PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers reacts to proposed government citizenship bill

February 5, 2014

For Immediate Release 

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) expresses deep concern about reforms to Canada’s citizenship laws proposed by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander.

Unlike the Conservative government, CARL has full confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system’s ability to effectively punish individuals who violate the law.  As such, CARL condemns the proposed provisions that will allow for citizenship stripping. We do not need to revive the medieval practice of banishment to achieve the goals of punishment, namely deterrence, retribution, denunciation, and rehabilitation.  We now have the benefit of a modern judicial process that includes prosecution, trial before an independent judge and, in the event of conviction, a punishment that expresses society’s condemnation with the full weight of the law.

The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s predecessor falsely claimed that citizenship stripping is commonplace in other countries, including the United States.  In fact, the only western state to make use of this practice in the last few years is the United Kingdom, and it is an outlier whose use of it should serve as a cautionary tale.  Citizenship stripping has been unconstitutional in the United States for over 50 years.

CARL President Lorne Waldman states: “The US Supreme Court got it right over 50 years ago when it said that citizenship is not a licence that the government can revoke for misbehaviour.  As Canadians, we make our citizenship feeble and fragile if we let government Ministers seize the power to extinguish it.”

CARL does welcome the government’s intention to reduce the current backlog of citizenship applications, which the government itself created by adding two years processing time.  This process has produced no outcomes apart from wasting public funds and imposing additional stress and delay on applicants.  CARL also welcomes proposed clarification of the requirement of physical residence in Canada prior to citizenship.  We agree that it is time to finally restore citizenship to the “lost Canadians” who were excluded from prior government initiatives to correct past injustice.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Lorne Waldman:                       416.254.4590 

Prof. Audrey Macklin:                    647.403.5170  |