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Ending Second-Class Citizenship in Canada

Canadian citizenship is considered a valued privilege and there are two ways to become a citizen of the country: through birth and naturalization. Both are intended to confer the same privileges and rights, so that someone who comes to this country and becomes a citizen and someone who is born in Canada both can vote, work, live, and travel as Canadians.

Recent changes to immigration law which will go into effect this year reaffirm that no matter how someone gets their Canadian citizenship they have the same rights. Bill C-6 overturns an earlier law that some claimed created “two classes” of Canadians.

Bill C-24

In 2014, Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, became law. One provision of the bill allowed dual citizen holders and those who had immigrated to Canada to have their citizenship taken away for serious crimes such as terrorism, espionage, or treason.

According to critics of the law, this created a “second class” of citizenship. While Canadians born in Canada and in possession of one citizenship could not have their citizenship taken away from them, no matter what crimes they committed, others could find their citizenship revoked. While the process for taking away citizenship was a complex one and designed for only exemplary cases, it concerned many critics.

Some Canadians had their rights revoked under the bill. In fall 2016, for example, Zakaria Amara had his citizenship taken away. He was a member of the group of 18 people who planned to bomb parts of Toronto.

New Legislation

In May 2017, a new citizenship bill, Bill C-6, was approved by the Senate and which will effectively remove the provisions about revoking citizenship. Among other things, the new immigration law will allow Canadians to retain their citizenship, even if they are convicted of a serious crime. Those who had their citizenship revoked under Bill C-24 will have it automatically reinstated. As before, citizenship can still be taken away from those who obtained their status in through fraud or falsification.

Now, Canadians who bear the title of citizenship will be able to keep it, no matter how their journey to citizenship started.

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