Senate Aims to Restore Due Process by Bringing Back Court Hearings in Revocation Cases
Earlier this month the Senate passed an amendment to the Liberal government’s citizenship bill which would allow Canadians to appear before a court prior to being stripped of their citizenship. Under the current regime, individuals can only ask the Federal Court to review the revocation decision after they have already lost their citizenship.
The Senate’s amendment to Bill C-6 will effectively restore the right to a hearing which existed prior to the changes brought in by the former Conservative government in 2015. Prior to these changes, immigration officials had to first prove before the court that someone became a Canadian citizen through fraud before that person’s citizenship could be officially revoked.
The court had to make a finding of fact as to whether there had indeed been any fraud, and the Governor in Council would then look to this finding in deciding whether to revoke the person’s citizenship. The 2015 changes, however, eliminated this multi-step process and gave immigration officers the sole power to both investigate fraud and render a final decision.
The current revocation process has been under heavy scrutiny and criticism since coming into effect and a constitutional challenge to the law is currently before the Federal Court. The government, however, has not taken any steps to address the matter. Although its Bill C-6 aims to repeal unfair elements in immigration and refugee rules brought in by the Conservatives in 2015, restoring the right to a hearing in revocation cases is not part of its agenda. In fact, the government maintains that the current system for revoking citizenship is constitutionally sounds.
For these reasons, the Senate has passed an amendment to Bill C-6 to finally address this important issue and give Canadians the right to have their case heard by the court. The Senate’s initiative has received positive response from both immigration lawyers and civil liberty groups, who describe the amendment as a way to finally fix the unfair and unconstitutional process of citizenship revocation as it stands now.
The amended bill has now been sent back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and it remains to be seen whether the Senate’s amendment will become law. In any event, immigration lawyers see the proposed change as a positive and long-overdue step in the right direction.