Ms. Girard to miss her husband's birthday tonight by being here so late.

I just wanted to clarify one thing. This particular subamendment and amendment do not preclude Zoom. Ms. Girard, you did say that it would not give options, and that's not true. It wouldn't allow the one-click option, yes, that would be true, but this particular subamendment, or even the amendment, does not preclude the use of an online Zoom type of situation. I just wanted to make that clear.

I think it's important, again, for new citizens to not do this through some sort of a click-through process. That is not the intention. I believe, for most people, they are not so concerned about the last few months. That's why I am quite curious to see the data that supports this, because I can understand how people would want a shorter time period. That makes sense.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp, you have already requested the data. Ms. Girard mentioned that she doesn't have the data right now, and as soon as they can answer that, or get that data, it will be sent to the committee. This point has already been raised. Thank you.

We will go for a vote on the subamendment.

(Subamendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)

The amendment CPC‑6 is on the floor. We will go for a vote on that.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I'm still kind of perplexed. There is no allocation for the people who aren't connected. We're talking about an online world that just doesn't exist in rural Canada. How do we square that circle? What is the IRCC...? Is there a plan to work with Service Canada?

When we're looking at a whole new model, and we want to get down to an area, that's another thing where I kind of question this whole process. What's going to happen that's so much different from just having a new website or an amended website?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


As was mentioned, prior to the pandemic, ceremonies were all done in person. It was only during the pandemic that the additional option of virtual ceremonies was added. As was mentioned during the previous session, now we have a combination. For those participating online, where a Zoom connection isn't feasible, the in-person option continues to be there, and it will continue to be there.

As I mentioned at the outset, for the proposed regulatory initiative, it will be the applicant's choice. Applicants will know whether they have the ability to attend in person or whether they want to look at an alternate option that requires an online connection.


Marie-France Lalonde Orléans, ON
Liberal

On a point of order, Madam Chair, I'm been trying, with all due respect, to be very careful in my interventions. At this point, Madam Chair, through you, I'm just a little bit curious or trying to understand the members' questions about their own amendments or subamendment. I don't know the English word, and I don't want to start using both languages. I would say you cannot be perplexed—if I could say this—about your own amendment. Either you are proposing an amendment or a subamendment, or you are not.

I don't think you can ask the official to justify the amendment and the impact of something you are proposing. You are debating your own amendment here.

Madam Chair, through you, I just want to make sure that we're staying on point. If I bring an amendment, I bring my point. I'm not trying to have a sense of perplexity here as to why this is happening.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Lalonde.

Mr. Mazier, your last question was a repetition of the question that you had asked earlier, before we went to the subamendment. I want to make sure to remind you to please avoid repetition, and the questions should be relevant to the amendment or the subamendment. The officials are not here to justify what you are suggesting.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

I have a point of order, Madam Chair. It was more a point of order on what Ms. Lalonde brought forward. Certainly over the course of debate when a party brings forward an amendment, it could be any party, where government members have brought forward amendments to their own bills, to fix something that testimony had brought up over the course of a study that would have resulted in.... She mentioned being “perplexed”. There are many examples where—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We are going into debate. This is not a point of order.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

To the point of order, though, to be able to meaningful engage with the officials on a subject is very rightly—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

This is going into debate. It's not a point of order.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

I am back to Ms. Lalonde's—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Please, I would request that those questions that have already been asked and that the officials have answered should not be repeated. If now they are repeated, I will have to cut members off.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

It won't be repeated. It's just a matter of relevance.


An hon. member

[Inaudible—Editor]


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Let's have no conversations on the sides. We are sitting late. The officials are here. They are spending their time here rather than spending it with their families. I think that should be respected. Please avoid these conversations. Please be on point, and let's get this done.

Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Just as far as the relevance is concerned, you're talking about putting an IRCC system to become citizens online. If you look at it from a rural perspective, if you're not online, if you can't.... This is a government proposal that no one has actually thought out. That's why I'm asking how the department is going to adapt to this.

That's all I'm asking. We can leave it, or we can move forward. That's not a problem.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I think it's appropriate at this time to just remember the reason why we're here. The reason why we're here.... There was a very reasonable suggestion put forward by Mr. Kmiec.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

This is not relevant to the amendment we have on the floor. We are debating the amendment. Please keep your points related to the amendment.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

On a point of order, we're all tired, fair enough. To your point, the reason we're here is that there have been so many changes made to this bill. Mr. Kmiec offered an easy way to fix this to allow amendments to be provided by the middle of May, I think it was. It was not done. It was not accepted. As a result, we're having to go through this slower process.

I just need to remind everyone of that. That's the reason we're here. That's the reason this is taking longer than we maybe hoped.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Please, the conversation should be on the amendment or the subamendment, whatever we have on the floor.

On amendment CPC-6, we will go for a vote.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

I'm sorry. My name should have been on the list.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Kurek.
Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Certainly what's interesting in a large rural constituency is the whole dynamic around virtual citizenship, and specifically some of the proposals that have been brought forward. You know, when we've had the details of the amendments that have been brought directly before us here, I have consistently heard question asked of whether these adjustments are.... Quite frankly, over the course of this, it was not isolated to the new proposals. It was also some of the amendments that had been brought forward as IRCC and the government adjusted to the dynamics of COVID-19. I have had new citizens and people who are pursuing citizenship asking the simple question about how some of these things fit within the tradition of what is seen to be an incredibly valuable part of taking that step and that path to citizenship.

I guess my question to the officials specifically surrounds some of the consultations about how this impacts the perception of citizenship and the process that the oath, particularly, has. I'm wondering if they could provide some feedback or details around how some of these adjustments have impacted the perception of what the citizenship process is.

I think my father-in-law would be very comfortable with me sharing this. It was a very exciting day when as an adult—he'd moved with his family to Canada when he was a child—he decided to become a Canadian. That was a very powerful moment. There was a judge in front of an auditorium and 30 or 40 of them. This was long before I was elected. You know, me and my family.... I think I had one child at the time. It was an incredibly poignant moment for him, having lived and worked in Canada his entire life, and to also be on the stage with many others.

Has any data, research or feedback been received? Certainly, I've been receiving this. My office and constituency staff help hundreds of individuals with “casework”, as we refer to it. Has there been feedback provided about this process in terms of what is perceived as the culmination of the citizenship process, that actually becoming a citizen—


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

I have a point of order, Madam Chair. This question was asked earlier, so I'm again calling a point of order.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Kurek, please do not repeat. Just get to the point of the question.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Absolutely. I understand. I have come to this committee, and it may have been asked in a certain context, but as the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, I have not yet had the opportunity to ask the question.

My question to the officials is on whether they could share with this committee the feedback that they have—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

You said this a minute ago, before this point of order. Can you please not repeat—


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Madam Chair, I'm getting to my question. That's my expectation—to be able to ask the question about whether the officials can in fact share with this committee feedback that they have received from Canadians or from a consultative process about the adjustments being made to the process of becoming a Canadian citizen.


Arielle Kayabaga London West, ON
Liberal

On a point of order, Madam Chair, this is the same question MP Redekopp asked less than 10 minutes ago.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

We are getting into debate. Ms. Girard has the floor. She will answer the question.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Thank you, Madam Chair.

As was mentioned previously, this was a regulatory proposal that was put out for public consultation. The public did provide various comments. As part of the regulatory process, the department will compile those comments and prepare the public summary that would normally be provided for final publication of the regulations some months from now, as part of the normal regulatory process. That information will be prepared for that purpose and shared down the line when we get to that stage.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Kurek.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you very much.

Thank you to the officials, and happy birthday to your husband.

I understand that you're sharing that there have been consultations through some of the regulatory changes, but in the context of the bill that we have before us, specifically the amendment, in the larger context of the bill, I want to nail in here specifically, Ms. Girard, the timing that you referred to with the publication of some of those comments. Can you outline exactly what the timeline would be for those publications specifically? The reason it's highly relevant to this amendment and the bill writ large is that the committee is tasked with dealing with this now but does not have the opportunity to see what some of that feedback is. I want to make sure that members of the committee and Canadians watching know exactly what the overlap of those timelines might be.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, normally for a regulatory process that takes about a year to 18 months, we would have the responsibility to prepare the regulatory package for final publication some time after the summer recess. Those would be typical timelines. I can't say for certain on this particular proposal, but those would be notional timelines.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.

Mr. Redekopp, you have the floor.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I think we're probably ready to vote on this one, but I want to mention that we have an amendment after this one, for your reference.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I have Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm going to begin with a short preamble before putting my question to the officials.

What we're seeing now is the Conservative Party MPs asking really a lot of questions. They may be legitimate, but I wonder. The Conservatives are claiming to be the party of common sense and sound management of public funds. Not only that, but they're saying they will soon form the next government. But we are using House resources right now. Don't the Conservatives think we should avoid spending this money, particularly since, if they form the next government as they say they will, they could amend the current bill, which they feel is imperfect?

I'm getting to my question for the officials now.

Do you think the people whose circumstances would be stabilized as a result of this bill are keen to see it adopted, or that they would like us to debate it endlessly, as we are currently doing?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


At the department, we are very cognizant of the fact that lost Canadians, as has been pointed out repeatedly by several members of the committee, are very eager to see this bill move forward so that they can gain or regain their citizenship.

As government officials, we always answer questions with a view to supporting the committee so that it can complete its study of a bill as quickly as possible.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

If the bill is adopted as it stands, will—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe. Debate is happening on the amendment—


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Yes, you're absolutely right, Madam Chair. If the amendment—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

—not on the bill. We have an amendment on the floor. Could you please keep your question related to the amendment?


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

If the bill is adopted without the amendment we are currently debating, then if another party were to form the government after the next election, would it be able to amend the bill by reintroducing this amendment?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I don't want to comment on what might or might not happen following an election. But I would simply like to remind everyone that Parliament can always legislate in one way or another.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I have Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I just needed to point out that, again, we're here because of the requirement set by the government. We are not here at a normal time—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp, would you like to speak to the amendment? You have already raised it, and it has been heard.

We will go to a vote on CPC-6.

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have an amendment that I would to move, to make a new clause 1.4. It is that Bill S-245 be amended by adding after line 18 on page 1 the following new clause:

1.4 Section 24 of the Act is amended by adding the following:

24(4) The Department of Citizenship and Immigration shall not create an online web form for the oath of citizenship to be completed.

I have things to say about this. I'm just wondering if everybody has this amendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

The amendment has been emailed to all the members. Please look into your P9s. All of you have it. The hard copy has been provided to the officials.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

This amendment is, I guess, taking a different approach to this, in wanting to not have an online web form for doing the oath of citizenship. This does not preclude having some sort of Zoom option, I suppose, and it certainly doesn't preclude having an in-person citizenship ceremony. It really is coming back to that same issue that we keep hearing about over and over again from constituents: that having the online web form method to do the citizenship ceremony is just not right, for a variety of reasons.

The first one is that it's good to be in person. It's good to be with the people who care about you, the people who sometimes travel to be with you so that you can actually experience the joy, excitement—sometimes tears—and thrill of becoming a Canadian citizen. We know that when that is done online, when you're sitting there, what this is specifically going after is just the simple click, because it takes away all the excitement of that moment. It takes away all the ceremony that would be there.

Another concern we have with this is on security, because when someone is behind a screen and clicking, we don't really know who that is, where they are or what part of the world they're in, or if there's some sort of fraud occurring during that time. These are all things that I think would be very hard for any kind of system to manage properly.

There are all kinds of reasons that doing it this way is a concern. We've heard about the potential for there to be a problem in rural Canada with Internet access. Just being able to actually get online to do these things that way is a concern.

I don't know if my colleagues have some thoughts on this, but those are some of the reasons we want to do this. I'll throw this out for debate.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I have Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Just to echo Mr. Redekopp's comments on the whole getting away from the ceremony part of it, ceremonies are supposed to be a time of celebration with humans, not online.

I don't know how much thought was put into this kind of development. I understand the streamlining thing. I think it makes a lot of sense, but to what end?

I'm not seeing a lot of thought being put into this. It's like, here, we checked off the box and we can be a citizen and all of that, but how fast will this happen? What are we taking away from this, besides the whole ceremony part?

To understand this a bit better too, I'll go back to this: What's a person to do if they don't have any connectivity or anything like that? Are they expected to travel in right now?

I guess that's a question for—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Ms. Girard.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, prior to the pandemic, when ceremonies were in person and when there were not virtual options, people did have to travel in, depending on their location and circumstances, and on where the ceremony was being offered.

That may still be the circumstance today, although as discussed, there are many virtual ceremonies available today across the country to accommodate different circumstances. That would be less of an issue under current circumstances, because that option became available during the pandemic.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Clerk, could you please take the vote on CPC-7?

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have an amendment I would like to make. This would be new clause 1.4, that Bill S-245 be amended by adding after line 18 on page 1 the following new clause:

1.4 Section 24 of the Act is amended by adding the following:

24 (5) Should a person be unable to attend an in-person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement only on compassionate grounds and a virtual option should be offered in those circumstances as requested.

That's the motion, and I have things to say about it, but we will take a minute just to make sure everybody has it, including the officials.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

The clerk has emailed it to all of the members, and everyone has received it. The hard copy is going to the officials. I will keep a speaker's list.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

We've just received this amendment. I'll have to check with my team to determine whether or not we can accept it. Can we suspend the meeting for a couple of minutes so that I can look at the amendment?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go into your email. Mr. Redekopp is speaking; you can have a look meanwhile.

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I will endeavour to do my best.

I think that the intent of this amendment is to ensure, for those who need it—it was mentioned, I think, a few minutes ago, Ms. Girard—who may have issues with accessibility or whatever the circumstance might be, that they have the opportunity to have some alternate way of doing the citizenship ceremony.

The purpose of this clause is to make that option available. We need to be compassionate. There certainly needs to be the ability to have your citizenship ceremony if there are issues. That's where the compassionate grounds of this come from.

At the same time, we do not want this to be abused. We want it to be there for that purpose, and not there for somebody who doesn't need it.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

I just want to be sure that this amendment is in order. There is no definition here of compassionate grounds. Perhaps the legislative clerks could give us some information on this. I'm sorry, I know we are in a break, but can someone help me understand more clearly? I just want to make sure that the amendment is in order. We could then debate it afterwards.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, it is in order. This amendment, CPC-8, is in order.

Mr. Redekopp, you are next.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you.

That is a very good point that my colleague Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe brings up. It's important that we be clear what we mean by compassionate grounds. I think this is very important. I can think of some examples of this.

If a person was sick for a long period of time, to me that would be a good example, a good case, because they were unable to travel. We just came through COVID, when you weren't able to be with other people because you were concerned about catching something, particularly if you were an older person. We all experienced that through the last number of years. I think that would be one example of what would be compassionate grounds.

We want to make sure, for those people who can't travel for legitimate reasons, that they can have an in-person citizenship ceremony. We need to give them that ability.

Another example I can think of is if you were simply unable to get off work. If you had the kind of job that didn't allow that, and if you were a great distance away from the citizenship ceremony, this could potentially be a reason for being granted the ability to do this.

We're not asking for a big, onerous process here. At the same time, we don't necessarily want people to be able to just choose to do this because of all the things that have been said tonight. I won't repeat them all, but the most important elements of this are being able go to that citizenship ceremony, being able to bring your family and your friends, being able to walk across that stage and shake the hands of the officials, being able to receive your certificate and being able to pose for photos with the RCMP officer and other officials.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Redekopp. This point of shaking hands and taking the certificate has been raised a number of times. Please avoid repetition; repetition should not happen. What has already been said should not be repeated.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

As a point of clarification, Madam Chair, those were said on previous amendments. This is a different amendment. I'm just curious to know if we cannot speak about things on this amendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

The same things that you are repeating have already been repeated.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Were they repeated on this amendment? That's my question.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

They weren't on this amendment, but the same point has been raised more than four or five times already.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Sometimes I think when we're starting a new point—


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

On a point of order, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Give me one second.

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I understand that you need to interrupt from time to time, but for the interpreters, you have to turn your microphone on for them to hear your magnificent voice, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, I will make sure. I'm sorry about that, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.
 
Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I understand that you need to interrupt from time to time, but for the interpreters, you have to turn your microphone on for them to hear your magnificent voice, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, I will make sure. I'm sorry about that, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

As I was saying, the reason people want to go to ceremonies is the excitement and thrill of being there. That's what we're trying to avoid here. We're trying to avoid the person's not being given the privilege of doing that.

Part of the logic on this, too, goes back to the backlogs in the system. I believe the department is trying to shorten the time it takes to get your citizenship at the citizenship ceremony. However, the problems that are coming in the department and the problems there that are causing these very long times—these many months of delays and waiting to get your citizenship—are not primarily because of going to that ceremony. They're because of other things. They're because of things earlier in the process. They're problems within the department and issues that need to be corrected.

However, the solution seems to be essentially to penalize those people at the end of the process. It's probably the most meaningful part of the whole process to that person. The person doesn't necessarily.... There's no particular meaning inherent in the work that goes on—from the person's perspective—in IRCC. It's important work, absolutely, but it doesn't mean much to the person, because they can't see it. They don't see what's going on. To them, it's a big, black box. Things are just happening.

The meaningful part of getting your citizenship is that very last part, when you go to the citizenship ceremony, take that oath and walk across the stage, as I said before.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

That has been said.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Yes.

We don't believe it's fair to penalize that person at the end of the process by not allowing them to do that, by instituting an online way to do this. However, as we're saying, we need the ability to allow those who may have extenuating circumstances to be able to have an option to do that through an online way or through some other method.

We have to be very sure in doing so that we've protected the security of this situation, so that we know who the person is who's doing this. That's where this needs to be done carefully and not too broadly. At the same time, we don't want to make it an onerous process either, because we're not trying to penalize anybody because they happen to be ill, or whatever the case might be.

That's the background and the basis for making this motion. I don't know if my colleagues have any comments they want to make on this. This is something that is important to us and something that needs to be well thought out, but I think it really adds an avenue and a pathway to resolve any issues that may come up for people who are unable to physically attend.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm sorry, I was having a bite of pizza. I'm truly disappointed that Ms. Girard won't be able to have pizza with her husband this evening.

I've received some comments on Twitter from people watching us live who are affected by the amendment we are currently discussing, about the citizenship process. These are parents who really want this situation to be dealt with for their children, because it's still in limbo. I'm going to read you one of these comments in English, because I received it in English. I am unfortunately not talented enough to translate it into French. I hope my party will forgive me. It's the first time I have ever said anything here in English.

I answered them by saying that the process was being drawn out and that there were a lot of questions about the ceremony and other matters. That, in fact, is what most of the amendments we are debating are about. They said it was ridiculous. Here's what they told me.

They said there must be something that can be done by the rest of the committee members. They said this is a cruel injustice. They said children born in Canada do not have a citizenship ceremony, and neither should adoptive children. They said the bill is about amending the rights of citizens, not the process for a ceremony.

Do you agree with this comment I just received?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I fully agree with it, because the people affected by this bill will not have to go through a ceremony. The debate we are having does not affect lost Canadians or their children, who would benefit much more from the other amendments that were adopted by the committee.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

I have Mr. Kurek and then Ms. Lalonde.

Mr. Kurek.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

It's certainly interesting that when you look at the intent of this legislation and ensuring that those so-called lost Canadians are able to be recognized.... I know, for example, in hearing the very touching story, and I'm sure it's hard to hear, because I listened intently when it was debated in the House...ensuring that the process to seize that citizenship is realized.

I know a member, a Conservative colleague, is not specifically impacted by this, but it's a similar type of scenario. Consistently, when it comes specifically to this amendment and how it would strike a very appropriate balance, Madam Chair.... Balance is where as a committee we're able to accomplish so very much, because we are able to ensure that in the midst of what can often be ruckus in the House of Commons, we come to committee. We can take a breath, get to the root of what is important to our constituents and work with other political parties in an environment that is conducive to ensuring that can take place.

I think that's where this amendment specifically really strikes that right balance when it comes to an in-person ceremony, and I don't think it is any surprise to members around this table that Conservatives are very supportive of this. With all due respect to my Bloc colleague, there certainly is a significantly greater value placed on the idea of citizenship and its value by those of us who believe in a united country. Ensuring that we find the right balance that can be sought when there is not that ability to have an in-person, because there are dynamics....

I live in a rural constituency, Madam Chair, and it's 53,000 square kilometres. I heard a number of times of a constituent speaking on the phone with somebody from Service Canada, and they'll say, drop by number one Canada Place and we'll get that sorted out for you. Number one Canada Place in the province of Alberta happens to be in the city of Calgary, and that's a three and a half to a four-hour drive. It's finding that right balance because when it comes to the value of what citizenship is, there is something that is very practical, and then there's something that is less tangible. There's that value and assurance that you're becoming a part of this Canadian family, of those who have come before.

I could go on at length, but I won't. I'll spare the committee my very proud Canadian history and the more than five generations specifically in the Consort area and the farm. I will spare the committee that.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Kurek, please keep your comments on the amendment, otherwise I will have to cut you off.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Absolutely, Madam Chair.

The reason I bring that up, and I won't get into the details, is to ensure that there is that ability for where exceptions need to be made. I think for all of us around this table—and quite often I think in Parliament—it's exceptions that become the debate point that defines the direction of public policy, whereas I think that the general trends are far better as the determining factor for what public policy should be, and exceptions need to be noted so that they can be accommodated.

Specifically when it comes to this amendment, we see a very pragmatic option: that the minister—and I have no doubt the processes that the minister would be able to create surrounding where the requirement for an in-person citizenship ceremony could be waived—would be entirely reasonable.

We have a democratic infrastructure in this country that ensures that there is the ability for the government, given the mandate to govern by the people, to ensure that something that can and should be taken as seriously as it is—that idea of citizenship.... When an exception is required, there would be that very straightforward ability to ensure that, without undue strain on an individual or a family, or whatever the case is, whether it be because of an illness or an economic circumstance, or a global pandemic.... We would see that those options can be offered in those circumstances as requested, because it gives the minister that ability. That's key, Madam Chair, because the minister is—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

You have already made that point, so please avoid repetition.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Absolutely not. The reason, however, that the minister's involvement is so significant comes to the actual last two words of this amendment, and the last two words are “as requested”. This is because it's the minister's involvement as the keystone of the democratic involvement of a government related to specifically, in this case, a department.... I won't go into any more details of the governance structure of executive government.

However, it's the “as requested” that really sits at the...why this amendment is so reasonable, because we are talking about welcoming individuals into the Canadian family, taking the oath. They are being entrusted with a great level of responsibility. That's the nature of what citizenship is—it comes with responsibility.

In the midst of everything I've shared, I'll just conclude my comments with this, Madam Chair. It's ensuring that there are reasonable grounds for exceptions where required, and that the minister's involved, but then it ultimately comes down to those who are asking and engaging in the process to join the Canadian family. That truly gives the grounds for why this so reasonable. It's that beginning stage of responsibility, and then, of course, the full responsibility of citizenship, whether that's voting, political involvement, or paying taxes—the whole deal that comes along with that. It's signalling the responsibility associated with what that looks like in the very nature of what this amendment is meant to, I think, reasonably accomplish.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Dhaliwal.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Madam Chair, let me help my friend, Mr. Redekopp. Perhaps he will be able to vote against his own amendment.

The IRCC very well knows that our office is the busiest office in Canada. There are far more cases than any other MP has across Canada. I see the compassionate cases that come forward as well. Now it's taking them about 34 months.

Being a professional engineer, I'm also very practical as well. This bill is giving every individual an opportunity, as Madam Girard explained earlier. If an individual wants to have a ceremony in person, they can go and take the oath in person; if they cannot do that, they can do it online. We are already giving that option that my dear Conservative friends are looking forward to, but when we get into these compassionate grounds, there are 350,000 cases every year—350,000. People are going to come out and say they can't go in person for certain reasons. Everybody is going to think that their case is the compassionate case, and then they will take it to the minister.

In fact, this will cause more delays and more backlogs in the system. Instead of reducing the backlogs, in fact, we will be creating more backlogs, and I would like to ask officials if they would agree with me on that particular issue, when the compassionate cases are already taking 34 months. It will put more pressure on the department.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.

Next on the list is Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

On a point of order, Madam Chair.

My colleague Mr. Dhaliwal concluded his comments with a question, and Ms. Girard was about to answer it.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry. I was just pouring water, so I couldn't put on the mike.

Yes, go ahead, Ms. Girard, before we go to Mr. Redekopp.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Thank you, Madam Chair.

The member is correct. The proposed amendment would require an assessment by the department and resources to put behind that, and that would potentially have an impact. It would certainly have an operational impact, and it could have an impact on processing times.

I'd like to also take this opportunity to note that the term “compassionate grounds” is not defined. I'm quite open with people who know me that I'm a cancer survivor. In 2016, I was extremely ill for a period of a year. I went through cancer treatment and was functionally disabled. During that time, I would not have been able to make it to an in-person ceremony, or even a virtual one, because I wouldn't have felt very dignified sitting up in a hospital bed to participate in a virtual ceremony.

The proposal we spoke about earlier—which is a regulatory proposal at this time—that would offer people the opportunity to attend a ceremony, as now, to take their oath, or to take their oath online and celebrate their ceremony at a later date, could account for many compassionate scenarios, including ones where people may be extremely ill and have to go through very taxing treatment. They would still be able to become citizens at the same time as other members of their family without having to go through a laborious decision-making process about whether their individual circumstances and their illness qualify as compassionate circumstances. If, down the line, they feel that they're able to participate in a ceremony at that later date, then that would be possible under that kind of proposal. It's not clear that the proposal that is on the floor for debate would allow that.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard, for sharing your personal challenges. I, myself, have gone through stage 4 cancer, and I know exactly what you mean. I really appreciate your sharing it. Thank you.

Next on the list is Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To both of you women, I appreciate your sharing that. I highly respect you, and I'm really glad you're here participating in this tonight.

There have been some great questions from Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe and from Mr. Dhaliwal, as well. I just want to speak to the issue that was raised by Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, which I think is this: Why is this amendment even here, and what's the reason for this amendment? I think it's really important to remember why this particular amendment is here.

When this bill was started, the intent was fairly narrowly defined. Then, through a long story that I won't repeat, there were ideas to expand this. Ultimately, it ended up in the House, where—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Redekopp, I'm sorry for interrupting. This has already been mentioned.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

On this one?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

You have raised this issue of why or how the scope was expanded and all that. You have already spoken on that.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Madam Chair, this was—


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I have a point of order.

Madam Chair, you know how fond I am of you. Truly. But the interpreters have mentioned several times that you need to turn on your microphone so that they can translate what you're saying. I know the pace is often fast, but what's involved here is the welfare, health and safety of our employees, for whom we have the highest regard and who are working overtime this evening.

It's just a short “reminder”, as they say in Ontario.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

It will not happen again, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe. I'm sorry for that.

Mr. Redekopp, the discussion on the scope and the expansion has already happened. I would request that you please keep your comments on this amendment, CPC-8.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe raised this issue of scope, and I haven't had a chance to speak to it on this amendment, so I need to respond to his question and his thoughts on the issue of scope as it relates to this amendment. It's about why this amendment is here.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Redekopp.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe had a question about whether this was in order or not. I checked with the legislative clerk. It is in order. That's why we are debating it. That was his question, and that was already answered. Please....


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

He further asked Ms. Girard, I believe, about the.... Maybe we need to go back and look at it, but his question had to do with why this is here, because it has nothing to do with the original lost Canadians. I believe that was the question that was loosely asked. That's my loosened paraphrase of his question.

I'm speaking about this because it's a very good question, and it does specifically get to why its here. In order to answer that question, it needs to be through the lens of scope. That's why I'm speaking to that. I haven't had a chance to speak to that on this amendment, not since Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe asked the question. That's why I'm mentioning that.

The point that's important to understand here is that the original scope was very narrow. This scope has been widened. The government purposely widened the scope. This gets to how an amendment like this in a bill that has to do with lost Canadians.... The government specifically amended this bill to allow it to be wide open so that they could do more than just what the original intent of the bill was. The original intent of the bill was fairly defined, fairly simple. It would probably have passed through here quite quickly, but as we now know, as you add things to this bill, it becomes more complicated and takes longer. Why do you do that? It's because you don't have a lot of opportunities to actually make changes to the Citizenship Act. This is an opportunity to make changes to the Citizenship Act.

Just as the originator of this bill had an idea to change the Citizenship Act, the NDP and the Liberals got together and decided there were some other changes they wanted to make. It's totally within their right to suggest that, and they have the power through their grouped majority to actually make it happen, so they did.

Then we ended up in a different place. We're no longer just looking at the lost Canadians bill. We are looking essentially at a statutory review of the Citizenship Act, because this is the one opportunity we have to suggest and make those changes that we believe are important and will improve the Citizenship Act for all future Canadians. That is the reason we are looking at some of these different ideas here.

This is our chance to go into the bill and to make those changes that we've discussed and haven't had an opportunity to make. We hadn't had a vehicle, so to speak, to make those changes. It's the same logic the government used when they decided to add some of the amendments they added.

I don't think it's fair to accuse one person, one member on this committee, of adding an amendment when someone else on this committee has added an amendment to do something that expands the scope of the original bill. That's the better understanding of why this is here. I hope that helps Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe understand that a bit better.

We certainly want the best outcome for Canadians, and we want the Citizenship Act to be the best possible regulation and law that it can. That's why we've done this, and that's the reason this particular amendment is in here.

I just wanted to make that clear, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Aboultaif.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Thank you. I'm going to change the questioning to Ms. Girard.

In the existing bill that is proposed, S-245, how does this amendment speak to what we already have? Do we have a mechanism to deal with the situation where compassionate grounds are a fact?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, as in my response to another member of this committee moments ago, I would reiterate that those who are benefiting from this bill are generally receiving citizenship automatically by operation of law, so they are not required to go through a citizenship ceremony. That would be the first point.

The second point is that the flexibility already exists where citizenship applicants may need accommodation. As I mentioned, we already have the possibility of virtual citizenship ceremonies. If someone misses their ceremony through no fault of their own, they can be rescheduled. If they have circumstances that may require them to have their ceremony at a later date for reasons of illness and so forth, the citizenship program is facilitative and looks to accommodate those different kinds of circumstances.

Thank you.


Ziad Aboultaif Edmonton Manning, AB
Conservative

Based on historical records, do we know how often the minister interferes or intervenes in these circumstances? What's the percentage of cases versus regular cases that exist on an annual basis?

If you have those figures, I think they would be helpful to the conversation. Thank you.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Chair, I don't currently have statistics before me on the number of requests for accommodation on compassionate grounds. I would have to check what data the department has and provide what is available to this committee at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Ms. Girard.

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ms. Girard, I have a brief question for you.

The wording of the amendment we are now discussing mentions compassionate grounds. According to the proposed description, would officials be able to clearly understand what constitutes compassionate grounds and make appropriate decisions? From the legislative standpoint, can the concept of compassionate grounds be applicable to different situations? If not, it would be totally arbitrary or abstract.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Guidelines would indeed be necessary for the people who would be reviewing applications, in order to give them parameters and prevent any arbitrary application of this provision.

We need to ask whether compassionate grounds might include instances in which certain people need flexibility because of financial limitations or other factors. Health problems could also be considered on compassionate grounds. For example, could people who have cancer have an exemption, while others with different health problems would not? Determining who is entitled to flexibility and an exemption is a difficult process, and we would like to avoid requiring officials to rule on these. The application of this provision needs to be more consistent if people are to have ready access to the flexibility they need, for all kinds of reasons. It should include financial or other considerations in addition to health constraints.

That's precisely why the regulatory proposal was put forward: to give applicants the opportunity to take part in their citizenship ceremony in accordance with current procedures, or to do so online at a later date.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

For example, compassionate grounds might include parental reasons, such as someone who is the head of a single-parent family, who does not necessarily—


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Definitely. That's right.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

So the scope of compassionate grounds would be broadened.

In fact, if we were to adopt the amendment as it is currently worded, there is a risk of creating all kinds of problems, and in particular leaving us quite some distance from achieving the main objective of Bill S‑245, which is to grant citizenship to people who should never have lost it in the first place.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Yes, we have a long way to go.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

We have a really long way to go.

I always get a kick out of my Conservative friends, and especially this evening. I understand what they're up to, and it's altogether legitimate. We're allowed to do this in committee as part of the parliamentary process. However, I'm just wondering about something, and I'd like to ask Ms. Girard about it.

I'd like to report that the messages keep coming into my Twitter account. There are all kinds of people watching us this evening, at 9:15 p.m. I would imagine, Ms. Girard, that your husband is there too. All kinds of people watching us this evening are wondering what the heck we're up to at the moment. At this point, there should be just one amendment left to look at, amendment G‑10, and then we'd be done with the amendments, I think—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'm sorry for interrupting, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.

Please keep your comments to the amendment we have on the floor. It's amendment CPC-8.

If you can, please keep your comments to the amendment.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Of course, Madam Chair. My comments will continue to be about amendment CPC‑8, which concerns compassionate grounds. In fact I believe we will all be needing them this evening.

So, many of the people watching this evening are wondering why we are now discussing amendment CPC‑8, which I can read to you once more:

24 (5) Should a person be unable—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Just one second, I have Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Madam Chair, you've been trying to make sure that we don't repeat ourselves, and I think we've been trying not to do that. I think Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe did just raise this very same issue in his prior intervention.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We are getting into a debate.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, if you can avoid repetition, please go ahead.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Yes, but I hadn't yet read the amendment. I have the right to do that, because it's the first time I am doing so. I will therefore read the amendment:

24 (5) Should a person be unable to attend an in‑person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement only on compassionate grounds and a virtual option should be offered in those circumstances as requested.

The wording uses the conditional, and says “should be offered in those circumstances”.

Is it possible to have an amendment that would completely change the bill and conditionally have force of law when it uses the wording “should be”? Have you seen that often? I'm asking you the question.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I'm not aware of all the precedents, but it's up to Parliament to legislate. We, the officials, are there to implement the law faithfully, as the expression goes.

My understanding of the proposed amendment Is that the conditional wording pertains to the applicant's request. That's my assumption.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I asked because I don't really know how I'm going to vote on this amendment.

On the one hand, I'm wondering how compassionate grounds would be applied, as we discussed earlier, and whose scope is extremely broad. On the other, how will an amendment like this be applied if a conditional verb is attached to it?

I will now ask the legislative clerks. Is the wording different in French and English? In French, the conditional is used. I may be mistaken.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe. I will clarify with the legislative clerk and get back to you.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, I've checked with the legislative clerk. The language that has been used can be used.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Okay, good.

I have a final question about the amendment, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Currently, the act allows someone who makes the request to participate in the citizenship ceremony virtually. If this change is made to the bill and it is incorporated into the act, what difference would it make?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Here's what would change. The committee provided statistics that were obtained for the 2022 year—


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Excuse me, Madam Chair, but I'm having trouble hearing, because people in the room are talking a lot.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Can I please request that we not have side conversations so that everyone can understand? With interpretation, it is very difficult to hear if people are speaking on the side. Please avoid side conversations.

Go ahead.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Briefly, practically speaking, it would take away some of the flexibility the department currently has to combine, as it usually does, the personal and virtual ceremonies. The virtual ceremonies would really be limited to those specified in the requested exception on humanitarian grounds. It's impossible to know ahead of time what that would amount to.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I haven't finished, Madam Chair. I have a lot to say about this amendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you.

In the federal government, there is usually a single window through which the public can file complaints about any of the departments. I would imagine that your department sometimes receives complaints from the public.

Since the introduction of virtual citizenship ceremonies, have you received any complaints from people who found the experience unpleasant and regretted not having taken part in the in‑person ceremony?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I'm not aware of any such complaints. There may have been some, but I haven't heard about them. In view of my responsibilities, I'd like to believe that if such a complaint were made, I would have known about it and received information about it.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Have you received any complaints from people who wanted to attend the citizenship ceremony in person but who were unable to do so, and who refused to attend virtually because they did not like that option?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


If a virtual ceremony has been scheduled for applicants, and they are emphatic about wanting an in‑person ceremony, I believe we do everything possible to accommodate them.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I believe that's all for now.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to go back to Mr. Dhaliwal's conversation that he had. I was going to ask him a question, because he has a lot of constituents in his riding for whom he does a lot of immigration cases, but I don't see him here. He must have just stepped out.

Do you want to come back to me when he comes back?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, we will come back.

Go ahead, Mr. Kurek.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

[Inaudible—Editor]


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We'll have no side conversations, please.

Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative
I'm happy to cede the floor back to Mr. Hoback.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Kurek has the floor, and then we will go back to Mr. Hoback.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have two points.

One is very specifically related to the amendment, the carving out of an exemption here and ensuring that the responsibility is placed upon those who will be new citizens.

Obviously, there's a much larger conversation to be had—which we will not have tonight—surrounding the immigration backlogs and certainly some of the challenges. Although my office may not have as much volume, certainly there's a host that could be talked about. I won't go there.

However, I do want to specifically comment on what was said in the previous comments. I have received a fair amount of feedback from constituents and their families who have been frustrated with the move to Zoom ceremonies. It's certainly my hope that this would filter its way up. When I've heard from constituents, in many cases they've come from countries where governments do not welcome criticism, so sometimes they're unwilling to or feel that they may not be able to rock the boat, if I could use that expression.

As a member of Parliament developing a relationship with constituents and specifically navigating the intricacies of casework, especially those circumstances that end up in our offices, these are generally the ones that fall through the cracks.

Certainly, I've heard from a host of constituents and their families that they would have preferred to have an in-person option. Further, there have been a number of instances where I've heard from constituents that, when there have been requests to accommodate and specifically the desire for there to be that in-person option....

In fact, here is a very touching story. It was at the height of COVID. There was an outdoor celebration that took place, where they did the ceremony virtually and then had an outdoor celebration. They were really disappointed that they couldn't do it together, in person. They had an outdoor, distanced celebration that somewhat resembled a wedding or graduation. It was a very touching story. I was sent pictures. It was very moving.

It's certainly feedback that I've heard. If I'm one of 338 members of Parliament hearing that feedback, I have no doubt that there are additional members.

I just want to note that certainly those going through the process don't want to question the process of the country they're asking to become a citizen of. There's a hesitancy. Especially when you hear some of the stories of those who have come to Canada because they're fleeing persecution or whatever the case is, it's completely valid. Their past experience informs their perspective, although, in some cases, they learn how our free and democratic openness, the ability to criticize and the freedoms associated with fair elections—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Perhaps you could come to the point on the amendment, please, Mr. Kurek.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Absolutely.

That's where it's the ability to ensure that those voices are heard.

In relation to a question I had asked previously, I won't ask the officials to reanswer, but it would be very helpful to understand that feedback from, I assume, round tables and whatnot. It would be very helpful to understand what types of responses were given as we're confronted with having to deal with some of these circumstances. There could be that fulsome understanding to ensure that policy is actually reflective of what is in the best interests of the people of this country and not necessarily a particular agenda.

With that, I will close my comments for now.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

We will go back to Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Through you, I'd like to ask a few questions of Mr. Dhaliwal because he does handle a lot of immigration cases. I worked with the gentleman on other committees. I know that he's a fairly honourable person. He wants what's best.

I'm curious. Do you have an example of compassionate grounds and how they function right now, and how this amendment would change that? If it's not accurate, then what would you do to amend it to make it accurate so that it makes it better?


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

First of all, I would like to explain why I left. I left because.... You do have good relationships with the other side when you travel together. When it comes to Mr. Hoback, he's one of those friends on the other side, and we have a very great relationship, as well as Larry Maguire. He was in the room, and I was telling him—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Could you come to the point on the amendment, please?


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

I'm going to come back to the point, Madam Chair, because I went there to tell Larry, and said—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Please, come to the point.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

Okay, Madam Chair.

The question he asked me is a very serious question.

In fact, I see many cases come to our office that are of a compassionate nature, and that's not necessarily because we are elected people but because we have hearts. When it comes to officials, they have to go through a lot of things when they make their decisions. It's not necessarily just the thing that is compassionate to us that will fit their criteria. They have to make sure that they do their duty to determine that case.

Today, if we look at any case for which we apply or we inquire about for the waiting times, as was mentioned earlier, Madam Chair, it is 34 to 36 months, because they have to make sure that they do their duty—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I think this point was raised earlier and was explained.

Mr. Hoback, you asked the question, so the next one I have on the floor to have a question is—


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

He didn't really get a chance to answer it.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I think he has explained it.

Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

He didn't get a chance to answer the question. He was just heading there.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Are you going to have a point of order on it?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

What he was trying to explain has already been explained, so I'll go to Mr. Redekopp.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

No. I have a point of order, Chair. I was asking if he had any suggestions—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

This is going into debate. It's not a point of order.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

You haven't even heard me. How can you say it's debate?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

You have already raised this. He has answered it.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

No, I have not. You don't know what I'm going to say.

Ma'am, I asked if he had any suggestions to amend it and to make it better so that it functioned better.

He has not gotten to that point in his answer. Would you give him the floor so he could complete his answer?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I'll ask you to, please, give a quick answer without going into other conversations.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

Madam Chair, the short answer is that I already explained that we should give an opportunity to people who want to have this oath ceremony in person. They should be able to go in person. If people do not want to go in person, then they are satisfied, because we are fighting for them in fact. The Conservatives are fighting for those people who want to do it in person.

Parliament is already giving them the opportunity if they want to go and have a personal oath, and we already have that for compassionate reasons. If people are not able to go, for any reason, they should be able to do it anywhere instead of the department determining it and delaying it for another three to four years.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.

Mr. Redekopp.
Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just for your information, we will have another amendment after this one. That's just so that you're aware.

I wanted to go back. Monsieur Brunelle-Duceppe had asked the officials this question of compassionate grounds. I think it was a good question. I just need some clarity from the officials on this.

It sounded like you were not very supportive of the wording because it's not specific enough. I think that is generally what you were saying, but here's where I'm confused. Is that not what regulations are for? Is that not something that's done on a very regular basis?

I'm sure there are many examples of legislation that is not clear down to the specific details, but it's the implementation by the department through the regulations, through the gazetting process, that actually enumerates all of those important details that we as legislators don't have the ability and the insights, frankly, to do. You probably don't want legislation coming from us that is very prescriptive and that is very specific, because it's likely to cause unintended consequences, as we've talked about many times at these hearings.

I would ask that question to the officials, Madam Chair.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, as has been mentioned, flexibility is needed in the system to accommodate a variety of circumstances, but the larger point I've been seeking to make through my comments about design and how the program is delivered is that “one size fits all” equality is not equity. Right now, as Mr. Dhaliwal and others have mentioned, people who have compassionate circumstances have to come forward to the department and make a request. The request needs to be assessed. That takes additional time. It can take additional documentation. Citizenship is delayed.

The Government of Canada needs to do better in terms of accessibility and in terms of how we serve Canadians. Rather than having the critically ill come on bended knee and say, “I need compassionate circumstances. I need some flexibility and I'd still like to become a citizen,” the idea is to accommodate these kinds of circumstances by design: If you have no issues and you wish to attend your ceremony, select that option and take your oath at your ceremony. If you have some circumstances, don't take additional months to make a special exceptional request of the department for accommodation. Select an e-oath. Become a citizen right away. Celebrate that ceremony with your loved ones at a later date, when it's possible for you, if that's an opportunity that you would like to take up.

I have no further comment, Madam Chair. Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.

According to what I've heard, if this amendment were applied, there would be a lot more paperwork and red tape.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


That's right.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

And yet the Conservatives are bragging about their common sense and the need to reduce red tape, paperwork and the amount of time required. That may not be their intent, but this amendment would mean that it would take longer to process applications.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I'm convinced that this would be an unintended outcome of the proposed amendment, even though I think it was well-intentioned. Practically speaking, however, implementing this amendment would have the effect that was just described.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Girard, if we were to vote in favour of amendment CPC‑8, and this provision were added to the act, what difference would it make?

We are speaking hypothetically once again. All kinds of hypothetical scenarios were raised during the debates and the work on this bill. As there are a lot of singular circumstances with respect to lost Canadians, we have to look at specific cases.

If this amendment were implemented, what difference would it make?

Let's take a hypothetical case, about which I've spoken before. Let's look at what would happen if Quebec were to become an independent country in a few years. What would happen to children who are born in Quebec afterwards? Logically, given that Canada recognizes dual citizenship, Quebeckers born in Canada would have Quebec and Canadian citizenship, but the first and second generations of children of Quebeckers born in an independent Quebec, and hence outside Canada, would have Canadian citizenship.

If we were to adopt this amendment, what would change if Quebec were to become a country? The next two generations born outside Canada would have Canadian citizenship and could vote in Canadian federal elections, even though they are living in an independent Quebec.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I can't comment on a theoretical scenario with respect to Quebec, but I can confirm two things.

First of all, based on the amendments to the bill that have already been adopted by the committee with respect to Canadian children born abroad, meaning outside of Canada, the second and subsequent generations would have access to citizenship provided that the Canadian parent meets the connection criterion established by the committee. The member could apply this consideration to a scenario.

Secondly, the amendment currently being discussed would not affect this cohort, which would benefit from new provisions, because there wouldn't be a ceremony for them. They would automatically become Canadian citizens. Those born abroad, meaning outside of Canada, would not need to take part in a citizenship ceremony.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

That's the answer I was really looking for. I asked the question in a roundabout way.

When all is said and done, this amendment would change absolutely nothing in terms of first‑ or second-generation citizenship for children born outside the country.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


That's right.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Mazier, you have the floor.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Madam Chair, I would like to propose a subamendment, using some common sense here.

Where it says, “Should a person be unable to attend an in-person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement”, strike “only on compassionate grounds”, and start over again with “and a virtual option”. Then strike “should” and replace it with “be offered in those circumstances as requested.”


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will repeat that.

The change that he is requesting is that it will read as, “Should a person be unable to attend an in-person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement and a virtual option be offered in those circumstances as requested.”

That is the subamendment.

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, go ahead.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Could we have it in writing in French, please? I wouldn't want our interpreters, who are working very hard, to be put under even more pressure. It's not up to them to come up with the wording for a subamendment or an amendment in the other language. I would therefore like to have the official version in French.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will ask Mr. Mazier to please read it again and, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, I hope you can get the translation.

Yes, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe...?


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Madam Chair, I am truly sorry to have to say this, but the interpretation of a subamendment or an amendment is not considered the official wording. That's not something interpreters have in their job description.

I'm sorry, Mr. Mazier, but that's how it works. There are two official languages in Canada, my dear friend. If you want to introduce a subamendment or an amendment, it has to be provided in writing in the official French version. That's how things work if you want to comply with your Canadian statutes.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will suspend the meeting for two minutes.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will read the text as it will stand after the subamendment so everyone can hear the translation. Copies are not being provided.

It reads, “Should a person be unable to attend an in-person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement and a virtual option be offered in those circumstances as requested.”

It strikes off “only on compassionate grounds” after the word “requirement”, and also the word “should” after the words “virtual option”.

We have a subamendment on the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Mazier.


Dan Mazier Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB
Conservative

Thank you, Madam Chair. I think this really does strike a nice balance, given everything that's been said.

For the department, they have very clear directions that we have a compromise there. Even if someone doesn't have access to anything, there is an escape hatch, and I think this is one of the more concerning things I have seen in any type of legislation we write. Many times people in rural Canada are forgotten and it's not on purpose. I know it's not, but that flavour, that ability for a citizen, a person, to be able to appeal the process and be able to work with the government and work with the department, this clause, this phrase, would allow them to do that. I think it's an important thing to do, especially when it comes to citizenship. You're still dealing with a new person in this country, and they're very unfamiliar. For heaven's sake, they'd be very intimidated in dealing with the government.

They've been questioning everything they were doing anyway, and I think this would show a nice balance to the intent of this legislation, and I would hope that the committee can support this one amendment. It would really address and put some calm over the whole process and over the whole bill.

Thank you.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We'll have Mr. Kurek and then Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Damien Kurek Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Conservative

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you to Mr. Mazier for what I think is really getting at the heart of both what the Conservatives are trying to accomplish with this amendment but also, in light of the feedback received from other parties and other officials, to make sure that it gives the discretion required while maintaining the heart of what we're endeavouring to accomplish, and that is to ensure that the value of that process of joining the Canadian family is in fact preserved.

I think, actually, if one looks at this amendment in the context of the larger conversation and specifically the subamendment that takes in some of that feedback—and we're endeavouring to be constructive here—it accomplishes and checks all the boxes required to ensure that what would be passed as part of Bill S-245 actually accomplishes the stated objective.

I won't get into some of the details about the scope being opened up and some of the debates surrounding Senator Martin and some of the past elements of what got us to this point. I won't go there, but I would hope that members of this committee would see that we're certainly willing to be constructive and collaborative and get to a point where some of the concerns that have been raised are addressed. I think this will be a step forward, both for this amendment but also for the bill itself.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Go ahead, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

So my understanding is that if the subamendment were adopted, the proposed wording in the amendment would become: “Should a person be unable to attend an in‑person citizenship ceremony, the Minister may waive this requirement and a virtual option be offered in those circumstances as requested.”

Ms. Girard, if we were to adopt this modified version of the amendment, what change would it make in comparison to what we have now?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Speaking for the officials here today, we are not sure that there would be much of a difference between this wording and the existing provisions in terms of future citizenship ceremonies.

On the other hand, as I said earlier, it does not reflect the regulatory proposal with respect to a third option for people who are unable, for a variety of reasons or circumstances, to take part in a ceremony in person or virtually. These would likely have to be good reasons, whether temporary or permanent. In fact, it's for a future proposal.

I have nothing more to add.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I understand, but if we were to adopt this amendment, it wouldn't change anything with respect to the third option.

At the moment, when someone wants to take part in a citizenship ceremony virtually…

I'm waiting for people in the room to stop talking, Madam Chair.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


Madam Chair, could the member repeat his question?


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I may in fact have been the one to have misunderstood. Did you say that if we were to adopt this amendment it would change the third option you mentioned?


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


I'm going to clarify the regulatory proposal. In addition to allowing people to decide whether to take part in a ceremony in person or virtually, as is currently the case, the proposal is to allow those applying for citizenship to select an option that would allow them to take the oath online and attend a ceremony at a later date.

This wording does not clearly indicate that this possibility is available. Indeed, the wording before us seems to mainly reflect the current state of affairs, which is that you can choose between an in‑person ceremony and a virtual one, but it does not reflect the intent of the regulatory proposal, which is that people can choose to take the oath online and participate in a ceremony afterwards.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

I understand precisely what you're saying. Nevertheless, I'm not the one who came up with that wording; it was the Conservatives who proposed a subamendment to their own amendment.

The English version says “virtual option”. In French, “option virtuelle” could be a reference to responding online to the connection criterion—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, I'm sorry for interrupting.

Go ahead, Mr. Dhaliwal.


Sukh Dhaliwal Surrey—Newton, BC
Liberal

Madam Chair, I know there's an important discussion going on, but if there's a hard stop at 10 o'clock, we should give Madam Kwan an opportunity to bring up the motion that she raised earlier on students, if she wants to.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe has the floor. Let him finish.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

What I am trying to point out is that our Conservative friends proposed a subamendment to their own amendment, but that it doesn't seem to change anything at all compared to what is currently being done. That's more or less what I was saying.

You've given a partial answer to my question: you too appear to be wondering about the option for responding online with respect to the connection clause and participating in the ceremony afterwards. The French words “option virtuelle” could cover what is currently the case. Logically speaking, it could be interpreted in that way.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


It's possible, but that remains to be seen.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

It's true that it's vague.


Nicole Girard
Director General, Citizenship Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration


That's right.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Bloc

Thank you.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Thank you.

Mr. Redekopp—


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Madam Chair, on a point of order—


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

I wanted to speak to the subamendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

We have a hard stop at 10 o'clock. We will have no services beyond 10 o'clock.

Ms. Kwan, would you like to have the floor to add to what had you mentioned at the beginning?


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I have point of order, Chair.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Yes, Mr. Hoback.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

I understand that you have run out of the budget for this committee. You don't have a budget for meals and things like that. Are you going to propose increasing the budget for these meetings so that members and interpreters and staff can actually be properly fed at night, instead of just ordering in pizza at the last minute?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will work on that with the clerk to see what can be done.

Ms. Kwan.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

Excuse me, Madam Chair.

Will you be bringing that to committee, then, to review and vote on? You will actually have to amend the original budget—


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

I will discuss it with the clerk and the authorities, and then get back to the committee. I will have to check on that and then get back.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK
Conservative

When can I expect you to get back to us?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

In the next meeting.

Go ahead, Mr. Redekopp.


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

On a point of order, Madam Chair, I'm trying to understand what's going on here. Forgive me, because I don't necessarily know all the rules.

We are debating an amendment and then a subamendment, and I believe you have a speaking list on your paper there. I'm confused—maybe the clerk can help us out here—as to how we are moving to Ms. Kwan when you have a speaking order and we're on a clause-by-clause subamendment.


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Let me clarify that.

She mentioned, and I said to her, that she could do that at the end. I have the speaking list. That will be maintained. We will be coming back to that.

With that, I will pass the—


Brad Redekopp Saskatoon West, SK
Conservative

Madam Chair, I'm not done on the point of order.

I'd like to know, because that doesn't jibe with what I know about how committees work. Could the clerk confirm that this is something you actually can do?


The Chair Salma Zahid
Liberal

Our resources are running out. I'm suspending the meeting.

I have the speaking list. We will come back to it.

[The meeting was suspended at 9:58 p.m., Monday, June 5]

[The meeting resumed at 3:36 p.m., Tuesday, June 6]


https://openparliament.ca/committees/immigration/44-1/70/?singlepage=1

CIMM#54: Inquiring with IRCC officials about Bill S-245 and the Lost Canadians issue

"For sure, this Citizenship Act is a complex file, with so many changes over the years that amendments brought to the table often require amendments to the exception to the exception and so on. It's extremely confusing.


From my perspective, first off, I'd like to say that we have before us Bill S-245, and I want to acknowledge and thank Senator Yonah Martin for bringing this before us, because it gives us an opportunity to look into this issue and see how we can fix some of the problems. Maybe it will never be possible to fix all of the problems, but I think it will be important and incumbent on all of us to do our very best to try to fix as many problems as possible.

I appreciate the briefing in terms of your highlighting some of those areas. On the question around unintended consequences, I'd like to probe a little bit deeper into this issue around other countries, where, if you were to confer citizenship to the individual, it might cause them a heap of trouble, because in whatever country they might be in they may not be allowed to, for example, have dual citizenship.

Of course, conferring citizenship automatically in this way was done before. It was done under Bill C-37, it was done under Bill C-24 and so on. Somehow it was dealt with in those previous scenarios. I get it that times might have changed. There might be more people living globally, but nonetheless the premise of that has not changed.

Can you advise us on how officials addressed those issues back then? Why was it okay then to confer citizenship without these concerns of unintended consequences, but now it is a key concern?”

Toronto Star: Is the government doing enough to help these ‘lost Canadians’?

Opposition MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, said the citizenship law has been amended so many times with exceptions layered with exceptions that the regime has become so complex and it’d be much simpler and better just to bring in a brand new act.

“It was the conservatives who actually took out the passing on of citizenship to future generations, so there is a reluctance for them to get into this because they have to admit that they were wrong,” said Kwan.

“It’s a mystery to me why the Liberals wouldn’t want to fix it, other than to say that the Liberals are true to form, always says the right thing but they can never follow up with action.”

HANSARD: Addressing the issue of Lost Canadian

Madam Speaker, for decades some Canadians have found themselves to be stateless due to a number of convoluted immigration laws. Some have found themselves all of a sudden losing their Canadian status and they do not know why.
In 2007, the UN listed Canada as one of the top offending countries for making their own people stateless. In 2009, the Conservatives said they were going to address this issue with Bill C-37. In fact, Jason Kenney was the minister of immigration then. Sadly, Bill C-37 did not properly address the lost Canadians issue. At the time, even Conservative minister Diane Finley acknowledged that Bill C-37 would not fix all of the cases of lost Canadians.
In fact, Jason Kenney created a brand new set of problems. For the purposes of this discussion, I will not get into the issues of how the Conservatives eliminated people's right to appeal when the government revoked their citizenship. I will simply focus on the issue of lost Canadians.

CBC: Can new legislation help 'Lost Canadians' be found again?

But there's another category of Lost Canadians the new legislation won't address.

The "second-generation cutoff" is a rule under Bill C-37 that permanently denies the first generation born abroad the ability to automatically pass on citizenship to their children if they are also born outside Canada. 

It also eliminated the ability to gain citizenship by showing a "substantial connection" to Canada. Now those second-generation children have to be sponsored by their parents to come to Canada as permanent residents, then apply for citizenship like any other immigrant.
Critics say it has created two classes of Canadian citizenship — one for Canadians born in Canada and one for those born abroad. 

"What's discriminatory about the Citizenship Act is that there is no way that people can rid themselves of this second-class status, no matter how close and deep their ties to Canada are," said Sujit Choudhry, a constitutional lawyer in Toronto representing seven families living in Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, who are all affected by this rule. 

Link: NDP MP Jenny Kwan To Table Bill To Close Citizenship Law Gaps Creating “Lost Canadians”

“It is absurd that Canada continues to have gaps in our citizenship laws that lead to groups of ‘Lost Canadians’ suddenly finding themselves without status in Canada. What’s more, it’s 2016, why is Canada persisting with a multi-year court case on the strength of a law that the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled to unconstitutional?”

After a series of consultations with stakeholder groups and immigration law experts, MP Kwan will be tabling a Private Member’s Bill to address gaps and outdated provisions with the Citizenship Actthat resulted in people who should be Canadian citizens losing or never receiving status in Canada. In some cases, impacted individuals find themselves stateless all of a sudden.

Globe: Children born abroad to Canadians may end up as ‘lost Canadians’

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who has met with other affected families, called the policy "discriminatory" against Canadians who choose to work abroad, especially in today's global economy.

"The Prime Minister himself has said on many occasions now, 'a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.' This also applies to second-generation Canadians born abroad as well. They shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens," Ms. Kwan said.

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