Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): Good evening. It's nice for the committee to be here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Ms. Cathy Woodbeck (Program Director, Thunder Bay Multicultural Association):
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I have many concerns about the whole process of the loss of citizenship. I think this issue is something that has been brought up at many panels as well. I have serious concerns about removal orders being closely linked to the loss of citizenship, about them being one and the same. I do believe a removal order should be separated from the loss of citizenship, and that it would be necessary to hold an examination or an admissibility hearing on the latter, apart from the issue of citizenship. That should continue to be a separate process.
Permanent residents who face removal due to allegations of misrepresentation have the right to appeal. I see that it appears citizens would have fewer rights than permanent residents with those same proceedings. In the case of permanent residents, the review of humanitarian and compassionate circumstances is considered, but the citizen applicant loses both the application for citizenship and their permanent residence in one fell swoop, as you would put it.
On the power to annul citizenship, I see that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would be given some new powers to annul, and that an individual who obtained citizenship to Canada would lose that without fair process and without the right to an appeal or a hearing. If it does come down to a question of costs and the appeals process being costly, then I'm ashamed that this would be included in this bill. I think the right to bring your appeal and that process to hearing would be critical.
With respect to the actual powers of the minister, whether it would be the ministers themselves or civil servants or bureaucrats having the ability to annul citizenship, it's our belief that should be a judicial concern, a judicial responsibility. The ability of any given minister or civil servant to make those decisions would be questionable, so I think it should be left in the hands of judicial rather than political decision-makers.
I know the question will probably come up about a judge using all of the information but not disclosing information to potential citizenship candidates in various circumstances. It seems there is now no longer the ability for someone to appeal to a review committee, and that should be reconsidered. I don't think we should let panic after either September 11 or any other terrorism event or other issues cause us to make judgments and to pass laws that are reactionary. They should be well thought out.
Full disclosure of evidence is one of the issues that is quite concerning to us. The right of a citizen to see what has been alleged against him and all information that has been gathered against him is critical. We must apply the full judicial rules of evidence in this entire process. As a Canadian-born citizen, I am assured of the fundamental right to justice and the rule of law. I do believe naturalized citizens should be given the same rights under the charter.
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Ms. Cathy Woodbeck: Earlier, I made the point that Canadian-born citizens are afforded all of the rights. Should not those who have acquired citizenship through the immigration or refugee process be afforded the same rights? The judicial rules of evidence, the right to the safety and security of the person, due process, the rule of law, and the right to appeal should have no exceptions. Would that clause not face a charter challenge if it was in the act? I think it would face a charter challenge. I believe there would be serious court time taken up with challenges to that, because it would contravene.
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The Chair: They should be dealt with by the court system. Again, this is where it comes down to whether or not we use the citizenship bill to get to war criminals or terrorists. To tell you the truth, if we found a terrorist, why would we want to get rid of him? Why wouldn't we just imprison him? If the terrorist was leaving Canada, I'm sure he'd go someplace else to do whatever he wanted to do. So it's a matter of distinguishing the criminal act from a citizenship that is conferring a particular benefit on someone, and probably the best benefit that a country can confer. I think this kind of issue needs to be -
Ms. Cathy Woodbeck: Those divisions need to be made in the case of offences and charges. As I said earlier, they also need to be made in the case of immigration law as opposed to citizenship law, criminal law as opposed to citizenship law, and war crimes and all of that. I don't think we can group all of those together and pass the act with all of those.
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