Recent Changes Threaten to Weaken and Jeopardize Canadian Citizenship Status
On June 11th, 2015, the controversial changes to the Citizenship Act came into effect. These changes now make it more difficult for permanent residents to obtain citizenship by placing more stringent requirements on citizenship eligibility and expanding grounds on which citizenship can be denied.
But more stringent requirements for obtaining citizenship are not the only changes that came into effect. Perhaps most controversially, the newly revised version of the Citizenship Act has expanded the grounds on which revocation of citizenship can take place. Premised on the objective of enhancing the safety of Canadians and fighting terrorism, the amendments to the Act now allow the Canadian government to strip dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship on the grounds of having been convicted of fraud, treason, terrorism offenses, or engaging in armed conflict against Canada. This is why it’s essential to consult a Canadian Immigration Lawyer on citizenship matters immediately.
While the Canadian government’s position is that these changes are meant to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship, critics of the amendments see these changes as effectively weakening the security and permanence associated with citizenship. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) argues that the new changes in fact create a discriminatory, two-tier citizenship system in Canada. Many Canadian immigration lawyers also have concerns with these recent changes.
Under the revised version of the Act, dual citizens and naturalized citizens face the risk of having their citizenship revoked upon conviction for certain offenses. Canadian-born citizens who do not have and are not eligible for another citizenship, however, do not face the same risks. What this means is that the Canadian government can in effect discriminate between its citizens in regard to the punishment it can afford them for commission of certain offenses. A naturalized citizen or a dual citizen who has committed the same offense as a Canadian-born citizen is likely to receive a more severe punishment under this new system because they, unlike the Canadian-born citizen, face the risk of having their citizenship taken away.
Canadian Immigration Lawyers believe these recent legislative changes will be challenged in Court. The discriminatory effects of these new changes go against the fundamental values of Canadian society. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal treatment to all Canadian citizens, regardless of their person characteristics, origins or background. Punishing certain groups of Canadian citizens more severely than others for committing the same offenses precisely on the ground of their origin or background goes against this very notion of equality. Essentially, the new changes go against the constitutionally protected rights of Canadian citizens and it is only a matter of time before the constitutionality new Citizenship Act is challenged. In fact, the constitutionality of Bill C-24 which brought these amendments into effect has already been challenged and the decision of the challenge is currently being appealed.