Re­vo­ca­tion must of­fer fair hear­ing: judge

Rul­ing strikes down pro­vi­sions to strip peo­ple of ci­ti­zen­ship with­out giv­ing chance to ex­plain

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — Strip­ping new Cana­di­ans of their ci­ti­zen­ship with­out giv­ing them a proper chance to ex­plain them­selves is a vi­o­la­tion of their rights, a Fed­eral Court judge de­clared Wed­nes­day.

In a key de­ci­sion, Judge Jo­ce­lyne Gagne struck down pro­vi­sions of the Ci­ti­zen­ship Act en­acted by the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment un­der Stephen Harper, say­ing they con­flict with prin­ci­ples of fun­da­men­tal jus­tice.

The de­ci­sion comes in eight cases — con­sid­ered as test cases — that chal­lenged the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the changes made in May 2015. Those amend­ments barred peo­ple from go­ing to court to fight the loss of their Cana­dian sta­tus, in some cases leav­ing them state­less, over al­leged lies on their res­i­dency or ci­ti­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions.

The changes also barred peo­ple from reap­ply­ing for Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship for 10 years af­ter re­vo­ca­tion.

“Clearly, ci­ti­zen­ship re­vo­ca­tion is an im­por­tant de­ci­sion,” Gagne wrote in her rul­ing. “Since there is no right of ap­peal from a re­vo­ca­tion de­ci­sion of the minister un­der the amended act, the need for pro­ce­dural fair­ness is all the more acute.”

The eight cases in­volved peo­ple al­ready stripped of their ci­ti­zen­ship or fac­ing a sim­i­lar fate for var­i­ous rea­sons. While the gov­ern­ment in­sisted the rules were fair, Gagne dis­agreed.

The ap­pli­cants, the judge said, should be en­ti­tled to a hear­ing in court or be­fore an ad­min­is­tra­tive tri­bunal in which they know the case against them and where they have a proper op­por­tu­nity to de­fend them­selves.

In one of the cases, Fiji-born Thomas Gu­cake be­came a per­ma­nent res­i­dent in 2001 when he was 15, and a cit­i­zen in 2005. He later be­came a dec­o­rated Cana­dian sol­dier, hav­ing served three tours in Afghanistan.

In Novem­ber 2015, the gov­ern­ment said it was strip­ping Gu­cake of his ci­ti­zen­ship be­cause in­for­ma­tion from 2007 showed his fa­ther failed to dis­close a mi­nor crim­i­nal con­vic­tion from Aus­tralia.

“It seems highly un­fair to me that un­der the amended act, there is no re­quire­ment that Mr. Gu­cake’s per­sonal sit­u­a­tion be con­sid­ered,” Gagne said.

The Se­nate has al­ready passed changes to pro­posed gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion that would con­form to Wed­nes­day’s court rul­ing, ef­fec­tively hand­ing the re­vo­ca­tion is­sue back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

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