Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday the government should "consider" expanding a Tory MP's bill to strip Canadian citizenship from those who commit acts of terrorism.
He was speaking after confirmation Tuesday that a Lebanese-Canadian dual national was involved in the 2012 bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.
Conservative MP Devinder Shory's private member's bill, C-425, had its first hour of debate in the House of Commons on Jan. 29.
As currently written, it seeks to amend the Citizenship Act in two ways:
- Speeding up Canadian citizenship for permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Forces.
- Triggering the renunciation of Canadian citizenship for those who engage in acts of war against the Canadian Forces.
Shory says his bill's measures are in line with those in other countries like Australia and the United States and that polls suggest there's broad support for stripping citizenship in such cases.
"I think that perhaps we should consider working with Shory to broaden the scope of his bill to include not just acts of war against Canada by Canadian citizens, but perhaps we should also consider acts of terrorism," Kenney said.
"Canadian citizenship is predicated on loyalty to this country and I cannot think of a more obvious act of renouncing one’s sense of loyalty than going and committing acts of terror," he said.
"Right now under the current Canadian law we have no power to revoke or to deem renunciation of citizenship on the part of a dual citizen terrorist of this nature, although every other western democracy I’ve studied does have a similar power to revoke citizenship effectively from dual citizens who are terrorists," the immigration minister said. "So I think we should study the international precedence and perhaps look at expanding Mr. Shory’s private member’s bill."
In a statement provided to CBC News, Shory said he was "open to any amendments that strengthen my bill."
"Punishing those who commit acts of terror is certainly consistent with the spirit of my bill, and as such Minister Kenney’s proposal is an attractive one," the Tory MP said.
Opposition pans idea
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae called the suggestion "knee-jerk channel changing" by the Conservatives.
"This is something that has to be thought through consistently. Do we want to have two or three different kinds of citizens?" he said after his own caucus meeting.
Rae pointed out that those who commit other criminal acts are not routinely deprived of their citizenship.
"What are the consequences of doing that? Is it constitutional? These are things a minister of the Crown should be thinking of before he comes to a scrum and announces some kind of, frankly, knee-jerk response," Rae said.
NDP MP Peter Julian said Kenney's suggestion was not the approach most Canadians would take.
"We want to make sure that terrorism is stopped. But when we want to do that, it's within the framework of a democratic society where there's a system of checks and balances," Julian said.
Julian's colleague, Jinny Sims, said during debate on Shory's bill last week that it was insufficiently clear that "due process before the law is necessary to determine whether someone has committed an act of war, nor is it clear who would make such a determination."
"Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the members of the government seem fond of stripping due process with very little accountability," Sims said during last Tuesday's debate. "Additionally, some key terms are not defined. The terms "acts of war" and "legal resident" are not defined anywhere in Canadian law.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the immigration minister's suggestion, made to reporters after the weekly Conservative caucus meeting, indicated his own personal opinion or whether he was speaking for the Harper government.
Other cabinet ministers have publicly endorsed and helped expedite private member's legislation from backbench Tory MPs in recent months.
When asked if the government support's Shory's bill in its current form, Kenney said yes.
Dual national left Canada at age 12
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said yesterday that he could not confirm whether the individual involved in the bombing had a Canadian passport or when he had lived in Canada or last visited.
He did, however, confirm that the government accepts the Bulgarian investigation's findings that someone with dual Canadian citizenship was involved.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov had said one of the suspects entered the country with a Canadian passport.
Baird said the individual resided in Lebanon. Kenney offered more details today, saying the individual had not lived in Canada since he was 12, after arriving in Canada from Lebanon as an eight-year-old child.
Kenney said it's possible the individual "may have been back to Canada a few times since then," but did not offer the individual's name or what part of Canada may have served as a past residence or destination for visits.
Bulgarian authorities connect the bombing to Hezbollah, which the Canadian government classifies as a banned terrorism entity in Canada.
Hezbollah disputes the investigation's findings that it was linked to the bombings, suggesting Wednesday that the conclusions were without evidence and driven by Israeli paranoia over the group's continued military strength in southern Lebanon.