POLITICS

Brad Butt, Tory Incumbent: Mulcair Could Lose Citizenship If He Committed 'Treason'

10/06/2015 05:23 EDT | Updated 10/06/2015 05:59 EDT

A Conservative incumbent has used Thomas Mulcair as an example of a Canadian who could theoretically be deported under controversial changes to the Citizenship Act.

Brad Butt, running again in the Ontario riding of Mississauga-Streetsville, made the remarks in an interview with Tag TV that was uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 5.

The interview made a splash Tuesday after blogger Rober Jago posted a short clip to a website called Meet The Harper Gang, which chronicles controversies of various Tory candidates.

In the interview, Tag TV host Haleema Sadia asked Butt about Bill C-24, the so-called Strengthening Citizenship Act passed last year that allows the federal government to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason, or espionage.

Sadia said the law was a "point of concern" among many immigrants.

Butt's argument was, simply, that dual citizens who do not commit heinous crimes have nothing to worry about. He also said that since Canadian citizenship would only be revoked for dual citizens, there is no concern the government could leave anyone "stateless."

"Other political parties are trying to tell people that we're taking away people's citizenship. We are not," he said. "You're still going to be a citizen of the other country that you're a citizen of."

Then Butt invoked Mulcair, who has dual Canadian and French citizenship.

"So, I guess if Mr. Mulcair committed some act of treason or something, he, possibly under this legislation, could have his Canadian citizenship revoked because he is a citizen of another country," Butt said. "So, that's C-24."

Butt also rejected the argument that the law creates "second-class" citizens.

"If you're a law-abiding citizen, there's nothing in this act that has changed and has put your citizenship in jeopardy, at all," he said.

Watch Butt's full Tag TV interview below. The discussion of C-24 happens at around the 7:15 mark:

C-24 emerged as an election issue last month after the Tories revoked the citizenship of "Toronto 18" terror plotter Zakaria Amara, a dual Canadian-Jordanian citizen.

New Democrats and Liberals, who oppose C-24, questioned why the government would take such a step in the middle of a campaign. The matter spurred a heated exchange between Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk foreign policy debate last week.

According to Maclean's magazine, Ottawa is also stripping the citizenship of Canadian-born Saad Gaya for his role in the "Toronto 18" plot. Though Gaya is not a citizen of any other country, Tories reportedly want him deported to Pakistan — the country from which his parents emigrated more than three decades ago.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney told CBC Radio last week that Tories would strip all Canadians convicted of terrorism of their citizenship, if not for a United Nations convention on the prevention of statelessness.

"Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely. If we did not have the legal constraint, then the legal principle of revocation for convictions of political violence against Canada, like treason, acts of war, terrorism, would lead to revocation of citizenship," he said.

NDP leader proud of dual citizenship

Mulcair's dual citizenship has not been much of an election issue — in fact, a recent poll from Forum Research suggests few Canadians are even aware the NDP leader holds two passports.

The NDP leader's wife, Catherine, was born in France and is a citizen of both France and Canada, as are their two adult sons. As the spouse of a French citizen, Mulcair was entitled to apply for French citizenship himself — a step he took more than 20 years ago.

Shortly after Mulcair became NDP leader in 2012, Harper was asked about the appropriateness of his rival holding dual citizenship. Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion was also a dual French-Canadian citizen.

"These cases have come up in the past, and obviously it's for Mr. Mulcair to use his political judgment in this case," Harper said at the time.

"In my case, as I say, I'm very clear. I'm a Canadian and only a Canadian."

Mulcair accused Harper of believing that dual citizens are somehow less loyal to Canada.

"When push comes to shove, if you give him half a chance, the real Stephen Harper comes out (suggesting) 'I'm more Canadian than you are because my family doesn't have a background in different countries,"' Mulcair said.

"It's a reflection of profoundly parochial and insular thinking."

With files from The Canadian Press, Althia Raj

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