Two legal advocacy groups are launching a constitutional challenge to the Conservative government’s new Citizenship Act in federal court, calling it “anti-immigrant, anti-Canadian, anti-democratic, and unconstitutional.”
Both the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers are filing a judicial review application and a statement of claim Thursday arguing that Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, creates a “two-tier citizenship regime” that discriminates between dual nationals and naturalized citizens.
The legal challenge focuses on some key provisions in the act which add intent to reside in Canada provision before being granted Canadian citizenship, expand the grounds upon which a person can have his or her citizenship revoked and amend the procedures that lead to that revocation.
“The suit alleges the law is unjust, legally unsound and violates the core values of equality enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The act also introduced a series of sweeping changes, including altering residency requirements for permanent residents to four out of six years before being eligible for citizenship; increasing the fees for applications for citizenship; expanding the age range for those required to demonstrate language proficiency and a knowledge test to 14-years-old to 64-years-old and streamlining the application process.
Advocates believe the law creates two classes of citizens and exposes many Canadians to not only losing their citizenship without due process but also their rights to move and travel out of the country.
Under Bill C-24, which came into effect in June, Canadians could see their citizenship revoked if convicted of certain serious crimes in Canada or abroad.
According to the statement of claim, two key sections of the act — the revocation provisions as well as the intent to reside provision — violate fundamental sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The legal arguments of the case focus on the fact the new bill violates the equality rights, mobility rights, the rights to freedom and security of person, due process rights, the right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
The suit claims the law violates Section 15 of the Charter, which guarantees equality rights, by discriminating against some Canadians and giving them limited rights because they, their parents or their ancestors were born elsewhere.
The suit claims the law violates due process rights, guaranteed under Section 7 of the Charter, because the act leaves citizenship revocation decisions in the hands of Ottawa officials rather than a court of law.
The suit also alleges that Sections 6 of the Charter is being violated by the new legislation leaving citizens without the right to enter and leave Canada freely because of the intent to reside clause; Section 11 is also breached because under the act citizens can be punished twice for a crime; and Section 12 is violated because the bill subjects people to cruel and unusual punishment.
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