The Federal Court of Canada has been asked to void Ottawa’s recent changes to the Citizenship Act and declare it unconstitutional to revoke the citizenship of Canadian-born and naturalized citizens.
A day after the terror-linked gun shooting in Ottawa, constitutional lawyers argued in court on Thursday that Parliament has no legislative power to remove citizenship from individuals involved in armed combat against Canada, treason, spying and terrorism – unless the citizenship was obtained by fraud.
Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, was granted Royal Assent . In addition to raising the pass mark for citizenship exam and language requirement, the law also enables the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens.
Constitutional lawyers said citizenship is fundamental to the constitutional order and the new revocation provision should have been made through a constitutional amendment with the support of seven provinces or 51 per cent of the population.
Calling Ottawa’s act “an indirect amendment to the Canadian constitutions,” Paul Slansky, who represented the constitutional rights centre, said the government only has the authority over “aliens and naturalization,” but does not have the power to strip the citizenship of Canadian-born people.
Government lawyers asked the court to dismiss the case because the revocation provision has yet to be enforced and any constitutional challenge should be dealt with when an affected individual brings a case forward.
Greg George, lawyer for the government, said the case is beyond the jurisprudence of the court and it should not “meddle” with the making of the law.
“The court has no business in getting into the legislative process of the government . . . until the ink is dry,” he said, adding that Canada’s Citizenship Act, since 1947, has always allowed the government to “denaturalize” someone engaged in combat against Canada or convicted of serious crimes, but no one ever challenged its constitutionality.
“Government passed legislation and it wasn’t challenged. It doesn’t mean it’s valid,” Slansky contended.
Justice Rennie reserved his decision.
Source: The Star