Punishment or Banishment?

A rather curious article that lumps some of the Canadian worries regarding returning ISIS fighters (including wives)  with citizenship revocation.

The Liberal government reversed the Conservative government’s change to the Citizenship Act that allowed for revocation in cases of terror or treason

The statelessness provisions in most other countries require having a second nationality in order for citizenship to be revoked which makes the process more difficult to implement (as UK is finding out with respect to Begum not having Bangladeshi citizenship  and Australia with Prakash not having Fijian citizenship).

In the Canadian case, the issue is whether or not Canada should provide normal consular services (e.g., as we do to Canadians on death row in the USA) or make efforts to facilitate their return to Canada.

The former may be difficult given where they are being held and the latter, as many have noted, raises the possibility that there may not be enough evidence to prosecute successfully in Canada.

And while all have justified sympathy for their children, no sympathy for the mothers who made a conscious decision to support ISIS and its horrors and thus have to live with the consequences.

While the mothers have the right to return to Canada, no need for special government efforts to facilitate their return:

So-called jihadi brides are in the news, accused of supporting terrorism by having travelled to ISIS territory to marry ISIS fighters in support of the caliphate. Three Western states are implicated: the UK, the US, and Canada.

UK citizen Shemima Begum left the UK four years ago, when she was 15 years old, and surfaced last month at a Syrian refugee camp, heavily pregnant. US citizen Hoda Muthana, then a college student, left the US four years ago, using her tuition money to buy a ticket to Turkey, from which she was smuggled into ISIS territory. She is now detained in refugee camp in northeastern Syria. Kimberly Gwen Polman, born in Hamilton, Ontario, is a dual Canadian–US national who converted to Islam. She became persuaded by a Syrian fighter online that her incipient nursing skills would be of great value to the caliphate. She left the US in 2015 to join the caliphate, only to attempt to escape nearly a year later. But then she was jailed (and raped) and forced to sign a document acknowledging that if she were to attempt escape again, her punishment would be death. All three women have publicly announced their desire to return home this week.

The UK government reacted swiftly, announcing its intention to remove the citizenship of Begum, thereby denying her the right to return home. Recent official statements suggest UK authorities believe she is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship, so revoking her British citizenship will not result in statelessness. US President Donald Trump announced over the weekend that all states should be ready to repatriate (i.e., bring home) and punish their “own” foreign fighters, but then tweeted that he had directed Mike Pompeo “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Canadian officials have been relatively quiet on their intentions. A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada statedonly that “The government is aware of some Canadian citizens currently detained in Syria. There is no legal obligation to facilitate their return.”

These cases are not identical. Begum was a child when she left the UK and is now a mother to a newborn baby boy. Muthana’s choices were exacerbated by her use of social media to celebrate and encourage violence. Polman is known to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. What they share is the right to return home to face trial and punishment in their countries of citizenship.

All states have justice systems in place so that suspected wrongdoers can be tried and punished. Democratic justice systems are those that respect due process rights: the rights to a fair trial, including adequate legal representation, which permits the relevant evidence to be adjudicated by trained judges and, where relevant, juries of their peers.

It is conventional to say that citizens must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and this convention holds even where there appears to be incontrovertible evidence of guilt. Its purpose is to allow the possibility that what looks like a slam-dunk case is murkier upon examination, to ensure that in collecting evidence all of the rights of the accused were respected, and furthermore to allow for the presentation of extenuating circumstances that can complicate what seems like a simple guilty verdict.

There is more to criminal justice in democracies, moreover, than how the accused are treated during the trial phase. The punishments must also meet democratic criteria. It is a principle of punishment in democratic states that any citizen, no matter how criminal, must be treated as someone who can re-enter the community of equals from which she was temporarily excluded by punishment. This principle is why the death penalty must be rejected. It is also why denationalization must also be rejected.

Denationalization of terrorists, the process of revoking citizenship from those suspected of terrorist activities, is gaining in popularity in democratic states, who are rushing to prove they are tough on terror. Denationalizing terrorists is good politics.

Nevertheless, denationalization is unjust and undemocratic. It permits states to abandon citizens who are entitled to their protection in dangerous locations, in principle free to commit additional crimes. The Trudeau government recognized as much when it overturned the parts of the Strengthening Citizenship Act that permitted the revocation of citizenship. Weaselly words stating that Canada is not under the obligation to facilitate the return of suspected wrongdoers reveal an unwillingness to stand by the commitment implied by Mr. Trudeau’s now famous statement, “A Canadian is a Canadian.” Canadians, even criminal Canadians, are entitled to have their rights protected by Canada.

By revoking citizenship, states punish citizens suspected of criminal activities by banishing them, in advance of conviction. They treat them as unworthy of having their rights protected, as beyond the pale, rather than as individuals who in time can learn the error of their ways. These women must be returned to their states of citizenship so that we, their fellow-citizens, can judge their actions and, if appropriate, witness their just punishments.

Source: Punish homegrown terrorists. Don’t revoke their citizenship

Citizenship Act C-6 Changes: Witnesses 19 April Meeting

The second set of witnesses at CIMM C-6 hearings had all testified at the C-24 hearings two years ago, with a good cross-section of perspectives, largely focussed on the same issues of revocation, language and knowledge testing.

The most interesting exchange was with respect to Martin Collacott who accused the government of pandering to new Canadian voters in the relaxed residency and language requirements.

Details:

Bernie Farber, now heading the Mosaic Institute, shared his personal family refugee and Holocaust history as a means to personalize what it means to be Canadian citizens and the challenges of being a refugee. He cited research carried out by the Institute on imported conflicts, showing an attitudinal shift towards being more empathetic and recognizing common ground, with very high levels of attachment to Canada (94 percent, with 80 percent feeling more Canadian than anything). Ensuring full participation helps reduce imported trauma, improving both individual lives as well as Canada. He was broadly supportive of the proposed changes. See his op-ed Its Time to End the Stigma of Immigration”.

Sheryl Saperia, of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, reiterated her past support for the revocation provisions of C-24 for those convicted of terror or treason, believing it an appropriate consequence for these crimes. She did not accept Minister McCallum’s arguments that it created two-classes of citizenship, given that naturalized Canadians chose to become Canadian, and were not forced to become dual citizens. She noted that a Canadian is not always a Canadian, citing the examples of revocation for fraud or war crimes as exceptions. She proposed an alternative approach to revocation, with Ministerial discretion to review the depth of the connection to the other country, with the less active the connection the weaker the case for revocation. Should the government proceed with repealing the revocation provisions, this should be combined with greater deradicalization efforts in Canadian prisons.

Patti Tamara Lenard of University of Ottawa noted that citizenship in democracies is a fundamental right. She went through the previous government’s arguments in favour of revocation. There was no evidence that revocation made states any safer, using Belgium as an example, and that ‘targeting’ of dual citizens undermined security, not strengthening it. Canada was not catching up with other countries, apart from the UK [and Australia], noting that France had abandoned this approach. And public support did not justify measures to curb minority rights, even the ‘most hated’ of Canadians should still have their rights protected. She noted the broader context under which Canadian Muslims felt targeted, citing security certificates and no fly lists, all of which have contributed to their distrust of the Canadian state. Prior discourse had portrayed Canadian Muslims as disloyal and that discrimination was legitimate and inclusive language was needed.

Janet Dench and Jennifer Stone of the Canadian Council for Refugees noted the importance of citizenship for mental health, particularly so for refugees. CCR supports early access to citizenship without discrimination. They supported counting time before permanent residency towards citizenship but focussed on the lengthy processing times for permanent residency for refugees and live-in-caregivers. CCR supported the reduced residency requirements but advocated a waiver if compelling reasons provided. They also supported the reversion to the previous age requirements for knowledge and language (18-54), but noted that some older applicants still struggle to meet these requirements. CCR noted the need for some form of waiver from the high citizenship fees and language assessment, citing the USA example. While pleased that C-24 dual national revocation was being repealed, they noted the need for fraud revocation to be subject to court review. CCR also noted the need for children under 18 to apply for citizenship should they have neither parent nor guardian. Lastly, they argued for repeal of the first generation limit of passing on citizenship to reduce possible future statelessness. See their detailed brief Bill C-6 Citizenship Bill concerns.

R. Reis Pagtakhan, a Winnipeg-based immigration lawyers, is one of few witnesses to date who has changed his position in the past two years. While he remains broadly supportive of revocation for treason or terror, he now believes this should only apply to those convicted in Canadian courts to ensure Charter and related protections apply. He made a forceful statement in favour of the TRC recommendation 94, changing the citizenship oath to include a reference to treaties with Indigenous Peoples. He supported repeal of the intent to reside and credit for pre-permanent residency to count towards citizenship. See his op-ed Canadian citizenship should have 2 tiers, Reis Pagtakhan says.

Martin Collacott opposed shortening the residency requirements, noting that they were among the shortest in the world, allowing some to ‘park’ their families here and work abroad. He was against repealing the intent to reside provision. He thought the change in age requirements particularly ill-considered, particularly for 55-64 year olds who were often still working. He cited the Fraser Institute report on the cost of immigrants to the Canadian economy [Note: its methodology is questionable]. He supported the previous government’s revocation for terror or treason as a reasonable measure, and that most would not be convinced by a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” in these cases. He noted that citizenship can be used for political gain, using the example of the Clinton presidential campaign in 1996 where 1 million became citizens [surprised he refrained from Canadian examples as there was a surge in new citizens in 2014 and 2015 under the Harper government]. He ended by stressing the need for a full immigration review in terms of who benefits as it was abundantly clear that the current high levels were only serving special interests, certain sectors and political parties, with congestion and higher prices being part of the costs.

Questions:

As in 2014, after the first few hearings, the questions and responses tend to reinforce earlier sessions.

Revocation for terror or treason: Not surprising, a fair amount of questions from both the Government and Conservative side, with the Government challenging Saperia and Collacott’s arguments in particular. Saperia stumbled occasionally in her responses, reverting to talking points and arguing that there was no discrimination between Canadian and dual nationals convicted of the same crime but punished differently. However, she acknowledged that the argument that revocation was exporting terrorists to other countries was the most convincing one.

Revocation for fraud: NDP raised again the question of the pre-C-24 procedural protections and that C-6 did not address these. No witness substantively address this (Audrey Macklin on April 14 did).

Language: There were considerable questions on language requirements, with the Conservatives focussing on the importance of language and the NDP concerned about the cost of language assessment and the requirement to take the knowledge test in an official language. Collacott in his replies stressed the importance of language, particularly for older 55-64 year olds, that ample research demonstrates the link between language and economic integration, noting that lack of language meant having to work in the particular immigrant community with likely poorer economic prospects.

Pagtakhan interestingly posed the question why both with language assessment anyway at the citizenship stage, this should be a requirement when immigrating to Canada, rather than fixing it post facto. CCR reemphasized its previous points on challenges for refugees, who may have additional barriers in terms of ability to learn language, find time given employment and cost. Many applications had been returned given that proof of language had not been provided. Farber noted that the language bar should not be set so high to ‘exclude’; Lenard favoured a relatively low bar as in the USA.

Knowledge: No major Q&As on knowledge requirements although CCR did mention the decline in pass rates following the changes in 2010.

Statelessness: NDP raised as before. Lenard noted that international documents cover statelessness and the right to nationality. It is generally understood that the right to nationality means either having been born or mainly lived in a country.

Pandering for votes: Collacott, in his introductory remark mention of political benefits, drew considerable fire from the government side. He initially ducked the question but then, following a second question challenging him for the evidence, replied that there was considerable evidence over the years regarding Liberal governments. The previous Conservative government had tried to gain support among new Canadians through its policies [Note: he was silent on ‘boutique’ initiatives such as the historical recognition, targeted towards Chinese, Ukrainian, Indo, Italian and Jewish Canadians  and legislation such as the Vietnam Journey to Freedom Act S-219]. He cited the Liberal government having 4 ministers from the Punjabi community and none from the Chinese community in Cabinet as more recent examples.

ICYMI: Immigration experts say Bill C-24 discriminatory and weakens citizenship

Star overview on the impact of the changes in C-24 Citizenship Act changes from the perspective of the major critics of C-24. Would have been better to include some of the supporters as well for balance (e.g., Collacott, Saperia, Siddiqui):

He [Alexander] seems to relish the idea of rewriting what it is to be Canadian and to hold citizenship. “If there was a time when new Canadians made the mistake that we only had a peacekeeping tradition or our rights and freedoms began with the Charter, then I’m glad our reforms are broadening their perspective.”

Neither he nor the Conservative Party seem worried about the ongoing debate Bill C-24 has triggered across the nation. “This act reminds us where we come from and why citizenship has value,” said the minister. “When we take on the obligations of citizens we’re following in the footsteps of millions of people who came here and made outstanding contributions over centuries. And we are celebrating that diversity, solidifying the order and rule of law we have here; we’re committing ourselves to participate as citizens in the life of a very vibrant democracy.”

Immigration experts say Bill C-24 discriminatory and weakens citizenship | Toronto Star.

C-24 Citizenship Act Committee Hearings – 7 May

Shorter hearing given voting in the house which made the statements and Q&As shorter.

Supporting the Government’s approach were the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada, National Forum for Civic Action, and James Bissett, a retired immigration official who comments on immigration and related issues.

Predictably, supporting the opposition were the two academics, Elke Winter and Patti Tamara Lenard of University of Ottawa, with the most neutral advocacy coming from Pre-PR (Permanent Residents) Time counts, focussing on the Government’s proposed elimination of counting time in Canada for students, live-in caregivers, and refugees towards the residency period to become citizens.

Starting with Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada, one of the preferred Muslim groups of the governments (along with the Ismailis). After noting the pride members of his community have in Canada, Asif Khan emphasized that Islamic teachings require “absolute love and loyalty” to one’s country of residence. It was essential for the Government to have powers to deter aggression and protect against extremism. He supported the proposed approach to revocation, and argued that more attention and measures should be applied to those who used investment or trade opportunities to enter Canada and spread their “hateful ideologies.” He did express concern over increasing the number of applicants that would be required to take language and knowledge tests.

National Forum for Civic Action argued for even tougher citizenship requirements. Bikram prefaced his comments by saying that he was going to be “politically incorrect.” Canada’s approach placed original Canadians at a disadvantage, and the Government’s approach was half-hearted. Proficiency in English or French, not just adequate knowledge, should be required. Stop family reunification, seniors are “forced to come here” and are unhappy. Permanent Residents on welfare should lose status. Revocation should be broadened to include domestic abuse and should also apply to second generation immigrants and those elected to public office in other countries. Ministerial discretion on humanitarian and compassionate grounds should be ended.

James Bissett, in a somewhat rambling presentation, stressed his support for a longer residency period. He would have preferred five years but proposal goes in right direction. He supports the revocation provisions and (erroneously) stated that this is in line with most EU countries, and citing UK granting the Home Secretary considerable power in this regard. He dismissed that the provisions would create second class citizens as there was an inherent different between those born in Canada, whose citizenship is granted automatically, and those who choose to become naturalized and take the oath.

Opposing the bill, Elke Winter noted that immigration was fundamental to Canadian nation building, that Canadian Immigration was largely economically driven, and that multiculturalism and citizenship were huge factors in increasing belonging. Some elements of C-24 undermine success in integration by making citizenship as the end-point of integration, rather than part of the journey. The bill makes it harder for the less educated, socially and economically disadvantaged, including many women. Higher fees are an additional barrier. For the highly skilled and mobile, the longer and tougher residency requirements may result in this group becoming as “utilitarian as the selection process”, and adopt a more instrumental approach to citizenship. More flexibility over physical residency is required. She opposes the proposed revocation measures and fears that it will increase the suspicion of dual nationals.

Patti Lenard started off by correcting Bissett on revocation, noting that only UK had taken this approach. US and Australia had rejected it, most EU countries either didn’t apply revocation or were changing their approach. While 75 percent of dual nationals were naturalized Canadians, there was also a significant number of dual nationals by birth (i.e., they didn’t make a choice as Bissett asserted). The fundamental problem with revocation is that it made a group of Canadians more vulnerable to the coercive powers of the state, with Ministerial discretion in too many cases, creating the perception, absent a role for the Courts, of possible Ministerial abuse. UK illustrated the risks of what she called a “fundamentally corrupting power.”

Pre-PR Time Counts strongly opposed the elimination of credit for time as a temporary resident counting towards citizenship. Taisia Shcherbakova and Maria Smirnoff argued that Temporary Foreign Workers and equivalent were not newcomers to Canada but had already largely integrated into Canada. The change perversely would give preference to those without any Canadian experience. They noted that this change would place Canada at a disadvantage compared to Australia and the UK, and argued for similar credit of one year for every year of temporary residence (current legislation only provides for 50 percent credit).

Questioning by MPs  largely buttressed party positions, but there were some interesting moments.

In response to CPC/Menangakis, Bissett clarified that while he supported longer residency periods, there was a need for flexibility, as it may create problems for people who have to travel a lot on business.

NDP/Sitsabaiesan rather cleverly did a quick poll of  all witnesses on credit for time as temporary residents. All supported providing credit, notwithstanding their very different perspectives on citizenship. Liberal/McCallum picked up on that point, noting that Minister Alexander had refused to change approach when asked at the beginning of the hearings.

Will add links to briefs as they become available.