Third reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, as amended—Motion in AmendmentPublished on 2 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, I spoke previously on the general provisions of Bill C-6, so I rise on this occasion to talk about the amendment from Senator Lang.
I will briefly make three points. First, I am surprised that we are debating this amendment because this amendment clearly stands against the principle of the bill.
The principle of the bill was enunciated by the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, John McCallum, when he said there should be only one class of Canadians, not two. That is the first principle.
This takes us back to speaking about two classes of people, and it is something that was debated in the election campaign. The leader of the Liberal Party, who subsequently formed government and became the Prime Minister of Canada, quite clearly addressed the Bill C-24 legislation which was then in effect, and said that it was wrong to have these two classes and two different treatments with respect to this matter of terrorism. He said that he would bring forward a bill that would change it, which is what he’s done. This particular amendment stands against the exact purpose of the bill. Anyway, we are debating it.
The other point — and I think this is an important factor — is when a party promises something in an election and then they get elected and form a government it has been traditional to respect that as being an expression of the will of the people.
Some will argue that there are opinion polls that say something else, but opinion polls come and go, and it depends on how they are worded. You can get opinions that may be contrary to an opinion on one thing, depending on how you word it. We don’t, by tradition, rely on that; we rely on the fact that they got elected. They have a mandate. I have certainly heard that from people on the other side on many occasions.
Let me read from the Supreme Court ruling that was made on the question of Senate reform, which they dealt with in 2014. This clearly states where things should be considered in terms of legislation that comes from the government. It says:
. . . the choice of executive appointment for Senators was also intended to ensure that the Senate would be a complementary legislative body, rather than a perennial rival of the House of Commons in legislative processes.
. . . An appointed Senate would be a body —
These are the words of Sir John A. Macdonald.
. . . “calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch, and preventing any hasty or ill considered legislation which may come from that body, but it will never set itself in opposition against the deliberate and understood wishes of the people.”
By tradition, which has been taken to meaning if they get elected if it is part of their platform, then it should be respected as such.
There are many things that we do consider here, when the government comes forward with legislation, that are quite proper to do, if it doesn’t meet the Constitution, for example, or if regional concerns have not been taken into consideration, minority concerns have not been taken into consideration, but I don’t see that in this particular context. If anything, the Constitution minority concerns are going in the opposition direction with Senator Lang’s amendment.
I feel rather surprised that we are debating this, because I think this comes into the complementary legislative body status, and it’s something that has to be considered in terms of the government’s mandate.
The second point I make is that this does stigmatize and devalue the citizenship of those people who have dual citizenship. There are almost a million of them. It says to those people, “You’re in a different classification.”
I see the minister is here.
The Hon. the Speaker: You do have a couple of minutes. If you want to stop now, you can.
Senator Eggleton: I do not want to hold up the minister.
The Hon. the Speaker: All right. We will come back to you, senator.
Senator Eggleton: That’s fine.
The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you for your patience, Senator Eggleton.
Hon. Art Eggleton: I thank the minister for agreeing with my previous remarks, and I’ll carry on from there.
What I was saying, and he picked up on this, was the stigmatizing and devaluing of citizens being marked as second class because, as one witness said before the committee, it sort of puts in place a narrative that says, “You’re not quite one of us.” That is, in effect, what you would be doing here with this amendment.
You’re saying that the people who are dual citizens are subject to a different penalty level from those who are born here or those who are citizens only of Canada. Some of these dual citizens are not even dual citizens by choice. They can’t even renounce the second citizenship, in some cases, because their countries have what is called a clinging nationality where they suggest because your parents were born there that you, in fact, are one of them, and you may never have been to the country. Some of these people may never have been to the country and yet they could be put into this class that is not quite one of us because it involves a different punishment for equal crimes.
I think most Canadians would support equal punishment for equal crimes. If you asked Canadians that in a poll, I think that’s the kind of answer you would also get, because heinous crimes should be dealt with fully according to law and regardless of citizenship.
Senator Omidvar, in her comments on this particular amendment, referred to equal rights, equal responsibility and, when necessary, equal punishment. That, I think, is the proper kind of position that we should be taking, and it’s what the government is proposing.
Let me get on to the third point here, which is the suggestion that deportation doesn’t make us safer. I’ve heard it said by a couple of colleagues that they don’t buy that argument, but the people who are putting that argument forward have some pretty good credentials in terms of understanding these issues. Let me give you two quotes. One is from Ray Boisvert and the other one is from Michael Pearce, who are both former CSIS personnel. Ray said that once terrorists are overseas they are very hard to track and our intelligence “goes black.” Michael Peirce said that deported terrorists “could transfer their skills and knowledge to terrorist organizations.”
On top of that, we had a bill that the previous government brought in, Bill S-7, which was an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to offences for people leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purposes of committing an act of terrorism. As was said by an expert witness before the committee:
. . . Canada has worked arduously and deployed tools like no-fly lists, passport revocation, peace bonds and outright criminal prosecution to stop Canadians from travelling for the purpose of participating in terrorist activity, but the objective of citizenship stripping is ultimately to deport these people. If truly dangerous people are deported, the net effect may be to speed foreign fighters on their way. Again, this raises questions of rationality.
I think those are very persuasive arguments. We need to, in this country, be able to develop effective counter-radicalization programs.
The first person who was convicted of terrorism in this country and is serving time in jail was born and raised in Canada, so obviously that person is not going to be subject to deportation. But what is certainly needed in that person’s case, or anybody else’s case, if there are convictions, is to deal with the sole question of counter-radicalization. The same would apply to people who are dual citizens. Rather than deporting them, risking that they’re going to fall into the wrong hands or be reinvigorated in that kind of activity by the people they associate with in these other countries, it would be better to have a more effective counter-radicalization program.
For those reasons, honourable senators, I will not be supporting the amendment of Senator Lang. I would urge the Senate to stay with the principle of the bill which, in fact, was on the basis of equal punishment for equal crimes.