Toronto August 20, 2015—The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) have launched a constitutional challenge to the new Citizenship Act, a federal law relegating over one million Canadians to second-class status.
The lawsuit argues that the new Citizenship Act, in force since the passage of Bill C-24, creates a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals, whether born abroad or in Canada, and naturalized citizens. These Canadians will now have more limited citizenship rights compared to other Canadians, simply because they or their parents or ancestors were born in another country.
Under the new law, these Canadians could see their citizenship taken away if convicted of certain serious crimes in Canada or abroad (including in a country that does not have due process or rule of law). New Canadians who became citizens after the passage of Bill C-24 could also lose their citizenship if they move abroad for work, school, or family reasons. Other Canadians would not be vulnerable to losing their citizenship.
“All Canadian citizens used to have the same citizenship rights, no matter what their origins. We were all equal under the law,” said 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.”
Over 110,000 Canadians have signed a Change.org petition to stop the new law. Despite the public outcry, the citizenship-stripping provisions of the Citizenship Act became law, and the federal government has already quietly begun proceedings to revoke citizenship from some individuals.
Lorne Waldman, a member of the team of lawyers litigating the case and an executive member of CARL, added: “This citizenship-stripping law is unjust, legally unsound, and violates the core values of equality enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 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 lawsuit further alleges that the two-tier regime is unconstitutional because it allows citizenship to be revoked by government bureaucrats, not by a court of law.
“Instead of welcoming new Canadians, the new Citizenship Act discriminates against them,” said Mitch Goldberg, President of CARL. “Bureaucrats in Ottawa will have the power to take away citizenship, and tell people that they don’t belong in this country. This weakens citizenship for all Canadians. This lawsuit will remind the government that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. Period.”