Second Reading (C-6) act to Amend the Citizenship Act - Part 1
Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC): Madam Speaker, I usually start by saying that it is an honour to participate in this important debate. However, I have to say that this is a particularly important debate, one of the most important that we have had thus far in this House, because we are talking about what Canadian citizenship means and about the core aspects of the Canadian identity.
I want to start by articulating what I see as three central principles of Canadian citizenship. I believe that Canadian citizenship should be accessible, should be valued, and should express collective values.
The first principle is that citizenship should be accessible. We take for granted that we are a country where citizenship is not only something people can be born into but people can come here and can become citizens. They can be from elsewhere originally but then buy into our collective values and become part of Canada. Our citizenship is accessible, which is part of our strength—being able to draw on the knowledge and experience that comes from other parts of the world.
I was recently in the United Arab Emirates and that is not the way things work there and in some other countries. People can live there for decades and never have an opportunity to acquire citizenship. Therefore, the way we do it in Canada is special, is important, and provides us with a unique value. I believe there is consensus on the accessibility point.
The second principle is that citizenship ought to be valued. It ought to be the sort of thing that we understand means something. To paraphrase Kant, it should never be treated as “merely a means”, it should be valued as a good in and of itself.
For many of the new Canadians I have talked to in my riding and elsewhere, they have a particularly sharp sense of the value of Canadian citizenship. If it is something that they did not start out with, if they had to come here and then acquire it, they have a particular appreciation for the value of that citizenship. New Canadians and all Canadians want us to ensure that citizenship is not just a tool to achieve some other end but is regarded by those who hold it as a thing of value.
The third principle is that citizenship ought to express collective values in some sense. Of course, that does not mean that we have to agree on everything, even on most things, but it does mean that there is some set of values which we can identify as being centrally Canadian.
Not everyone who breaks the law in any sense steps out of this essential values compact, but there are cases, and we have seen them, of people who clearly voluntarily make a very strong clean break with anything we would understand to resemble Canadian values.
I would argue that if we allow people who are involved in treason, terrorism or fight for foreign genocidal powers against Canada, people who clearly do not buy into any semblance of our collective values to keep our citizenship, then we devalue that citizenship. All members here understand the importance of Canadian citizenship, but it ought to be valued as an end not merely as a means, and it ought to express something about our collective values not just express the fact that someone went through a particular process. That is what citizenship is about. That is what it should be about.
Here in Canada we have put these two critical ideas together. On the one hand, we have sought and effectively built a very diverse country ethnically, culturally, religiously, and linguistically. However, in the context of that we have also sought generally to insist on the importance of common values, on our citizenship meaning, and on expressing some kind of collective values. At first blush, this might seem like a difficult combination, diversity on the one hand and common values on the other. Indeed, in most of the world's history, these things were not seen as going together. Most of the world's history is populated by either small republics or big empires: on the one hand, possibly societies that are relatively small and homogenous and are held together by collective values, and, on the other hand, societies that are larger, more diverse, and controlled centrally.
However, the Canadian ideal was a unique political experiment in world history, and it is one that has worked. It was the idea that we could build a society that was both diverse but also expressed common values, and did so democratically.
We have all heard the expression, “having your cake and eating it too”. This was really our attempt to have our cake and eat it with ice cream and a glass of wine. We have done it and we have built a great society.