Chris Alexander says citizenship bill will withstand constitutional test

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says the government's prized citizenship bill will withstand a constitutional challenge by the Toronto lawyer who successfully challenged Justice Marc Nadon's appointment to the Supreme Court.

Lawyer who successfully challenged Marc Nadon's appointment to Supreme Court to challenge Bill C-24

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defended the government's citizenship bill, saying it is constitutionally sound, in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Tuesday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says a challenge to the government's prized citizenship bill by the Toronto lawyer who successfully challenged Justice Marc Nadon's appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada doesn't stand a chance in court.

In an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Tuesday, Alexander said the challenge "doesn't have much of a hope."

"There is no constitutional issue here," he told host Evan Solomon.

Bill C-24 would give the government powers to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals “who were members of an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict in Canada.” Citizenship would also be revoked from dual nationals who have been “convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences.”

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati warned MPs, senators and the Governor General, in separate letters sent on Monday, not to pass Bill C-24 until the government referred a key provision of the bill to the Supreme Court for a legal opinion.

At the heart of Galati's challenge are provisions contained in the citizenship bill that would strip dual nationals of their citizenship and bar them from reacquiring it.

Galati said he would apply for a judicial review with the Federal Court if he did not receive a response from the Governor General by Monday.

Revoking citizenship from dual nationals

Galati, who also appeared on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Tuesday, said the federal government does not have the power to remove the citizenship of persons born in Canada.

"They are acting completely outside of the Constitution in a renegade, reckless and flagrant manner. And they know it," Galati said.

Revoking the citizenship of dual nationals is "offensive," "unconstitutional" and simply "beyond the government's authority," he argued.

The lawyer from Toronto said the bill would give the government powers to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals, but not of those who acquired citizenship after immigrating to Canada as permanent residents.

"Where is the logic in that?" Galati asked.

Alexander noted that Galati represented a relative of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, who is now serving a sentence of eight years behind bars in Canada after pleading guilty to five war crimes.

"He also defended, a senior member, the patriarch of the Khadr family, who was a senior member of al-Qaeda," Alexander said.

Galati once represented Khadr's older brother, Abdurahman Khadr, who was held for a time as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay.

"His objection here seems to be to the idea that committing an act of terrorism, treason, or espionage says anything about your qualifications to be a Canadian citizen. We think it does," Alexander said.

Galati said the minister's comments were "neither here nor there."

The Canadian Bar Association has also raised "serious concerns" with the citizenship bill.

In a 30-page submission to Parliament in April, the Bar Association said the citizenship bill raised “serious human rights concerns” and key provisions in the bill were “likely unconstitutional.”​

Alexander said the concerns came from “a small section” of the Bar Association and did not represent the views of Canadians.

The Bar Association will once again give its views on the citizenship bill before a Senate committee on Wednesday.

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