Post Media News
Thursday, February 7, 2013
By Tobi Cohen & , Postmedia News
OTTAWA — The federal government is considering stripping dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship if they commit acts of terror abroad, in the wake of reports Canadians were involved in attacks in Bulgaria and Algeria.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said it’s a provision that may be worth incorporating into a private member’s bill already tabled by Conservative Devinder Shory. That bill seeks to revoke citizenship from dual citizens who commit acts of war against Canada.
“Canadian citizenship is predicated on loyalty to this country and I cannot think of a more obvious act of renouncing one’s sense of loyalty than going and committing acts of terror,” Kenney said Wednesday.
“Right now under the current law we have no power to revoke or deem ‘renunciation of citizenship’ on the part of a dual citizen terrorist of this nature although every other western democracy I’ve studied does have a similar power.”
Americans, for example, can lose citizenship if they are convicted of treason, and dual nationals in Australia and the United Kingdom can be stripped of their citizenship if it’s thought to be in the public good. Canadian citizenship can only be revoked in the event a person is found to have obtained their citizenship fraudulently.
Kenney suggested Parliament study the “international precedents” and look at expanding Shory’s bill. He also noted the government would be supporting the backbench MP’s efforts.
The minister’s comments came a day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed a Canadian dual-national was involved in a Hezbollah-linked bus bombing in Bulgaria last year that killed five Israeli tourists. Kenney also offered a few more details about the individual, whose name has not yet been disclosed and who remains at large.
He confirmed the man came to Canada around the age of eight and obtained his citizenship three or four years later. He left Canada at the age of 12 and returned to Lebanon but it’s believed he has returned to Canada a few times since then, though he has “not been a habitual resident since age 12,” Kenney said. It’s not clear when the man was last in Canada.
Officials are also investigating recent claims two Canadians played a role in a deadly gas plant attack in Algeria last month.
Michel Coulombe, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service’s deputy director of operations, told a Commons committee last fall that about 50 young Canadians are believed to have travelled or attempted to travel to Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and tribal areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years to “engage in terrorism-related activities.” It’s not clear how many of those people may hold dual citizenship. According to Statistics Canada, 863,115 people or three per cent of Canadians qualify as “citizens of Canada and at least one other country.”
A law like the one Kenney discussed would likely give Canada the power to revoke citizenship from people such as Nicholas Ribic and Fateh Kamel. Ribic is the Serbian-Canadian convicted for taking Canadian Forces Capt. Patrick Rechner hostage in Bosnia after he joined the Bosnian Serb army in 1995. Kamel is an Algerian-Canadian convicted in France of terrorist activities. He was denied a Canadian passport on national security grounds in a decision upheld by the Federal Court of Canada in 2009 (suggesting that’s one way the government has dealt with dual citizens convicted of terrorism until now).
NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims called the idea of revoking citizenship a “knee-jerk reaction” and another example of the government making policy based on “unique or very rare circumstances.” Liberal Leader Bob Rae called Kenney’s comments premature.
“If the government says we want to do a complete review of dual citizenship, let’s have that review,” he said. “But let’s not do policymaking on the fly and say, because something terrible happened yesterday, I’ve got an instant answer in a scrum today. Sometimes it takes a little time to reflect on what’s going to work and going to actually be constitutional.”
A review of dual citizenship was conducted in 2006 after the decision was made to rescue 15,000 Lebanese-Canadians from Beirut in the wake of Israeli attacks on Hezbollah at a cost of $100 million, even though many of them hadn’t live in Canada for years and were thought to have returned to Lebanon after. The outcome, Kenney said, was that most Canadians ultimately support dual citizenship.
In fact, a 2007 Ipsos Reid poll for the Dominion Institute found only 39 per cent of Canadians wished to end dual citizenship. A poll commissioned by Shory last year, however, found eight out of 10 Canadians support the idea of revoking the citizenship of those dual citizens who commit acts of treason or terror.
Shory’s bill returns to the House of Commons for second reading in March. As it’s currently written, the two-part bill would reduce the residency requirement for citizenship for permanent residents who sign up for a minimum three-year stint in the armed forces. In other words, newcomers who serve in the Canadian Forces will be eligible for citizenship in two years instead of three.
However, the bill would also strip dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship if they committed an act of war against the Canadian Forces. Permanent residents who did the same would have their citizenship application withdrawn.
“I want to reward those who put their lives on the line for us to defend Canada and, at the same time, those who go out and engage in war against our Canadian Forces should pay the price for it,” Shory said in an interview.
“It is another pathway to integration and it will definitely serve as an added incentive for new talented immigrants to join the Canadian Forces.”
Critics of the bill raise concerns about its relevance and whether it may violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Capt. Graham Callos of the Canadian Forces Recruitment Centre in Toronto suggested most soldiers are already Canadian and that it’s only on “very rare” occasions that non-citizens are recruited, usually for a particular skill-set.
Sims said there’s no clear definition for “acts of war,” which could leave a “minefield for lawyers,” while immigration lawyer Jacquelin Bonisteel argued the bill is ambiguous and could be seen to discriminate against people based on their nationality.
Dual Citizenship: a Question and Answer primer
Q. How many Canadian citizens also hold citizenship in another country?
A. In 2006, there were more than 860,000 Canadian citizens – about three per cent of the population – who also held citizenship with at least one other country.
Q. Which countries allow multiple citizenship?
A. The majority of North American and European nations permit multiple citizenship while most African and Asian countries do not. Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom all allow multiple citizenship while Germany, China, Cuba and India are among the nations that do not.
Q. Which countries have laws to strip citizenship from dual nationals?
A. Some nations that permit dual citizenship have laws in place to remove citizenship in specific circumstances. For example, dual-citizen Americans can lose American citizenship if they are convicted of treason. In Australia and the United Kingdom, people can be stripped of citizenship if it is believed to be in the public’s best interest. For example, dual British and Somali citizen Mahdi Hashi was stripped of British citizenship last year because he was reportedly involved in extremist activities.
Q. How can dual citizens lose Canadian citizenship?
A. Currently, Canadian citizenship can only be revoked if a person is found to have obtained his or her citizenship fraudulently. In the fall of 2012 the federal government announced that 3,000 people would be stripped of citizenship for this reason.
Q. Why do laws strip citizenship from dual citizens only?
A. Many nations are signatories to the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and so they have an international commitment to reduce the number of stateless people. If a person has only one citizenship, the nation in question won’t rescind it as this would make the person stateless.
Q. What are some of the problems associated with being a dual citizen?
A. Being a Canadian citizen does not excuse dual citizens from obligations to other nations. For example, dual citizens may be required to register for compulsory military service in their other country, pay taxes or reimburse governments for costs associated with education or training.
As well, if dual Canadian citizens move to a country in which they also hold citizenship, Canadian laws dealing with marriage, divorce and child custody may not be upheld. Indeed, the other country may not recognize the Canadian citizenship at all.
Q. Are dual citizens living abroad still considered Canadian citizens?
A. Canadian citizens can keep their citizenship even if they relocate to another country permanently.
– Andrea Hill and Kirsten Smith, Postmedia News.