Representatives of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association delivered a petition with more than 26,000 names of people opposed to federal immigration reforms to an office of Citizenship and Immigration Tuesday as a spokesperson said legal action may be a next step.
The association says Bill C-24 creates a class of second-class citizens with fewer rights than other Canadians. Under the law, Canadians could lose their citizenship in certain cases such as when there are suspicions that a dual citizen has committed certain types of fraud in applying to become a Canadian.
Fines and maximum jail time in citizenship fraud cases would also be increased as a result of the bill, which would also force would-be Canadians to wait longer to apply for citizenship.
"This law will make citizenship harder to get and it will make it easier to lose," Josh Paterson, executive director of the group, told reporters on a downtown sidewalk outside the office. "It broadly expands the requirements for citizenship in ways that make it inaccessible to many while dramatically reducing due-process rights when the government seeks to take citizenship away."
A security guard at the office initially referred two association representatives to a department representative. However, Mr. Paterson subsequently delivered hundreds of pages of material and it was accepted. A copy of the petition was also forwarded by e-mail to the office of federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
"The BCCLA does take the government to court from time to time so when laws are passed like this that are unconstitutional, it's always something that we think about – whether there's some kind of legal avenue that we might take," Mr. Paterson said.
"We haven't made any decisions about that right now."
The petition was gathered online over the last few weeks. Signatories were from across Canada and elsewhere in the world, said Mr. Paterson, who noted had not done a "scientific evaluation" of the material that would allow him to be more precise on this point.
Also Tuesday, the association circulated a letter from 60 Canadian academics to Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticizing the legislation. The letter was released in Toronto.
Mr. Peterson said critics, including his association, will next lobby senators. C-24 is expected to pass third reading within a week. "This very much is a bill that requires [senators] to do their job of sober second thought. The bill ought not to be passed in its present form," he said.
He conceded that the federal Conservative government has advanced legislation over "huge opposition," but that it's important for Canadians to express their concerns nonetheless through such measures as the petition. "It's a small act but it is meaningful," he said.