MASSE IN THE HOUSE: On Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

    I am pleased that Bill C-6 is moving through the House of Commons. As New Democrats, it is not exactly all that we want but at least there is some movement on a number of different initiatives that have not only hurt this country economically, socially, and culturally, but the individuals we need to be a successful country.

    I come from a riding that has over 100 ethnic cultures that are organized and have been part of the foundation of our border town, which basically has a third of the nation's trade go through it a day. It also has some of the most diverse areas. It is where the War of 1812 took place, and the end of the underground railroad, where people came to Canada to escape slavery in the United States. A number of times we contested having bounty hunters come into Canada to take individuals back to the United States to collect a bounty and return them to slave owners. In many respects we had become a refuge against the acts and activities that we, as a part of the British empire at that time, quite clearly viewed as something that needed to change, such as the slave trade, which is very much a part of our cultural element. Although we were large geographically, at that time we were a small colonial country in terms of population that was standing in the wings of the United States and offering something called freedom against its very controversial republic of union and the southern states, which eventually led to the Civil War. It was quite a stand for the people, communities, and so forth, of our country to take at that time.

    Therefore, when we talk today about this change called for in Bill C-6, we must keep in mind that if we were to basically continue with the policy that was brought in under the Conservatives in Bill C-24 we would be harming our ability to be successful in the world.

     I will point to a couple of local examples that are somewhat national examples because they happen in many other border town facilities.

    We have not only had many immigrants and refugees come to our region and contribute in recent years, as we have discussed over the last two years with respect to Syrian refugees, but we have had a steady stream of immigrants come into our region who have helped to build the national footprint of this country and make significant local progress on many different issues.

    Bill C-24 was basically more than just a fly in the ointment with respect to the Canadian dream of being a multicultural country; it became adverse to our economy and to the families that we need because we do not have a growing population ourselves. It is the reality of our future.

     It is interesting when I hear some push back about this from certain members of the public who ask the honest and interesting questions they feel the need to ask, such as who will pay for their pension in the future if we do not have skilled labour and other types of labour coming to contribute back into the Canadian economy.

    Interestingly enough, we have seen the harmful effects of the extension of days and time in Canada before a residency gets completed in a border town like mine. In my riding alone the issue was so bad that we received a budget for a single position in my constituency to hire someone four days a week to deal with immigration itself. We are not funded for that position in the overall budgeting of the House of Commons, which is sad because we had a new Walker Road immigration facility open up in Windsor eight or nine years ago. It also had a room for ceremonies. People could go and get their file looked after and could get updates. That office has not only had staffing reductions made by the past regime, we have also seen it close to the public.

    A number of people have English as a second language. Let us be clear on this. They may be doctors, engineers, or teachers. They come from all walks of life. Some are skilled workers, some are not. These people are trying to get information about their case. They may have a spouse, children, or parents who do not know what the h-e-double hockey sticks is happening. That is unfortunate, because they are trying to move on with their lives. The process takes far too long. This has been a habitual problem since I have been here in Parliament. Hopefully the changes proposed in this legislation will improve this to some degree. I hope staffing levels will get augmented. Hopefully, the office will be opened up so that people can get processed quickly.

    How would this affect people in Windsor West, Toronto, Montreal, northern Ontario, any place in Canada? Employment will be delayed for these people. Their contributions back into our tax system will be delayed. Ironically, over 10,000 workers cross over to the Detroit region every day because that city is short skilled labour. Some of these people are doctors, nurses, accountants, marketing consultants. A lot of them have value-added skills, but their skills are not recognized in Canada. Some of these people have degrees but they cannot practice here. They cannot use their experience here. They can do so in the United States.

    Thousands of people in the health care industry go over to the United States. These are doctors and nurses and other types of health care professionals. If Canadians need urgent hospital care, they are sent to Detroit to get help. We will pay a premium here in Canada for them to be treated by Canadians working in Detroit who are not allowed to practice their skills in our country. We pay a premium to send individuals over there and they could quite likely receive treatment by people who have been denied a licence to practice here in Canada.

    These delays in our immigration policy over the last number of years and the issue with Bill C-24 have created a shroud around families which makes it difficult for them to contribute.

    I listened with interest to the previous speaker who said that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I was at the U.S. embassy with Raymond Chrétien, who was the ambassador at that time. It was the first time an announcement was made that five countries would be put on a watch list. People who were granted Canadian citizen but came from a third country might be exposed to fingerprinting and having their picture taken and other security checks. I argued about this at the time but to this day nothing has ever been done about it. That was the first step that took place. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian was not the case. We now have two-tier citizenship. We need to change that policy as well, and we can work toward that in the future.

    Bill C-6 provides us with an opportunity to work on different things. We want to work on a few points contained in the legislation. It is not appropriate for the minister to unilaterally act with regard to somebody's citizenship without judicial oversight. That is not appropriate in terms of an individual's rights. No minister of any political party should have that type of influence over a process that should be done in the courts. There should be accountability for the person because he or she is a Canadian citizen. They should be entitled to their rights. We need to make sure that those rights are thoroughly reviewed not only for them but for the rest of Canadian society.

Mr. Brian Masse: Madam Speaker, real life situations, like a funeral happen, and yes, people are barred. We are spending a lot of time trying to make that happen.

    For family reunification, when my grandfather came here from England after the second world war he brought his family right away after that. When my wife came here from Hong Kong her family was able to bring other types of people and they have contributed through businesses, involvement in the economy, and in Canadian society.

Mr. Brian Masse: Madam Speaker, when people come here they also leave family and friends behind. They may be their parents who cannot care for themselves. It might be in other jurisdictions and regions of a country, like Lebanon and other places, where they have to take care of people.

    He is asking people to stay here four to six years for the potential hope to be a Canadian and leave everyone else in their lives behind who may or may not be able to be cared for.

    In my office, I get people with friends and family back home who are disabled. They come from countries where they do not even give them the same rights as other citizens, let alone having an income and a connection to their community. That, in itself is very important.

    Why do we want to fast track? It is actually not to fast track, but to do it at a better pace. It is because the quicker they can get integrated and build their lives in Canada the stronger they are for our communities. We see that through evidence based reality when dealing with people. The sooner you bring them into the family, the sooner they contribute, and it is better for all of us.

Mr. Brian Masse: Madam Speaker, prior to this job, one of my jobs was working with youth at risk, which included new Canadians. It was through an HRDC grant under the Liberal government of the time that the program was created. It was a not-for-profit agency that I was very proud to serve with at that time.

    We had youth at risk. Basically, we had eight Canadians who were born in Canada who were making some poor decisions and had involved themselves in petty crimes, or had been expelled from school. There were a number of different issues there. Then we had another eight Canadians who had recently gone through the immigration process. Actually, some of them were still becoming Canadian citizens. We mixed them together in programs related to eliminating racism. We also ran a sand volleyball and a basketball program to get other youth off the streets playing games and not hanging out at the corner stores and parks doing unaccountable things.

    What was important there was we were able to actually fast track those individuals into getting back to school and also finding employment. We had over a 90% success rate.