Canada Establishes Second-Class Citizenship With Bill C-24

While the majority of Canadians were focused on raising awareness about Bill C-51, not many were paying attention to another controversial piece of legislation which was recently passed that now effectively creates second class citizenship. The passage of Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, establishes a two-tier citizenship system which poses a risk to immigrants and citizens with dual citizenship, in that they can now have their citizenship taken away from them. In similar keeping with Bill C-51, this bill was passed under the justification of fighting and protecting against terrorism. And when it comes to “fighting terrorism,” this is one argument that we can always expect to see invoked when it comes to the mass violation of civil liberties for the people. In the name of fighting to permanently eradicate a tactic (a strategy), Canada is passing controversial pieces of legislation that have been deemed by experts to effectively erode the rule of law in this country. The action of passing these highly controversial bills, tarnishes the reputation of any nation which prides itself on the supposed respect of human rights.


In an open letter, the Canadian Bar Association tried to urge the government to amend Bill C-24 in order to “ensure fairer and more efficient legislation”. One of the criticisms from the CBA, was that requiring applications to now indicate whether they intend to live in Canada if granted citizenship, “may be unconstitutional,” because it would seemingly “violate mobility rights under the Charter,” and it would distinguish between naturalized and other Canadian citizens. The CBA has outright opposed the expansion of the grounds to revoke citizenship. For the first time ever, this legislation is now also going to put natural born Canadian citizens at risk of having their citizenship removed; if they may be entitled to claim citizenship from another country. The CBA also noted that this will potentially result in the “differential treatment based on national or ethnic origin.”


The newly proposed powers under Bill C-24 effectively create a two-tier citizenship, in that there is now a distinction between those who are subject to exile and banishment, and those who are not. Under the traditional system of citizenship in Canada, those who were granted citizenship were secure in that they couldn't have it then taken away. Even when someone was found to have acted in a fraudulent manner with regard to their immigration application, a Federal Court judge was required to decide their fate after a full court proceeding on the matter. Under the new rules, citizenship can be rescinded for a variety of reasons other than fraud, and that decision will be made by a citizenship officer; there will be zero opportunity for a live hearing or any appeal. 


It's called the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, but critics have suggested that it potentially weakens citizenship, because now under the new rules the requirements will be more exclusionary. Audrey Macklin, a professor of law at the University of Toronto says: “If you take the view that citizenship is a commodity, you want to make it more valuable. Then like any commodity its value increases if it’s scarce, hard to get and easy to lose.” This bill allows the government to reward citizenship for “good behavior” and revoke it over “bad behavior”. They are choosing exile as a form of punishment, even when there are other avenues and methods that are available (like the police/law/courts) to deal with any so-called “bad behavior”. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has pointed out that the legislation could easily be used against non-terrorists, “for example, a journalist who is convicted of a 'terrorism offense' in another country for reporting on human rights violation by the government. 


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