By Katie Engelhart - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Several European countries–most notably Germany–are welcoming descendants of Third Reich victims
About a year ago, Alex Yale became the citizen “of a country I’ve never been to, where people speak a language that I don’t understand.” To Yale—a 25-year-old management consultant from Connecticut—Austria seemed a faraway land indeed. His Jewish grandparents were born and raised in Vienna, but fled shortly before the Anschluss (Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria). They eventually made their way to the United States, after stints in Cyprus and what is now Tanzania. Once settled, they tried their best not to look back; their children followed suit.
But Yale is one of a growing number of North American descendants—children and grandchildren of Jewish Holocaust victims—who have recently obtained European citizenship through programs that undo wartime and postwar denaturalizations. Germany receives many of the North American applications (717 in 2012, up from 128 a decade ago), along with its Eastern European neighbours.
By Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 6:43 PM - 0 Comments
A man who refused to take the oath of citizenship, because of his opposition to the monarchy, has died with his decades-long dream of becoming a Canadian unfulfilled.
A man who refused to take the oath of citizenship, because of his opposition to the monarchy, has died with his decades-long dream of becoming a Canadian unfulfilled.
Toronto civil-rights lawyer Charles Roach, who immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago more than half a century ago, died Tuesday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 79.
Roach had fought to change the country’s citizenship requirements to allow people to swear an oath to Canada instead of the throne, which he said represented a legacy of oppression, imperialism and racism.
A New Democrat MP is now calling on Ottawa to make Roach, who was a prominent community activist, a Canadian citizen posthumously. In a statement Wednesday to the House of Commons, Andrew Cash urged the government to honour Roach with the status.
“People may not agree with the views that Mr. Roach expressed around this issue, but I think you can disagree and still respect the man and his contributions,” the Toronto MP said in an interview from Ottawa.
Cash said he tried asking Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last week to fulfil Roach’s dying wish to become a Canadian citizen by pledging allegiance to Canada, instead of the Queen. He said Kenney did not respond to the request.
A close friend and colleague of Roach’s hopes the government will proceed with the latest request to grant him the posthumous honour.
“Well, one might say, ‘Better late than never,’ ” said Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer who knew Roach for nearly 40 years.
“Of course, I was hoping that would happen while Mr. Roach was alive, so that he would have the positive feeling of it occurring.”
But Immigration Canada quickly shut the door on any chance that Roach would be given his citizenship after death.
“There is no provision under the Citizenship Act for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant citizenship posthumously,” a departmental spokesman wrote in an email Wednesday.
The department said the oath is mandatory under the act and any amendment would first have to pass through Parliament.
Roach had pushed for decades to see such a change.
Rosenthal said Roach’s desire to become a Canadian citizen was extremely important to him, but his conscience wouldn’t allow him to swear allegiance to the Queen.
His stance against uttering the oath nearly forced him to give up his profession because of an old requirement that said he had to be a Canadian to practise law. Rosenthal said Roach even declined an opportunity to become a judge over his refusal to take the oath.
Roach’s decision to remain non-Canadian, despite the fact he moved to Canada in 1955, had other costs.
Refusing to swear allegiance is a sacrifice, as potential Canadians give up numerous rights of citizenship — including the right to vote and to run for public office.
Non-citizens cannot enjoy the travelling freedoms of a Canadian passport, all while paying the same taxes as regular citizens. Technically, they can even be deported for committing certain crimes.
Roach, who said he believed there were many other residents of Canada like him, initiated the first of several court challenges to remove the royal reference from the oath in the 1990s.
He wanted Canada to follow Australia, a Commonwealth country that amended its citizenship oath in the 1990s by replacing its promise to the monarchy with a pledge of loyalty to “Australia and its people.”
His latest legal battle will continue after his death because there are other applicants, said Rosenthal, who will argue the case before the Ontario Superior Court.
The next court date is July.
Rosenthal will argue that the citizenship oath violates freedom of conscience and equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
His last conversation with Roach was Monday, when he updated him on the case.
“He knew he wasn’t going to be around to hear it,” said Rosenthal in an interview from Toronto.
He added that Roach had attended a hearing for the case in May — just days after he had suffered a stroke. Roach had a tumour removed from his brain in March.
“Becoming a Canadian citizen was important to him because everything he did in life, really, as an adult was done in Canada and he really wanted that participation.”
Every new citizen 14 years and older must recite and sign the oath, which more than 140,000 people took in 2010.
To become a Canadian citizen, a candidate must pledge the following: “I, …, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.”
Roach told The Canadian Press last year that he was offended by the principle.
“I don’t believe that anyone should have a political status just because of your birth and I feel strongly about that,” he said in a June 2011 interview.
“For that reason, I wouldn’t take an oath to any such institution, which is based on race and religion.”
Roach made headlines in 2011 after he organized a demonstration to protest Prince William and Kate’s presence at a Canada Day citizenship ceremony in Ottawa.
He was among about a dozen people who strummed guitars and waved placards outside the building to decry having to swear the mandatory oath of allegiance to the Queen.The group also staged a mock citizenship ceremony where fake applicants took an oath to Canada, rather than the monarchy.
“We were booed by 500 royalists, but dozens gave the thumbs up,” Roach wrote a few days later in an email to The Canadian Press.
Roach was an active leader in Toronto, where he helped found the Caribana festival, which is now known as the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival. It’s the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America, featuring a colourful parade full of Caribbean music and thousands of dancers.
Roach also helped form the Black Action Defence Committee, which pushed for independent investigations after several black people were killed by police in the Toronto area more than 20 years ago.
Rosenthal credits the committee’s efforts for prompting the creation of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.
The civilian-led unit, which is independent of police, investigates cases where officers seriously injure or kill people. It replaced the former process, which once saw police forces investigate other forces.
Rosenthal said Roach’s dedication to civil rights will be missed.
“It leaves a huge hole, but I hope that his memory will inspire people to fill that gap,” he said.
Roach is survived by his wife, June, his four children and several grandchildren.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Chungsen Leung seems to have not been entirely clear on who he was inviting to testify at the immigration committee.
The witnesses from the Canadian Immigration Forum — Madi and Julien Lussier — had been scheduled to appear, although they had not been publicly listed by the committee, for its first meeting of the parliamentary session. NDP and Liberal MPs immediately balked at their presence as soon as they arrived at the committee, pointing to elements on the group’s website they called shocking. Several MPs on the committee are immigrants. Sections of the site include one on so-called “Chinafication” and “Arabization,” and a video interview with Canadian white supremacist Paul Fromm and others from a conference of the “racialist” group American Renaissance…
Conservative MP Chungsen Leung’s office had put forward the names of the Lussiers as witnesses. He said that he had been told by a constituent that they were lawyers, and was unaware of what was on their website. “The views stated on this website are disgusting and anti-Canadian. I am outraged by them,” Leung said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had news. Or, rather, he’d read the news. And so he had a question.
“Mr. Speaker, the member for Trinity-Spadina and I last year asked why Gary Freeman, who lived in this country peaceably for 40 years and had several children, was not being allowed back in the country. The answer was an event that happened in Chicago in the sixties and he had served a short jail time. They said that because he was not a Canadian he was not allowed back in,” the leader of the opposition recounted.
“We just learned that the British criminal Conrad Black will be allowed in despite serving a second term in a federal American penitentiary,” he reported. “Why the double standard?”
The New Democrats seated around him stood to applaud.
“What about the French citizen who leads the NDP?” chirped Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson.
One should have known then that this would not end well. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 5:26 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Seated almost directly across the aisle from his opposition critic, Jason Kenney shook his head as the NDP’s Don Davies read the indictment.
“Mr. Speaker, just last month the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism told Canadians how solemn he thought our citizenship ceremonies are, and they are indeed serious occasions,” Mr. Davies recalled. “Now, however, we learn that his office is fine just faking it. It was his office that arranged to have employees pose as fake new citizens in a made-up ceremony for a misleading news conference. Can the minister explain why he forced government employees to pose as fake new citizens and mislead Canadians?”
However fake the display, Mr. Kenney was quite sure his responsibility had been overstated here.
“Mr. Speaker, that is completely untrue. The only misleading going on is coming from that member,” the Immigration Minister scolded. “Every year CIC officials do a good job organizing special citizenship and reaffirmation ceremonies across the country including sometimes in studio televised ceremonies to raise the profile of citizenship. Today, I became aware that one small reaffirmation ceremony last year had logistical problems that were poorly dealt with—”
The opposition side descended into laughter and even a little desk thumping (it being hard, one supposes, to slap one’s knee when seated at a desk). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian Press reports that a few weeks before citizenship week celebrations last fall, Jason Kenney’s office asked his department to organize a ceremony at the Sun News studio in Toronto.
The goal was to find people who had recently taken the real oath. ”I have also just confirmed … that all the clients that are calling back are declining the request as they have to attend work and are not able to take the time off to participate in this reaffirmation ceremony,” wrote one civil servant.
Four days before the ceremony, a bureaucrat in downtown Toronto again pleaded whether Sun News could instead go to an already planned event. ”Please advise if the alternative would be acceptable since we do not have the resources to call over 3,000 clients to hopefully get 10 clients for this proposed event.”
In the end, only three of the 10 people the department had lined up to appear at the Sun’s studios actually showed up. But the show went on — featuring at least six federal bureaucrats. Three of those who took the oath wore identical T-shirts with a citizenship logo on it.
CP has video here. Justin Trudeau deems this “incredibly stupid.” An official in Mr. Kenney’s office was busy this morning assuring one and all that this was a “well intentioned mistake” made by a civil servant. And Mr. Kenney’s spokeswoman has now apologized to Sun News.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 6:51 PM - 0 Comments
“We celebrate our diversity, we have a minister responsible for multiculturalism. But when push comes to shove, if you give him half a chance, the real Stephen Harper comes out (suggesting) ‘I’m more Canadian than you are because my family doesn’t have a background in different countries,’” Mulcair said.
“It’s a reflection of profoundly parochial and insular thinking.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Mulcair there is also—as Bob Rae delights in pointing out—what New Democrats said when Stephane Dion’s citizenship was questioned.
Update 8:25pm. In the updated CP story (now linked to above), Mr. Mulcair says Mr. Layton expressed regret for his comments about Mr. Dion.
Indeed, Mulcair said he raised the issue with Layton before agreeing to come on board as his Quebec lieutenant in 2007. ”Jack and I talked about it straight up and he told me that literally in so many words … He said, ‘That’s not the answer I should have given.’”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Apparently Thomas Mulcair has French citizenship.
Though he was born in Ottawa, Mulcair was able to apply for and receive French citizenship because his spouse, Catherine, was born in France. Under French law, spouses of French citizens can apply, as Mulcair did, to become citizens themselves after five years of marriage and after demonstrating their ability to speak French.
“Mr. Mulcair is very proud to share the nationality of his wife, who shares his,” Mulcair spokesperson Chantale Turgeon told TVA. “He sees no conflict with his Canadian citizenship or duties. Dual citizenship is a reality for many Canadians who are proud of their origins and a source of enrichment for our diverse society.”
By John Geddes - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 0 Comments
‘It’s not in accordance with any interpretation of Canadian law’
Fierce debates over religious symbols and beliefs are nothing new in Canada. Should a Mountie be allowed to wear a turban? Should a Sikh boy be permitted to carry a symbolic dagger in school? Should Hutterites who disapprove of photography on grounds of faith be excused from having their pictures on their driver’s licences? These controversies all ignited heated disputes over cultural sensitivities and legal rights. But none arguably has generated reactions quite so intense as Muslim women who cover their faces by wearing the niqab or burka—a practice Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has now challenged on unusually sweeping grounds.
Kenney decreed this week that immigrants who wish to become Canadians will no longer be allowed to keep their faces covered while taking the citizenship oath. He made the move after a Conservative MP from a Toronto suburb reported seeing four burka-clad women taking part in a recent group citizenship ceremony. Kenney said it’s hard for a presiding judge to tell if a veiled woman is really speaking the oath. But that practical quibble was clearly secondary to him. “It is,” he said, “a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality.”
Past clashes of this sort have focused on balancing religious rights against pragmatic policy considerations. In 2009, for instance, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a small Hutterite community’s objection to photography was trumped by the government’s need to have a secure system for driver’s licences. Cases involving the Sikh kirpan have focused on minimizing the danger of the ceremonial daggers being used as weapons. When it comes to veils and citizenship ceremonies, though, Kenney didn’t dwell much on practicalities. He said allowing women “to hide their identity from us, precisely when they are joining our community, is contrary to Canada’s proud commitment to openness and to social cohesion.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Toronto Star reports that officials were already permitted to confirm an individual’s identity at citizenship ceremonies.
Before Monday’s ban of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, Ottawa already had a protocol to verify the identity of a new citizen behind the veil. Officials at the ceremony, usually citizenship clerks, could pull aside someone wearing a niqab — a veil that only shows the eyes — and lift it for identification, the immigration department confirmed Tuesday.
Yesterday during QP, Conservative backbencher Wladyslaw Lizon seemed to be given some credit for alerting the Immigration Minister to the fact that one could be veiled while actually reciting the oath.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 0 Comments
He mentioned it in the same breath as other initiatives he has championed, such as beefing up language requirements, the citizenship test and the Citizenship Guide. “This is part of a broader action plan to invest greater value in Canadian citizenship,” he told CBC. But he also stressed, correctly, that this is no “technical or practical” tweak. “It is, rather, a matter of pure principle, which lies at the heart of our identity and our values with respect to openness and equality,” he said at a speech in Montreal.
It’s controversial, and he didn’t shy away. He expressed his personal distaste for the burka: “It’s a cultural tradition, which I think reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada,” he told CBC.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
So that one’s swearing of the oath can be confirmed, Jason Kenney has ordered that head coverings must be removed during the swearing of citizenship ceremonies.
Kenney said the move follows complaints from citizenship judges, MPs and others who’ve participated in citizenship ceremonies who have argued it’s hard to tell whether veiled individuals are actually reciting the oath. “Requiring that all candidates show their faces while reciting the oath allows judges, and everyone present to share in the ceremony, to ensure that all citizenship candidates are, in fact, taking the oath as required by law,” he said in Montreal.
The full directive is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, September 24, 2011 at 12:09 AM - 39 Comments
NDP immigration critic Don Davies has written to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney asking that Mr. Kenney deny Mr. Cheney entry to the country (the former vice president is scheduled to visit Vancouver on Monday as part of his book tour).
Minister, may I remind you of your own government’s initiatives this summer in which you called on the public to assist your government in removing from Canada those individuals who had engaged in serious criminality, war crimes or crimes against humanity. May I also remind you of your own government’s actions in denying entry to British MP George Galloway. At that time you stated that: ”It’s not about words. It’s about deeds.”
… Minister, the essence of just application of the law is that it is applied evenly and consistently. I would therefore respectfully request that you deny entry to Mr. Cheney on grounds of inadmissibility under IRPA for having engaged in acts of torture. In the event that you do not do so, I would respectfully request that a report be prepared setting out the relevant facts, and that you refer same to the Immigration Division for an admissibility hearing with a view to issuing a removal order against Mr. Cheney, all pursuant to section 44 of IRPA.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM - 8 Comments
Two-thirds of those Afghan interpreters who applied for refugee status in Canada have apparently been turned down.
The special-measures program was announced with much fanfare by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in the fall of 2009 and brought Canada in line with other NATO countries which had already launched similar initiatives. It ends Monday.
Applicants had to demonstrate they faced extraordinary risk as a result of their work with Canada. Few didn’t. Working as an interpreter for NATO forces in southern Afghanistan was akin to having a Taliban bull’s-eye on the back of a shalwar khameez. Stories of night letters, threatening phone calls, abductions and even hangings were part of the job. As interpreters also travelled with soldiers and diplomats, at least six were among those killed during the IED strikes that claimed 161 Canadian lives.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:01 AM - 47 Comments
Adam Radwanski watches Jason Kenney watching Tim Hudak.
On Thursday, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney – the point man for federal Conservative efforts to reach out to new Canadians – used much milder language than Mr. Hudak in expressing concern about Mr. McGuinty’s promise. The previous night, at a rally, Mr. Kenney applauded Mr. Hudak’s line about “foreign workers.” But glancing around him, he looked slightly uncomfortable as he did so.
Dalton McGuinty thinks Tim Hudak should apologize for his language.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 34 Comments
You begin by chastising Amnesty International for raising these concerns when we should instead be focusing on human rights concerns in countries like Iran and North Korea. Minister, we most certainly do. A casual review of our most recent reports, actions and news releases covers such countries as Iran, Syria, Bahrain, China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. We do regularly point to areas where we believe Canada’s own human rights laws, policy and practice are in need of reform. Universal human rights principles apply as equally to Canada as they do to other countries. Furthermore, the stronger Canada’s domestic human rights record is; the greater our leadership on the world stage.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 2:23 PM - 9 Comments
Vic Toews is interested in expanding the government’s most-wanted list.
Toews told Postmedia News the new list would include immigrants who were either convicted of a crime in Canada, or since their arrival it has been found they were convicted in their home country.
Toews said he wants any new list to be both “sustainable and productive.” ”What I don’t want to happen is we do this for two weeks and then everybody goes away and forgets about it,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 5, 2011 at 1:57 PM - 13 Comments
Geoffrey Cameron and Ian Goldin argue for more immigration.
We should also increase levels of migration because it can deliver far more for global prosperity than foreign aid and international trade ever will. Completely opening borders, World Bank economists predict, would produce gains as high as $39-trillion for the world economy over 25 years. These numbers compare with the $70-billion that is currently spent every year in overseas development assistance and the estimated gains of $100-billion from fully liberalizing international trade. If we want to revolutionize our foreign aid policy, we can start by giving more people a chance to work in Canada.
The debate on immigration policy is undermined in many countries by partisan agendas and dysfunctional politics. Other governments are tempted to choke off migration in the interest of short-term expediency and political gain. We must resist this trend, remembering that Canada is a society built with the ingenuity and hard work of generations of migrants.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 2:55 PM - 1 Comment
Doug Saunders considers refugee policy and calls for an international solution.
What Lamey proposes is to internationalize Canada’s approach and expand it. He calls it a “portable-procedural” system by which “lawmakers could relocate asylum applicants to a sufficiently rights-respecting third country,” which would “thereby break the vicious circle of unfounded claims and ever-lengthening determination times within a particular state.” This system, he argues, would avoid situations like the ones facing Italy now or Germany in the 1990s, where a constitutional guarantee causes an enormous flood of illegitimate claims. Such a flood would likely stop, he posits, if claimants understood they could be relocated. To safeguard claimants’ rights in the country where they first land, Lamey proposes three non-negotiable requirements: the timely right to a full hearing, right to legal counsel and a prohibition on arbitrary detention.
… Lest we forget how our ancestors got here, and what they were very often fleeing, we ought to step above the headlines and start talking to our neighbours about something like Lamey’s proposal. As Zaiotti’s study suggests, Lamey’s ideas may not be as politically plausible as they look on paper, but there are good reasons to try. It seems odd that we are able to build multinational coalitions of armies with record speed to strike blows against tyranny on the other side of the world, but we are unable to join forces with our neighbours, at far less cost, to do some- thing about the boatloads of people fleeing those very same tyrannies. It is time for a coalition of the welcoming.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 11:25 AM - 75 Comments
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews laments that the “state broadcaster” is not being sufficiently deferential to the state.
“I have long since given up trying to understand the state broadcaster, or the CBC as we know them more popularly,” Toews said. “I find it so fascinating that they refuse to put the names of the individuals and pictures of the individuals on their network given that these are individuals who have been found by a tribunal not to be admissible in Canada and legal warrants have been issued for their arrest…
“I find it ironic that the CBC was always so quick to try to implicate our Canadian armed forces in war crimes in Afghanistan and never hesitant to mention that, but in this situation, when we actually have rulings from tribunals, they’re reluctant to involve themselves…
“They have no right to be in Canada,” Toews said. “And for the state broadcaster not to acknowledge that and work with law enforcement agencies is very disappointing.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 4:53 PM - 32 Comments
One of the names on the most-wanted list of alleged war criminals is apparently something of a mystery.
“I have no idea who he is,” says Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Concannon has worked on the prosecution of crimes against humanity in Haiti since 1995, and is well-versed in cases from 1991 on.
“I’ve Googled him, I’ve looked through all the major reports, I’ve asked other people who work in human rights in Haiti and no one has heard of him,” says Concannon. ”It’s possible he changed his name, or he was working at a very low-level.” Concannon added he was puzzled that the Canadian government would label Prince a war criminal, given that “I don’t think there’s been a war in Haiti in a very long time.”
The Heritage Minister has questioned the CBC’s decision to not broadcast the names and faces of those on the list.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 2:06 PM - 9 Comments
Government plans to strip 1,800 of citizenship
After a lengthy investigation involving police and the ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, the federal government now believes as many as 1,800 people in this country obtained their citizenship through fraudulent means. Letters have gone out to hundreds informing them the government now plans to revoke their status as Canadians. Individuals can challenge the rulings in federal court. If those efforts fail, cabinet will void their passports and strip them of their citizenship.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM - 174 Comments
Michael Ignatieff reemerges with some thoughts on expatriation.
May 2 must have been the only Canadian election, and maybe one of the few elections anywhere, when expatriation became an issue that moved votes – in my case, the wrong way. I’d never say it was the decisive factor, but friends on the doorsteps kept reporting back: They all think you’re an American. To the degree that this issue mattered, the results of May 2 have a message: As far as expatriates are concerned, you can’t come home again if your destination is politics.
That’s how it is now, but pretty soon no one will remember what the fuss was about. The next generation is quietly redefining what it means to be a Canadian. They’re ignoring the attack ads and the chatter from the schoolyard of Ottawa politics. So many of the young Canadians I meet want to be global citizens. They want to be expatriates. They want a life that includes a couple of years in Mumbai or Shanghai, a summer teaching English in Tanzania, a year or longer working for some company in South Korea.