Third reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act—Motion in AmendmentPublished on 30 March 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Serge Joyal
Hon. Serge Joyal:
Honourable senators, I don’t want to nitpick this afternoon. I often address you in English, but I want to tell you that I also read the French version of bills.
I would like to draw the attention of the sponsor of the amendment, Senator McCoy, to the French version. At page 4 of the Order Paper, under paragraph 4, 5.1 in the French version:
In the French version it says:
(5.1) L’avis visé au paragraphe (3) ou la décision visée au paragraphe (5) est signifié à personne.
It means in French that notice is given to no one. That’s what it means, because the article “la” is not there.
You are the author of the amendments, so if you want to seek concurrence to add the article “la” before the word “personne” in French, that would make the meaning equal to the other one. I will leave it there before I make my general comments.
This is the last suggestion regarding corrections. I thank honourable senators for their concurrence in that.
I will be brief this afternoon, but I want to draw the attention of honourable senators in relation to this amendment proposed by Senator McCoy that the revocation of citizenship is a very serious decision.
In fact, if you read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there are two sections in the Charter that recognize rights only to citizens. Generally, the rights are to a person, but there are two kinds of rights in the Charter that are recognized only for citizens. If you lose your legal condition of citizen, you cannot claim those rights. That’s my first point, and I’m going to recite to you which of those two rights are very well stated in the Charter.
The second one is that section 24 of the Charter has a very specific clause that imposes upon us the requirement to manage a remedial legal system for anybody who feels that his or her rights are aggrieved or removed. That is section 24. Let me read section 24(1) of the Charter:
Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.
So any of those rights in the Charter are subject to enforcement in court if anyone feels aggrieved.
I come back to my first proposal to you, which is: Which of the rights do we enjoy specifically because we are Canadian citizens, in our condition as citizens? Section 3 states:
“Democratic rights of citizens”
Every citizen of Canada —
And I insist not every person of Canada —
Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
The Supreme Court has interpreted that right very widely. It is the right to run in an election. It is the right to a certain division of ridings in Canada, as you know. It is the principle of effective representation. The Supreme Court has drawn a lot of conclusions in relation to that right: the right to vote with all the ensuing privileges that are entitlements of the right to vote.
Another group of rights that are reserved only to the citizens, and those are, in a way, more telling for an individual person, if I can use that tautology:
Section 6 is entitled “Mobility of citizens.” I read:
(1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right
(a) to move to and take up residence in any province; and
(b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.
As you will understand, honourable senators, when we remove the condition of citizenship from a person, from a citizen, we cannot, at the same time, deny them the right to go to court. That’s section 24. If we were to curtail freedom of expression in Canada, under section 2(a) of the Charter, that person could go to the courts and challenge such a piece of legislation.
We had a debate in this chamber around this a while ago. It is the same for the protection of a person who has the title of citizen. If there is a decision to remove citizenship, that person, according to the Charter, has the right to go to court because it is a very serious right. You are removing the democratic rights and the mobility rights of a person when you remove the citizenship.
I have always been supportive of initiatives that aim to re- establish some kind of process. Senator Martin is right; there are not thousands and thousands of cases of revocation of citizenship. We are not in the refugees domain of activities here. You’re totally right; a person who claims that his or her right has been revoked or will be terminated certainly has the right to be heard in court in an efficient and reasonable time period. You are totally right. That is what the Supreme Court confirmed last summer, as you know, in relation to in how many months you can expect a decision in a provincial court — 18 months — and 30 months in a superior court. The reasonable delay is an important point, and you have raised it, in my opinion, with a lot of justification.
However, we are not facing the refugee problem here that we know the refugee boards have to address. The revocation of citizenship happens. There are a couple of hundred cases, but it is not the flood of issues. I think you are totally right in relation to that.
I am very strongly supportive of those amendments because they re-establish enforceability of rights contained in the Charter. That doesn’t mean that the person has to appeal to the Federal Court. The government could think of a system of appeal that would be fair. That is essentially what we aim for here. It could be the Federal Court, a superior court, an administrative court, but at least there will be a review process to make sure that the decision has been fairly taken and that the person has had an opportunity to state his or her case. That’s what we call due process; a fair hearing.
I strongly support this amendment because, especially in this chamber— I am looking at Senator Bellemare — we question how we want to make sure that each bill is in sync with the Charter. I think this bill needed to be in sync with the Charter, and I am happy that the initiative was taken at the committee to highlight that point and that today we will be able, I hope, to vote on those amendments that, in my opinion, will bring the legislation into conformity with the rights of Canadians.