Is Bill C-24 Unconstitutional?


As Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, passes through the House of Commons and moves closer to becoming law, additional concerns are being raised about the bill and activists continue to speak out about the law’s potential dangerous implications.

Questions of the potential constitutionality of the bill are being widely discussed, with accusations that the Conservative government’s citizenship law could violate the constitutional rights of Canadian citizens.  The Constitutional Rights Centre, the Canadian Bar Association, and individual lawyers have all raised concerns about the implications of the bill, which will give the Canadian government the power to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens who have been charged with certain crimes or citizens whom the government does not believe show an intent to reside in Canada permanently.

Rocco Galati, a Canadian lawyer specializing in constitutional law, has taken measures to warn the government that he personally will challenge the law at the Supreme Court if it passes in the House of Commons.  

Galati is concerned that Bill C-24 will threaten natural born citizens who also hold citizenship from another country, and could create a situation where a person born in Canada could have their citizenship revoked and be deported to a country to which they have no connection.  He thinks this provision of the bill could also lead to problems of statelessness, noting that citizens “may be removed and wake up to landing in a country which may not recognize the dual nationality, and thus become stateless.”  Galati believes that revoking the citizenship of a person born in Canada is unconstitutional, and is setting out to prove it at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Galati recently wrote letters to parliamentarians and to Governor General David Johnston, addressing his concerns and pointing out that the federal government does not hold the constitutional authority to revoke the citizenship of Canadian citizens born in Canada.  If the government does not reply to his letter in the coming days, Galati intends to apply for a judicial review of the legislation.

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has also expressed similar concerns about the bill, which it calls “unfair and discriminatory.”  Of the problems the CBA identified, the association noted that the bill would “impose exile as an additional form of punishment [and] it introduces levels of citizenship rights for the first time in Canada.”

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who tabled the bill, has spoken out against the critics of the bill, but did not address any specific concerns about constitutionality. The Minister stated that “it is shameful that activist immigration lawyers, who never miss an opportunity to criticize our government’s citizenship and immigration reforms, are attempting to drum up business by promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians.”

If the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act does go to the Supreme Court for a judicial review, the decision of the court will affect not only Canadian citizens, but permanent residents as well, who the bill also addresses.

More information about the changes to the Citizenship Act set out in Bill C-24 and how those changes will affect permanent residents and citizens can be found here.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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