Ottawa revokes citizenship of Toronto 18 mastermind
Published Saturday, September 26, 2015 12:28PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 27, 2015 7:22AM EDT
The Islamic extremist who masterminded a terrorist plot to bomb Parliament and several buildings in the heart of downtown Toronto has become the first Canadian in history to have citizenship revoked under Bill C-24, a controversial Conservative measure passed last spring.
The new law gives the government the power to strip a dual citizen of their Canadian citizenship if he or she commits a serious crime.
At a campaign stop in Regina Saturday, Conservative candidate Jason Kenney confirmed that Zakaria Amara, a Jordanian-Canadian and member of the so-called Toronto 18, has been formally stripped of his Canadian citizenship.
“He expressed violent disloyalty for this country -- hatred for Canada -- and in so doing, through that conviction, he effectively renounced his own Canadian citizenship,” Kenney said.
CTV News has learned that the process has begun for at least three other convicted terrorists to have their Canadian citizenships revoked.
The decision to revoke Amara’s citizenship spurred criticism from rival politicians and Canadian law experts, with some suggesting the ruling is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous legal precedent.
Amara was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 with no chance of parole until 2016 for his role in plotting a series of terrorist attacks with the Toronto 18. The group wanted to draw Canadian troops out of Afghanistan.
Part of the group’s plan was to detonate bombs in U-Haul rental trucks in downtown Toronto, according to an agreed upon statement of facts from the case.
The Toronto 18 also harboured plans to attack nuclear power plants, RCMP headquarters and eventually target the Sears Tower in Chicago or the UN headquarters in New York City, according to court records.
Police thwarted the plot -- dubbed the “Battle of Toronto” -- in a sweeping series of arrests in 2006.
Deportation plan underway
Now that Amara's Canadian citizenship has been revoked, a plan has been set in motion to deport him to Jordan.
However, he will not be deported until his time has been served, the government confirmed. He is currently behind bars in a Quebec prison and is eligible for parole in 2016.
Deporting the convicted terrorist is a move that Amara’s lawyer denounced as “not in the best interest of Canada.”
“It’s counterproductive, it’s unsafe and it flies in the face of our entire prison system,” Anser Farooq told CTV News.
Setting a legal precedent
Amara likely won’t garner much pity over his lost citizenship, but Canadians should be alarmed by the law’s potential consequences, says Joel Sandaluk, an immigration and citizenship lawyer.
“The day that we sacrifice a lot of our legal values and legal precedents to fear, to demands for greater security, we lose track of who we are as Canadians, of who we are as a people,” Sandaluk said. “And that’s an incredibly dangerous thing.”
Sandaluk acknowledged that Amara is precisely the type of criminal the law was written to target. But he said questions linger about who the law could affect in the future.
“What about the next person, and the next person after that?” he said.
“One of the things we’ve all seen over the years is that, a lot of times, anti-terrorism law can cause abuses -- people who weren’t necessarily intended to be caught in this kind of legislation can be caught. And the consequences are profoundly serious; they’re life-changing.”
He added the law is “drafted broadly enough” that it could create unintended consequences.
“Terrorism itself is not necessarily a clearly defined concept. And how this law may be changed or distorted over the coming years or decades is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty,” he said.
Sandaluk suggested if Amara’s revocation is not challenged in court, one of the upcoming revocations likely will be.
“This piece of legislation is brand new and untested. How the courts handle it, to be perfectly honest, remains to be seen.”
Human rights lawyer David Matas said the decision is another instance of the Harper government drafting a law that is open to Charter challenges.
“We’ve seen with this government a lot of Charter-vulnerable legislation, and they’ve been losing Charter cases all the time. This might be one of those examples,” Matas said.
NDP, Liberals pledge repeal
The landmark revocation comes about three weeks before Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 19. Opposition parties have challenged the premise of Bill C-24. Tom Mulcair says the NDP would repeal the law, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reiterated Friday that his party would do the same.
“Under a Liberal government, there will be no two-tier citizenship,” Trudeau said. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”
NDP candidate Andrew Thomson accused the Conservatives of playing politics on the matter.
“What we need to be careful of is that we are not stripping Canadian citizens of their rights simply because of the Conservatives’ interest in playing politics on this issue.”