Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Jerry Pickard (Chatham—Kent Essex, Lib.)): Ladies and gentlemen, I now call our meeting to order.
Mr. David McMath ( As Individual): Sure, thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to come this morning and make some comments on Bill C-18. I have provided, and I expect you have a copy of, an outline of some of the concerns I have as a lawyer.
I might start by saying, as I mentioned earlier to one of the panel members, that I think those of us who have chosen to become citizens of this country should probably have our heads examined on a morning like this.
I was born in Scotland and became a Canadian citizen around 1974.
My concerns relate primarily to a couple of areas. I've tried to give them titles, to summarize, the first one being due process. I think there are a number of sections in the act where we do see what we'll call procedural fairness or due process. I've listed a few of the sections that provide for notice, for example, to be given to an individual or the right to judicial review. However, I think there is an absence of due process in a number of the sections. The first one is subclause 16(5), “Removal order”:
A judgment declaring the person to be so inadmissible is a removal order against the person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that is in force when the judgment is made, without the necessity of holding or continuing an examination or an admissibility hearing.
The fact that there would be no hearing would cause me, and I hope others, some concern.
Subparagraph 16(6)(b)(ii) deals with rules of evidence and indicates that there's no requirement for legal rules of evidence to be abided by. Any evidence that is considered credible or trustworthy can be considered. Ignoring rules of evidence that have built up and been accepted by the courts over a lengthy period of time would cause me some concern as well.
Subclause 17(9) also indicates that the determination that is made under subclause 17(5) is final and is not subject to any review or appeal.
A similar provision is in subclause 22(3). That's somewhat ameliorated by subclause 22(4), which provides that the order is only effective for five years. But still, not having a right of appeal in subclause 22(3), and likewise in subclause 27(3), is also cause for concern.
In considering the issue of due process, regard should be had for the procedural fairness that is present in some parts of the bill but not in others, and I would ask the question, why? Why would we have it in some instances and not in others?
Mr. Idee Inyangudor (Training and Development Officer, Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity Through Education (PRUDE)): Good morning. My name is Idee Inyangudor. I work with a community organization in Saint John called PRUDE Incorporated. PRUDE is an acronym. It stands for Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity Through Education.
I'm truly delighted, actually honoured, to be addressing this forum this morning. I am a son of an immigrant. Although I was born in Canada, I grew up and spent most of my active life outside Canada. I lived in almost every continent in the world and recently returned to Canada, in 1995, and pursued a university education here. I feel very honoured to be addressing this committee.
My second concern is the overreaching broad powers granted to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, especially now with regard to revocation and annulling our citizenship.
I spent about 10 years living in Nigeria, West Africa, under some brutal and repressive military dictatorships. I understand first-hand the impact of granting broad, overreaching powers to a human being, especially when there is a lack of due process attached to those powers. On the powers granted to the minister here, although they could be justified in some ways, especially in the sense of security, without a sense of due process they deny even the appearance of justice. Therefore, they are unjust and unfair.
Clause 18 gives the minister broad powers to annul citizenship within five years of acquisition. The minister is not required to be convinced but can be merely satisfied that the person obtained citizenship falsely or was ineligible for such status. The concept of citizenship must and should require more than mere satisfaction by the minister on the evidence being provided. The minister should be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the person or persons acquired citizenship illegally or did not qualify for such status.
It seems that the bill itself, in the process of trying to be fair, allows the minister to provide notice to such person affected. However, the person can only make written representation to the minister. The minister is therefore both accuser and judge. There's no independent third party to arbitrate between the person whose citizenship might be taken away and the minister. That raises a lot of concern for us.
Historically in Canada -- even legally and experientially -- African Canadians and people of African descent haven't always been construed as the right type of citizens, especially in the context of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and all kinds of prejudices. Therefore the lack of due process within this section with regard to a person of African descent, in my case, would definitely constitute injustice. It definitely goes against the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of Canadian law. It also contravenes international human rights law to which Canada is a signatory and has ratified. I draw your attention to such provisions.
Ms. Judy Loo (Member of the Board of Directors, Multicultural Association of Fredericton): Thank you for the opportunity to address the standing committee.
We have serious concerns about clauses 17 and 18 as well, where citizenship can be revoked or annulled. Any citizen who is accused of wrongdoing where there are significant consequences must be given full access to the means to defend herself or himself. These sections do not ensure that the defendant even has full access to the information or the evidence against them. We recommend that all persons facing loss of citizenship have the right to see and to respond to all evidence against them.
We know that refugees are often given bad advice overseas about what to say and what not to say. They should be given full opportunity to explain why certain statements were made and who told them to make certain statements. In some cases, when people are desperate and they're told that they have to say a certain thing if they're likely to be accepted, there are extenuating circumstances for what appears to us to be wrongful circumstances for entering Canada. And they have to have the right to explain all of this. We recommend then that clause 18 be deleted.
We also recommend deletion of clauses 21 and 22. These clauses give cabinet the power to refuse citizenship on the basis that “a person has demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society”. As has already been pointed out here, there are different interpretations of this. These interpretations change over time. We feel that lack of due process is a concern with this section. We think the list of prohibitions under clause 28 adequately covers this, so clauses 21 and 22 should be deleted from this bill.
Mr. George Maicher (Vice-President, New Brunswick Multicultural Council Inc.): I'm from the Multicultural Council of New Brunswick.
We have some major problems with Bill C-18. For example, I look at some of the information you have put on your website. It says hearings by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in Fredericton on February 14. It says the bill protects the integrity of citizenship and reaffirms that all citizens have equal status and so on, and then it says it introduces some additional powers to deny citizenship. Frankly, I'm really surprised that the House of Commons would go ahead in Canada and frame legislation that would create a two-tier system of Canadian citizenship. One citizenship that is given to people by birth is inalienable and can only be denounced by the person, himself or herself. The other citizenship that is given by Canada as a favour to a person can be recalled at any time under pressure from groups inside and outside of Canada, and that pressure will not be made public, will not be presented to the person under review of citizenship.
Frankly, again, that is something that has been done in the past. It has been done in Germany by the Gestapo. It has been done in Russia. It has been done in other countries where somebody has called in and said “You have to go. We can't tell you why you have to go, but you have to go.” I don't think that in Canada we can allow those kinds of things. If we are dealing with something that affects the person really significantly -- it will affect his or her life permanently -- then this person has to be able to get all the information. We cannot say, well, it will affect the security of Canada. It will not affect the security of Canada if we provide that person with the information that is necessary to be able to defend himself or herself against the accusation that might be coming from a foreign country or might be coming from a pressure group inside or outside of Canada that just doesn't like the activities or opinions the particular person represents.
While we have concerns on recommendations that we have written up in our brief to you and that you will receive, concerning the recommendations on citizenship annulment and statelessness, the statelessness is significant. I think we in Canada should be very careful about whether we, by fiat of administration, will be taking away Canadian citizenship. It has nothing to do with doing something good or doing something bad. It just might have something to do with not being informed, with being away from the information, that I lose my citizenship.
I would just like to point out that in my work, in my professional organization, as well as with my 15 years with the multicultural organizations of New Brunswick, there are Canadians out there in the world who are doing all kinds of good works. There are second- and third-generation missionaries out there, and all of a sudden, just because those people are running a small agricultural school in Congo and cannot be here for three years before they are 28, we say too bad, you are going to lose your Canadian citizenship. I think we should be very clear about what we are doing with that legislation to make sure that we are not creating hardship, that we are not turning Canadian citizens into stateless citizens.
Our recommendation for that is to delete paragraphs 11(c) and (d) and to amend paragraph 11(e) to read “is stateless through the renunciation of citizenship”. This means that if I fear that my future is better in Argentina, and that for me to become an Argentinian citizen I have to renounce Canadian citizenship, okay, so be it. But it is my decision; it's not a decision by a committee or a group of people in Canada. So I would recommend amending clause 14 to include an exception to the rule regarding loss of citizenship if the person would otherwise be stateless. We would like the standing committee to note that Canada has yet to sign the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons.
Then we have concerns and recommendations, as I pointed out, on the new procedures for citizenship annulment in clauses 17 and 18. I think it is very important that the committee really take note how important it is that Canada remains the country it is. We cannot confess to be defending freedom if we do away with liberties. In Canada, as in most western states, we have a system where a person who is accused is allowed to see what the charges are against him or her. We cannot just go and allow charges to be laid, and claims to be made that: “We cannot tell you why this has happened, because it would create some problems for some groups or for some countries. We'd rather tell you that there are problems and that you'd better leave as a result. And by the way, we are stripping you of your Canadian citizenship.” I don't think we can do this as a country.
So we would like to delete clause 17 and amend the bill to provide for decisions on annulment being made by an independent decision-maker, with a right to a hearing with full due process rights, including the right to notice, to disclosure, and to council.
We also have a recommendation on the new procedures for citizenship annulment in clauses 21, 22, and 28. As it currently stands, the bill states that any individual who the cabinet feels has contravened the principles and values of democracy can have their citizenship revoked by cabinet. I am afraid to read these kinds of things. When I listen to what is going on in this world right now and look across Canadian borders and see what is going on and what kinds of governments can pop up all of a sudden and what kinds of things can be done all of a sudden, how can we say that a person is a purple sectarian nitwit, or that this person all of a sudden has no legal or human rights any more, because that purple sectarian nitwit is not covered in the Canadian human rights code? I don't think we should be able to say, “We have to take away or annul your right to Canadian citizenship”. I don't think this works. I have grave, grave problems with this legislation introducing new powers that are not tested and that are very, very open to interpretation by future governments.
When we look at these kinds of things, I think we should always be very prudent to make sure that Canadians are Canadians are Canadians. As a horse is a horse is a horse, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. We cannot just willy-nilly all of a sudden come up with new rules and regulations to do away with it.
Therefore, let me recommend deleting clauses 21 and 22, and amending paragraphs 28(c) and (d) to include an exception where the charges are reached in an unfair process. This comes back to the fact that, as Judy has pointed out, when people come from some countries in the world where there are outstanding charges against them, these would not be charges in Canada. I think it is important to recognize that we live in a world that does not necessarily think the way we do.
Thanks very much.