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Bill C-6: Senator McCoy Amendment

Honourable senators, I rise to speak to an amendment to Bill C-6 put forward by Senator McCoy on March 9.

After the committee hearings on the Liberals' immigration reform bill, Bill C-6, I remain as opposed to its cynical and ill-considered measures as ever. No doubt the Liberals' promises of fast-tracked access to Canadian citizenship and relaxed language requirements were real vote-getters in urban areas in the election of 2015. Whether or not these measures are in the best interests of Canada, however, is an entirely different matter that I will address in my remarks at third reading. For now, I will limit myself, in my comments, to the amendment that is before us.

Senator McCoy is attempting not only to amend Bill C-6 but to amend the Canadian Citizenship Act itself. When a similar attempt was made in the House of Commons to make amendments to section 10 of the Canadian Citizenship Act, they were ruled out of scope. I question whether we can consider a legislative proposal that seeks to amend an area of legislation that was not included in the bill itself. However, I will leave it to others to determine the procedural validity of this amendment.

I will note that this amendment is much broader than its stated purpose, which is to legislate that ministers must send revocation cases to court upon request. In addition to that measure, Senator McCoy's amendment imposes a 60-day time frame for a person to respond to their notice of revocation. Further, it legislates that the notice of decision must be personally served to the individual or that there must be an application to the court to dispense of this service.

When we consider this amendment, which seeks to add a layered and complex appeals process to the existing decision-making process, let us remind ourselves why the prior government, through Bill C-24, chose to streamline the appeals process for those found to have obtained their Canadian citizenship fraudulently.

The case of Helmut Oberlander, a Nazi war criminal, serves as a useful example. Oberlander entered Canada in 1954 and fraudulently obtained citizenship in 1960 by lying about his past as a member of a Nazi death squad. When Oberlander's true war record was exposed in 1995, Oberlander exercised his various rights to appeal to avoid deportation.

Today, over 20 years later, he continues to reside in Waterloo, Ontario, having pursued his bad-faith case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Honourable senators, this degree of abuse of an inexhaustible appeals process may be an extreme example, but it helps to illustrate what can and does happen when criminals and fraudsters — and that is the category of individual we are dealing with here — earn access to an excessively elastic appeals process.

It is also useful to remember in this context the catalyst for the measures contained in the Conservative's Bill C-24 that lead to the streamlining of the appeals process in cases of fraud.

In 2010, it was discovered by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration that over 300 individuals claimed as their permanent residence an address in Canada, that of Palestine House, which is an office building in Mississauga, Ontario.

Of course, those 300 people did not live in that office building, nor for that matter did they live in Canada at all, though it should be acknowledged that they did receive their government-issued child benefit cheques there. In a separate case in 2012, 1,000 individuals claimed to live at the same office building in Montreal. These cases of fraud and others like them led to the government identifying 3,100 cases of phony citizenships and marking them for revocation.

Honourable senators, prior to Bill C-24, those 3,100 individuals, caught in very clear cases of fraud, had the right to an inexhaustible appeals process, and, to the best of my knowledge, these cases still remain under appeal.

I'm not in any way suggesting that there should never be a right of appeal, but I do accept the explanation from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, when he spoke at our committee hearing, that the appeals process that is currently in place is sufficient and just. For the benefit of those who did not attend the committee meeting, please allow me to outline the current process as detailed by the minister and his officials.

Upon discovering a potential case of fraud, a division of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration investigates to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant consideration of revocation. If it is deemed that there is sufficient evidence, the file is then transferred to a different division of the department to determine whether a notice of intent to revoke should be sent out.

If such a determination is made, a notice is sent to the affected individual. The notice includes all of the evidence that the decision maker has relied on.

The notice to the individual is not simply a letter stating that citizenship will be revoked. The notice invites the individual to respond with any additional information or factors that should be taken into account, including personal circumstances such as the length of time in Canada, age upon acquiring citizenship, extent of ties to Canada, and other such compassionate grounds for consideration. Once the response is received, the department then decides whether or not to move forward with the revocation.

So to recap, contrary to what we have heard in this chamber, first, all of the evidence related to citizenship revocation is provided to the citizen who is facing potential revocation.

Second, citizens are afforded an opportunity to provide all information related to their personal circumstances, which includes humanitarian and compassionate grounds. In fact, the minister went so far as to say that the entire point of issuing the revocation notice is to allow for this exchange of information.

Third, the affected party has a right to counsel.

And fourth, the affected party has a right to judicial review with leave.

I think we can all agree that what I've just outlined is what can only be described as "due process."

Honourable senators, during my second reading speech on Bill C-6, I observed that much of what is contained in the bill appears to exist for the simple partisan purpose of being the opposite of what was contained in the Conservative's Bill C-24.

A more politically motivated piece of legislation has yet to arrive in this chamber from this government. However, it is worth noting that of all the measures in Bill C-6 that have been proposed, not due to any public policy evidence but simply for the sake of Liberal electoral gain, the streamlining of the appeals process for fraud was not among them. In fact, at our committee hearings the minister stated that at no point during the drafting of this legislation was the issue of adding steps to the appeals process even considered.

So how telling is that? A Liberal bill that seeks to repeal vast swaths of legislation simply because it was Conservative legislation that left intact the Conservative's streamlined appeals process. In other words, the current process of appeal which was created by one government has now been endorsed by a second, different government. Given that two successive rival governments agree that the system of appeal we have in place today is sufficient, I see no reason to adopt the amendment that is before us.

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