June 3, 2015

Citizenship Revocation Provisions Now in Force!

Posted by Joanna Mennie - Bellissimo Law Group PC

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act has introduced considerable changes to Canadian citizenship landscape. While the Act received Royal Assent on 19 June 2014, not all provisions are currently in force.

Most recently, the citizenship revocation provisions were implemented on 29 May 2015. This means that dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or espionage offences may have their Canadian citizenship revoked, depending on the sentence received. The Federal Court of Canada also has the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens serving as a member in an armed force or group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.

The process for citizenship revocation has also been changed, as the Governor in Council is no longer the final authority for revocation. Rather, most revocation cases will be decided by the Minister, including cases based on identity fraud, residence fraud, concealing criminality, as well as certain terrorism, high treason, treason, or espionage offences (depending on the sentence). Cases involving complex issues of fact and law, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as cases involving security, organized criminality, and human or international rights violations will require a declaration from the Federal Court of Canada. A declaration from the Court is also required for revocation when the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe that a person served as a member of the armed forces of a country or as a member of an organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada.

Importantly, those whose citizenship is revoked under the new grounds are permanently barred from being granted Canadian citizenship.

Before these changes were implemented, citizenship could only be revoked on the basis of fraud or misrepresentation. This new framework, however, has led many to question both the legal validity and extremely serious implications of the new citizenship revocation regime. As one example, distinguishing between Canadians who have only one nationality and those who have dual nationalities raises concerns about potential discrimination based on national origin. Others criticize the process as lacking in fundamental fairness, as the Minister is not required to explain the grounds upon which the decision has been made, and there is no defined appeal process.

It will be important to track how these changes unfold in application, given the most enormous consequences to dual citizens.

For more information on Canadian Citizenship, please click here.