Bill C-24: New law to have negative impact on Canadian citizenship
by Gloria Nafziger
Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants
Amnesty International Canada
On June 19, the federal government passed Bill C-24, a new law which reportedly is designed to “Strengthen Canadian Citizenship”. Amnesty International believes the bill has serious human rights flaws.
Under this new law, Canadian citizenship will become harder to get and easier to lose. It will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.
Amnesty International is concerned that the new law gives the federal government powers to revoke Canadian citizenship in some cases when individuals are convicted of specified crimes related to terrorism and similar offences.
The revocation procedure in Bill C-24 fails to uphold the international standards that guarantee fair hearings. For instance, the Minister is not required to specify the grounds on which he or she is making the decision to revoke citizenship and there is no basis on which to appeal the decision. Amnesty International believes that fair trial requirements must be observed in any process leading to possible revocation of citizenship. These serious deficiencies with respect to the fairness of the revocation procedure were not addressed in the passing of the bill.
The revocation provisions in Bill C-24 also distinguish between Canadians who have no other nationality and individuals who carry one or more other nationalities in addition to their Canadian citizenship. Differentiating between Canadian citizens on the basis of national origin risks fueling a climate in which some Canadians are seen as ‘true’ Canadians while others are viewed as inherently suspicious or disloyal. In that divisive climate, certain groups may find themselves exposed to discrimination. Amnesty International believes these provisions are out of step with the Canadian trend of developing an inclusive concept of citizenship.
Given the quick passage of the bill through the House of Commons and Senate, Amnesty was not able to appear before either body to raise its concerns. Amnesty did prepare a brief on the Bill which was sent to the Senate Committee studying the bill, and shared with all Senators on the Committee.
The Bill was passed in spite of concerns raised by many human rights groups, including a petition of over 25,000 signatures sponsored by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL). The petition asked the Citizenship Minister to not pass Bill C-24.
Amnesty International participated in a joint press release with CARL and BCCLA stating that the new law has dramatically negative effects on Canadian citizenship, eliminating equal citizenship rights for all, and violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as international human rights.