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The Harper government's 'Deport Omar Khadr' bill

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"Canadian citizenship is not a right, it is a privilege," says the transmogrified Chris Alexander, Minister of Immigration, fresh from scolding the Ontario government for refusing to deny needed medication to children and pregnant women.

He was speaking about proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, contained in Bill C-24.

As Thomas Walkom noted yesterday, this bill is a Trojan horse. In his article, he notes (and agrees with) lawyer Lorne Waldman's assertion that Omar Khadr could be stripped of his Canadian citizenship under this bill -- even though he was born in Toronto.

Today I had a conversation with some good folks on Twitter during which we felt our way to a similar conclusion, or at least allowed me to reach it. I’m not certain any of us had read Walkom's article when we began. But the right questions got asked and answered.

1. What does the Bill specifically say on the matter?

Here's new Section 10(2):

Revocation by Minister -- convictions relating to national security

The Minister may revoke a person’s citizenship if the person, before or after the coming into force of this subsection and while the person was a citizen...

(b) was convicted of a terrorism offence as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code -- or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section -- and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment;

2) Can this law be made retroactive under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Arguably so. Here is Section 11 (g):

1. Any person charged with an offence has the right …

(g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;

Khadr's coerced plea-bargain would seem to apply, almost certainly in the second instance, arguably in the first.

3. But wouldn’t stripping Khadr of his citizenship render him stateless, illegal under international law and even under the terms of Bill C-24 (Section 10 [4])?

First, as an aside, note that Section 10 [4]{2] forces a potential non-citizen to prove he or she is NOT a citizen of some other country. Try to imagine the staggering burden of proof here for many individuals.

But fortunately -- for the Harper government -- this is an easy question to resolve in the case of Omar Khadr. His deceased father had Egyptian citizenship. Under Egyptian law, Khadr is an Egyptian national.

All exits are closed: when C-24 passes, as it most certainly will, it is only a matter of time, and a very short time, I suspect, before the Minister declares Khadr a non-citizen and has him deported to Egypt.

And that, besides appealing to its red-meat base, will likely save the Harper government a bundle of cash.

[H/ts to @StephenLautens, @ThomasHall, @ConBeGone, and @Stoktunes: Twitter conversation at its best.]



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