Between 1977 and 2010 only 63 people had their citizenship revoked. In July, 2011, Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (“Minister Kenney“), announced that as many as 1,800 Canadians could be stripped of their citizenship because they obtained their citizenship fraudulently. The 1,800 individuals were identified following a three-year investigation by the RCMP, other police forces and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
On September 9, 2012, Minister Kenney announced that the number of people who would likely have their citizenship revoked had risen to 3,100, with an additional 11,000 people under investigation.
The process of revoking these peoples’ citizenship has already begun, with several Canadians receiving letters stating the following:
The potential citizenship revocation of 11,000 Canadians generated considerable media and political attention, including this Twitter exchange between Jason Kenney and Jinny Sims, the New Democratic Party Immigration Critic.
There is a lot of confusion in social media regarding how the Government of Canada can strip people of their Canadian citizenship. There is even more uncertainty regarding the process through which this is done. In the remainder of this article, I hope to clarify the law on the issue.
Section 10 of the Citizenship Act
The authority of the Government of Canada to strip people of their citizenship is legally provided for by s. 10 of the Citizenship Act, which states that:
10. (1) Subject to section 18 but notwithstanding any other section of this Act, where the Governor in Council, on a report from the Minister, is satisfied that any person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship under this Act by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances,
(a) the person ceases to be a citizen, or
(b) the renunciation of citizenship by the person shall be deemed to have had no effect,
as of such date as may be fixed by order of the Governor in Council with respect thereto.
Some individuals think that they can misrepresent their way to permanent residency, tell the truth when applying for citizenship, obtain citizenship, and then never have to worry about the consequences of the misrepresentations that led to them obtaining permanent residence. Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act makes it clear that this is not the case, and states that:
(2) A person shall be deemed to have obtained citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances if the person was lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances and, because of that admission, the person subsequently obtained citizenship.
The burden of proof on the Government of Canada to establish fraud under s. 10 of the Citizenship Act is a “high degree of probability.” In other words, it is higher than the “balance of probabilities” standard in civil cases, but lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal law.
The test for establishing fraud under s. 10 of the Citizenship Act is similar to that of misrepresentation for permanent residency. The Government of Canada does not have to prove that had an individual been truthful during the application process then his citizenship application would have been rejected. Rather, as the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed in Brooks, 1974 S.C.R. 850, the government only has to show that an individual gained entry to Canada or obtained Canadian citizenship by knowingly concealing material circumstances which had the affect of foreclosing further inquiry.
A misrepresentation of a material fact amounting to fraud under the Citizenship Act includes stating an untruth, withholding of material information, or providing a misleading answer. In assessing the materiality of the information concealed, regard is held to the significance of the undisclosed information. Unlike with misrepresentations in acquiring permanent residency, fraud will not result where there is merely a technical transgression of Canada’s immigration laws. Furthermore, innocent misrepresentations will not result in the revocation of citizenship (unlike in permanent residency, a hotly contested area). Willful blindness, however, can result in fraud under the Citizenship Act (Phan, 2003 FC 1194).
The Role of Federal Court
As noted in the letter that the Government of Canada is sending people suspected of fraud, also known as a “Section 18 Letter”, individuals whose citizenship the Government of Canada intends to revoke have the ability to have their case reviewed by the Federal Court.
Section 18 of the Citizenship Act provides that certain procedures must be followed before the Government of Canada revokes a person’s citizenship. It states:
Notice to person in respect of revocation
18. (1) The Minister shall not make a report under section 10 unless the Minister has given notice of his intention to do so to the person in respect of whom the report is to be made and
(a) that person does not, within thirty days after the day on which the notice is sent, request that the Minister refer the case to the Court; or
(b) that person does so request and the Court decides that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.
Nature of notice
(2) The notice referred to in subsection (1) shall state that the person in respect of whom the report is to be made may, within thirty days after the day on which the notice is sent to him, request that the Minister refer the case to the Court, and such notice is sufficient if it is sent by registered mail to the person at his latest known address.
(3) A decision of the Court made under subsection (1) is final and, notwithstanding any other Act of Parliament, no appeal lies therefrom.
The role of the Federal Court in a citizenship revocation proceeding is not to determine whether an individual’s citizenship should be revoked. Rather, as the Federal Court noted in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Obodzinsky, it is to engage in an investigative proceeding to collect evidence of facts surrounding the acquisition of citizenship, so as to determine whether it was obtained by fraudulent means.
For example, in the high profile case of Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Rogan, the first citizenship revocation case involving post World War II war crimes, the Federal Court’s role was to determine whether Mr. Rogan had either engaged in or was complicit in war crimes, and, if so, whether or not he misrepresented this information when he immigrated to Canada. The determination of whether the misrepresentation and fraud should lead to the revocation of citizenship remained with the Government of Canada.
The same will be true for individuals involved in the current investigation. The Federal Court will not state whether the Government of Canada should revoke the citizenship of someone encompassed by s. 10 of the Citizenship Act. It will simply determine whether there was fraud.
Then What Happens?
The revocation of Canadian citizenship does not lead to automatic deportation. If an individual’s entry to Canada was lawful, but the person obtained citizenship unlawfully, then revocation causes the person to revert to permanent resident status. It does not specifically jeopardize the right of the person to remain in Canada.
However, if a person’s citizenship is revoked because the person entered Canada by false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances, then the individual will be reportable under section 44(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and may be removed from Canada without a right of appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division.