NDP question timing of Conservative government decision to revoke citizenship

TORONTO – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is questioning the timing of a controversial Conservative government decision to revoke the Canadian citizenship of a convicted terrorist in the middle of a federal election.

Last week the federal government revoked the citizenship of Zakaria Amara, an Islamic extremist and member of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist group.

“By pure coincidence the timing of this thing comes right in the middle of an election campaign? Give me a break,” Mulcair told a rally during a campaign stop in Toronto on Sunday.

“This is Mr. Harper strutting his stuff for his right-wing base.”

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The Strengthening Citizenship Act passed last spring but its revocation provisions only took effect in June. The law applies only to dual citizens and has stoked concern among some ethnic communities that they will be unfairly stigmatized.

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“I find it lamentable that in a free and democratic society someone finds joy in having two levels of citizenship. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” said Mulcair, to loud applause from the rally’s attendees.

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals have vowed to repeal the law.

Responding on Sunday to the landmark revocation, Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino said Canada is responding to the growing threat of terrorism responsibly.

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“Let’s get real. This is a serious threat that we’re all facing,” he said.

“I suspect most Canadians would not want to open their arms and charity, their good will, welcoming people who come to this country, and intend to come to this country, to kill us, to harm us and to victimize us,” he said.

Amara was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. He was accused of masterminding a plot to bomb downtown Toronto – a plan aimed in part at forcing Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan.

Police thwarted the conspiracy when they arrested Amara and 17 other people in the summer of 2006.

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Defence Minister Jason Kenney said on Saturday that Zakaria in effect renounced his Canadian citizenship through his actions. Kenney said to his knowledge this is the first case where the federal government has revoked the citizenship of someone found guilty of terrorist offences since the Conservatives pushed through the citizenship changes earlier this year.

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