INAN - Parliamentary Context, Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Call to Action number 94) - Jan 28, 2021

Background and Logistics

On Thursday, October 22, 2020, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship introduced Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action number 94) in the House of Commons.

The Bill was adopted by the House of Commons at second reading on December 10, 2020 and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (the Committee). The Committee will study Bill C-8 over three meetings in order to receive testimonies from the Minister, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) senior officials, stakeholders, and for clause-by-clause considerations.

The Minister and senior officials have been invited to appear on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the first meeting on the Bill.

The Minister will appear with the following IRCC senior officials:

The Committee plans to hear from witnesses for the second hour of the meeting and on Tuesday, February 2. Clause-by-clause consideration is expected to be scheduled for Thursday, February 4, before the Committee refers the Bill back to the House of Commons.

Environmental Analysis

The Committee will examine Bill C-8 in detail and report it back to the House of Commons with or without amendments. The Committee can invite stakeholders to give testimonies on the Bill. It is anticipated that discussions on the oath amendment could raise questions about citizenship values and education and ongoing issues facing Indigenous Peoples, amongst other topics:

Media and News

Media and news coverage on Bill C-8 have been neutral and have only highlighted broad facts on the Bill.

Parliamentary Environment

Bill C-8 was debated in the House of Commons on Monday, November 2, 2020 and Monday, November 23, 2020. From the debates that took place, opposition parties called on the Government to work to implement more of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and criticized the length of time it has taken to implement Call to Action #94, while also criticizing the Government’s decision to focus on this call to action before the implementation of those viewed as a higher priority to Indigenous Peoples. The vote to refer the Bill to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs took place on December 10, 2020.

The Conservative Party of Canada stated that the proposed Oath amendments is an important step in the journey to reconciliation and will be supporting the Bill. During second reading, the Conservative Party of Canada  frequently raised that only 10 calls to action have been implemented, and suggested that the Government prioritize concrete issues like clean drinking water and creating an action plan to address missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, rather than symbolic measures. The Conservative Party of Canada members also raised the importance of transportation and infrastructure issues to economic development, and suggested that proposed changes to the Oath may be considered redundant. The Conservative Party of Canada voted in favour of the Bill at second reading.

The Bloc Quebecois also said they planned to vote in favour of the Bill. During debates at second reading they asked Government members about the possibility of including information on Indigenous treaties and rights in the Discover Canada study guide, and also raised the importance of education in schools, while echoing the concerns of the Conservative Party of Canada members. Later on, they suggested that while the Oath is being amended that reference to the Queen and the Constitution could be removed; and that reference could be made to Canada’s three founding peoples: English, French, and Indigenous Peoples. Although the Bloc Quebecois had expressed their intentions of voting in favour of Bill C-8 since they support the calls to action and Indigenous issues widely, they voted against the Bill at second reading.

The New Democratic Party also intend to vote in favour of the Bill. During debate at second reading they stated that zero calls to action have been implemented since 2018 and expressed concern that there has been a failure to establish successful and meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples. They also stressed the importance of education to accompany the change to the oath, for newcomers to internalize the words and take them seriously. In debates that continued, they highlighted the urgency of implementing all calls to action, but particularly those relating to housing and mental health. The New Democratic Party voted in favour of the Bill at second reading.

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