A Brief History of the Brief History of Citizenship Revocation in Canada

19 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020

See all articles by Audrey Macklin

Audrey Macklin

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2020


In 2014, the Conservative government of Canada passed legislation to permit revocation of Canadian citizenship on national security grounds. On the eve of the 2015 federal election campaign, the Conservatives test-drove the new law by issuing notices of intent to revoke citizenship to several men convicted of ‘national security’ offences . Four were members of the Toronto 18, a group of young men charged with various offences under Canada's anti-terrorism legislation.

Predictably, citizenship revocation became a prominent wedge issue in the campaign, along with other Islamophobic policy initiatives, including denial of citizenship to niqab-wearing women and a 'barbaric cultural practices' snitch line.The constitutional challenges to the revocation orders were adjourned shortly after the election of a Liberal government, in order to give the new government time to fulfill its campaign promise to repeal the citizenship revocation law. The life span of the citizenship revocation law was exactly three years.

In this chapter, I situate the politics of the four men’s citizenship revocation in legal and comparative context. I argue that the citizenship revocation scheme enacted in Canada resonated primarily in the register of symbolic politics, and lacked virtually any instrumental value, as measured in the ability of the state to physically rid itself of an undesirable citizen. I track the influence of UK precedent in the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's imputation of citizenship to a man born in Canada to naturalized Canadian parents. Controversy over states' refusal to repatriate their 'foreign fighter' citizens from abroad has shifted the debate on citizenship revocation. The UK decision to strip British citizenship from UK/Canadian national Jack Letts brings to the fore not only the human rights dimension, but also the implications of citizenship stripping on international relations.

Keywords: Citizenship Revocation, Citizenship Deprivation, Citizenship Stripping, Securitization, Foreign Fighter, Canada

Suggested Citation

Macklin, Audrey, A Brief History of the Brief History of Citizenship Revocation in Canada (March 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3655221 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3655221

Audrey Macklin (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
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