Canada Backtracks On Citizenship Review For Russian Antiwar Activist | CBC News

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A Russian antiwar activist living in Ottawa has been granted Canadian citizenship after all, despite a conviction in Russia that threatened to disqualify her.

Blogger Maria Kartasheva was convicted of misinformation in Russia

Matthew Kupfer · CBC News

· Posted: Jan 09, 2024 1:27 PM EST | Last Updated: 10 hours ago

Maria Kartasheva waits for her citizenship ceremony to begin at her home in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)A Russian antiwar activist living in Ottawa has been granted Canadian citizenship after all, despite a conviction in Russia that threatened to disqualify her.

Maria Kartasheva, 30, has lived in Ottawa since 2019.

She was convicted under a Russian law passed shortly after the full-scale invasion in of Ukraine in February 2022. The law prohibits “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Her convictions stem from two blog entries from March 2022, when she posted photos and wrote in Russian expressing her horror at the Bucha massacre. Russia’s foreign minister has rejected allegations of atrocities in Bucha. 

Under Canadian immigration rules, if an applicant is charged with a crime in another country that could be indictable under Canada’s Criminal Code, their application can be revoked or refused.

A Canadian officiant motioned for her to step aside in the middle of her citizenship ceremony last spring, just moments before she was supposed to swear her allegiance to the Crown.

Minister announced news on XAccording to a December letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the crime she committed in Russia “would equate to false information under subsection 372(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.”

That interpretation was criticized by a Canadian lawyer and professor who contend the law’s real goal is to silence opposing voices.

On Tuesday afternoon, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller said in a social media post that Kartasheva “will not face deportation and has been invited to become a Canadian citizen.”

“Canada’s citizenship eligibility rules are designed to catch criminals, not to suppress or punish legitimate political dissent,” wrote a post from his account on X.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller announced on social media on Tuesday that Kartasheva would be granted citizenship after all. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)Kartasheva relieved, exhaustedOn Tuesday, Kartasheva told CBC News she received the news by email just before lunchtime. 

“I am still scared that this is a mistake,” said Kartasheva, who immediately called IRCC to confirm. 

“I kind of have a feeling that even after the ceremony I won’t believe that it happened.”

Her citizenship ceremony took place virtually around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

WATCH | The moment Maria Kartasheva becomes a Canadian citizen:

Russian antiwar activist granted Canadian citizenship after previously being removed from ceremonyRussian antiwar activist Maria Kartasheva has now been granted Canadian citizenship, after she was pulled from a previous ceremony because of a conviction in Russia. Kartasheva was convicted under a Russian law which prohibits “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Kartasheva told CBC the experience has left her feeling exhausted and tremendously relieved at the same time.

“There was a long period of time when I felt that no one was interested in this and no one hears and no one would help,” she said, adding she’s grateful to all those who lent her their support after CBC first published her story, including her MP.

Kartasheva, pictured here earlier in January, had her application for Canadian citizenship held up due to a conviction under a Russian law that has been used against critics of the Ukraine invasion. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)Kartasheva said this outcome will serve as a precedent for other Russians living abroad who openly oppose the Kremlin.

“I hope everyone will feel safe and understand that this is not going to happen to anyone else, that … Canada will support Russians in Canada who are against the war, and so we can sleep soundly in Canada and know that we are protected after all.”

Conviction ‘didn’t seem credible’: MillerSpeaking to Power & Politics host David Cochrane on Tuesday, Miller suggested Kartasheva had been unfairly punished by an immigration safeguard that was never meant to deny citizenship to political dissidents.

“We have a set of rules in Canada that prevents criminals from becoming citizens, Miller said. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time those types of rules are there for a very good reason and they do a good job in making sure that undesirable people with criminal pasts do not become citizens.

“You know, there can be situations where that rule doesn’t work, this is one of them.”

Miller did not confirm whether he personally intervened in Kartasheva’s case, but indicated he was pleased with the outcome and that Canada’s immigration rules had been misapplied in this case.

“It didn’t seem credible to me. It looked like it was on the level of political dissent that is legitimate not only in a country like Canada, but should be in a country like Russia, and to penalize that person for having expressed herself and her views with respect to the Putin regime would be ludicrous, so she’s been invited to become a citizen as she should have been in the first place.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at matthew.kupfer@cbc.ca and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

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