Lawsuit seeks to strip feds of ‘unjust’ citizenship-stripping powers
Liberals roasted their Tory predecessors’ bill allowing some Canadians to lose their citizenship. Lawyers say citizens continue being targeted
“Investigator, prosecutor and decision-maker.”
If those words sound like a tagline for a new Judge Dredd film, they’re not. But they do describe new powers vested in Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister, according to lawyers Lorne Waldman and Arghavan Gerami, who are suing the federal government over a Conservative-era law that remains on the books today.
And the powers they described are causing dread in the immigrant families, up to 60 people a month, who had their Canadian citizenship torn away from them thanks to a Conservative-era law — and who are behind the lawsuit launched in federal court Monday.
Under the controversial legislation, officials can strip citizens of their Canadian status if they are found to have lied or otherwise misrepresented themselves on immigration documents. But the decision rests with the citizenship minister, and the accused are not entitled to legal aid or even appearing before a judge.
“An individual should have a right to a fair hearing,” said Waldman, an executive member of Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, in a statement. “Instead, we have a single government official acting as investigator, prosecutor, and decision-maker.
“This is unjust and contrary to Canadians’ expectations that decisions with significant ramifications for human rights will be made in a fair and transparent manner.”
The lawyers are representing several people who discovered they were no longer Canadians under the Harper-era law. One of them, represented by Gerami, is identified only as “Ms. B,” an 18-year-old from Egypt who became Canadian after moving here a decade ago.
“I was completely shocked when I learned that Canada had revoked my citizenship without even hearing from me,” she said in a statement. “I didn’t think such a thing could happen here.”
She moved to Canada with her parents at age 8, but because they allegedly misrepresented themselves on immigration documents, the Conservative government invalidated the entire family’s citizenship one year ago.
After the Liberals won a landslide election last October under leader Justin Trudeau — who famously proclaimed in a campaign debate that, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” — the government ramped up their move against Ms. B in March 2016, re-issuing the order for her to lose her status.
According to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Liberals “set targets and initiated revocation proceedings to strip citizenship from between 40 and 60 Canadians per month,” which the BCCLA’s executive director Josh Paterson described as “absurd and completely unjust.”
Correction (Oct. 7): Story corrected to state that lawyer Arghavan Gerami represents the unnamed complainant « Ms. B » in the case, not Waldman.