Senate hearings on C-6: Clause-by-clause complete, on to third reading March 2

Summary: C-6 was approved on division by the SOCI and reported out to the full Senate for third reading, with Conservative senators opposed. Three observations were appended to the report: greater flexibility for exemptions to knowledge and language assessment, reviewing possible use of smart permanent residency cards, and considering a reduction in citizenship fees. Senator Eggleton, as Deputy Chair, while supporting C-6 noted that an amendment was needed with respect to revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, given the lack of due process, and an amendment would be tabled at third reading.

Clause-by-clause: All clauses of C-6 were carried on division, with Conservative senators opposed to all provisions. Clause 3 (repeal of the revocation provision for dual nationals convicted of terrorism or treason) and the related clause 20 (reinstatement of citizenship of those whose citizenship was revoked for terrorism or treason) were subject to recorded votes, with all Conservative senators opposed.

Observations

Citizenship for children born abroad (non-genetic link): Senator Omidvar noted testimony of the Barreau du Quebec (check) flagging issues related to children born abroad but without any genetic link to their Canadian parents (e.g., surrogates, in vitro). After consideration discussion, officials noted that children adopted abroad had direct access to citizenship (C-14 in 2008) with no difference in treatment between male-female and same sex couples. With respect to surrogates or in vitro children, a genetic or gestational (Canadian mother born) was required. With this clarification, the observation was withdrawn.

Greater flexibility for exceptions to knowledge and language assessment: Senator Omidvar noted the testimony by a number of witnesses regarding the difficulty some immigrant have with respect to testing. Under “exceptional circumstances” (e.g., social, physical, mental health, disabilities, lack of time for women with caregiving responsibilities).

A number of senators expressed concern that the language was overly broad. Moreover, questions had already been raised by former citizenship judge Watt that the assessment process was not strong enough. Officials indicated there was already considerable scope for discretion in such cases and that 80 percent of waiver requests were granted (320 waivers). Officials also noted that the citizenship test was available in large print and brail versions. The Minister had broad grounds to waive these requirements and the department was confident it had the needed authorities and instructions in place.

Omidvar noted that language and knowledge assessment had become more difficult since the time judge Watt was active. She noted that often applicants in this situation had to go to court to obtain waivers and the system was not as flexible and accommodating as portrayed and reminded all of the wording “exceptional circumstances.” In the end, observation carried.

Smart permanent residence cards: Senator Frum, picking up on lawyer Julie Taub’s point about the need for smart cards to automatically track entry and exit to minimize the burden on immigrants and reduce residency fraud, tabled an observation that asked the government “to implement” smart PR cards. However, she also offered a softer version: “review or consider.” A number of senators expressed support for the concept but noted the practical difficulties of implementation The Chair deftly secured agreement for the “review and consider” language.

Fees: Senator Eggleton returned to the issue of the sharp increase of citizenship fees from $100 to $530 plus right of citizenship fee of $100, resulting in a cost of $1,460 for a family of four, with possible additional costs of language assessment. This posed a financial burden and barrier to low-income immigrants and thus his observation requested the government consider lowering fees.

Referring extensively to my submission (https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/Briefs/C-6_A_Griffith_e.pdf) and its attribution of the much of the 50 percent drop in  applications to this increase, he noted that it belied the assertion in the Canada Gazette notifications that no drop was anticipated. Historically, about 200,000 applications were submitted, the current trend would see less than 100,000. Departmental staff believe that other reasons are involved which may be the case given other elements of C-24.

Canada should not discourage people from becoming citizens and becoming a citizen shouldn’t be based on financial means. Cost recovery may have been supported by one witness but other witnesses noted that this created a barrier for many immigrants. Income testing for waivers was “not the way to go” as it marginalized people more. He did not agree with the department’s position.

Senator Frum probed regarding waivers for those who submitted evidence of hardship while those who could pay should pay. Senator Neufeld noted that the committee had heard from officials and the Minister and that the fees were what was needed to cover the cost of the program.

Senator Eggleton noted that an increase from $100 to $530 is a problem. One did not need to roll back the fee to $100 but perhaps to $300, addingg that the right to citizenship fee of $100 was “ridiculous. He reiterated his concern that an income test would stigmatize low-income immigrants.

Observation carried.

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation amendment (Hill Times):

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar, who was appointed last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says Senators are preparing to amend a key plank of the government’s mandate next week, the Citizenship Bill C-6, a move she calls “necessary” and says she’s received support from some Senate Liberals as well.

Sen. Omidvar, an international expert on migration who is sponsoring Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, in the Senate, told The Hill Times on Thursday that she’s nearing the completion of drafting an amendment that would put an end to Canadians being stripped of their citizenship without a hearing. Sen. Omidvar wants to remove a law brought in by the previous Conservative government which allows for the revocation of citizenship of anyone who the government deems to have been fraudulent or misrepresented themselves during the application process.

Currently, the provision is not part of Bill C-6, despite the fact that the legislation features other repeals of Conservative legislation. As it stands, Bill C-6 addresses promises made by the Liberals during the last election campaign to amend parts of the previous Conservative government’s Bill C-24 from the last Parliament.

….The amendment would include the right of the individual whose citizenship is in question to appeal their case to the Federal Court, without leave, she said. “It would have a timeline attached to it, it would enable the appellant in this case to have access to full disclosure of documents that were used to reach the original decision. The individual would have the right to provide more evidence that may or may not have been available,” said Sen. Omidvar.

On Thursday, the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee passed the legislation without amendment, but warned that the proposed amendment was still coming.

Sen. Omidvar said she believes she will have enough Senate support for her amendment to pass when she brings Bill C-6 back up for debate in the Upper Chamber next week.

“Everyone feels an amendment is necessary, we are now arguing about its shape and size … but I’m confident that we will craft an amendment that is hopefully accepted, first by the Chamber, and then by the House,” she said.

Amending government’s Citizenship Bill ‘necessary,’ says Sen. Omidvar, Senate sponsor of Bill C-6

 

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

3 Responses to Senate hearings on C-6: Clause-by-clause complete, on to third reading March 2

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    There is a lot to consider here, but I don’t see anything that would help those of us who had our citizenship removed, without due process or way to appeal, in the past. And it seems (perhaps I am wrong) that there will still be revocation of citizenship from dual citizens for certain reasons. That could open the door, I am afraid, for a future government to expand them depending on its interpretation of “terrorism”. I hope that would never happen but, then, those of us who have experienced loss of citizenship never expected that could happen to us.

    • Daniel says:

      There should not be any mercy shown to terrorists against any country. Revocation of Citizenship from the terrorists is the best that can happen in Canada. Besides revocation of Citizenship such people of hate should be transported to “mid sea prisons”.

      • Andrew says:

        Disagree. Need to treat all those convicted of terrorism equally whether Canadian citizens only, whether Canadian citizens only with potential dual nationality, or dual nationals. Those charged and/or convicted to date fall into all three categories. Canadian criminal justice system best approach.

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