Second-class citizen or second-class resident?

Will the federal Conservatives lose the 2015 elections because of the negative implications of their immigration and citizenship laws and policies?

Will the Conservatives lose the support of the various immigrant communities in Canada if those negative consequences are put front and centre in the election campaigns of the rival parties?

As the federal government continues to change the laws, rules and implementation policies governing the acquisition of Canadian citizenship, it is creating new categories of “immigrants”: those who will enjoy unending permanent residence and those who will enjoy conditional citizenship.

There are substantive grounds for questioning whether some of the changes satisfy the norms of ethics, equity and constitutionality.

One can only imagine the individual and wider social tragedies that will arise for at least two groups.

The first group includes persons who have permanent residence. Extending the residential time requirements to qualify for citizenship and introducing language and Canadian civics tests will mean that a large number of persons will take longer to qualify and another large number may never qualify.

The second group involves persons whose retention of Canadian citizenship will remain conditional on their behaviour. Analysis of the legal rights of persons in this group reveals that the new law that provides for revoking the citizenship of persons who commit certain crimes after becoming citizens offends the constitution, as all citizens are entitled to the full and unconditional enjoyment of all the rights of citizenship.

There are existing laws to address all categories of criminal activity and the only criminal breaches that belong in immigration and citizenship laws are those involving fraudulent acquisition of citizenship or of the permanent residence that preceded it.

Moreover, there are other relevant aspects of international law and practice which impose responsibilities on states in respect of their nationals that include a prohibition of any act which may unduly render a person stateless.

The general insecurity concerning the full range of immigration matters is being made even more unbearable by other totally unacceptable practices.

Prolonged stays in detention and deportation centres can be tantamount to inhumane treatment. And the recent “routine” inspections of vehicles for roadworthiness and compliance with transit laws and regulations that led to the detention of persons suspected of being “illegals in breach of the immigration laws” reeked of highly unethical profiling on the basis of physical and ethnic appearance.

Is this a new Canada that is beginning to look like a not-so-welcoming place? Do immigrants like to feel that their labor and their payment of taxes are welcome, but that they and their families are not?

Federal elections are due in 2015. The time is now ripe for the immigrant communities and the federal opposition parties to “harp” on the principle that all law-abiding immigrants are entitled to basic human rights that include reasonable and equitable access to citizenship.

Do the people and the politicians have ears to hear?