Revocation of Citizenship, Was it Worth it?

Recently the Canadian Immigration Minister announced reversal to the changes introduced by the controversial Bill C-24. The original amendment to the citizenship act allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of those charged of terrorism or high treason (in addition to fraud as there was previously). This penalty could only be applied to those who have dual citizenship or, in order to comply Canada’s UN commitment to reduce statelessness, are eligible for a citizenship of another country. The primary concern with this change is that was a slippery slope. Although the crimes warranting the revocation were narrow at the outset, it could be grow in the future to suit the ruling government’s needs. It was clear that the intentions of the government were justified or noble, the language of the bill did little to inspire that confidence in the public. Former Prime Minister Harper in an interview claimed that he would look to expand the list of crimes that make an individual eligible to have their citizenship revoked.

An important caveat to the Bill is that the right was reserved with the minister and not the Supreme Court; it could mean that the application of the revocation would be more subjective and in line with the whims of the government in power. The public perception grew that there was a ‘second class’ of citizens being created. It would give the governing party a leverage against those that disagreed with it. As it stands, many governments including Canada have found it difficult to create a tight or concise definition of terrorism as it can take so many forms. Due to this many experts rushed to point out the activities of certain activist groups who may generally not recognized as ‘terrorists” could be charged with the crime, removed from Canadian society. A recent leaked RCMP document labelled the Anti-petroleum group “as a growing and violent threat to Canadian security.” There are many in the anti-petroleum group that are peaceful activists, but there are a few were willing to commit violent acts that could be classified as terrorism. Instead of utilizing the tools at our disposal in the judicial system, were we willing to strip these people of their citizenship as well? As it stands now, the new liberal government announced that it would repeal the legislation put in by the previous government to remove the right to revoke citizenship.

The idea may have been to be able to deport those convicted after the completion of their sentence; or just simply deport them after the party had been found guilty. Proponents of the bill can fairly claim that if someone is so motivated to harm Canada, its citizens and the values it stands for, they should no longer have the right to call themselves a Canadian. Additionally, should the Canadian taxpayer have to pay to imprison this offender and potentially live in their community once completing their sentence?

Putting aside the prevalent notion from those on the other side that citizenship is an inviolable right and “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” what other benefits would there be to keep those convicted of high treason and terrorism as citizens? It can be argued that we can ensure that those convicted receive their due and justified punishment, and additionally be able to be monitored after their release instead of just disappearing. Our justice system can actively work to ensure these people do not commit the same offences again, and are (maybe partially) rehabilitated. If those convicted are simply removed from the country, are we able to effectively monitor them to ensure they will not plot crimes against Canada and its interests in the future?

The idea of giving the state the ability to revoke citizenship on terrorism charges has not only taken root in Canada. Currently 22 countries allow for the denaturalization of citizens convicted of terrorism offences. Some like the United Kingdom do not have provisions to ensure the individual does not become stateless like Canada had. Governments in these countries have also faced sharp criticism by segments of their population.

A few questions remain: should a government be able to wash its hands of a person convicted of such offences rather than take the responsibility of incarcerating or rehabilitating offenders? Did the existing law prior to the conservative government amendment make Canada ineffective in dealing with the war on terror? Will stripping someone’s citizenship be an effective deterrent to those considering joining terrorist organizations? Will Canada be safer if a convicted terrorist is outside its borders, but potentially unmonitored?

Karan Mehta (1 Posts)

Karan Mehta joins Freedom Observatory after completing an Honour’s Bachelors degree in International Studies from Glendon College and postgraduate certificate in Government Relations from Seneca College. He held key positions in numerous organizations and has volunteered politically. During his time in undergraduate studies Karan was one of the founding members of Glendon Model NATO and has helped provide students with a practical approach to international affairs. Karan is passionate about politics, international affairs, and grassroots social movements.


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