OTTAWA – A Lebanese-Canadian implicated in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last year came to Canada at the age of eight, then left about four years later after becoming a citizen, says Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
The scant details Kenney offered up Wednesday provided a bit more shape to the amorphous, anonymous figure who emerged the day before as a key player in the attack last July, which killed six people.
The individual left Canada at the age of 12 after having obtained citizenship, and may have returned at least once, Kenney said. On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggested the person hasn’t lived in Canada for years.
“I understand he returned to Lebanon, I understand he may have been back a few times since then but has not been a habitual resident in Canada since the age of 12,” Kenney said.
Three men were suspected in last July’s attack, which killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, as well as the bomber himself. Of the two other suspects, one carried a Canadian passport and the other an Australian one.
Bulgarian authorities have said the activities of both could be traced to their home countries. On Wednesday, they said the suspects have now been identified and both are now living in Lebanon.
Stanimir Florov, head of Bulgaria’s anti-terror unit, said the names of the suspects were known, they were now based in the same country and “we have asked Lebanese authorities to assist in our investigation.”
He did not elaborate.
The group is believed to be linked to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party that Canada has designated a terrorist organization. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the July attack.
While the Lebanese-Canadian individual may not have lived in Canada recently, Kenney said the controversy raises the question of what to do about citizens who go abroad to commit acts of terror.
“Canadian citizenship is predicated on loyalty to this country and I cannot think of a more obvious act of renouncing one’s sense of loyalty than going and committing acts of terror,” he said.
He suggested the government ought to look at what other countries do and consider a mechanism for stripping Canadian citizenship from those involved in terrorist acts abroad.
Tory MP Devinder Shory currently has a private member’s bill before the Commons that, among other things, would revoke citizenship from dual nationals if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian military.
Permanent residents who commit such an act and who have applied for Canadian citizenship would see their application being deemed as withdrawn.
Perhaps the bill could go further, Kenney mused.
“I think that perhaps we should consider working with Mr. Shory to broaden the scope of his bill to include not just acts of war committed against Canada by Canadian citizens as grounds for deemed renunciation or revocation of citizenship,” Kenney said.
“Perhaps we should also consider acts of terrorism as grounds for deemed renunciation if committed by dual citizens who carry Canadian nationality.”
The New Democrats cautioned restraint.
The Conservatives tend to use one-off examples to build legislation without subjecting it to the due process Canadians have come to expect, said NDP MP Peter Julian.
“We want to of course prosecute criminals, we want to ensure that crimes are prevented and stopped, we want to make sure terrorism is stopped,” Julian said.
“But we want to do that within the framework of a democratic society where there is a system of checks and balances.”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said Kenney needs to give far more serious thought to the issue.
“If the government says we want to do a complete review of dual citizenship, let’s have that review, but let’s not do policy making on the fly,” Rae said.
“Sometimes it takes a little time to reflect on what it is that is actually going to work and going to actually be constitutional.”