Looking on the bright side – Liberals move to abolish two-tier citizenship

It pains me to admit this, but today I was pleased with Justin Trudeau.

Regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’m not a big fan of our Boy Wonder Prime Minister, with his signature Sunny Ways™ “change of tone” and his short-on-specifics promises of Real Change™.

I’ve castigated this new government over its lukewarm attitude towards privacy rights in its efforts to “fix” Bill C-51, the Prime Minister’s incoherent and misguided approach to the fight with ISIS, the Liberal Party’s wishy-washy, unexplained, and unjustified support for the corporate-sellout sovereignty-killing TPP, the half-assed reforms of the National Energy Board which leave major Indigenous concerns unaddressed and make the approval of environmentally destructive pipelines extremely likely, and Trudeau’s unwillingness to back down from a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia despite overwhelming concerns about the human rights implications of helping to arm such a notoriously repressive regime, among other issues.

A few days following his election, I said that “in most ways that matter, Prime Minister Trudeau will be no better than Harper”, and much to my disappointment, I haven’t really changed my opinion on that score. Though their motivations and their personalities are worlds apart, the two Prime Ministers are ideologically united on far more important issues than most people realize

But it’s tough being all gloomy and doomy all the time. It’s nice to look on the bright side every now and then. And every once in a while, Trudeau gives me a reason to smile.

Now, usually it’s just a matter of him not being as big of a raging flaming asshole as Stephen Harper was, and so really he’s only looking good by comparison. But after a long decade under that terrifying psychopath, it’s actually pretty satisfying when the government doesn’t take the path of maximum assholery.

Cause for celebration? No, not really. But I’m doing my best to look on the bright side today, so bear with me.

So as for my aberrational moment of pleasure with the PM: today I read this article about Saad Gaya, one of the so-called “Toronto 18” plotters, who has been approved for day parole.

The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t quite place where I’d heard it before. Apparently, that means I’ve been pretty successful in my efforts to bury any recollection of the hideously vicious election of 2015, because Gaya’s name figured prominently in the later stages of the campaign.

In case you too have been furiously stamping down the memories of those dark days, here’s a refresher from October 1:

The Harper government is attempting to revoke the citizenship of a convicted terrorist who was born and raised in Canada, Maclean’s has learned—a first under a controversial new law that has triggered intense debate during the election campaign.

Saad Gaya, 27, is believed to be the only Canadian-born citizen (terrorist or not) to ever face the prospect of being stripped of his citizenship. Until now, there was no legal mechanism to undo what has long been considered an irreversible birthright.

A member of the so-called “Toronto 18,” Gaya pleaded guilty to his role in an al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plot and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Although he was born in Montreal and grew up in Oakville, Ont., the Tories say recently enacted legislation provides the power to rescind Gaya’s citizenship because they believe he is a dual national of Pakistan—by virtue of the fact his parents, who immigrated to Ontario more than three decades ago, were born there.

The controversial move by the HarperCons came amidst the most aggressively racist phase of their campaign, at the height of the Great Niqab Debate, and around the time Defence Minister Jason Kenney attacked Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi “and people like him” for standing up for the values of multiculturalism and tolerance. Harper & Co. actually moved to revoke the citizenship of five convicted terrorists with dual citizenship, but Gaya’s case was particularly egregious given that he had never even visited the country to which the government was threatening to exile him.

Simultaneous with this divisive fear-mongering insinuation that immigrants and their descendants are second-class citizens, the HarperCons slammed their opponents as being “soft on terror”, all in the hopes of picking up a few thousand more votes in a few key ridings. Jason Kenney was their lead attack dog on this issue, which I look forward to talking about again (and again and again) if he does decide to run for the Conservative leadership:

Here’s a petition the dishonourable Minister is circulating:

[…]I agree that convicted terrorists should be stripped of their Canadian citizenship. Anyone who commits terrorist acts in Canada or abroad has clearly renounced their Canadian citizenship by rejecting Canadian values and the loyalty to our country that citizenship requires.

I call on Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau to stop defending the rights of convicted terrorists and to instead support the rights of law abiding Canadians.

That hits below the belt, eh?

Mulcair and Trudeau – and lord knows I don’t often stand up for these guys – are hardly “defending the rights of convicted terrorists”. Rather, they’re defending the age-old principle of equal application of the law. They’re defending the notion that all Canadian citizens are equal before the law.

(And yes, the whole notion of citizenship is inherently colonial and oppressive in and of itself – but sadly, that level of discourse is approximately a million miles above the hateful vitriol which passes for campaign rhetoric that we’re seeing in Election 2015.)

At that time, one of Trudeau’s favourite lines on the campaign trail was “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”. He insisted that the Liberals would repeal Bill C-24, which empowered the government to repeal the citizenship of dual citizens for the first time ever, and to halt the citizenship revocations which were in progress.

And here’s the part where I was delighted with him – he stuck to his word! It slipped past my notice at the time, but it was something the new government acted on almost immediately upon taking office:

The federal government is walking away from a legal battle over attempts to strip Canadian citizenship from dual-nationals convicted of terrorism offences.

Lawyers for the government recently asked the Federal Court to suspend proceedings in two cases brought by Canadians convicted of terrorism-related offences who had been told by the previous Conservative government they would lose their citizenship…

The Canadian government has also asked for a suspension in a similar case brought by Saad Gaya, a 27-year-old convicted in the “Toronto 18” bomb plot.

Legislative repeal of C-24 will understandably take some time, as the new Parliament hasn’t properly sat for any extended period since the election, but you couldn’t ask for anything better as a first step than that.

Now, again, I’m basically pleased with the PM because he undid something grossly wrong and probably unconstitutional which Stephen Harper did, thus restoring a slightly more just state of affairs that had prevailed for literally centuries. And maybe it’s a measure of how low we’ve sunk that appreciating that a politician has chose to not continue to be a major asshole counts as “looking on the bright side”.

But I’m trying to be a little bit more optimistic today, so I’m just gonna go with it.

Sunny ways, my friends – sunny ways!


National Security Sunday is a weekly series examining Canada’s military/intelligence/law-enforcement complex and the so-called “war on terror”. You can contact me at matt@thealfalfafield.com, or leave a comment below.

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