My vote in the upcoming Canadian election, Part 1 - Bill C-24

I've got a few blog posts brewing, including one about updating Shopify apps, but I need to say a few (read: many) words about the coming Canadian Federal Election. Normally, this would be a series of very nuanced posts about local candidates, their positions, and the positions of the parties that they represent, but the behaviour of parties over the last year has made this election very different from a normal one. Specifically, my vote in this election will be determined by parties voting behaviour on two pieces of legislation. This post is about the first of these.

Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, received royal assent back in June of 2014. This piece of legislation has a personal impact for me, because my wife and mother-in-law are dual-citizens of Canada and Poland. In a pre-C-24 world, the only way you could have your citizenship revoked was if you had committed fraud when applying. Now there's a litany of "crimes against the state" that can result in the loss of citizenship, including high treason, committing a terrorist act, spying for other countries, or deserting the military.

I don't support high treason, terrorism, or spying for other countries, but I am concerned with things like desertion being in there. Conscientious objection to military service is important to the maintenance of freedom, and exile/deportation/revocation of citizenship is disproportionate punishment for maintaining an ethical stance, especially in a country which has instituted conscription in the past.

Then there's the really strange part. If you're someone who was: "convicted of a terrorism offence as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code — or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section — and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment" you can have your citizenship revoked. That's really scary, as it allows a conviction under a system of justice where the standards of evidence and due process are not as high (e.g. North Korea, Myanmar) to allow Canada to revoke your citizenship.

As scary as that is, that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that the process has been "streamlined" to remove the right of the person having their citizenship revoked to have the matter referred to a court. The decision rests solely with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. This is the place where I transition from passionate objection to near-rage. To remove a significant amount of judicial process for something as significant as revocation of citizenship is mind boggling (there remains a bit of judicial review, but significantly less than before).

Let me outline a (certainly outlandish) scenario that was not possible before, but could now happen to my wife:

  1. Some future government gets a foreign country who has lax judicial standards and with whom we have an extradition treaty to charge my wife with terrorism;
  2. Allows extradition of my wife to said country, where she is easily convicted;
  3. While in prison there (for, oh, say 5 years), her citizenship is revoked by the Minister of CIC, thus exiling my wife from her family.

Or how about this second scenario:

  1. Some future government wants to fight a war with Poland, and gets conscription instituted;
  2. My wife is conscripted but she refuses to participate;
  3. The Minister of CIC has her citizenship revoked;
  4. She is exiled from Canada, and potentially detained as a POW.

These are far-fetched scenarios, which would never really happen in real life. But what does it say to my wife that Bill C-24 makes these situations possible? It tells her that she is now a different class of citizen from me, the single-citizenship Canadian. Because revoking my citizenship would make me stateless, I'm somehow "more Canadian" than her. It's as if in a post C-24 world, her dual citizenship now makes her "half-Canadian/half-Polish", whereas before she was both 100% Canadian and 100% Polish.

Citizenship is something you don't mess with lightly, and there are holes in this attempt to "protect" the concept of Canadian Citizenship. There are plenty of undesirable people who are Canadian citizens. They do horrible things. In a democratic society, we don't deal with them by kicking them out. I think the message about our country would be more positive if we were willing to clean up our own messes, rather than claiming they're not our problem anymore.

There's plenty else wrong with this bill, and a number of good things in there too. The problem I have described above is what makes it completely unethical to me and in my mind anathema to the concept of citizenship.

Because the Conservative party drafted and voted for this bill (with the whip), I cannot ethically support them in the coming election.

In the next post, I'll explore the second piece of legislation that makes this election easy for me, and then I'll talk about what this means for my vote.

P.S. If you want to compare the relevant section of the law, you can look at the old vs. the new.