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Government of Canada Considering Revocation of Controversial Citizenship Law

Jonathan Arias - 27 September, 2016

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The government of Canada is considering a stay of proceedings for a law that allows citizens who misrepresented themselves in their citizenship or permanent residence applications to be stripped of their citizenship without a hearing. The existing law, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government, could affect a Liberal member of Cabinet, Maryam Monsef, who it was found was actually born in Iran, rather than Afghanistan, as previously thought.

Monsef, currently serving as federal Minister of Democratic Institutions, revealed last week that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she'd long believed. She said her mother, who fled Afghanistan with her daughters when Monsef was 11, didn't think it mattered where she was born since she was still legally considered an Afghan citizen. Monsef went on to be granted permanent resident status through a refugee settlement program before becoming a Canadian citizen. According to Monsef, she believed that she was born in Afghanistan until recently.

The Charter

Prior to taking office last November, the Liberal Party (then in opposition) denounced the law. When he was in opposition, current Immigration Minister John McCallum labelled the law as "dictatorial". Since becoming immigration minister, he has promised to amend it to create an appeal process

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) filed a legal action with the Federal Court on Monday, September 26, arguing that the rule the previous Conservative government created that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Individuals stripped of citizenship may be subject to a deportation order.

John McCallum said the government is considering a “number of options” to revoke the rule, including a stay on proceedings. However, it will not do it through Bill C-6, which reverses some of the Harper government’s other controversial immigration rules. Bill C-6 has passed the House of Commons, with Senate approval pending.

“We are certainly considering options for changes in that area, but it was not included in Bill C-6,” Mr. McCallum told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday. “I understand that it was considered and it was declared to be out of scope, so it could not come into that bill at the time.”

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