Five bills likely to stoke Harper’s conflict with Supreme Court

On the list:

C-24, the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” received royal assent and became law June 19.

The government billed C-24 as a once-in-a-generation overhaul of citizenship law, but some of its provisions proved deeply divisive. Foremost among those is a clause that allows the government to strip citizenship from Canadian-born citizens if they’ve been convicted of treason, espionage or terrorism and have citizenship in another country.

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati launched a legal challenge against the provision on June 25, saying the government doesn’t have the constitutional authority to make the change. That was after several earlier warnings during committee consideration of the bill.

“It appears to be against the Charter, and I expect there will be significant litigation,” Barbara Jackman, a member of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Immigration Law Section, told a Senate committee considering the bill.

The CBA also took issue with a change in the bill that asks applicants to declare an intent to reside in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has brushed aside concerns, saying Canadians aren’t required to stay in the country, but critics have pointed to provisions in the bill that allow citizenship-stripping in cases of fraud, and asked whether the “intent” clause could be considered in a fraud case. The CBA said the provision is “likely unconstitutional.

”Mr. Alexander assured a committee studying the bill that it was constitutional, a point put to Ms. Jackman by the committee.“I would remind the committee that [government has] passed other legislation that, again and again, the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down just recently. So the fact that the Department of Justice and the minister say it is constitutional doesn’t mean it is,” she replied.

Audrey Macklin, a professor and Chair in Human Rights Law at the University of Toronto, echoed many of the warnings on Charter compliance but also said that under C-24, those about to be stripped of citizenship are given the onus to prove they do not hold citizenship elsewhere – which would stop the process, as Canada won’t leave someone stateless – rather than making the government prove that person does hold citizenship elsewhere. Prof. Macklin warned that such a “reverse-onus provision” also violates the Charter.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also has raised warnings about the constitutionality of C-24.

“CCLA is seriously concerned that Bill C-24 has created a second tier of citizenship that is incompatible with equality principles,” General Counsel and Executive Director Sukanya Pillay said in an e-mail. “…We must remember that citizenship includes rights, and to strip individuals of citizenship is to re-introduce archaic punishments such as exile and banishment – the possibility of statelessness is also a serious concern. Any arbitrary loss of citizenship is incompatible with democratic values and fundamental rights.”

Five bills likely to stoke Harper’s conflict with Supreme Court – The Globe and Mail.

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.

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