It is clear that day by day Canada’s immigration and refugee policies are moving backward, not forward. It is a degenerative cycle with significant and unnecessary costs, compromising Canada’s international reputation and commitment to equality and human rights.
The Canadian government must respect the rights and values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the law making process. Rather than drafting legislation that does not pass the constitutionality threshold, and then shifting the burden to the courts to strike it down after a lengthy, costly and completely unnecessary court battle, Canadian laws must be drafted in a Charter compliant manner in the first place, taking into account Canada’s constitutional values, and international commitments.
A clear example of this is the Government’s proposed changes to Citizenship Act. The Fair Citizenship Campaign has highlighted some of the major shortcomings of the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, including:
- Easier revoking of citizenship by replacing an in-person hearing before an independent judge with a review by an anonymous government bureaucrat who never sees or hears the citizen;
- Dividing Canadians into two classes of citizens: first class Canadians who hold no other citizenship, whose citizenship is protected forever; and second class Canadians – dual citizens, who can have their right to live in Canada taken away from them by the federal government;
- Making Citizenship harder to get: The proposed changes to the Citizenship Act will create unfair barriers to citizenship and make citizenship inaccessible to many;
- Extending the costly language testing process from applicants aged 18-55 to now include those aged 14-64, so that children and grandparents must now pass difficult language tests or risk never becoming citizens;
- Granting government officials authority to deny citizenship on sheer speculation that an applicant does not intend to reside in Canada in the future;
- Dramatically increasing the cost of applying for citizenship by tripling the application fee, (added to the new cost imposed on applicants a year ago when the government privatized language testing, resulting in a four-fold increase in the price of applying for citizenship since 2006);
- Extending the formal residency requirement during which an applicant must live as a permanent resident in Canada from 3 to 4 years;
- Making it harder for students, workers and refugees to become citizens by denying them the ability to count any of their time in Canada prior to becoming permanent residents when applying for citizenship;
- Removing a right of appeal to the Federal Court for refused citizenship applicants – continuing a theme of greater bureaucratic control over citizenship decision-making and less judicial oversight over the process;
- Putting all naturalized citizens under the implicit threat of having their citizenship revoked, by making it possible for government officials to strip someone of citizenship if they believe that person never intended to live in Canada;
- Allowing officials to take away a person’s citizenship based on criminal convictions that occur outside of Canada, regardless whether the regime or judicial system under which the person was convicted is undemocratic or lacks the rule of law;
- Bringing back “the ancient punishment of exile or banishment – abandoned centuries ago”, allowing government officials to strip citizenship from dual citizens based on certain convictions in Canada even though the citizen will already have been properly punished by the Canadian criminal justice system. This will include Canadians who were born in Canada.