Oh Canada, land of the free, you seem to have some explaining to do. The current Conservative government has made waves this year over a number of issues that are undermining Canada’s historic stance as a multicultural nation.
Bill C-24 (officially the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act and unofficially the Second-Class Citizenship Act), Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act), and Bill S-7 (the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act) are questionable because of their divisive, prejudiced natures. Although these new bills are technically separate pieces of legislation and target different areas, they all seem to come from the same intolerant place.
“You start pressuring people to find problems within their neighbours’ ways of life,” says Omar Mouallem, an award-winning journalist and editor “It feels like Canadians are less interested in being a multicultural society; a country that is an important player in the world.”
In 2014, Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, introduced Bill C-24 into legislation. According to the House transcript for the Citizenship and Immigration committee on April 28 of that year, Alexander defends the bill as a means of maintaining the safety and security of the country.
“These significant, necessary, and long-overdue reforms fulfill our government’s commitment in four specific ways. First, they improve processing efficiency. Second, they reinforce the value of citizenship. Third, they strengthen integrity. Fourth, they protect Canadian interests and honour service,” states Alexander.
Various groups and organizations, including immigration lawyers, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), have spoken out against this bill for numerous reasons. In particular, it creates two tiers of Canadian citizenship and restructures the process for revoking and instating that citizenship.
“This government’s actually achieved a hat trick in suppressing rights with this legislation. [This] is a real indication of a real disrespect and disesteem for the values of the Charter,” says John Soroski, an assistant professor in the political science department at MacEwan University. “The legislation actually contravenes three different Charter sections: Section 6 guarantees that citizens are entitled to make their own choices about whether or not they’re in Canada at any given time, section 7’s guarantee of the right to a fair trial, [and] Section 15 because it essentially treats people differently in terms of their citizenship on the basis of their citizenship elsewhere.”
Second-tier citizenship seems to be the main concern for those lobbying against the bill. Although the bill does not explicitly express the sentiment, it essentially creates two groups of Canadians: those who can be 100% secure in their citizenship and those who cannot. Yes, the bill is meant to reassure Canadians that terrorism, espionage and treason will not be tolerated; however, it also seems to be another case of creating the “other” in our society.
“Every Canadian should be concerned about the safety and security of our country, and I think every Canadian is. [But] striking the right balance between the safety and security of Canadians and respecting people’s personal liberties is the approach that we [should] take,” says Amarjeet Sohi, a Liberal party federal candidate.
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