Canadian Federal Government Thwarts Attempt At Constitutional Challenge By Civil Society Groups

22 Mar 2023

BCCLA and CARL Try and Fail To Challenge To the Federal Law

The Globe and Mail reported this month that it’s business as usual with citizenship revocations without procedurally fair hearings. Last month, we touched on an awkward situation with Maryam Monsef,  Liberal Minister of Democratic Institutions in Justin Trudeau’s federal government. In mid September of 2016, she revealed that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she’d long believed. This technically and legally qualified her as having misrepresented herself to become a Canadian citizen, and as such, she could at any time be one of up to 60 Canadian citizens every month who see their citizenship revoked under Bill C-24. The federal Liberal party campaigned on an election promise to repeal the controversial bill, but instead introduced Bill C-6, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act.  Bill C-6 should have fixed the lack of procedural fairness and safeguards for individuals facing citizenship revocation, but it didn’t. The BCCLA and CARL launched constitutional challenges to the federal law, arguing the government should stop all citizenship revocation until the matter is settled in court. Those efforts were officially thwarted.

On Friday October 7th, the Justice Department argued that because of duplication, the court should not hear the case, which asks Ottawa to stop all revocations until it can fix a Harper-era law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing. The government has committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing, but has yet to do so.

Here’s the kicker. In a senate hearing on October 4th, Immigration Minister John Maccallum was grilled on why the federal government is doing nothing about this, and waiting on the Senate to enact an amendment, especially in light of the minister acknowledging that it’s unfair.

“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 immediately order his department to stop 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. When pressed further by Senator Eggleton, he said that he would consider a moratorium on the practice but remained very non committal. Three days later, that was off the table. Considering that Minister Monsef should and could be on the list of those who could have their citizenship revoked, the government’s odd position on this, and their lack of willingness to concretely do anything about it remains a political mystery.