Senate Approves Bill C-6 After A Year Of Legislative Review

May 28, 2017

“…a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” – Justin Trudeau

May 3rd, 2017 was a key day in the passage of Bill C-6 – the Liberal government’s changes to Bill C-24. When Justin Trudeau was campaigning in the last federal election, he specifically identified what he referred to as “unfair elements” in the existing legislation. For a primer on Bill C-24, read here for a good breakdown of the law courtesy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The initial draft of Bill C-6 reduced the residency requirements to 3 out of 4 years, from 4 out of 6 years, limited the language test to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54, from the current ages of 14 and 64 and removed the intent to reside in Canada requirement as well as removing national security as a ground for revocation. Big changes!

45 senators voted in support of the legislation, 29 against, and no abstentions. The bill repeals many elements of the previous Conservative government’s citizenship legislation, including a provision that revoked citizenship from dual Canadian citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. Conservative Senator Daniel Lang wasn’t thrilled about this. He proposed the government maintain that provision.

“The current law allows for the revocation of citizenship if someone lies or commits a war crime. But if an individual is convicted for terrorism, they will be able to keep their Canadian passport and all the benefits that go with it.” – Senator Daniel Lang

Ultimately, his amendment was defeated 44 – 28. The bill now heads back to a Liberal majority House of Commons for review, where MPs can accept, reject or modify the Senatorial amendments.

As per the Globe and Mail, the proposed legislation would automatically reinstate citizenship for dual nationals like Zakaria Amara, a member of the so-called Toronto 18 who planned to bomb downtown Toronto and had his citizenship revoked last fall under the Conservatives’ Bill C-24. The Liberals have continued to stand by the proposal amidst criticism from the Conservatives, with cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly saying that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

One amendment would give citizens the right to a court hearing before their citizenship is revoked. Bill C-24 eliminated the right to a Federal Court hearing for individuals subject to revocation of citizenship when the revocation was specifically based on fraud. In those instances, the government sends letters informing the individual that their citizenship will be revoked, and that they have 60 days to respond in writing. This amendment was courtesy of Senator Elaine McCoy and we touched on it in a previous post back in March. In April, we touched on another amendment courtesy of Senator Victor Oh that would enable minors to apply for Canadian citizenship separately from their parents. A third amendment, coming from Senator Diane Griffin, changes the age limit of language testing. Under the current law, immigrants aged 14 to 64 are required to meet language requirements in English or French. The Liberals proposed to change that age range to 18 to 54, but Ms. Griffin’s amendment upped the age cap to 60.

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