Bill to make Canadian citizenship hard to get, easy to lose

Posted at 09/02/2014 10:31 AM | Updated as of 09/03/2014 9:56 AM

VANCOUVER - Canada can now easily strip the citizenship of millions of Canadians, thanks to a proposed law that will make citizenship harder to get and easier to lose.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is very worried about the implications of bill C-24, a proposal that re-defines Canadian citizenship.

They believe it targets naturalized citizens and those holding dual citizenship.

"Canadian citizens who are dual citizens are particularly vulnerable to the citizenship-stripping provisions because under the law if you only hold one citizenship then they can't take that away from you," said Carmen Cheung, senior counsel of BCCLA.

Cheung further explained, "But if you hold two citizenships, a dual citizenship or if you are even eligible for dual citizenship, then all of these citizenship-stripping provisions come into effect and so that in effect creates categories of Canadians and we know that oftentimes, the people who are dual citizens are immigrants or they're new to Canada, and so it disproportionately impacts new Canadians and immigrants."

It also targets suspects of terrorist activities, organized crime, or loyalty offenses, like serving in a country fighting Canada, by stripping them of their citizenship.

The new law also makes it harder to be a Canadian by extending the residency requirement from three years to four years with a minimum 183 days' stay in Canada per year in four out of six years.

An application can be denied if there is doubt in your "intent to reside" in Canada. Refused applications can no longer be appealed.

"For purposes of halimbawa, sa negosyo mo, for family emergency, you had to go home, and napag-initan ka, pwedeng i-revoke ang citizenship mo - dadalihin ka sa intent to reside. so iyon ang nakakatakot na provision. The other provision that I really find troubling is yung pwede tayong mag-dual citizen. Pag-dual citizen ka at meron silang nakita na halimbawa nong mag-p.r. (permanent resident) ka, meron kang hindi nasabi, merong fraud o basta may hindi ka nasabi, pwedeng balikan ang iyong citizenship and revoke it," said immigration consultant Arlene Tungohan.

The BCCLA warns another amendment may be introduced that will take away the right of Canadian citizenship by birth.

Government argues non-residents are taking advantage of this so their Canadian children can sponsor them in the future.

But statistics show these births are not even one percent of total Canadian births per year.

"There was a memo that was written by Canadian government officials which looks like it was assessing a proposal that they eliminate citizenship by birth on Canadian soil. We've heard reports that this is going to be the next piece of legislation that is going to be tabled and so we are incredibly concerned that this is going to be something that will be before parliament soon," Cheung said.

Migrante-BC vows to work with other groups to push for the repeal of this law.

"We have to continue giving voice of our community. It's really negatively impacting our human rights and our constitutional law and citizenship," said Migrante BC's Beth Dollaga.

To date, more than 45,000 Canadians have signed an online petition to stop bill C-24.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the BCCLA will file a lawsuit to challenge the sweeping changes in Canada's citizenship law.