Photo Kaveh Partovi

This statement from the PCR-RCP Canada was circulated at a rally against Bill C-24 (the so-called “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act”) on Saturday, July 5th in Surrey, BC. The rally was organized by Radical Desi and by People’s Voice—the newspaper of the revisionist Communist Party of Canada—and supported by No One is Illegal-Vancouver, among others.

– The Political Information Bureau

One hundred years ago, the Komagata Maru steamship arrived in Vancouver, with 376 passengers who were fleeing India. There were already over 2,000 Indians living in Canada, primarily Punjabis, who faced blatant discrimination. Due to racist government policies to keep out the “brown invasion,” the passengers of the ship were not let off and the Komagata Maru was forced to return to India by the Canadian government. Twenty of the passengers were killed upon arrival by British colonialists’ bullets.

Now, a hundred years later, the Canadian government continues to enact racist policies very much comparable to the now unequivocally decried treatment of the Komagata Maru passengers. Specifically, the government has recently passed Bill-C24: The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, in a long line of actions taken by this government to persecute the very same people who are fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in Canada.

What is wrong with the bill? Here are the most appalling changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act:

1. It gives unreasonable power to the immigration minister to revoke people’s citizenship.

One of the most unacceptable changes that this bill implements is that it gives an unreasonable amount of power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Now, the minister has the right to revoke the citizenship of a Canadian; the person in question does not even have the right to appeal the minister’s decision, nor do they have the right to a court proceeding or to present their case and evidence to a judge. The minister, on his own, can wave his magic wand and revoke an individual’s citizenship! Perhaps instead we should revoke his and see how he enjoys it!

2. Citizenship can now be taken away from a person born in Canada.

If you’re born in Canada, you’re automatically a Canadian citizen and you will always have the right to that citizenship, correct? Think again—with Bill C-24, this is no longer the case. Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, has declared that “Citizenship is not an inalienable birthright,” and has now provided criteria for which the citizenship of a person born in Canada can be revoked—specifically, persons who are presumed to be able to claim citizenship in another state through one of their parents, ignoring the fact that that person may have absolutely no connection to the other country. It is important to note that, with minor exceptions, this process of revocation takes place on paper and not in the courts: the Minister gives a notice of the intent to revoke, the person responds, and a decision is made by the Minister.

Specifically, the grounds for revocation of citizenship include membership in “an armed force of a country or as a member of an organized armed group and that country or group was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada” or engagement “in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada.” It’s quite clear that this sort of legislation will be aimed at revoking the citizenships of those involved in anti-imperialist and other efforts of peoples’ resistance internationally and within Canada, so that now the government has justification to expel even those born here. It will also scare Canadians who may wish to join such efforts internationally. Because the wording is so vague, it looks like anything can slide under the minister’s discretion. This bill could easily apply to someone committing a minor offence in another country that is characterized as terrorist, like a pro-Palestinian rally in Israel.

Furthermore, who gets to decide what “national interest” is? The fact that Bill C-24 allows for the revocation of citizens acting against “the national interest of Canada” is disgraceful, considering the fact that Canada itself acts against the national interest of the indigenous people—the only people who are actually not immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Forget this abstruse notion of Canadian national interest—this bill goes against the interests of the people!

3. It creates the potential for statelessness.

Because the Bill only requires that the minister have “reasonable grounds to believe” that an individual has another citizenship, a person who has their Canadian citizenship revoked and is incorrectly perceived by the minister to hold citizenship elsewhere would become stateless. So much for respecting international obligations to human rights!

Deepan Budlakoti, an Ottawa-born 25 year old convicted of crimes in Canada, serves as an omen to what future statelessness could look like. The one exception to the rule that anyone born in Canada is a Canadian citizen is if they are children of foreign diplomatic staff; Deepan’s parents came to Canada as staff of the High Commissioner in India, and though they are now citizens, their son is not because of that rule. After his criminal conviction, he was found criminally inadmissible to Canada—the country he has lived in and grew up in—and faced a deportation order to India—a country that he has not lived in and which has in fact refused to accept him.

4. It makes acquiring citizenship less accessible.

First of all, the cost of acquiring citizenship is increased: the application fee price has been increased from $200 to $400 under this act, and those acquiring citizenship have to pay more fees for the requirement of language testing results. Secondly, applicants for citizenship have to reside in Canada for longer periods of time—four instead of three years—and a judge can no longer be flexible on this matter when an applicant has not met the criteria of physical presence (such as in the case of an extended period of time spent in their home country due to an ill family member). Thirdly, language and knowledge test requirements have been extended to more applicants: from those aged 18-55, as it previously was, to those aged 14-64. Those aged 14-18 at the time of their application for citizenship would have been in Canadian schools for several years; if their skills in English or French are poor, is that not the fault of our schools?

What else has this government done regarding citizenship and immigration?

Some may remember June 28, 2012, the day that the House of Commons passed Bill C-31, the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.” Of the many atrocious changes that the bill made to our immigration system, the most notably outrageous was their designation of ‘irregular arrivals.’ The government decided that any group of refugees coming to Canada without papers by boat or air could be detained for up to a year without any form of judicial review. This in itself goes against the ninth clause of Canada’s charter, which claims that “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.”

Then, in the second week of December 2012, the Immigration Minister brought forth a list of 27 nations that he deemed to be ‘safe countries.’ According to Mr. Kenney, the purpose of the list was to separate what he calls ‘bogus’ refugee claimants from ‘legitimate’ ones, because he believes that apparently, all applicants from these nations are bogus. This list includes Hungary; most applicants from Hungary are Roma people, many of whom face real persecution. Although it was already extremely difficult for applicants from so called ‘democratic’ nations like Hungary to be accepted into Canada, Jason Kenney began doing everything in his power to remove any thin strands of hope refugee claimants might have.

The conservative government committed another egregious move in 2012 when it decided to cut health care for refugees, a move that was met with significant opposition from associations of doctors and refugees. The cuts made it so that many impoverished refugees could not receive life-saving medication such as insulin and cardiac drugs. Pre-natal, obstetrical and pediatric care could not be given to women and children. A refugee entitled to a pre-removal risk assessment would be denied medical care funding absolutely, even if they faced a life threatening condition. Thankfully, on July 4th, 2014, the Federal Court struck down the government’s changes to the Interim Federal Health Program.

It’s important to understand that Bill C-24 and the other actions taken by the government in recent years did not pass in a vacuum: they are part of a broader context, an exercise to expand a right-wing agenda against the people. The fact that Bill C-24 gives less power to courts, reduces individuals’ rights to appeal decisions, and gives more power to an individual minister proves that even the thin veil of ‘democracy’ that exists is being taken away—or perhaps its inexistence is becoming better shown.

People sometimes believe that they have democracy thanks to the court system, that they have the right to a fair trial, and that the rule of law governs over them with justice; but as the capitalist crisis has hit post-recession, the state can’t even afford to put on a facade of democracy anymore. We see this with the stripping away of social programs, the implementation of brutal austerity measures, and bills like this one.

The racist notion of “citizenship” itself must be abolished! Why should those born in Canada face better treatment than those coming from afar? There can be no such thing as an illegal immigrant, and no person is illegal—but what should, on the contrary, be illegal and called out for its inhumanity is Bill C-24!

Down with Bill C24! Resist the right-wing anti-immigration agenda!

Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada
(PCR-RCP Canada)
e p D T F s