Toronto 18 terrorist will regain Canadian citizenship under new legislation introduced by Liberals
TORONTO—The leader of an al-Qaida-inspired plot to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto during the morning rush hour will have his Canadian citizenship reinstated under legislation introduced by the Liberals on Thursday.
The proposed law tabled in the House of Commons, Bill C-6, contains a provision that would restore the citizenship of any convicted terrorists who lost it as a result of changes brought in by the previous Conservative government.
Effectively, the bill means the Liberals will be returning citizenship to Zakaria Amara, ringleader of the Toronto 18 terror group, which planned al-Qaida-style violence in southern Ontario to push Canada to abandon Afghanistan.
Michel Cimpaye, an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson, said the citizenship of those who had lost it for “acts against the national interest” would be automatically restored once the bill received Royal Assent.
The proposed changes
Grounds for revocation
Current law: Those convicted of crimes against the national interest such as terrorism, treason or spying and who have dual citizenship could have their citizenship revoked if they are dual nationals.
Proposed change: Repeals those provisions and restores citizenship of anyone who has been affected.
Current law: Requires people to have been physically present in Canada for four out of six years before qualifying.
Proposed change: People will have to be physically present for three out of five years before qualifying.
Language and knowledge requirements
Current law: Everyone between the ages of 14 to 64 must pass language and knowledge tests.
Proposed change: Applicants between the ages of 18 to 54 must pass language and knowledge tests.
In addition, the department will take no further action against nine terrorists who had received notices informing them their citizenship was being revoked. They include an Iranian-Canadian and a Pakistani-Canadian imprisoned for a 2010 plan to bomb military bases in Canada.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian imprisoned in California over his role in a plot to decapitate employees of a Danish newspaper and throw their heads onto the street, will also be allowed to keep his Canadian citizenship.
During the federal election, the Liberals said they would do away with the Conservative citizenship law, which came into force in May 2015, on the grounds it created two classes of Canadians, since it applied only to convicted terrorists with dual nationality.
At a news conference in Ottawa, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum called it matter of principle and repeatedly said that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” a slogan used by Justin Trudeau during the campaign.
He did not directly answer questions about whether he was uncomfortable restoring citizenship to Amara, a Jordanian-born convert to Islam who was behind one of the worst terrorist conspiracies ever plotted against Canadians.
Amara grew up in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Cypress before immigrating to Canada in 1997. He fell into Islamist extremism as a teen, helping form a group the members considered calling al-Qaida in Canada. His recruits trained on a property north of Toronto for attacks they thought would terrorize Canadians into leaving Afghanistan.
“His need to attempt terrorist acts may have included his determined need to follow through on commitments of Muslim loyalty,” the judge wrote in his sentencing decision. Amara was imprisoned for life but is eligible for parole this year.
The faction led by Amara built detonators and acquired explosive materials for large truck bombs that were to be detonated in 2006 near the Toronto Stock Exchange and CN Tower. An Ontario military base was also to be attacked.
After hearing the case, Justice Bruce Durno called the scheme “spine chilling” and said “the potential for loss of life existed on a scale never before seen in Canada. … Had the plan been implemented it would have changed the lives of many, if not all Canadians forever.”