McCallum: I'll consider moratorium on stripping citizenship without a hearing

In an appearance before the Senate, Immigration Minister John McCallum said he would consider a moratorium on the practice of stripping dual citizens of Canadian citizenship without a hearing.

Immigration minister said he'd welcome amendment to C-6 giving right to appeal decision to strip citizenship

Immigration Minister John McCallum faced a barrage of questions from senators during question period in the Senate Tuesday. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Immigration Minister John McCallum wants the Senate to come to the aid of Canadians who are being stripped of their citizenship without a hearing.

And, in the meantime, he says he'll consider imposing a moratorium on the practice.

Independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, who is sponsoring another citizenship-related bill in the upper house, is planning an amendment that would allow those deemed to have misrepresented themselves to appeal a decision to revoke their citizenship.

McCallum, who was grilled by senators Tuesday, says he'd welcome such an amendment.

Revocation without a hearing was part of a citizenship bill passed by the previous Conservative government. The provision was denounced by the Liberals when they were in opposition but lawyers say they've been aggressively enforcing it since forming government.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers last week launched a constitutional challenge to the law, which they argue violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It's a law that could potentially ensnare Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, who has revealed she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan, as she'd always believed

McCallum faced some tough questioning on the matter Tuesday when he appeared in the Senate for the chamber's question period.

Right to appeal

"You, minister, have acknowledged that this process needs to be fixed, and yet your department officials continue to issue revocation notices to Canadians on these grounds," said independent Liberal Sen. Art Eggleton.

He asked if McCallum would order his department to immediately cease applying the law until those facing revocation of their citizenship are entitled to a hearing and an appeal process.

"The short answer to that question is no," McCallum initially responded.

He agreed that everyone should have a "proper right to appeal" and professed hope that the Senate would amend Bill C-6 to provide for that.

"I would certainly welcome such an amendment," he said.

McCallum: I'll consider moratorium

But that prompted an angry response from Eggleton.

"You say you'd welcome this, you understand due process, that people should have the right to appeal, the right to a hearing ... and yet you won't stop your department from going under this old system, this system that came from the previous government which denies them all of those opportunities," Eggleton said.

"I don't understand. There's a disconnect there. Why don't you put a moratorium on that process which you agree is wrong?"

McCallum then shifted gears, saying: "I will consider that moratorium, I won't rule it out unconditionally."

The Liberal government chose not to deal with the provision in Bill C-6, which repeals other aspects of the Conservatives' citizenship regime, including a provision empowering the government to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who are convicted of high treason or terrorism.

The NDP attempted to amend the bill in the House of Commons to repeal the power to revoke citizenship without a hearing but that was ruled outside the scope of the bill.

Omidvar, who is sponsoring C-6 in the upper chamber, has said Senate procedural rules are different and she's hopeful the upper house will be able to do what the Commons could not.