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New citizenship law will be challenged on constitutional grounds, if passed, say rights groups

    June 19, 2014

    TORONTO (June 19, 2014) – The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), announced today that it plans to launch a legal challenge to the proposed new citizenship amendments – Bill C-24 – if the bill is passed by the Senate.

    Bill C-24, introducing sweeping changes to Canada’s citizenship laws that make citizenship harder to get and easier to lose, has passed through the House of Commons and is now being considered by the Senate.  CARL, BCCLA and Amnesty International take the position that this proposed law has dramatically negative effects on Canadian citizenship, eliminating equal citizenship rights for all, and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as international human rights. According to the organizations, the new law will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.

    “This proposed law would allow certain Canadians to be stripped of citizenship that was validly obtained by birth or by naturalization. We think that is unconstitutional, and we intend to challenge this law if it is passed,” said Lorne Waldman, President of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “We have presented our arguments to the House of Commons and to the Senate, in an attempt to get them to change or stop this Bill. But the government hasn’t listened, it refuses to amend the bill, and we feel we will have little choice but to challenge it in the courts.”

    Over 41,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking for the bill to be stopped. The petition was jointly launched by CARL and BCCLA, and was delivered to the citizenship minister earlier in June.

    “The ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act’ does exactly the opposite of what the title proclaims. It makes citizenship less secure,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “In Canada, lawfully-obtained citizenship has always been permanent – once a Canadian, always a Canadian – and all Canadians have always had equal citizenship rights. This bill turns the whole idea of being Canadian upside-down, so that the Canadian citizenship of some people will be worth less than the Canadian citizenship of others. That is wrong, and it must be challenged.”

    Last week, Amnesty International released its own legal analysis of Bill C-24, concluding that the new law fails to live up to Canada’s international human rights obligations to guarantee non-discrimination and to ensure fair hearings for the determination of such a critical status as citizenship.

    Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English-speaking branch, added: “A government decision to revoke citizenship could negatively affect a person’s life, liberty or security. Such a decision must only take place in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and this bill’s citizenship revocation provisions completely fail to meet this standard,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, English speaking branch. “The revocation provisions also put Canadians at risk of discrimination based on their dual nationality, or their family origin. The bill cuts against Canada’s duty not to discriminate and to protect people from discrimination. Amnesty International calls for the revocation provisions to be withdrawn from the bill.”

    Read the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers’ Backgrounder on Bill C-24 in English, French, Spanish, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese – traditional, Chinese – simplified and Filipino.
    Read the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers’ submission to the House of Commons and Senate committees considering bill C-24.
    Read Amnesty International’s brief on concerns regarding Bill C-24.
     

    Contact:
    Lorne Waldman, President, CARL, 416-254-4590 lorne@lornewaldman.ca
    Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Officer, Amnesty International Canada, English-speaking branch 416 904 7158, bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca
     

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