Federal Court voids Canadian citizenship revocation for 312 people

A second decision that reflects poorly on the Conservative government’s C-24 expedited revocation provisions (and that implements the earlier Federal Court decision – Canada can’t strip your citizenship without a trial, court rules – VICE News). It is, of course, part of a pattern where their policies and legislation were routinely ruled against by the courts.

One would hope that the policy and legal advice given to the government at the time highlighted the likely risk of adverse rulings.

Given the Conservative track record, their assertions regarding contesting the Khadr lawsuit should be taken with a grain of salt:

The Federal Court has nullified government attempts to strip Canadian citizenship from more than 300 people after an earlier judgment struck down key provisions of the Citizenship Act introduced by the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper.

The earlier ruling, in May, declared those provisions inoperative because they were an expedited process that deprived individuals of the right to an oral hearing and did not take into account humanitarian and compassionate considerations.

As a result, in a decision on Monday, Justice Russel Zinn voided the citizenship revocation of 312 individuals who had turned to the court after they were targeted in a sweep against people who had obtained their Canadian nationality through fraud.

Another 14 similar court requests, which had not been filed in a timely manner, can apply for a deadline extension, Justice Zinn ruled.

“It’s another judicial loss for the policies of the previous government,” Montreal lawyer Vincent Valaï, who represented some of the people in the case, said in an interview.

He noted that the Conservative government liked to say that obtaining Canadian citizenship is a privilege, not a right. However, the ruling in May said that once acquired, citizenship is a right.

“And because it is a right, you have to respect procedure fairness before revoking citizenship. That means the right to a hearing before an impartial judge,” Mr. Valaï said.

Another lawyer involved in the case, Matthew Jeffery, called the provisions in the law a “deeply flawed process.”

The government could start the revocation process against those people all over again but it would first have to rewrite the law to conform with the court rulings, Mr. Jeffery said.

The number of revocation cases began ballooning when Jason Kenney, who was immigration and citizenship minister in the Harper government, announced in 2012 that his department would cancel the citizenship of more than 3,000 people, in a crackdown against those who had faked the amount of time they have spent in Canada.

In February, 2014, the Harper government amended the Citizenship Act to fast-track the revocation process in what it called “non-complex” cases. It meant eliminating the right to a hearing for individuals when their citizenship had been obtained by fraud.

Several of the cases involved clients of Nizar Zakka, a Montreal immigration consultant who created a system to hide the fact that the clients were not residing in Canada for the required two-year minimum within a five-year span.

Faced with hundreds of applicants challenging their citizenship revocation, the Federal Court started with a review of eight lead cases while the other cases were held in suspension.

Last May, Justice Jocelyne Gagné ruled on the eight lead cases, striking down the new provisions for an expedited revocation process.

“They deprive the applicants of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” Justice Gagné wrote.

In one case that she highlighted, the government tried to revoke the citizenship of Fiji-born Thomas Gucake, who had come to Canada as a child and later served three tours in Afghanistan with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment.

In 2015, Mr. Gucake received a notice of citizenship revocation because his father had failed to disclose a minor criminal conviction in Australia.

The current government has since amended the Act so that, by next year, the Federal Court would be the decision-maker in citizenship revocation cases.

Source: Federal Court voids Canadian citizenship revocation for 312 people – The Globe and Mail

Senate proposes major amendment to Liberal citizenship legislation [C-6] : ‘It goes a long way’

As indicated during committee hearings, the amendment to restore procedural protections to those accused of fraud or misrepresentation was tabled in the Senate March 9:

The Liberal government’s update to immigration law is poised to be changed by the Senate after a major amendment was introduced Thursday.

Elaine McCoy, who acts as a “facilitator” for a de facto caucus of independent senators, tabled the amendment during debate over the third reading of Bill C-6.

If someone is served notice their citizenship is being revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation, the amendment requires the immigration minister to inform them of their right to appeal that decision in Federal Court.

Under Conservative legislation that took effect in May 2015 (referred to as Bill C-24), the process for citizenship revocation was significantly streamlined, and revocation notices have since ramped up significantly. The National Post reported last month that at least 236 people were served notice since the Liberals took power in November 2015.

Under the new process, people can submit written arguments as to why their citizenship should not be revoked, but there’s no clear option to have these arguments assessed by an independent judge.

It’s a loophole that many committee witnesses, in both the House of Commons and the Senate, argued should be fixed with the Liberal update. In the House, New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan attempted to move amendments but they were ruled out of scope at committee stage.

It’s in the Senate that proponents hoped to see the fix. Previous immigration minister John McCallum told senators he would “welcome” such an amendment, but new minister Ahmed Hussen said in Senate committee last week he would have to see the amendment before promising the government would commit to it — although “we are committed to procedural fairness.”

McCoy said the amendment is designed to give people “due process.” It puts decision-making back in the hands of the elected and accountable minister, she said, and allows the independent judiciary to review those decisions.

Drawing laughter from fellow senators, McCoy gave an example of how anonymous the revocation system has become. A revocation notice letter she obtained was signed with a citizenship analyst’s number rather than their name — “D 1816,” she said.

“This amendment is not going to fix everything, but it goes a long way,” McCoy said.

It’s been a “labour of many, many months,” the bill’s sponsor, Ratna Omidvar, added Thursday. The amendment is four pages long and determines exactly how the process would work — the “bare bones of due process,” Omidvar said, including a 60-day deadline for people to decide whether or not to take their appeal to court.

André Pratte, rose to support McCoy’s amendment. It addresses a “serious shortcoming,” he said, and will make the entire citizenship revocation process “much fairer.”

“Some will wonder why are we doing favours to people who have cheated the system. I would argue those are not favours, but fundamental human rights,” Pratte said.

Conservative senator Yonah Martin indicated Thursday she was concerned about the amendment being out of scope, and wondered why it wasn’t moved in committee. But McCoy said she was trying to be transparent by sharing the amendment with senators ahead of time and allowing it to be brought to the wider chamber.

Another Conservative senator, Daniel Lang, said he is concerned that some people could drag out the process over “years and years and years without any definitive decision being made.” Omidvar responded that court isn’t automatic. The amendment requires people to specifically ask for a court appeal in order for that appeal to be heard. Imposing a deadline on the court might not be possible, she added.

Debate was adjourned Thursday and the Senate now enters a two-week break, meaning votes on the amendment and the bill can’t happen until at least the week of March 28. If the Senate passes an amended version, the House of Commons will have to decide whether or not to accept the amendment before the bill can become law.

Source: Senate proposes major amendment to Liberal citizenship legislation: ‘It goes a long way’ | National Post

The text of the amendment can be found here: Motion in Amendment

Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected

Not a new story – see McCallum doesn’t want to let fraudsters ‘off the hook’ through moratorium on citizenship revocation.

The increase in numbers reflects largely the results of investigations initiated under the previous government, combined with the removal of previous procedural protections (recourse to Federal Court).

citizenship-data-slides-2015-026

IRCC Data Number of Investigations

But encouraging that a procedural protections fix looks likely judging by comments by Senator Omidvar on the eve of C6 committee hearings:

Josh Paterson, executive director of the association, told the National Post an assurance of due process should’ve been part of Bill C-6. “People readily grasp that when you take away someone’s citizenship, they ought to be entitled to a hearing if they want one.”

Paterson said he has been talking to senators about amendments. So has NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who tried amending the bill in a House of Commons committee but had her amendments ruled out of scope.

“It was frankly astounding to me that (the Liberal government) neglected to fix that critical part in the bill,” she said. “Virtually all of the witnesses came forward to say that we need to restore due process.”

The Senate sponsor of Bill C-6, independent senator Ratna Omidvar, confirmed there are plans to table such amendments in the Senate, likely at third reading.

“Everyone was open to an amendment,” she said in an interview, adding she’s “fairly positive” it will prove uncontroversial, since the argument for due process “would win over any ideological argument.”

Former immigration minister John McCallum had told senators in October he would “certainly welcome” the amendment, and told the Commons he believed “people should have a right to a proper appeal.” Bernie Derible, director of communications for new minister Ahmed Hussen, said “it would not be appropriate” for the minister to comment while the Senate deliberates.

Saying the bill’s passage is long overdue, Omidvar predicted things could wrap up in March. But its passage through the Senate will come with controversy, especially as Tory senators are expected to assert their belief that citizenship should still be revoked from convicted criminals.

It’s a sentiment shared by many. More than half of Canadians, 53 per cent, would rather have kept Bill C-24 as-is, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll from March 2016, which questioned 1,492 people and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

In a speech to the chamber in December, Conservative Daniel Lang noted measures in Bill C-24 have already been used to revoke citizenship from several people — part of the “Toronto 18” — who were involved in Toronto terror plots in 2006.

“Dual national Canadian terrorists are not like every other Canadian, and they don’t deserve the same rights and privileges as every other citizen,” Lang argued. “Why do you think that perpetrating an act of terrorism is of less gravity than someone who commits a fraudulent act by signing a false affidavit?”

Explaining increases in citizenship revocation, Caron said immigration workers have been prioritizing “the most serious cases such as those involving serious criminality or organized fraud.” Examples include assuming a fraudulent identity, producing doctored documents to conceal criminality, or falsifying residence records.

Since November 2015, 14 people have had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes they committed while they were permanent residents of Canada, and another five had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes committed before they immigrated.

In the former case, if their citizenship is revoked, people revert back to being foreign nationals, while in the latter case, people revert back to being permanent residents.

Revocation doesn’t necessarily result in a deportation order, but depending on the situation, the Canada Border Services Agency sometimes takes “enforcement action such as removal,” according to papers submitted to parliament.

A document tabled in response to a question on the order paper says an additional 100 people, at least, had their citizenship applications rejected due to misrepresentation between November 2015 and November 2016.

Source: Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected | National Post