During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised that if elected,
they would repeal the Conservative government's controversial
changes made to the Citizenship Act under Bill C-24.
Bill C-6 which was introduced by the Liberal government on
February 25, 2016, was the answer to this promise. The bill was passed by
the House of Commons after its third reading on June 17, 2016 and
was sent to the Senate for its approval.
A group of independent senators, led by
Alberta Senator Elaine McCoy, found that the Liberal
government's efforts to repeal "unfair elements" of
Bill C-24 fell short of its expectations.
The Senate's amendments stem from the citizenship revocation
regime created by the Conservative government. Bill C-6 was
expected to repeal these changes, but it did not contain any
changes to the provisions regarding the procedure for revoking
Before Bill C-24 came into effect, citizenship could only be
revoked on the grounds of fraud. If revocation was contested, the
procedure involved the Minister, the Governor in Council (the
Governor-General acting on the advice of Cabinet) and the Federal
Court. The law basically required immigration officers to first go
before the Federal Court and prove that a citizen had obtained the
citizenship through fraud. Only then could the person's name be
presented to the Governor in Council for revocation.
Under Bill C-24, the Conservative government
simplified the revocation process by establishing new procedures
that no longer required the involvement of the Governor in Council
and the Federal Court.
The procedure, which is still in place today, permits an
immigration officer to revoke a person's citizenship if
satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the person has
obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by
fraud. Upon receiving notice of revocation, the person can only
contest the decision, in writing, to that same officer. No hearing
Then, once a decision to revoke citizenship has been made, a
person's only recourse is through judicial review by the
This is problematic for two reasons:
Judicial review only takes place
after citizenship has been revoked.
Bill C-24 abolished the right to
judicial review of decisions made under the Citizenship
Act—the court now has to provide permission to bring an
application for judicial review.
The Senate's amendments, if they become law, will provide
Canadians with the right to a court hearing before
their citizenship is stripped.
In the past two years since Bill C-24 came into effect, 272
people have lost their citizenship. In the 17 years before that,
only 167 had their citizenship stripped.
Members of the Canadian Associate of Refugee Lawyers have
expressed their concern over the nature of the current citizenship
revocation process. It is unconstitutional to have a single
government official acting as the investigator, prosecutor, and
decision-maker in such an important matter.
Josh Paterson of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has noted
the absurdity of the current revocation process: "If a
Canadian gets a parking ticket, they have the right to a full
hearing. But if a Canadian is at risk of losing their citizenship
and being banished from their home country, they have no right to a
hearing, and no opportunity to fully defend themselves."
Aside from the revocation process, Bill C-6 does attempt to roll back some of the
Conservative government's changes to Canada's citizenship
laws. It repeals section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act
which allowed citizenship to be revoked on the grounds of national
security. It also changes the effects of citizenship revocation.
Currently, a person whose citizenship is revoked in certain
situations becomes a foreign national (a foreign national can only
remain in Canada if he or she has a valid visa or permit). Under
Bill C-6, a person whose citizenship is revoked becomes a permanent
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