Last Updated on September 13, 2012 by Steven Meurrens
I have received several questions about whether Jason Kenney is breaking international law by revoking peoples’ Canadian citizenship. Specifically, many readers want to know whether international legal norms permit a country to render someone stateless.
For those who are not familiar with the term “statelessness,” it refers to individuals who are not a citizen of any country.
The question arises because presumably some of the people who are the subject of citizenship revocation proceedings are only citizens of Canada, and not of other nations.
The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness is the treaty that governs statelessness in the case of non-refugees. It articulates international legal principles governing the interaction between states and the conferral and revocation of citizenship to people residing within the state. Canada ratified the treaty on July 17, 1978.
Article 8 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness provides that:
1. A Contracting State shall not deprive a person of its nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless.
2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, a person may be deprived of the nationality of a Contracting State:
(a) [where a person resides abroad for a period of seven consecutive years and fails to declare an intention to retain nationality or if the person is born outside the state and does not reside within the state within 1 year of obtaining the age of majority];
(b) where the nationality has been obtained by misrepresentation or fraud.
3. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, a Contracting State may retain the right to deprive a person of his nationality, if at the time of signature, ratification or accession it specifies its retention of such right on one or more of the following grounds, being grounds existing in its national law at that time:
(a) that, inconsistently with his duty of loyalty to the Contracting State, the person
(i) has, in disregard of an express prohibition by the Contracting State rendered or continued to render services to, or received or continued to receive emoluments from, another State, or
(ii) has conducted himself in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State;
(b) that the person has taken an oath, or made a formal declaration, of allegiance to another State, or given definite evidence of his determination to repudiate his allegiance to the Contracting State.
The full text of the convention can be found here.
So in short, yes, international law permits a state to revoke the citizenship of a person, and render that person stateless, if the person obtained that citizenship through fraud or false representation.
Whether you agree with this principle of international law or not is another issue, but, Jason Kenney is acting legally by commencing revocation proceedings based on fraud that could lead to statelessness.