Canada is facing a legal challenge to the new Citizenship Act brought into force this year, with attorneys and a civil liberties group claiming the Act creates a “two-tiered” system for citizenship.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and a naturalized Pakistani have mounted a collective legal challenge to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act of June 2014, calling for the expanded “grounds upon which a person may have their citizenship revoked” as well as the “intent to reside” provision to be struck down as unconstitutional.
One of the more contentious provisions introduced in the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act are the powers granted to the government to revoke the citizenship of foreign-born individuals convicted of treason or terrorism-related offences. This is being contested by Pakistani-born Canadian national Asad Ansari, who faces the prospect of having his Canadian citizenship revoked on the basis of a terrorism-related conviction in 2010.
The claim states that “the revocation provisions establish two classes of citizens: mono-Canadian citizens (who are not subject to revocation) and dual or multi-citizens (who are subject to revocation). It treats those individuals who are not citizens of any other state preferentially to those persons who do hold a second citizenship, as the former are not at risk of losing Canadian citizenship and the benefits that flow from it.”
This distinction perpetuates historical disadvantage of Canadian citizens who originate from other countries, and is influenced by prejudicial reasoning respecting the ‘otherness’ or disloyalty of those who hold the citizenship of a foreign state. It renders dual citizens less secure in their Canadian citizenship than mono-citizens.
The plaintiffs have also challenged the “intent to reside” provision as unfairly requiring citizenship applicants to prove they intend to keep living in the country, whereas citizens born in Canada are free from this obligation.
The plaintiffs state “Naturalized Canadians have their mobility constrained by the risk that departure from Canada post-naturalization will be construed as evidence of past misrepresentation of an intent to reside in Canada”, adding that people applying for citizenship now must “prospectively disavow the mobility rights that all Canadian citizens enjoy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In doing so, it creates a two-tiered system of citizenship that discriminates against individuals on the basis of national origin, as well as race and ethnicity.