John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announcing last year the Liberal government’s plans to repeal a controversial section of Bill C-24.
OTTAWA — The Liberals’ long-delayed citizenship bill is finally moving ahead almost a year after the House of Commons passed it, but it’s not law yet.
The Senate voted Wednesday in favour of the bill that will revoke a Conservative policy to remove Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism and treason.
Three amendments were introduced, however, which means the bill gets sent back to the House of Commons, where Liberals will decide whether to accept the changes or not. If they don’t, it goes back to the Senate again. Government House leader Bardish Chagger’s office said Wednesday amendments will be brought to the floor for debate “in due course.”
The new law will also require prospective citizens to be in the country for three out of five years before their application, a change from the four out of six years that are currently required. Applicants will no longer need to declare an intent to reside in Canada.
Without this amendment, Canadians face an unjust administrative process and fewer safeguards than anyone wishing to challenge a parking ticket
Bill C-6, which fulfills a major election promise to repeal elements of Conservative legislation, has trudged slowly through the upper chamber since last June. After a spurt of opposition delay tactics, senators had made a backroom deal to have a final vote by Wednesday.
The bill’s sponsor, independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, championed in particular an amendment, introduced by independent Sen. Elaine McCoy, that improves due process for people who are facing revocation of their citizenship due to fraud or misrepresentation.
After the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, revocation processes were streamlined such that people weren’t automatically granted a right to defend themselves if their citizenship was about to be taken away. The Liberal Bill C-6 didn’t reverse this change.
“Without this amendment,” said a statement from Omidvar’s office, “Canadians face an unjust administrative process and fewer safeguards than anyone wishing to challenge a parking ticket.”
Previous immigration minister John McCallum had told senators Liberals would “welcome” an amendment addressing this, but new minister Ahmed Hussen has not indicated support one way or the other.
Two other amendments were adopted. For older applicants, the law currently requires language proficiency in English or French up to the age of 64. The Liberal law proposed lowering this to 55, but senators decided to adopt Conservative Sen. Diane Griffin’s suggestion of a middle ground, setting it at age 60 instead. Another amendment, from Conservative Sen. Victor Oh, seeks to ensure minors can apply for citizenship separate from parents or guardians.
With physician-assisted dying legislation last summer, the House of Commons addressed Senate amendments right away (with the government rejecting most of them). On the other hand, the Senate is still waiting for the House of Commons to accept or reject an amendment on the RCMP union bill, C-7, which it adopted last June.