OTTAWA — A bid to stop the federal government from revoking Canadians' citizenship without a hearing has failed.
Federal Court Justice Russell Zinn has dismissed a case brought by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
The two advocacy groups had sought a stay of a section of the Citizenship Act which allows the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone deemed to have misrepresented themselves — a provision which they argued could potentially ensnare Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.
Monsef last month discovered that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she'd always believed.
The law is being challenged as unconstitutional but until that case is settled, the Federal Court has since January been systematically granting stays to individuals who apply for them.
The advocacy groups had argued that not everyone is aware or can afford a lawyer to seek a court-ordered stay of proceedings; they asked Zinn to impose a blanket stay for everyone who receives a notice of citizenship revocation.
But Zinn ruled Monday that a blanket stay can only be ordered if the harm caused by the law is unavoidable.
In this case, he said it is avoidable because any individual can apply to the court for a stay.
"The failure of a person, for whatever reason, to take advantage of the de facto stay available, does not change the fact that it is available to them and that it will avoid the harm," he wrote.
The advocacy groups said they are disappointed with the ruling.
"We brought this application to prevent people from falling through the cracks and finding themselves stripped of their citizenship without due process. We're disappointed the court did not see the urgency of the situation," Lorne Waldman, who represents the refugee lawyers, said in a statement.
"However, we will continue to fight for fairness in revocation proceedings and we’ll be back in court again next week to argue that the process is unconstitutional."
The Liberals had denounced the law when they were in opposition and, since forming government, have promised to change it to provide for a proper hearing and appeal process for those believed to have misrepresented themselves to gain citizenship.
However, the government has so far refused to stop enforcing the law in the meantime.