Columnists

Monia Mazigh
Getting it all wrong: Kenney proposes revoking Canadian citizenship in cases of terrorism

| February 8, 2013
Photo: Xtra.ca/Flickr

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Time and again, the Conservative government is getting it all wrong.

Jason Kenney recently announced that his government is exploring the idea of stripping Canadians of their citizenship if they were found to have gone abroad and committed acts of terror.

Of course, this project fits perfectly with the "law and order" agenda of Harper's vision for Canada but it hides a discriminatory and a two-tier system that Canada has been gradually adopting: a health system for Canadians and a second-class one for refugees, a legal system for the rich and a legal system for the poor, open trials for Canadians and secret trials for immigrants and refugees; the list is long.

Three main questions come to my mind. First of all, why do we need to introduce such a law and why now? And, why do we need a law especially directed at dual citizens, and finally why is Mr. Kenney targeting acts of terrorism exclusively?

Mr. Kenney and his supporters would point their fingers at the recent allegations reported by the media about the possible participation of a Canadian citizen in the hostage-taking in Algeria, as well as to the media reports that one of the terrorists who bombed a bus in Bulgaria held a Canadian citizenship. So far, security agencies such as the RCMP or CSIS have yet to report to the Canadian public on the authenticity of these reports.

There is word circulating that RCMP agents are travelling to Algeria to check on the allegations. We still don't know if these were "genuine" Canadians citizens or simply suspects with different nationalities carrying fake Canadian passports.

After all, one has to admit that this is not the first time in Canadian history that the blue document was "used." For instance, in 1997, the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency -- in its failed attempt to assassinate Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's political chief in Jordan -- used Canadian passports to conceal the true identity of their agents. Unless my memory has betrayed me, I don't think Canada reacted by introducing a law similar to the one it is touting today.

Some would reply that the world has evolved since then, that terrorism has became a major threat and that Canada must be more vigilant. I certainly agree. But, I still don't understand how stripping people of their citizenship would make our world safer.

Shouldn't we improve our immigration system to attract and retain only those people who are serious about their intent to stay, live and work in Canada? Shouldn't we spend more effort to control the originality of the Canadian passport? Why do we have to introduce a law that has all the ingredients of division and discrimination against a certain group of people?

In my opinion, this new project would create two classes of citizens and two classes of laws. Some laws for Canadians with one citizenship and other laws tailored for people with dual citizenships. Some laws for corruption, human trafficking, child pornography… and some laws for terrorism only.

Take the example of the corruption scandal unfolding right in front of our eyes in Montreal. The Charbonneau public inquiry showed that most of the witnesses and companies implicated in the suspicious schemes are of Italian descent. Their affiliation to the Mafia has been evoked several times. Nevertheless, it would be ridiculous if someone would suggest revoking their Canadian citizenship and sending the culprits back to Italy. To my knowledge, Vito Rizzuto, born in Sicily and head of the Montreal Mafia (who was recently extradited and sentenced in the U.S.), was able to come back to Canada and "enjoy" the rights of his Canadian citizenship after completing his prison sentence. I wonder why Kenney didn't raise the question of citizenship upon Vito Rizzuto's return to Montreal? How about Conrad Black?

In summer 2012, a Somali-born British man, Mahdi Hashi, who grew up in Britain, went missing in Somalia where he went to live few years before. After his mysterious disappearance, his family in Britain was distraught, suspecting that their son was being held in a notorious U.S. anti-terrorist base in Djibouti. The news in this case is that his British citizenship was revoked without any warning or prior notice. Hashi was apparently harassed by MI5 so much while he lived in Britain, that he decided to go live in Somalia. He claimed that the British security officials wanted him to spy on the Muslim community in Britain. Recent reports disclosed that Hashi is now in custody in the U.S. facing charges of terrorism.

Harassing Muslims (visiting them at work, asking them to work for CSIS…), "pushing" them out of Canada and then arresting them overseas… isn't this a familiar pattern: Abdullah Al-Malki, Ahmed El-Maati and Abousfian Abdelrazik were all Canadian citizens who faced similar tactics. They were later arrested in their respective countries of birth, imprisoned and tortured. Allegations of terrorism ran freely over them but these allegations were never proved in court. These Canadians were never charged with terrorism. After their cases became public, and after their outrageous treatment reached many Canadians, they were able to come back to Canada. They all held Canadian passports. Their Canadian citizenship allowed them to be treated relatively fairly while their second citizenship stripped them of all their rights. Assume the Canadian citizenships of these three Canadians were revoked because of terrorism allegations -- wouldn't they still be in brutal jails in Syria, Egypt or Sudan?

Did Mr. Kenney hear about these cases? Did he read the report of Justice Iacobucci that examined the cases of Mr. Al-Malki and Mr. El-Maati? Did he hear about the Federal Court judgement on Abdelrazik?

How can Mr. Kenney explain the rationale behind his new proposed law? Or is it precisely the rule of law that is bothering the government? A better explanation from him is warranted.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and in 2011, a novel in French, Miroirs et mirages.

Photo: Xtra.ca/Flickr

Comments

You know you're being governed by idiots when the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration comes out with howlers like, "Canadian citizenship is predicated on loyalty to this country"!

I'm a Canadian citizen because I was born here. I don't recall ever having to take a loyalty oath.

Kenney thinks an act of terrorism (whatever that means) is an act of disloyalty to Canada. What about an act of murder, or rape? What about waging an illegal foreign war and causing the deaths of thousands? What exactly is Kenney's moral standard that all Canadian citizens must live up to? 860,000 Canadian dual citizens are keen to know!

A Canadian dual citizen is alleged to have killed five Israelis in Bulgaria, and Kenney sees this as an act of disloyalty — to Canada?

Hello Monia, I'm glad you are raising this. As you must know in your long struggle to free your husband and rebuild your lives, this idea of citizenship being grounded in loyalty is counter to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - that everyone has the RIGHT to a nationality.

And then we have "la double peine", as one says in France - sending young offenders who may have arrived as babies back "home" to a country they have know knowledge of, and often a limited command of the language...

Indeed, after 9-11, a strange "racialisation" has developed against people from the Middle East and Maghreb, or anyone who is Muslim or presumed to be so. Your neighbours in Sicily are included in "whiteness", while you become oddly outcast from it... And this "terrorism" charge somehow excludes not only state-sanctioned terrorism, but also the murderous acts of the Jewish Defence League and extremist Israeli settlers...

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