A Toronto lawyer has launched a court challenge against controversial changes to the Canada’s Citizenship Act.
On June 25, Rocco Galati filed documents in a federal court that argue Parliament and the Governor General surpassed their constitutional authorities in approving certain aspects of Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.
The lawsuit primarily targets provisions in the bill that allow for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke the citizenship of a Canadian-born citizen and deport them from the country.
“The Federal Parliament has absolutely no legislative competence to legislate the revocation, removal, annulment, or any extinguishing whatsoever of the citizenship status, per say, of any Canadian-born citizen,” reads the notice of application.
It states that citizenship is “inalienable, and cannot be ‘revoked’ under any circumstance by Federal Parliament”, and that citizenship is a “fundamental constitutional protection, outside of the legislative competence of the Federal Parliament”.
Galati’s lawsuit, which he filed on behalf of lawyers with the Constitutional Rights Centre, might only be the first of multiple court proceedings challenging the constitutionality of the Conservative government’s new citizenship laws, which have already passed through the House of Commons and the Senate and received royal assent.
On June 19, the Straight reported that the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), working with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International, is preparing a court challenge against Bill C-24.
Those organizations plan to argue that the changes violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This proposed law would allow certain Canadians to be stripped of citizenship that was validly obtained by birth or by naturalization,” says CARL president Lorne Waldman, quoted in a release. “We think that is unconstitutional, and we intend to challenge this law if it is passed.”
Vancouver immigration lawyer Zool Suleman has argued that Bill C-24 could be especially concerning to immigrants new to the country.
Citizenship could be rescinded if it’s decided an individual fails to show “intent” to reside in Canada, he explained in a May 18 interview with the Straight. 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.
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has also found certain provisions of Bill C-24 are “likely unconstitutional”. A 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”.
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.
Galati’s lawsuit means the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act joins a number of other Conservative rules taken to court in recent years. Lawyers with Pivot Legal Society are fighting a Health Canada regulation that bans B.C. doctors from providing select patients with prescription heroin. Pivot is also challenging mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug dealers. And it’s expected that proposed prostitution laws targeting the clients of sex workers could soon become the subject of a constitutional challenge.