Trudeau devalues citizenship: Gordon Chong

Over the top criticism and fear-mongering by Gordon Chong:

When Paul Martin Sr. introduced the bill in the House of Commons that became the Canadian Citizenship Act on Jan. 1, 1947, he said: “For the national unity of Canada and for the future and greatness of the country, it is felt to be of the utmost importance that all of us, new Canadians or old, … have a consciousness of a common purpose and common interests as Canadians, that all of us are able to say with pride and with meaning ‘I am a Canadian citizen.’”

Despite new acts in 1977 and 2002, as well as more recent legislation, those foundational words should be forever etched in our minds.

Subsequent revisions have vacillated between weakening and strengthening the requirements for granting citizenship.

The Harper Conservatives strengthened the value of Canadian citizenship in 2014 by increasing residency and language requirements with Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Applicants aged 14 to 64 were required to meet language and knowledge tests.

Permanent residents also had to have lived in Canada for four out of the six previous years prior to applying for citizenship.

The Liberals’ Bill C-6, an Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, proposes to reduce knowledge and language requirements (they only affect applicants aged 18 to 54) and reduce residency requirements to three of the previous five years.

Bill C-6 also proposes to repeal the right to revoke Canadian citizenship of criminals such as those convicted of terrorism.

As a citizenship court judge for several years in the ’90s, I can assure doubters that acquiring citizenship was relatively easy, especially for seniors over 65 with a translator.

Skilled professional translators have difficulty capturing the nuances between languages. It is not uncommon, for example, to see significant errors and omissions in the Chinese-language media when reporters rush to meet deadlines.

Obviously, without a comprehensive grasp of English, it is impossible to meaningfully participate in Canadian life.

Meanwhile, our federal government is frivolously throwing open our doors to potential terrorists and providing fertile conditions for the cultivation of home-grown terrorists by indirectly subsidizing the self-segregation and ghettoization of newcomers, further balkanizing Canada.

The cavalier Trudeau Liberals, peddling their snake oil political potions, are nothing more than pale, itinerant imitations of the Liberal giants of Canada’s past, shamefully repudiating their predecessors for immediate, short-term gratification.

These privileged high-flying Liberal salesmen with colossal carbon footprints should be summarily fired, solely for seriously devaluing Canadian citizenship!

Source: Trudeau devalues citizenship | CHONG | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun

John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values

While I agree with Ivison (and Anglin) on focusing on outcomes, not meaningless values declarations, his characterization of the repeal of revocation from dual nationals convicted of terrorism or treason can hardly be called “pandering,” given that polling indicated strong support for the Conservatives on this issue.

In fact, the Conservatives “pandered” by making revocation part of C-24 when available evidence indicates revocation would not be a deterrent and that revocation would most likely be found to violate the Charter, given different treatment for dual (or multiple) nationals compared to Canadian nationals only (and the list of those convicted and charged includes both categories).

While the other changes could be labelled as “pandering,” they could also labelled as “responding” to the concerns of new Canadian voters, irrespective of the merits or not of the original policies and subsequent changes:

The Conservatives reformed the system over their time in power, so that family class immigration was on the decline (down 18 per cent in 2014), while economic immigration was on the rise (up 11 per cent). New programs such as the Express Entry system were introduced to speed the application process for people with the skills Canada needs.

But the 2015 election meant a change of emphasis. The Liberals promised to prioritize family reunification, granting points under the Express Entry system to applicants with siblings in Canada and doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents.

Immigration targets have been raised to 300,000; visa requirements on Mexico have been lifted; language requirements have been watered down for younger and older applicants; while the residency requirement for citizenship has been reduced to three years from four, one of the lowest among peer countries.

Perhaps the most egregious example of political pandering was the repeal of the law that revoked citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or treason. If you can have your citizenship revoked for misrepresentation, does it make sense that you are able to keep it after being caught planning to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto, as was the case with Zaharia Amara, ringleader of the Toronto 18 terror group, who recently saw his citizenship reinstated?

Justin Trudeau’s pledges on immigration had the desired impact — a shift in allegiance of a number of visible minority communities to the Liberals.

But they made no sense from a policy perspective. Their adoption has created an opportunity for the Conservative Party to make a pitch to voters who agree that immigration is a necessity for economic growth, yet do not believe parties should use bad policy in a bidding war for votes.

The idea to increase the number of face-to-face interviews for immigrants is a good one, but the rest of Leitch’s plan is unworkable. As Howard Anglin, a former chief of staff to Jason Kenney when he was immigration minister, wrote recently in iPolitics, the Conservatives considered a values pledge for new citizens. After looking at examples from Australia and the Netherlands, they concluded such pledges were “empty exercises.”

“Even assuming one could agree on a list of values that newcomers would pledge to uphold (would Conservatives trust Trudeau to draft this? Would Liberals have trusted Stephen Harper to?), it would be about as meaningful as clicking ‘accept’ on a computer program’s ‘terms of use’ and, in practice, even less enforceable.”

A more sensible immigration policy would forget about “values” and concentrate on outcomes — where the focus is on attracting smart workers who will help Canada navigate an age of automation and job displacement.

As author Peter C. Newman once noted: “When a nation’s elite is three generations removed from steerage, it cannot afford too many pretensions.”

Source: John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values | National Post

Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right: Chapman misses the mark

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.

citizenship-proofs-2010-15

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:

mark-on-chapman

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.

Source: Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right – The Globe and Mail

Trudeau government revoking citizenship at much higher rate than Conservatives

The lack of procedural protections for citizenship revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, flagged as a concern in both hearings on the Harper government’s C-24 and the Trudeau government’s C-6, continues to draw attention, given both the increased number of revocations and the Monsef case (although I would argue misrepresentation of her birthplace by her mother is not material in the way that misrepresenting residency).

And while the Trudeau government continued use of this power is questionable, the higher rate reflects in part the increased number of investigations following implementation of this provision in C-24 on 28 May 2015.

IRCC data shows 24 investigations initiated before this provision came into force, and 324 in the seven months after. The number of cases in the pipeline increased, and thus normal that more revocations would result, as the government applies the law:

The Trudeau government used powers granted by the Harper government’s controversial citizenship law to make 184 revocation decisions without legal hearings between November 2015 and the end of August. About 90 per cent of the decisions resulted in a negative finding and the loss of a person’s citizenship.

The numbers show that the Trudeau government has used the law far more aggressively than the Harper government itself.

But in a Federal Court filing late Friday, the government said it would not grant a moratorium on revocation cases, and added that claims by some that the system was revoking large numbers of citizenship are speculative.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made the sanctity of citizenship an issue in last year’s federal election.

“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” Trudeau said in a leaders’ debate three weeks before storming to victory.

He used it to dress down Stephen Harper for passing Bill C-24, a law that aimed to strip dual citizens of their Canadian passports if they were convicted of crimes of terrorism, treason or espionage against Canada, or took up arms against Canada.

Immigrant communities rallied to the Liberal Party, concerned that Canadians born overseas would be reduced by C-24 to an insecure second-class status.

Once elected, one of the Liberals’ first acts was to repeal the parts of C-24 that applied to those convicted of terrorism-related crimes, ensuring that they can keep their Canadian passports.

But the Trudeau government left intact other parts of the law that allow the government to strip citizenship from other holders of Canadian passports for misrepresentation.

The 184 revocation decisions of the first 10 months of the Trudeau government nearly match the total number of decisions over a 27-year period between 1988 and the last month of the Harper government in October 2015.

Revocations increase as Trudeau takes office

Although the powers being used come from a law passed by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the law has been used much more aggressively under Trudeau.

In the first full month of the law’s operation, June 2015, only three revocation decisions were made. None were made in July or August, two in September and two more in October.

The Trudeau cabinet was sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015. That month saw 21 revocation decisions. The following month there were 59. The year 2016 averaged 13 decisions a month up to Aug. 31, the latest data CBC News has been able to obtain.

The monthly average under the Harper government from 2013 to 2015 was only 2.4 cases a month, some under the auspices of C-24 and some under rules that existed previously.

Citizenship revocation decisions by year (in persons)

2013 2014 2015 2016 (8 months)
January 13
February 4 7 25
March 17 7
April 5 14
May 5 16 18
June 4 1 3 7
July 10
August 10
September 4 2
October 1 2
November 4 21
December 7 59
Total 15 15 132 104

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Liberals accused of hypocrisy

In recent days, following revelations that the birthplace of one of its own cabinet ministers was misrepresented on her passport documents, the government has said it is open to reforming the system.

But in the preceding months, it had used the revocation measures at an unprecedented rate.

“The Liberals criticized these provisions when they were in opposition,” says Laura Track of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “They said they were going to fix it. And yet they have been using it even more than the Conservatives did.”

The government says the revocation decisions are being taken to protect the integrity of the citizenship system and are aimed at cases of fraud.

Nancy Caron of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said “many cases that are being processed for revocation are as a result of large-scale investigations into possible residence fraud.”

The department carried out those investigations with Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP. Investigations led by those agencies have resulted in the conviction of immigration consultants who helped individuals obtain citizenship illegally.

“The revocation process is then undertaken to determine whether the individuals associated with these investigations, fraudulently obtained their Canadian citizenship through having intentionally misled the government of Canada about key aspects of their citizenship application such as concealing past criminal activities or submitting false documents to demonstrate residence in Canada when in fact they were not living in Canada‎. Many of the decisions to revoke citizenship that have been made since May 2015 directly result from those investigations,” Caron said in an email to CBC News.

Source: Trudeau government revoking citizenship at much higher rate than Conservatives – Politics – CBC News

Ottawa softens stand on stripping citizenship over false papers

More on revocation for fraud and misrepresentation, and the Minister’s openness to suspend revocation pending changes to the Citizenship Act that restore some measure of greater procedural protections to those accused of fraud:

Immigration Minister John McCallum says he is open to granting a moratorium on the revocation of citizenship from Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications, an issue that has been thrust into the spotlight by the circumstances of cabinet minister Maryam Monsef’s citizenship.

Mr. McCallum’s comments come a week after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a legal action with the Federal Court asking the government to put a stop to all revocations until it could fix a law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing.“I will consider that moratorium. I won’t rule it out unconditionally,” Mr. McCallum told Senate Question Period on Tuesday. “What I am saying is that we would welcome a reform to the system.”

The Federal Court application made headlines when lawyers on the case said that Ms. Monsef, Democratic Institutions Minister, could have her citizenship revoked under the current law for having an incorrect birthplace listed on her citizenship papers. Ms. Monsef said she only learned that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she had believed, after an inquiry from The Globe and Mail last month. She said her mother never told her and her sisters they were born in Iran because she did not think it mattered.

While Ottawa is considering the moratorium on revocations, the government says it is committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing for Canadians who face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented themselves in their citizenship and permanent residency applications.

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she is going to propose an amendment to the government’s citizenship Bill C-6 to reverse the Conservative law that took away the long-standing right.

“I am hopeful that they will allow this amendment to be tabled,” Ms. Omidvar said. “Everybody’s hoping they’re able to do it in this bill at the Senate. But if not, I’ve been told that it will be fixed through legislation.”

MPs tried to table the amendment to Bill C-6 at the House immigration committee earlier this year, but was it declared to be out of scope by the committee chair. Ms. Omidvar noted that the Senate procedure rules are different, so the amendment still has a chance in the Red Chamber.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-softens-stand-on-stripping-citizenship-over-false-papers/article32254296/

Monsef case brings calls to strengthen appeal rights for those facing citizenship revocation

More on citizenship revocation for fraud or misrepreasentation, provoked by Monsef and the upcoming Senate review of C-6:

Not having a connection to Iran is a good thing, according to Sen. Omidvar.

“Once you get Iranian citizenship, it’s with you for the rest of your life whether you want it or not,” said the Indian-born Senator, who is an internationally recognized expert on immigration, diversity and inclusion named to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) earlier this year. “I was an Iranian citizen by marriage, and so when I went to Iran, the only way I could stay there was if I relinquished my passport from India and was issued an Iranian identity.”

Although she left Iran and came to Canada in 1981, and subsequently became a Canadian citizen, she would still be considered an Iranian citizen were she to return to Iran. “That is why I never want to go back,” Sen. Omidvar said in an interview.

Last week, she moved the second reading of C-6 and hopes the Senate will be able to amend the bill to provide “an avenue for an appeal or a hearing” for Canadians whose citizenship is being revoked based on misrepresentation or fraud.

Sen. Omidvar explained that in the case of Ms. Monsef—who at the age of 11 came to Canada with her widowed mother and two younger sisters as refugees—she and her siblings “would be held accountable” if her mother told Canadian immigration officials her children were born in Afghanistan and not Iran.

Under the current system, Ms. Monsef could get a letter from a Citizenship and Immigration Canada official stating that her Canadian citizenship was being revoked based on misrepresentation, and she would have 60 days to respond to the same official who sent the letter. Ms. Monsef could then seek leave to appeal to the Federal Court for a judicial review, but only after she lost her citizenship.

Even then, the court only grants leave on about 15 per cent of citizenship revocation cases, according to Toronto-based immigration and refugee lawyer Lorne Waldman, who is representing the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers in a constitutional challenge to the citizenship revocation regime in C-24 that was filed with the Federal Court last Monday.

He explained that if someone was found to have lied when applying to become a permanent resident and later became a Canadian citizen, that individual could lose both status and face automatic deportation.

What is known about Ms. Monsef’s case “is an example of that scenario,” said Mr. Waldman, who is in court next month on a similar case involving two people who came to Canada as children and whose citizenship is imperilled because of their father’s alleged misrepresentation on his permanent resident application.

Mr. Waldman said he doesn’t believe Ms. Monsef will be stripped of her Canadian citizenship. If the misrepresentation in her case involves where she was born rather than her citizenship at birth “it is not likely that would be relevant” in raising questions about the minister’s status in Canada, said Mr. Waldman.

http://www.hilltimes.com/2016/10/03/monsef-case-brings-calls-strengthen-appeal-rights-facing-citizenship-revokation/82379?ct=t(RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN)&goal=0_8edecd9364-032584e435-90755301&mc_cid=032584e435&mc_eid=685e94e554

Will changes to the Citizenship Act affect the naturalization rate? – Policy Options

My piece in IRPP’s Perspectives on the need for the Senate to consider the decline in the naturalization rate in its review of Bill C-6’s changes to the Citizenship Act.

Source: Will changes to the Citizenship Act affect naturalization rate? – Policy Options

Why Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai thinks he can lead the party back

One of the few Conservatives to have been more open about his criticism of their government’s use of identity politics in the past election:

Though he likes to point out the fact, Mr. Obhrai insists he’s not running for leader simply “because I am the longest serving Conservative member of Parliament,” having been first elected as a Reformer in 1997.

He’s running because he says he worked hard to open up the party – particularly to new Canadians and immigrants, much like himself.

And he blames the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign with isolating those very groups it should have embraced.

“Many people felt excluded from this party,” he says. “I felt it was very necessary that I put my efforts back.”

Mr. Obhrai points to his party’s positions on the niqab, notably when former prime minister Stephen Harper said the Conservatives would look at banning public servants from wearing them, and the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line as proposals that lead to their election loss last October.

“Nobody bothered asking me whether it was right or wrong. I would have told them absolutely there and then it was wrong,” he says.

He is also highly critical of the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, which gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism. Mr. Obhrai supported the bill’s advancement to committee, but abstained from a final vote. The Liberals have since introduced their own bill to repeal this provision.

“That turned out to be an advantage for the Liberals to attack us,” he says.

Source: Why Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai thinks he can lead the party back – The Globe and Mail

Citizenship Act C-6 Changes: Witnesses 21 April Meeting

The last round of witnesses took place as CIMM proceeds to clause-by-clause review of Bill C-6 after next week’s recess (May 3).

As before, discussion focussed on revocation, particularly on the lack of procedural safeguards in cases of revocation for misrepresentation, language and knowledge testing requirements, and the need for exemptions with respect to the physical presence.

One of the more interesting aspects was the contrast in tone between discussions on revocation in cases of terror or treason. In contrast to the rhetoric/talking points of the previous government and witnesses supporting them, Shimon Fogal of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which had broadly supported this provision, went out of his way to stress how he understood the government had a mandate and that he was sympathetic to many of the revocation concerns raised by others. If my memory and notes are correct, his intervention in 2014 was less acknowledging and understanding of other perspectives. While this may reflect CIJA taking a bit back to the centre after being perceived as too close to the previous government, it nevertheless provided a good example of how serious differences in opinion can be discussed openly and respectfully.

Details

Shimon Fogel of CIJA started by noting that Canadian citizenship is valued and respected, and is a balanced package of rights and responsibilities, with freedom, dignity and quality for all. Immigrants value being Canadian. Despite the restrictions on Jewish immigration capture is ‘none is too many’, Canadian Jews have made positive contributions to the Canadian story. CIGA supports the restoration of pre-permanent residency time credit towards citizenship, the retention of the physical presence requirement, and the maintenance of basic language and knowledge requirements. CIJA also supports that C-6 does not change the streamlined revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, citing the Oberlander case where the procedures were ‘abused’ to allow Oberlander to remain in Canada.

Other elements required further consideration. CIJA supports the intent to reside provision as an important element to reduce citizens of convenience. But safeguards are needed for those who intended but went abroad to pursue studies or other reasons. Amendments were needed to provide greater safeguards, including checks on Ministerial discretion through requiring going through the courts. CIJA continues to support revocation for terror or treason for dual nationals and wants the provision to be expanded to include war crimes and crimes against humanity. While CIJA respected the government mandate and arguments, it wished to encourage further reflection as terror and treason were not only crimes but an ‘insult to Canada.’

Elke Winter noted the importance of citizenship to nation building. She supports repeal of the national interest revocation provision, noting that this only exported the problem, was unlikely to be an effective deterrent, and that past legislation had resulted in negative stereotyping of Canadian Muslims, citing her recent study examining parliamentary debates, mainstream and social media.

Citizenship was an important step towards integration, an inclusive approach being more conducive to winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of immigrants. The reversion in language and knowledge requirements to 18-54 would encourage more to become citizens. Restoration of pre-permanent residency time was important for students and live-in-caregivers and recognized their Canadian experience. The reduction in residency requirements to 3 out of 5 years would enable Canada to retain the ‘best brains’ and most mobile immigrants. She also recommended implementation of TRC recommendation 94, adding reference to indigenous treaties to the citizenship oath.

Peter Edelmann started off by noting as a dual Swiss Canadian citizen, whose children are also entitled to Swiss citizenship, noted that he and his children as dual faced a possible risk that other Canadians did not. He welcomed the proposed repeal of the national interest revocation provision. He then focussed his remarks of revocation for misrepresentation, largely echoing Audrey Macklin and others who noted that lack of procedural protections given the single decision maker without any right to a hearing or comparable protections. He took issue that the Oberlander case justified this change, saying that the previous process did not by itself require such delays. Permanent residents charged with misrepresentation had a more rigorous process, with the right to a hearing by the Immigration Appeal Division and the possibility to present health and compassionate reasons. There was more procedural fairness around parking tickets than citizenship revocation. Misrepresentation could be serious of trivial. Citizens who citizenship was revoked did not revert to becoming permanent residents but rather foreign nationals who could be deported, and thus in a more precarious status.

Steven Green focussed his intervention on the physical presence requirement. While he welcomed the reduction to 3 years out of 5, physical presence could hurt a lot of people, citing examples of a CBC reporter assigned abroad or a university student at MIT or Harvard. He used the example of MPs, who spend most of their time in Ottawa but nevertheless were residents of their ridings, where their life was centred in terms of bank accounts, social connections etc [Note: stretch analogy in my view]. Exceptions were needed to physical presence and the government should revert to the tests used prior to C-24. The USA provided exceptions for those working for US companies, media or religious organizations abroad. The UK provided exceptions in terms of where the family lived, where the main business was located, and where were social ties. If the government were to keep this provision, exemptions should be provided, recommending working for a Canadian company, studying full-time or being a missionary. Failure to do so would mean we ‘would lose some great people.’

Avvy Go and Vincent Wong of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic noted the importance of citizenship in terms of what we are as a people and nation. The rights and benefits are important to immigrants and their sense of belonging. Citizenship should not promote exclusion and should be a signal that Canada is a “welcoming place.” She was pleased to see the language and knowledge test requirements revert to 18-54 year olds, the repeal of the intent to reside provision and the restoration of pre-permanent residency time credit.

However, Wong noted a number of “serious” problems remained. He supported Green’s testimony on physical presence, adding that compassionate grounds should be another exemption for those who had to go abroad to look after ailing parents. A test could provide flexibility while addressing citizens of convenience. For revocation for fraud, the previous process with recourse to the Federal Court should be reinstated. The up front language test should be “scrapped” as it was a “double whammy,” both a language and financial barrier to citizenship. Requiring applicants to take the knowledge test in English or French was a barrier given that this required a higher level of language proficiency than the CLB-4 required to become a citizen. Many immigrants and refugees did not have time to take language courses.

Richard Kurland focussed on two points: an apparent loophole with respect to tax filings and the lack of procedural safeguards in cases of revocation for misrepresentation. He was pleased that the government had kept the requirement to file income taxes, as this was meant to ensure that applicants were residents of Canada not just for immigration but also tax purposes. However he saw a ‘gaping’ loophole in C-24’s provision to file taxes and proposed adding the words ‘to meet any applicable requirement’ to close it. He also, like a number of other witnesses, noted the “strategic design flaw” of having less procedural safeguards than for revoking permanent residency. He suggested adding citizenship adjudication to the IRB’s responsibilities or alternatively, downgrade their status to Permanent Residents to have a “modicum” of justice.

Discussion:

Revocation for terror or treason: The government side asked how CIJA could justify revocation for terror or treason in light of some of the arguments that this was perceived as singling out certain groups. Fogal noted that he was not incentive to these concerns, that this was a difficult issue and part of the government’s mandate. His support was philosophical and used the analogy of a marriage when the fundamental commitments have been broken, the solution was divorce. Repudiation of the central Canadian values was not just a criminal matter, it was a crime against Canada itself. Kurland noted that this was a matter for the criminal system not citizenship.

The Conservatives continued to focus on revocation. Fogal again noted his sensitivity to the points raised by Engelmann and Winter and that the government had some “compelling” arguments about not differentiating between different Canadians. But he couldn’t escape the fundamental philosophical problem. An act of terrorism is an “insult to Canada” and their has to be some recognition of that difference and redress.

Engelmann and Fogal entered a short inconclusive debate whether a marriage or parent analogy was more appropriate (one can’t renounce one’s child was Engelmann’s point while unfortunately, divorce was all too frequent). [Note: Fortunately, no one raised divorce procedural issues related to religions (permitted, not permitted, gender discrimination) but I would caution over-use of this analogy).]

Revocation for fraud: Not much new discussion here. Fogal reiterated his support for the streamlined process, stating that there was a legal and moral imperative to maintain revocation in these cases, which was fundamentally different than revocation for other reasons. Engelmann recommended the “relatively straightforward” process of the Immigration Appeal Division with respect to permanent residents, noting that not all misrepresentation was the same, using an example of someone who 25 years ago had submitted a fraudulent engineering diploma but had been living, working and raising a family since them and there may be grounds not to revoke. Green and Go/Wong responded similarly.

Intent to reside: The government side questioned CIJA on its support for the intent to reside provision and how it could be reconciled with the mobility rights under the Charter. Fogal noted that none of the situations lead themselves to simple solutions. We need to balance the degree of confidence that new citizens have to fully participate with considerations regarding citizens of convenience, citing the 2006 Lebanese evacuation and eventual return of some 15,000 Lebanese Canadians. Individuals normally enrich Canada by being in Canada. There was not a black and white solution but it was important to be mindful of citizens of convenience.

The Conservatives questioned Green on his opposition to intent to reside. Green noted later that as a practical matter, intent to reside could not be managed. Was it a one month commitment? 6 months? The intent to reside provision would not have changed the Lebanon situation one little bit. [Note: Intent to reside applied only to the period of time the application was in process but C-24 testimony indicated some concern how it would be implemented.]

Kurland noted the only way to address citizens of convenience was to have a very stiff passport renewal fee ($5-10,000) for non-resident Canadians who do not file Canadian taxes, or adopt the US approach of basing income tax on citizenship, not residency.

Physical presence:  Some discussion related to situations where the father worked abroad to support his family in Canada. Go noted access to employment issues in Canada that led to this situation, and the risk to the husband’s permanent residency status if not working for a Canadian company. She also noted that many students studying abroad will return to Canada. Green noted that many successful business people have frequent travel abroad and just can’t meet the residency requirements and have to make the choice between their business or getting citizenship.

Criminal convictions: The NDP asked about the prohibition to become citizens for those with a criminal record abroad. Engelmann noted that the existing mechanism with respect to permanent residents already dealt with these cases. If serious enough, permanent residency can be revoked. Moreover, the provision in the Citizenship Act made no allowance for the context of the foreign conviction and he recommended repeal of this provision given that IRPA addressed this concern adequately. In subsequent questioning, Go noted the problematic nature of foreign convictions, particularly in China and Vietnam where most of her clinic clients come from.

Language/Knowledge: Same general points as before regarding the importance of language to integration, the concerns regarding up-front language testing in terms of cost and difficulty, and the “double testing” of language through the knowledge test. None of today’s witnesses spoke in favour of the current approach. Engelmann noted the higher language level required in the knowledge test and cited his personal experience of only knowing scientific terms in French  [Note: during my time at IRCC/CIC, we argued unsuccessfully for Discover Canada to be written in more accessible language, along with the questions. It appears from the increase in average pass rates in 2014-15, that the questions have been made clearer and more accessible].

Go and Wong made similar points from a fairness angle, stressing the difficulty for low-income families, often refugees, noting that this effectively disenfranchised those already marginalized. Go noted an upcoming study on Chinese restaurant workers who worked long hours and did not have time to learn an official language.

Statelessness: Similar discussion as before, although Kurland noted the need to carefully scrutinize applications from stateless persons, given that they were a recruitment target for terrorists.

Citizenship Act C-6 Changes: Witnesses 19 April Meeting

The second set of witnesses at CIMM C-6 hearings had all testified at the C-24 hearings two years ago, with a good cross-section of perspectives, largely focussed on the same issues of revocation, language and knowledge testing.

The most interesting exchange was with respect to Martin Collacott who accused the government of pandering to new Canadian voters in the relaxed residency and language requirements.

Details:

Bernie Farber, now heading the Mosaic Institute, shared his personal family refugee and Holocaust history as a means to personalize what it means to be Canadian citizens and the challenges of being a refugee. He cited research carried out by the Institute on imported conflicts, showing an attitudinal shift towards being more empathetic and recognizing common ground, with very high levels of attachment to Canada (94 percent, with 80 percent feeling more Canadian than anything). Ensuring full participation helps reduce imported trauma, improving both individual lives as well as Canada. He was broadly supportive of the proposed changes. See his op-ed Its Time to End the Stigma of Immigration”.

Sheryl Saperia, of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, reiterated her past support for the revocation provisions of C-24 for those convicted of terror or treason, believing it an appropriate consequence for these crimes. She did not accept Minister McCallum’s arguments that it created two-classes of citizenship, given that naturalized Canadians chose to become Canadian, and were not forced to become dual citizens. She noted that a Canadian is not always a Canadian, citing the examples of revocation for fraud or war crimes as exceptions. She proposed an alternative approach to revocation, with Ministerial discretion to review the depth of the connection to the other country, with the less active the connection the weaker the case for revocation. Should the government proceed with repealing the revocation provisions, this should be combined with greater deradicalization efforts in Canadian prisons.

Patti Tamara Lenard of University of Ottawa noted that citizenship in democracies is a fundamental right. She went through the previous government’s arguments in favour of revocation. There was no evidence that revocation made states any safer, using Belgium as an example, and that ‘targeting’ of dual citizens undermined security, not strengthening it. Canada was not catching up with other countries, apart from the UK [and Australia], noting that France had abandoned this approach. And public support did not justify measures to curb minority rights, even the ‘most hated’ of Canadians should still have their rights protected. She noted the broader context under which Canadian Muslims felt targeted, citing security certificates and no fly lists, all of which have contributed to their distrust of the Canadian state. Prior discourse had portrayed Canadian Muslims as disloyal and that discrimination was legitimate and inclusive language was needed.

Janet Dench and Jennifer Stone of the Canadian Council for Refugees noted the importance of citizenship for mental health, particularly so for refugees. CCR supports early access to citizenship without discrimination. They supported counting time before permanent residency towards citizenship but focussed on the lengthy processing times for permanent residency for refugees and live-in-caregivers. CCR supported the reduced residency requirements but advocated a waiver if compelling reasons provided. They also supported the reversion to the previous age requirements for knowledge and language (18-54), but noted that some older applicants still struggle to meet these requirements. CCR noted the need for some form of waiver from the high citizenship fees and language assessment, citing the USA example. While pleased that C-24 dual national revocation was being repealed, they noted the need for fraud revocation to be subject to court review. CCR also noted the need for children under 18 to apply for citizenship should they have neither parent nor guardian. Lastly, they argued for repeal of the first generation limit of passing on citizenship to reduce possible future statelessness. See their detailed brief Bill C-6 Citizenship Bill concerns.

R. Reis Pagtakhan, a Winnipeg-based immigration lawyers, is one of few witnesses to date who has changed his position in the past two years. While he remains broadly supportive of revocation for treason or terror, he now believes this should only apply to those convicted in Canadian courts to ensure Charter and related protections apply. He made a forceful statement in favour of the TRC recommendation 94, changing the citizenship oath to include a reference to treaties with Indigenous Peoples. He supported repeal of the intent to reside and credit for pre-permanent residency to count towards citizenship. See his op-ed Canadian citizenship should have 2 tiers, Reis Pagtakhan says.

Martin Collacott opposed shortening the residency requirements, noting that they were among the shortest in the world, allowing some to ‘park’ their families here and work abroad. He was against repealing the intent to reside provision. He thought the change in age requirements particularly ill-considered, particularly for 55-64 year olds who were often still working. He cited the Fraser Institute report on the cost of immigrants to the Canadian economy [Note: its methodology is questionable]. He supported the previous government’s revocation for terror or treason as a reasonable measure, and that most would not be convinced by a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” in these cases. He noted that citizenship can be used for political gain, using the example of the Clinton presidential campaign in 1996 where 1 million became citizens [surprised he refrained from Canadian examples as there was a surge in new citizens in 2014 and 2015 under the Harper government]. He ended by stressing the need for a full immigration review in terms of who benefits as it was abundantly clear that the current high levels were only serving special interests, certain sectors and political parties, with congestion and higher prices being part of the costs.

Questions:

As in 2014, after the first few hearings, the questions and responses tend to reinforce earlier sessions.

Revocation for terror or treason: Not surprising, a fair amount of questions from both the Government and Conservative side, with the Government challenging Saperia and Collacott’s arguments in particular. Saperia stumbled occasionally in her responses, reverting to talking points and arguing that there was no discrimination between Canadian and dual nationals convicted of the same crime but punished differently. However, she acknowledged that the argument that revocation was exporting terrorists to other countries was the most convincing one.

Revocation for fraud: NDP raised again the question of the pre-C-24 procedural protections and that C-6 did not address these. No witness substantively address this (Audrey Macklin on April 14 did).

Language: There were considerable questions on language requirements, with the Conservatives focussing on the importance of language and the NDP concerned about the cost of language assessment and the requirement to take the knowledge test in an official language. Collacott in his replies stressed the importance of language, particularly for older 55-64 year olds, that ample research demonstrates the link between language and economic integration, noting that lack of language meant having to work in the particular immigrant community with likely poorer economic prospects.

Pagtakhan interestingly posed the question why both with language assessment anyway at the citizenship stage, this should be a requirement when immigrating to Canada, rather than fixing it post facto. CCR reemphasized its previous points on challenges for refugees, who may have additional barriers in terms of ability to learn language, find time given employment and cost. Many applications had been returned given that proof of language had not been provided. Farber noted that the language bar should not be set so high to ‘exclude’; Lenard favoured a relatively low bar as in the USA.

Knowledge: No major Q&As on knowledge requirements although CCR did mention the decline in pass rates following the changes in 2010.

Statelessness: NDP raised as before. Lenard noted that international documents cover statelessness and the right to nationality. It is generally understood that the right to nationality means either having been born or mainly lived in a country.

Pandering for votes: Collacott, in his introductory remark mention of political benefits, drew considerable fire from the government side. He initially ducked the question but then, following a second question challenging him for the evidence, replied that there was considerable evidence over the years regarding Liberal governments. The previous Conservative government had tried to gain support among new Canadians through its policies [Note: he was silent on ‘boutique’ initiatives such as the historical recognition, targeted towards Chinese, Ukrainian, Indo, Italian and Jewish Canadians  and legislation such as the Vietnam Journey to Freedom Act S-219]. He cited the Liberal government having 4 ministers from the Punjabi community and none from the Chinese community in Cabinet as more recent examples.