Canada’s New Citizenship Law: Protecting Against Terrorism

By Author: Admin | June 24, 2014

Canada’s new citizenship law received final passage on 2014-06-20 . It includes the ability to revoke citizenship from persons who have dual citizenship and are convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism. The timing of this law, coinciding with a Canadian citizen fighting with a terror group in the Middle East and burning his Canadian passport could not be better; on the face of such extremism, the law could be seen as a welcome and necessary defence to the scourge of terrorism. In fact, it is not.

The key problem with the new citizenship law is the creation of at least two classes of citizenship: Canadians born in Canada and with no other citizenship, and Canadians who have another nationality (either directly or via their parent or spouse). In other words if you’re Canadian born, and your parents and spouse are Canadian born, you are free to be a terrorist/fund a terrorist group, and advocate for terrorism to your heart’s content, and never be deported/banished from Canada.

On the other hand, if you have a parent or spouse with citizenship from another country, and are a convicted terrorist, your Canadian citizenship can be revoked and you may be deported to a place where you are theoretically entitled to citizenship. This will create stateless persons, as other countries’ laws on citizenship may be vague or inconsistently applied. The recent exampleDeepan Budlakoti  a person born in Canada whose parents were from India. Having led a life of crime in Canada, his Canadian citizenship being stripped on a technicality, he is limbo because India does not want him. Can you blame India? Why would they want convicted criminal who was born and raised in Canada sent to them?

Similarly, Canada has opposed the return to Canada of Canadian citizens convicted of crimes in the USA. It is a natural reaction, designed to protect the Canadian public. Perhaps the Canadian government was emboldened by the success of deporting many permanent residents of Canada back to the Caribbean, despite being raised in Canada. The pugnaciousness of such deportations can be mitigated with a sunny announcement by the Honourable Minister Jason Kenney celebrating Jamaican Diaspora day.

The law of banishing people passed parliament so easily because who would reasonably be against keeping terrorists in Canada? The Canadian Bar Associations opposition, buried in distinctions about “classes of citizens” gets easily drowned out by the Immigration Minister labeling lawyers as associating with “terror fundraisers”.

The discussion of terror presumes that terrorists are exclusively from “those countries” and are “them” or the “other”, and not “us”, and do not belong here, in Canada. The reality is of course not so clear, but misperceptions persist, such as when in 2009 security personnel in a German Court room reflexively shot the wrong person when trying to stop a murder that was taking place in during the court hearing (the murderer was an ethnic German immigrant from Russia , and the security personnel shot the victim, an Egyptian).

The Canadian government has signed treaties and hence have an international obligation to prevent statelessness. For that reason, significant portions of Canada’s citizenship laws will be challenged as unconstitutional. This will keep lawyers busy. Unfortunately, such laws, badly drafted by the government, will also cost the Canadian public who will pay for Department of Justice lawyers to defend these laws..

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