On May 28 when the new citizenship legislation was introduced for the second time since late February, many MPs took umbrage at several aspects of Bill C-24. Some were incensed at the time constraints imposed by the Conservatives to debate the bill. Debate was limited to midnight that day.
Peter Julian, the NDP MP for Burnaby - New Westminster, led the charge. “Mr. Speaker, 65 times we have had closure and time allocation. This is the deplorable record of the government,” he said.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, along with fellow Conservatives including West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston, had to defend several controversial aspects of the new bill during eight hours of debate.
Among the amendments to the existing Act raising alarm bells for many parliamentarians, three sections drew the most focus.
The proposed changing of the ages for prospective citizens to be tested on language skills and knowledge of Canada from 18 to 54 years to 14 to 64 years worried several MPs. Another hotly debated clause provides for the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens who “while they were Canadian citizens, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring these individuals from reacquiring citizenship.” But perhaps the biggest affront to Opposition MPs are the new rights bestowed on the citizenship minister, which sparked a heated exchange between two B.C. MPs.
MP Libby Davies, NDP member for Vancouver East, lobbed the first shot.
“Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to [MP Wai Young] from Vancouver South on the other side of the House and her comments on this bill,” Davies said. “I find it very curious that Conservative members are so intent on saying that Canadians must obey and uphold the law, yet they create legislation that would put a minister above the law. This is one of the really offensive parts of this bill.
“Could the member explain to us and Canadians how it is that her party feels that it is acceptable to bypass judicial due process in revoking citizenship? Why should so much power be conferred on the minister solely to do that without a judicial process?”
Young wasted no time sending back a barb.
“Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, it is because my colleague has been here so long that she wants to uphold these old and antiquated processes,” Young said. “The new law would bring forward a more streamlined process that would give the minister a more shortened ability to conduct his ruling. Therefore, the bill would update the law, as the member very well knows.”
Other MPs also voiced concerns.
“I know this government has an allergy to experts and expert opinions, but expert after expert has said that this legislation will be open to constitutional and Charter challenges,” said NDP MP Jinny Simms, who represents Newton - North Delta.
Rathika Sitsabaiesan, the Ontario NDP member for Scarborough - Rouge River, said the changes to the testing ages of children could lead to the “deprivation of the child’s right to family reunification under the United Nations Convention to the Rights of the Child (Article 10).
To read the parliamentary exchange in its entirety, go to openparliament.ca/bills and search for C-24.
Final passage of the bill was expected Thursday, June 5.
© Coast Reporter