Immigration Minister John McCallum updates the media on the Syrian refugees arriving in Canada, during a news conference, Wednesday, February 3, 2016 in Ottawa.

Immigration Minister John McCallum updates the media on the Syrian refugees arriving in Canada, during a news conference, Wednesday, February 3, 2016 in Ottawa.
Photo Credit: PC / Adrian Wyld

‘A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’: Liberals repeal Conservative Citizenship Act

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The Liberals are scrapping parts of a controversial legislation brought under the previous Conservative government, which gave Ottawa the power to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, spying and high treason offences.

The government said Thursday that it will restore the Canadian citizenship of anyone who had it revoked under Bill C-24, since it came into effect in May 2015.

One of the first beneficiaries of the new legislation will be Zakaria Amara, a member of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist group, who had his Canadian citizenship revoked last September. Amara, a Jordanian-Canadian, pleaded guilty to plotting to set off a bomb in downtown Toronto and was sentenced to life in prison in 2010.

Under the old Conservative law he would have been deported to his native Jordan after finishing serving his sentence in Canada.

Asked about the optics of restoring Amara’s citizenship, Immigration Minister John McCallum said that it is “a question of principle” for the government.

‘A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’

“We believe very strongly that there should be only one class of Canadians, that all Canadians are equal, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian from coast to coast to coast,” McCallum told reporters in Ottawa.

The government would still be able to revoke citizenship from those who misrepresent who they are during the immigration process or who are guilty of citizenship fraud, McCallum told reporters.

Under the previous law there was a risk of a “slippery slope,” he said.

“We do have a criminal justice system, we do have courts, we do have prisons where those who are convicted of crimes are sent,” McCallum said. “And that is the way in which we deal with this. We do not need to create two classes of citizenship in order to deal with those are convicted of criminal offenses.”

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Party’s parliamentary critic on citizenship and immigration matters, called the planned changes to the Citizenship Act “very short-sighted” and “disappointing.”

“It should be very concerning for the Canadian public,” she told reporters Thursday. “Anybody who comes to Canada and takes a citizenship oath with malice in their heart against our country… I think that we have to question what that means in terms of how we as a country look at Canadian citizenship.”

Removing citizenship barriers

The new bill also reduces the time immigrants must spend in Canada before they can apply for citizenship and eases language requirements for new arrivals.

The Citizenship Act currently requires applicants to be physically present in Canada for four of six years before applying for citizenship. The new bill would reduce that to three of five years.

The current act also requires immigrants between the ages of 14 and 64 to demonstrate a knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages – English or French.

Under the proposed changes, applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 would be required to show language proficiency. The move would remove “a potential barrier to citizenship for applicants in both the younger and older age groups,” the government said.

‘The stupidest part of Bill C-24’

The government will also restore the 50 per cent credit for international students who may once again count each day they were physically present in Canada before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum of one year of credited time.

“International students are the perfect candidates to become Canadian citizens and we are seeking them out as are other countries around the world,” McCallum said, calling the Conservative decision to revoke the credit ‘the stupidest part of Bill C-24’. “It makes no sense for Canada to punch them in the nose by taking away their 50 per cent credit rather than nurturing them and seeking to welcome them in our midst.”

The changes to the Citizenship Act won’t come into effect until they receive royal assent. McCallum said the Liberals who enjoy a strong majority in the House of Commons hoped to pass the new law “as soon as possible.” However, the bill could run into problems in the Conservative dominated Senate.

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5 comments on “‘A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’: Liberals repeal Conservative Citizenship Act
  1. Avatar Jack white says:

    Unfortunately for Troy Yong, in the Tuesday, 03/07 article in The Star, I am Mi’kmaq, no matter what the governments say, Canada does not treat our MI,kmaw people as we do new Canadian terrorists

  2. Avatar Benalbanach says:

    I agree with McCallum. If you are a Canadian,born or imported then from that point on you should be handled as a Canadian. If however fraud was employed in your application then by definition you are not a Canadian . How Canadians act make them subject to the laws of the land. Sending them off to their country of origin only reinforces the notion of two different classes of Canadian.

  3. Avatar John Arato says:

    A Canadian is NOT a Canadian…
    There are three kinds of Canadians,very different from one another:
    1.The law abiding citizen-most of us-who only want what is good for Canada
    2.Those few,who are here to do harm to the country,such as terrorists,who kill and maim innocent citizens of the group 1.THESE DO NOT DESERVE CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP!
    3.And the idiots who ban the law against group 2.We all know who they are and I hope will remember next time there is an act of terror,and come the next election!

  4. Avatar Drew Erickson says:

    Citizenship is a privilege. It is something we all cherish and the more worldly you are the more this means to you. Many, if not the vast majority of new Canadians, are fleeing situations of terrorism, racism, xenophobia, civil war, dictatorship, etc. They come here because we don’t tolerate those kinds of things. If your personal values do not align with your new chosen country, remember immigrants… and even refugees… can choose where they go, then choose a different country. I live here because I know that terrorism isn’t tolerated, my local culture and friends don’t support racism and xenophobia, we haven’t had a civil war in over two centuries, and we aren’t in a dictatorship (lately :-)). When you chose a new country you chose a new culture and new values. We aren’t asking too much for people to embrace their new countrymen but we do expect a level of integration and actions that support your new culture and values. Let’s not forget most of what we fear isn’t religion, it’s culture. Being Muslim is a religion, groups like ISIL, Boka Haram, etc are a result of cultures who support Sharia law… it’s not a direct result of being Muslim… just like being a member off the KKK or Skinheads are a result of being Christian. One last thing, this was only affecting dual citizenship individuals and not single citizenship holders… they screw up they have a place to go… My wife was an immigrant, became a Canadian last year, and yes, I would expect her to relinquish her passport if she did something worthy of stripping her of her Canadian citizenship. Maybe we should worry about defining the rules instead of reneging on a great deterrent. Let the courts decide if the act was “TOO” heinous to keep your passport.

  5. Avatar Arch Brown says:

    I can’t believe that the Liberal government would not strip a known convicted terrorist of their
    Canadian Citizenship and deport them to their country of origin. I guess Trudeau wants to let
    them have another crack at us ad infinitum. To me a Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian
    is one that NEVER turns their back on Canada and commits terrorist attacks on the country
    that welcomed them to their shores. I hope this never gets past the Senate.