The Government’s proposed citizenship bill is ringing alarm bells for the Canadian Bar Association, which feels that some of the more controversial measures included in the bill could be unconstitutional, thereby contradicting the government’s own evaluation of the bill.
In February, the Government had proposed some drastic changes to the Citizenship Act by introducing Bill C-24. However, three contentious measures have earned it the ire of the Canadian Bar Association, which submitted a 30-page response to the House’s citizenship and immigration committee recently.
While the bar association welcomed some of the new measures proposed in Bill C-24 (such as granting citizenship to “lost Canadians”), the three parts that it wants the Government to amend or scrap altogether concern:
- The new eligibility requirements for becoming a citizen
- The requirement that wants prospective citizens to show an intent of residing in Canada and,
- Expansion of the grounds for the revocation of citizenship
Under the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, the Government would have the authority to strip dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship, if the individuals were “members of an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada”. In addition, the Government could also revoke the citizenship of those individuals, who have been “convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received”.
The current Citizenship Act only authorises the Government to revoke naturalised Canadians of their citizenship, if the individuals obtained their citizenship via fraudulent means. In addition, such individuals would have the right to attend a full hearing before a judge of the Federal Court.
However, according to provisions made in Bill C-24, the Government could eliminate the right to a hearing in most cases, but not in all the cases. For instance, the immigration minister has the authority to make a decision without needing to conduct a formal hearing.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander appeared before the citizenship and immigration committee and informed the MPs that all the proposals listed in Bill C-24 are constitutionally sound. However, this had no effect on the bar association, which urged the Government to modify Bill C-24 by considering their 20 recommendations that included:
- Deleting the requirement that prospective citizens would need to declare their intent to reside in Canada if granted citizenship
- Amending the rigorous residency requirements needed for becoming a citizen
- Removing the requirement that applicants would need to be present for 183 days during four of the six years before applying for citizenship
- Scrapping the requirement that applicants would need to submit their tax returns for four of the six years before applying for citizenship and,
- Removing the requirement that applicants would need to provide knowledge tests in one of the two official languages
Source: CBC News