Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to speak with the committee about the proposed changes to the citizenship law in Canada. Our eight recommendations are set out in our written brief and summarized on the second page of the brief. We have extras if you need them.
In this oral presentation I will focus on the issue of the increased residency requirement and explain how this will not do anything to strengthen Canadian citizenship. Nicole Veitch will talk about the problem of barriers to citizenship for some refugees and family-class immigrants that will become more serious barriers and more serious obstacles if Bill becomes law.
I'd like to begin with an example of strong Canadian citizenship. When the representatives of our community legal clinics first met to talk about Bill , one of our colleagues, Rosalinda, told us how important it was for her and her family to become Canadian citizens. She was 16 when she arrived in Canada in 1975 with her parents and six brothers and sisters. They had come to Canada from Chile via Argentina after the Pinochet military coup. Her father had been detained and tortured in Chile. When he was released the family fled to Argentina where they were recognized by the UNHCR as refugees and then accepted by Canada for resettlement.
Rosalinda's father had previously worked as a pipefitter in a big factory in Chile. He got a job at Holmes Foundry in Sarnia and later at the Bruce nuclear plant. Her mother, who had not worked outside the home before, took a job in a tomato-canning factory in Aylmer. Rosalinda and her brothers and sisters were encouraged by their parents to learn English and to learn everything about Canada. In 1978, three years after their arrival in Canada, the very day that they became eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, they all filed their applications. Eight months later, they were granted citizenship.
For their citizenship ceremony, Rosalinda's mother made all the girls beautiful red velvet pantsuits that they wore with white blouses. Afterwards, Rosalinda's father always wore his Canadian flag lapel pin when dressed up for any special occasion, and that's the prop that you have in front of you. Rosalinda said that her father, who died last year, always spoke of how they were treated with respect and consideration at the Canadian embassy in Argentina. After their arrival in Canada they experienced nothing but kind and caring treatment by government officials and Canadian people.
She said her father felt his human dignity had been restored to him. He wanted to become a Canadian citizen so that he would feel that he truly belonged here and so that he could participate fully in Canadian life, including being able to vote. He was always very proud of being Canadian and made it clear to his family in his last illness that he wished to be buried in Canada.
In his later years, Rosalinda's father worked as a volunteer and a paralegal, translating and interpreting for new refugees and immigrants and helping them to become settled. He instilled in all of his children his strong sense of dedication and loyalty to Canada.
Now I doubt that there can be any greater degree of love, loyalty, and dedication to Canada than that felt by refugees who have been forced to flee their country at a time of war and political oppression and who've been granted protection in Canada.
The point of this story is that Canada will lose some of its most devoted and loyal citizens if refugees who've been accepted here find that they are unable to gain Canadian citizenship. Refugees need citizenship even more than other immigrants, because in most cases they are legally or practically stateless. They have no other place to go. Their only home is Canada, yet they cannot feel that they fully belong here if they are unable to become citizens.
As we've noted in our written submissions, under article 34 of the refugee convention, Canada also has a legal obligation to facilitate the integration and naturalization of refugees in Canada.
Under Bill the lengthening of the residency requirement to four out of six years, with no credit for the time already spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident, will not strengthen Canadian citizenship. This increase in the residency requirement will only delay the integration and naturalization of many refugees and immigrants, and discourage some from applying.
Our recommendations are therefore focused on reducing the barriers that could prevent or delay refugees and other new immigrants from becoming citizens. Nicole will describe some of the barriers we have seen, to illustrate why we are making these recommendations.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. By highlighting the barriers to citizenship that I have seen as a caseworker, I hope to show you how the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act disregard the needs of permanent residents with disabilities, impairing psychological conditions, and social hardships.
Subsection 5(3) of the Citizenship Act empowers the minister to waive the knowledge and language requirements on compassionate grounds. While this discretionary exemption provision is maintained in the proposed changes, if the age groups for those who must meet the requirements are expanded, the volume of exemption requests will increase. The process can be made much more accessible. We recommend that efforts be made to facilitate exemption requests by making people aware of the possibility and by assisting people where necessary.
I would also like to note that in my experience, obtaining sufficient medical evidence in order to get an exemption from these requirements is daunting. To illustrate, last summer I called 15 different agencies in Toronto before I was able to find an organization willing to attempt an assessment of my Tibetan-speaking client who had no formal education and who had a learning disability. Similarly, at PCLS, we frequently encounter refugees whose trauma has manifested in conditions that prevent learning, including grief, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Realistically, permanent residents who face barriers to learning and who have wealthy, privileged support networks are more likely to obtain an exemption. Citizenship should not be for sale. We need clear guidelines directing citizenship judges to be reasonable in the evidence they require, and to give consideration to the barriers to obtaining medical documentation in order to confirm disabilities.
I would also like to note that having a right of appeal is essential to protecting permanent residents whose request for an exemption has been denied by a citizenship judge. When my Tibetan-speaking client was finally able to find a specialist to work with him, we obtained a strong report that said he will never be able to learn English to any level of proficiency due to his disability. However, when he went to a citizenship hearing with letters of support from his employer, his ESL teachers, and his family physician, he was still denied a recommendation for an exemption. This was devastating for him. He is deeply ashamed of his inability to learn English despite years of ESL classes over his 11 years in Canada. Currently my client has the right to pursue an appeal to the Federal Court, which he is doing on the basis that the medical evidence has been disregarded.
We urge you not to revoke the right of appeal for people whose citizenship application has been rejected. An application for leave to seek judicial review is discretionary, and it is also an expensive and inaccessible remedy for low-income applicants.
These examples are unique because our clients were able to access a legal aid clinic with the translation services and capacity to assist them. But the committee members should remember that in many parts of Canada, these legal services are not available. There are many permanent residents in Canada who are members of the refugee and family classes who face these barriers to citizenship—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I am pleased to appear before the committee today to discuss Bill .
I'd like to begin by echoing the consensus surrounding the need to update the Citizenship Act and thank the government for taking on this important initiative.
We look forward to immigrants enjoying the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship quickly, efficiently and with greater integrity under a reformed legal framework.
Canadian citizenship is one of the most valuable and highly respected commodities in the world, but it is far from being just a prestigious status one acquires. Citizenship in this country is an unparalleled package of balanced rights and responsibilities, based on a set of core values, designed to ensure dignity, freedom, and equality for all.
The story of Canada is largely the story of immigrants, a reality that Jewish communities across this country know well.
Despite the dark era of Canada's “none is too many” immigration and refugee policy for Jews, we've been able to come here from all corners of the world over the last 200-plus years and contribute positively to the Canadian story, like so many other groups whom we join in appreciating the extraordinary opportunity and privilege inherent in being Canadian.
Immigrants to Canada are a source of cultural vitality and economic strength. Many of those who choose to come to Canada embrace our values because they know the reality of living in their absence.
Immigrants are among the proudest patriots and shapers of this country, and indeed the modernization of the Citizenship Act will benefit all Canadians as a result.
The vast majority of Canadian citizens appreciate the gift they have, but unfortunately, there are those who reject our core values and abuse the trust that underpins our social contract. We appreciate the steps taken by to promote strong ties to Canada and buy-in to core Canadian values.
The introduction of more robust residency requirements, including physical presence to qualify for citizenship, is particularly well-received.
That, coupled with basic language and knowledge requirements, will go a long way toward facilitating integration and decreasing the marginalization of new immigrants.
In addition, it will go a long way towards preventing the importation of anti-Semitic views that, though marginalized in Canada, are unfortunately still prevalent in some parts of the world.
We also support the introduction of measures to ensure that those who apply for Canadian citizenship actually intend to maintain a meaningful connection to Canada after taking the oath. The “intent to reside” provisions are an important element in this regard and could have a significant impact on reducing the problem of citizens of convenience. There's a problem with people taking advantage of Canadian citizenship, availing themselves of Canadian generosity but demonstrating absolutely no real connection or contribution to this country. Their citizenship is a matter of convenience, with no real intention to ever reside in Canada.
We acknowledge, however, that there may be a potential for abuse of this provision. There doesn't appear to be any safeguard that would preclude a minister from commencing a revocation proceeding for someone who declared intent to reside, but then went abroad to study, work, or tend to an ill relative. It's unlikely the minister would do so but it's not an impossibility.
In our view, the problem of potential abuse could be dealt with by requiring the minister to seek a court declaration in cases of misrepresentation of intent to reside, similar to the requirement included for other cases of fraud. In addition to intent to reside, the proposed legislation will streamline the process for revoking citizenship from those who obtained Canadian citizenship while misrepresenting their involvement in violating human or international rights.
Given the arduous experience of trying to remove Nazi war criminals from Canada, for which the Canadian Jewish Congress, one of our predecessor organizations, fought for so long, this is a measure that the Jewish community is particularly glad to see included. The proposed changes will eliminate cabinet's ability to overrule the court's determination to remove someone who misrepresented their involvement in such heinous acts, which actually happened with Nazi war criminals, and consolidates the process to ensure that the criminals in question can be removed from Canada within a reasonable timeframe.
In a previous session of this committee's study, an assertion was made that, rather than further protecting Jewish Canadians as I've suggested, the bill would actually make Jewish Canadians particularly vulnerable for having their citizenships revoked due to Israel's Law of Return. This is not the case.
According to the UN 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, a stateless person is defined as someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has clarified that the convention does not ask whether a person should or could be a national of a particular state based on its legislation, but rather whether the person is a national of another state. Israel does not consider Jews in Canada to be nationals of the state under the Law of Return; rather, they have a legal right to become naturalized as Israeli citizens through a voluntary immigration process subject to certain restrictions.
For a Canadian Jew to be considered an Israeli national, they would first have to immigrate to that country and be certified as a new immigrant.
The possibility to become an Israeli citizen does not equate to dual nationality for Canadian Jews, according to the UN convention on statelessness, or according to Bill . Were the minister to seek the revocation of a Jewish Canadian citizenship, the individual facing revocation, you'd only prove they are not a citizen of another state—be it Israel, the United States, the U.K., or anywhere else—in order to prevent the revocation due to Canada's international obligations regarding statelessness. This is no different for Jews than for any other Canadian citizen. As long as Jewish Canadians are not dual citizens and do not commit one of the prescribed offences, there would be no ability for the minister to revoke their citizenship.
The bill provides recourse to revoke citizenship from Canadians with dual nationality who commit certain offences, such as treason, espionage, or taking up arms against Canadian Forces. These offences are inherently actions against the institution of citizenship and the state itself. Revocation of citizenship is a reasonable consequence of these actions, and it's surprising that Canada is one of the only western democracies that does not have the ability to revoke citizenship from dual nationals in these types of instances.
There are other political crimes that are so heinous in nature that they attack the core values on which Canadian citizenship is based. Acts of terrorism are one example of this, for which revocation of citizenship is a reasonable consequence. We're pleased to see it included in the bill within this context.
While we support the revocation of citizenship as a consequence of terrorism in principle, there are some details in the application of this provision that we believe could be improved.
We take the and his officials at their word that foreign convictions of Canadian dual nationals for terrorism offences would be subject to a two-stage evaluation to determine that the foreign terrorism offence is equivalent to a terrorism offence under the Criminal Code here in Canada, and that the judicial process for convicting the offender is fair, transparent, and independent. This two-stage evaluation is crucial, yet the second step does not appear to be explicitly codified as a requirement for revocation in the bill.
Accordingly, there appears to be a potential for a future minister to forgo the second step of this critical process. This could lead to the unintended consequence of Canadian dual nationals having their citizenship revoked based on false allegations, politically motivated charges, and kangaroo court proceedings. Accordingly, we suggest that the bill be amended to codify an explicit requirement that equivalent evidentiary standards and due process are employed in a foreign conviction in order for that conviction to be grounds for the minister to revoke Canadian citizenship.
In addition, we suggest that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide should also be included as grounds for revoking citizenship. As in the case of terrorism, these are political crimes that are so heinous in nature, that they attack the core values on which Canadian citizenship is based.
The principle that applies to terrorism also applies to those cases.
Furthermore, just as a terrorist could benefit from Canadian citizenship to enjoy greater mobility to perpetrate attacks and evade justice, so too the utility of Canadian citizenship should be removed from those who perpetrate these crimes. That Canadian citizens who are dual nationals could have their citizenship revoked for lying about their involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide before becoming citizens but not for committing them even while brandishing a Canadian passport is puzzling. The Jewish community has tragically been victimized by terrorism, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide all too often.
We appreciate consideration being given to our perspective on this important issue.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have a big thank you for our witnesses for appearing before us today.
Mr. Fogel, I will say a special thank you to you for actually appearing here on the Independence Day of the great State of Israel. I'm sure you have a very busy day planned with your colleagues. We're keenly aware of the good work of CIJA.
I'm going to start my questions as follows. I want to touch a bit on the issue of revocation. The bill provides for revocation for those who have dual citizenship and who perpetrate an act of treason or terrorism against the Canadian Armed Forces or against our country, Canada. These are people who have dual citizenship. They will lose their citizenship should they do one of those two things.
We've heard from critics of the bill. Actually, we've heard a lack of compassion here for the victims of terrorism acts from people who have spoken about revocation with respect to this bill.
We have seen heinous acts of terror in other countries that have resulted in the deaths of innocent mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, friends, and loved ones. We think the bill sends a pretty strong message, but I'd like to hear from you. What message do you think it sends to the victims of these criminals if their actions are not taken for what they are and if they continue to have the same rights and access as the vast majority of Canadian citizens who proudly uphold Canadian values, rights, and responsibilities?
Thank you to all the witnesses for being here.
I certainly agreed with much, not all, but much of what Mr. Fogel said, particularly with regard to poor Canadian values. I would also say through you, Madam Chair, to the Conservatives that I have no more time or tolerance for terrorists or others who commit heinous crimes than you do.
But at the same time, as a Canadian, I'm also concerned with rights of due process, fairness, and adherence to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and whether or not we agree that real terrorists should be deported—that's one question—I'll put that to one side.
My question is more the process for deciding whether somebody is a real terrorist or real criminal of some sort, and whether that person has right to due process in a way that is fair. So I would read to you what a lawyer last Wednesday called Robin Seligman said. She said:
||…if a person gets a parking ticket in the City of Toronto, or probably anywhere in Canada, you would have more judicial rights and appeal rights and the right to a fair hearing than you would under [this] Citizenship Act…. As a parking-ticket holder you have a right to a fair hearing. Under the Citizenship Act, as proposed, there is no hearing. It is up to the minister to decide whether there's a hearing or not. This can be very political, and these decisions should definitely be taken out of the hands of a minister.
While we might all agree that terrorists are awful, I don't want someone to be treated as a terrorist when he or she is not.
Does the lack of enough due process for fairness concern you?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to go back to Mr. Fogel on one or two points.
First, I wish to mention that we've been discussing the revocation of citizenship and I want to interject that it is for persons who are convicted of those crimes and not simply accused. I think that is very clear in the minister's view. I hope the interpretation is also clear in the act.
Mr. Fogel, what I would like you to elaborate on is a bit more of a theoretical issue, perhaps, and that is this intent to reside. You mention in your statement that there's attachment to Canada and why attachment is so important.
Let me give you an example. There are members of my family who came to Canada, got educated, and acquired citizenship. Then they had to go overseas to work, but they eventually did work for Canadian corporations overseas. There's a net contribution to Canada and after, now I guess, 20 years, they have the full right of citizenship. They haven't committed any illegal act. They have certainly helped build this nation, build our international reach in trade, finance, and commerce.
These are fully bona fide Canadian citizens. They have contributed to Canada. The intent to reside issue is not actually an issue because they still have an attachment to Canada. As Madam Sadoway also mentioned, they happened to marry someone from abroad.
I don't think those are the issues. I think the intent to reside is strictly directed at people who want to use Canada's passport as a passport of convenience to conduct heinous crimes or conduct an act of terror here because we are so generous and considerate in that. Therefore, I don't think a time limitation is of concern in this case. I'd like to hear your comments.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Again I thank you all for coming today. It has been a very interesting discussion.
I want to underline the unusual nature of the hearings we're having today. We're in committee debating these matters before this bill has been presented to the House for a vote on second reading, which means that we're essentially having a pre-hearing. I think it speaks to the complexity of the nature of the questions in front of us that the government would ask us to do this. It's very unusual. Again I'd like to underline the gratitude I have for your participating in this unusual process.
I want to raise a couple of concerns that I have with the bill. One follows from Mr. Leung's interventions. Concerning the quality of the person requesting citizenship, one element is whether or not they've been found guilty of a crime. I think we have to be careful here, because we've already mentioned—I think, Mr. Fogel, you brought it up yourself—that when some of those crimes happen overseas, the criteria are different. We have people performing legitimate political protests in other countries that, by those countries' definitions, are quite illegal and not permissible, and they end up in jail.
My first exposure to that was when I was quite young, when my parents admitted somebody from Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring as a refugee in this country. I think it was the first opportunity I had to realize that in some other places people are living lives a lot more difficult than ours.
I just want us to be very careful about how it can be that people can be discriminated against by the nature of laws abroad when they are making applications here in Canada. I know you touched a little bit, Ms. Sadoway, on the question of being discriminated against by virtue of the nationality laws of other countries. Could you continue to elaborate on that?
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me here today.
I want to give credit; many of the ideas I'll be discussing today were formulated with my friend Danny Eisen, who's with the Canadian Coalition Against Terror. I just wanted to mention him by name.
My comments will focus exclusively on the provisions in Bill that deal with the revocation of citizenship for treason, terrorism, and armed conflict against Canada. As I have stated in previous testimony, I support these provisions conceptually. They amount to a 21st-century updating of the social contract that has always existed between Canada and its citizens. This contract, common to liberal democracies, broadly refers to the understanding that citizens consent to abide by certain obligations towards the state in exchange for other benefits. Bill C-24 suggests that Canadian citizenship, whether bestowed by birthright or naturalization, is predicated on a most basic commitment to the state: that citizens abstain from committing those offences considered most contrary to the national security interests of Canada.
Treason and armed conflict against Canada are actions clearly intended to damage the country as a national entity and political community. It is therefore fitting that one consequence of these crimes may be loss of citizenship to the country the offender seeks to harm.
What about terrorism? One could make a persuasive case that terrorism, as a unique crime—it’s not me saying this, it's the Canadian courts who call terrorism a unique crime—is so antithetical to Canadian values that anyone choosing to embrace such violence has effectively declared that his or her allegiance lays elsewhere.
Nonetheless, I personally would recommend that the bill stipulate a tighter connection between the crime and the consequence of losing one’s citizenship. Specifically, I suggest that revocation of citizenship for terrorism be triggered only by either terrorist offences in Canada or against a Canadian target elsewhere, or in association with a listed entity. Listed entities have been publicly designated by Canada as terrorist organizations, and in effect have become public enemies of the state. Working with a listed entity in the commission of a terrorist act is a clear statement of allegiance to forces acting to damage Canada.
The bill provides that revocation can stem not only from a domestic terrorism conviction with a sentence of five years or more, but also from a foreign conviction. When the conviction comes from a like-minded country with legal standards similar to Canada’s, this makes sense. But what about a country whose legal system we don't trust?
I understand from last week’s hearing that envisions a two-step process in his ministerial discretion. The first step would be to examine the substance of the foreign offence and whether it is equivalent to a Canadian Criminal Code terrorist act. This is set out in the legislation. But the second step of the review, which was described as an examination of the fairness of the process by which the conviction was achieved, is not mentioned anywhere in the bill. I would recommend an amendment in this regard.
One option is for the two-part analysis, which was described by his officials last week, to be codified in the legislation—to be explicit, in other words—that both the substance of the act and the fairness of the conviction would be factors taken into account when deciding on a terrorism revocation case. Alternatively, revocation resulting from a foreign terrorism conviction could involve both a ministerial recommendation and court approval, which would take into account whether, for example, the conviction was politically motivated or the judge was truly independent.
The point is that a measure as severe as the revocation of citizenship needs to be drafted carefully to ensure conformity to Canadian laws and values and of course our international obligations. To that end, I do credit the bill for its consistency with the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Bill provides that if a person holds only Canadian citizenship, it is not possible for that citizenship to be revoked, regardless of the crime, because no person can be stateless.
However, this has opened up the argument that the bill unfairly creates two classes of citizens: those with dual or multiple nationalities, who are at risk of having their citizenship stripped, and those with only Canadian citizenship, who may be punished in a variety of ways but cannot lose their citizenship.
For dual nationals who have chosen that status, often because of personal connection to or benefit from more than one citizenship, this is simply not a compelling argument. Dual citizenship was not forced on them. They are not being subjected to discrimination as a result of any inherent trait. It is a choice they have made, just as they can choose to renounce their other citizenship so as to be solely Canadian and therefore not subject to these provisions.
But what about countries that do not permit renunciation of citizenship? If the government is reluctant to uphold the legal status of a citizenship that a person has unsuccessfully tried to renounce, the following could be considered as a solution.
When someone commits terrorism, treason, or armed conflict, and his or her other citizenship is from a country where renunciation is not allowed, the minister could use his discretion to assess the extent of what I've called “active relationship” to that citizenship. For instance, does the person maintain deep ties to that other country? Has he invoked any of the rights of that citizenship? Has he travelled with the passport of that country, or served in an official capacity only open to citizens? The more active the citizenship, the weaker would be any claim that it was forced on him.
I should note that while stripping away citizenship is one tool to deal with those convicted of the most serious crimes against Canada, preventive or disruptive action should be taken to prevent, in the first place, a situation leading to citizenship revocation. Counter-radicalization programs are essential, and I am heartened to hear that a federal program is set to be unveiled in the near future.
Stronger exit controls are another option. Ray Boisvert, who is a former assistant director of intelligence at CSIS, suggested last year, I believe, that:
||There has to be an easy way to trigger a denial of a passport—or the removal of somebody's passport—if there is sufficient information to demonstrate this person has become highly radicalized and/or made threats, or done things to threaten lives or the welfare and well-being of others.
This could apply equally to sole and dual citizens, and unlike citizenship revocation, which is reactive, the removal of a passport might actually prevent Canadians from engaging in terrorism or armed conflict abroad. The RCMP's recently disclosed high-risk traveller case management system, which is intended “to prevent radicalized youths from leaving for conflict zones like Syria, Somalia and North Africa”, seems to employ just such a mechanism.
Western security agencies are concerned that their citizens are travelling to these countries to participate in jihad, gaining the skills and motives to pursue similar acts in their home countries. At least one study has found that terrorists with foreign experience are far more lethal, dangerous, and sophisticated than are purely domestic cells. If the citizenship revocation provisions in Bill help prevent bloodshed from being exported to or from Canada, they are worth parliamentary consideration. Let us remember that it took only 19 hijackers to perpetrate the 9/11 attacks.
I have one last comment. If this bill goes through, perhaps it should be accompanied by a change to the application for a Canadian passport. Anyone who is 16 years or older should be required to acknowledge on paper the terms of citizenship. The document would clarify to the applicant that engaging in treason, terrorism, or armed conflict with Canada entails the possible revocation of citizenship. It essentially becomes a contract, and if you break the terms of the agreement, you are subject to the penalties.
Thank you for inviting me to provide input to the deliberations. I speak to you as a Canadian 9/11 widow, and as the founder of the Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims.
Since the 9/11 attack in New York, I have worked to raise awareness of the plight of Canadian families who lose loved ones in terrorist acts in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Today, I specifically want to address the matter of revoking Canadian citizenship from convicted terrorists in the light of what I see as a set of profoundly Canadian values. Canada, as a nation, has a proud track record in the world as a defender of human rights and democracy. Canada values and protects a form of society that gives individuals the opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives.
Canada, in my view, is a shining example of everything that is admirable about the western world. Canada accepts many immigrants from all over the world who come here to seek a better life. In return for opening our doors to them, Canada expects them to live in Canada in accordance with a minimum set of standards. Canada provides, in its support of multiculturalism, all manner of freedom for immigrants to practise the lifestyles they were used to before they arrived. Most immigrants do adjust and become productive members of Canadian society, in actions, if not in spirit, accepting Canadian values.
Terrorist acts are the exact antithesis of such values. Terrorists, in executing innocent people, denigrate and violate every tenet of the values that make up Canada. Therefore, if Canada allows a convicted terrorist to retain Canadian citizenship, Canada is in effect saying that we accept the terrorist act as part of the fabric of life in Canada. In as much as citizenship in Canada is a privilege, it should be subject to revocation if the holder of such privilege demonstrates, through terrorist acts, that there is no intention to adhere to the minimum standards Canada expects from its citizens. Canada needs to make a definite statement that it will not tolerate terrorist activity on the part of anyone.
Revocation of citizenship is a straightforward statement that, by your actions, you have forfeited your Canadian citizenship. In effect, Canada needs to say loud and clear that if you violate Canadian values by carrying out terrorist acts, we take away the privilege of being a Canadian. A zero tolerance policy in this area is the only way Canada can remain a beacon in the world, upholding and promoting the values we all hold dear. Allowing citizens convicted of terrorist acts to remain in Canada is, in my view, the worst sort of cowardice and an affront to all Canadian citizens who abide by the law.
Thank you, again, for inviting me to comment.
Thank you for inviting me to join you today via videoconference.
I am going to give my presentation in English.
I will take questions in English as well, but I look forward to the committee's inquiries.
I'm going to confine my presentation as well to the revocation provisions. Within that I will limit myself more narrowly to the legality of those provisions.
First, I'd like to clarify the provisions regarding revocation for fraud, misrepresentation, or concealment of material facts.
I understand that you have heard testimony from the that the inclusion of a condition requiring an applicant to intend to reside in Canada after citizenship is a provision that would not be applicable after obtaining citizenship. Perhaps the minister is there expressing the way he would desire or intend to use the law that is proposed, but I'd like to clarify that's not, in fact, how the law presently drafted is written.
What Bill does is take existing conditions for citizenship by naturalization. These are: that one reside in Canada for a certain length of time, that one pass language and knowledge of Canada tests, and that one have, broadly speaking, a clean record. The way these conditions work is that if they are not fulfilled or if an applicant conceals, misrepresents, or commits fraud with respect to any of those conditions, then citizenship obtained through that means can be revoked after the fact.
The proposed law adds a requirement that one intend to reside in Canada after acquiring naturalization to the conditions of citizenship acquisition. It follows from the structure of the provision that, if the minister takes the view that one committed fraud or misrepresentation or concealment of facts in one's intention to reside in Canada after citizenship acquisition, then the minister could, in principle, seek revocation for fraud or misrepresentation. Whether the minister chooses to do so or not, of course, is a matter of his discretion, but I'd like to insist here that the law, as presently drafted, does grant the minister power to seek revocation for an individual who, after obtaining citizenship, the minister believes did not honestly state his or her intention to reside in Canada after obtaining citizenship. So that's one clarification about the law and the legality.
Secondly, I'd like to turn to the constitutionality of the revocation provisions. Here I'm going to begin not with the revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation, but the provisions that our two previous witnesses testified about, which is revocation for misconduct as a citizen; in other words, the use of citizenship revocation as punishment.
Here I think it is important to understand that we have a jurisprudence in Canada that deals with the constitutionality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of certain forms of punishment. The most relevant case for our purposes today is a case called Sauvé. In Sauvé we had a law that denied the right to vote to inmates of Canadian prisons serving more than two years. In other words, they were denied their constitutional rights under section 2 of the charter to vote for the period of time that they were prisoners.
This law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada as a violation of section 2 of the charter that could not be justified under section 1 of the charter. I'd just like to reference a couple of parts of that judgment that are particularly relevant to considering revocation as punishment here.
Can you revoke somebody's citizenship in order to punish them for what we'll call crimes against citizenship? Let me draw to your attention what the Supreme Court of Canada said, because it goes directly to this claim that was made by the two other speakers about this idea of the social contract, this idea that it's a part of the social contract that people do not commit certain kinds of crime, and if they do, they have broken their part of the social contract, and it follows from that they could have their citizenship revoked from them.
Here's what the Supreme Court of Canada said about that kind of approach:
||The social compact requires the citizen to obey the laws created by the democratic process. But it does not follow that failure to do so nullifies the citizen’s continued membership in the self-governing polity. Indeed, the remedy of imprisonment for a term rather than permanent exile implies our acceptance of continued membership in the social order.
In other words, the Supreme Court of Canada stated quite clearly that punishing somebody by depriving them of their constitutional rights, indeed, by denying them all constitutional rights and casting them out in the name of the social contract, is not constitutional. It isn't constitutional to deny somebody the right to vote, just in order to punish them. That's one right under the charter. It seems to follow that denying them of all constitutional rights, which is the effect of stripping someone of citizenship and exiling them from Canada, could not be constitutional either.
So it seemed to me that reading the Sauvé case provides a fairly complete answer to the constitutionality of banishment as a valid punishment under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But certainly if one wants to go further and consider other aspects of citizenship ratification under the charter, there are certainly other dimensions of it that also appear unconstitutional on their face. For example, it is required under section 11 of the charter that if somebody is going to face a penal consequence for their actions—in this case, punishment by citizenship revocation—they're entitled to certain procedural rights.
Those rights include, under section 11 of the charter, the presumption of innocence. In the present legislation, the presumption of innocence is violated in the following way. If the minister believes that the person is a dual citizen, and therefore exposed to the risk of denationalization through citizenship stripping, the minister puts the burden on the citizen to prove that he or she is not a citizen of another country, in other words, to prove a negative in order to escape the consequence of citizenship revocation. A reverse onus violates section 11 of the charter and has been found to be unconstitutional. contains a reverse-onus provision.
The charter requires that before somebody is found guilty and sentenced to a crime and punished, that person be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. requires no such standard of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our charter requires that if somebody is going to be punished, that they be tried in an open and fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal. The doesn't qualify as an independent and impartial tribunal. He's a government minister, not a judge.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming to share their views with the committee, which will definitely help us in our study of Bill .
I'll start with Ms. Basnicki.
Ms. Basnicki, I know that your life has been personally touched by terrorism and you have lived through it. I can tell you that no one in this room has the level of understanding of what terrorism is, what effect on one's life terrorism can have, as much as you do. That's very clear in my mind.
I'll also be talking about this revocation part of Bill . When we talk about revocation, we are talking about that group of convicted terrorists who have done a heinous act against humanity. In my view, when we talk about Canadian passports, when we talk about Canadian citizenship, I always say this: I am an immigrant.
I immigrated to Canada only in 1989. I always say that any individual who has the opportunity to come and live in Canada has actually hit the jackpot. This is my belief. We must do everything to protect those values. That is that, in my personal belief—I have seen this.
Everybody knows that a Canadian passport is very highly regarded around the world. When I fill out that landing paper anywhere, when I write “Canadian”, it reminds me of the day when I talked to the CBSA guys for the first time, and I'm very thankful for that day and very thankful to this country. Very thankful to God as well.
Here we are talking about the reputation of Canada as a safe country and a law-abiding nation in the world. We see more and more Canadian passports being used to fly under the radar and commit terrorist acts abroad.
Could you give me your opinion on Bill and what it proposes to do to combat those actions and those individuals?
I think I have mentioned most of the affected constitutional provisions. I will add only a couple. One is section 12 of the charter that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment or treatment. Now, in a line of U.S. constitutional cases culminating in a case called Afroyim v. Rusk, the United States effectively made it unconstitutional to strip U.S. citizens of their citizenship. In some of those cases, they relied on the U.S. equivalent of the prohibition on cruel and unusual treatment or punishment to do so. So that's one provision, again, one aspect of the charter violations here.
Another is the prohibition on retroactive punishment. We consider it unjust to punish somebody for an act that was not prohibited before the law was passed. So in this case, Bill would impose retroactive punishment on people who are convicted of the listed offences before section 24 came into effect. So it would also violate the charter prohibition on retroactive punishment.
In addition to that, section 11 of the charter also guarantees the right not to be punished twice for the same offence, so in the listed offences, what you have are convictions for terrorism, treason, etc., and punishments that are meted out in a court of law by an independent judge, like imprisonment, and then, supplementing that, ministerial discretion to add yet another punishment in the form of citizenship revocation and ultimately banishment.
So those are yet more charter violations that are imposed under the provisions of this bill.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think people would continue to think of Canada as what it already is, a heaven on earth.
Ms. Basnicki, thank you so much for being here. You obviously personify the pain and the tragedy of that horrific act in 9/11, but you have really applied yourself in so many constructive ways to help Canadians, and in fact people all over the world, understand what occurred and to be vigilant and to guard against future instances of this. That's one of the reasons clearly you're here talking to a parliamentary committee, and I applaud that.
Ms. Saperia, I like your idea about the passport application rider. I think that makes infinite sense, and I think we'll talk about that further.
My parents came here almost 70 years ago, and they had a very challenging time becoming Canadian citizens. They had two-year contracts. They had to work hard. They raised a family, and I'll tell you 70 years on in their late eighties and mid-nineties they wave the Canadian flag as high and as proudly as anyone.
So we're working on that, and we don't ask much of people coming to this country. We ask them to obey the law and that includes no terrorism. We ask them to respect their fellow citizens and that all the old prejudices and practices should remain in the old country. And pay your taxes.
I see nothing cruel or unusual about getting rid of terrorists and traitors to my country. Especially as a former soldier, I would be really upset if anybody who had committed a terrorist act against me in the field retained a Canadian citizenship.
I'll give you a couple of examples of where they do revoke citizenship with good reason. In Britain they have revoked citizenship if it's deemed to be conducive to the public good, and there are several examples of that. In Switzerland they can revoke citizenship if an act in that way causes serious prejudice to the national interest of the country. In Australia they have done it, and in the United States they can pursue revocation for high treason or for being a member of an armed force at war with the United States. These are all good reasons and good examples of these countries.
Ms. Basnicki, I'll start with you. In the current Citizenship Act those convicted or charged with an indictable offence in Canada are barred from obtaining citizenship. The first part of this question is: do you think that goes far enough?
Again, thanks to all of you for coming. It's been an informative session.
Ms. Macklin, I certainly appreciate the fact that you filled in at the last moment, as did I, and as I suspect Mr. McKay did. We're all here on our helicopters trying to make sense of what we're hearing here.
I want to start by pointing out, my ancestors who came to Canada many generations ago were Huguenots. By the mores of the day, they were criminals. They were traitors. They were punishable by the worst possible punishment of the day, being burned at the stake. Even back then, Canada was rather welcoming, and they came here and settled and became fine, upstanding citizens. But by the laws of the day, they were treasonous criminals.
I suspect things have improved since then, but I will point out that we've had people in this country whom we've declared traitors, such as Louis Riel, whom later on we decided to pardon. Who's considered a traitor today is not necessarily a traitor tomorrow. These things can be subjective. I don't think we can hold an objective line to these things every time.
I'll remind people that just before the Second World War, Canada refused Jewish refugees from Germany. We didn't want them here. The minister agreed to that; our government agreed to that. Things change over time. What are the mores? What's acceptable and what isn't?
Let's fast-forward into what's going on today, and I don't want to repeat what Mr. McKay mentioned earlier, which I think was right on the money. Let's talk about a Canadian who is being held in Egypt, who I think Ms. Macklin mentioned briefly. All these people are considered traitors. All these people have committed heinous crimes by the terms and definitions that exist where they are. I think we're going down a path that could be considered dangerous, especially that there seems to be a serious lack of due process that's permitted by this bill.
Ms. Macklin, you mentioned section 11 of the charter. We need to have independent and impartial tribunals reviewing these things, yet by the terms of the proposed statute in front of us we're going to have ministerial discretion with leave for judicial review being the only possible third-party option for anybody being denied citizenship. So what are the terms of judicial review? What does it mean to have judicial review? What is the likelihood of even being accepted by a court to hear a judicial review?
Ms. Macklin, can you explain to me what judicial review is, and whether this is a sufficient remedy in the case of revoking citizenship?