C-24 Citizenship Act: Senate Hearings – 11 June

Second and last day of witnesses at Senate Committee examining C-24. Same technical frustrations with Parlvu, so again have captured as best I can.

Starting with supporting witnesses:

Martin Collacott of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform noted these changes were long overdue. Longer residency and physical presence would reduce fraud, noting many “parked their families in Canada, benefitting from Canadian healthcare and education while they worked abroad.” Increased penalties and filing of tax returns made sense. However, the only secure way to eliminate residence fraud was through entry and exit controls. Higher language requirements were needed for more skilled labour and management and extension of language requirements to 14-64 was welcome. He supported revocation for treason or terror and noted UK has an even more strict approach (no statelessness provision). A 2012 survey showed 80 percent supported for revocation. He welcomed the Lost Canadians fix. He also stated the need for the government to end jus soli (birthright citizenship) but noted some of the challenges working with the provinces.
Sheryl Saperia of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies largely repeated her earlier testimony to CIMM. Revocation was about ‘updating the social contract of citizenship.”  It was “fitting to lose citizenship” for treason, terrorism or armed conflict. But the Bill should be tightened to terrorism in Canada, against Canadian targets or for Canadian listed entities. If nothing to do with Canada, there should be no citizenship consequences. Persons should not be able to use the Canadian passport to travel for terror; we needed to “remove this weapon of Canadian citizenship” given the freedom to travel that it entails. As before, she noted the need for a second test of due process and fairness in the case of foreign convictions. She also mentioned argued that Canadian passport applications should include an acknowledgement that engagement in terrorism or treason could entail revocation, again to reinforce the social contract.

Tim Edwards, President and Ron Cochrane, Executive Director Executive Director, Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers expressed their support for ensuring that the children born to Crown servants born abroad would have an exemption to the first generation limit to allow them to pass on Canadian citizenship to their children. No debate or discussion, apart from a quip by Senator Eggleton that “we should pass it and kill the rest.”

Opposing the Bill were:

Barbara Jackman, Kerri Froc, Barbara J. Caruso, Canadian Bar Association started with their overall assessment that C-24 discouraged persons from applying through its “layers of regulations, harder, longer and more costly process.” Like others, CBA opposed elimination of pre-P.R. time. They questioned how an applicant would prove their intent to reside and reiterated their concern that despite the Minister’s assurance regarding possible grounds for misrepresentation should one’s intent to reside change post-citizenship. CBA, like most lawyers, opposed revocation for dual nationals. It is discriminatory and takes away the “certainty of citizenship.” Banishment or exile was a way to “get through the back door what the Government couldn’t get through the “front door.”

Yuen Pau Woo, President and CEO, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada provided a different perspective by focussing on the contribution made by Canadians living abroad. He focussed this criticism on the increased residency requirements. He believed that this would result in reduced citizenship accession rates. This would result in fewer economic benefits to Canada; if citizenship was relatively easy, more new Canadians would invest in their human capital and improve their earning power. The intent was not clear: if to punish immigrants, this would not increase attachment. If to curb abuse of social benefit programs, given that these programs are available to permanent residents, increasing citizenship requirements would not make a difference. The best mix was a high bar to entry but a relatively low bar for citizenship. The general implications of the Bill were that Canadians residing in Canada were “more Canadian than those abroad.” This was an outdated view, given the high mobility of labour in today’s world, particularly the most highly talented (“best and brightest”). Some 2.8 million Canadians lived abroad, or 9 percent of the population. Restoring voting rights beyond 5 years was an additional way to encourage attachment to Canada. Increased residency requirements would reduce both economic benefits and attachment to Canada.

Melynda Jarratt, Canadian War Brides, in a strongly worded statement, talked about the history of Canadian war brides who were initially welcomed to Canada along with their children as Canadians but the “bureaucrats changed their mind.” Canadian citizenship did not start in 1947 with the first Citizenship Act but there were many government statements and court decisions that mentioned Canadian citizenship before then. She argued for the need for a citizenship ombudsman and amnesty program to address the remaining estimated 50,000 Lost Canadians not addressed by C-24. It was also important to recognize the Canadian war dead from both World Wars as Canadian, not just British subjects. She ended by saying that it was “disgraceful” how Don Chapman was treated and not able to testify.

Particular points of interest:

  • As expected, focus was on revocation. Senator Eggleton noted the current trial in Egypt of Mohamed Fahmy, a dual citizen. If convicted, theoretically his citizenship could be revoked. Collacott noted that was a worst case and unlikely  scenario.  Revocation was needed to deal with serious acts against Canada.
  • Senator Eaton questioned Canadian Iranians who go to Iran, engage in political activity, and then “wave their Canadian passport when they get into trouble. “Why get involved if Canada is your home?” A bit odd, given the Government’s encouragement of Ukrainian Canadians and others to participate in their “homeland” issues.
  • Saperia said that not every distinction is necessarily discriminatory. People who choose dual citizenship should not view themselves as discriminated against. C-24 protected people against statelessness. Collacott, rather candidly, noted that “we can’t get rid of Canadians we don’t like” but we can for dual nationals. Caruso noted the equality and mobility rights of the Charter made this approach discriminatory.
  • A somewhat amusing exchange between Senator Eggleton and Saperia over whether revocation was really only about Omar Kadr. Saperia, reluctant to get into a debate over Kadr, cited the recent Globe article, Made-in-Canada terror is real – and it’s being ignored, said it is a broader issue.
  • Saperia stated that the decision-making process was less important than ensuring the right factors were concerned. Whether decided by the Courts, the Minister or an official was secondary.
  • Senator Tkachuk challenged the assertion that the increase in fees was unreasonable.Caruso said the increase was “overwhelming for many.”
  • Good discussion on increased residency requirements. Senator Seidman noted that 4 years out of 6 provided considerable flexibility to address work, study, or family related travel. Woo emphasized that in a world of global careers, the need to diversity Canada’s trade beyond the US and the importance of contacts, more flexibility is required. Otherwise, Canada would get a “poorer quality of applicants.” Both Collacott and Senator Eaton expressed scepticism over the benefits to Canada of such internationally mobile citizens.
  • Woo also noted that too much attention was paid to the evacuation and return of Lebanese Canadians in 2006. There was a need to protect against abuse. Evacuations could be paid by the evacuees.

Committee hearings today feature Minister Alexander, so expect a spirited exchange given the tone of some of his recent remarks on critics of the Bill.

C-24 Citizenship Act Committee Hearings – 5 May

As there was no real press coverage of Committee hearings 5 May, watched the video and the following summary may be of interest.

Like many committee hearings, an element of Kabuki theatre with the Government asking questions of witnesses in favour of their approach to revocation while the opposition asking questions of those opposed to revocation and a number of other provisions.

On the Government “side,” there was Canadian Israel Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD); “for” the opposition, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

CIJA supported most aspects of the proposed changes, including increased residency, language and knowledge requirements, the intent to reside, and the revocation provisions. Given that the possible impact of the Israel’s law of return, given all Jews the right to Israeli residency and citizenship, subject to an application process, Fogal spent considerable time stating that the dual national distinction did not apply to the right to having another citizenship but only to those who exercise that right. He did, however, note the need for some process improvements, particularly the need in any terror-related convictions in foreign countries to be subject to a test that they were equivalent to Canadian practice and fairness.

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation (ACTVF) and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies also support the Government’s revocation proposals (see earlier opinion piece by Sheryl Saperia The case for revoking citizenship – National Post). Both argue that the fundamental social contract makes revocation appropriate in such extreme cases of terrorism, war crimes and the like.

Saperia of FDD noted the need for some process improvements (tighter drafting of connection to Canada for terrorist activities and, like CIJA, the need to have explicit criteria for determining the equivalence of foreign to Canadian convictions). On dual nationals, she said that in cases where other countries do not allow for renunciation, the Minister could have discretion to decided on the degree of connectedness to the foreign country. She also emphasized the need for more preventative anti-radicalization measures, noting the RCMP high-risk traveller program (RCMP set to tackle extremism at home with program to curb radicalization of Canadian youth), as well as requiring those applying for passports to make some sort of commitment to not engage in such activity.

For Alliance founder Maureen Basnicki, it is intensely personal, given she is a 9/11 widow, and believes that:

Therefore, if Canada allows a convicted terrorist to retain the Canadian citizenship, Canada is in effect saying “we accept the terrorist act as part of the fabric of life in Canada”.

But we also allow murderers and sex offenders to stay in Canada, as unfortunately they too are part of the fabric of society.

All three did not acknowledge that dual nationality does not only apply to naturalized Canadians. One can be born in Canada and yet have dual nationality. And if such a person is born and educated in Canada, is  “outsourcing” the problem, without accepting responsibility. And I suspect that the distinction made between the legal right to another citizenship, without taking it up, is a distinction that may not be applied equally to all communities, combined with the reverse onus of proof.

On the opposition “side”, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group focussed on the situations of some of the more vulnerable refugees, and recommended keeping existing residency requirements (3 of 4 years), some exemptions for the knowledge and language requirements, testing language at end of process, maintaining right of Court appeal, reversal of proposed fee increases, no power to strip dual nationals of Canadian citizenship, and ensure intent to reside provision is not grounds for misrepresentation given that situations change.

Audrey Macklin of CARL focussed on the intent to reside and revocation provisions. On the former, their reading is that the law is written so that this could be grounds for citizenship revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation. On revocation, CARL focussed on the constitutionality, noting that Charter rights cannot be violated as punishment, and that the social contract argument is not supported by jurisprudence. The distinction between “mono” and dual Canadian citizens is also likely not Charter compliant. She also raised a number of procedural rights (e.g., retroactively, reverse onus of proof) as areas of concern.

Questioning by MPs was largely predictable. Government MPs asked questions of “their side” as did opposition MPs, both trying to buttress their own positions.

One of the more interesting questions, however, was by Chungsen Leung (CPC), who went on at some length about how attachment and contribution to Canada could happen when one was abroad, almost questioning the intent to reside provision. The eventual question, directed at CIJA, reverted back to the obvious examples of citizens of convenience (e.g., 2006 Lebanese evacuation), with CIJA maintaining that being the real aim of the provision. But then drafting should be tighter so as not to cast to broad a net on Canadians that may move abroad for valid work, study or family reasons.

Ted Opitz (CPC) was poorly briefed in arguing that many countries have the same approach to revocation as proposed by the Government and that a previous Liberal government had ended revocation for treason. CARL corrected him on the former point (only UK currently has this approach, Australia is considering) and it was under Diefenbaker, two generations ago, that Canada stopped revoking citizenship from dual citizens.

And a bit of an interesting debate between Saperia and Basnicki with Macklin of CARL on whether the world would think better of Canada if we revoked citizenship or not. For Saperia and Basnicki, this was viewed as a strong signal worldwide that Canada did not tolerate such activity; Macklin argued the contrary that “outsourcing” our problem would signal that Canada does not take responsibility for the activities of its citizens. A philosophical divide.

Links (where available) are below. One note of frustration, the Parliamentary website, apart from posting agenda and the video link, does not appear to be posting briefs or transcripts, making it harder for those who wish to follow the discussions. A related frustration is that a number of organizations to not post their briefs and statements on their websites automatically or respond to requests for copies. I will update this list as the briefs and statements become available.

Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – CIJA (link not yet posted)

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (link not yet posted)

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (brief)

CARL Press Release: New Citizenship Act Threatens Rights of All Canadians

Sheryl Saperia: The case for revoking citizenship

The alternate view to that expressed by Chris Selley a number of weeks ago (Actually, my citizenship is a right | National Post)  by Sheryl Saperia is Director of Policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)

Bill C-24 makes ordinary Canadians safer by adding a new layer of deterrence against engaging in terrorism, treason and armed conflict with Canada; facilitating the removal of people who pose a threat not only to Canada, but to the vulnerable individuals in our society susceptible to radicalization; and removing the coveted Canadian passport from those who would use it as a tool to support or carry out terrorist attacks.

Sheryl Saperia: The case for revoking citizenship | National Post.