Canada Moves to Strip Citizenship from Thousands Including Lebanese

Canada is investigating 6,500 people from more than 100 countries, including Lebanon for fraudulently attempting to gain citizenship or permanent residency, the immigration minister announced Friday.

"Canadian citizenship is not for sale," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement. "Canadians are generous people, but have no tolerance or patience for people who don't play by the rules and who lie or cheat to become a Canadian citizen."

He said the government has moved to strip 2,100 people of their citizenship.

And nearly 4,400 with permanent residency "who are known to be implicated in residence fraud" have been flagged for additional scrutiny should they attempt to enter Canada or obtain citizenship.

Prior to this year, only 67 citizenships had been revoked since the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1947.

Permanent residents must acquire three years of residence out of four years to apply for Canadian citizenship. To retain their status as permanent residents, they must be physically present in Canada for two years out of five.

Most of the cases are reportedly linked to three immigration consultants.

In March, authorities charged Halifax consultant Hassan Al-Awaid with fraudulently helping foreigners obtain permanent residency or citizenship. Some 1,100 applicants mostly from the Middle East and their dependents were implicated in the fraud, including 76 who obtained citizenship.

Another consultant, Nizar Zakka, was arrested in Montreal in 2009 for allegedly providing false evidence of Canadian residency for hundreds of Lebanese nationals, used to claim child care and tax credits.

The daily Ottawa Citizen, citing an unnamed government source, said a third consultant in Mississauga is now also under investigation for providing proof of residence in Canada for clients living abroad most, if not all, of the time.

Source: Agence France Presse

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