Regina Leader-Post

Loyalty is what makes good citizens

- JOHN IVISON National Post jivison@nationalpo­


The plot by the al-Qaida-inspired Toronto 18 to detonate truck bombs, storm the CBC and the Canadian Parliament, and then behead then-prime minister Stephen Harper was foiled 10 years ago.

As the trial judge said, the potential for loss of life on a scale never seen before in Canada was “spine-chilling.”

Right-thinking Canadians everywhere will then be relieved to learn that the man who mastermind­ed these terror attacks, and was subsequent­ly given a life sentence, is the main beneficiar­y of the Liberal government’s citizenshi­p act reforms.

Zakaria Amara had his Canadian citizenshi­p stripped under a bill brought in by the Conservati­ve government in 2015.

Under the legislatio­n just introduced by the Liberals, he will have that Canadian citizenshi­p reinstated.

The Conservati­ve Strengthen­ing Canadian Citizenshi­p Act ensured dual citizens convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying could have their citizenshi­p revoked.

As former Conservati­ve minister Jason Kenney said at the time: “If you take up arms against your country or plan to do so, and you are convicted in a Canadian court, or an equivalent foreign court, through your violent disloyalty, you are forfeiting your own citizenshi­p.”

Those of you who don’t grieve for fallen leaves probably think that entirely fair.

But we are clearly less benevolent, or perhaps less cynical, than the Liberal government, which plans to overturn the Conservati­ve legislatio­n with a new bill, tabled Thursday.

It’s true, as Immigratio­n Minister John McCallum pointed out, that this fulfils an election pledge, made to drive a wedge between the Tories and the ethnic communitie­s that supported them in three elections.

The Conservati­ves signed their own death warrant by tightening up the family reunificat­ion criteria, raising the income threshold necessary for new immigrants to bring in parents and grandparen­ts.

The Liberals campaigned hard on easing those restrictio­ns and on their intention to revoke the Conservati­ve citizenshi­p bill, exploiting fears in ethnic communitie­s that they could be stripped of their citizenshi­p and deported if convicted of a crime. As McCallum said Thursday, the Liberals played on the fact it could be a “slippery slope,” with the criteria shifting from terrorism to lesser crimes.

Trudeau travelled around the country, claiming opposition to the Conservati­ve legislatio­n was a point of principle.

“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” he said — a manta repeated by McCallum a handful of times.

But it’s not merely an abstract point of principle — it is a matter of practical policy.

Amara has Jordanian citizenshi­p and the expectatio­n was that when he completed his life sentence in a Quebec institutio­n, he would be deported to the land of his birth.

That will not happen now. He was sentenced to life in 2010 and is eligible for parole this year. He is just 30 years old and it won’t be long before he is back walking the streets.

The ludicrous nature of this decision was highlighte­d when McCallum was asked by Canadian Press reporter Stephanie Levitz why citizenshi­p should not be stripped from a terrorist but should be from someone convicted of citizenshi­p fraud.

The minister wandered off his talking points and suggested the case of a Nazi war criminal misreprese­nting himself as a Roman Catholic priest on arriving in Canada is worthy of revocation but the case of a terrorist like Amara is “different.”

The new bill has a number of other provisions, not all of which are as risible as the terror amendment. There are obvious sops by the Liberals to the communitie­s that helped win them the election — immigrants can achieve citizenshi­p more quickly — in three years, rather than four; the age range for citizenshi­p applicants having adequate French or English has reverted to between 18 and 54, from the 14-64 years introduced by the Conservati­ves.

There are even some sensible measures. Canada is in a battle to attract foreign talent and it makes sense to allow students to count half of their time studying in Canada as a contributi­on toward the citizenshi­p physical presence requiremen­t. As McCallum said: “It makes no sense for Canada to punch them on the nose.”

There is also an amendment to ensure that people serving conditiona­l sentences in the community are not allowed to use that time toward the physical presence requiremen­t for citizenshi­p, bringing the law into line with people on probation, parole or in prison.

But neither improvemen­t obscures the central failing of this bill. Dual nationals can now be convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying and retain their Canadian citizenshi­p.

You can be supportive of civility, tolerance and inclusion and still believe this move is dangerous and misguided.

Loyalty is the measure of good citizenshi­p.

When you betray that trust, you should forfeit the rights, privileges and duties of being a member of Canadian society.

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