In this interview, Toronto immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk discusses some recent immigration news items in Canada and the USA.
Andy, it has come to light that the Trudeau government has been revoking the citizenship of people that it says have misrepresented themselves in becoming Canadians. In fact, the government is revoking citizenship at a higher rate than the Conservatives did. What’s your take?
I have always been troubled by the notion of revoking Canadian citizenship. My position is the one that Trudeau himself took during his campaign last year: “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” In other words, once granted, citizenship cannot be taken away from you.
Unfortunately, it looks like Trudeau is hedging on his past declaration because over 150 people have lost their citizenship since the election last year. He’s overdue on making good on his promise.
My resolution to fraud and other matters in gaining citizenship is that they can be dealt with in the criminal courts and people can be penalized for their wrongdoing. The government shouldn’t get two bites at the apple when making someone a citizen. A person who has been naturalized has already been through several levels of screening, first in obtaining permission to immigrate, then on arrival and then again on applying for naturalization. Our system has to be good enough to catch the problems in that process. But if a problem is missed, the matter should be dealt with through our internal courts.
The governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, recently visited Toronto in order to drum up business for his state. Do you think he will be successful?
There are many Canadians who have ties to Arizona for real estate and retirement purposes, not to mention the hundreds of Canadian companies that already do business there. It’s no surprise that the government of Arizona would look to Canada for more business. That said, Mr. Ducey may have a bad sense of timing. It might have been wiser to visit after the November 8th election. At least then we would know which way the US will be headed when it comes to trade, investment and immigration. Still, as a US and Canadian immigration lawyer, I’m always glad to see more cross-border talk for businesses and professionals.
What are your views on Ottawa’s new rules that will clamp down on foreigners who invest in Canadian real estate?
In this instance, the government is closing a loophole in the tax code that has allowed foreign investors to escape paying some capital gains. This comes on the heels of British Columbia imposing an extra 15% tax on any foreigner who buys property there. Obviously the message to foreign investors is getting louder: if you want to buy Canadian property, it’s going to cost you more than it used to.
No doubt these new rules will slow down foreign investment into Canada as far as real estate is concerned. This may be exactly what is needed to address the overheated housing markets in the big cities, yet not significantly detract from investor immigration to Canada.
It’s funny how it goes with immigration and alarm bells. A few years ago, the threat of temporary foreign workers taking jobs was the story of the day and resulted in major rule changes. Now it’s real estate prices that are causing more and more changes and taking all of the headlines. We’ll see how long this real estate issue stays on the front burner.