Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected

Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected

Marie-Danielle Smith
Friday, Feb. 10, 2017


OTTAWA — At least 236 people have been served notice of Canadian citizenship revocation since the Liberals came into federal office — a dramatic increase over previous years that is the result of Harper-era legislation, according to Canada’s immigration department.

Controversy still reigns over a Liberal election promise to repeal a measure that lets the government revoke the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of serious crimes. It was the headline policy contained in Bill C-24 or the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” which took effect in May 2015.

But despite Liberal pledges that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” since November 2015, an average of 17 people a month have received notice that their citizenships will be revoked for misrepresentation or fraud — and none of them has been allowed a court hearing. The numbers compare to 65 people in total between 2007 and 2014.

The Senate is planning to patch a hole in the Liberals’ update to immigration legislation, Bill C-6, to make sure people whose citizenship is revoked can argue their case in court. A Senate committee begins its study Wednesday.

Decisions are “more efficient” and “timely” since the Conservative government’s new laws took effect, according to spokeswoman Nancy Caron.

The way the system now works, after receiving revocation notices, people have 60 days to respond by “providing submissions or any additional information” to immigration, including “details of their personal circumstances or ties to Canada,” she said.

That’s not enough, according to advocates concerned that to deny independent court hearings is unconstitutional.

The Federal Court is granting stays of proceedings to people who join an existing legal challenge, but it denied an injunction from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association that asked for a moratorium on revocation proceedings.

Josh Paterson, executive director of the association, told the National Post an assurance of due process should have been part of Bill C-6. “People readily grasp that when you take away someone’s citizenship, they ought to be entitled to a hearing if they want one.”

Paterson said he has been talking to senators about amendments. So has NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who tried amending the bill in a House of Commons committee but had her amendments ruled out of scope.

“It was frankly astounding to me that (the Liberal government) neglected to fix that critical part in the bill,” she said. “Virtually all of the witnesses came forward to say that we need to restore due process.”

The Senate sponsor of Bill C-6, independent senator Ratna Omidvar, confirmed there are plans to table such amendments in the Senate, likely at third reading.

“Everyone was open to an amendment,” she said in an interview, adding she’s “fairly positive” it will prove uncontroversial, since the argument for due process “would win over any ideological argument.”

Former immigration minister John McCallum had told senators in October he would “certainly welcome” the amendment, and told the Commons he believed “people should have a right to a proper appeal.” Bernie Derible, director of communications for new Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said “it would not be appropriate” for the minister to comment while the Senate deliberates.

Saying the bill’s passage is long overdue, Omidvar predicted things could wrap up in March. But its passage through the Senate will come with controversy, especially as Tory senators are expected to assert their belief that citizenship should still be revoked from convicted criminals.

It’s a sentiment shared by many. More than half of Canadians — 53 per cent — would rather have kept Bill C-24 as-is, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll from March 2016, which questioned 1,492 people and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

In a speech to the chamber in December, Conservative Daniel Lang noted measures in Bill C-24 have already been used to revoke citizenship from several people — part of the “Toronto 18” — who were involved in Toronto terror plots in 2006.

“Dual national Canadian terrorists are not like every other Canadian, and they don’t deserve the same rights and privileges as every other citizen,” Lang argued. “Why do you think that perpetrating an act of terrorism is of less gravity than someone who commits a fraudulent act by signing a false affidavit?”

Explaining increases in citizenship revocation, Caron said immigration workers have been prioritizing “the most serious cases such as those involving serious criminality or organized fraud.” Examples include assuming a fraudulent identity, producing doctored documents to conceal criminality, or falsifying residence records.

Since November 2015, 14 people have had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes they committed while they were permanent residents of Canada, and another five had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes committed before they immigrated.

In the former case, if their citizenship is revoked, people revert back to being foreign nationals, while in the latter case, people revert back to being permanent residents.

Revocation doesn’t necessarily result in a deportation order, but depending on the situation, the Canada Border Services Agency sometimes takes “enforcement action such as removal,” according to papers submitted to parliament.

A document tabled in response to a question on the order paper says an additional 100 people, at least, had their citizenship applications rejected due to misrepresentation between November 2015 and November 2016.