C-24 Citizenship Act Committee Hearings – 5 May

As there was no real press coverage of Committee hearings 5 May, watched the video and the following summary may be of interest.

Like many committee hearings, an element of Kabuki theatre with the Government asking questions of witnesses in favour of their approach to revocation while the opposition asking questions of those opposed to revocation and a number of other provisions.

On the Government “side,” there was Canadian Israel Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD); “for” the opposition, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

CIJA supported most aspects of the proposed changes, including increased residency, language and knowledge requirements, the intent to reside, and the revocation provisions. Given that the possible impact of the Israel’s law of return, given all Jews the right to Israeli residency and citizenship, subject to an application process, Fogal spent considerable time stating that the dual national distinction did not apply to the right to having another citizenship but only to those who exercise that right. He did, however, note the need for some process improvements, particularly the need in any terror-related convictions in foreign countries to be subject to a test that they were equivalent to Canadian practice and fairness.

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation (ACTVF) and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies also support the Government’s revocation proposals (see earlier opinion piece by Sheryl Saperia The case for revoking citizenship – National Post). Both argue that the fundamental social contract makes revocation appropriate in such extreme cases of terrorism, war crimes and the like.

Saperia of FDD noted the need for some process improvements (tighter drafting of connection to Canada for terrorist activities and, like CIJA, the need to have explicit criteria for determining the equivalence of foreign to Canadian convictions). On dual nationals, she said that in cases where other countries do not allow for renunciation, the Minister could have discretion to decided on the degree of connectedness to the foreign country. She also emphasized the need for more preventative anti-radicalization measures, noting the RCMP high-risk traveller program (RCMP set to tackle extremism at home with program to curb radicalization of Canadian youth), as well as requiring those applying for passports to make some sort of commitment to not engage in such activity.

For Alliance founder Maureen Basnicki, it is intensely personal, given she is a 9/11 widow, and believes that:

Therefore, if Canada allows a convicted terrorist to retain the Canadian citizenship, Canada is in effect saying “we accept the terrorist act as part of the fabric of life in Canada”.

But we also allow murderers and sex offenders to stay in Canada, as unfortunately they too are part of the fabric of society.

All three did not acknowledge that dual nationality does not only apply to naturalized Canadians. One can be born in Canada and yet have dual nationality. And if such a person is born and educated in Canada, is  “outsourcing” the problem, without accepting responsibility. And I suspect that the distinction made between the legal right to another citizenship, without taking it up, is a distinction that may not be applied equally to all communities, combined with the reverse onus of proof.

On the opposition “side”, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group focussed on the situations of some of the more vulnerable refugees, and recommended keeping existing residency requirements (3 of 4 years), some exemptions for the knowledge and language requirements, testing language at end of process, maintaining right of Court appeal, reversal of proposed fee increases, no power to strip dual nationals of Canadian citizenship, and ensure intent to reside provision is not grounds for misrepresentation given that situations change.

Audrey Macklin of CARL focussed on the intent to reside and revocation provisions. On the former, their reading is that the law is written so that this could be grounds for citizenship revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation. On revocation, CARL focussed on the constitutionality, noting that Charter rights cannot be violated as punishment, and that the social contract argument is not supported by jurisprudence. The distinction between “mono” and dual Canadian citizens is also likely not Charter compliant. She also raised a number of procedural rights (e.g., retroactively, reverse onus of proof) as areas of concern.

Questioning by MPs was largely predictable. Government MPs asked questions of “their side” as did opposition MPs, both trying to buttress their own positions.

One of the more interesting questions, however, was by Chungsen Leung (CPC), who went on at some length about how attachment and contribution to Canada could happen when one was abroad, almost questioning the intent to reside provision. The eventual question, directed at CIJA, reverted back to the obvious examples of citizens of convenience (e.g., 2006 Lebanese evacuation), with CIJA maintaining that being the real aim of the provision. But then drafting should be tighter so as not to cast to broad a net on Canadians that may move abroad for valid work, study or family reasons.

Ted Opitz (CPC) was poorly briefed in arguing that many countries have the same approach to revocation as proposed by the Government and that a previous Liberal government had ended revocation for treason. CARL corrected him on the former point (only UK currently has this approach, Australia is considering) and it was under Diefenbaker, two generations ago, that Canada stopped revoking citizenship from dual citizens.

And a bit of an interesting debate between Saperia and Basnicki with Macklin of CARL on whether the world would think better of Canada if we revoked citizenship or not. For Saperia and Basnicki, this was viewed as a strong signal worldwide that Canada did not tolerate such activity; Macklin argued the contrary that “outsourcing” our problem would signal that Canada does not take responsibility for the activities of its citizens. A philosophical divide.

Links (where available) are below. One note of frustration, the Parliamentary website, apart from posting agenda and the video link, does not appear to be posting briefs or transcripts, making it harder for those who wish to follow the discussions. A related frustration is that a number of organizations to not post their briefs and statements on their websites automatically or respond to requests for copies. I will update this list as the briefs and statements become available.

Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – CIJA (link not yet posted)

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (link not yet posted)

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (brief)

CARL Press Release: New Citizenship Act Threatens Rights of All Canadians

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

2 Responses to C-24 Citizenship Act Committee Hearings – 5 May

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    Thanks for providing the information on the meeting of CIMM, which I had been trying, without success, to find.
    I am very concerned about the plans for revocation, having had mine stripped 10 years ago. I’m sure the groups favouring this are not familiar with the stripping of citizenship for 12 reasons that went on, giving rise to the Lost Canadians movement. Most (over 750,000) got theirs restored in the Amendments of 2009 but there are still five groups with a problem who were not included.
    As I’ve said before, I think citizenship is too important to be decided, revoked or granted, by any one politician and it should be subject to a judicial process.
    I look forward to hearing more of the debate and do appreciate your help, Andrew.

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