Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act

NUMBER 018    |    2nd SESSION   |    37th PARLIAMENT
Monday, February 10, 2003

[Excerpts relevant to revocation of citizenship,
also known as the denaturalization and deportation process]

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): Good morning, everyone. Good morning, colleagues, and welcome to Toronto, the centre of Canada for immigration. So nice to be here.
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Maybe we could start with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, Erica Lawson.

Ms. Erica Lawson (Policy and Research Analyst, African Canadian Legal Clinic):
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One of our concerns is with clause 5 in the bill, which we see as creating a two-tier system.
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I also see a broad move to revoke and annul citizenship. This is the context in which I understand this bill, that there are sweeping powers being introduced to take away and annul citizenship with impunity. This is a concern. I speak specifically here to clauses 16 and 17, where the minister refers a certificate to the court, and there is a lack of evidentiary and procedural protection in the hearings that would happen with respect to revocation and annulment in these areas. There doesn't seem to be a clear correspondence between the issues at stake with respect to this section. What are the issues that lead to annulment or revocation? What procedures are in place? What evidence do you bring to this serious matter to determine that citizenship should be revoked or annulled? So again, our recommendation is to delete clause 17. I'm not sure what purpose it serves in the context of a country that's supposed to be democratic. It seems to contradict that in many ways.

Clause 18 is another concern for us, because it gives the minister broad powers to annul citizenship within five years of its acquisition. What's troubling about this particular section is that the person in question only receives a summary of the grounds for annulment and is not entitled to know the full evidence against him or her; the person concerned can only make written representations to the minister and has no right to a full hearing. That's a problem and, again, it contradicts what it means, I think, to live in a democratic society like Canada. So our recommendation is that given the seriousness of annulling citizenship, clause 18 has to take into account or provide for a full review process, a hearing, and the right to have an independent decision-maker hear what the evidence is. I think we can all agree that it's a real concern when you are revoking citizenship and I don't get a chance to speak to the evidence against me.
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Ms. Audrey Jamal (Executive Director, Canadian Arab Federation):
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Our overarching concern with Bill C-18 is that it creates two classes of Canadians, those born in Canada and those born elsewhere. In Canada now there are an estimated 500,000 Arab Canadians, the great majority of whom were born overseas, in the Arab world or in other places. So this is going to affect a significant portion of our community and a significant portion of Canada.

I want to walk through two parts of the bill. The first is part 2, specifically clauses 16 and 17. These clauses would grant powers to the Minister of Citizenship to annul or revoke citizenship. It would allow the minister to make a declaration that a citizen either has obtained citizenship under false pretences or represents a security risk to Canada. If this declaration is granted, it is automatically effective as a removal order, so this is one action that serves two purposes. Our concern is that this grants unprecedented powers to the minister.

Our concern is also, as Erica mentioned, the context within which this is happening. We are looking at a system that is now highly anti-Arab, highly anti-Islam -- Islamaphobic is the term that's often used. So our concern is that this power of decision will be affected by the culture of anti-Arabism that is so prevalent in Canada now.

Our third concern related to clauses 16 and 17 relates to the fact that evidence can be submitted from foreign governments. I just want to highlight two examples of how dangerous this can be; they may be on the level of the extreme, but I want to show you, if this is passed, what it can mean to our community specifically. One question this raised for me is whether the minister will use information from the Government of Algeria to revoke the citizenship of Algerian Canadians, bearing in mind, of course, that the Algerian government has waged a decade-long war against its people's basic freedoms. Furthermore, is the Government of Canada going to rely on evidence against a Palestinian Canadian woman from the people who occupy her land? We need to look at what foreign security agencies we are going to for the information and if this information is going to be used against Canadian citizens. This is very dangerous. If we pursue this logic to its most absurd, yet not improbable, conclusion, one can imagine a scenario whereby Arab Canadians are tattled upon by their neighbours, only to find themselves stripped of their Canadian citizenship and deported, all the while ignorant of the accusations levelled against them. This goes back to secret evidence, secret hearings, and never having the opportunity to know what evidence has been put against a person. I do take this to the level of the absurd, because we need to look at how far this could actually go. Since these have no place in Canada at the beginning of the 21st century, we recommend that clauses 16 and 17 be deleted.
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Ms. Cynthia Pay (President, Chinese Canadian National Council):
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CCNC is a national human rights and anti-racism organization with 27 chapters across the country. We have particular concerns about the bill, and we're not going to repeat some of the comments, but definitely endorse those of the Canadian Arab Federation and the African Canadian Legal Clinic about the increased, sweeping, draconian powers of revocation and annulment of citizenship and the increased powers to prohibit or refuse citizenship. We're definitely very concerned about those powers, especially in the context of the whole threat of terrorism, as mentioned by some of the other speakers.
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The bill creates different and unequal classes of citizenship, which is in direct contradiction to one of the clauses -- it says all citizens have equal rights in Canada -- and makes it easier to lose citizenship without access to fundamental legal and procedural rights we hold dear to our hearts as Canadians.
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Mr. Ezat Mossallanejad (Settlement Counsellor, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture):
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First, the Citizenship Act is very important. As we know, citizenship is a fundamental right, not a privilege. Actually, citizenship is considered the right to have rights. Also, we strongly believe Canada should be a community of equal citizens, not a society of two-tiered citizenship. And the gap between naturalized citizens and born citizens should be narrowed down. The Citizenship Act should bring about a sense of belonging in all Canadians, regardless of where they were born.
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Also, the Citizenship Act should not be an instrument of control of naturalized citizens. Obtaining citizenship should not be easy, revocation and annulment of citizenship should also not be easy. Otherwise, Canadian citizenship would be of no value.
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The first area is the tremendous power given to the minister and to the Governor in Council. As members of the executive, they have taken the role of the judiciary in some cases. There is no right to appeal. There is no independent tribunal to decide about this very important issue. We knows from our experience that ministers usually implement a decision through the hands of immigration officials. This may lead to tremendous power for the bureaucracy.

There is also the question of prosecution and punishment of torturers and war criminals and people who have committed crimes against humanity. It is very important deportation, revoking citizenship, and annulment of citizenship should not act as a substitute for prosecution. They should be prosecuted and punished. Renunciation of citizenship by no means should let them escape punishment.
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The Chair: Thank you, Ezat. Thank you, all.
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The third time at it we want to make sure we get it right, and I think I made a commitment in Ottawa I also heard here, that we don't want to create different classes of citizenship.

So let's start asking some questions. Lynne.

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.

Thank you, all, very much for your presentations. They were all very good.

When I sit and listen to you, I think perhaps we're doing this Citizenship Act almost backwards. This should be done at the immigration level, all of the appeals. Perhaps becoming a citizen should be just that. They should become a citizen and that's it. There shouldn't be any clauses to revoke or annul or anything like that, you've gone through all that with immigration.
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Ms. Cynthia Pay:
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For example, on revocation of citizenship, why is it happening after the fact? There's a whole process of CSIS checks, for example, a very stringent process to actually get your status. So why is there a chance? If there's a problem with the system, let's fix that system and not go through the back door through citizenship to solve a problem that exists somewhere else, if it does exist in fact.
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Ms. Audrey Jamal: I don't have a legal background, but our brief was drafted by a lawyer and I will just note a couple of points. The first one concerns the equality of all citizens, which is going back to the point about a two-tiered system. We are advocating that this be removed. A naturalized citizen shouldn't be treated differently. She goes on to say this would be consistent with section 15 of the charter, as well as international law, as well as Bill C-18's own stated purpose under clauses 3 and 12 not to subject Canadian-born and naturalized second-generation citizens to differential treatment.
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Mr. Joseph Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence, Lib.):
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Canadians were British subjects until 1947, and those who had British subject status became Canadian citizens, unless, of course, you were a woman. If you were a woman and you married a non-Canadian, you lost your citizenship, you lost everything.
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The Chair:
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I'm a little concerned that we continue to hear we are creating, by virtue of this bill, not only two classes of citizens, but perhaps three. So how would we ensure that this is a bill that says, you are simply a citizen, whether by birth or by naturalization? Would it mean getting rid of clauses 16 and 17, as someone suggested, so that one cannot revoke, annul, or even deny citizenship? How are we going to make sure we have one class of citizenship? I want you to all respond to that.
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Mrs. Erica Lawson: I think, once you acquire Canadian citizenship, which is not easy, by the way, not as easy as people think it is, that's it. There shouldn't be any further possibility that the citizenship will be revoked or annulled.
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Ms. Cynthia Pay: As to how you avoid creating different classes of citizenship, our position would be that you get rid of some of the clauses that do create the classes, clause 14, talking about the second generation born abroad, clauses 17 and 18, revocation and annulment. In particular, with revocation and annulment, we submit that you have to do proper checks in advance, instead of trying to fix the problem after citizenship has been granted.
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Ms. Audrey Jamal: I echo the statements, specifically on clauses 16 and 17. These are two that definitely need to be removed.
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Mr. A. Alan Borovoy (General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has not studied the entire bill that closely, but there are some elements of it we want to particularly focus on. They arise in the areas of revocation, annulment, and the initial denial of citizenship. I'll take each one in turn.

We do not object to the idea of revoking the citizenship of anyone who obtained it by engaging in significant deception. The problems arise with the process by which the person can be considered to have engaged in a significant deception. First there is the question of the burden of proof. In some respects the bill is silent, and where it isn't silent, it uses, in our view, the wrong burden. It talks about the balance of probabilities. People do not pull up stakes and relocate from one country to another with ease. It is often accompanied by substantial hardship. Interestingly, the United States Supreme Court once said the revocation of citizenship is more serious than the taking of property. In that case the court said the evidence should be clear, unequivocal, and convincing, and it went on to say the mere preponderance of evidence is not enough. When expressions like "balance of probabilities" are used, there is a great risk that this will be interpreted as a mere preponderance of evidence, and that's just not good enough when it comes to divesting a person of his citizenship.

The second process arises in the course of security cases, where material evidence can be withheld from the impugned citizen on the basis that its disclosure would prejudice some security interests. We realize that the bill does try to accommodate the citizen's interests consistently with that. Our view is that it could go even further without disclosing prejudicial information to the impugned citizen. We would recommend that the bill provide for the appointment of a special advocate, who would have security clearance and have access to all the information at issue. This advocate would not necessarily take instructions from the impugned citizen, but at in camera hearings of the court would represent the citizen's interests. The citizen, of course, would still be entitled to his own counsel at the public sessions of the court.

The third recommendation goes to the lack of appeal when it raises security issues of this kind. Our view is that the loss of citizenship is so great a loss and the opportunities for mistakes so great that the cosmic coincidence of what judges are sitting on what cases should not be able to determine it. The single judge alone is not fair. There ought to be recourse to a fuller right of appeal even in those cases.
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Ms. Amina Sherazee (Law Union of Ontario): Good morning.

I'm a lawyer and one of over 200 members of the Law Union of Ontario. We thank you for the opportunity to make submissions on Bill C-18, which is not to be confused with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, though I had some trouble with that as I was reading it, because it certainly reads like it. As an organization, the Law Union is concerned primarily with challenging discriminatory and oppressive legislation, and we are strongly opposed to the passage of Bill C-18 for the following reasons. First, we think it's unconstitutional and discriminatory. Second, it gives dangerous broad powers to the minister, without procedural or substantive safeguards. Third, there's no need for a new Citizenship Act, since the current act still sufficiently addresses the new so-called security concerns.

Before I get into those concerns, I should tell you that I am a naturalized Canadian citizen. I immigrated with my family in the late 1970s, at the height of what is colloquially referred to as Paki-bashing. While my family and I considered Canada our new and permanent home, as a very young child, I was relentlessly taunted by rhetorical questions, such as "Why don't you go back to where you came from?" These soon turned into directives, such as "Paki, go home." As I grew older, the racism underlying those comments turned into a more polite and politically correct version, with comments such as "Where are you from originally?" All of this leads to a sense of not really belonging in Canada or being Canadian, but one could and does comfort oneself with the realization that we are, after all, Canadians, because we are Canadian citizens and, notwithstanding racism and intolerance, as citizens, we are all equal. This comfort goes a long way when you are in a racial minority and/or born outside this country.

If you pass Bill C-18, you will be entrenching those sentiments in permanent law for application and enforcement by the state. First, it is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The stated purpose of Bill C-18, under clause 3, is to affirm that all citizens are equal and, under clause 12, that all citizens have the same rights, regardless of how they became citizens. Not only do these sections contradict the rest of the provisions in the bill, it's simply untrue under Bill C-18.

Bill C-18 creates a distinction between citizens born in Canada and those born outside. Naturalized citizens are subject to revocation and annulment of their citizenship. Those born in Canada are automatically citizens, while those born outside are selectively denied citizenship on vague and arbitrary grounds, such as age, under clause 11, or the minister's belief about a person's disregard for a free and democratic society, under clause 21. Bill C-18 violates the equality guarantee in section 15 of the charter, and the discrimination against naturalized citizens that is at the very heart of Bill C-18 is unacceptable, racist, and criminal and must be abandoned, on the principle that non-discrimination and equality are fundamental human rights. There is no provision in law, domestic or international, for circumventing this right in the name of national security or otherwise.

Secondly, the powers granted to the minister under Bill C-18 to revoke, annul, and deny citizenship without fundamental justice and due process mirror the draconian secret trials that permanent residents and aliens are subjected to under the Immigration Act. In this regard, Bill C-18 has the effect of treating some citizens like aliens. Citizens and permanent residents alike are denied the right to a fair and open trial, and the only justification is that they are not really citizens because they weren't born here. The prohibition against citizenship for those who have criminal charges and convictions represents a historical, racist double standard. It is worth reminding you that this country was settled by convicted criminals from England who were sent to Canada under the U.K.'s Transportation Statute, 1717. Those bands of criminals were not deported by the early settlers in the indigenous population. Rather, they were given an opportunity to start a new life.
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As a committee, you have two choices. You can either allow Bill C-18 to pass a second reading with minor amendments, or you can do your job as MPs elected by both Canadian-born and naturalized Canadian citizens, and reject Bill C-18, which really has no place in a democracy. We hope you will do the latter.
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Mr. Stephen Green:
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On revocation, with respect to clause 16, I submit that we're creating two classes with respect to appeal rights. If I am a permanent resident of Canada and I have misrepresented, I have the right to go to the Immigration Appeal Board to argue my case based on humanitarian considerations. If I get it revoked under the Citizenship Act, I don't. Why are we giving permanent residents more rights of appeal than Canadian citizens? I don't understand. They should be equal. I would submit that if a revocation does occur, they should again have the right of appeal under section 63 of IRPA in that regard.
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Ms. Amina Sherazee: On the dual citizenship part, I tend to agree with Alan, actually, when it comes to setting bars. The main problem I have with this act is that the procedures are completely contrary to principles of fundamental justice.

Pierre Trudeau was the one who reintroduced dual citizenship after it had been abolished prior to that. Brian Mulroney tried to take away dual citizenship and there was a big outcry about it.
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The Chair: I should also say that the rest of the world is accepting dual citizenship and is not in fact reverting. When we pledge loyalty to one country alone.... In the rest of the world, there are exceptions, but very few countries in the world do not accept dual citizenship.
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Ms. Amina Sherazee: I really wish my colleague Barbara Jackson was here, because she is actually someone who has appeared before the Federal Court on many occasions and has challenged the security certificates under the security certificate proceedings. She would be in a better position to tell you how very difficult it is for a lawyer to do their job in representing their client.

While I understand that Mr. Borovoy has a suggestion for a public advocate, nothing can take the place of an advocate for the citizens themselves, particularly when you take all the sections and you read them together. Under clause 17, "information" means any information, even from the government of a foreign state, an international organization, an institution, or all of them together. You can have evidence and information from CSIS that is obtained by secret police in a dictatorial regime, against someone who has probably been granted refugee status after claiming refuge from that very regime, but now this information is going to be used against them to revoke citizenship. This act is very unclear, because it's going to catch people like that.

It's also open to anonymous allegations. Under clause 23, I believe, information will not be revealed if it's a threat to national security. Fine, we're already dealing with that under the Immigration Act. But then it says "or to the safety of any persons." Well, what's to stop my neighbour from inventing a lie about me in order to have my citizenship revoked? There's nothing in here to prevent that sort of abuse from happening, and then there's no right to appeal.