NEWS
04/30/2014 01:24 EDT | Updated 06/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Citizenship bill changes 'likely unconstitutional,' bar association warns

The Canadian Bar Association is sounding the alarm over some of the more controversial measures included in the government’s proposed citizenship bill, saying they are “likely unconstitutional," effectively contradicting the government's own assessment of the bill.

The government proposed sweeping changes to the Citizenship Act last February when it introduced Bill C-24, dubbed the strengthening of the Canadian citizenship act.

The bar association is specifically concerned with three aspects of the bill that it would like to see either significantly amended or scrapped altogether:

- New eligibility requirements for becoming a citizen.

- Requiring that would-be citizens show an intent to reside in Canada.

- Expanding the grounds for revoking citizenship.

Chris Veeman and Barbara Jackman, members of the bar association's national immigration law section, will offer some 20 recommendations to improve the bill when they testify before a House of Commons committee Wednesday starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.

While the bar association said it welcomes some of the new measures proposed in the bill, such as granting citizenship to so-called Lost Canadians, it has “serious concerns” about other aspects of it.

“Our most significant concerns relate to the lack of flexibility by reducing residency to a physical residence test, requiring applicants to demonstrate intent to reside in Canada if granted citizenship, and the expansion of grounds to revoke citizenship,” the bar association said in its 30-page written submission.

On Monday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander appeared for an hour before the Commons citizenship and immigration committee, and told MPs the bill was constitutionally sound.

"We believe that this bill is entirely in line with the requirements under the Constitution," Alexander said.

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