Conservatives defend suppression of debate

"I do not know why the current government does not buy an entire warehouse of duct tape and just tape every single mouth in this House," added NDP MP Matthieu Ravignat, adding that it was "unbelievable" Canada was still debating what citizenship meant, at this stage in its history. 

Citizenship Minister Christopher Alexander

Opposition members were outraged as Conservative MP Peter Van Loan moved to reduce debate on the controversial Bill C-24, the largest overhaul of citizenship laws in over a generation.

On Wednesday, Van Loan moved that "not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the second reading stage of the bill", and that "15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided...any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order," and that every question would be put forward successively, without further debate or amendment. 

Redefining citizenship without proper debate? 

"Sixty-five times, we have had closure and time allocation. That is the deplorable record of the government," said NDP MP Peter Julian. "Why is the government imposing a closure and time allocation motion for the 65th time, especially on such a controversial bill?"

"I do not know why the current government does not buy an entire warehouse of duct tape and just tape every single mouth in this House," added NDP MP Matthieu Ravignat, adding that it was "unbelievable" Canada was still debating what citizenship meant, at this stage in its history.  

Described by The Hill Times as a bill that makes Canadian citizenship "harder to get and easier to lose", Bill C-24 has been strongly criticized by citizenship experts and advocates. On the surface, the bill contains positive elements, such as partially helping to resolve the longstanding problem of Lost Canadians -- the bill would extend citizenship to those born before 1947, as well as their first generation born abroad. 

But most crucially, the bill gives unprecedented power to the government to strip citizenship from Canadians, even if they were born in Canada. A person could be stripped of citizenship and deported, without a trial in court. With respect to dual citizens, even if they are Canadian born, they can be stripped of citizenship if they have been convicted in any country of a terrorist offence and sentenced to at least five years in jail.

It would also impose short timelines and changes to the Federal Courts Act that would make it extremely difficult to challenge a government's decision on citizenship status. 

"There’s intent to shift power from the judiciary to the executive, and which undermines the constitutional role of the courts in Canada’s democratic systems” said Seattle-based lawyer Bill Kinsel, who has raised concern over the new bill.

Not limiting democratic debate, but creating certainty

When The Vancouver Observer asked why the debate time was being reduced on an important bill, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Christopher Alexander defended the motion, saying it should be seen as a benefit:

"It is not – as the Opposition suggests – used to limit debate, but to create certainty...it also helps the media, improving their ability to inform the public. Time allocation should be regarded as a scheduling device," Alexander said, through his spokesperson, Codie Taylor. 

Taylor criticized ongoing debate on the bill as "continued attempts by the Opposition to delay and obstruct important bills such as Bill C-24" and insisted that the NDP and Liberal Party "end their partisan attempts" to delay the passage of the bill, which was introduced in February and debated for a few hours since. 

During the debate, Alexander insisted quick passage of the bill would end the suffering of "tens of thousands of permanent residents" who wish to become citizens. 

But Citizenship advocate Don Chapman says the government is making a mistake by limiting public debate on the important citizenship bill. Earlier this month, the government blocked the testimony of Chapman and historian Melynda Jarratt, who are concerned that the bill would continue to exclude legitimate Canadians, even rendering some stateless.  

"The public has a number of concerns about this controversial bill, which makes it even more deplorable that the government is doing this yet again," Julian said.

"The government does not want to show openness in the House. It simply wants to impose its law, regardless of the consequences. We all know what kinds of consequences these controversial bills have. The bills are so badly botched that the government is forced to introduce new bills to fix the problems."

Read More:

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.