As the federal government’s controversial citizenship bill is poised to pass into law without any amendments, a group of lawyers is warning parliamentarians and the governor general it will challenge the bill as unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Rights Centre, led by Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, sent one letter to parliamentarians and another to Gov. Gen. David Johnston on Monday.
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The lawyers said they are “alarmed” by the provisions contained in Bill C-24 that would give the government more powers to revoke citizenship from dual nationals and expand the grounds for revocation.
Under this bill, the government would have the power 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 those who have been “convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences.”
“A Canadian-born citizen may be removed and wake up to landing in a country which may not recognize the dual nationality and thus become stateless,” Galati said.
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“The net effect of the new provisions in C-24 will be to expose those Canadian-born, citizens, through removal, to both ‘persecution’ and/or ‘stateless’ status.”
Deporting Canadian citizens to countries that practise torture constitutes “a crime against humanity,” Galati said.
Such provisions, according to the lawyers, would constitute a “seismic shift in our laws.”
'Serious human rights concerns'
The group is urging the government not to pass the bill until it refers it to the country’s top court for a legal opinion.
That is unlikely to happen given that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and senior immigration bureaucrats have repeatedly said the bill is constitutionally sound.
Alexander dismissed the concerns of the Canadian Bar Association in the House of Commons on Monday saying the criticism came from “a small section” of the group and did not represent the views of Canadians.
The minister’s comments came as the government moved to limit the debate on C-24.
The bar association’s national law immigration section said, in a 30-page submission to Parliament in April, the citizenship bill raised “serious human rights concerns” and key provisions in the bill were “likely unconstitutional.”
Galati said he would apply for a judicial review with the Federal Court if he did not receive a response within 5 business days.