Chris Selley: With Jihadi Jack, Britain gives Canada a taste of its own medicine

Good column by Selley. Nails country responsibility:

On Sunday we learned that Jack Letts, known in the British press as Jihadi Jack, is no longer a British subject. Then-home secretary Sajid Javid and then-prime minister Theresa May reportedly approved stripping the alleged ISIL fighter of his citizenship as one of their administration’s final acts and it seems they didn’t even send a telegram. Instead Letts was informed by an ITV News crew interviewing him at the Kurdish prison where he has been held for two-and-a-half years. Now, some fear, he will eventually wind up in Canada: He holds citizenship through his parents.

“Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada,” Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus said in a statement, calling it “naïve and dangerous” to think “anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed.”

Paul-Hus does not exaggerate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarkable rhetorical commitment to rehabilitating ISIL fighters. “Someone who has engaged and turned away from that hateful ideology can be an extraordinarily powerful voice for preventing radicalization in future generations and younger people within the community,” he told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme in 2017. The Liberals didn’t just revoke the Conservative law allowing dual-citizen terrorists and traitors to be stripped of their citizenship; they made a big, principled show of it. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” Trudeau would gravely intone, explicitly asking audience members to put themselves on the same level as Zakaria Amara, the Toronto 18 ringleader who lost his citizenship under the Conservatives and got it back under the Liberals.

The talking point is altogether ridiculous — Canadian citizenship is stratified according to criteria as basic as whether it can be passed on to foreign-born children — but like it or not, it was a brave stance.

The Liberals seemed less proud of Canadian consular officials making contact with Letts, refusing to comment when CBC got hold of audio tapes and transcripts of their meetings last year. Perhaps that’s because Letts said he would be happy to relocate to a Canadian prison if it would get him out of his current accommodations. Since then, Foreign Affairs seems to have lost interest in his situation entirely. Now, weeks out from an election, the Conservatives have been served a soft-on-terror talking point on a silver platter.

This case hardly illustrates the wisdom of the Conservative and British approaches

To their credit, neither Paul-Hus nor party leader Andrew Scheer has suggested this is a legislative problem. “(Letts is) in prison now and that’s where he should stay. I won’t lift a finger to bring him back to Canada,” Scheer said in a statement on Monday. Perhaps surprisingly, Paul-Hus wouldn’t even confirm to the National Post that a Conservative government would reintroduce the citizenship revocation provision.

Conservative partisans have been more than happy to draw the link, however.

“Under Stephen Harper, dual nationals could be stripped of their Canadian citizenship if they were convicted of terrorist offences. Justin Trudeau changed that law,” the pro-Conservative advocacy group Canada Proud tweeted. “So now, Canada is stuck with this ISIS terrorist.”

Letts hasn’t been convicted of anything, but he could theoretically have lost his citizenship under a different section of the law allowing the minister to seek revocation if he “has reasonable grounds to believe that a person … served as a member of an armed force of a country or as a member of an organized armed group and that country or group was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada.”

This case hardly illustrates the wisdom of the Conservative and British approaches, however. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale quite rightly accused the Brits of attempting to “off-load their responsibilities” — Letts was born, raised, educated and lost the plot on British soil. Canada would be no better off at this point with the Conservative-era law in place: It only applied to dual citizens, and Letts is no longer one of those. From a hawk’s perspective, the best-case alternative scenario would be that we had denationalized Letts first, leaving Britain holding the bag. This would arguably be fairer, but surely a never-ending game of terrorist tag with our foreign allies — You’re it! No givebacks! — is a pretty lousy excuse for a national security strategy.

As annoyed as Canadians are right now with the prospect of helping or even housing this cretin, that’s precisely as annoyed as the Conservative legislation was sure to make other countries. That those countries might more often be Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia than the United Kingdom does not redeem the exercise — rather, it raises the question of why we would want any more terrorists running around those countries instead of under close watch here at home. I happen to agree with Trudeau that dealing with our own trash is the right moral and ethical thing to do. But morals and ethics aside, purely as a practical matter, it strikes me as the only sensible approach.

Source: Chris Selley: With Jihadi Jack, Britain gives Canada a taste of its own medicine

And it appears that the Conservatives have no plans to re-introduce citizenship revocation should they win the election:

Mr. Letts’s case has refuelled a debate in Canada over dual citizens convicted of terrorism.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper passed a law in 2014 that gave Canada the power to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who had been convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. The Trudeau government reversed the law in 2017 after campaigning on the slogan “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

Despite Mr. Scheer’s opposition to repatriating Canadian foreign fighters, his office said the Conservatives “would not re-introduce grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security.” The Conservatives did not explain why Mr. Scheer would not reinstate the law.

Legal experts say the former law, if re-introduced, would likely lead to a legal challenge on the grounds that it would create a two-tier citizenship system.

Audrey Macklin, a law professor and chair in human-rights law at the University of Toronto, said these kinds of citizenship revocation laws encourage an “arbitrary race to see who could strip citizenship of dual nationals first.”

“It’s hard not to recall that Canada had such a law inspired by the U.K. itself but now it finds itself on the receiving end of another state’s practice. It just reminds us that this is a parochial, unhelpful, kind of grubby response,” Prof. Macklin said.

Maryam Monsef case highlights ‘absurdity’ of Canadian law, refugee lawyers say

The Minister did commit during parliamentary committee hearings last spring to address the lack of due process for citizenship revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. This court challenge likely reflects frustration that no action has been taken to date:

Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing under a law the Liberals denounced while in opposition but which they’ve been enforcing aggressively since taking power, civil liberties and refugee lawyers say.

The democratic institutions minister revealed last week that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she’d long believed. She said her mother, who fled Afghanistan with her daughters when Monsef was 11, didn’t think it mattered where the minister was born since she was still legally considered an Afghan citizen.

Monsef has said she will have to correct her birthplace information on her passport.

If Monsef’s birthplace was misrepresented on her citizenship application as well, that would be grounds for revocation of citizenship, regardless of whether it was an innocent mistake or the fault of her mother, said immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.

Misrepresentation could lead to deportation

And if the misrepresentation was on her permanent residence and refugee applications, she could even be deported, said Waldman, part of a group that launched a constitutional challenge of the law Monday.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association argue that the law, known as Bill C-24, is procedurally unfair and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Josh Paterson, the BCCLA’s executive director, said Monsef’s case demonstrates the absurdity of the law, which was passed by the previous Conservative government.

“The minister’s situation … is exactly the kind of situation that many other Canadians are facing right now because of this unjust process,” Paterson told a news conference.

“When we get a parking ticket, we have a right to a court hearing … You leave your garbage in the wrong place and you get a ticket, you have the right to a hearing and yet for citizens to lose their entitlement to membership in Canada based on allegations of something they may or may not have said 20 years ago, they have no hearing? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Law to be enforced

When he was in opposition, John McCallum denounced the law as “dictatorial” and since becoming immigration minister, he’s promised to amend it to create an appeal process, Paterson said.

Nevertheless, repeated requests that the government stop enforcing the law until it can be changed have been ignored. As recently as two weeks ago, Paterson said Justice Department lawyers informed his group that the law would continue to be enforced.

Source: Maryam Monsef case highlights ‘absurdity’ of Canadian law, refugee lawyers say – Politics – CBC News

Conservatives openly criticize party’s election performance, C-24 Citizenship

Interesting, Deepak Obhrai’s comment on C-24:

As the week wore on, more Conservatives opened up, with those in Calgary – Mr. Harper’s hometown – in a particularly candid mood.

Calgary Forest Lawn MP Deepak Obhrai, who most recently served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, talked to media of how he had never liked Bill C-24, a key part of the Harper Conservatives’ legislative agenda that was controversial in the election campaign. Bill C-24, now law, allows Ottawa to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism.

“I was not comfortable with the whole idea,” Mr. Obhrai said in an interview. He said he does not think the government should have the power to take away citizenship, adding that, in his job, he had “travelled around the world and seen this abuse take place.” He said he never hid his feelings on the bill. “The Prime Minister was aware of the fact I was not very happy about this.”

The legislation unnerved members of the immigrant community, and the Tories encountered concern while door-knocking. Mr. Obhrai said he thinks it hurt his party.

He called Mr. Harper a “visionary leader,” but added that, with a new chief, the Tories need to present “a different, softer image.”

“Somewhere in the middle of the campaign, we became out of touch with Canadians.”

Source: Conservatives openly criticize party’s election performance – The Globe and Mail

For the record, he raised this concern in Parliament on 28 May 2014:

Mr. Speaker, one of the strongest human rights principles is to create all Canadian citizens equal, no matter what. That is the fundamental human rights situation. That is what I am concerned about in this bill, and I would like clarification on from my friend, the minister of citizenship. I agree very much with all of the other aspects that the minister has mentioned. I strongly support this bill except on this one condition, which is the fundamental right for a Canadian to be treated as a Canadian, no matter what.

When a Canadian citizen’s citizenship is revoked, unless that citizenship was obtained fraudulently—and I can agree with revoking it for that reason—we are treating one Canadian differently from another Canadian, and in my opinion that is against a fundamental human rights provision. That is the area of my concern in relation to this bill.

I would like the minister to speak about how he would address this issue of this fundamental human rights principle that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. We do not talk about dual nationality. If a person has obtained a Canadian citizenship, it is then his legitimate right to be treated as a Canadian citizen. That is what I am asking my dear colleague.

Tories move to strip citizenship from Canadian-born terrorist

So what this means, is that someone born in Canada, whose radicalization happened in this country, can have their citizenship revoked (pending the court challenge).

The Harper government is attempting to revoke the citizenship of a convicted terrorist who was born and raised in Canada, Maclean’s has learned—a first under a controversial new law that has triggered intense debate during the election campaign.

Saad Gaya, 27, is believed to be the only Canadian-born citizen (terrorist or not) to ever face the prospect of being stripped of his citizenship. Until now, there was no legal mechanism to undo what has long been considered an irreversible birthright.

A member of the so-called “Toronto 18,” Gaya pleaded guilty to his role in an al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plot and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Although he was born in Montreal and grew up in Oakville, Ont., the Tories say recently enacted legislation provides the power to rescind Gaya’s citizenship because they believe he is a dual national of Pakistan—by virtue of the fact his parents, who immigrated to Ontario more than three decades ago, were born there.

Gaya, who has never lived in Pakistan, has launched a Charter challenge in Federal Court, arguing that the government’s revocation system amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” and could have “a sufficiently severe psychological and social impact.”

“For many individuals captured by the new revocation provisions and who would now face deportation, including the Applicant, their other nationality derives from a country with which they have no meaningful connection, have little or no familiarity with the language or culture, and have no family or other support network,” reads Gaya’s court filing, submitted Sept. 18. “The Applicant was born and grew up in Canada. His family is in Canada and has been since before he was born.”

That Saad Gaya was a terrorist is not in dispute. A former honours student at Hamilton’s McMaster University, he confessed to participating in a 2006 conspiracy to detonate bombs in southern Ontario in retaliation for Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. Although a judge concluded he was not the plot’s driving force, he was a loyal, willing underling who followed every order; the day he was arrested (June 2, 2006), police videotaped him at a north Toronto warehouse unloading what he believed to be a truckload of explosive fertilizer.

Gaya himself described his criminal behaviour as “shameful,” “politically naïve,” and “irrational.”

Yet despite his undeniable guilt, the Tories’ push to revoke Gaya’s citizenship presents an uncomfortable (and potentially unconstitutional) possibility: that a person born in Canada could lose his Canadian status and be deported to a country he’s never known—all because his parents were born there and, by extension, passed their dual nationality onto him.

Source: EXCLUSIVE: Tories move to strip citizenship from Canadian-born terrorist

And in giving credence to the slippery slope argument, and reinforcing the wedge politics, the PM suggests expanding this to other crimes:

A re-elected Conservative government might look to strip dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship if they commit other heinous crimes, Stephen Harper said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Harper was on The Andrew Lawton Show to talk about Bill C-24, a new law the Tories passed this spring that strips dual citizens convicted of terrorism of their Canadian citizenship.

Lawton asked Harper if he might strip other dual citizens in the future if convicted of other crimes, giving by way of example a serial killer, a rapist or someone who did something to children.

“Well, you know, obviously we can look at options into the future,” Harper responded.

“The reason we did this expansion… to terrorists and treason offences really is consistent with the way the law has always worked. You know we’ve been able to revoke citizenship, for example, for war criminals. So it is really been in cases where the person’s criminal acts are not just vile, but they actually demonstrate that the person has no loyalty of any kind to the country or its values.”

Harper said he couldn’t understand why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair believe C-24 demeans Canadian citizenship.

“I think most Canadians, whether they are immigrants or other Canadians, understand that what demeans Canadian citizenship would be to allow war criminals and convicted terrorists and people who are actually out to destroy and defame our country to keep their citizenship,” Harper said. “They have a position that is frankly indefensible to virtually all Canadians.”

Bill C-24: Harper Says Tories May Consider Stripping Other Criminals Of Citizenship

Banishment is a poor tool in fight against terrorism: Roach and Forcese

Apart from the principled concern regarding revocation (two classes of citizenship), Roach and Forcese outline practical concerns:

Given all this, how should we evaluate revocation as anti-terrorism? Cancelling the citizenship of convicted terrorists may be politically popular because it appeals to our fear and anger at terrorists. However, there are both principled and practical concerns about revocation as an anti-terror tool.

The principled issue can be summarized simply: Whether a government can take away citizenship (for something other than fraud in acquiring it) is a totally novel constitutional issue. The question has never arisen, because revocation of this sort has never existed since the Charter came into existence. But if Canadian courts follow the path of their U.S. counterparts, they will guard sternly against revocations.

Add to that the discriminatory nature of the citizenship-stripping law – confined to dual nationals – and the due process minimalism that afflicts the system and you have the makings for a serious constitutional dust-up.

But focus also on the practical issues. In the best-case scenario, the government actually banishes a truly dangerous individual, but only by displacing risk to a foreign country, even assuming that foreign state co-operates in their removal.

In the worst case, the government tries to remove the individual to the tender embraces of a torturing state. Under international law, no one can be removed to face torture and maltreatment. And whatever it might have said in earlier cases, the Supreme Court would have to ignore a lot of its recent Charter pronouncements to permit deportations to torture.

And so, since the men the government wishes to banish would be removed to countries with poor records on torture, we should expect citizenship revocation proceedings to spill over to endless disputes over deportation.

The last time we tried this – with “security certificates” – the government was budgeting more than $5-million a year, a person, by 2009 in its decade-long effort (so far 100-per-cent unsuccessful) to use a procedurally doubtful process to remove people to maltreatment.

To put that in context: The entire national annual budget for the RCMP’s much-delayed front-line “terrorism prevention program” has been $1.1-million (slated to rise to a very modest $3.1-million under the 2015 budget).

There is every reason to believe, therefore, that Canada is now repeating its prioritization of expensive, noisy, controversial, often-fruitless efforts to chase problems out of the country, rather than focus on fixing them before they become problems.

Moreover, despite intelligence warnings about prison radicalization, Canada has no developed policy countering prison radicalization.

Inattention to what experts call terrorist “disengagement” is a mistake. If the Islamic State’s call to violence resonates among the disaffected, there should be more prosecutions and convictions. Some convicts, such as the VIA train plotters, will be sentenced to life imprisonment, but others will not. They will eventually be released. It is in all our interests to attempt to rehabilitate them.

Citizenship-stripping of those terrorists who have dual nationality reduces pressure to take this matter seriously by fostering the illusion that we can simply prosecute and deport our way out of the problem of IS-inspired terrorism.

Source: Banishment is a poor tool in fight against terrorism – The Globe and Mail