Full Citizenship Rights for All!

Photo Kaveh Partovi

The recent adoption of Bill C-24 in Ottawa is a new step in the tightening of the Canadian state’s immigration policy. Now it is increasingly difficult—if often impossible—to enter Canada and obtain the right to stay, whether one is a refugees or a poor and low-skilled worker. The latter are still welcome to work shit jobs under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but as soon as their contract ends so does their residency in Canada. According to the capitalist class, these people are good enough to work, but not good enough to stay.

Accepted on June 19th, Bill C-24 is part of a long list of actions taken by the Harper government to persecute the very same people who are fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in Canada. Moreover, this bill is unprecedented in that it gives the Minister of Immigration absolute power to revoke the citizenship of Canadians who possess a second nationality and “are convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism, high treason and spying offences […] or who take up arms against Canada.” In addition, most of the persons subject to such revocation will not even have the right to appeal the Minister’s decision. It is worth noting that these provisions could be applied both to immigrants who have acquired citizenship and those born in Canada who are reputed to have the citizenship of another state due to one of their parents.

Among the new grounds that will provide the Minister reason to revoke someone’s citizenship, there is also the participation “as a member of an armed force of a country or […] of an organized armed group [that] was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada.” Engagement in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada could also lead to the revocation of citizenship.

Clearly these provisions primarily target those involved in anti-imperialist resistance movements—be it in Canada or elsewhere—who the Canadian government will now have full discretion to expel. The objective is to scare those citizens who might desire to support or join such movements. Given the vagueness of these provisions, the Minister will enjoy total discretion. Someone who commits a minor offense (for example, someone who is arrested in a pro-Palestinian demonstration) could easily be described as “terrorist” and stripped of their citizenship.

More generally, Bill C-24 makes the process of obtaining citizenship even less accessible than it was in the past. Fees for filing a request for citizenship are doubled. Applicants must have resided in Canada for a longer period, i.e. four years instead of three, and the courts can no longer be flexible while interpreting this rule—even if, for example, an applicant has to leave Canada for a short period to take care of a sick relative. Finally, the requirement to take language and general knowledge exams is extended to a larger number of applicants.

This most recent reform of Canadian immigration laws follows a long series of changes that have been implemented in recent years. The Canadian state is increasingly tough on asylum seekers, especially those designed as “irregular arrivals.” The Harper government decided that any group of refugees coming to Canada without papers by boat or air could be detained for up to a year without any form of judicial review. This in itself goes against Section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that “everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada also established a list of 27 countries now deemed safe, from where it is now practically impossible to obtain asylum. This list includes, among others, Hungary, from where most applicants are Roma people, many of whom face harsh persecution.

The conservative government committed another egregious move in 2012 when it decided to cut health care for refugees, a move that was met with significant opposition from associations of doctors and refugees. Thankfully, on July 4th, the Federal Court struck down the government’s changes to the Interim Federal Health Program.

As the Maoists from the PCR-RCP Canada explained in a leaflet distributed on July 5 in a demo held in Surrey, BC:

“Bill C-24 and the other actions taken by the government in recent years did not pass in a vacuum: they are part of a broader context, an exercise to expand a right-wing agenda against the people. The fact that Bill C-24 gives less power to courts, reduces individuals’ rights to appeal decisions, and gives more power to an individual minister proves that even the thin veil of ‘democracy’ that exists is being taken away—or perhaps its inexistence is becoming better shown. […] People sometimes believe that they have democracy thanks to the court system, that they have the right to a fair trial, and that the rule of law governs over them with justice; but as the capitalist crisis has hit post-recession, the state can’t even afford to put on a facade of democracy anymore… The racist notion of “citizenship” itself must be abolished! Why should those born in Canada face better treatment than those coming from afar? There can be no such thing as an illegal immigrant, and no person is illegal—but what should, on the contrary, be illegal and called out for its inhumanity is Bill C-24!”

Down with Bill C-24! Resist the right-wing anti-immigration agenda!