El Salvador woman at the heart of legal challenge to Safe Third Country Agreement

Interesting case to watch given that it centres around a person rather than the previous more general one:

When an El Salvador woman and her two children arrived from a Buffalo, N.Y., shelter to the Fort Erie border crossing Wednesday, seeking to make a refugee claim in Canada, a team of lawyers from Toronto’s Downtown Legal Services was on high alert. They had U of T law students waiting and watching to report back from the border.

As soon as the woman — identified only as “ABC” in court documents — was denied entry under the Safe Third Country Agreement, the legal team filed a Federal Court challenge to the agreement, which they had been working on for months.

The agreement requires refugees to request protection in the first safe country they arrive in. Refugees crossing from the U.S. at official border crossings are usually denied entry into Canada. That’s part of the reason why so many risk sometimes dangerous illegal border crossings to make a refugee claim once already in the country — a legal loophole that’s permitted.

This is the second legal challenge to the agreement but the first with a person at its core.

“I feel happy and nervous and I am very thankful the lawyers are helping,” said ABC through a translator, when CBC News met her in a Toronto home on Thursday. “Canada is more humane than the U.S. In the U.S. it’s not safe, and I was worried about being sent back to El Salvador.”

Fear of gangs in El Salvador

Justice Ann Marie McDonald granted the woman a stay to live in Canada while her case is being considered. McDonald said there was clear and non-speculative evidence that she would suffer irreparable harm if she were to return to the U.S. and could even be sent back to El Salvador.

ABC’s lawyer, Prasanna Balasundaram, said that some of the strongest legal arguments in this case are based on charter rights. She is facing removal procedures in the U.S., and gender-based asylum claims in the U.S. have inconsistent results. He said that ABC has lasting psychological effects from persecution in El Salvador.

“Her family is the subject of gang violence in El Salvador,” said Balasundaram.

“I dream that all my family is together after all these years and that we don’t have to go home because of the gangs,” said ABC.

….Ottawa says U.S. safe for refugees

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in an email to CBC News this week that “Canada has carefully analyzed recent developments in the United States, including the executive orders related to immigration and refugee matters, and determined that the U.S. remains a safe country for asylum claimants to seek protection there.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said there is no need to “tinker with” the Safe Third Country Agreement. This pending Federal Court challenge was brought to his attention before ABC even attempted to cross the border.

There may not be political will to challenge the U.S. over this right now, but the courts will have a say.

“I believe now it will be determined on a legal basis and not on the political climate,” said Balasundaram, who calls this a crucial first step — and only a first step — in what could take many months to a year to see through.

Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman represented Amnesty International in a 2005 court challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which won in Federal Court but lost on appeal.

“It is not going to be easy to challenge,” said Waldman. “I would bet the government would not want this case to go ahead.”

In the previous case the court did not consider it a charter challenge, and there was not an individual such as ABC with a strong argument to make.

“I think the case will be heard,” said Waldman. “Its likelihood of success will depend on the evidence.”

Source: El Salvador woman at the heart of legal challenge to Safe Third Country Agreement – Canada – CBC News

Senate Hearings on C-6: Minister Hussen and Witnesses March 1

Summary: Senate committee hearings on Bill C-6 finished March 1 with the last set of witnesses, including Minister Hussen and officials, with the clause-by-clause review taking place this morning. The Minister was challenged particularly on the lack of procedural protections in the cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation. While he stated his general willingness to consider improvements, the overall tenor of his responses and those of his officials was to defend the current process. Conservative senators questioned the rational for the elimination of knowledge and language assessment for 55-64 year olds, probed the protections of the current revocation process for misrepresentation and expressed their disagreement with the repeal of revocation in cases of treason or terror. Senator Eggleton, just as he had during C-24, expressed his concern over the impact of the increase in citizenship fees, with the Minister and officials defending the increase and arguing it did not cause the decline.

The clause-by-clause review this morning may see a number of observations (greater flexibility for those applicants who have difficulty in knowledge or language assessment, the impact of citizenship fees). An amendment to improve procedural protections is expected to be introduced at third reading.

External witnesses

Robert Watt, a former Vancouver-based citizenship judge 2009-15 focussed his remarks on his experience in reviewing thousands of applications. While the majority clearly demonstrated the desire to stay and contribute, a basic competence in language and understanding of Canada, a small number had a more instrumental interest in having a Canadian passport and the benefits of medicare and tax credits, or being “citizens of convenience. He believed strongly that the intent to reside should remain given the clear signal it sends that a new citizen should centre her of his life in Canada; that the current residency requirements of four to six years should not be reduced and the need for the department to have “robust audit procedures” to check the validity of third-party language assessment.

Lorne Waldman of CARL, and Josh Patterson of BCCLA spoke on to restore procedural protections for revocation in cases of fraud and misrepresentation, either reverting to the previous access to the Federal Court or some other procedure that involved the right to a hearing, the right to disclosure, an independent decision-maker and reversion to permanent residence status rather than foreign national.moan independent

Main questions

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation and procedural protections: Most of the time was taken up by this issue, with questions and witnesses noting the contrast between the solid procedural protections for permanent residency misrepresentation and refugee determination and the limited protections for citizenship misrepresentation. Patterson and Waldman repeatedly noted the dubious constitutionality of the provision. In terms of which option was preferred, they noted their preference for an expansion of the IRB to handle such cases, given their experience and expertise. However, as there was no reference to a possible IRB role, that was beyond the scope of what could be considered and thus some variant of a process providing an oral hearing before the Federal Court was provided. There was relatively low risk of cases being appealed beyond the Federal Court level. A number of examples were cited highlighting the limitations of the C-24 approach.

Smart Permanent Resident Cards to track entry and exit (raised by Julie Taub in last set of hearings): Watt noted that pending technological developments, applicants should present their travel documents to CBSA (but was unclear how that would work). Waldman noted that unlike the EU, Canada does not control on leaving the country. This would be a significant change and would be expensive to implement. While it would work for airports, it would not be practical for land crossings given the resulting delays.

Fees: Senator Eggleton continued to press on fees, noting the dramatic increase in fees and that applications had taken a “real nose dive,” noting the points made in my brief (https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/Briefs/C-6_A_Griffith_e.pdf). He noted that the press on full cost recovery did not take into account that those applying for citizenship were taxpayers too, and they would be contributing for many years. Waldman confirmed the impact on immigrants, that the costs to families, including external language assessment, was in the $1,000s and that the government had to look at costs as a barrier if Canada wants to encourage people to become part of the fabric of society. Watt noted the fee increases came near the end of his term but he had seen instances of individuals and families struggling even with the previous fees, and a “good case” can be made to balance accessibility and cost recovery.

Language proficiency and age requirement: Watt was probed further on what he meant by the need for a robust audit on whether or not language requirements were met. He responded by noting the wide range of organizations offering assessment services and that random audits were needed to ensure that the level had been attained. He noted that some applicants may lose proficiency in the period between getting assessed and becoming citizens (but also noted that the reverse could occur). Patterson noted there was no issue with respect to 14-17 year olds as they would learn in schools or the workforce. For 55-64 year olds, economic class immigrants already would have met language requirements, and the issue was with respect to family class, particularly parents and grandparents. He referred to Avvy Go’s earlier testimony regarding the barriers faced by low-income immigrants and refugees and believe a better approach was increased resources for language training.

Residency requirements: Watt was challenged whether one more year or less made a difference in terms of integration. He responded by noted the importance that the clarity that residency meant physical presence provided given previous Federal Court jurisprudence. He never saw any evidence from IRCC that an additional year would be burdensome and did not believe it was. Waldman confirmed the helpfulness of the physical residency definition but noted that the change to three out of five years was particularly helpful to refugees as they had no other citizenship. The restoring of part-time credit for time spent in Canada prior to becoming a Permanent Resident was also a welcome improvement.

Minister Hussen and officials

Minister Hussen opened by noting that the previous government’s changes had created barriers to citizenship. C-6 would repeal some of the changes and facilitate citizenship, and send a clear signal of Canadian inclusivity, fairness and diversity (“diversity is our strength”). C-6 was part of implementing the Speech from the Throne commitment to make it easier for immigrants to participate.

Repeal of the national interest revocation provision (terror treason) was to ensure that Canadians, whether single, dual or multiple nationality were treated equally and the government did not support treating people differently, noting the positions of organizations such as the CBA and CCR along with focus groups “much troubled” by this distinction. Those convicted of terrorism or treason will face the Canadian justice system and will “go to jail for a long time.” Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation was different.

Other measures in C-6 removed barriers. Repeal of the intent to reside provision would reassure citizens that they were not at risk of losing citizenship. Physical presence was maintained but citizenship could be attained one year earlier. Providing part-time credit for pre-permanent residency time provided greater flexibility for those such as international students who had “started building connections.” The return to the previous 18-54 age requirements for testing recognized that 14-17 year olds would meet these through the school system while easing the burden for55-64 year olds.

He also reiterated the government’s commitment to program integrity, noting the provision that would allow the government to seize fraudulent documents.

Main questions

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation and procedural protections: As in the previous session, the absence of procedural protections was the main focus. Minister was repeatedly challenged along the earlier testimony by legal experts, and was reminded that his predecessor had indicated he would welcome an amendment in this regard. The Minister repeatedly stated that he believed that the present process has safeguards and is sound, but he was open to proposals that would improve protections.

A number of questions served to clarify the steps in the process and the criteria used by officials to assess whether revocation was warranted. Factors included: age of applicant, extent of ties to Canada, whether they were primarily living in Canada or not, and the health of an individual. The process was completely delegated to officials.

Some questions concerned the assertions of CARL/BCCLA:

  • no right to disclosure: unanswered by Minister unless I missed it
  • no H&C consideration: Minister replied party can provide under personal considerations
  • no right to counsel: Minister replied absolute right to counsel (in preparation of documents)
  • no right to appeal: Minister said not correct (seek leave which is not the same thing)

Minister resorted at one point by noting that C-6 only dealt with some issues – dual national revocation and removing barriers – and that the appeal mechanism was “not central” to C-6. He was, however, “committed” to procedural fairness.

Officials confirmed that the majority of cases pertained to residency, with other cases related to identity or not disclosing criminality.

Revocation (terror or treason): Conservative senators challenged Minister on the rational to repeal the revocation provisions of C-24 and he reiterated the equal treatment arguments. He confirmed that the one person whose citizenship which had been revoked under the C-24 provision would have his citizenship reinstated.

Fees: Senator Eggleton raised the same questions as before. Minister replied that the drop was more attributable to the barriers contained within C-24, primarily the longer residency requirements. Fees were much lower than many countries, citing the USA and UK (comment: correct, but not mentioning Australia and NZ which are lower). Officials reiterated the direct correlation between the extended residency requirement, noting the sharp drop after June 2015 when the four-year minimum came into effect.

Comment: The one-year transition effect ended in June 2016. The final 2016 numbers, due out any day now, will confirm a sharp decline. The July-September numbers – the first quarter after this transition period – do show an increase (from 11,970 to 20,329) but one far short of the historical number of applications (about 200,000 per year or 50,000 per quarter). Hence fees matter!

Language proficiency and age requirement: In response to questions regarding the number of applicants 55-64, officials provided some useful data. 7.7 percent of all applicants were in this age category (not clear which year – I have a pending request for this data). Officials noted that the numbers of this age group had dropped from 15,243 last year to 2,317  (believe it referred to mid-year comparisons 2016 to 2015), with total applications of 67,000 (not clear which period she was referring to). Minister indicated his confidence in language assessment process.

Officials noted that applications were not accepted if the applicant had little or no language. Settlement programs provided language training and applications would be accepted following successful completion. Officials also noted the various steps to ensure the integrity of the citizenship test. On the citizenship study guide, officials confirmed that the current guide was written higher than CLB-4 (the formal requirement) and that it would be re-written to be more aligned to the requirement: not to “simplify but in clearer language.”  Officials were also looking at including more language on Indigenous peoples, given TRC recommendation number 93.

Minister reiterated that it was important for 55-64 year olds to obtain citizenship, that it contributed further to their integration and they contributed to Canadian society (e.g., providing child care) and this restored what “has worked in Canada for more than 40 years.”

Integrity: In addition to points in opening remarks, Minister noted that the department had agreed with all recommendations in the OAG audit of the citizenship program, with all either acted or being acted upon.

Only media coverage I have seen is in the National Post (Immigration minister defends legislation that prevents convicted dual nationals from losing citizenship), largely unbalanced as it focuses mainly on the testimony of one witness, Julie Taub, and her critique of C-6)

 

M-103: Canadian Muslims need this showing of solidarity: Meighen and Waldman

Good commentary by Warda Shazadi Meighen and Lorne Waldman.

The definition issue is a red herring; should the Canadian Heritage committee study Islamophobia/anti-Muslim hate along with “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” it will have to, as part of its work, adopt a working definition, where both Minister Joly and MP Khaled have been reasonably clear that its focus is on the practical impacts of discrimination, not free speech.

The critics need to read and understand the text of the motion:

The sentiments of Muslims have become perpetual casualties of wedge politics.

The continual debasing of Muslims, culminating in the recent attack in Quebec City, is precisely why it is important for Muslims to see their leaders express solidarity with them.

M-103 does precisely this in the form of a non-binding motion that condemns Islamophobia. If the motion passes, its symbolism will do much to alleviate the deep suffering of many Muslims. On a practical level, it would result in the House of Commons’s heritage committee taking tangible steps to study the issue, and perhaps make recommendations to address it.

What M-103 will not do is curb freedom of speech. M-103 is not a law. If the concern with M-103 is the limitation of free speech, the non-binding nature of the motion should assuage that anxiety. Only hate laws, which have existed in the Canadian Criminal Code for decades, can actually punish individuals for promulgating certain types of hate. Rest assured that the marketplace of ideas will continue to exist – the threshold under the law for hate speech is quite high and justifiably so. M-103 is no more than a tip of the hat in solidarity.

If the true concern with M-103 is that the term “Islamophobia” lacks clarity, the correct response is to call for a definition of that term. Here is one: the irrational fear of Muslims.

If the opposition to this motion is nothing more than a continuation of wedge politics, we ought to reflect on what type of society we are creating. To alienate Muslims who are eager to contribute to our society is unwise. Camaraderie with any minority group that is being singled out is crucial – it embodies the promise of Canada and what Canada is lauded for globally.

The Conservative Party’s effort to pass a new motion cleansed of the word “Islamophobia” and replaced with condemnation of “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities” is obstructive and, frankly, misses the mark. It does not help to alleviate the incredibly hurt sentiments of many Muslims. It is also redundant, as the Supreme Court, in the 1990 case of Canada v. Taylor, has already banned any expression that is “intended or likely to circulate extreme feelings of opprobrium and enmity against a racial or religious group.”

Muslims are being targeted now not only in Canada but across Western liberal democracies. To oppose a motion made in solidarity with Muslim Canadians, many of whom have been weighed down by the effects of Islamophobia for too long, is tragic.

Source: M-103: Canadian Muslims need this showing of solidarity – The Globe and Mail

Refugee claims at Canada-U.S. border have doubled over past 2 years

Will likely be an ongoing challenge under the Trump administration:

The number of refugee claims made at the border has more than doubled over the past two years, surging to 7,023 in 2016, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

By comparison, 4,316 people sought refugee status in Canada at land border crossings in 2015 and another 3,747 did in 2014.

But the spike isn’t unusual and represents a return to the volume of refugees Canada has previously received, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees.

land border refugee claims

“The numbers may look high, but that is because the range you are looking at is one where Canada has been receiving unusually low numbers of claimants,” Dench said in an email interview, noting that there were more than 8,000 land border claims made annually from 1999 to 2004.

“So in the longer perspective, 7,000 is not a very large number,” Dench explained.

Canada changed the way it receives refugees in 2004 with the introduction of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. The agreement says that people seeking protection must make their claim in the first country they arrive in. Canada must accordingly send asylum seekers trying to cross at the border back to the U.S.

21.3 million refugees around the world

In 2016, the largest group of people making refugee claims at border crossings in Canada came from Colombia, followed by Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Burundi. There were 21.3 million refugees around the globe in 2015, according to the United Nations.

Lorne Waldman, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in immigration and refugee law, attributes the recent rise to geopolitical instability. For example, there was a dramatic rise in Turkish refugee claims in Canada following the coup in Turkey.

“The numbers tell stories and the stories are really related to what’s happening politically,” he said, noting that Canada observed a rise in Pakistani refugee seekers that arrived via the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks.

land border claims

Waldman said the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to crack down on immigration and recently tried to enact a controversial travel ban restricting travel from seven Muslim majority countries, likely contributed to the bump.

“As the situation deteriorates in the U.S., the likelihood that we’re going to see more people crossing is very high,” he said.

But, Waldman noted that there has long been a perception among asylum seekers — even before Trump took office — that the U.S. is not sympathetic to refugee claims.

Source: Refugee claims at Canada-U.S. border have doubled over past 2 years – Canada – CBC News

Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

Appropriate analysis and preparations, along with the note by Lorne Waldman of the need to see exactly what policies a Trump administration enacts (assume this kind of policy work is a focus across government these days):

The federal government is preparing for a potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada after Donald Trump’s election victory, CBC News has learned.

Sources confirm high level meetings took place this week with officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in other departments.

The news comes as Canada prepares to loosen rules for Mexicans to enter the country by lifting a visa requirement on Dec. 1. That restriction has been in place since 2009.

Talks on a plan to cope with a possible spike in asylum-seekers have been ongoing for some time, but were accelerated this week after Trump’s surprise win.

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Lawyer predicts ‘significant impact’

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman expects an increase in refugee claims from Mexicans once the visa requirement is lifted. He also predicts a “significant impact” from Trump’s election.

“The government was very concerned about the potential for a large number of new claims coming from Mexico, and that’s why they hesitated for so long before announcing that they were going to remove the visa,” he said.

“And that announcement was made before anyone knew that Donald Trump, with his very different immigration policies from those of the current administration, won the election.”

But Waldman cautioned it’s too early to tell exactly how the situation may unfold, saying it will depend on whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledges.

Source: Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

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

Maryam Monsef case highlights ‘absurdity’ of Canadian law, refugee lawyers say

The Minister did commit during parliamentary committee hearings last spring to address the lack of due process for citizenship revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. This court challenge likely reflects frustration that no action has been taken to date:

Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing under a law the Liberals denounced while in opposition but which they’ve been enforcing aggressively since taking power, civil liberties and refugee lawyers say.

The democratic institutions minister revealed last week that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she’d long believed. She said her mother, who fled Afghanistan with her daughters when Monsef was 11, didn’t think it mattered where the minister was born since she was still legally considered an Afghan citizen.

Monsef has said she will have to correct her birthplace information on her passport.

If Monsef’s birthplace was misrepresented on her citizenship application as well, that would be grounds for revocation of citizenship, regardless of whether it was an innocent mistake or the fault of her mother, said immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.

Misrepresentation could lead to deportation

And if the misrepresentation was on her permanent residence and refugee applications, she could even be deported, said Waldman, part of a group that launched a constitutional challenge of the law Monday.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association argue that the law, known as Bill C-24, is procedurally unfair and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Josh Paterson, the BCCLA’s executive director, said Monsef’s case demonstrates the absurdity of the law, which was passed by the previous Conservative government.

“The minister’s situation … is exactly the kind of situation that many other Canadians are facing right now because of this unjust process,” Paterson told a news conference.

“When we get a parking ticket, we have a right to a court hearing … You leave your garbage in the wrong place and you get a ticket, you have the right to a hearing and yet for citizens to lose their entitlement to membership in Canada based on allegations of something they may or may not have said 20 years ago, they have no hearing? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Law to be enforced

When he was in opposition, John McCallum denounced the law as “dictatorial” and since becoming immigration minister, he’s promised to amend it to create an appeal process, Paterson said.

Nevertheless, repeated requests that the government stop enforcing the law until it can be changed have been ignored. As recently as two weeks ago, Paterson said Justice Department lawyers informed his group that the law would continue to be enforced.

Source: Maryam Monsef case highlights ‘absurdity’ of Canadian law, refugee lawyers say – Politics – CBC News

Various Commentary on Citizenship Act Changes

Commentary on the Liberal government’s planned changes to citizenship (Bill C-6), from those advocating a more facultative approach (including myself) and former Minister Alexander:

“We are very pleased with the government’s decision to rescind the previous government’s Bill C-24 that made it far more difficult to obtain citizenship and far easier to lose,” said Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“We are particularly pleased that we are moving away from two-tier citizenship where dual citizens could have their citizenship revoked. We commend the Liberal government for taking this principled decision.”

The new citizenship bill also makes some new changes by extending immigration authorities’ power to seize documents suspected of fraud and barring those serving conditional sentences from seeking citizenship or counting the time toward the residency eligibility.

Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with the immigration department, said the proposed legislation surprisingly retained many of the provisions passed by the previous government to improve enforcement and integrity of the citizenship system while reducing unreasonable hurdles for would-be citizens.

“They are removing some of the worst abuses the Conservatives did, promoting its diversity and inclusive agenda, without changing the fundamental value of real and meaningful commitment to Canadian citizenship,” Griffith said.

“These proposed changes reflect, apart from revocation, relatively modest changes, in line with the Liberals’ public commitments, and that retain virtually all of the previous government’s integrity measures.”

While he is pleased with the proposed citizenship changes, veteran immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said those who face citizenship revocation on the grounds of misrepresentation are still not entitled to a hearing – a practice that is under a legal challenge in the federal court.

“Why are we keeping this Harper legacy?” Waldman asked.

Under the Harper government, the citizenship application backlog had ballooned with processing time significantly lengthened. New resources were brought in last year to reduce the wait time.

McCallum said new citizenship applications are now being processed in 12 months and the backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of this year.

In an email to The Canadian Press ahead of the announcement, former Conservative immigration minister Chris Alexander said the changes his government made were in keeping with Canadian values.

“Terrorism, espionage and treason are serious crimes, representing gross acts of disloyalty. They are far more serious violations than covering up minor crimes from one’s past — a common form of misrepresentation,” he said.

The Conservative bill was attacked as setting a dangerous precedent and even challenged, unsuccessfully, as unconstitutional.

In the National Post, John Ivison harshly criticizes the repeal of the revocation provisions (as well as pandering to ethnic voters):

It’s true, as Immigration Minister John McCallum pointed out, that this fulfils an election pledge, made to drive a wedge between the Tories and the ethnic communities that supported them in three elections.

The Conservatives signed their own death warrant by tightening up the family reunification criteria, raising the income threshold necessary for new immigrants to bring in parents and grandparents.

The Liberals campaigned hard on easing those restrictions and on their intention to revoke the Conservative citizenship bill, exploiting fears in ethnic communities that they could be stripped of their citizenship and deported if convicted of a crime.

…. the central failing of this bill. Dual nationals can now be convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying and retain their Canadian citizenship.

You can be supportive of civility, tolerance and inclusion and still believe this move is dangerous and misguided.

Loyalty is the measure of good citizenship.

When you betray that trust, you should forfeit the rights, privileges and duties of being a member of Canadian society.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

I am waiting for Ivison’s colleague, Chris Selley, to weigh in given his previous strong criticism of revocation (National Post | Chris Selley: Stripping jihadis’ citizenship feels good. But what good does it do?)

Tasha Kheiriddin in iPolitics starts from the same place but ends with a more nuanced criticism, making a distinction between those who became citizens as children, which should be treated no differently from Canadian-born, and those who became citizens as adults:

But the fear of losing one’s citizenship struck a deep chord with immigrants and native-born Canadians alike. Trudeau’s impassioned defence of citizenship was widely seen as a highlight of that debate — that rare sort of knockout punch pundits and audiences yearn for. The Liberals carried that punch from the debate to the doorstep, where it — coupled with their defence of the niqab and opposition to the Conservatives’ barbaric cultural practices tip line — helped cement the Liberals’ reputation as pro-New Canadian, and the Conservatives’ image as anti-immigrant.
This week, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced that the government would be reversing Bill C-24. “Canadian citizens are equal under the law, whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold dual citizenship,” McCallum said in a statement. …

The bill also will restore Canadian citizenship to anyone stripped of it under Bill C-24. As a result, Amara will have his citizenship reinstated once the Liberals’ new bill becomes law.

Opponents of the Conservative law decried the creation of two different “classes” of citizens — those born in Canada and those who have dual nationalities. But those individuals are arguably already in two different classes — in fact, more than two, depending on how they obtained their citizenships. Some did so by birth, some due to a parent’s move to Canada, and some by their own choice as an adult. And the implications of revocation for each group can be very, very different.

In Amara’s case, he came to Canada as a 13-year-old. While he arguably took his oath as a child, nothing would have prevented him from renouncing his Jordanian citizenship as an adult. Maintaining it, however, gave him certain advantages, including freedom to live, work and travel in Jordan, where he was born. Those advantages are not available to other Canadians. Should they complain that they’re second-class citizens, because they don’t have the same privileges? Should he complain that he received unequal treatment, when he himself maintains an unequal status?

In the case of dual citizens born in Canada, who hold dual citizenship by virtue of their parents, the situation is somewhat different. Saad Gaya, also one of the Toronto 18, was deemed to have Pakistani citizenship retroactively, due to his parents’ possessing Pakistani nationality. Unlike Amara, Gaya had no connection to his parents’ country, and claimed that he didn’t even have said citizenship. Furthermore, as a child born here, he did not choose Canada. Because of this, he claimed that sending him to Pakistan would constitute “cruel and unusual treatment”.

A better version of the law would be one that allows the state to cancel the Canadian citizenship of a person convicted of treason who obtained that citizenship consciously and deliberately as an adult. This would deter those seeking citizenship for no other reason than to enable them to strike back at their adopted country, or who used their ability to move freely in Canada to facilitate terrorist acts.

While there is no doubt that withdrawal of citizenship should not be subject to the whim of the state, neither should citizenship be completely taken for granted. For citizenship to have value, it must not just be a passport of convenience — or worse, a cover for crime.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

Comparatively little to no coverage or commentary in Quebec media, unless I missed it.

Lawyer in niqab case says Canada must confront anti-Muslim sentiment

Good profile of Lorne Waldman, the lawyer for Zunera Ishaq (and a number of other immigration and refugee cases that went against the Conservative government):

For Mr. Waldman, who unexpectedly found himself and his clients at the centre of the election, the e-mail itself was a tipping point: Even though the niqab controversy ended with the victory of Justin Trudeau, who opposed the ban, an undercurrent of anti-Muslim feeling remains, and needs to be confronted.

“I see the seeds of a huge problem that we in Canada have been able to avoid for many years – some of the worst aspects of the anti-immigrant sentiment that’s existed in Europe,” he said in an interview. “And we avoided it for a long time because we had responsible leaders who didn’t try to stir the pot. All we need is another election where someone else chooses to use these types of wedge issues.”

If it was a very good election for the Liberals, it was a strangely eventful one for Mr. Waldman, even by his own busy standards. He represented Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani immigrant who successfully fought a Conservative ban on wearing a niqab during the citizenship oath. The niqab became a major election issue. He also represented a Canadian-born convicted terrorist facing the loss of his citizenship; the government’s fight against terrorism was another big election issue. And he was a spokesman for a national refugee lawyers’ group on the Syrian refugee crisis – a third key issue – urging that the government speed up the process by emphasizing the reunification of families.

“I’ve never had an experience like this,” said the 63-year-old father of three, who runs an 11-lawyer firm that includes his daughter. “I’ve done lots of high-profile cases but my God …”

The end of the election may have brought him a respite. Getting tough on refugee claimants perceived to be taking advantage of Canada’s laws and social supports was, like crime and terrorism, a major focus for the Conservatives. Last year, Mr. Waldman won a case against the government’s cuts to refugee health care; a Federal Court judge called them “cruel and unusual treatment.” Shortly after the election, the government’s appeal was adjourned. He doesn’t expect the Liberal government to fight the Federal Court ruling.

… Many of his friends, acquaintances and fellow lawyers also opposed his stand on the niqab. Even his sister and mentor, Ontario Family Court Judge Geraldine Waldman, who died of brain cancer on the same day he received the e-mail, disagreed with his stand.

“The last real conversation I had with her about anything political was about the niqab. She was a diehard feminist. She opened the first all-female law practice in Ontario in the seventies with Harriet Sachs, Lynn King and Mary Cornish. She couldn’t get around the niqab.”

Standing up for the niqab surprised even him.

“It was a bit strange, to be honest, to defend the right of a woman to wear the niqab. It’s not one of the things to have high on my list of rights that I would defend. But it had nothing to do with the niqab. It was defending the right of Canadians to express themselves as they saw fit. It was also opposing an abuse of power by the minister who clearly was acting illegally when he issued this policy statement.” (Both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal pointed to the wording of the Citizenship Act, which says only cabinet can make changes to the citizenship ceremony. Mr. Kenney had simply issued a directive banning the niqab.)

Mr. Waldman comes from a refugee background – two grandparents came to Canada to escape Russian pogroms in the early 1900s. He says he became a refugee lawyer in response to the Jewish experience with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, which he called “my defining thing.”

“We have pictures at home of all my mother’s uncles and aunts. On my mother’s side there were at least 12 or 13 uncles and aunts. They all had kids and the kids were married, and so we’re talking about probably 80 or 90 people – three survived.”

Source: Lawyer in niqab case says Canada must confront anti-Muslim sentiment – The Globe and Mail

Court challenge slams new Citizenship Act as ‘anti-Canadian’

The expected court challenge by BCCLA and CARL. We will see whether or not the assertions of the Government regarding these changes to the Citizenship Act being constitutional hold water:

This citizenship-stripping law is unjust, legally unsound and violates the core values of equality enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” says Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, one of the litigators handling the case and a member of the executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

“With this law the federal government shows a flagrant disregard for these values, and for the basic rights of all Canadians. We are asking the court to strike the law down.”

The Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander vigorously defended Bill C-24 both when it was first introduced and as it was debated in Parliament.

…“The value of citizenship has never been more widely recognized as it is today, but it only has value because there are rules governing it,” Alexander told the Star last year, rejecting the growing criticism and opposition to the act.

“Citizenship of course involves rights and enormous privileges in Canada, but it also, for those of us born here and for naturalized Canadians, involves responsibilities.

“This act reminds us where we come from and why citizenship has value. When we take on the obligations of citizens we’re following in the footsteps of millions of people who came here and made outstanding contributions over centuries. And we’re celebrating that diversity, solidifying the order and rule of law we have here.”

But according to Waldman, the law doesn’t do that at all, but rather creates two classes of citizens, a profoundly unfair process and exposes many Canadians to not only losing their citizenship without due process but also their rights to move and travel out of the country.

…“All Canadian citizens used to have the same citizenship rights, no matter what their origins,” says Josh Paterson, executive director of the BCCLA. “Now this new law has divided us into classes of citizens — those who can lose their citizenship and those who can’t. Bill C-24 is anti-immigrant, anti-Canadian, and anti-democratic. It undermines — quite literally — what it means to be Canadian.”

This is fundamentally an issue of equality, Paterson says in an interview with the Star.

Court challenge slams new Citizenship Act as ‘anti-Canadian’ | Toronto Star.