Smoky River Express
As promised during the last federal election, the Liberal government has now taken steps to restore the universal integrity of Canadian citizenship.
Immigration Minister John McCallum introduced the bill in the House of Commons on February 25.
One again, to say a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian will be an indisputable fact as it had been until the Harper conservatives decided to meddle with the inviolable principles of citizenship.
The Conservatives passed legislation last year allowing Canadians with dual citizenship to have their Canadian citizenship revoked if convicted of terrorism, treason or spying offences.
There may be a good moral argument for expelling terrorists and spies. However, for a democracy to have two levels of citizenship sets a dangerous precedent.
When introducing the new bill, Minister McCallum rightly pointed out that the previous law could open the way to revision and if one crime made revocation of citizenship possible this year, adding other crimes may be possible in the future.
Michelle Rempel, the Conservative critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said the new bill is poorly thought out, calling it a win for Zakaria Amara, the leader of the Toronto 18, a group convicted of planning terrorist bombings in locations around Southern Ontario.
Rempel also questioned the Liberals judgment in “protecting the safety of Canadians.” Of course, she did not qualify the safety of which Canadians, those with fully sanctioned citizenship or those with the provisional kind.
As for the new bill being a win for Zakaria Amara, McCallum also said, “we do have a criminal justice system. We do have courts. We do have prisons where those convicted of crimes are sent. And that is the way in which we deal with this.”
In other words, if a citizen commits a crime such as an act of terrorism he or she goes through the legal system and if convicted they go to prison, that applies to all citizens. If Michelle Rempel deems this a win for Zakaria Amara then she must see all criminals who go to prison in Canada as winners.
If the law is adequate for one citizen then it must be adequate for all, unless from the Conservative perspective, they are guilty of holding dual citizenship.
The only circumstance where revoking citizenship is permissible is when it has been obtained fraudulently. This has always been the case still remain so.
The new bill has other aspects such as reducing the time immigrants are resident in Canada before being eligible to apply for citizenship and it also relaxes the official languages proficiency requirements for new arrivals.
If Canada continues to lower the bar, there is a danger of devaluing citizenship, relegating it to mere documentation like a drivers licence. Becoming a citizen should require more wait time that membership in some golf clubs.
Presently, a person must have resided in Canada three of the last four years to be eligible to apply for citizenship. That is less time than any government’s term in office.
One can have only a superficial sense of Canada’s politics and cultural in three years and such swift access also encourages citizenship of convenience. If Canadian citizenship is to be sacrosanct then it ought to require a stringent process to receive it in the first instance.