Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right: Chapman misses the mark
2017/02/27 9 Comments
While I have a great deal of respect for Don Chapman and other advocates who successfully pushed the previous government to address the issue of “lost Canadians” in C-37 (2009) and C-24 (2014), I find his latest op-ed misses the mark, arguing for opening up the constitution to add citizenship as a right in the Constitution.
Apart from the fact that no government in their right mind would open up the Constitution given the divisive process that would result (been there, done that!), their column makes assertions about numbers (“many”) without any real serious look at the data.
The data we have primarily consists of the demand for citizenship proofs. The 2009 and 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act addressed the majority of the potential cases; however, the number of annual proofs did not change significantly, suggesting less demand than Chapman and other advocates claimed.
That is not to say that some cases remain, but that they are best dealt with individually through consideration for a discretionary grant of citizenship (s 5(4) of the Act).
Moreover, as one of my former colleagues noted:
Chapman also engages in fear mongering with respect to Canadian dual nationals living in the US being forced to renounce their US citizenship in order to avoid potential revocation in cases of acts of terrorism or treason. C-6, currently in the Senate, will repeal this provision and thus address the major Charter violation that treats dual nationals separately from “mono-nationals”:
The practical implication is that the more than 100,000 Canadian casualties from the First and Second World Wars never lived to become citizens, and many of their children have spent decades fighting for their right to citizenship, denied them simply because their fathers did not survive the war. The hallmark of former minister of citizenship and immigration Jason Kenney was the consistency with which he denied these applicants. Although many of these Canadians eventually regained their citizenship through parliamentary victories, too many died as they were simply waited out by Ottawa.
Particularly heinous is the untold number of Indigenous Canadians that are currently stateless because their parents never registered their births, rightfully fearing their children would be sent to a residential school. Now adults, these Canadians have no rights or benefits. They are citizens of nowhere, unable to legally work, marry, attend school, buy a home, get a loan, drive a car or even take a bus, train or plane without identification. They are ghosts in their own land, forced to live in the shadows.
Even recent amendments that reinstated citizenship to some have left many others stateless, and did nothing to prevent that reinstated status from being stripped in the future.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s policies further complicated citizenship rights, making second-class citizens of anyone with dual-citizenship status. With the current political turmoil in the United States, thousands of these dual citizens – especially targeted professionals such as journalists and human-rights workers – now face the painful option of renouncing their U.S. citizenship, fearing their second-class status in Canada could, on a whim from our leadership, force them to live in Mr. Trump’s United States.
Our national identity has no foundation if we have no inherent rights, and Mr. Trump’s idle threats against his own people prove how urgent it is to give serious thought to our Canadian citizenship – what it actually is, how we get it and how it’s lost.
As we approach our 150th birthday, this is the perfect time to focus on defining and protecting our identity. It is time to make citizenship a constitutional right. Pierre Trudeau gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Prime Minister to take the final step to true nationhood: an inviolable, constitutional right of citizenship.