The Liberal government will not grant a moratorium on revoking the citizenship of Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications, a matter that has been forced into the spotlight by the circumstances of cabinet minister Maryam Monsef.
Earlier this week, Immigration Minister John McCallum said he would consider such a moratorium as the government received an extension on Wednesday to respond to a Federal Court application on the issue.
But, in a three-page response on Friday, the Justice Department argued that because of duplication, the court should not hear a case launched by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, which asks Ottawa to stop all revocations until it can fix a Harper-era law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing. The government has committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing, but has yet to do so.
The Federal Court application made headlines last week when lawyers on the case said that Ms. Monsef, Democratic Institutions Minister, could have her citizenship revoked under the current law for having an incorrect birthplace listed on her citizenship papers. Ms. Monsef said she only learned that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she had believed, after an inquiry from The Globe last month. She said her mother never told she and her sisters they were born in Iran because she did not think it mattered.
The Justice Department says the advocacy groups’ motion is similar to another ongoing case, titled Hassouna, which has granted stays of proceedings to about 60 people who have received citizenship revocation notices from the government.
“The only difference between Hassouna and this motion is that the BCCLA and CARL claim that they should be granted standing to get a stay on behalf of ‘those persons who cannot find a lawyer – or who do not know that they should even try,’” read the government’s response.
“Even if there was evidence showing there were individuals who received notices but did not have the ‘knowledge, resources or skills’ to hire a lawyer, that would not justify a wholescale suspension of the operation of law.”
Laura Track, a lawyer with the BCCLA, said her team was blown away by the government’s response.
“We’re incredibly disappointed to learn that the government simply wants to press forward with stripping citizenship from Canadians under a process that it has acknowledged is unfair,” Ms. Track said.
Mr. McCallum’s office did not respond to The Globe and Mail’s request for comment Friday night.
A separate immigration case raises questions about whether Ms. Monsef could have her citizenship stripped.
The lawyer for a 19-year-old Montreal woman facing citizenship revocation says her client’s case has many similarities to Ms. Monsef’s. The woman, known as Ms. B, did not want to be named or speak to the media.
“They have both found out about this in a complete state of shock,” said Ms. B’s lawyer, Arghavan Gerami. “In the minister’s case, she didn’t even know. Her parents didn’t tell her. It’s similar to my client’s case because her parents didn’t even tell her when the notice [of revocation] was served.”
In September, 2015, immigration officials sent Ms. B’s parents a notice of its intention to revoke the citizenship of family members on the basis of alleged misrepresentation made by her mother in an application a decade ago. Because Ms. B was a minor at the time of the application, her papers were filed under her mother’s name. While Ms. Gerami would not get into the specifics of the alleged misrepresentation, she said it has to do with the requirement that Ms. B’s mother live in Canada for three out of four years to be eligible for citizenship.
Ms. B, who also has Egyptian citizenship, was never personally served with a revocation notice and didn’t find out about the fiasco until January of 2016, at which point she had been stripped of her citizenship.
The government withdrew its revocation decision against Ms. B in March, 2016 and reinstated her citizenship because it failed to serve her directly. However, it issued her a new notice days later. She has now been granted a stay on proceedings until a decision is made about the constitutionality of the revocation process.
The constitutionality questions stem from a Conservative law that took away the long-standing right to a hearing for Canadians who face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented themselves in their applications.
MPs tried to reverse the rule earlier this year through an amendment to the Liberal government’s citizenship Bill C-6, but the chair of the House immigration committee ruled it inadmissible.
Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she or another senator will propose the same amendment in the Red Chamber, where the bill currently sits at second reading. She said the amendment still has a chance in the Senate, as the procedural rules are different.
In the meantime, the government can continue to revoke the citizenship of Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications without a hearing.Report Typo/Error