Citizenship reforms bring back banishment: refugee lawyer

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | June 20, 2014

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As Conservatives’ citizenship legislation clears its final hurdle in Ottawa, a group of lawyers for refugees is promising to take them to court over a bill they’re decrying as unconstitutional.

The law could effect many in diverse cities like Vancouver. The federal government said the law is needed to prevent phoney applicants and abuse, and would crack down on dual­ nationals convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism or treason. It would also increase application costs and require a commitment to reside here afterwards.

But on Thursday the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers announced it would launch a legal challenge as soon as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act comes into force.

The group’ s president said it would restrict freedom of movement, adding that under Canadian law, criminals should “suffer the consequences” and be prosecuted in the justice system.

“But on top of that, should they be punished a second time in the event they have a second nationality, even though they’re born in Canada?” Lorne Waldman told 24 hours. “The notion of banishment was rejected centuries ago.”

Under current laws, people who fraudulently obtained their citizenship can already see it revoked. Otherwise, becoming a Canadian was permanent. The new law would see Canadians who also hold another country’s citizenship stripped of their status if convicted of several crimes — in some cases at the sole discretion of a federal minister.

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