From: the following members of Citizenship and Immigration Committee
Andrew Telegdi, Chair Diane Ablonczy, Conservative Critic
Meilie Faille, BQ Critic Bill Siksay, NDP Critic
Ottawa, June 07, 2005 - The Honourable Andrew Telegdi, PC, MP (Kitchener-Waterloo), Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, today tabled the Committee's latest report in the House of Commons, entitled Citizenship Revocation: A Question of Due Process and Respecting Charter Rights.
The Committee is recommending some fairly radical changes to the existing revocation process. We are pleased that Committee members from all four parties endorse our conclusion that the current revocation process is unacceptable and we must move to a system that requires the government to respect due process and the legal sections 7 to 14 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The current Citizenship Act was enacted in 1977, prior to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that came into force on April 17, 1982. The major reason why previous attempts (Bills C-63, C-16 & C-18) to enact a new citizenship Act in the 36th and 37th Parliaments failed was the lack of agreement on the proposed changes to citizenship revocation. It is for this reason that the Committee has dedicated a report that deals exclusively with this contentious issue.
Under the current Citizenship Act, citizenship can be revoked when a person obtained citizenship or permanent residence by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. Following a review in Federal Court -- where a judge must simply agree that it is more likely than not that the person improperly obtained citizenship -- the Federal Cabinet becomes responsible for making the revocation order. The Committee has recommended a fully judicial process and a higher standard of proof.
We determined that the potential loss of citizenship is of such fundamental significance to the person concerned that fraud should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court. Currently, an appeal isn't even allowed with respect to a Federal Court judge's decision that, on a mere balance of probabilities, an individual fraudulently obtained citizenship. We have recommended that there be a full appeal process and that the legal protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply; the same rights a person fighting a shoplifting charge would enjoy.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration had also requested that the Committee address the issue of whether there should be other grounds for revocation. For example, whether conduct after the grant of citizenship that is particularly reprehensible -- such as involvement in serious criminal activity -- should be grounds for citizenship revocation. The Committee determined that the present system remains and that any such conduct should be addressed though Canada's criminal justice system.
The report is the result of cross country consultations involving more than 130 witnesses during this parliamentary session. Evidence relating to previous citizenship studies in the 36th and 37th parliaments was also reviewed. Key recommendations in the report include:
These recommendation regarding changes in the current Citizenship Act are consistent with the government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne of October 2004, "to defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion."
The previous Minister said she would table new citizenship legislation in February 2005. That obviously didn't happened and we are calling on the government to live up to its previous commitments, including those outlined in the Throne Speech, and table a new citizenship bill that properly reflects the value Canadians place on their citizenship.
Contact: Reevin Vinetsky (613) 996-5928