Re­store right to cit­i­zen­ship hear­ing

ED­I­TO­RIAL: WHAT OTH­ERS THINK

Lethbridge Herald - - READER'S FORUM -

Afed­eral judge has just given the Trudeau govern­ment the kick in the pants it ap­par­ently needs to get on with fix­ing a bad law left over from the Harper era.

The law in­volves changes to Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship. One of the most glar­ing flaws is a mea­sure that al­lows im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to re­voke a per­son’s cit­i­zen­ship with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of a hear­ing be­fore an in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sion-maker.

This week Fed­eral Court Jus­tice Jo­ce­lyne Gagné ruled that those parts of the law vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tional right to a fair hear­ing. She quashed the cit­i­zen­ship re­vo­ca­tions of eight peo­ple who chal­lenged the law, and gave the fed­eral govern­ment 60 days to fix it.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen’s de­part­ment says it is con­sid­er­ing whether to ap­peal. It should drop that idea and move quickly to do away with the un­con­sti­tu­tional parts of the law.

The Harper govern­ment brought in the “Strength­en­ing Cana­dian Cit­i­zen­ship Act” in May 2015. It gave im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials the power to strip some­one of their cit­i­zen­ship if they con­cluded the per­son had lied or com­mit­ted fraud in their ap­pli­ca­tion.

Since that mea­sure came into ef­fect, the num­ber of peo­ple los­ing cit­i­zen­ship has gone up dra­mat­i­cally. In the past two years 235 peo­ple have had their cit­i­zen­ship taken away; that com­pares with only 167 in the pre­vi­ous 17 years.

No one wants to see peo­ple lie their way into the coun­try. But the Harper law has also pe­nal­ized peo­ple who omit­ted in­for­ma­tion from their cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions for un­der­stand­able rea­sons.

One of those who had her cit­i­zen­ship re­stored by Jus­tice Gagné is a woman who failed to men­tion she was no longer liv­ing with her spon­sor. It turned out she had di­vorced and re­mar­ried and sub­se­quently es­tab­lished a ca­reer and fam­ily in Canada. Is that re­ally grounds for such a heavy penalty?

Chang­ing the law would at least al­low her and oth­ers to ex­plain their sit­u­a­tions be­fore an im­par­tial de­ci­sion-maker and ap­peal the loss of their cit­i­zen­ship. In her rul­ing, Jus­tice Gagné noted that los­ing cit­i­zen­ship can have an enor­mous im­pact on a per­son’s life. Some have given up cit­i­zen­ship in other coun­tries and can ef­fec­tively be ren­dered state­less.

“This,” she wrote, “along with the loss of many cru­cial rights as­so­ci­ated with cit­i­zen­ship, au­gurs in favour of a high de­gree of pro­ce­dural fair­ness.” In other words, al­low­ing peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to chal­lenge the loss of cit­i­zen­ship at a fair hear­ing is es­sen­tial.

Fix­ing this flaw in the law should be a no-brainer for the Trudeau govern­ment. In­stead, it has vig­or­ously ap­plied the law and its plan to change some parts of the Harper act, con­tained in Bill C-6, would leave au­to­matic re­vo­ca­tions in place.

To make it even eas­ier for the govern­ment, the Se­nate has al­ready shown the way. It passed an amend­ment to Bill C-6 that would re­store the right to an in­de­pen­dent hear­ing and sent it back to the House of Com­mons.

The govern­ment would be well-ad­vised to adopt the Se­nate’s amend­ment, fix the law, and get in line with what the court told it (last) week.

An ed­i­to­rial from the Toronto Star (dis­trib­uted by The Cana­dian Press)

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