Becoming Canadian is a privilege that must be earned through hard work and by following the rules. When individuals come here using forged documents and fake school records, something we deeply honour and value - our citizenship - seems suddenly cheapened.
The Conservative government has made two bold moves to shore up our confidence in the immigration system; it has moved to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people who obtained it fraudulently and has released a most-wanted list of 30 suspected war criminals.
This second group is long overdue for investigation and prosecution; they had failed to show up for hearings; numerous cases had been on the backburner for years. Many suspected war criminals are from Africa, Central and South America and the Balkan states. Now they are a priority for the Canada Border Services Agency, the federal agency that oversees deportations. Two men, one from Honduras and one from Pakistan, have now been arrested.
As for the 1,800 fraudulent immigrants, many had allegedly been helped by crooked consultants who created fake proof of residency in Canada. That allowed immigrant cheats free access to health care and subsidized tuition rates. A disproportionate number live in tax-haven countries and have contributed nothing to the tax base, as they stayed overseas.
By sheer numbers, the government's move is historic; since 1867, Canada has revoked citizenship status of only 66 people.
Some lawyers suggest that the numbers - 1,800 - might strain the legal system, as those affected can raise objections to the revocations in Federal Court. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney predicts few will fight the process, given the strong and convincing evidence.
By launching this enforcement action, Mr. Kenney said he's sending the message that Canadian citizenship is not for sale.
Canada is a desirable country for immigrants and last year it welcomed 280,000 permanent residents - the highest number in 50 years. The vast majority are hardworking individuals who overcame great obstacles to build a new life.
Theirs is the example Canadians should celebrate. When new Canadians are able to improve their lives honestly, that builds confidence in our immigration system and our country.
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