The federal government has no plans to stop revoking citizenships while it decides if it will repeal the law that grants it power to do so.
Despite apparent support from within the Liberal party for the citizenship-stripping law to be changed or revoked – including from Immigration Minister John McCallum – no suspension of the practice will take place.
Currently the government can take away the citizenship of anyone accused of mispresenting themselves in order to get access to Canada, without the need for a hearing.
This has been challenged by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), who say it is unconstitutional to strip citizenship without granting the right of appeal.
They have launched a legal bid for the right to a formal appeal, and want the government to stop taking away citizenships until their case is heard.
Justice Department lawyer Angela Marinos wrote to the Federal Court pointing out that anyone who has had citizenship revoked has the right to seek a judicial review to have the decision overturned.
But BCCLA representatives say this process is expensive and immigrants should be able to appeal before they lose their citizenship.
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 her parents stated on their immigration application.
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 labelled the Second-Class Citizenship Bill.
McCallum has confirmed the government is 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 recently.
“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.”
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 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 the armed forces 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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