Farzana Hassan: It’s unjust to revoke the citizenship of refugees’ children

Good piece by Farzana Hassan on the streamlined revocation process, without right to a hearing or equivalent procedural protections. Welcome contrast to much of the other commentary in the Sun:

Monsef’s mother filed an application stating her children were born in Afghanistan, but it turns out the MP was born just across the border in Iran, during her mother’s several crossings to avoid persecution and harassment from the Taliban.

Did her mother lie about this? No one can be sure. Language could have been a barrier, or she may have been too distraught. After all, they were faced with the constant threat of harassment, even death.

It was the Harper government that revised the legislation to allow citizenship revocation without a hearing, but it is the Trudeau government that has been enforcing it quite aggressively, stripping people of Canadian citizenship at the rate of approximately thirteen individuals per month.

Such policing seems a little ironic considering Trudeau’s soft approach to revoking the citizenship of terrorists, people who should have professed binding loyalty to the people and soil of Canada. But they lied about their intention. The very basis of their entry into Canada was a false premise.

By contrast, should we be tolerant of the offspring of parents who may have committed errors on their application for a host of forgivable reasons? It may even be naive to expect poor and illiterate refugee status applicants trying to escape Taliban brutality to even understand the concept of citizenship. The law should show some flexibility towards such migrants, and more towards their hapless children.

Some migrants falsely filing their own application deserve to have their citizenship revoked. But by no means should their children be made to suffer.

Trudeau is silent on this controversy over a government insider. And Monsef too is hardly forthright enough. But the law is still unjust when it affects the children of refugees.

In order to rectify any past injustices and to bring some fairness to the debate, we are required to ask if mistakes of the past will be rectified. That is, once the MP’s case has brought the absurdity of the law into the limelight, will people already stripped of their citizenship and deported be allowed to have their citizenship status restored?

To quote Josh Peterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, “When we get a parking ticket, we have a right to a court 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.”

Paterson is part of a group that launched a constitutional challenge to the law. Trudeau’s response to the Maryam Monsef case should have a huge bearing on this challenge. Let us hope a touch of humanity will soften this tough legislation.

Source: Farzana Hassan: It’s unjust to revoke the citizenship of refugees’ children | Ha

Ottawa softens stand on stripping citizenship over false papers

More on revocation for fraud and misrepresentation, and the Minister’s openness to suspend revocation pending changes to the Citizenship Act that restore some measure of greater procedural protections to those accused of fraud:

Immigration Minister John McCallum says he is open to granting a moratorium on the revocation of citizenship from Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications, an issue that has been thrust into the spotlight by the circumstances of cabinet minister Maryam Monsef’s citizenship.

Mr. McCallum’s comments come a week after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a legal action with the Federal Court asking the government to put a stop to all revocations until it could fix a law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing.“I will consider that moratorium. I won’t rule it out unconditionally,” Mr. McCallum told Senate Question Period on Tuesday. “What I am saying is that we would welcome a reform to the system.”

The Federal Court application made headlines when lawyers on the case said that Ms. Monsef, Democratic Institutions Minister, could have her citizenship revoked under the current law for having an incorrect birthplace listed on her citizenship papers. Ms. Monsef said she only learned that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she had believed, after an inquiry from The Globe and Mail last month. She said her mother never told her and her sisters they were born in Iran because she did not think it mattered.

While Ottawa is considering the moratorium on revocations, the government says it is committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing for Canadians who face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented themselves in their citizenship and permanent residency applications.

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she is going to propose an amendment to the government’s citizenship Bill C-6 to reverse the Conservative law that took away the long-standing right.

“I am hopeful that they will allow this amendment to be tabled,” Ms. Omidvar said. “Everybody’s hoping they’re able to do it in this bill at the Senate. But if not, I’ve been told that it will be fixed through legislation.”

MPs tried to table the amendment to Bill C-6 at the House immigration committee earlier this year, but was it declared to be out of scope by the committee chair. Ms. Omidvar noted that the Senate procedure rules are different, so the amendment still has a chance in the Red Chamber.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-softens-stand-on-stripping-citizenship-over-false-papers/article32254296/

Trudeau may change law to protect Monsef | Malcolm

Malcolm conveniently ignores that Minister McCallum during the spring committee hearings on C-6 committed to reviewing the revocation process in light of testimony regarding the lack of procedural protections in C-24 for those accused of fraud or misrepresentation: “less protection than for parking tickets.”

So while the Monsef case may have accelerated this review, it was already underway.

And calling C-6 “comprehensive changes” is incorrect. C-24, the 2014  changes of the Conservative government, were comprehensive; C-6 is a relatively surgical set of changes, significant to be sure, but limited in scope:

The Trudeau Liberals have spun themselves into a corner when it comes to Maryam Monsef.

It now looks as if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is willing to change Canada’s citizenship and immigration laws to protect one of his own.

Monsef says her mother recently told her she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan, as she had previously been told.

If her immigration application, when she was a child, included false information about her birthplace, then it is possible her immigration application was fraudulent.

The penalty for providing false representation to immigration officials is steep.

In similar cases where a parent provided untrue information on behalf of a child, it has led to the stripping of citizenship and even deportation from Canada.

As I pointed out in my last column, the Trudeau government recently stripped citizenship from an Egyptian national who became a Canadian citizen at age eight.

In that case, the woman’s parents lied on her application, and therefore, as per Canadian law, she risks being deported.

But when it comes to their own star cabinet minister, Monsef, the Trudeau Liberals are scrambling to deal with the controversy.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister John McCallum testified in front of a Senate committee discussing Bill C-6, the Trudeau government’s controversial citizenship bill.

Under pressure from Liberals in the Senate, McCallum suggested that his government would consider placing a moratorium on the practice of citizenship revocation.

How convenient.

“I will consider that moratorium. I won’t rule it out unconditionally,” McCallum told the Senate committee. “What I am saying is that we would welcome a reform to the system.”

The Trudeau government had no problem imposing this law during its first eleven months in office. None at all.

During the last session of Parliament, Trudeau and McCallum introduced comprehensive changes to Canada’s citizenship and immigration laws through Bill C-6.

On the issue of citizenship revocation, Bill C-6 halted the government’s ability to strip citizenship from convicted terrorists and those who commit treason against Canada.

As Trudeau said famously during the last election campaign, after all, “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” Even if that Canadian is a foreign-born terrorist.

But when it came to cases of fraud and misrepresentation, no changes were made under Bill C-6.

Quite the opposite, in fact, as Trudeau said he supported citizenship revocation under these circumstances.

On the campaign trail last September, Trudeau less-famously said that, “revocation of citizenship can and should happen in situations of becoming a Canadian citizen under false pretences.”

At the time, this statement contradicted Trudeau’s own position that Canadian citizenship is an absolute and inalienable right.

Now, that contradiction is catching up on him.

Until the Monsef scandal surfaced, the Trudeau government had no problem in stripping citizenship away from those who committed fraud and those who lied on their applications.

They had no issue with the process of revocation — determined by the relevant cabinet minister and not through lengthy court proceedings.

They agreed with the law, and implemented it routinely.

But suddenly, this law threatens to damage the Trudeau government’s reputation and punish a Liberal insider.

And all of the sudden, they’re willing to change course.

The Trudeau government is now suggesting it would rather change Canada’s longstanding immigration law, ad hoc, than face the inconvenient fact that, based on the story she’s provided, Monsef’s immigration application may have been fraudulent.

Source: Trudeau may change law to protect Monsef | Malcolm | Columnists | Opinion | Toro

Senate could get rid of law threatening to strip Maryam Monsef’s citizenship

Needed: the removal of the previous procedural protections for citizenship fraud and misrepresentation without any effective replacement was over-reach:

The Senate could come to the rescue of Canadians who are being stripped of their citizenship without a hearing.

Independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, who is sponsoring another citizenship-related bill in the upper house, says she’s hopeful the Senate will amend the bill to do away with a law that allows the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone deemed to have misrepresented themselves.

It’s a law that could potentially ensnare Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, who revealed last week that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she’d always believed.

The law, part of a citizenship bill passed by the previous Conservative government, was denounced by the Liberals when they were in opposition but lawyers say they’ve been aggressively enforcing it since forming government.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers on Monday launched a constitutional challenge of the law, which they argue violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Liberal government chose not to deal with the issue in Bill C-6, which repeals other aspects of the Conservatives’ citizenship regime, including a provision empowering the government to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who are convicted of high treason or terrorism.

During study of C-6 at a House of Commons committee, the NDP attempted to amend the bill to repeal the power to revoke citizenship without a hearing. But that was ruled by the committee chair to be outside the scope of the bill.

Omidvar, who moved the second reading of C-6 on Tuesday in the upper chamber, said Senate procedural rules are different and she’s hopeful the upper house will be able to do what the Commons could not.

“I would like to see this question addressed,” said Omidvar, a longtime advocate for immigrant and refugee rights.

“I think it’s a very important question because, as BCCLA has pointed out, even if you get a traffic ticket, you get a hearing or an appeal and here your citizenship is being revoked and you have no avenue for a hearing and appeal.”

Omidvar said she’s spoken about the matter with Immigration Minister John McCallum and “he’s open to an amendment” from the Senate.

“He understands that this was an oversight.”

Source: Senate could get rid of law threatening to strip Maryam Monsef’s citizenship | Toronto Star

Monsef’s place of birth shouldn’t have ‘serious consequences’ – De Kerckhove, Glavin

Former Canadian Ambassador Ferry de Kerckhove injects needed knowledge about the region and refugees:

Many people have expressed sympathy for Maryam Monsef, the federal Minister for Democratic Institutions, since the disclosure that she was born in Iran, rather than in Afghanistan. But there have been criticisms – which I simply can’t fathom – from MPs such as Tony Clement and Michelle Rempel, who talked about “serious consequences” if the minister’s birthplace had not been accurately represented on her refugee and citizenship applications.

Do these people have any idea what region we are talking about? Does Ms. Rempel have any understanding of how volatile, porous and border-inconsequential the region was, where even dates of birth, when registered, between Muslim and Christian countries don’t match up? Does she, and those who chime in with her, realize that many Afghans sought refuge in Iran during both the Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war culminating in the rise of the vicious Taliban regime?

 The Afghan city of Herat (where Ms. Monsef’s parents married and where she believed she was born) and the Iranian city of Mashad (where she was actually born) are historically and geographically close. So Afghans would travel back and forth to Iran in times of duress; although they might have not been warmly welcomed, they were at least in a safer environment than in Afghanistan.

Source: Monsef’s place of birth shouldn’t have ‘serious consequences’ – The Globe and Mail

Terry Glavin makes similar points in What you need to know about Maryam Monsef – Macleans.ca The MP’s birthplace does not matter. Her mother made a brace choice, sparing her daughters from a brutal and ruthless past macleans.ca      

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

Monsef could face consequences, immigration lawyers warn 

Lots of coverage on Maryam Monsef and her birthplace.

Most coverage conflate birthplace, citizenship and identity. While they can for many be one and the same, this is not the case for all, particularly in the case of immigrants.

For example, my mother was born in Russia on the eve of the Russian revolution, her family as refugees fled to Latvia, and her Canadian passport listed Riga as her birthplace, likely reflecting that the chaos at the time made it impossible to obtain a Russian birth certificate. But we all knew her true birthplace.

As to the speculation by some regarding whether or not her citizenship and immigration status could or should be revoked, Monsef arrived in Canada at the age of 11 so all documents would have been submitted by her mother. So while her mother’s status could theoretically be subject to review, hard to see why any government would do so some 20 years after the fact and given that it is not material to the family’s status as refugees.

Iran has between one and three million Afghan refugees, which are not well integrated into Iranian society, and largely live within Afghan neighbourhoods.

So I am sceptical of the reasoning of the immigration lawyers contacted by the Sun (Guidy Mamann, Chantal Desloges and Julie Taub):

Canadian immigration lawyers say Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef could suffer consequences if her refugee or citizenship applications included false information.

“It’s extraordinarily serious,” Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said. “From a strictly legal point of view – and I’m assuming cabinet ministers want to observe the law – she is a person right now who has citizenship through fraud. It may be intentional or unintentional, but her citizenship in Canada right now is open to attack.”

…“If you had false info on your citizenship application you could be subject to having it revoked,” Toronto immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges explained. “It could not go so far as a criminal charge because for her to be charged criminally you’d have to do it knowingly.”

While lawyers the Sun spoke to disagreed on certain specifics, none doubted that a case such as Monsef’s would typically undergo a review.

“There are differences in cases where they probably decide not to proceed when false info is presented for reasons of safety and security. But that’s rare,” says Ottawa immigration lawyer Julie Taub, a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

“The situation is if she was not an MP, if she was not a cabinet minister, if she was just your average Joe, the government would probably seek to vacate her status and once that protection is gone they could go after her citizenship,” Mamann added.

“I think the government is going to be in a hard position because they obviously won’t want to take any action on it but if they don’t, how is that going to look, that she’s getting preferential treatment?” Desloges said.

Source: Monsef could face consequences, immigration lawyers warn | furey | Canada | News

Michael Friscolanti demonstrates a more sophisticated understanding of the issues involved, and the likelihood of removing her immigrant and citizenship status:

If her mother provided inaccurate information to the IRB, does that mean Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship?

Again, it’s not clear what Basir told the IRB. But even if she failed to disclose where her daughters were born, experts in refugee law are divided about the potential consequences. According to the Citizenship Act, the government has the power to revoke citizenship on the grounds it was obtained “by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.” Material is the key word. Simply put, would the evidence that has come to light have altered the IRB’s original opinion that Monsef was a bona fide refugee? “If it was not disclosed that she was born in Iran, that, in my opinion, is a material misrepresentation,” says Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann. “If you find one lie, then you start questioning the whole story.”

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Immigration critic, seems to agree, saying there could be “serious consequences” if Monsef’s refugee claim contained false information. But Showler, the former IRB chair, sees it differently. Because Monsef had no legal status in Iran (to repeat: she wasn’t a citizen, despite being born there), her birthplace had zero bearing on the case. “What you are doing with a refugee claim is you’re saying: ‘I cannot go back to my home country because I will be persecuted,’” he says. “Whether or not she was born in Iran is irrelevant. The only country for which she had citizenship was Afghanistan, and that is the country from which she feared persecution.” Showler says “there is not one chance in 1,000″ that Monsef’s immigration status is in jeopardy. “It’s very, very difficult to unwind citizenship status,” he continues. “You can do it, but almost always when it happens, it’s because somebody has committed a serious crime and there are reasons you want to get them out of the country. For something like this, there would be absolutely no reason for doing it.”

What if her mother did tell the IRB that Monsef was born in Iran?

For one thing, it would eliminate any chance, however remote, of the minister being stripped of her citizenship. It would mean Basir provided all relevant facts to the IRB, and that the board concluded all four claimants were genuine refugees. If that’s the case, however, it does raise yet another question.

If the Immigration and Refugee Board was told that Monsef was born in Iran, how could she not know?

Think back to the ensuing document trail. If the IRB was informed of her true birthplace, that same location would have been listed on her subsequent permanent residency forms, her citizenship application, etc. Under such a scenario, it seems implausible that Monsef would have remained oblivious to the truth all this time—or that the Privy Council Office, which conducts a “rigorous vetting process” for would-be cabinet ministers, would not have stumbled upon the evidence. It’s much more likely, as discussed above, that Monsef’s mother chose to hide from the IRB what she hid from her daughters: that they were born in Iran.

Source: Maryam Monsef’s personal revelations leave lingering questions