Costas Menegakis writes: Strengthening citizenship – the facts
Canadian citizenship is one of the most important things we possess. Citizenship unites us and defines us. It is the basis of our values and our shared identity as members of the Canadian family. Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience.
Our Conservative government introduced the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act in order to protect the value of Canadian citizenship and prevent fraud. Our recently passed reforms send a strong and clear message that those who betray our country or take up arms against our armed forces have, in essence, forfeited their right to Canadian citizenship. This reflects the foundation of allegiance that lies at the base of our Canadian citizenship.
Unfortunately, the opposition parties are spreading clear falsehoods; claiming that the Minister can take away the right to citizenship arbitrarily. This is not true!
Under the new reforms, revocation can only happen if a dual citizen served as a member of an armed force or organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada; was convicted of treason, high treason, or spying offences and sentenced to imprisonment for life; or was convicted of a terrorism offence or an equivalent foreign terrorism conviction and sentenced to five years’ or more imprisonment.
Those who say otherwise are misleading you by suggesting that revocation of citizenship occurs in instances anything less than when someone compromises our safety in Canada. They also neglect to tell you that we already have laws to revoke citizenship for much lesser crimes, such as the crime of having concealed a criminal record or having obtained citizenship fraudulently. Indeed many other countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden say that if someone commits a violent act of disloyalty against his or her country, it constitutes a repudiation of his or her citizenship.
We take our responsibilities with regard to revocation extremely seriously. Every case of revocation involves judicial oversight and recourse to a court. With regards to membership in an armed group fighting Canada, no action by the Minister could be taken without going to the Federal Court at the very outset, bringing facts and evidence that the Canadian citizen in question had been engaged in armed conflict, and satisfying the court that that was the case. If the rules of evidence, or the case, are not strong enough, then it will not make it through the Federal Court and revocation will not take place.
Of course, any such review does not begin until a court has convicted the person of the crimes noted above. Happily, there are very few such convictions in Canada.
These measures are being undertaken within the framework of our very robust judicial institutions, the rule of law in this country. Everyone should celebrate the fact that they will constitute a very profound deterrent, not just to younger generations, but to all Canadians, and a reminder that allegiance and loyalty to this country require that these grave crimes be avoided at all costs. When they are committed, they will be punished.
Canada continues to condemn the repugnant killing of innocent civilians, including women and children, from Christian, Yazidi and other religious and minority communities in northern Iraq by the terror group ISIS.
Last week, Canada announced $5 million to address the dire humanitarian needs in northern Iraq. Canada’s assistance package will help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the ongoing conflict by the distribution of food, hygiene kits, cooking materials, blankets, tents, medical supplies and other essential supplies as well as by making emergency repairs to essential water and sanitation facilities and improving access to information.
Months of clashes and isolation have made diminishing supplies of food, essential items and fuel, as well as irregular access to electricity and water, growing concerns. Health care services have been disrupted and communication channels cut in some areas.
Since the beginning of 2014, Canada has provided over $16 million to respond to humanitarian needs in Iraq, of which $6.8 million is for populations affected by civil unrest and $9.5 million for Syrian refugees.
$2.25 million of the latest support will be immediately allocated to three trusted humanitarian partners active on the ground; the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement, Mercy Corps and Save the Children Canada. The remaining $2.75 million will be allocated following consultations with our partners in Iraq.
We call on Iraqi leaders to come together to govern for all Iraqis, regardless of religion, and for the sake of the security, democracy and prosperity of the Iraqi people. Our Prime Minister and Canada stand ready to offer additional help, and we will continue to work with our counterparts to identify ways in which Canada can continue to support the humanitarian effort.
Costas Menegakis is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He can be reached by phone at 905-770-4440 or through his website at www.costasmenegakis.ca.