Politics

Tories will limit revoking of citizenship to 'violent acts of disloyalty,' Jason Kenney says

Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Friday the federal government will not expand its policy of revoking citizenship for serious criminality beyond "violent acts of disloyalty to Canada." Kenney was campaigning in Dartmouth, N.S., with other Conservative candidates in the Oct. 19 election touting the benefits of the Tories' shipbuilding program.

Only 'convicted terrorists and traitors' face threat of losing citizenship, says defence minister

Conservative candidate Jason Kenney defends Bill C-24 which allows a dual national to be stripped of citizenship if convicted of offences related to spying, treason or terrorism. 3:01

The Conservative Party has "no interest" in expanding the grounds for stripping individuals of Canadian citizenship beyond "violent acts of disloyalty to Canada," which include terrorism, high treason and acts of war, says Defence Minister Jason Kenney.

During a campaign event in Dartmouth, N.S., Friday, Kenney, a Conservative candidate in the Oct. 19 election in the Calgary Midnapore riding, ruled out any move to revoke the citizenship of serious criminals such as mass murderers or child predators, insisting the practice would be limited to "convicted terrorists and traitors" who have turned on Canada.

No other legal or statutory grounds for citizenship revocation are under consideration, he said.

"We believe the grounds for revocation of citizenship should be limited to those who have obtained it by fraud, or people who are convicted of violent disloyalty to Canada — who hate our country so much that they take up arms against it as members of a terrorist group or take up arms against it in a foreign army through the commission of treason or of war against Canada," Kenney said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appeared to open the door to expanding the grounds for revoking citizenship of dual nationals who commit other serious crimes during an interview with a London, Ont., radio station on Wednesday. 

"We can look at options in the future," Harper told AM980's Andrew Lawton.

'No interest' in stripping criminals of citizenship

But Kenney said there is "no interest" in including the revoking of citizenship among the punishments for more common violations of the Criminal Code. The measure is specifically for those who want to cause mass harm to their own country and citizens.

"When you're doing that, you're telling us that you're renouncing and forfeiting your Canadian citizenship," Kenney said. "It's an attack on your own citizenship and the country to which you are supposed to be basically loyal."

The government has recently stripped the citizenship of Zakaria Amara for his role in the Toronto 18 bomb plot and is trying to do the same to at least three other members of the group: Asad Ansari, Saad Khalid and Saad Gaya.

Ansari and Khalid have been informed by letter of the government's intent to strip them of their citizenship.

Gaya is serving an 18-year sentence for his role in the plot and is the only member of the group who was born in Canada.

Kenney calls niqab 'misogynistic' practice

Kenney also answered questions on Friday about the government's hard line on banning the niqab at citizenship ceremonies and the resulting backlash. Kenney denied the niqab debate is fanning the flames of hostility toward Muslims. Montreal police are investigating a complaint that a pregnant Muslim woman was attacked by two teens who tried to rip off her hijab.

Kenney said it was "ridiculous" to link the government policy with that incident and defended the Conservative position, which he said is embraced by the majority of Canadians.

"Let's be clear, this practice of face covering reflects a misogynistic view of women which is grounded in a medieval, tribal culture," he said.

"While the government has no interest in regulating what people choose to wear in their private lives, when you come and swear a public oath … in front of a judge and your fellow citizens, we think it's eminently reasonable to ask that for those 30 seconds, you do so publicly, openly and transparently as a proud new Canadian."

The niqab has emerged as a key issue in the election campaign and will likely be a hot topic at tonight's French-language debate organized by the Quebec network TVA. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will be on the hot seat for supporting the right to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies, a position that has cost the party support in Quebec.

Kenney was visiting an electrical company in Dartmouth that is one of the sub-contractors in the $36.6-billion shipbuilding project the Conservatives announced five years ago and are in the process of implementing. The government has called the contract the largest peacetime project in Canada's history.

At Friday's press conference, Kenney also lashed out at former prime minister Jean Chrétien's recent praise of Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict, saying it reflects the "distorted" foreign policy of the Liberal Party.

"Vladimir Putin is out to serve his own interests," Kenney said of Russia's recent airstrikes in Syria. "He's not helping, and he's not an ally, and I think it's bizarre that the Liberal Party is out there regarding Vladimir Putin as an ally. 

"This is a man whose political opponents have been murdered and who has invaded neighbouring countries. Vladimir Putin is not an ally of Canada. Vladimir Putin is not an ally of international peace and stability."

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