There is a new law in Canada that creates four classes of citizenship, and denies Canadians their right to due process in the Court of Law. Its short title is “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” and is widely known as Bill C-24. The Act addresses many issues having to do with residency in Canada, permanent residency, applications to obtain Canadian citizenship, and other matters. The following commentary will focus on the issue of revocation of Canadian citizenship under this new law and its consequences.
Under the Canadian Citizenship Act (before this amendment), revocation of citizenship could only be decided in the Court of Law by a judge and was limited to Naturalized Canadians who obtained citizenship by misrepresentations. Having the decision made by a judge entails that the person would enjoy the protection of the entire judicial process that all Canadians enjoy equally, up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Under the new law, revocation of Canadian citizenship will be decided by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (or a delegate) without any recourse of challenge by the individual in the Court of Law or otherwise. The process will be simple, direct, and with minimum cost to the government. The Minister would send a letter to the person in question informing him/her that the Minister is considering revocation of that person’s Canadian citizenship. The person would be granted a specific period of time to respond and make presentation to the Minister, and then the Minister would make a decision. Such decision by the Minister is final and binding on all concerned. In the initial letter, the Minister would probably provide the grounds for revocation but is under no obligation to provide evidence or the source of such evidence. The only oversight would be whatever the Minister establishes within his/her Department; no outside, judicial, or any form of independent oversight would exist. This is the new definition of “efficient due process” that the conservative (Harper’s) majority in the Parliament of Canada calls “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act”.
The grounds for revocation of Canadian citizenship have been expanded by this new law to include situations where the person:
– obtained citizenship by false representation or fraud,
– served as a member of an armed force or organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada,
– was convicted of treason, high treason, or spying offence, or
– was convicted of a terrorism offence or an equivalent foreign terrorism conviction.
The “equivalent foreign terrorism conviction” is worth noting. This means that if a Canadian Citizen (who is a dual citizen, e.g. Spanish) was convicted of terrorism in another country (e.g. Australia), the Minister would have grounds to revoke such person’s Canadian citizenship with little or no recourse for such person to challenge the Minister’s decision in the Court of Law. Further, the person would not even know the evidence against him/her or the identity of the source of such evidence.
It looks like this flawed system was designed with Omar Khadr in mind. Under the new system, individuals like Omar Khadr would not enjoy future intervention by the government of Canada. Instead, the Minister would simply revoke that person’s Canadian citizenship on the grounds that such person would be convicted of terrorism under “an equivalent foreign terrorism conviction”, thereby removing any obligation on the government of Canada to intervene.
The most offensive aspect of this new law – that I believe will provide grounds for the Supreme Court of Canada to declare it unconstitutional and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms after it is challenged – is the fact that this law creates four classes of citizenship. Each of those four classes enjoys a different level of protection under this new law.
First Class Citizens: Canadian-born who do not have another citizenship. These are “true Canadians” who will enjoy full protection, and there is no ground for revoking their Canadian citizenship.
Second Class Citizens: Naturalized Canadians who do not have another citizenship. Those will enjoy limited protection. Their citizenship can only be revoked – as the case was under the old law – in cases of misrepresentations.
Third Class Citizens: Canadian-born who have another citizenship. Those will enjoy protection from obtaining citizenship by misrepresentations, which would not normally apply to them except in rare circumstances.
Fourth Class Citizens: Naturalized Canadians who have another citizenship. Those will be subject to all the new rules without any protection.
It is worth noting that having another citizenship includes the entitlement to have one. An example would be a Jewish Canadian who does not have another citizenship, but due to the fact that he/she is Jewish, he/she would be entitled to have Israeli citizenship. Therefore such person would be treated as if he/she actually has another citizenship. If the person does not know that he/she is entitled to receive another citizenship, it does not matter. An example would be a Canadian-born to Egyptian parents would be entitled to have Egyptian citizenship, and therefore would be treated under this new law as if he/she actually has another citizenship.
The second most offensive aspect of this new law – that I also believe will provide grounds for the Supreme Court to render it unconstitutional and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – is the fact that the decision of revoking Canadian citizenship will be made by the Minister (or a delegate) and not by a judge in the Court of Law. This aspect destroys the possibility of impartiality in making such a serious decision, removes the great Canadian judiciary from the process, and denies Canadian citizens the right for due process.
This law, that denies equality among citizens and denies them due process, is a seriously dangerous law that seems to have passed without sufficient public debate. I am confident, however, that this law will be struck down as unconstitutional and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Supreme Court of Canada when it is challenged. And yes indeed, I have faith in Canada and Canadians that this law will be challenged, and the challenge will take place much sooner than the authors of this Act would have liked.
Canadians want Canada to be a “just society” that respects human rights, upholds due process, protects fairness, and treats its citizens equally with dignity and with one class of citizenship.
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!