LEVIS, Que. — The Conservatives went to great pains Monday to set themselves apart from their opponents on Bill C-24, saying a Liberal or NDP government would allow convicted terrorists who loathe Canada to roam the streets once they leave prison.
The bill, which became law in May, allows the federal government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorist offences.
The legislation has stoked controversy in recent days after the government announced Saturday that it revoked the citizenship of Zakaria Amara, a member of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist group sentenced to life in prison in 2010.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Monday that because the NDP and Liberals have promised to abolish the law, Amara — who pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb downtown Toronto — would be free to walk the streets and travel with a Canadian passport after serving his sentence. Amara becomes eligible for parole in 2016.
In contrast, a Conservative government would ensure that Amara, who holds Jordanian citizenship, would be deported as soon as he's freed under the legislative authority of C-24, Kenney told a news conference in Levis, Que.
His comments came hours before Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was to participate in a debate on foreign issues in Toronto.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has opposed Bill C-24 and questioned the timing of the announcement to revoke Amara's citizenship, coming as it did in the middle of the campaign. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said he would remove elements of the law on the basis it creates two classes of citizens.
"Trudeau and Mulcair have promised to get rid of Bill C-24, which means that if they take power Oct. 19, Zakaria Amara, a terrorist who has been found guilty, will be free to roam our streets and travel with a Canadian passport — which I find appalling," Kenney said.
He also noted that on Sunday, the media brought to light a speech the Liberal leader gave in Winnipeg in July.
Kenney quoted Trudeau as saying: "The Liberal party believes that terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship because I do and I'm willing to take on anyone who disagrees with that."
That, Kenney said, shows "Mr. Trudeau apparently is willing to take on over 80 per cent of Canadians who believe that if someone violently expresses their disloyalty to Canada, is found guilty in a Canadian court of law of violent disloyalty to our country, of acts of terrorism, violent treason or acts of war against Canada, he thinks they should be able to retain their Canadian citizenship."
The Tories also said Monday they would spend $700 million for light-rail transit in Surrey, B.C. Harper was expected to make the transit announcement in Surrey earlier this month but it was derailed by the Syrian refugee crisis.
The party says it would contribute up to one third of the costs for a proposed light-rail project spanning 28 kilometres.
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