Articles of interest over the holidays – Citizenship


[Only took the Globe a month to notice this in the IRCC mandate letter.]

The federal government has committed to waiving citizenship application fees that immigration advocates say are a major barrier that stops newcomers from becoming Canadian citizens.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in his mandate letter to bring forward a plan to eliminate the fees.

Adult applicants currently pay a $530 for processing, and a $100 right-of-citizenship fee. Families have to pay an extra $100 for every applicant under the age of 18. A citizenship application for a family of four would cost $1,460.

….According to Statistics Canada data, the rate of immigrants who became citizens after living for six years in Canada dropped to 55.4 per cent in 2016 from 70.2 per cent in 2006.

Source: eliminating fees
Vavilov ruling (children of non-diplomats working for a foreign intelligence service)

Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov is a landmark ruling on administrative law as a majority of the Supreme Court revises the approach articulated in Dunsmuir. The ruling represents a departure from the deferential approach to administrative decision-making that the Court has espoused since at least Dunsmuir. While the Court affirms a presumption that judicial review will be done on a standard of reasonableness, the Court invokes the notions of the rule of law to signal that decision-makers will be held to a higher standard of justification when their decisions are reviewed. Absent proper reasons, administrative delegates are at an increased risk of having their decisions quashed.

While the decision is ripe for academic analysis, this post provides a practical guide to how the standard of review analysis operates for litigants and decision makers alike going forward. In doing so, we focus on the Court’s analysis of what the revised standard of review framework entails and leave the discussion about the facts of Vavilov and its companion decision — Bell Canada v. Canada (Attorney General) (2019 SCC 66) for another time. We also do not explore the concurring reasons of Justices Abella and Karakatsanis, where they raised concerns about the majority’s decision. These, and other academic issues, will be taken up in a supplemental post on Vavilov.

In brief, the majority of the Supreme Court confirms that the standard of reasonableness presumptively applies to administrative decisions. However, the Court articulated two paths through which the presumption of reasonableness can be rebutted.

  • First, where the enabling legislation provides statutory appeal rights to a court, Vavilov establishes that the appellate standards of review will apply.
  • Second, the presumption of reasonableness can be ousted where the rule of law dictates that the standard of correctness be applied. This will be engaged in cases that raise (a) constitutional questions, (b) general questions of law of central importance to the legal system as a whole and (c) questions related to the jurisdictional boundaries between two or more administrative bodies.

Overall, the Court’s decision is a signal to decision makers that their decisions will be subjected to greater scrutiny and that the standard for justification and reasons will be higher.

Source: Canada (Minister Of Citizenship And Immigration) v. Vavilov: A Practical Guide To The Revised Standard Of Review Analysis – Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration – Canada

[Overly sympathetic interview]

A Toronto-born son of Russian spies says Canadian citizenship was “something I really felt I had to fight for,” after a Supreme Court decision last week finally brought his nine-year legal battle to an end.

Alexander Vavilov was 16 years old when the FBI arrested his parents in 2010 for their involvement in a North America-based Russian espionage ring.

They were elite spies for the KGB, the former Soviet secret police. Their real names are Elena Vavilova and Andrey Bezrukov, but they came to Toronto in the 1980s under the names Tracey Ann Foley and Donald Heathfield. Their story inspired the TV show The Americans, but Vavilov says he had no idea they were spies.Vavilov was stripped of his American citizenship after his parents were arrested by the FBI in 2010. In 2014, he discovered his Canadian citizenship had also been revoked, and he has been fighting to get it back ever since.

The Canadian government argued that the Russian spies were equivalent to foreign diplomats, whose children would legally not be granted Canadian citizenship.

Last week the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rejected that finding, meaning that Vavilov can permanently reside in Canada, where he was born.

Source: Canadian citizenship something ‘I really felt I had to fight for,’ says Toronto-born son of Russian spies

Consular services

So, what should Canadians like Ms. Clamen expect when the worst happens abroad? The Globe and Mail conducted a year-long investigation into Canadian consular services to find out. We spoke to former employees of the service and Canadians who have had difficulties overseas, filed a dozen access-to-information requests and read through thousands of pages of reports and internal documents. The investigation, made possible through the Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Investigative Reporting, reveals some fundamental problems, including unclear standards, failures to meet what few measurable standards there are and unequal treatment of consular cases.

Canadians have no legislated right to consular assistance, so the government has discretion in the services it provides. As a result, critics argue assistance favours those with easy problems or access to power. When the families of travellers who have died or suffered other hardship abroad try to obtain details about individual cases, they are stymied by privacy laws, which ultimately make it nearly impossible to judge how effectively Global Affairs is aiding Canadians.

The Globe spent 10 months requesting an on-the-record interview with a senior representative of Global Affairs. The department declined, instead providing what it called a background briefing for 30 minutes with three senior government officials who could not be quoted. The department followed up with written responses to questions.

Source: investigation Canada’s patchwork of consular services leaves some citizens fighting for life and justice abroad If Canadians are jailed, endangered or go missing abroad, Global Affairs is supposed to be in their corner. But there are unclear and inconsistent standards that favour some travellers over others

Municipal voting rights for Permanent Residents 

[Given relative ease in obtaining citizenship, and planned waiving of fees, hard to understand rationale]

Canadians seem intent on devaluing citizenship and eroding the rights and responsibilities of those who hold it at a time when fewer immigrants are choosing to become citizens.

In the guise of strengthening democracy, municipal politicians backed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are lobbying for non-citizens to be granted voting rights in local elections. It’s being trumpeted as “an extraordinary opportunity.”

The question is: An extraordinary opportunity for whom?

In the federal arena, the major parties (including the Bloc Quebecois) have all abandoned the requirement that members be citizens. That’s despite the fact that party members have a greater voice in the democratic process, better access to elected representatives and a hand in both choosing candidates and the party’s leader.

Both the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party allowed all of their members to vote in their leadership contests, while the governing Liberals’ leaders have always been chosen by delegates — members elected in their riding to vote at the convention.

At its September convention, the Union of B.C. Municipalities delegates passed a resolution urging the extension of voting rights to permanent residents. Coincidentally, that convention also included a reception sponsored by the Chinese consul general.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Voting is a right of citizenship, not residency

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 Articles of interest over the holidays – Citizenship

  1. Robert Addington says:

    I agree that voting is a right of citizenship, not residence.

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