Hill Times: Foreign interference bill passes, but online harms and citizenship bills left on hold until House comes back

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.), her party’s critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, told The Hill Times that she is frustrated with needing to wait longer for progress on Bill C-71.

“The issue around lost Canadians has been going on for literally decades. People have lost their status, families have been separated, some have been rendered stateless. It’s created significant, undue hardship for Canadian families, and this is primarily as a result of Canada’s archaic immigration citizenship laws,” said Kwan. “The Liberals, time and again, they say one thing and then they do another, and this is yet another example of them dragging their heels in fixing the lost Canadian issue.”

Kwan attempted to put forward a unanimous consent motion in the House on June 10 and on June 11 to urge parties to expedite passage of Bill C-71, but the motions did not receive unanimous consent.

“On the second occasion, I barely uttered my words before the Conservatives said, ‘No,’” said Kwan. “[Passing Bill C-71] is the right thing to do not only morally, but legally. It needed to be done and it should have been done.”

 

Highlights from the spring sitting of Parliament include passing bills related to countering foreign interference and support for workers in the clean-energy transition and during strikes, but other much-anticipated legislation, such as those contending with online harms and changes to Canada’s citizenship laws, will have to wait for the fall.

The House rose for the summer break on June 19, sending MPs back to their ridings until their return on Sept. 16. The Senate adjourned on June 20, and will resume on Sept. 17.

Government House Leader Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau, Que.) spoke to reporters on the Hill on June 19 and said that the minority Liberal government was proud of what it achieved in the spring sitting, which included passing 15 bills in 14 weeks. MacKinnon cited bills related to foreign interference, pharmacare, medical assistance in dying, and sustainable jobs as examples of bills that either passed in the spring sitting, or were on track for passage by the House.

“This is a remarkable list by any standard. It shows the House of Commons is a place where we can get things done on behalf of Canadians,” MacKinnon told reporters in French. “This is one of the most productive minority governments in the last few minority governments in Canada, and we are proud of those achievements.”

Legislation that crossed the royal assent finish line on June 20 included: Bill C-70, the Countering Foreign Interference Act, which establishes a foreign influence transparency registry, and Bill C-59, the Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, which includes substantial amendments to the Competition Act, such as an expanded general anti-avoidance rule, and removal of the GST/HST from psychotherapy and counselling services.

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Representatives of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) were on the Hill on June 26 to call the passage of Bill C-59 a “historic move” that will transform the mental health-care landscape in Canada.

“The CCPA has advocated for the removal of tax on counselling therapy and psychotherapy services for well over a decade. This tax-free therapy achievement reflects the tremendous effort and dedication of our association, our members, and our partners,” said Kim Hollihan, CCPA’s CEO, on the Hill. “With the GST/HST removed from these essential services, more Canadians will be able to access the care they need.”

Another organization pleased by legislative progress in the spring sitting was the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). On June 21, the CLC and its president Bea Bruske said in a press release that the spring sitting included “major and historic victories for the labour movement,” because of the passage of Bill C-50, the Sustainable Jobs Act, which requires the federal government to establish five-year plans and an advisory council to help workers transition to cleaner jobs, and Bill C-58, which is intended to ban the practice of employers bringing in replacement workers during a contract dispute.

“We’re really, really happy to see that pass, and, of course, that impacts a million workers in Canada working for the federally-regulated private sector, but also the focus that it gives for provinces and territories to potentially follow that kind of legislation is really important to us,” said Bruske in an interview with The Hill Times.

Bruske said that the next steps involved collaboration between the federal government and industry workers to set goals as the Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council is established, and as workers transition to the green-energy industry.

“What is that going to look like? How is that going to connect with what the provinces and territories might be thinking and doing?” said Bruske. “We also think that investing in not-for-profit worker training to figure out strategies for upskilling and reskilling is critically important. And, of course, when it comes to worker training, it’s really important that we also look at youth that are in schools right now. What are we telling youth? And how are we providing awareness of future jobs that we’re going to need?”

Organizations that have not supported Bill C-58 include the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which called the legislation “bad news for Canada, for Canadian families, and for Canadian workers,” in a press release on Feb. 28, 2024.

Perrin Beatty, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said in the press release that if the bill becomes law, the cost of strikes will be higher for Canadians.

“Last month, new research showed us that Canada is losing more hours worked to striking workers than it lost at any point during pandemic restrictions. And the government’s own discussion paper on this issue acknowledged that banning replacement workers is likely to mean more frequent strikes and lockouts. This will exacerbate our productivity problem, further erode our global reputation, and keep us from simply getting things done,” said Beatty in the press release.

Some highly anticipated bills that have yet to receive royal assent and must now wait for discussions to resume in the fall include Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act. The bill, introduced on Feb. 26 by Justice Minister Arif Virani (Parkdale-High Park, Ont.), is currently at second reading in the House. The legislation is intended to enact measures such as requiring social media platforms to implement tools to detect harmful content, and to establish a Digital Safety Commission of Canada.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), told The Hill Times that he is frustrated that the legislative finish line is still not yet in sight for Bill C-63. In an emailed statement on June 25, Fogel said that part of the federal government’s responsibility regarding the bill involves building “a multi-partisan consensus and securing the buy-in from all stakeholders.”

“While we believe the government has been acting in good faith, the fact that the legislation has again been kicked down the road speaks to the failure to achieve that needed consensus,” said Fogel in the emailed statement. “In the meantime, social media continues to serve as a weapon to target groups like the Jewish community. That is not only frustrating, it is deeply concerning, because the environment is becoming more radicalized, polarized, and free of the constraints that would modify behaviour. If we cannot make meaningful progress and secure constructive legislation to address online harms and hate very soon—especially given that there is an election looming—we may have to explore other remedies including a revitalization of the existing mechanisms in the Criminal Code that can, and some would argue should, be applied more robustly as a frontline strategy to deal with social media-based harms and hate.”

Fogel argued in the emailed statement that the goal of Bill C-63 should be to protect the most vulnerable people, “hold social media platforms accountable for what occurs on their sites,” and ensure that those companies are “part of the solution and assume ownership of ensuring online spaces are safe.”

Another highly-anticipated bill stuck at second reading in the House until the fall is Bill C-71, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (2024).

In December 2023, Ontario’s Superior Court ordered Ottawa to reverse restrictions imposed by the previous Conservative government in 2009, which prevented parents born outside Canada from passing on their citizenship status to children also born outside the country.

The court’s ruling was that the “second-generation cut-off” rule in section 3(3)(a) of the Canadian Citizenship Act is unconstitutional, and originally gave the Liberal government a deadline of June 19, 2024, to implement changes.

Bill C-71, introduced by Immigration Minister Marc Miller (Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs, Que.) on May 23, 2024, is intended to address so-called “lost Canadians,” by allowing a Canadian parent born abroad to pass on citizenship to their child born abroad beyond the first generation.

When the June deadline arrived and Bill C-71 had not yet passed, the court granted an extension until Aug. 9, 2024. Ontario Superior Court Justice Jasmine Akbarali criticized the pace of Bill C-71 through the legislative process, arguing the bill has been “languishing” since it was introduced, as reported by CBC News on June 20.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.), her party’s critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, told The Hill Times that she is frustrated with needing to wait longer for progress on Bill C-71.

“The issue around lost Canadians has been going on for literally decades. People have lost their status, families have been separated, some have been rendered stateless. It’s created significant, undue hardship for Canadian families, and this is primarily as a result of Canada’s archaic immigration citizenship laws,” said Kwan. “The Liberals, time and again, they say one thing and then they do another, and this is yet another example of them dragging their heels in fixing the lost Canadian issue.”

Kwan attempted to put forward a unanimous consent motion in the House on June 10 and on June 11 to urge parties to expedite passage of Bill C-71, but the motions did not receive unanimous consent.

“On the second occasion, I barely uttered my words before the Conservatives said, ‘No,’” said Kwan. “[Passing Bill C-71] is the right thing to do not only morally, but legally. It needed to be done and it should have been done.”

Click this link to read the news story:

https://www.hilltimes.com/story/2024/07/01/house-adjourns-for-summer-with-foreign-interference-bill-passed-but-online-harms-and-citizenship-legislation-left-on-hold/426825/

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