Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bill C-24 creates group of second class Canadian citizens

Although Bill C-24 was passed a year ago, provisions that create two types of citizenship, those Canadians who can have their citizenship taken away and those who cannot, have just come into effect.
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As is common with the Harper government, the legislation plays upon Canadians' desire for security and fears of terrorism. Before this law was passed all Canadians, whether born in Canada, immigrants who have become Canadian citizens or dual citizens, were treated the same under the judicial system. Statistics showthat foreign-born Canadian citizens are no more likely than citizens born in Canada to commit crimes, in fact some data suggests they are less so. Under the new law, only those born in Canada and are not eligible for or do not have another nationality as well will retain their citizenship no matter what crime they commit. The government invokes the threat of jihadism in defending these new rules and claims that Canadians will be safer:
Also officially in force as of today is a new, more streamlined citizenship revocation process. This new process will help ensure Canada and Canadians are protected, and that revocation decisions can be made quickly, decisively and fairly.
What sort of fairness is it when a Canadian born citizen is charged for going to fight for the Islamic State or commits a terrorist attack against the Canadian government, but cannot lose his or her citizenship as punishment but a foreign-born citizen , dual citizen, or someone born in Canada but eligible for dual citizenship can? Bill-C-24 also allows the punishment of exile. Maybe Harper can arrange with Russia to exile some of those convicted to Siberia. Australia is not likely to welcome any new convicts as immigrants as in the past.
At the time that the Bill C-24 was passed, an article in the Globe and Mail was critical of the provisions. A second article noted that Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy could have had his Canadian citizenship revoked on the grounds he had been convicted of terrorism in an Egyptian court. The Canadian government replied that it would not apply the law to Fahmy. The same article refutes the argument that Chris Alexander, Citizenship and Immigration Minister provided namely that citizenship was a privilege not a right:Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has defended his bill by arguing citizenship is a privilege, not a right. He is wrong. It may come with responsibilities, but it is a right. And once legitimately acquired, by birth or naturalization, it cannot be taken away. Bill C-24 gives the government the kind of sweeping power that is common in dictatorships, not in a democracy built upon the rule of law, where all citizens are equal. The changes to the Citizenship Act erode those basic principles, creating a two-tier citizenship that dilutes what it means to be Canadian.
Even if citizenship is a privilege not a right, what sense does it make to deprive those who worked for and earned the privilege of that privilege when they commit certain crimes, while allowing others who simply have the privilege as a result of being born here to still retain it? The argument makes no sense whether citizenship is a right or a privilege. These new provisions of Bill C-24 will no doubt face challenges in the courts now that they are the law of the land. The BC Civil Liberties Association has a petition on the issue that can be found here.

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