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Joint statement by: Fuerza-Puwersa, Justice for Migrant Workers, Justice for Deepan, No One Is Illegal – Montreal, No One Is Illegal – Ottawa, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Solidarity Across Borders

The federal government has just passed Bill C-24, an Act to Steal Citizenship (or what they call Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act), which further dismantles Canada’s already exclusionary and racist immigration system. This law will likely come into effect in 2014 and citizenship, which is already out of the reach for most migrants, will be much harder to get and it will be easier to taken away at the discretion of immigration officials. This Act targets people with dual citizenship, make its harder for people to appeal court decisions, and gives unprecedented power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. 

This comes at a time when most avenues to permanent residency (which one has to get before applying for citizenship) have already been severely gutted. Since the late 1990s, more people have been entering Canada on temporary status than with access to permanent residency. After a decade of steady decline, refugee acceptances (which represent less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s refugees) hit a historic low last year. This trend is largely due to the Refugee Exclusion Act that legally discriminates based on nationality.

In addition, family reunification has become harder with increased restrictions on sponsorship of spouses, parents, and grandparents. The Stealing Citizenship Act adds to the litany of destructive immigration changes in recent years that makes citizenship and permanent residency more unattainable than ever.

Citizenship will be harder to get because The Stealing Citizenship Act will:

  • give government officials unprecedented authority to deny citizenship if they suspect that an applicant might not reside in Canada in the future, which can be done on an extremely arbitrary basis
  • extend the formal residency requirement (currently the requirement is three to four years, but applicants usually wait four to six years to get citizenship due to government delay)
  • make it harder for students, workers, and refugees to become citizens (time spent living in Canada prior to their permanent residency will be disregarded)
  • remove the right to appeal to the Federal Court and the right to appeal Federal Court decisions at the Federal Court of Appeal
  • triple the cost of applying and impose the costly language testing on applicants aged 14-64 (used to be 18-55)
  • decisions on citizenship will now usually be made by a civil servant as opposed to a neutral third party Judge

Citizenship will be easier to take away because Bill C-24 will:

  • remove the right to an oral hearing before an independent judge (replaced by a written review)
  • discriminate against naturalized citizens by making their status easier to revoke
  • legalize ‘double punishment’ of dual citizens (in addition to serving their time for criminal convictions, their citizenship can now also be revoked)
  • grant officials the power to strip citizenship for crimes committed outside of Canada

Though The Stealing Citizenship Act introduces extremely disturbing changes to Canada’s immigration system, most migrants are already excluded from the possibility of ever gaining citizenship in Canada. Granting citizenship to the privileged few is part of a racist immigration system that is designed to exploit and exclude predominantly poor migrants of colour.

Critically, we must recognize the complicity of the Canadian state in forcing people to migrate from the global South and dispossessing Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. For the 300,000 people entering Canada each year on exploitative temporary work programs and the 500,000 undocumented people living and working across the country, and the thousands detained and deported, citizenship is already out of reach. And now, for the migrants who gained the privilege of citizenship and what was once ‘permanent’, that might also be stripped away.

Canada’s immigration system is racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist and exclusionary. We need a full and comprehensive regularization policy that would give full immigration status to all undocumented people and migrant workers upon arrival. These changes must be accompanied by an end to wars, resource extraction projects, imperial interventions, and environmental destruction that create conditions of displacement. We need a dramatically new way of imagining migration, one in which all people have the freedom to stay, move, and return.

Status for all! No one is illegal!