As hundreds of new Canadians became citizens on Canada Day, one woman said she’s only a second-class citizen because of a new immigration law.
Soheila Hashemi was one of 28 people sworn in at a Halifax ceremony Tuesday. She left Iran for a better life in Canada and said she’s happy to become a citizen of her new country.
Becoming Canadian “is really wonderful. It is a great event for me,” she said.
'I'm so happy that I'm a Canadian right now, but I hope the government will review that bill.' - Soheila Hashemi
"But [I'm] just a little bit disappointed … because I don't want to be labelled as a second level of Canadian and I believe it is against the human rights laws of Canada,” she said.
Bill C-24 became law in June. It lets the federal government strip citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of treason, terrorism or espionage.
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Hashemi praised Canada’s values, and said the new law worked against them. She questioned why new Canadians face tougher penalties than Canadians who were born in the country.
“I’m so happy that I’m a Canadian right now, but I hope the government will review that bill,” she said. “It’s not good for immigrants and it’s not good for Canada.”
Court challenge to new law
The law could apply in cases in which citizens are convicted in foreign courts, and it could also apply to people born in Canada if they also have citizenship elsewhere, such as through their parents.
Previously, dual citizens could only lose citizenship if it was proved they obtained it through false representation.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has fiercely defended the proposed law, insisting Canadians support the idea of stripping citizenship from people convicted of war crimes or terrorism.
"Under the new act, we would have the power to revoke it when someone has refused to reveal that they committed crimes, that they committed human rights abuses, that they committed war crimes," Alexander told Parliament in June.
"And yes, Canadians find it entirely acceptable that we should revoke the citizenship of dual nationals for terrorism, spying or treason."
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The law is being challenged in court. Opposition MPs and other advocacy groups, including the Canadian Bar Association, also objected to the bill.
The groups argued the bill, which allows the government to rely on convictions in foreign countries, does not include enough safeguards to protect Canadians.