Senate amends Liberal citizenship bill to allow court hearings in fraud cases, Toronto Star

Advocates for immigrants and civil liberties are hailing an amendment to the Citizenship Act passed by the Senate that would give Canadians the right to a court hearing before their citizenship is stripped.

“If a Canadian gets a parking ticket, they have the right to a full hearing. But if a Canadian is at risk of losing their citizenship and being banished from their home country, they have no right to a hearing, and no opportunity to fully defend themselves,” said Josh Paterson of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “This amendment fixes that absurd situation.”

Before 2015, the law required immigration officials to first go before the Federal Court to prove a citizen had obtained the citizenship through fraud before the person’s name was presented to the Governor in Council (essentially Governor General acting on the advice of cabinet) for the actual revocation.

However, the former Conservative government streamlined the process so that an immigration officer would have the power to both determine whether there was fraud and if citizenship would be revoked.

No hearing is required and the proceedings are generally conducted by mail. A citizen only has access to the Federal Court to review the decision after the citizenship has been stripped.

In two years, 272 people have lost their citizenship, compared to a total of 167 people over the previous 17 years.

Although the Liberal government said Bill C-6 was intended to repeal what it said were “unfair elements” of its predecessor’s rules, the right to due process in citizenship revocation was not part of the changes it introduced.

“With this proposed law, naturalized Canadians will have a voice and receive a fair and just process,” said Alberta Sen. Elaine McCoy, who moved the amendment to Bill C6, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

Her Ontario colleague, Sen. Ratna Omidvar, who sponsored the change, added: “Senators have collectively said enough to uneven rights depending on a Canadian’s immigration history. I call the Government of Canada and all members of Parliament to support the Senate’s amendment.”

The amended bill will be sent back to the House of Commons before Easter, and a final vote will follow.

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