The right to strip Canadian citizenship without the need for a hearing, introduced under the previous Conservative government, is set to be revoked by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
One option being considered is a stay of proceedings for the law, which allows the federal government to take citizenship away from anyone who misrepresented themselves in the application process, without the need for a hearing.
The law has been brought into the spotlight following the case of Maryam Monsef, the Liberal Minister of Democratic Institutions, who recently discovered she was born in Iran and not Afghanistan as she had thought.
It means she could conceivably lose her citizenship under the law, which was introduced as part of a series of changes made in 2014 under Bill C-24, named the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, but labeled the Second-Class Citizenship Bill.
The specific citizenship-stripping rule is the subject of legal action, because the lack of a hearing is said to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Immigration Minister John McCallum confirmed the government are looking at ways to revoke the rule. But McCallum said it would not be part of Bill C-6, Liberal legislation to revoke many of the changes made under Bill C-24.
“We are certainly considering options for changes in that area, but it was not included in Bill C-6,” McCallum said.
“I understand that it was considered and it was declared to be out of scope, so it could not come into that bill at the time.”
While the right to strip citizenship was the headline clause of controversial Conservative Bill C-24, there were several other changes made to the process of granting citizenship, including making children as young as 14 take a test on language and knowledge of Canada and increasing the time a permanent resident needed to live in the country before qualifying.
The Liberals had wanted to get Bill C-6 through before Canada Day, but have had to wait until after the summer break.
The major barrier to the amendment, Bill C-6, is getting it through the Conservative-dominated Senate, although if Liberals and independent senators all voted together, it would pass.
Summary of proposed changes under Bill C-6
- Applicants must be permanent residents of and physically reside in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date of their application, and repeals requirement that applicants must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the qualifying years.
- Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements. Applicable criteria will be defined under future regulations.
- Repeals a requirement that adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
- Restores consideration of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident (non-PR) for most applicants to a maximum of one year of credited time.
- Reduces the period to three years for adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
- Authorizes Minister to seize documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications.
A recent report by the auditor-general criticised the Immigration Department, under the former government, for granting citizenship to candidates with criminal records and false address histories.
The audit in part blamed a lack of communication between the immigration department, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.
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