When a Law Contradicts Itself

Flickr photo by sweetenough

As much as we know that the people who write our laws are perfect, they can sometimes write things that seem contradictory.

For example, s. 5(4) of the Citizenship Act states that:

Special cases

(4) In order to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada, and notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Governor in Council may, in his discretion, direct the Minister to grant citizenship to any person and, where such a direction is made, the Minister shall forthwith grant citizenship to the person named in the direction.

In other words, notwithstanding anything else in the Citizenship Act, an individual may be granted citizenship in order to alleviate cases of hardship or to reward services of exceptional value to Canada.

However, s. 22(1) of the same Act states that:

22. (1) Despite anything in this Act, a person shall not be granted citizenship under subsection 5(1), (2) or (4) or 11(1) or take the oath of citizenship

(a) while the person is, pursuant to any enactment in force in Canada,

(i) under a probation order,

(ii) a paroled inmate, or

(iii) confined in or is an inmate of any penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison;

In other words, notwithstanding anything else in the Citizenship Act, an individual may not be granted citizenship if they are under a probation order, are a paroled inmate, or are in prison.

How does one reconcile these two sections of Canada’s Citizenship Act, and what should one do if one finds other contradictions?

In Frankowski v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2000] 187 FTR 92, recently affirmed in Al-Darawish v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), the Federal Court noted that when two provisions in an act are in conflict with each other, the specific provision should be applied to the exclusion of the more general one.

Here, there is a specific provision on who cannot be given citizenship, no matter what. This is narrower and more specific than a provision which says that humanitarian & compassionate considerations can be used to grant citizenship no matter what, and, while the contradiction remains, the narrower section prevails.


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