C-24 Citizenship Act – Senate Hearing 12 June with Minister Alexander

Coverage of yesterday’s Senate hearings on C-24 with Minister Alexander and officials:

Alexander and his officials attempted to clarify what would happen to Canadian-born dual citizens convicted here or abroad of serious terrorism, treason or espionage offences that carry a penalty of five years or more. He stressed a convicted offender wouldn’t have to worry if he didn’t hold dual citizenship.

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati says countries like Iran recognize as its citizens people who are born “five generations out” whether they want to be its citizens or not.

Alexander said: “There is a way of renouncing every citizenship. No one in our country can be forced to be a citizen of any country. And under the laws of Canada, citizenship can be renounced, either ours or those of other countries.”

“That might not resolve a difference of opinion with Tehran or other capitals who consider someone to be a citizen. But in our eyes,” Alexander said, the individual would be — as a Conservative senator suggested — assumed to be a citizen of Canada not subject to revocation of their Canadian passport.

Tories insist changes to Citizenship Act will respect Charter, Constitution | Toronto Star.

From the Globe:

The bill will also require citizenship applicants to declare an “intent to reside” in Canada, another controversial move. Along with boosted penalties for fraud, it raised fears people would be stripped of citizenship for leaving the country. “The government should be encouraging citizenship, not discouraging it. Amend this bill and remove the ‘intention’ clause,” Barbara Caruso, another member of the CBA’s Immigration Law Section, told senators.

Mr. Alexander said flatly that would not happen. “There’s no requirement for a citizen of Canada to remain physically in Canada, once granted in citizenship,” he said.

Liberal Senator Art Eggleton said the bill does allow for a court hearing for people who object to losing their citizenship. The power is in the hands of the minister. Mr. Alexander earlier said there is a de facto appeal right. “Anyone can go to the federal court if they think the government has not fulfilled its statutory mandates. And they do go,” he told The Globe.

 Minister Chris Alexander under fire as citizenship bill poised to pass 

Some points of interest:

  • Efforts by the Minister to clarify the informal nature of Canadian citizenship prior to the first Citizenship Act of 1947 in response to Melynda Jarratt and Don Chapman’s arguments that Canadian citizenship had more formal status before 1947;
  • “Canadians would be sick to stomach if they knew the extent of fraud,” stated Alexander, which would be addressed through physical residency, filing tax returns etc. He cited immigration lawyer Raj Sharma on the “rampant fraud” and how people would “lie, cheat and steal” to get a Canadian passport;
  • Alexander started to go down the path of criticizing the Liberals, NDP and the “small fringe group” of the CBA. “No one else” was challenging C-24, other lawyers “were embarrassed” by the CBA position. The Liberals didn’t “enforce the rules.” Why did they “spend so much time protecting the rights of those committing the most serious violations of rule of law.”
  • Chair reminded him and others to avoid partisan attacks.
  • Alexander stuck to the bureaucratic distinction between time spent as a temporary and permanent resident, defending the elimination of partly counting pre-P.R. time towards citizenship. Hard to understand given that many comparative countries do allow this, and given the Government’s efforts to encourage international students to settle in Canada;
  • On intent to reside, Alexander reiterated again that it only applies to the application period. Once citizenship is granted, it is no longer in force. CIC DG Citizenship and Multiculturalism Nicole Girard stated that intent to reside has to be read within the larger context of requirements to become a citizen, not post-citizenship. Senator Cordy was “still uncomfortable” despite these assurances. Alexander was not pressed to clarity whether it could be used to revoke citizenship in case of misrepresentation during that period;
  • On revocation, Girard walked through the various tests that would apply:
    • was the person a dual citizen?
    • if convicted abroad, was the offence equivalent to a Canadian offence?
    • was the sentence 5 years or more?
    • were there concerns with the process or independence of the judiciary?
    • In witness testimony, even witnesses supporting the Government (CIJA, FDD) noted the need for an explicit reference in the Act to the last test (equivalency of process). Not clear why the Government not accepting that.
  • Alexander glossed over the distinction between seeking leave before the Federal Court and having judicial review and was not pressed on that point. He also was not challenged on the question of oral hearings “Minister has authority to hold a hearing,” confirming the default of a paper process.
  • Citizenship judges would have more time for citizenship promotion, given that officials would be the decision makers, except for difficult cases such as those involving residency.
  • Alexander, in response to criticism of a harder and more costly process, stated “the higher the bar, the more attractive citizenship becomes.” Past experience with the more rigorous language and knowledge requirements had not resulted in fewer citizenship applications and lower rates of naturalization.

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.

One Response to C-24 Citizenship Act – Senate Hearing 12 June with Minister Alexander

  1. rappolee58 says:

    my mother was born in Vancouver before 1947 and I was born in the united states, so I will be very happy to become a Canadian citizen!

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