Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, made it an election promise: to get tough on illegal immigration. And today, he seems to have delivered. But at what cost?
Kenney’s office today announced that over 1,800 people will have their Canadian citizenship revoked after a three-year Citizenship and Immigration Canada/RCMP investigation found that many people obtained citizenship “fraudulently.” The majority of those who will lose citizenship, Kenney claims, obtained it under false pretenses, including paying “immigration consultants” who submitted false applications for people who did not meet the criteria to gain citizenship. Those who were found to be fraudulent in the investigation will be notified via letter, then will have 30 days to appeal the decision to Citizenship and Immigration, a move Kenney feels those identified will be unlikely to make.
This move has some very disturbing undertones. By Kenney’s own admission, only 63 people have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship since 1977. By taking this largely unprecedented move of stripping citizenship from hundreds of people, Kenny is drawing a firm ideological line in the immigration sand that no government has taken before.
When something as important as citizenship is at stake — and when his own government may have granted citizenship to many of these individuals — Kenney’s public PR machine against specific individuals seems highly theatrical. Certainly, citizenship on false pretenses should be condemned. Yet Kenney’s apparent belief that his investigation is infallible and that most of those who stand to lose their highly valuable Canadian passport simply won’t bother to appeal because the government’s case is so strong is disturbing. Citizenship rules around the world can be complicated, and revoking citizenship could possibly even leave some individuals nationless. Even more disturbing is the fact that in the face of what Kenney calls “strong, convincing” evidence of fraud, these people were granted citizenship in the first place. Is Citizenship and Immigration not answerable to the same laws of accountability that the individuals are?
Many Canadians are greeting this move as a welcome one — especially those who view immigrants, particularly illegal ones, in a negative light. The Toronto Sun in particular is branding everyone who is alleged to have received a Canadian passport under fraudulent circumstances as a laughing charlatan, sieving off public services for nothing while the rest of hardworking Canada pays for it. The truth may be something very different – but as Kenney has turned on his negative PR machine to label these people as fraudsters who will be too cowardly to face the music, we may never know what the truth is.
Photo credit: Kalleboo on Flickr