The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Changes to Citizenship Act: Amended Bill C-6 before Senate committee

February 24 2017 24 February 2017

Bill C-6, which contains amendments to the Citizenship Act, continues to make its way through Parliament. The CBA’s National Immigration Law Section first appeared in support of its submission on the proposed legislation last May before a House committee; in February, it brought the same submission to a Senate committee.

Well, almost the same submission. After the CBA appeared in the House, the government made a few tweaks to the bill in response to recommendations from the Immigration Law Section (and others), and the submission was reflected to update those changes.

The primary objective of Bill C-6 is to “return Canadian citizenship law to its state before the changes introduced by Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. In 2014, the CBA Section largely opposed the changes introduced by Bill C-24, and so in general we support reversing those changes,” the submission says.

One of the recommendations in the earlier submission was to amend subsection 5(4) of the Act to expand the Minister’s discretion to grant citizenship in deserving cases. In June 2016, that section of Bill C-6 was amended to give the Minister discretion in special cases. The CBA is pleased to see that change, but recommends further extending that discretion.

The Section continues, however, to have concerns with areas it feels need to be addressed, concerns that it first raised in 2014. For example, Bill C-24 introduced changes to the procedure for revoking citizenship, abbreviating the process in a way that “does not reflect the value of Canadian citizenship,” as the Minister may make the decision without having to hold a formal hearing. Bill C-6 does not repeal those changes.

“The CBA Section believes that the right to a formal hearing before an independent and impartial decision maker must be maintained for a matter as serious as the revocation of citizenship. The proper forum is the Federal Court.”

As well, the Act doesn’t allow for mitigating factors – consideration of humanitarian or compassionate grounds – when deciding whether to revoke citizenship. “Some form of safety valve is warranted for deserving cases,” the Section says.

In all, the Section makes 12 recommendations for improvements to Bill C-6. And one more for changes to the Act in general:

“The Citizenship Act is a fundamental law in our democracy. It should only be amended after comprehensive consultations have generated a consensus in Canadian society about what the Act should contain. We recommend that the Government consider consultations as part of a comprehensive reassessment of Canadian citizenship.”

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