Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): I'd like to call this meeting to order.
Good morning, colleagues. Bonjour à tout le monde. It's a pleasure to be here in Vancouver again. I know that our immigration committee has been here on many occasions, and we were very impressed with not only the presentations but also the work a lot of the organizations in Vancouver were doing with regard to our immigration policies.
As you know, this committee is travelling the country. Half of our committee is down east and half of it is out here, out west. We started in Toronto and we have moved west for a number of purposes.
The first, of course, is with regard to Bill C-18, our citizenship bill. As you know, this is the third time around on this bill. It's gotten as far as the Senate, and then for election purposes or whatever, it's never been passed. We're definitely interested in wanting to hear what your opinions are on our citizenship bill.
What we've heard so far is that citizenship is perhaps the greatest gift that can be conferred on a citizen. The committee is prepared to take the time necessary to ensure that by birth or by choice there's only one class of Canadian citizen. We want to make sure we get it absolutely right.
Our Citizenship Act, as you know, has served our country well for the past 20 or 30 years, so hopefully the one we're going to enact this time is going to have to meet the test of time. With the input of a lot of people such as yourselves, we're determined to make sure we get it right.
So we want you to be forthright. We want you to give us an opportunity. We have your briefs. If you would take the time to summarize them in five or seven minutes...and if you have some recommendations for us, that's even better. We appreciate the fact that you are here.
I want to introduce our members who are here with us today.
Lynne Yelich is from the Alliance Party, from Saskatchewan. Andrew Telegdi is from the riding of Kitchener--Waterloo. David Price is from the great province of Quebec. Sophia Leung is from your own city of Vancouver. She's an absolutely fantastic member who has participated in our committee over the years. And Louis Plamondon from Quebec is from the Bloc Québécois. Libby Davies, I understand, was supposed to be here. She'll probably be coming in at any time.
For the first session we have with us this morning Samuel Hyman, representing himself as an individual; from Grassroots Women is Rachel Rosen, who is the coordinator; from the Organization of Professional Immigration Consultants, Kate Manvell; from Success we have Lillian To; and from the Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians we have Victor Wong.
Ms. Rachel Rosen (Coordinator, Grassroots Women):
So one of the key things that has come out during our discussions is that we're responding to the proposed Citizenship Act and the national ID card in a climate of what can only be called suspicion, racial profiling, and anti-terrorism hysteria.
Based on both real and manufactured fears of terrorism, there are new policies, including aspects of the Citizenship Act that we feel are being pushed through, that are unrestrained in their attacks on purported Canadian values, including our charter rights and freedoms, that are really using the events of September 11, 2001, as a justification.
In the last year and a half, there has been such a rapid implementation of anti-terrorism measures that it's often difficult for the majority of Canadians to stay informed of proposed changes, let alone really engage in public debate.
Just to share with you, through the public events that we've been having, and talking to people, most of those we've talked to have no idea about what is being suggested in the Citizenship Act and with the national ID card; they have very little idea about the extent of the proposed measures; and finally, they have no idea about what recourse they have in terms of presenting their opinions. Very few people knew about this consultative process that was happening. So one of our recommendations is that there needs to be a more open and democratic way for people to engage in public policy dialogue.
In terms of our specific comments on the Citizenship Act, based on these discussions, I'd like to address, first of all, clauses 17, 18, 21, and 22, and what we see as a lack of democratic principles that are contained in these sections.
For example, in clause 17, Federal Court judges would have the power to revoke a former immigrant's citizenship without this Canadian citizen being permitted to see the evidence.
Clause 18 gives the minister the power to annul citizenship if the minister is satisfied that the citizenship was illegally obtained, with only a summary of the grounds of the proposed order.
Clauses 21 and 22 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. In the bill, there is little definition of what this actually means. It's up to the cabinet to decide.
From the experiences that have been shared through our discussions, we've already seen that in the climate we have right now, there's targeting and unjust treatment of people of colour within Canada, particularly people who come from the Middle East and people of Muslim background, as well as people who are politically active.
Some of the experiences people have shared include losing their jobs or not being hired, facing harassment at the border, and facing discrimination and the refusal of certain rights such as admittance to educational programs based on their backgrounds.
The power that's granted within the Citizenship Act to people with clear political interest, such as the minister and cabinet, has the potential to intensify this situation for marginalized women and marginalized communities in general. With the international harmonization of anti-terrorism legislation, the possibility of levelling attacks on political dissidents who really have exercised their democratic rights to voice their opinion gains new international proportions.
For example, in clause 18, information may be obtained about the illegal obtainment of certificates. This information could potentially come from regimes interested in silencing or persecuting someone who has spoken out against their regime.
In clause 21, again, because there is no definition of a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society, the interpretation of this statement is left to members of cabinet, and there is little guarantee in the bill that interpretations will not be politically motivated.
Finally, we see that there's a lack of democratic process because of the secrecy of evidence that is used to revoke, annul, or deny citizenship, coupled with the power granted to very particular individuals to make decisions about citizenship. It violates principles of impartiality, due process, and equality before the law.
Finally, I'd like to deal with denying citizenship to those with charges or convictions in other countries. This would have a significant impact on political refugees. Many convention refugees have had trumped up criminal charges laid against them and have spent time in prison for their legitimate political activities. This is an experience that has been shared over and over again, that people who do dare speak out in protest of regimes where they are living are often charged with petty crimes.
To use this as a way to deny citizenship would have a major impact. For people who are criminalized for voicing their commitment to social justice, peace, and human rights against repressive dictatorships and state forces, which is the precise reason they are fleeing state persecution and are seeking -- and qualify for -- refugee status in Canada, this would be the reason used to deny them citizenship in Canada.
So just in terms of our recommendations, going back to clauses 17, 18, 21, and 22, we believe they do violate democratic principles and process and we would suggest deleting them.
We suggest having a transparent and democratic process for reviewing evidence and appealing decisions regarding denial, revocation, and annulment of citizenship.
We would suggest the committee look at the bill to recognize how political activists in other countries are criminalized or charged with petty crimes and not make this a basis for denying them citizenship in Canada, as well as develop mechanisms to allow for genuine debate and discussion of proposed bills.
And finally, we suggest providing financial support to community organizations to allow us to continue to conduct research, advocate, and raise public awareness about the impact of both proposed and adopted policies of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to really allow for a genuine public policy dialogue.
Mr. Kenneth Tung (Vice-Chairman, SUCCESS):
In overview, I would like to present to the committee the fact that we are indeed encouraged by the government's determination to reform and improve Canadian citizenship legislation and policies. However, we wish to submit concerns regarding provisions for obtaining citizenship and loss of citizenship in four major areas: one, residency requirements in clause 7; two, power to refuse and prohibitions for granting of citizenship in clauses 21 and 22; three, revocation of citizenship in clause 17; and four, ministry's authority to annul citizenship in clause 18.
Ms. Lilian To: On our second point, about power to refuse and prohibitions for granting of citizenship, as outlined in clauses 21 and 22 of Bill C-18, the government will have 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.
While the government has the right to refuse citizenship if granting citizenship would threaten the security of the country, the inconsistencies and possible abuse that may arise from this undefined and broad power is troublesome. With a lack of definition of the “principles and values” stated in clause 21, the decisions based on this section of the act would be inconsistent. In addition, with a lack of due process and right of appeal, this section is unfair and would be subject to abuse, given the state of uncertainty the world is now in.
While the applicant has 30 days to submit “written representations to the Minister” to appeal the decision, this still does not allow for procedural fairness, as the decision is made final by the minister and without an appeal process.
Our recommendation is to amend clauses 21 and 22 to include an expanded list of prohibitions against granting of citizenship, instead of providing such a broad and undefined power to cabinet, as well as to amend the section so that a person who has been denied citizenship will have access to due process and will be treated fairly under the law.
The third point is about revocation of citizenship under clause 17. Clause 17, which is a new provision of the bill, introduces the use of secret evidence to determine misrepresentation and inadmissibility in revocation proceedings. There is also no role for a review committee to investigate the sources of evidence. The court decision is final, not appealable, and not subject to judicial review.
We support the Canadian Bar Association's position that citizens are entitled to a transparent and fair hearing for a revocation of citizenship, as well as to know the case against them.
We support the CBA's recommendation that the review committee be given the mandate to investigate evidence of inadmissibility against citizens.
We also recommend that citizens alleged to be inadmissible be granted entitlement to appeal with leave by the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Another point is about the minister's authority to annul citizenship in clause 18, the new provision in the bill whereby the minister or a delegated officer may order the citizenship to be annulled without an independent hearing or judicial determination if the minister or officer believes it was acquired by false representation or under prohibited grounds. The minister may exercise this annulment within five years of the granting of citizenship.
The minister or a delegated officer's new power to annul citizenship may be abused and it may be deployed without regard to the principles of justice and procedural fairness. Individuals wrongly accused of acquiring citizenship through illegitimate means may be caught by this particular provision because of political reasons. They will have no opportunity to prove their innocence or confront their accuser.
So our recommendation is that clause 18 be amended to provide for an independent hearing and procedural fairness. Persons whose citizenship has been annulled should be entitled to the right of appeal and judicial review by the Federal Court.
Ken will provide the conclusion.
Mr. Victor Wong (Executive Director, Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians):
With regard to automatic loss of citizenship, I recommend that you delete this section entirely. On revocation and annulment, I again recommend that you delete clauses 17 and 18. I recommend that you delete clauses 21 and 22 as well. Clause 28 contains a long list of prohibitions against granting of citizenship, and I think we need a lengthier discussion on why this list needs to be there and also some kind of process.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Your testimony -- thank you very much -- reflects much of what we heard in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Victoria.
Canadians are quite aware of the history of the discrimination that has happened in this country. I think in large part that is why on the 17th of April, 1982, we enacted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to acknowledge past injustices, to say what's wrong, and to say we are not going to go there again. Pierre Trudeau must be smiling down on these hearings because he sees people who have been disenfranchised coming back and fighting for his legacy, which is the charter.
In terms of citizenship rights, there is a very simple question in all this: do Canadians believe that citizenship rights should be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If the answer is yes, then we already have a process in place if we are going to go so far as to revoke citizenship, and the process is the best decision-making process we have in the land.
That is the same process we afforded to Clifford Olson and the same process we afforded to Paul Bernardo. Why is it that a citizen doesn't have that same process? That means beyond a reasonable doubt, not a mere balance of probabilities, which can be 49% or 51%.
So the question is very simple. Do Canadians believe...number one, do we want to revoke citizenship? We don't deal with very many cases; we deal with very few. I've been watching this thing and I've been watching the cases we've dealt with. It's not prosecution; it's persecution. But number one, do you believe that the Charter of Rights should apply to something as important as Canadian citizenship?
As we heard from the last Canadians today, it's not just we Canadians by choice who are at risk. Seeing what happened to them, everybody's at risk. It's a simple question, and I think it's in section 7 of the charter. It talks about security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Why are we creating a piece of legislation or continuing a piece of legislation that was done in the dark days of our immigration history, and why don't we apply the charter, which should be applied to all pieces of all federal legislation?
That's the question. Do you believe the...
Mr. Victor Wong: We propose that you delete clauses 21 and 22.
We haven't really given much thought to this issue of hate-mongers. It's interesting that Mr. Zundel has been moved to a detention centre in New York State and may be deported back to Canada. What are we going to do there? Maybe that's something that comes under the Immigration Act as opposed to the Citizenship Act.
You might have to go to an act of Parliament in specific cases if they're that serious. I just don't think that having clause 21 or clause 22 gives you the protection you're seeking. They're just other security measures.
Mr. Myron Petriw (President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, B.C. Provincial Council): Thank you.
I have a brief preamble, which I hope you will indulge and allow me to read. I have also offered a submission on Bill C-18. I'm not sure enough copies were made of it. I wasn't sure how many I would need and I don't know whether additional copies were made here, but I brought three copies.
As a Ukrainian Canadian, it is my turn today as president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, British Columbia Provincial Council, to stand before you and defend the citizenship of all naturalized Canadians from the flaws of this document and the vagaries embodied in clauses 16, 17, and 18 of proposed Bill C-18.
Canadian citizenship is something taken for granted by most Canadians. Few of us realize the value placed on Canadian citizenship until we face the prospect of losing it. It is sadly ironic that the prospect of losing it can be experienced only by those who are Canadians by choice rather than by those who are Canadian by accident of birth.
One cannot begin to appreciate the full value of Canadian citizenship until one sees the ferocity with which those faced with this revocation defend their citizenship. Consuming their life's earnings, homes, savings, and the goodwill of friends and family, they pay a high price indeed for what most Canadians take for granted. Because the value of a commodity is determined by the price someone is willing to pay for it, the victims of some of the sloppiest jurisprudence in any democratic country have elevated the worth of Canadian citizenship to lofty levels indeed. I can only hope this government and this country of ours can live up to this high evaluation.
Today we have before us the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act, Bill C-18. We have a badly flawed document, written in a fit of post-September 11 xenophobia, which in the future would terrorize Canadians long after the risk of alien assault is forgotten.
This bill provides naturalized Canadians with no shield against political whimsy or foreign fabrication. By chopping down the protection of legal rules of evidence, by allowing anonymous allegations, by accepting innuendo from those who have donned the mantle of self-righteousness, it has clear-cut the thicket of legal protection that has grown over the centuries in western jurisprudence. In this legal wasteland, the void of old-growth wisdom, this bill uproots that last shrub of protection, the right of appeal.
There's no capital punishment in Canada. There is but one way left to legally reduce the world's population of Canadians and that is through revocation of citizenship.
To this country's shame, both the current law dealing with such revocation and its proposed replacement, Bill C-18, suspend the strictest standards of legal evidence and replace it with that gambler's cop-out, the idea of a balance of probability.
Judging by the number of us who play Lotto 6/49, I say our sense of balance of probability is a defective instrument indeed.
This clear-cut of legal protection has created a playground for foreign squabbles, alien allegation, innuendo, half-truths, and calumny, all blown by winds of political expediency and whimsy.
The victims of the resultant public witch hunts face a no-win proposition: to drown in legal debts while betting on an outcome based on balance of probability. Thus, Canadian citizenship is reduced to the value of a poker chip in a gamblers' den.
The UCC-BC is a provincial coordinating body of the Ukrainian Canadian community in British Columbia. We welcome the decision of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to allow the standing committee to conduct consultations and to listen to various stakeholders prior to making any final decisions.
The UCC-BC believes that stakeholders need to be involved in the formulation of policy and that the legislation be reflective of such policy.
We submit that the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act will have an adverse effect on Canadian identity because immigrants will never have the same rights and privileges as citizens born in Canada, essentially creating a two-tiered citizenship system.
The UCC-BC submits that the standing committee should categorically reject any legislation or policy recommendation that utilizes revocation of citizenship and removal from Canada, also referred to as “de-naturalization and deportation”, of individuals alleged to have committed or to have been complicit in war crimes or crimes against humanity some 50 years ago.
It is only when there is sufficient evidence that such a crime was committed that an individual should be tried in a Canadian court of criminal jurisdiction.
In this submission, the UCC-BC recommends that either clause 16, clause 17, and clause 18 should be struck from Bill C-18, or, in the alternative, should any or all of these clauses be kept, we recommend the following changes.
Replace subclause 16(1) with the following:
The Minister may not commence an action in the Federal Court for a declaration that a person has acquired, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances more than five years after the day on which this citizenship was granted, retained, renounced or resumed, as the case may be.
Add the following subclause to clause 16:
The judge shall, on the basis of the information and evidence available, determine whether, beyond a reasonable doubt, the person named in the certificate has acquired or resumed citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.
Add the following subclause to clause 16:
A determination under subsection (1) may be appealed or judicially reviewed based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Strike out the words in subclause 16(2):
A judgment declaring that a person has so acquired, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship has the effect of revoking their citizenship or renunciation of citizenship.
Replace them with the words:
A judgment declaring that a person has so acquired, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship has the effect of revoking their citizenship or renunciation of citizenship and shall be determined in the context of humanitarian and compassionate circumstances.
Strike out the words in item 16(6)(b)(ii):
with respect to any additional evidence, is not bound by any legal or technical rules of evidence and may receive and base a decision on any evidence adduced in the proceedings that it considers credible or trustworthy in the circumstances.
Replace them with the words “with respect to any evidence, is not bound by the rules of evidence”.
Add to paragraph 16(6)(a):
and shall take into account any humanitarian and compassionate circumstances relating to the declaration requested under subsection (1).
Strike out the words “on the balance of probabilities” in paragraph 17(5)(a) and replace them with the words “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
In subclause 17(9), strike out the words “A determination under subsection (5) is final and may not be appealed or judicially reviewed” and replace them with “A determination under subsection (5) may be appealed or judicially reviewed”.
In subclause 17(6) strike out the words:
A determination under paragraph 5(a) that a person has so acquired or resumed citizenship has the effect of revoking the citizenship of the person.
That means we delete this subclause altogether.
And finally, strike the words “or by using false identity” in subclause 18(1).
I would like to deal with some of the reasons behind this.
Revocation and annulment of citizenship are among the most serious penalties that any state may invoke against its citizens. The consequence for the citizen is immediate loss of all rights of citizenship and can include direct or indirect loss of any status whatsoever and removal from Canada. These consequences are obviously severe and require strict adherence to due process, procedural fairness, appropriate appeal rights, and a limitation period.
Canada must not allow for a system that creates two classes of citizens: those born in Canada and naturalized Canadians.
Furthermore, naturalized Canadians must not live in fear that one day, be it 10 years or 50 years after coming to Canada, they may have to defend themselves against allegations of misrepresentation.
We are concerned with the inherent procedural flaws in the citizenship revocation proceedings, and the loss of citizenship provisions of Bill C-18 have been considerably expanded rather than refined to protect against the abuse of process as encountered under the current act.
We strongly recommend the standing committee categorically reject any legislation or policy recommendation that allows for the revocation of citizenship, also referred to as denaturalization and deportation, to be used as a remedy to deal with the possibility that World-War-II-era war criminals may be resident in Canada.
Unlike extradition, deportation and denaturalization are remedies that do not contemplate a full trial being held on the issue of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Unless a virtual criminal standard of proof is applied, this solution runs a serious risk of unjustly destroying the life of a presumably innocent person without providing him or her with an adequate means of defending themselves. An order of deportation and denaturalization is made in a non-criminal context. A deported person would be barred from returning to Canada and would not be provided with a full trial of the issue of his guilt or innocence of the crime alleged. The UCC-BC submits that this is an unacceptable option.
There are numerous problems with the application of immigration law to the specific situation of alleged World War II criminals.
First, there is insufficient evidence in Canadian immigration records, which were destroyed by the government, to permit proof of such misrepresentations. To those who have propounded a differing view, this is not an obstacle that can be overcome by the presumption of regularity in the execution of official tasks.
The maxim is a presumption of validity of official tasks until the contrary is proven. A landed immigrant or citizen need not prove the validity of official acts that granted him that status. It is another thing entirely to state that a citizen who is suspected of being a war criminal is presumed to have entered irregularly. This would place an impossible burden on a defendant.
Second, even assuming that evidence of misleading or false declarations could be found or assumed, there remains the problem of innocent, and in some cases desperately necessary, misrepresentations. At the end of World War II, between one million and two million Ukrainian people were in displaced persons camps throughout Europe. As a result of the Yalta accords, hundreds of thousands of these were forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union, only to be liquidated or deported to Siberia. The only hope of those designated for repatriation was to prove their origin from outside the borders of pre-1939 Soviet Union. For many Ukrainians this meant assuming new identities as either Poles or ethnic Ukrainians from the former Polish territory of Galicia. The alternative chosen by many that could not was suicide.
It would be simply monstrous to institute deportation proceedings against such persons merely because of such misrepresentation before tribunals in DP camps in Europe, and thus in subsequent documentation.
Third, deportation and denaturalization proceedings are clumsy and involve administrative proceedings ill-suited to the determination of a person's guilt or innocence as a criminal.
Fourth, any deportation and denaturalization proceedings involving Ukrainians would likely involve a consideration of Soviet evidence. The same problems that have been referred to elsewhere in accepting Soviet evidence would arise in such proceedings. However, unlike in criminal proceedings, the evidence would be considered an essentially administrative proceeding with a lower standard of proof and fewer procedural safeguards than afforded under criminal law.
The Chair: Please wrap up. I know we have some questions for you.
Mr. Myron Petriw: The summary of our recommendations is on page 12 in the brief before you. There are four basic items there. I'll be more than glad to participate in a discussion.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Myron.
I want to thank you and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress throughout the country, which has participated. I know how passionate and deeply you feel about this particular issue, based on some pretty significant historical consequences. So we appreciate it very much, Myron and Bohdan. Thank you very much.
We'll go to questions.
Ms. Sophia Leung: To Mr. Petriw and the Ukrainian group, certainly we have a lot of concern. We also heard a lot of concern about the revocation of citizenship, and you certainly presented that very clearly and technically. You asked for the removal of clauses 16, 17, and 18 completely. In the meantime, we do know there are naturalized citizens perhaps involved in criminal offences, so what kinds of safeguards or potential measures do we have to protect the concerns of society?
Mr. Myron Petriw: I expect the safeguard would be the same one we would have with regard to any criminals. If there is an accusation of criminal wrongdoing, we try it in criminal court.
By having a very loose system on the citizenship side, we are risking having cases that wouldn't have any merit in criminal court being tried as citizenship cases. I don't think we want this to happen.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: I agree with a lot of people who have highlighted the unfairness of losing one's citizenship on a balance of probabilities. It should be beyond a reasonable doubt, which should be the legal standard for revocation of citizenship.
The only question I have for Mr. Cheng is on his comment that a lot of people couldn't be tied to income tax. But I think they could, because people get GST refunds without paying income tax. There is a tie-in there, if there were going to be some sort of criterion for residency other than days of residence.
I agree with a lot of what you have said, including that when they land the clock should start then, because they have indeed or are going to become good Canadians.
These are the only comments I have.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: I have a second question, Mr. Petriw.
You mentioned that the citizenship revocation process as it exists presently falls entirely outside of section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the questions I asked was whether citizenship rights should be under the charter. The way I read section 7 is that it talks about the “right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”.
To me, as a Canadian by choice, few things are more important for the security of my person than my citizenship.
If you look at the present process on what we have dealt with, we have been dealing with persecution versus prosecution. We have been harassing people on the simple test. Did you lie or tell the truth on a question that might or might not have been asked 50 years ago?
It's totally ridiculous. It reduces the citizenship rights of all Canadians. It doesn't become a country like Canada. That's not our image to the world.
The Chair: Okay. The question is about the Charter of Rights in Bill C-18.
Mr. Myron Petriw: Andrew, obviously I'm in total agreement with that. We have more protection in the case where you get a traffic violation. You have a right of appeal. Here the right of appeal is very much proscribed.
As to how one would word it in the Charter of Rights, obviously it's a right that you acquire at some point. Once you acquire it, the charter would then have to defend it for you.
I think that's probably what you're thinking of here, is it?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: You have the legal rights, as Clifford Olson has. He's served with a notice or he's put under arrest because he's a dangerous individual. The Crown makes its case. The defence makes their case. Then there's the right to appeal on either side all the way to the Supreme Court.
We're dealing with very few cases on this revocation. I don't see a big deal in letting the criminal court that is protected by the charter....
Clifford Olson is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nearly six million Canadians are not protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it comes to defending citizenship. I say if it's good enough for Clifford Olson, it should be good enough for Canadians by choice.
Mr. Myron Petriw: I totally agree with that.
The Chair: No, I'm not sure that's what Andrew was suggesting.
We've been told that this meets the charter test. Within section 7, the preamble, you can talk about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet when you talk about section 16, section 17, section 18, section 20, and section 21, it doesn't give due process.
Does that really fit within the definition and the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That's the question.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng(Past President, MOSAIC Board of Directors, MOSAIC): It's interesting. My understanding of the charter jurisprudence around section 1 of the charter, which deals with principles of a free and democratic society, is that even the courts have had difficulty really defining what it means.
We use the example of Nelson Mandela. He was arguably found by another country to have had represented a terrorist, to some people, organization and was put in jail. He comes to Canada and is given an honorary citizenship.
The Chair: One of the questions in fact is that if we had this bill in place with such a thing, then he might not have qualified.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: That's correct.
The Chair: Okay. All right.
Can I ask two quick questions?
I would agree with you, Chilwin, that the Canadian dream is about citizenship or achieving that dream. I've asked this question before. Do you believe that citizenship is a right or a privilege?
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: It is neither. It is the basis on which one acquires rights and responsibilities.
The Chair: You've spoken like a real darn good lawyer, for God's sake.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: Quite honestly, these are questions that Plato himself raised.
The Chair: Who? Was he a Canadian?
He couldn't get in.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: This is why I submit that citizenship, while symbolic in some respects, is still fundamental to the personhood of a human being. I submit that you have to accept that communities form and then together create common ties of principles and values, and it is only at that point that you can establish rights and privileges and responsibilities. Citizenship is bigger than rights and privileges.
The Chair: Bigger; I like that even better.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: That's why it is so important. It's bigger and better.
The Chair: Myron, do you wish to comment?
Mr. Myron Petriw: I think I have to.
The Chair: Do you want to refer to some great Ukrainian thinker?
Mr. Myron Petriw: I'm not going to refer to that.
I would just say that it can't be a privilege, certainly not in the form it is right now, because that would mean every Canadian born in Canada would have to apply for citizenship, right? So it's not that.
At the same time, it's not a right because not everybody in the world is going to be a Canadian citizen, as far as I know.
The Chair: Well, believe it or not, other peoples have talked about citizenship.
But I meant to tell you, Myron, you said something about the accident of birth....
Mr. Myron Petriw: The accident of birth, yes....
The Chair: Yes. Well, hopefully you didn't mean all births were caused by accidents.
Mr. Myron Petriw: Some are accidents, but not all.
The Chair: Believe it or not, the Supreme Court in the United States -- I hate referring to them but they were right, at least in this -- talked about citizenship being greater than the value of property within that context. That's why I asked in terms of making sure we get it right.
I think, Myron, you addressed the five-year probation period and said you would have absolutely no problem with it, and then there would be a statute of limitation as to where, after the five years.... I must tell you, most people have spoken against the five-year probationary period because all of a sudden we are talking about another class of citizen -- a probationary Canadian for a five-year period.
I think the point was that if you can't find out whether or not someone has a problem within three years or six years or nine years, what makes you think that once you give him a piece of paper saying he is a citizen...? The administration wants another five years to find out what's going on in this person's life. I think you addressed it, and I don't know if you had any comments with regard to this five-year probation.
Mr. Chilwin Cheng: MOSAIC opposes that as well.
May I just take this opportunity to address a point that has come up several times in these committee hearings -- this issue of turning the citizenship process into a criminal one, with deportation based on a balance of probabilities or reasonable doubts.
I cite the very notable example of Air India, an international crime of terrorism, where the trial is being conducted on domestic soil. So Canadians have demonstrated that they are able to deal with international terrorism on its own turf, treating Canadian citizens as if they were under Canadian law. There is no reason to deport them to India or to revoke their citizenship. They are being dealt with here in Canada. There is a prime example of why these other provisions are unnecessary.
The Chair: I think the sentiment of a lot of people was that if you catch terrorists and confine them, the last thing you want to do is deport them and let them loose so they can do their business someplace else -- as opposed to putting them where they belong.