While talking with the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in his riding, University of Alberta law professor Ubaka Ogbogu expressed his concerns about Bill C-24, the new law that allows the Canadian government to strip to revoke the citizenship of anyone born outside Canada or anyone born in Canada who has or is eligible for citizenship in another country. Ogbogu was concerned about his daughters, who, while Canadian-born, can have their citizenship stripped — and by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or a delegate, not a real judge. Cumming’s advice was that if Bill C-24 was such a concern, Ogbogu should “renounce his heritage”.
Bill C-24 (and yes, full disclosure, it affects me) is supposed to be used to punish the following classes of offender:
- Obtained citizenship by false representation or fraud
- Served as a member of an armed force or organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada
- Was convicted of treason, high treason, spying offences and sentenced to imprisonment for life
- The person was convicted of a terrorism offence or an equivalent foreign terrorism conviction and sentenced to five years of imprisonment or more
The problem is that “Old Stock Canadians”, to use Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s phrase, are capable of committing three out of four of the offenses listed above, but can’t have their Canadian citizenship taken from them. It’s all based on a very arbitrary guess of the offender’s loyalty to Canada. The Canadian Bar Association has pointed out that there’s no reason to question the loyalty of dual citizens any more than an “Old Stock Canadian”, or why their loyalty should determine their worthiness to be a citizen (otherwise, you’d have to deport the Canadian conservative blogosphere, who not-so-secretly wish they lived in Texas).
The “loyalty to another country” concern is silly when you consider whose face is on a lot of our money…
…and the “my ancestors built this country” is equally ridiculous as it suggests that:
- You’re riding in on your great-grandparents coattails, you lazy toolbag, and
- The country is 100% finished, and can’t be built any more. Really, it’s done. No possible improvements, additions, or innovations. Cease all work immediately.
Monia Mazigh sums it up quite well at the end of her article in iPolitics.ca:
Terrorism is an ongoing threat, here and around the world. The current Canadian government is using the excuse of the terrorist threat to create two classes of citizens under the law, divided on the basis of their origins. But in treating terrorism as a special class of crime — and dual citizens as a special class of criminal — the federal government is perverting our laws, our citizenship and of our democracy … dividing our society, making it weaker in the process.
Also worth reading is the Globe and Mail article, Fifty Years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen. An excerpt:
December will mark 50 years since I arrived from India as a toddler. In Montreal, I experienced the fear of terrorism during the 1970 FLQ crisis and horror after the massacre of 14 women one dark December evening in 1989. My first voting experience was momentous, for I helped to keep the country together in the 1980 Quebec referendum. I did the same during the nail-biter of 1995. Along the way, I never felt any discrimination, any sense of being second-class.
Quebec and Canada allowed me to thrive. I remember the pride I felt when my Harvard University professors told me that Canadian graduate students were the best-prepared – a testament to our excellent undergraduate institutions. And the love I felt for my compatriots during the massive 1995 pro-Canada rally in Montreal. It reminded me of the hajj – a sea of individuals from near and far, united in their love for a noble ideal. Differences melted into a shared vision of the future.
However, the mood changed in Quebec after then-premier Jacques Parizeau’s “money and ethnic votes” comment the night of the 1995 referendum. For the first time, I was told to “go back home,” while walking my eight-month-old daughter in a stroller. When I moved to Ottawa, a man, proudly brandishing his Canadian Legion jacket, told me the same. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although there were a few more incidents, I never feared for myself or my children. On the contrary – friends, neighbours and complete strangers renewed my faith in the basic decency of Canadians.
Now, things feel different. I never imagined that the federal government would use its hefty weight to vilify Muslims. Never in 50 years have I felt so vulnerable. For the first time, I wonder if my children will have the opportunity to thrive as I did. One is a budding environmental scientist; one has entrepreneurial goals; the youngest dreams of playing soccer alongside Kadeisha Buchanan. But the Conservative message is: You are Muslim, you are the “other,” you can’t be trusted and you will never belong.
I’ll close with this excerpt from the Globe and Mail’s recent editorial on Bill C-24:
In one respect, Bill C-24 is commendable. It strengthens Canadian citizenship by making it more difficult to acquire. The new law lengthens the residency requirement and asks for a statement of intent from would-be Canadians, to make sure they actually plan to live in this country. These are good moves that will undoubtedly reduce the number of “Canadians of convenience” – people holding Canadian passports for travel or consular assistance, but having little connection to Canada.
But the law has a flip side that is much darker. It gives the government the discretion to strip the citizenship of any dual citizen convicted of terrorism, treason or spying abroad. The consequences are disturbing and unfair for Canada’s 863,000 dual nationals. They run the risk of being treated as somehow less Canadian. There is an ugly, xenophobic side to this law, which may play well with some voters, but has no place in a modern, multicultural Canada.
The maxim may be true after all: “Conservatism is the dread fear that somewhere, somehow, someone you think is your inferior is being treated as an equal.”