The federal Liberal government set to repeal the Conservatives Bill C-24, the Canadian Citizenship Act that allows some Canadians to be stripped of their citizenship.
Under the bill, Canadians with dual citizenship can have their Canadian citizenship revoked if they are found guilty of serious crimes – such as terrorism, treason and spying.
The announcement was made as the Liberals take steps to reach their campaign promise to overhaul the controversial law. Amid heated debate over the Liberals’ move, many Canadians express their disappointment, stating that the terrorists are in contempt of Canada and should be revoked of the citizenship and kicked out of the country.
But the bill is deemed as discriminatory to many ethnic Canadians. Under the bill, those who have obtained the citizenship through naturalization are never to be true Canadians. They are treated differently than those who have no dual citizenship and were born as a Canadian. The law creates two different classes of Canadians – those who can keep the citizenship permanently and those who may lose it if they commit a serious crime.
Saad Gaya, a 27 year-old Canadian born has become the test of the bill. After being sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in an al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plot, Gaya almost lost his citizenship and was deported to Pakistan under the revocation system that came into effect in May, 2015.
Gaya was born in Montreal to Pakistani immigrants who came to Canada over 30 years ago. His parents lost their Pakistani citizenship when they became Canadian citizens. But Gaya was believed by the Conservative government to be a dual national of Pakistan – by virtue of fact that his parents who immigrated to Ontario more than three decades ago were born there.
The Conservatives argued that stripping Gaya of his citizenship would not render him stateless because he retroactively became a dual national the moment his parents did.
Gaya, who was born in Canada and whose family has been in Canada since before he was born, has known little about his parent’s birth country -- Pakistan. In fact, many of those who are captured by the revocation provision and face deportation under C-24 have a nationality derived from a country with which they have no meaningful connection, have little or no familiarity with the language or culture, and have no family or support network.
Terrorists deserve punishment but they don’t deserve to be punished twice. Gaya, who was described in a psychiatrist's report as naive, immature and lacking "street smarts”, is now serving another 4 ½ year jail term. He is already paying the price for his crimes and shouldn’t have to be punished further. If he is deported to a country his has never known, it is a cruel and horrible punishment, says his lawyer.
If criminals like Gaya are deported, it will send a chilling message to immigrant parents who hold dual citizenships or who, like Gaya’s parents, were born in a foreign country despite becoming a Canadian. If bill C-24 won’t be repealed, ethnic parents may pass on our dual nationality to our children and present them with the prospect of a devastating ordeal that Gaya was facing. Canadian criminals born into immigrant families may get much more severe punishment than their native counterparts.
But under the Charter of Rights, all Canadians are equal.
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