"Yet you say, why should not the son suffer for the inequity of the father?" ‘When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the inequity of the father, nor the father suffer for the inequity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Ezekiel 18:19-20.
In immigration law and policy the sins of the father or parents are often visited upon the children. It seems, at least to me, clear that children should not be penalized for the misdeeds or the misrepresentation of their parent or parents. Nonetheless, it happens.
In this vein, there has been much talk of the consequences of Minister Maryam Monsef disclosure (subsequent to investigative reporting by Robert Fife and the Globe and Mail) that she was not born in Afghanistan as she has always previously represented [born instead in Iran]. Some of the speculation has a tinge of a fever dream particularly when it is coming from a political partisan or opponent.
There is a wide chasm between the theoretical and the practical. It is technically true that the law as written could allow for the revocation of her citizenship without a hearing as some civil liberties or immigration/refugee lawyers say. Noted immigration lawyer [as reported in the National Post] Lorne Waldman indicated that if the Minster’s birthplace was misrepresented on her refugee claim [it is not clear to me that the Minister had a refugee hearing in Canada or whether this was a sponsorship or refugee sponsorship from overseas] obviously birthplace or biographical details such as birthplace or date of birth are relevant details and as a result her citizenship could be revoked regardless of whether it was inadvertent or the fault of her mother. Waldman goes further and say that Minister Monsef could even be deported.
I think it’s a stretch to even discuss revocation or deportation from a theoretical perspective. Practically speaking this is not going to happen. Mr. Waldman should be more aware than most that physical files are routinely destroyed after the passage of 10 years. That would mean a destruction of those signed forms and could very well place a road block for even a very zealous immigration officer looking to strip someone of status in the country.
There is significant discretion contained within the Immigration and Refugee Protection act as well as the Citizenship Act. In my opinion whether she was born in Afghanistan or just across the border in Iran is somewhat immaterial in terms of a refugee claim or proceeding. What is not at issue is the fact that this woman was Afghan; that that country during the period in question was incredibly unstable and she and her family were likely persons in need of protection.
Section 10 of the Citizenship Act deals with revocation. This power to revoke is also discretionary as it talks about "the minister may revoke a person’s citizenship...". The minister may do so if he or she is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the person obtained that citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. These words false representation, fraud, knowingly concealing material circumstances seem to be much narrower than the definition of misrepresentation contained in the Immigration Refugee Protection Act which talks about or includes omission and definitely advertent or inadvertent acts.
Let’s go down the rabbit hole, for just a moment. If the Minister’s citizenship is revoked it would appear that she would still retain her protected person status (if she was indeed a Convention Refugee at the time of her landing in Canada). If she did make a refugee claim I suppose it is possible that that claim could be vacated as a result of a material misrepresentation. That would be done under the IRPA; however that would not have any effect on her citizenship. For her to lose status in toto seems to be highly improbable and speculation in this vein I believe is bringing more heat than light to this matter.
I have - as a former refugee protection officer, and an immigration lawyer practicing for over a decade - rarely seen a refugee claim that does not include some element of exaggeration, embellishment or in-exactitude shall we say. As an observer of politics, I have rarely seen a politician fail to exaggerate, embellish or shall we say, display some inexactitude in their biography and the circumstances that brought them to public life. This is the fragility of the human condition.
In terms of exaggerations, embellishments, non-disclosure, omissions from an immigrant's biography: some of this is relevant, some of this is material. The reasons are myriad. Some of it is because of reliance on dubious and sometimes well meaning and sometimes not so advice as to what to say and what not to say, what to put in and what to leave out. Some is a result of because of trauma, violence, avoidance, flawed memory.
I will not speak to whether the cabinet appointment process needs to be reformed given that this revelation apparently took the government by surprise. This may have the unintended consequence of further reform to citizenship revocation, the vacate process, and the widely defined and interpreted definition of misrepresentation under the IRPA.
Is someone seriously suggesting a review of a refugee or immigration or citizenship file from early 1990s? Is someone seriously suggesting a review of a refugee or immigration or citizenship file from an Afghan pre-teen fleeing a misogynistic, barbaric regime? She’s now a Minister; it’s an incredible, immigration and ultimately Canadian story and it’s time to move on to reforming some of our laws.