Proposed changes to the Citizenship Act could create a new class of naturalized Canadians who have fewer rights than those born in the country.
That’s according to Zool Suleman, a Vancouver immigration lawyer. He told the Straight that Bill C-24, which was introduced in February as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, would make it so that new immigrants to Canada could see their citizenship revoked at the discretion of government bureaucrats.
Citizenship could be rescinded if it’s decided an individual fails to show “intent” to reside in Canada, Suleman explained in a telephone interview. Immigrants could also lose their citizenship if they are found guilty of a crime, which creates a form of “double punishment” for one group of Canadians that does not apply to another, Suleman continued.
“There has always been a gradation between a citizen, a resident, and someone who is here on a temporary basis,” he said. “But I think what is happening now is a cleavage is opening up where more and more people are being left in this indeterminist status.”
Suleman noted that with Canada’s low birth rates, the number of Canadians that could come to be affected by these changes is significant.
According to Statistics Canada, immigration accounted for 67 percent of Canada’s population growth in 2013. That number is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2031. In 2011, British Columbia had the lowest birth rate of any province in Canada.
The Canadian Bar Association has found some of the proposed changes are “likely unconstitutional”. A 31-page brief prepared by the CBA’s national immigration law section states that the citizenship-revocation process outlined in Bill C-24 will “primarily be a paper one”, wherein a hearing before a Federal Court judge will only be granted “in limited circumstances”. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has also published a summary of the changes outlining its concerns.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada declined to make a representative available for an interview.
Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, NDP critic for citizenship and immigration, takes issue with provisions that allow for the revocation of citizenship without avenues for remediation.
“A lot of lawyers have argued against the constitutionality of this bill because there is no appeal process possible,” she told the Straight in a telephone interview.
Like Suleman, Blanchette-Lamothe called attention to the potential for Bill C-24 to create a different set of rules for citizens new to Canada.
“There should not be two tiers of citizens, where one citizen can have access to our judicial system and another one cannot because their parents are Egyptian, for example,” she said. “That’s a very dangerous path.”