Rocco Galati launches lawsuit challenging Harper’s Citizenship Act changes

by: Obert Madondo | Published Wed June 25 2014

Rocco Galati successfully challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now the Toronto constitutional lawyer is suing two Conservative cabinet ministers and the Governor General over the draconian changes the government made to Canada’s Citizenship Act through Bill C-24.

In documents filed in the Federal Court on Wednesday, Galati cited Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Governor General David Johnston as respondents.

Bill C-24, the deceptively named “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” received royal assent last week.

Galati’s legally challenge questions the respondents’ “constitutional authority” to pass Bill C-24.

Galati, who is supported by the Constitutional Rights Centre and a group of lawyers, wants the court to invalidate new key provisions that give the feds the power to revoke the citizenship of Canadian-born citizens. The 1867 and 1982 Constitution Acts do not give the government such powers.

Galati also wants the courts to invalidate Gov. Gen. Johnston’s royal assent of Bill C-24,

A group of prominent human rights organizations led by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) and British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) says Bill C-24, introduces “sweeping changes to Canada’s citizenship laws that make citizenship harder to get and easier to lose.”

Just before Bill C-24 passed in the Senate last week, the groups explained the legislation’s negative impact on Canadian citizenship in the following terms:

CARL, BCCLA and Amnesty International take the position that this proposed law has dramatically negative effects on Canadian citizenship, eliminating equal citizenship rights for all, and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as international human rights. According to the organizations, the new law will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.

“This proposed law would allow certain Canadians to be stripped of citizenship that was validly obtained by birth or by naturalization. We think that is unconstitutional, and we intend to challenge this law if it is passed,” said Lorne Waldman, President of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “We have presented our arguments to the House of Commons and to the Senate, in an attempt to get them to change or stop this Bill. But the government hasn’t listened, it refuses to amend the bill, and we feel we will have little choice but to challenge it in the courts.”

“The ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act’ does exactly the opposite of what the title proclaims. It makes citizenship less secure,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “In Canada, lawfully-obtained citizenship has always been permanent – once a Canadian, always a Canadian – and all Canadians have always had equal citizenship rights. This bill turns the whole idea of being Canadian upside-down, so that the Canadian citizenship of some people will be worth less than the Canadian citizenship of others. That is wrong, and it must be challenged.”

Before the bill passed, more than 41,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org demanding that the bill be scrapped.

The the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association announced last week that it will launch a Charter challenge to Bill C-24.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad 

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.