Inside Politics

Tories drop bid to strip citizenship of convicted terrorists

All but lost amid last night's flurry of last-minute legislative fast tracking was the government's tacit admission that it has officially abandoned its attempt to strip the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of acts of terrorism -- at least, for now.

Moments before the House rose for the summer, the committee that spent the last week under sustained -- and, as it turned out, ultimately successful -- opposition-backed filibuster fire finally surrendered to the apparently inevitable, and reported Conservative MP Devinder Shory's bill back to the House without amendment, which effectively puts an end to the efforts of both the sponsor and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to extend it to cover terrorism-related offences as well as the "acts of war" included in the original bill.

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals had vociferously objected to the proposal to broaden the bill, which, they argued, went far beyond that to which the House had given its preliminary approval at second reading.

Even the government was prepared to concede that their hoped-for amendments -- which, in addition to adding terrorism to the text, would have ensured that the sanctions applied to attacks on civilians as well as Canadian soldiers -- were outside the parameters of the original bill.

Before launching into clause-by-clause review, they used their majority on the committee to send a formal request back to the House seeking permission to expand its scope. If granted, that would have allowed for the bill to be all but rewritten entirely at committee, but according to Kenney's parliamentary secretary and committee pointman Rick Dykstra, after the speaker eventually ruled that it was in order last month, the NDP blocked his every attempt to do so.

That led Dykstra and his colleagues to bring forward a second motion -- this time, to ask the House for an additional 30 days to study the bill. (Under the Standing Orders, 60 days after being referred to committee, private members' bills are automatically reported back without amendment.)

The opposition parties, however, saw the move as yet another instance of the government using private members' business as a cover for its own agenda, and balked.

Over the course of the next few days, the committee racked up more than 40 hours of debate, but at the end of the day -- literally -- the government side gave up, and allowed the bill to go back to the House in its original, unamended form, which is how it will likely remain, as only minor, technical amendments are usually permitted at report stage.

It's worth noting that Kenney is, of course, still free to follow through on his desire to boost the government's powers of forcible depatriation. 

He'll just have to bring in his own bill to do so, rather than hitching a ride on the private members' circuit. 

UPDATE: It appears that Shory, at least, isn't ready to call it quits. 

In a statement sent out by his Calgary riding office, he vows to use "all parliamentary options available to ensure that convicted terrorists lose their citizenship" while pointedly not specifying exactly what that might involve: 

The NDP and Liberals should be truly ashamed of the games they played at committee, which served to protect the interests of convicted terrorists.   

Unfortunately, the NDP and Liberals, by filibustering in committee, have demonstrated that they are ferociously ideologically opposed to stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists.  They are allowing violent terrorists to use Canadian citizenship as a flag of convenience.    

My private members' bill sends a clear message that Canadian citizenship is predicated upon loyalty to Canada.  There is no clearer rejection of the values upon which Canadian citizenship is founded than committing a terrorist act.   

The NDP and Liberals will have to answer to their constituents, who are part of the over 80% of Canadians who strongly support my bill and the amendments.  They also have to answer to the groups whose views they have completely ignored, including the Air India 182 Victims' Families Association, the Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, and Immigrants for Canada, among many others   

I want to assure all Canadians that I will not let this issue die, and I will use all Parliamentary options available to ensure that convicted terrorists lose their citizenship.  

Our Conservative Government remains committed to passing legislation to strip convicted terrorists of Canadian citizenship.

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