Critical Review of the New Canadian Citizenship Law Bill C-24
Friday, June 19, 2015

The new citizenship Bill C-24 introduced by Chris Alexander, the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, passed and became law on Friday June 20th, 2014. The new law changes the core aspect of Canadian citizenship as Chris Alexander announced: “It would remind individuals that citizenship is not a right, it’s a privilege.” With the new Bill, Citizenship Canada redefined narratives of citizenship, what it means to be a Canadian, and what can be seen as an exemplary Canadian. But the critical issue is that new changes to the requirements for Canadian citizenship are not in the right and democratic direction.

First, under the old system, citizenship has always been secure. Whether born in Canada or not, once a person was granted Canadian citizenship, his/her citizenship was secure. Unless he/she obtained citizenship by fraud, no one could revoke it. Even then, a Federal Court judge made that decision after a full court hearing. Under the new law, citizenship can be rescinded for reasons other than fraud, the decision will be made by a citizenship officer, and there will be no opportunity for a live hearing or an appeal.

Second, the new law divides Canadians into two classes: First-class Canadians with no other citizenship or possibility of obtaining another one, and second-class Canadians who have dual citizenship or the possibility of dual citizenship. Interestingly, one may not be aware of possessing a second citizenship. In some countries, as long as you are married to their citizen, or you have a parent or grandparent of that country, you are also a citizen of that country without applying or even knowing about it.

Second-class citizens are at risk of losing their citizenship and their right to live in Canada could be taken away under certain circumstances. For example, all citizens born outside Canada (i.e. naturalized citizens) may lose their citizenship if the citizenship officer believes they do not intend to live in Canada or if they decide to move to another country to study or to work. On the other hand, Canadian-born citizens would not lose their right to citizenship under such conditions. Another distinction between the first- and second-class citizens is that second-class citizens may lose their Canadian citizenship for criminal conviction in another country. As such, even if the other country of citizenship is not democratic, second-class citizens still would lose their right to citizenship in Canada.

Source: SFU, Faculty of Education. By Somayeh Bahrami

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