All Citizens Should Have Right to Fair Hearing—Not Only Those We Deem Worthy
As a multicultural society, Canada has strived to accept, respect, and celebrate the differences among its people. Some people are born here, making them a citizen by right of birth. Others are naturalised Canadian citizens—those who have demonstrated their commitment to becoming a part of our community and have been extended the right of citizenship. Does this distinction matter? Should it? Can we legitimately differentiate between these two types of citizenship? This is the issue that citizenship lawyers have been trying to resolve since this time last year, when Bill C-24 was passed.
The bill introduced the notion that dual citizens and naturalized citizens can lose their status without the right to a fair trial. Not only does this render their citizenship worthless—essentially amounting to conditional or second-class citizenship—but it violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s introduction of Bill C-6, along with his going on record stating that, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” seems on the surface to indicate his agreement that there should only be one type of citizenship. However, although the bill would repeal elements of C-24 that allowed new citizens to lose their status without trial if suspected of participating in an army at war with Canada or another act of treason, it does not repeal the provision allowing the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to revoke the citizenship of any naturalized or dual citizen suspected of attaining their status by fraud. This is an issue any citizenship lawyer may find contentious.
There are questions that we should ask on this subject:
- Under what circumstances should citizenship be taken away?
- What factors should be considered before citizenship can be revoked?
- What kind of process needs to be in place?
- What rights should be afforded to individuals who are subject to this process?
- Who should be the decision-maker?
- And should there be a time limit for subjecting someone to this process?
Citizenship should not be arbitrarily and unfairly stripped away by the state without the benefits of due process conformity to the rights enshrined in our constitution. If Bill C-6 does not extend such rights, then it does not comply with the fundamentals of justice—and it could be argued that this makes it unconstitutional.
Before Bill C-24 was made into law last year, naturalized citizens had the right to be heard before the Federal Court. It was the job of an independent judge, not the Minister, to decide based on the available evidence whether or not fraud had been committed, and therefore, whether citizenship could be taken away.
Citizenship is no small thing, and revoking it is an act with tremendous implications. As such, it should be handled with the appropriate considerations, and may only be legitimately done through an open and fair process, with the benefit of an oral hearing before a judge of the Federal Court, and in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadian citizenship lawyers believe that to maintain the fundamental value of citizenship, the government’s law-making process must be guided by Canada’s Constitutional principles, rights, and values.