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Citizenship bill C-24 is bad policy and potentially violates Charter

Canada has a history of stripping unpopular groups of their fundamental rights as citizens. Bill C-24, the most radical change to citizenship law since 1947, will give government the right to strip citizenship rights of inconvenient Canadians and deport them, just as they once did to Japanese Canadians. 

A family being relocated to an internment camp in the BC interior during the Second World War

Robert Addington wrote the following letter to members of the Senate to express his opposition to Bill C-24, the "Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act". The bill, which passed through committee stage while repeatedly blocking expert witnesses, will give the Citizenship Minister unprecedented powers to strip citizenship. 

Honourable Senators:

As a private citizen with an interest in citizenship policy (but not a lawyer or professional scholar), I have been following closely the progress of Bill C-24. I am writing to you now in your capacity as members of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, about the revocation provisions of this Bill. They are the most radical change to our citizenship law since 1947. 

Canada has a history of stripping unpopular groups of their fundamental rights as citizens. During the wartime election of 1917, the government tried to skew the electorate in favour of conscription. And in 1946 the government ‘repatriated’ 4,000 Japanese-Canadians, half of them born in Canada, to a war-ravaged country most of them had never seen or could no longer remember.

The enabling Orders in Council were made under the War Measures Act just before it expired at the end of 1945, and the Japanese-Canadians were hustled out of Canada before the Canadian Citizenship Act came into force on Jan. 1, 1947. This policy, perhaps the worst violation of human rights in Canadian history, was supported by both major parties in Parliament at the time.

This government and its supporters seem to believe the only ‘real’ Canadians are people who were born in Canada, have European names, hold only Canadian citizenship and have never lived outside Canada. The rest are dismissed as ‘Canadians of convenience’ (expatriate ‘celebrity’ Canadians such as Wayne Gretzky and Neil Young and Senators who are immigrants themselves, meanwhile, get a free pass). We can be sure that the ‘real’ Canadians will not be targeted by the revocation provisions of Bill C-24. 

Forced expatriation and banishment have no place in the legal system of any democratic state. Citizenship, once lawfully and legitimately acquired (I exclude cases of fraud), is a right, not a 'privilege' to be revoked at the pleasure of the Minister.

Mixing citizenship law and criminal law is in my view bad law and bad policy. And imposing double punishment on one group of citizens but not others for the same crimes almost certainly violates the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as the Canadian Bar Association and others have already pointed out.

A columnist for a major newspaper has described Bill C-24 as a Trojan horse. Those who support it should be careful what they wish for.

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