Second-Class Canadians

Martin Boyd

No Second-ClassWith the passing of Bill C-24 last month, every immigrant who has obtained Canadian citizenship has now become a “second-class Canadian”. According to this new law, ironically titled the “Strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act”, the citizenship of many Canadians is actually now much weaker. The new law effectively divides the country between citizens who are definitive Canadians, i.e. people who were born here and do not have the possibility of obtaining citizenship from another country, who cannot lose their Canadian citizenship under any circumstances, and provisional Canadians: the millions of immigrants, including more than 300,000 Hispanic-Canadians, who were not born in the country or those who, although born in Canada, hold dual citizenship or are eligible for it, who can be stripped of their Canadian citizenship under certain circumstances at the discretion of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

According to the new law, Citizenship and Immigration Canada now has the power to revoke the citizenship of any immigrant convicted of terrorism, treason or spying in any country in the world, without due process of law. Thus, for example, a journalist convicted of supposed terrorism in a country under dictatorship could lose her Canadian citizenship at the discretion of the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, who could revoke it without even having to seek a court order. More worrying still, under the new law any official at Citizenship and Immigration Canada has the power to revoke the Canadian citizenship of an immigrant whom he suspects does not have the intention of living in Canada permanently. Thus, new Canadians could be at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship if they travel abroad to be with a loved one, to take a job, or to pursue academic studies.

In an effort to defend a law that effectively creates two tiers of Canadian citizens, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, has argued that citizenship is a privilege, not a right. What Mr. Alexander has failed to explain is how he earned that privilege by the mere accident of being born here, while, at least in his eyes, the millions of us who have worked hard to make this country our home have not earned the same privilege.

Fortunately, several organizations have spoken out against this draconian law. Among the most vocal opponents has been Josh Paterson, Executive Director of BC Civil Liberties Association, who launched a petition on the website to call upon all of Canada’s political parties to commit to overturning the law. The petition already has more than 100,000 signatures. Patterson has also launched the campaign Equal Citizens: End Second Class Citizenship to challenge the new law in court. According to Paterson, “nobody should be a second-class Canadian, no matter where their family comes from.”

With the support of the Hispanic-Canadian community, I believe it will be possible to abolish this unjust, insulting and anti-Canadian law. For more information on C-24 and the efforts underway to challenge it, please visit Equal Citizens: End Second Class Citizenship.

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