What dual citizens need to know about Bill C-24, the new citizenship law
New Canadian take the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Dartmouth on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A controversial provision of Bill C-24 recently came into effect, allowing the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason and several other serious offences.
As a result of the new provisions that came into effect last month, warnings to dual citizens have been circulating online, especially on Facebook. Some posts warn that dual citizens, including those who were born in Canada, now have “second-class status” and that their Canadian citizenship can be “stripped arbitrarily.”
(One of the posts circulating on Facebook about Bill C-24)
But what does this new law really mean for dual citizens? Here’s what you need to know:
Is it true that citizenship can be revoked “arbitrarily”?
Not exactly. The new revocation provisions, which came into force on May 29, state that Canadian citizenship can be revoked from a dual citizen if the person:
- 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
However, Canadian citizenship will not be revoked if that would lead to an individual becoming stateless. That’s because Canada must comply with the UN’s 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Is the new law still concerning?
Yes, according to immigration and refugee lawyers, as well as Amnesty International Canada. They have all voiced their opposition to Bill C-24 and specifically the provisions surrounding the revocation of citizenship.
The most controversial aspect of the new legislation is the fact that the majority of revocation cases will be decided by the citizenship and immigration minister (or a delegate), instead of a Federal Court judge.
The Conservative government is touting it as a “less costly, more efficient process,” but critics say it denies people the right to due process while giving immigration officials discretion when it comes to revoking citizenships.
Civil rights groups and Amnesty International also say that the law discriminates against dual citizens by suggesting they are somehow “less Canadian” and not necessarily entitled to the same rights as Canadian-born citizens.
Many have also pointed out that some Canadians may not even be aware that they hold dual citizenships based on their origins, marriage and other family ties.
“Canadians with another nationality (and those who are eligible to obtain another nationality) now have second-class status,” the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said earlier this month.
Rocco Galati, a Toronto-based constitutional lawyer, told CTVNews.ca Wednesday that a court challenge of Bill C-24 is in the works. He expects it to proceed in the late fall or early winter.
He said that although controversy over Bill C-24 has been brewing since its introduction, there is renewed interest since it became law.
What else is in Bill C-24?
Also known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the bill received Royal Assent and became law in June 2014. The new legislation includes major changes to the citizenship application and approval process. That includes requiring permanent residents to be physically present in Canada longer than before in order to gain citizenship, higher fees for citizenship applications and expanding the age bracket for citizenship tests.