Enforcing inequality: Harper Government creates two classes of Canadians
By Faizan Butt
The federal government’s recent legislation, dubbed Bill-C24 came in to effect this week. The new law is already creating waves among legal scholars and civil rights proponents.
But, the Harper government is no stranger to controversial legislation. Much like their Republican counterparts in the United States, the Harper government has made dividing voters their election platform.
The new law creates two classes of citizens, one of which is treated as second class citizens. The federal government can strip Canadians of their citizenship if they are not born in Canada. Namely, the over 800,000 Canadians that hold dual nationalities.
There are no right minded Canadians that would suggest that offenders should not be punished for committing a crime. However, this new legislation goes beyond that and adds another layer of punishment: stripping Canadians of their citizenship.
For example, if a Canadian does not hold dual citizenship or is born in Canada and commits the same crime, they do not risk losing their citizenship whilst a dual national or naturalised citizen will be subjected to further punishment through the stripping of their citizenship. A part of this may be the result of international rules against stateless persons. Nevertheless, the effect of this legislation is clear.
These divisive laws have no place in Canada. Creating two classes of citizens is contrary to a democratic society that prides itself on equality of all individuals before the eyes of the law.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s defence to this legislation is that citizenship is a privilege not a right. Even if that is the case, the “privilege” itself should be equal for all Canadians, which it is clearly not. It is this lack of equality relating to this “privilege” that is in question. Something the Harper government seems to have trouble comprehending.
Strengthening citizenship requirements is the prerogative of any government, but when strengthening citizenship erodes equality and fundamental principles of justice, is it really worth it? Can in it really be justified in a nation that prides itself on its multiculturalism and its Charter of Rights and Freedom?
Canadians have a vital choice to make in this upcoming election. Will Canada accept the divisive, xenophobic policies of this current government, which have been supported by the Liberals and the NDP? Or will Canadians hold our elected officials accountable at the polls for their continued degradation and erosion of an inclusive, just, equal and democratic Canadian society? Only time will tell.
One thing is for certain, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is right, in effect, this legislation does imply that citizenship is a privilege, but only a “privilege” for some, and a “right” for others. Therein lies the problem.
[Photo Credit: BC Government]