On 15 May 2014 I sent an email to about 50 friends who I thought might be interested and more to the point, might be personally affected by the proposed Act now streaking its way through Stephen Harper’s Conservative Parliament. The Bill was brought to my attention by Change.org which had picked up on the petition being circulated by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). The real effect of Bill C-24 is to seriously weaken, even remove, the rights of those Canadians who are also citizens of another country.
The Bill creates two classes of Canadian Citizen, (1) those who were born in Canada of Canadian parents, and (2) those who, like a vast number of immigrants, have chosen to become Canadian Citizens, possibly as well as being citizens of another country such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America or those many European or Asian countries from which probably millions of new Canadians have come. These latter second class of dual or naturalized citizens and so-called permanent residents could have their status or citizenship stripped from them, not by a court, but by a civil servant, in writing, with no recourse to the courts, on the direction of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. George Orwell’s nineteen-eighty-four is here, 30 years delayed (probably had its application held up in processing).
The BCCLA circulated a petition against Bill C-24 and on June 3, 2014 delivered an 800 page petition with more than 28,000 signatures to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office in Vancouver, with electronic copies to the other party critics.
A group of 60 ‘scholars and prominent Canadians’ who are ‘concerned that Canada’s commitment to rights protection and its international reputation as a human rights leader will be threatened by the passage of Bill C-24′ wrote that ‘Bill C-24 does exactly the opposite of what its title proclaims: it will not make Canadian citizenship stronger, but rather take away rights from countless Canadians holding dual citizenship, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens. Under this new law, Canadian citizenship will become harder to get and easier to lose’.
Michael Adams, Audrey Macklin and Ratna Omidvar wrote in the Globe and Mail on May 21, 2014 that the ‘Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians’ and described scenarios illustrating the disastrous effect that Bill C-24 would have on future life in Canada for dual citizens, and those aspiring to citizenship.
These documents are linked on the BCCLA web site here.
What the Harper Conservatives have conveniently ignored is that they have no social licence to act in this dictatorial way. They may at present have the power in Parliament to behave this way, but exercising that power is a gross distortion and abuse of traditional Parliamentary democracy.
• At present, the Harper Conservative government enjoys 100% of the power derived from ‘winning’ 54% of the seats in Parliament, an absolute majority, which in turn is the result of collecting less than 40% of the votes nationwide of those who voted.
• Members of Parliament are now generally at the beck and call of the party to which they adhere and are no longer responsible to those who elected them. Hence, since the 41st General Election in 2011, the government has an absolute power to arbitrarily change legislation as long as ‘their’ MPs vote as directed by the party.
• There is an urgent need to change the whole electoral system, to return Members of Parliament’s responsibility to those who elected them. Michael Chong’s Private Member’s Bill The Reform Act 2014 addresses this issue.
• The electoral system needs to be changed from First-Past-The-Post (plurality) to proportional representation (PR). Under the present distorted system which is a historical hangover and only suitable for a two-candidate election, an MP can be elected with as little as 30% of the vote leaving 70% of the votes cast ‘wasted’. Consequences of this are strategic voting (Candidate A seems to be leading so rather than vote for your preferred candidate C, you vote for candidate B in order to defeat A who you really don’t want) and sheer apathy resulting in about 40% of the electorate not voting at all. However a good PR system would encourage voting, would count nearly all the votes toward electing an MP (especially your chosen candidate) leaving perhaps only 5% ‘wasted’ (as in the best PR systems) and would produce a House of Commons which reflects the wide spectrum of opinions expressed in the national popular vote. This should ensure debate and negotiation in the House of Commons and committees and a much better piece of legislation could be produced – perhaps even a bill which really achieved ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship’.
So what are we to do? In the short term, write or call your MP NOW, urging him or her to reject this ill-conceived piece of legislation which probably does not reflect the views of most Canadians.