Thousands Sign Petition Opposing New Canadian Immigration Law

temporary foreign worker program

East Block of Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. / Andrijko Z.

A petition sponsored by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) opposing the new Canadian immigration reform bill garnered more than 26,000 signatures, and was recently presented to the Vancouver offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

However, the petition opposing the Conservative government’s immigration bill may just be the first shot fired by the BC organization, as representatives say they are not ruling out taking legal action in opposition to the immigration bill.

In their petition, the civil liberties group alleges that the government’s Bill C-24 (immigration reform) will create a second-class Canadian citizen with fewer civil rights; under the new law, those with dual citizenships can have their Canadian citizenship revoked if convicted of certain types of fraud or crimes. The law will also increase the waiting time for immigrants to achieve their Canadian citizenship.

Josh Peterson, executive director for the BC Civil Liberties Association, said the petition was prompted by the fact that the new immigration law “makes citizenship harder to get, and easier to lose.” Peterson delivered the 26,000 signatures in person to the CIC’s Vancouver office, and forwarded an additional copy via email to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s Ottawa office.

Peterson also warned that the petition might not be the last time the immigration minister hears from his organization on this matter.

“The BCCLA does take the government to court, from time to time, when laws are passed like this that are unconstitutional, it’s always something we think about,” Peterson said.  He added no final decision has yet been made about future legal action.

Peterson explained that the thousands of signatures on the petition were gathered online, from across all of Canada and even from other countries.

In addition to the petition, the BCCLA is opposing the bill on other fronts; the association has also circulated a letter from 60 leading Canadian academics opposing the new immigration law. And despite acknowledging  that the Conservative government has a large majority in parliament—and thus will most likely be able to overcome any opposition there—the BCCLA will also be lobbying the Canadian Senate to vote against the bill.

Under Canada’s parliamentary system, the Senate must also approve any major laws passed by the Canadian parliament.

Peterson conceded that the Conservative government—with its sizable parliamentary majority—has a history of passing laws that have widespread opposition. However, he added that measures such as the BCCLA’s petition against Bill C-24 represented a “meaningful, small act”, expressing a widely held view among many Canadians opposing the new immigration bill.