You may recall that before the Summer eclipsed Ottawa like a sleepy hug, Parliament had passed legislation that would afford the Minister of Immigration the power to straight-up banish Canadian citizens after only sending a letter.
That plan has gotten a lot of attention of late, what with a slew of Canadian citizens checking out Expedia for cheap flights to a horrifying war zone in the hellish nightmarescape of the Islamic State.
The thrust of the legislation, C-24, is this: if you’re convicted of terrorism and face five years in jail, the Minister of Immigration can send you a letter and your citizenship will be revoked, and then the government will deport you.
Think about the plan for a second and you may think —hey, perchance there’s a bit of irony in the fact that we’re planning to arrested and jail Canadians who want to go to Iraq and fight, only to deport them once they’re released.
Well, you thought right.
Unless the minister’s plan is to try foreign fighters in absentia, then revoke their citizenship, the practical reality is that Canada will throw resources into catching would-be foreign fighters, only to lock them up for a decade, then deport them back to their home country.
When the Liberal leader raised an issue with that, he got lambasted.
“I think Canada has very strong rules and penalties around enforcing against acts of terrorism. I think what really concerns me is the creation of a two tier citizenship. The idea that some people, because of behaviour, however reprehensible, could have their citizenship removed, makes it conditional for anyone who gains Canadian citizenship without having been born here. That’s against the principles that has made Canada great – that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,”Trudeau told reporters.
Putting aside the eye-roll-y nationalism, Trudeau is right —shredding peoples’ passports feels like a really unnecessary tool.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander went to town on Trudeau.
“International terrorism is a serious threat and for him to say this is strange and irresponsible. We want to deter Canadians from having anything to do with terrorist groups,”he said.
You know what a great deterrent would be? Not sending them to another country which is exactly what they wanted in the first place.
Now, maybe Alexander will do a fine job with this power. Perhaps he will only strip the citizenship of foreign fighters who have been previously convicted and who left again. Or maybe he’ll only use the provision in the bill that allows him to strip the citizenship of foreign fighters waging war against the Canadian state to ensure that Canadian ISIS members don’t come back. That’s fine by me.
But just because the government tends to use wildly over-broad legislation in an appropriate manner doesn’t meant that they should have the power in the first place.
What if Justin Trudeau wins the election and deports every Tom, Dick and Ahmed who have been convicted of a terrorism-related offence?
What if a particularly disgruntled future Protestant Prime Minister deports every ex-IRA member back to Northern Ireland? I can’t imagine that the English would be too pleased with us.
What if future Prime Minister Rob Anders strips Nelson Mandela’s honorary citizenship? (This is a real thing he could do.)
All-in-all, maybe immigration policy isn’t the smartest way to stop terrorism. Maybe the Criminal Code is.
If only we had criminal prohibitions against being a terrorist!
And if you’re clutching pearls over the very thought of having these very bad men locked up in a prison near you, then maybe we should get some island real estate in the Caribbean and ship them all there. But we can talk about that.
It feels like really poor policy-making to suggest that locking-up radicals and then deporting them abroad is an effective way to combat terrorism.
Because where are they going to go back to? Somalia? Yemen? Iraq?
After five years of incarceration in our over-crowded jails, I can’t imagine that they’ll want to set up a cafe or get their law degree.
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