Earlier this month, Bill C-24—the colourfully named Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act—came into effect. Most of the criticism directed at this bill stems from its creation of an apparent lower class of Canadian citizenship for those who were born or live elsewhere. In a 2014 editorial, the Globe and Mail stated, “there is an ugly, xenophobic side to this law, which may play well with some voters, but has no place in a modern, multicultural Canada.” A modern, multicultural Canada with 863,000 dual-Canadian citizens. As of today, to maintain Canadian Citizenship one must reside in Canada for 183 days for 4 out of every 6 years. If you have a job that requires you to spend the majority of your time in Silicon Valley, California making millions of dollars, Canada has no interest in you.
*This next paragraph is full of legal nonsense that might be dull to read. If you want to get to the Rush Limbaugh-style rant about how Stephen Harper is going to ruin Canadian sports forever, simply skip the following paragraph and read on.
In an April 2014 report, the National Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) criticized the Bill for a number of reasons. Firstly, because being convicted of terrorism in another country is now grounds to have your Canadian citizenship revoked. This is stupid, since defining terrorism is harder than organising a Federal Leaders’ debate, and numerous states around the world use terrorism charges to bring down political opponents unjustly. The Bill, in most cases, also eliminates the right to a Federal Court hearing, which makes it the government’s decision to rescind ones citizenship. A dual citizen working abroad better make damn sure not to make enemies with a foreign government or the Canadian government. Lastly, CBA also stated that Bill C-24 uses cross-referencing to previous litigation “to the point of near incoherence.” The association of lawyers says there is too much legal mumbo-jumbo in this Bill for even them to understand it properly. The Conservative Government touting transparency in government is about as ridiculous as a Leafs fan guaranteeing a Stanley Cup victory.
If you are out of Canada for an extended period and you are not a public servant, you will lose your citizenship. If there is one thing that should make every Canadian’s blood boil it is this element right here. Forget all the rhetoric people throw around and consider one simple scenario: what happens if an NHL player holds dual citizenship with any other country in the world and plays for an American franchise? Under this regulation, would he have his citizenship revoked? We may not need our innovative immigrants or our international journalists, but there is no way this country can let our sports stars leave. Will tennis star Milos Raonic, who was born in Montenegro and resides in Monaco, no longer be allowed to wear the maple leaf on his shoulder at the Olympic Games? If this bill had been around a decade ago, would we have revoked the citizenship of South African born Steve Nash who played the majority of his career in Phoenix?
Milos Raonic is perhaps the biggest question with regard to this bill. He has played 23 tournaments in the last calendar year, 22 of which were outside of Canada. He lives in Monte Carlo, along with the likes of world number 1 Novak Djokovic, allowing him to train on clay courts. The subtleties of a tennis professional’s training regimen aside, it would be detrimental to his career if he had to spend 183 days a year in Canada. As I understand it, Raonic has access to non-Canadian citizenship and will not spend the majority of his time in Canada. It is difficult to tell whether he would meet the criteria for having his citizenship revoked because it is hard to understand anything about this bill. Before everyone begins criticizing this 20 year old writer, I’d like to reiterate that this Bill was too complex to be understood by the best lawyers in this field in the country, so cut me some slack.
Furthermore, even if the bill isn’t applied to Raonic, the potential implications for athletes are real. As the CBA put it, the Bill’s “inflexibility risks undermining Canada’s goal of attracting the best and brightest immigrants.” That means that, if the next prodigy athlete is born in another country but needs to move somewhere with the resources and programs they need to become a star, they won’t choose Canada.
According to the CBA, the government is “creating two tiers of citizenship—natural born Canadians who could travel and live abroad without restriction and naturalized Canadians who would risk losing their status if they were ever to leave Canada.” The disrespect towards non-Canadian born Canadians and to those who may want to be a citizen here one day goes against everything this country stands for. Why?
Well, three of the top ten members of CBC’s Greatest Canadian series in 2004 were born in Scotland. Great Scott! To be fair, that list can be disregarded entirely because it places Don Cherry at #7, three spots above the Great One Wayne Gretzky. There is no denying the impact that our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald and the father of our healthcare system Tommy Douglas had on this great nation, but this particular Bill would not have affected them. The third Canadian Scotsmen is Alexander Graham Bell. Bell moved to Canada at 23. However, when he made a name for himself by inventing the telephone, he was working in the United States. Under C-24, the next Alexander Graham Bell will not be referred to as Canadian.
Now, in all likelihood the Canadian government will not pursue these stars. The main criticism of this bit of legislation is that it has created two classes of Canadian citizen. If we are going to make an exception for celebrities, where will the line be drawn? These are the inherent difficulties of creating a legal hierarchy of citizenship.