During a testimony to the Senate social affairs committee, Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen defended Bill C-6 which will, among other things, remove the grounds for revocation of Canadian citizenship from dual nationals convicted for treason or terrorism offences.
The Bill, called “An Act to amend the Citizenship Act” and introduced by the Liberals in 2016, mostly reverses changes made under the previous Conservative government’s Bill C-24, which took effect in 2015.
Bill C-24 gave the federal government authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens in cases of conviction for terrorism, treason, or engagement in an armed conflict against Canada, regardless of whether they were born in Canada or not.
In a lead-up to the last federal elections, the Liberal Party vowed to repeal the changes made by the Conservatives, arguing that Bill C-24 divides Canadians into two classes, in which dual nationals are at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship if they are convicted of serious crimes.
Bill C-6 will still allow for revocation of citizenship in cases of misrepresentation by immigrants while applying for permanent residence status in Canada, but convicted terrorists will be spared.
During the election campaign Trudeau used the expression a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” to bash the Harper policy for what he called creating second-class citizens whose citizenship is constantly threatened.
Speaking at a Winnipeg town hall in July 2015, Trudeau said: “The Liberal Party believes that terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship … because I do and I’m willing to take on anyone who disagrees with that”, and added: “As soon as you make citizenship for some Canadians conditional on good behaviour, you devalue citizenship for everyone.”
In 2015, the previous Conservative government stripped convicted terrorist Zakaria Amara of his Canadian citizenship. Amara was a ringleader of the so-called “Toronto 18” terrorist group which in 2006 conspired to carry out terror attacks in downtown Toronto, including detonating a bobby-trapped truck in the financial district with the intention of causing an indiscriminate mass killing of civilians. Under Bill C-24, Amara, a Jordanian national who immigrated to Canada, would have been deported to Jordan once he was released from prison after serving a life sentence.
At that time, former Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney expressed his full support of the measure taken against Amara. “I agree that convicted terrorists should be stripped of their Canadian citizenship. Anyone who commits terrorist acts in Canada or abroad has clearly renounced their Canadian citizenship by rejecting Canadian values and the loyalty to our country that citizenship requires,” Kenney said and called on Justin Trudeau “to stop defending the rights of convicted terrorists and to instead support the rights of law abiding Canadians.”
An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act
Sponsor: John McCallum Liberal
Status: Second reading (Senate), as of June 17, 2016
This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things,
(a) remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security;
(b) remove the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada;
(c) reduce the number of days during which a person must have been physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship and provide that, in the calculation of the length of physical presence, the number of days during which the person was physically present in Canada before becoming a permanent resident may be taken into account;
(d) limit the requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54; and
(e) authorize the Minister to seize any document that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe was fraudulently or improperly obtained or used or could be fraudulently or improperly used.