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.)): Good morning, colleagues.
We are resuming our review of Bill C-18, An Act respecting Canadian citizenship.
Mr. Nicholas Katsepontes (Policy and Legal Advisor, Hellenic Canadian Congress):
However, there are terms such as “material misrepresentation” or “material concealment”. Let me give you a very practical consideration. A lot of people in our community, maybe even to this day, after being here for 30 years, do not have a very good facility in the English language. You may have people who came over here who even under the Greek educational system were barely able to read. Correspondingly, their ability to comprehend the English language may be somewhat deficient, even after being here for 30 years. They may be functional on a day-to-day basis, but getting them to deal with legal issues and forms and things of that nature can be another matter.
The term “material concealment” doesn't address what the intention of the person may have been. He may have not raised something 5, 10 or 15 years ago when he applied for citizenship, because he didn't think it was relevant or had any significance. But when you look at the wording of this legislation, that could be interpreted -- and again, by whom and how; there's no definition -- as a material concealment. So what was the intention of the person? Maybe it was not to mislead; they simply didn't think of raising it.
Therefore, that's a term that causes me some concern, “material concealment”, and how that term would be interpreted -- or “material circumstances”. It may also be that we need a more elaborate definition of “false representation”, “use of fraud” or “concealment of material facts”. That is specific wording in the act.
We look at what I call the very “supernatural power” that will be provided to the minister and the cabinet to deny citizenship for “flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society”. That's certainly an improvement on the sort of terminology that was in the previous bill, but again, what does it mean? I think you have to ask yourselves, what does that mean to us as a nation, to you as legislators, and how do we define that?
Mr. Bill Janzen (Director of the Ottawa Office, Mennonite Central Committee Canada):
Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, Canadian Alliance):
I want to start with where you talked about having access to courts, and I know what clauses you're talking about, I suppose, with revocation in particular. Many of the witnesses have asked to have those sections deleted. So I would welcome your comments on having clauses 16, 17, and 18 deleted -- which are revocation, annulment, and denial. Do you have any recommendations if they can't be deleted, such as a statute of limitations?
Mr. Nicholas Katsepontes:
The inherent contradiction I see is that in this legislation we're saying we stand for all these fundamental values of justice and principles of due process and fairness, while at the same time saying that when it comes to something as critical as citizenship, we're going to deny you access or greatly limit your access to the courts. That's a contradiction that unsettles me and doesn't make me very comfortable.
When we look at lot of the history of what's given rise to this legislation, we have the issue of wanting to deal with war criminals who are here in our country. There's an aging process there where there are groups in this country who want it addressed quickly, because these people are dying off and there's a sense of justice and propriety to dealing with it as quickly as possible.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Or would it be better to delete the three sections that are causing citizenship to be revoked because of the...? For example, once you become a citizen, you should just become a citizen. You should never have citizenship on probation. It has been suggested at almost every meeting that there should not be those sections, and I just wondered if we should delete them.
Mrs. Lynne Yelich: What I'm asking about is a statute of limitations, especially on revocation. Is that something that would be better because of war criminals? Since they're being judged under balance of probabilities instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, I wondered.
Mr. Bill Janzen: Those we would strongly support, precisely that -- the whole matter of balance of probabilities versus beyond a reasonable doubt and a statute of limitations. Those are crucial issues.
Dr. Anu Bose (Executive Director, National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada):
Our submission today will be confined to a general remark on the principle of equality of all citizens, which I think you have thoroughly discussed with the two gentlemen who appeared before me. In particular, we will touch upon the residence requirements for permanent residents seeking citizenship, the revocation of citizenship, the annulment of citizenship, and the refusal of citizenship by cabinet decision.
We are also extremely distressed over the expanded provisions in the new legislation for the revocation and annulment of citizenship. These are very serious penalties that a state can apply against its citizens and should not be taken lightly.
On the revocation of citizenship, we refer to clause 17, which we believe is modelled on a similar provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would allow a Federal Court judge to revoke citizenship without the person being allowed to view the evidence against him or her. The right to appeal or judicial review is also restricted to “factual and legal finding of misrepresentation” in the present legislation.