Tuesday, February 11, 2014

C-24 In Conjunction With C-23 As Instruments Of Voter Suppression

There has been a lot of attention on Bill C-23 the last week or so, and in particular the parts of it which appear to be tools that can be used for voter suppression.

In discussing the Voter ID requirements of Bill C-23, I became very concerned that this government could well be introducing other legislation which could act in concert with Bill C-23 to suppress the ability of opposition groups to be heard.

Sure enough, Bill C-24 contains some interesting and troubling clauses which dramatically broaden the ability of the government to revoke citizenship.  The proposed section 10(2) reads as follows:

(2) 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,(a) was convicted under section 47 of the Criminal Code of treason and sentenced to imprisonment for life or was convicted of high treason under that section;(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;(c) was convicted of an offence under any of sections 73 to 76 of the National Defence Act and sentenced to imprisonment for life because the person acted traitorously;(d) was convicted of an offence under section 78 of the National Defence Act and sentenced to imprisonment for life;(e) was convicted of an offence under section 130 of the National Defence Act in respect of an act or omission that is punishable under section 47 of theCriminal Code and sentenced to imprisonment for life;(f) was convicted under the National Defence Act of a terrorism offence as defined in subsection 2(1) of that Act and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment;(g) was convicted of an offence described in section 16 or 17 of the Security of Information Act and sentenced to imprisonment for life; or(h) was convicted of an offence under section 130 of the National Defence Act in respect of an act or omission that is punishable under section 16 or 17 of the Security of Information Act and sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The reference to Canada's Treason laws is a little surprising here.  Perhaps more interesting is the reference to "Terrorism" in S10(2)(b), especially in the context of this government's willingness to claim that opposition groups are "terrorists".  What I don't see in here is anything significant which stays the government's hand.  Instead, it gives the government, and in particular the Minister, excessive powers to act to strip people of their citizenship.  I am not at all convinced that the government cannot apply these same clauses to more than just those who possess citizenship in another country.
10.4 (1) Subsections 10(2) and 10.1(2) do not operate so as to authorize any decision, action or declaration that conflicts with any international human rights instrument regarding statelessness to which Canada is signatory.(2) If an instrument referred to in subsection (1) prohibits the deprivation of citizenship that would render a person stateless, a person who claims that subsection 10(2) or 10.1(2) would operate in the manner described in subsection (1) must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the person is not a citizen of any country of which the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe the person is a citizen.
Take note of the burden of proof requirement in 10.4(2).  This creates a nasty little situation where the person being stripped of citizenship must attempt to prove a negative.  Generally speaking, proving a negative is rhetorically and practically impossible - even with the "on the balance of probabilities" language inserted in the clause.

Bill C-24 creates a situation where anybody who holds dual citizenship is implicitly subject to an additional level of scrutiny in their activities in this country.  Engage with an environmental lobby group?  Better hope that the government doesn't decide that it's a "terrorist organization".

This is an evil little bit of legislation.  The implicit threat it carries is that the government will go after a citizen's right to engage in lawful protest by declaring dissident groups "terrorist" and then using this mechanism to withdraw their citizenship.

What does it mean with respect to C-23?  It means that this government is about to embark on a program of suppressing dissent by having opposition groups that dare criticize its actions declared "terrorists", or possibly even going as far as trying to declare that they were engaging in "treason" of some sort.

The implications are clear enough, the threats are obvious.

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