‘Two-Tiered’ Canadian Citizenship Challenged

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – Attorneys and a civil liberties group have sued Canada, claiming it created an unconstitutional “two-tiered form of citizenship” by changing the country’s Citizenship Act last year.
     The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and a naturalized Pakistani challenge the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act of June 2014, which added an “intent to reside” provision and expanded “the grounds upon which a person may have their citizenship revoked.”
     They claim the “intent to reside” provision requires people who apply for citizenship to “establish an intention” to keep living in the country, while citizens born in Canada are free to live abroad without fear of losing their citizenship.
     “Naturalized Canadians, on the other hand, have their mobility constrained by the risk that departure from Canada postnaturalization will be construed as evidence of past misrepresentation of an intent to reside in Canada,” the claim states.
     The plaintiffs say that people applying for citizenship now must “prospectively disavow the mobility rights that all Canadian citizens enjoy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In doing so, it creates a two-tiered system of citizenship that discriminates against individuals on the basis of national origin, as well as race and ethnicity.”
     The changes to the Citizenship Act also expanded the government’s power to revoke citizenship of people convicted of treason or terrorism-related offences.
     Co-plaintiff Asad Ansari was born in Pakistan in 1985 and was granted Canadian citizenship in 2001. He was convicted of terrorism-related offences in 2010, and served 3 years in prison. He unsuccessfully appealed the conviction, and received a letter in July this year from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration informing him that the government was considering revoking his citizenship based on the conviction. He was 20 at the time of the offense, the claim says, and since being released he’s had no problems with the law and is studying political science.
     “The revocation provisions establish two classes of citizens: mono-Canadian citizens (who are not subject to revocation) and dual or multi-citizens (who are subject to revocation). It treats those individuals who are not citizens of any other state preferentially to those persons who do hold a second citizenship, as the former category are not at risk of losing Canadian citizenship and the benefits that flow from it,” the claim states. “This distinction perpetuates historical disadvantage of Canadian citizens who originate from other countries, and is influenced by prejudicial reasoning respecting the ‘otherness’ or disloyalty of those who hold the citizenship of a foreign state. It renders dual citizens less secure in their Canadian citizenship than mono-citizens.”
     The plaintiffs want the revocation and “intent to reside” provisions struck down as unconstitutional.
     In a parallel action against the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, they want to prohibit the Canadian government from applying the provisions if they are granted leave for judicial review of the legislation.
     They are represented by Lorne Waldman, John Norris, Breese Davies, Marlys A. Edwardh, and Daniel Sheppard in Toronto.

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