Canadian government’s citizenship bill faces legal challenge

posted on June 19, 2014

By Nicholas Keung, the Star | Link to Article

By Nicholas Keung, the Star | Link to Article

Canadian and international rights groups are poised to launch a legal challenge against Ottawa’s proposed citizenship law, saying it would create two classes of citizens and violate the Charter’s mobility rights.

Under the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” they say, no one is safe from having their citizenship revoked, even those who were born in Canada if they have the right to dual citizenship in another country because of their immigrant ancestry.

“The new provisions for revocation of citizenship in Bill C-24 violate Canada’s international human rights obligations. They are divisive, discriminatory, retrograde and profoundly unfair,” Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve told a teleconference Thursday.

“The bill buys into and promotes a xenophobic and false narrative about true Canadians and others, a narrative that equates foreignness with suspicions.”

Bill C-24 — which has passed third reading in the House of Commons and is currently in the Senate — extends the
time an applicant would have to live in Canada while applying for citizenship from three to four years, and requires citizenship applicants to declare their intent to live in Canada.

“The new law makes citizenship harder to get and easier to lose,” said Josh Paterson of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander dismissed the criticisms.

“It is shameful that activist immigration lawyers, who never miss an opportunity to criticize our government’s citizenship and immigration reforms, are attempting to drum up business by promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians,” he repeated Thursday through his press secretary.

Lorne Waldman, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said provisions of the bill violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and lack due process in the event of citizenship revocations.

“We are profoundly disturbed by a bill we see as flawed and full of serious legal problems and violations of Charter rights,” he said. “We see an extreme risk here that we are going to create two classes of citizens: those who have mobility right and those who do not.”

Currently, naturalized citizens found misrepresenting themselves in their application will have their citizenship revoked.
However, with the new requirement to express the intent to reside in Canada, those who had sworn the intent to live here but innocently take up an opportunity to work or travel abroad later could expose themselves to the revocation proceeding, Waldman said.

“This has ramifications far beyond what happens or does not happen to one individual in a revocation hearing. It more widely exposes Canadians to discrimination based on their national origin,” said Neve.

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