Fraud crackdown increases number of Canadians having their citizenship revoked

You'd be hard-pressed to find many Canadians who oppose the the Harper government's tough stance on immigration cheats.

If you lie to obtain citizenship, your citizenship should be revoked and you should be deported at once — right?

But according to a National Post column, the Harper government is taking citizenship revocation to a whole new level.

"Normally, Ottawa revokes citizenship from only a handful Canadians a year. Since 1947, it has happened fewer than 50 times. Recent cases include Nazi war criminals and Branko Rogan, who concealed his involvement in Bosnian war crimes from immigration authorities.

But in September, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship and immigration, announced his department had sent letters to 530 Canadians advising them their citizenship was being rescinded. Investigations into another 3,100 suspected of citizenship fraud were still underway, he said."

Immigrants can apply for citizenship to become citizens three years after moving to Canada. According to immigration attorney Michael Niren, the government can revoke citizenship based on fraud and misrepresentation of undisclosed past criminality.

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In September, the government cracked down on would-be applicants for not meeting Canada's stringent residency requirements. The latest crackdown seems to be against convicted criminals.

One of the latest attempts at revocation — and the impetus of the National Post column — was the case of Russian-national Mark Bilalov who became a Canadian citizen in 2003.

According to the Post, Bilalov failed to disclose a 4 month jail sentence in Russia on his citizenship application.

Two months after his citizenship ceremony, Bilalov was charged in Canada with kidnapping and possession of stolen property for a violent incident in Toronto. The charges were later dismissed.

"Nine years later, federal immigration authorities are only now trying to strip Mr. Bilalov of his citizenship, arguing he became a Canadian through 'false representation,' 'fraud' or 'knowingly concealing material circumstances,'" notes the article.

Believe it or not, Bialalov and his lawyers are now claiming that trying to take his citizenship away — 9 years after he first received it — is an "abuse of process."

Michael Niren believes fraudsters should be held accountable but urges caution with regard to the punishments.

"Nobody should lie on an application. That is indeed fraud and in fact is a criminal offence to do so if its to obtain citizenship. he said in an email exchange with Yahoo! Canada News.

"But total revocation and possible deportation? There are the applicant's families employers and others to consider."

Niren adds that in some cases, crooked immigration consultants are the ones to blame for immigrants falsifying documents.

"There is a lot of bad advise given to people wishing to get Canadian citizenship," he said.

"Many applicants are willfully blind about the risks of not telling the truth on their applications and some consultants are more than willing to oblige."

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I don't know — it seems like pretty black and white issue to me: if you lie on your citizenship application, it should be revoked.

What do you think?

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