Last Updated on January 24, 2019
Federal lawyers are ready to act on one of Justin Trudeau’s key campaign promises of repealing the controversial Conservative law that gives Ottawa the power to strip convicted terrorists of their Canadian citizenship.
The Justice Department recently requested an indefinite adjournment in five high-profile court challenges targeting the Harper-era revocation law, saying federal lawyers assigned to the cases cannot move forward without direction from the incoming Liberals. All parties to the court actions are scheduled to reconvene on Dec. 9 for a case-management conference in Toronto; by then, the Liberals’ specific intentions should be evident.
Lawyers for all sides consented to the adjournment request, and the order was approved by Justice Russel Zinn 48 hours before Trudeau and his ministers were to be officially sworn in by Governor General David Johnston. The parties are now awaiting word on further direction following the recent election of the Liberals who promised to rescind certain provisions of the controversial legislation known as Bill C-24. The conservatives implemented the law which allows the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone convicted of serious crimes against national security, including treason, espionage and terrorism—providing that person is a dual national who holds citizenship in a second country.
To date, 10 Canadians have been served with a “Notice of Intent to Revoke” since the law took effect on May 29, and only one—Zakaria Amara, the confessed ringleader of the 2006 “Toronto 18” bomb plot, now serving a life sentence—has actually lost his citizenship. Five of those convicted terrorists have since launched Charter challenges in Federal Court, arguing, inter alia, that Bill C-24 is unconstitutional because it amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” and creates “second-tier citizenship” by singling out dual nationals.
While there is no dispute that these men were terrorists, what is debatable, however, is whether these convicted terrorists—despite their grievous crimes—deserve to be stripped of their Canadian citizenship, a punishment akin to banishment.
Trudeau clearly pledged, “No, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” many times on the campaign trail.
What happens next, though, is not entirely clear. The Trudeau government could decide to withdraw all notices served to date, eliminating the immediate threat of revocation and rendering the court cases moot. But striking down the law itself will require an Act of Parliament, a process that could take many months, if not years.
If nothing else, the Federal Court adjournment gives the Liberals additional time to determine the best course of action on this controversial legislation, from the now terminated conservative era.