Toronto Sun | 04May2006 | Peter Worthington

Citizenship at risk

This month the Edmonton-based Ukrainian News ran an editorial urging the Harper government to pass the new citizenship act that collapsed when the January election was called.

The newspaper calls it a "no-brainer," since "virtually every ethnocultural group in Canada" supported the key change in the act to make the revocation of citizenship a judicial decision rather than a political act.

The Ukrainian News is right.

As it stands now, a naturalized Canadian can have his citizenship revoked and be deported without appeal or due process if a federal judge rules it is "probable" that the person lied to enter Canada.

Cabinet makes the decision without representation of the person in question or a lawyer.

In essence, that makes some six million naturalized Canadians second-class citizens.

The new citizenship act, which has to be reintroduced in Parliament, had full support of the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, Conservative party and most Liberals -- hence the "no-brainer" judgment that is endorsed by most ethnic groups in Canada.

Although not one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "five priorities," a new citizenship act is important and should pass easily.

Recommendations of previous standing committees on citizenship and immigration were supported across Canada as well as in Parliament.

Reduced to its essentials, all it means is that anyone slated to have citizenship revoked and be deported has the right to appeal -- and that includes suspect Rwandan war criminal Leon Mugasera and Croatian, Serbian or other alleged war criminals who may be hiding out in Canada.

As the Ukrainian News points out, "the standing committee determined that the potential loss of citizenship is of such fundamental significance to the person concerned, that fraud should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court, and that the legal protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights should apply ... (with) no special limits on the right to appeal."

That seems not only reasonable but critical.

The report was unanimously approved in the Commons last June.

A reason why it is important to get the new citizenship act implemented appeared in a letter to the National Post on April 04, 2006 by Ed Morgan, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Morgan praised the Post for urging the deportation of a suspected Rwandan war criminal, and urged that "other war criminals" be ousted -- including Helmut Oberlander of Kitchener, whom the previous Liberal government wanted denaturalized and deported but whose wishes were overruled by federal judges.

Although Morgan calls Oberlander a "war criminal," this has never been proven, other than he "probably" did not admit he'd been seconded as an interpreter for an infamous Nazi death squad when he entered Canada after World War II.

The CJC opposes the right of appeal for several Ukrainians who, as teenagers, were forced to work for the Nazis in World War II, although B'nai Brith is on record supporting an appeal process.

Chairman of the standing committee that for a couple of years crisscrossed Canada soliciting opinions on the new act is Andrew Telegdi, a Hungarian-born Liberal MP (and naturalized citizen) who strikes me as sensible enough to be a Conservative.

As an aside, Warren Kinsella, on his Internet homepage says former U.S. president Bill Clinton and ex-PM Jean Chretien are the "only two politicians I ever wanted to be photographed with," praises Morgan's "great letter" to the Post and quips that he'd "also vote" for the deportation of Andrew Telegdi ..."

This smart-ass observation is why many naturalized Canadians feel vulnerable and second-class, and why due process of law is necessary.