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Jan 04

The UnCanadian Citizenship Act Changes

I spoke a lot over the past 6 months about my deep concerns about, and rejection of, the changes to the Citizenship Act made by the Conservative government in June, 2014.  The changes allow the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian Citizenship for Canadians convicted of serious crimes.  I’ve objected to this on numerous levels: the politicization of what should be a legal process; the fact that we have a legal system set up to deal appropriately with crime and most importantly, I object to the fact that the changes create two classes of Canadian Citizens.  

Canada cannot revoke the citizenship of Canadians who either do not have dual citizenship in another country or do not have the right to claim citizenship elsewhere.  This means that citizens such as myself cannot suffer the dual punishment of both being convicted of a crime AND being banished from Canada, while other Canadian citizens can suffer such a fate.

The Citizenship Act changes will almost certainly face legal challenges in the future and is further evidence of the Conservative Party’s lack of interest in whether it’s legislation will pass Constitutional scrutiny.  The Conservatives seem at war with our Constitution. Yet the concept of our Constitution – a set of parameters which we collectively as Canadians embrace and which protect us from the tyranny of any one government of the day – seems to be inline with Conservative principles.  Unfortunately, the very content of our Constitution appears to be at odds with this Conservative government.

An excellent summary of the changes brought in with the Act was recently published by McGill law student Humera Jabir and it is worth a read to understand the enormity of the issues with the changes.  Humera makes several extremely important points, including this one:

The final troubling result of this reform is that citizenship is now a political tool. Before the reform, naturalized citizens facing revocation for fraud had the right to a hearing before a judge for review of the government’s decision. Not now. Instead of a judge, a politician will have the final say on who meets the criteria for revocation, what is considered a legitimate foreign conviction, and whose citizenship will be spared or revoked. The courts have been cut out of the process in most cases.

I encourage you to read all of the article and to let your MP and your 2015 election candidates know that you want to see the Citizenship Act changes reversed.  In September, 2014, Justin Trudeau made it clear that he opposed the changes, and not surprisingly was derided by the conservative press.  Make sure that our government, and government-in-waiting know your position.

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