Jenny Kwan: Trudeau government's citizenship legislation fails to address deficiencies in Bill C-24

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      At different junctures, different administrations have adopted different approaches and values to Canada’s immigration policies.  But irrespective of the actions of different administrations, Canada is a democratic country based on some very fundamental principles. Canadians value our constitutional rights. 

      When the Liberal government was elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated very clearly that there will be real change. Real change should have meant that the government would have honoured its campaign promise to repeal Bill C-24. 

      That didn't happen.

      Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act was passed and became law in June 2014 by the Harper Conservatives. It created two classes of citizens, those who could have their citizenship revoked and those who could not. Under Bill C-24, some Canadians are more Canadian than others because some Canadians are afforded more rights than others simply because of where they were born. 

      Instead of repealing Bill C-24, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-6, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act. One would have thought that in the minimum, Bill C-6 would have fixed the lack of procedural fairness and safeguards for individuals facing citizenship revocation due to misrepresentation or fraud by ensuring that they have the right to an independent hearing and to consider compassionate and humanitarian factors. That didn't happen either.

      In fact, Bill C-6 failed to fix this major problem. I tried to address this and tabled substantive amendments to ensure individuals who face citizenship revocation have the right to a fair and independent hearing. But those amendments failed. 

      And now, even though Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum acknowledged that this is wrong and said the current practice is “dictatorial”, currently his government is aggressively pursuing citizenship revocation on up to 60 Canadians each month.

      It also does not matter that the misrepresentation is a result of an honest mistake even if you are a child and your parent presented misinformation on the application for whatever reason. Your citizenship could still be revoked and you cannot argue your case based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This is wrong.

      As long as the rules established under Bill C-24 remain, the prime minister’s declaration that a Canadian is a Canadian remains elusive. It’s not a joke that people fighting a jaywalking ticket have more rights than those at risk of losing their citizenship.

      Recently, Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef admitted on the public record that she misrepresented her place of birth on her passport application. According to immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman, “if [the Minister of Democratic Reform]’s birthplace was misrepresented on her citizenship application…that would be grounds for revocation of citizenship, regardless of whether it was an innocent mistake or the fault of her mother. And if the misrepresentation was on her permanent residence and refugee application, she could even be deported.”

      At committee on Oct. 4, 2016, McCallum stated “I think citizenship should be revoked for people who misrepresent. That's the situation.”  

      No one is disputing the government’s right to revoke someone’s citizenship on the basis of fraud or misrepresentation. However, to take away someone’s Canadian citizenship and possibly deport the individual is a very serious matter.

      What I am disputing is that no Canadian should have to face that prospect without the right to have an independent hearing, have the opportunity to present their case, and that humanitarian and compassionate grounds need to be taken into consideration.

      If the law is being applied equally to everyone, then Monsef could lose her citizenship. She could be among the 60 people who are faced with citizenship revocation this month without procedural fairness or having compassionate and humanitarian factors be taken into consideration.

      I wonder if that were to happen, would McCallum still not take any action to halt citizenship revocation cases based on misrepresentation until procedure fairness has been restored? 

      Jenny Kwan is the NDP MP for Vancouver East. She's also the NDP immigration, refugees and citizenship critic.