Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)): Good morning, colleagues, and welcome back to Ottawa from our respective places across the country as we heard witnesses on our proposed new citizenship bill, Bill C-18.
It's my pleasure this morning to welcome on your behalf the Minister for Citizenship of Australia, the Honourable Gary Hardgrave.
The Hon. Gary Hardgrave (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Government of Australia, Delegation from the Government of Australia): [...]
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): [...]
My second question concerns the process of complete revocation of citizenship. Itís an important question. Several people have shared their worries about notably certain provisions in the Bill where we take away any appeal procedure in some cases. Such appeal procedure is fundamentally part of our constitutional state. I imagine it is similar in your country : every citizen accused of something is fully entitled to an appeal.
The Hon. Gary Hardgrave:
On the question of actually revoking someone's citizenship, that there might be a certain type of conduct that is deemed not in the interest of Australia, this is a debate I think we will have to have, given that debates are happening everywhere else. In parliamentary democracies as diverse as Kenya, the United Kingdom, and indeed Canada, these discussions are taking place.
Kenya is looking at this. I was in Kenya this time last week. The United Kingdom has made changes in the last few months, and I guess the Canadian debate is on a similar path to the U.K. debate. The suggestion is that it's not so much being found guilty with a particular penalty that should trigger someone losing their citizenship -- an additional penalty because of their conduct -- but that there might well be some information that cannot be put before a court that someone has conducted themselves in a way that is very much not in the interests of the state -- a terrorist-like activity or being involved with a terrorist group.
The only key point that I would make -- and it's perhaps wrong for me to make it when I'm in somebody else's country -- is that it's critical to me that someone who is a citizen by birth must be treated exactly the same way as someone who's a citizen by choice. I asked the British government about this last week, because that was the point they came to. The response I can share with you is that if a U.K.-born citizen lost their citizenship as a result of some type of conduct that was deemed so bad, so contrary to the interest of the way the nation organized itself, it was a minor issue in comparison to the critical issue that a citizen by birth and a citizen by choice must be treated the same.
Those are very strong words, but that's what they said to me.
I would think, though, that any attempt to take someone's citizenship from them must never be done lightly. It must never be done because it would appear to be a political whim. It must always have in it some sort of safeguard and protection that ensures there is strong reason to act.
So I don't believe I can give you a way forward, but I can make the observation based on the critical importance that all who are citizens are equally treated before the law. That to my mind is an absolutely critical aspect of the way any of these sorts of measures are discussed.
The Hon. Gary Hardgrave:
I think the other thing you don't want to do, as I understand the Americans have done, is create a circumstance where you end up with a backdoor prosecution for someone involved in some particular activity, such as war crimes or something. If you can't get them on that, you'll get them on this. You always have to be very careful that you don't create a penalty for them for an offence that's not actually connected to their conduct as a citizen, if you see what I mean.
The Chair: I'll defer to some other members later, but I think most witnesses who have appeared before the committee have talked glowingly of citizenship and of the privilege and the right that comes with it and have said that there should only be one class of citizenship, whether by birth or by choice. I think it's because there are two new provisions in this particular bill, the denial provision and the annulment provision, that do not exist in our present legislation.
On the revocation side it presently exists. We may have used it 10 times, but it is essentially based on a political system where cabinet can take away that citizenship. Now, Bill C-18 tries to correct that by essentially allowing revocation to be dealt with by the courts, this with all the due process that comes with it. There is still a debate as to whether or not that due process is there, the appeal measures, and what bar one uses to revoke that citizenship. Is it the balance of probabilities, is it beyond a reasonable doubt, and should it be a criminal-based system, putting the bar that high to take away something people really treasure?
The denial is new, the annulment is new, and the revocation is to be changed, but how much better can we do it?
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Just on that first point, we've been dealing with this since 1998. When we were dealing with Bill C-16, I was parliamentary secretary, and I could not believe we could have a system revoking citizenship where the big question is, did you or did you not tell the truth in a question asked 50 years ago, that might or might not have been asked 50 years ago, and then have that as a basis for revocation of citizenship.
The Senate, which is actually a Liberal Senate, went against the government in terms of not releasing the bill out of committee because they were so troubled by this particular question. So I like your comments when you said you don't want to do by the back door what you cannot do by the front door. Unfortunately, that's where we are caught up. We're trying to do by the back door what we cannot do by the front door. That's why there is a huge concern among various...well, actually, pretty well all the communities right across the country, because they see it as devaluing the citizenship. So you're taking right track in Australia.