Of particular concern is the fact that Canadians do not even have to hold dual citizenship; they merely require the potential to obtain it, and can be forced to adopt it as their sole citizenship even if they have never visited their ancestral country. Currently, the Conservative government is seeking to exile Canada-born Saad Gaya for terrorism. Although Gaya’s parents moved from Pakistan before he was born and renounced their Pakistani citizenship for a Canadian one, the Conservatives are referencing new Pakistani dual citizenship laws to create the necessary loopholes.
Bill C-24 seeks to create distance between the government and the terrorists that it does not want to deal with. Terrorists whose only citizenship is Canadian will be dealt Canadian justice in a Canadian prison, while a terrorist with dual citizenship can be introduced to a foreign judicial system or foreign land, especially if the person is accused and convicted of terrorism abroad. However, in the House transcript, Alexander does stress that the government will consider the source of any convictions against Canadians in other countries.
“A conviction in a country that is totalitarian or doesn’t have the rule of law, is not a democracy, a conviction that was political in nature, would not be grounds for refusing citizenship in Canada,” Alexander assures the committee. “For all of these offences, there is some level of judicial review or proof that is required either in the Federal Court or in a foreign jurisdiction where an equivalence with our system is recognized.”
Whether the Canadian government will seek to free or aid a Canadian who is allowed to keep his or her citizenship in the event of a serious conviction, however, remains another story entirely.
“C-24 basically says, white terrorism is something we’re willing to deal with, [and] Islamic terrorism and all foreign types of terrorism, that’s just not our problem,” says Mouallem. “Which is a problem, because we’ve had alleged terrorists who have turned out to be innocent, [like] Maher Arar for example. And we have had alleged terrorists who have acted in this gray zone, such as Omar Kadr.”
This bill does not only affect those Canadians convicted of or under suspicion for crimes against the country, it also changes several fundamental requirements for new residents to gain their Canadian citizenship in the first place. Most notable is the establishment of the “less costly, more efficient process” for both instating and revoking citizenship. In the transcript, Alexander explains that the bill will reduce application backlog by 80% and will reduce processing times.
The idea is marketable because it appeals to the public’s concern for the economy, taxes and lengthy wait times. However, the change seems a little self-serving on the Minister’s part, as the bill removes citizenship judges and establishes Alexander as the sole authority. In their infamous infographic, the Conservative government proudly showcases the elimination of the judicial system from its processes.
“Giving that discretion to the Minister politicizes a process that should not be politicized, it should be left in the hands of the judiciary instead of politicians. Do we really want to give power to the Minister to pick and choose who’s a worthy Canadian and who’s not?” says Sohi.
Mouallem states a similar concern. “When you remove a judge, you remove justice,” he says.
Continued on page 3.