(July 15, 2015) Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is moving ahead to revoke the citizenship of a Canadian citizen convicted of terrorist charges. This is the first attempt to do so under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. The law received the Royal Assent on June 19, 2014, and the provisions on citizenship revocation came into force on May 28, 2015. (Program Delivery Update – May 29, 2015, Government of Canada website; Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, S.C. 2014, c 22, ¶ 10, JUSTICE LAWS; Stewart Bell, Ottawa Moves to Revoke Citizenship of Convicted Terrorist for First Time Since Controversial Law Took Effect, NATIONAL POST (July 1, 2015).)
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens and those eligible for dual citizenship when such persons are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or espionage. (Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, at 16, National Immigration Law Section, Canadian Bar Association website (Apr. 2014).) The Minister may revoke the citizenship of past or present members of armed groups involved in armed conflict with Canada. The new law also allows the Minister to refuse citizenship to permanent residents involved in the above-listed activities. (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, c. 22, ¶ 10.)
The Alizadeh Case
Hiva Alizadeh is a dual citizen, with both Canadian and Iranian citizenship. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, the offense “of possessing explosive materials for the purpose of endangering life or causing serious property damage involving Canadian citizens.” (R. v. Alizadeh, 2014 ONSC 5421 (Sept. 18, 2014), ¶ 1, CANLII.) At sentencing, the judge declared that Alizadeh had committed an act of treason and betrayed his family and his community. (Id.) He is currently serving his 24-year prison sentence in a federal prison. Once time served before sentencing is taken into account, his remaining sentence is 18 years. (Id. ¶ 3.)
Based on the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration must inform Alizadeh, by way of a written notice, of his right to make written representations in connection with his case. The notice must state the time period within which written representations are to be made, the required form and manner in which to present them, and the grounds for the revocation. (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, ¶ 10(3).) A hearing will only be called if the Minister decides that a hearing is required. (Id. ¶ 10(4).) The Minister must inform Alizadeh of the final decision in writing. (Id. ¶ 10(5).) The revocation of citizenship essentially results in the citizen taking on the status of a foreign national (id. ¶ 10.3) and risking deportation. (Revocation of Citizenship, Government of Canada website (May 29 2015).)
The legislation, which was opposed by the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (Vote No. 210 House of Commons, 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, Sitting No. 104 (June 16, 2014), Parliament of Canada website), has been strongly criticized by members of the legal community, such as the Canadian Bar Association, which has recommended that all forms of revocation other than for material misrepresentation be eliminated. (Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, supra, at 30.)
Prepared by Julia Heron, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Tariq Ahmad, Senior Legal Research Analyst.