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Citizenship Revocation – Rights Groups Applaud Amendment to Citizenship Revocation Bill in Senate

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OTTAWA (April 4, 2017) – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) reacted this afternoon to the Senate’s passage of an amendment to Bill C-6, the bill amending the citizenship act to eliminate second class citizenship. The amendment creates a new process that ensures the right to a hearing in Federal Court for Canadians whose citizenship the government seeks to revoke for alleged misrepresentation in obtaining their citizenship in the first place. The BCCLA and CARL have been advocating for this change to the law for the past year.

Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA, stated: “We are thrilled that the Senate has passed this amendment. If a Canadian gets a parking ticket, they have the right to a full hearing. But if a Canadian is at risk of losing their citizenship and being banished from their home country, they have no right to a hearing, and no opportunity to fully defend themselves. This amendment fixes that absurd situation.

No government minister should be given this kind of unilateral power to fundamentally change a Canadian’s life, and take away their citizenship that is the basis for all their other rights in this country. Minister Hussen, and former Minister McCallum , have both said they would welcome an amendment to ensure fairness, and we hope that the government, and the House of Commons, will support this change to the Bill.”

Lorne Waldman, counsel and executive member of CARL, said: “This is the Senate doing its job – giving second thought to government bills in order to ensure that people’s fundamental rights are protected. The current revocation process is unconstitutional, plain and simple. We have a single government official acting as investigator, prosecutor, and decision-maker in citizenship revocation decisions. This is unjust and contrary to Canadians’ expectations that decisions with significant ramifications for human rights will be made in a fair and transparent manner.”

The organizations do not object to the government having the power to revoke citizenship that was acquired on the basis of misrepresentation, but state that citizens must have the right to challenge the revocation in a fair judicial hearing process.

The organizations recognize the role that Senators Ratna Omidvar, André Pratte, Elaine McCoy, Art Eggleton and Mobina Jaffer in supporting this amendment, and Senator Peter Harder who spoke in support of the amendment in his role as government representative.

BCCLA and CARL support Bill C-6 and its elimination of citizenship revocation for certain criminal offences, which was the subject of their August 2015 constitutional challenge. That legal challenge has been adjourned pending the passage of the Bill. The Federal Court also heard a constitutional challenge to the lack of due process in citizenship revocations in November 2016, and has reserved its decision.