Committees examine, in small groups, selected matters in greater depth. We report conclusions of those examinations, and recommendations, to the House. Committees undertake studies on departmental spending, legislation and issues related to the committees’ mandates.

As the NDP immigration critic, I am currently a member of the Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) and vice-chair of the Special Committee on Afghanistan (AFGH). I also participate in other committees, including the Special Committee Canada-China Relations (CACN) and Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA).

You can see my questions, answers and speeches in these committees on this page and the committee specific subpages.

CIM#65: Debating Bill S-245

"First off, I'd like to touch on the issue around the overall strategy because that seems to be the central issue here. Right from the beginning—and I'll repeat it again at this committee—I engaged with stakeholders all the way through to talk about Bill S-245 and what amendments needed to be made. Through that consultation, it was clear to me that the groups wanted the lost Canadians issue addressed once and for all, and not just as it related to the narrow category that was established under the bill itself.

There were a variety of areas that we needed to address, including those who had lost their right to pass on their citizenship to children born abroad. There were issues around what I loosely call “war heroes”. Those are individuals who fought for Canada, went to war for Canada, for example, died for Canada and never came back. However, at the time they did that, because Canada was not formulated as a country—Confederation had not taken place—they were not recognized as citizens in a technical sense. Part of the goal, of course, was trying to address those people and to make them whole, even though they may have passed on. Their descendants have already had access to Canadian citizenship. It's just really a symbolic thing.

Another category that needed to be addressed, for example, included those who faced discrimination because of Canada's immigration laws and citizenship laws over the years. I was trying to capture those individuals and make them whole.

Anyway, there are a number of these kinds of categories. Right from the get-go, I made it clear that's what I was trying to do.

In that process, it was determined, through the stakeholder consultation, that they would like to see the government address this by way of conferring those rights back to them. In that process, I came up with a number of suggestions to address those. For example, being in Canada for 1,095 days, consistent with what the Citizenship Act outlines by way of the number of days, was one connections test.”

CIMM#64: Debating Bill S-245

Before I speak to the motion, I want to first touch on an issue with your decision.

What you found is that the matter raised relates to a matter of privilege. However, it is my understanding, Madam Chair, that you have not found that privilege was violated at this committee. I just want to make sure that was the case.

With respect to the motion from Mr. Dhaliwal, I certainly support the motion to call the witness to come before the committee to provide clarity on the question of privilege. To be sure, if that motion passes, the motion is to call the witness to speak before the committee on the question around privilege and not to revisit, I assume, the issue around Bill S-245. If I'm incorrect, I would like to have some clarity on that. I think that's an important motion from this perspective.

I had the chance to review the Hansard from Mr. Kmiec that was made at the last committee meeting. He seemed to indicate that he believed a breach of the committee's privilege has occurred. I will quote from it:

What I have heard about the Liberal NDP compromise is that they will offer subamendments—

CIMM#63: Jenny tables amendments for S-245 to fix the issue of Lost Canadians

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I will move NDP-3.

This amendment is really related to the package on the second generation cut-off rule. It extends citizenship to the second generation born abroad and subsequent generations, and restores those impacted since the second generation cut-off rule was enacted back in 2009.

Included in this, I should just point out that it also recognizes the connections test and that it would apply to both the parents and the grandparents.”

CIMM#62 Debate on Bill S-245

 This amendment aims to address the second generation cut-off rule. Committee members will know that in 2009, under Bill C-37, the right for Canadians to pass their citizenship on to children born abroad was taken away. As a result, it has created a new class of lost Canadians. That's been extremely problematic. That was done back in 2009 by the Conservative government.
This amendment aims to restore that right to those individuals by establishing a connections test to Canada. I'm proposing that we establish the connections test in four ways. It says:

(i) the person has been physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days,

(ii) the person has been registered as an elector or a future elector under the Canada Elections Act,

(iii) the person has studied at an elementary, secondary, post-secondary or vocational school in Canada, or

(iv) the person has been employed by the Government of Canada, or has been a representative or delegate of Canada, at an international organization, summit or forum.

I'm moving this amendment, Madam Chair, because I think it is important to recognize those lost Canadians. If they meet any one of those connections tests that I've highlighted, I think they should be able to have the right restored to them.

Madam Chair, at this point I'm just wondering if I should I read out the content of the amendment as it is drafted by the legislative council. Can I just say that I move NDP-1?”

CIMM#61: Obtaining info from Minister Sajjin on the issuing of unauthorized facilitation letters to Afghans

 Thank you to the minister and the officials for being at the committee.
I want to get back to some pertinent points related to the evacuation effort and, more particularly, the minister's former chief of staff's engagement in that process.

Senator McPhedran was before this committee. She answered very clearly this question: “Was Minister Sajjan aware you were sending out these facilitation letters?” The answer was yes.

Minister, can you advise the committee on that? Were you aware of these facilitation letters, yes or no?”

CIMM#58: Jenny’s Motions on Bill S-245 and inviting ministers to testify on Senator McPhedran’s affair

 Related to Bill S-245, given the tight timeline of the requirement for the bill to be reported back to the House, I'm going to move the following motion, Madam Chair, a copy of which, in both French and English, has been sent to the clerk for distribution to the committee members. That motion reads as follows:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, the committee request an extension of thirty (30) sitting days to consider Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians), referred to the committee on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, to give the Bill the consideration it requires and that the Chair present this request to the House.

Madam Chair, as indicated, we're kind of a little bit down to the wire here with the timeline. To ensure that the committee has the opportunity to do all the necessary work related to this bill, I therefore move this motion.”

CIMM#57: Jenny asked Justice Minister and National Defense Minister on supports for Afghans

 Thank you, Minister and officials, for being here today. I think we've been waiting for a long time to engage with you. We very much appreciate this.
The NDP, of course—through my colleagues Heather McPherson, who is the foreign affairs critic, and Alistair MacGregor, who is the public safety critic—wrote to the government on this issue back in December 2021. Subsequently, a follow-up letter was written, in February, to various ministers, asking why action couldn't be taken.

This was especially in light of the testimony presented to the Special Committee on Afghanistan by NGOs that were unable to provide aid on the ground to people who were in desperate need. In fact, World Vision indicated—as did a number of NGOs that came—that, because of these anti-terrorism laws, children were dying of malnutrition. They had packets ready to go and ready to be delivered on the ground, in order to save lives. They were unable to do so.

I'm really struggling to understand why it's taken, basically, two years for Canada to get to this stage, where this Criminal Code change is finally before us for deliberation.”

CIMM#56: Committee discussed the Lost Canadian Senate Bill

 Thank you to the senator for bringing this important bill forward. I appreciate its giving us an opportunity to look at the issue of lost Canadians. As you've indicated, Senator, the scope of the bill is very limited. That means that many people will still be left out in the situation of lost Canadians.
You were just mentioning the suffering that people have to endure as a result of that. What we do know, of course, is that the second-generation rule cut-off from the previous administration took place in 2009. Consequently, a class of people—Canadians—all of a sudden lost their right to be Canadian and were deemed lost Canadians and second-class citizens in that way.

That said, we have an opportunity to fix this. I get that the scope of the bill only deals with the 28-year rule. Do you have any objection to the idea of fixing the other lost Canadians on the second-generation rule where people have been cut off? That's one piece.

The other piece is to fix the rule for those who were born before 1947—the war heros, if you will, who fought for Canada and died for Canada and were never recognized as Canadians.

Would you agree that we should actually try to fix those? Would you have any objections to that?”

CIM#55: Inquiring about the challenges faced by Afghans with the Foreign Affairs Minister and officials

"In the minister's introduction, she talked about the laws that need to be changed. The bill has been introduced. Recommendation 11 of the Afghanistan special committee calls for the government to “review the anti-terrorism financing provisions under the Criminal Code and urgently take any legislative steps necessary to ensure those provisions do not unduly restrict legitimate humanitarian action that complies with international humanitarian principles and law.”

Doctors Without Borders has raised a concern. They do not support the changes tabled by the government. They are instead encouraging the government to enact a full humanitarian exemption, as recommended by their committee. They say the idea that someone could be charged with a crime for providing medical care to a patient in a hospital during a conflict is ridiculous and out of step with the international humanitarian law that explicitly prohibits punishing a person for upholding medical ethics:

The legislation proposed by Canada today requires humanitarian organizations to seek permission from the Canadian government before we send medical staff to respond to some humanitarian crises—what happens if they say no? Do we walk away from maternity hospitals or primary health clinics? The Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law clearly state that countries have an obligation to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and a duty to not criminalize the work performed according to medical ethics, yet that's exactly what this legislation does.

That's a quote from Jason Nickerson, humanitarian representative to Canada, Doctors Without Borders.

My question to the minister is this: Why didn't the government put in the full humanitarian exemption?”

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?”

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