Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians – Macklin, Adams and Omidvar

Audrey Macklin, Michael Adams and Ratna Omidvar on the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act:

Some Canadians commit serious crimes. The foreign-born are no more likely than the Canadian-born to do so (some evidence suggests they are less likely to) but small numbers in each group do break the law. Nor are dual citizens more likely than mono-citizens to commit crimes. Today, citizens (including foreign-born and dual citizens) are equal before the law and are treated the same way as other Canadians if they are accused of a crime. They undergo due process and, if convicted, are punished according to the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. If their crimes are committed abroad, the procedures are different but their treatment by the Canadian government is identical.

Adding citizenship revocation as an extra prospective punishment for dual citizens (many of whom, but not all, are foreign-born) is tantamount to creating a second class of citizenship. This is a change that cuts to the core of what it means to be Canadian – and in order to solve what problem?

Canadian citizenship is a solution, not a problem. Canada has traditionally had exceptionally high naturalization rates; nearly nine in 10 immigrants (89 per cent) have become Canadian citizens. This pattern has been praised as a strength of our immigration program: a sign that immigrants are invested in Canada and Canada is invested in the successful integration of its immigrants.

When immigrants become citizens they can vote, stand for office (and win: in 2011, 44 of our sitting MPs were born outside the country), and generally become fully contributing, fully participating members of Canadian society. To turn citizenship from a tool of integration into a reward for good behaviour – to be revoked at the discretion of one minister on grounds of bad behavior and without due process – is to undermine the meaning and value of citizenship for all Canadians.

Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians – The Globe and Mail.

Tories speed up plan to give minister power to strip citizenship – The Globe and Mail

More debate on the proposed revocation measures, particularly with respect to revocation for fraud and Ministerial decision-making. The previous revocation process was largely unworkable:

Mr. Alexander told CTV this week the existing revocation process is “one of the most time-consuming, document-intensive bureaucratic processes I’ve ever seen.” His spokeswoman, Codie Taylor, said the unilateral system is meant to “reduce duplication and bureaucracy. We are making the citizenship system more efficient, which will result in decreased backlogs and improved processing times.”

Canada can’t leave a person stateless under international treaty law, so the rules apply only to dual citizens. The law also puts the onus on those accused to prove they’d be left stateless – not on government to prove they wouldn’t. Mr. Alexander also now has the sole right to grant “discretionary” citizenship, though the government says it will not make public the list of those who get it.

The changes in Bill C-24 omit Sections 10 and 18 of the existing Citizenship Act, which dealt with revocation and a subject’s right to appeal to court. While court will no longer be an option in some cases, Winnipeg immigration lawyer David Matas noted other cases actually will be sent to a higher court than before. “This new legislation, as far as I can see, is an improvement,” he said.

Tories speed up plan to give minister power to strip citizenship – The Globe and Mail.

Citizenship Act Revocation: Commentary

Strong commentary on both sides of the political spectrum on the revocation and related provisions of the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, starting with Chris Selley of the National Post:

Grown-up countries clean up their own messes. You don’t “strengthen Canadian citizenship,” as Bill C-24 purports to, by making it easier to revoke, by kicking your junk into another country’s closet. You strengthen Canadian citizenship by holding wayward or treasonous citizens to account, and by demanding fair and equal treatment for even the most unpopular, thereby reinforcing the obligations they violated. Mr. Khadr’s case showed us how far Canada has to go. The Conservatives propose to take us even further in the wrong direction.

Chris Selley: Actually, my citizenship is a right | National Post.

Audrey Macklin and Lorne Waldman of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, in addition to their previous criticism of the revocation provisions, note additional problems with differential treatment of Canadian-born vs naturalized Canadians:

The provision also holds out the implicit threat that if a naturalized Canadian citizen takes up a job somewhere else (as many Canadians do), or leaves Canada to study abroad (as many Canadians do), the government may move to strip the person of citizenship because they misrepresented their intention to reside in Canada when they were granted citizenship. Whether the government acts on the threat is not the issue; it is enough that people will be made insecure and apprehensive by the possibility that the government may arbitrarily decide to launch revocation proceedings against them if they leave Canada too soon, or remain away too long. That’s not a way to foster a citizenship of commitment. That’s how to foster a citizenship of fear.

I had viewed this provision as more symbolic than enforceable, but Macklin and Waldman have a point as this could be deemed fraud should a naturalized citizen leave Canada for professional or personal reasons. CIC may not today be able to enforce such a provision. However, as the government implements its plans for exit controls, this may change. As many Canadians, both naturally-born and naturalized, live abroad, often for reasons that most would consider valid (i.e., not just “citizens of convenience”), this provision bears greater scrutiny.

Citizenship reforms a serious threat to rights of all Canadians

Lastly, a reminder that not all share this concern. Kevin Hampson in the Mayerthorpe Freelancer, strongly supports the revocation measures:

Being Canadian is a privilege, not a right—that’s the message. Those are much better terms on which to welcome newcomers.

Finally, despite the Toronto Star’s alarmism, it is just and proper to strip citizenship from people who engage in terrorism. Thomas Walkom’s characterization of this view as “radical” shows the extent of his esteem for Canadian citizenship.

Walkom suggests that thousands of Canadians could have their citizenship revoked. Here’s a tip: don’t want to lose your citizenship? Don’t become a terrorist.

“Yesterday’s terrorist can be tomorrow’s hero,” Walkom shrugs. To which we reply: If Canada in the future celebrates Islamic terrorists as heroes, Walkom will have worse things to worry about than Bill C-24.

Canada’s new Citizenship Act is long overdue

Still haven’t seen much commentary in French language media. Will also be interesting to see how ethnic press covers this (how I miss the ethnic media press scan at CIC).