March 14, 2006
Hon. Monte Solberg
House of Commons
Suite 107, Confederation Building
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
As the 39th session of Parliament is set to begin I would like to press upon you the importance and necessity of updating Canada's Citizenship Act. During the last session the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration tabled its 10th report entitled "Citizenship Revocation: A Question of Due Process and Respecting Charter Rights". On June 17, 2005 the House unanimously concurred with the report.
The Committee was asked by the previous Government to review and make recommendations on a new Citizenship Act. The current Citizenship Act came into force in 1977 and the necessity of revising this legislation has been recognized since the mid 1980's. Based on the Committee's work and the consultation of more than 130 witnesses from across Canada during the past Parliamentary session, the Committee tabled a list of twelve recommendations that would modernize the current Act.
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.
Members of all four parties on the Committee agreed that Cabinet should have no role whatsoever in revoking citizenship. Leaving the final decision on revocation to Cabinet fosters a perception of unfairness and allows for political interference. Revocation of citizenship must be a completely transparent, judicial process that is in compliance with the Legal Rights Sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Key recommendations in the report include:
- The process for revoking citizenship should be exclusively a judicial process.
- To revoke citizenship, false representation or fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court, the legal protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- specifically section 7 to 14 -- must apply, and there should be no special limits placed on the right to appeal.
- Whether to revoke citizenship or impose another punishment should be left to the discretion of the trial judge.
- When following a finding of guilt a judge orders that a person's citizenship is revoked, the judge should also be empowered to order that the person be deported if the false representation or fraud or knowing concealment of material circumstances related to the person's application for permanent residence in Canada.
- Before deporting an individual, there must be a risk assessment to determine whether they will face torture. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that torture will occur, deportation should not be permitted under any circumstances.
The previous government was going to table legislation to correct the flaws in the citizenship revocation process but was defeated before it could do so. As a result, the citizenship rights of six million naturalized Canadians continue to be unprotected by the Legal Sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Minister, I call upon you correct this injustice and table legislation that will implement the recommendations of the 10th Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I urge you to deal with this important matter in a timely fashion.
Hon. Andrew Telegdi P.C., M.P.