Threats Of Lawsuit, Political Sparks Fly As Canadian Immigration Law Nears Passage

As one of the most contentious political debates in recent Canadian history rages on—and threats of legal challenges grow—the Conservative government is moving towards final passage of its sweeping new immigration bill.

Bill C-24, the government’s reform of Canada’s immigration laws, is near passage in parliament, and concurrently under review by the Canadian Senate; political watchers believe that, barring any unforeseen event, the bill could become law within a few weeks.

However, despite the bill’s rapid advance through parliament, the voices of opposition to the new immigration law remain loud and threatening.

One of the loudest voices opposing the bill is Toronto lawyer, Rocco Galati, who recently was successful in a lawsuit against a Conservative government appointment to Canada’s Supreme Court. Writing on behalf of the Constitutional Rights Center, Galati recently sent a letter to members of parliament, questioning the immigration law’s constitutionality and warning that his group may take “every judicial proceeding possible against Bill C-24.”

In addition, the Canadian Bar Association—representing Canada’s legal community—has also expressed concern that the provision in Bill C-24 allowing the government to revoke dual citizenship could be a “slippery slope that may well be beyond the constitutional framework.”

Both the Liberal and New Democratic opposition parties have signaled their intent to vote against the immigration law, however the Conservative government’s large parliamentary majority means that the law is almost certain to pass; despite strong opposition, it is also expected to pass the Canadian Senate.

Given that political reality, it appears as though a legal challenge—most likely in Canada’s Supreme Court—may be the only venue available to those standing in opposition to the new immigration law.

One of the strongest objections to the immigration law is the power given to the Immigration Minister to revoke dual Canadian citizenship of anyone convicted of certain criminal offences—even by foreign courts–or found to have taken arms against Canada. Critics believe that it provides too much subjective power to one person—the immigration minister—and politicizes a legal decision that should be left entirely to the Canadian courts.

In an editorial in Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, Abbas Kassam of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, strenuously objected to the revocation power given the immigration minister in the new law.

Kassam pointed out that, once it’s obtained, Canadian citizenship is a “right, not a privilege”, and that the bill’s reliance on the legal convictions from foreign courts means that the decisions made by foreign “kangaroo courts” could result in the unfair revocation of dual Canadian citizenships. His group is calling on the government to rethink that provision to “maintain a commitment to the rule of law, and not lead us down a path towards authoritarian-style leadership.”