I posted on Sunday about the Russian woman in Canada who was denied citizenship because she had denounced Vladimir Putin. I mentioned, but forgot to link to, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin’s post on the issue. That is now corrected.

The basic story is that Maria Kartasheva was charged by Russian authorities with the offense of disseminating “deliberately false information” about Russia’s military forces. According to Canadian Press reporter Dylan Robinson, “the department [Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada] sent her a letter, saying that her conviction in Russia aligns with a Criminal Code offence in Canada relating to false information.”

Ilya was outraged, as was I. Kartahseva seems like exactly the kind of citizen that Canadians would want. My guess is that the majority of Canadians, if they knew about the issue, would want her. That doesn’t mean that the government would. Canada’s government has been assaulting freedom of speech for a few decades. A relatively recent example is Trudeau’s crackdown on the truckers’ strike. So it should not have come as a total surprise that Canada’s government makes disseminating false information a crime. Robinson doesn’t mention the specific crime. But CBC reporter Matthew Kupfer does lay it out here, writing:

According 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.”

Originally enacted in 1985, the Canadian law makes it illegal for individuals to intentionally injure another person or convey false information through telecommunication means.

Note that the key is not whether she is innocent. It appears that information she disseminated was true. But she was tried, convicted, and sentenced by a Russian court in absentia. So if the law were to be followed, it does appear that Kartasheva should have been denied Canadian citizenship.

There’s now good news. The Canadian government has relented. Ilya celebrated that in a post yesterday. I celebrate it also.

Here’s what I found striking, though. Ilya Somin is a noted legal scholar who posts regularly on “The Volokh Conspiracy.” Usually, he makes a legal argument. This time he didn’t. Instead he wrote:

I am happy that sanity prevailed in this case.  But it’s ridiculous the issue was ever in doubt in the first place. Speaking out against horrific war crimes is surely not the kind of “crime” that can ever justify denial of citizenship or deportation from any liberal democracy worthy of the name.

It’s a good argument, but not a good legal argument. What it shows, sadly, given that I’m a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, is that Canada is no longer a “liberal democracy worthy of the name.”

Ilya adds:

Since the start of the conflict, I have been making the case that the US and other Western nations—including Canada –  should open their doors to Russians fleeing Vladimir Putin’s increasingly repressive regime. Even for those who wouldn’t go as far in this direction as I advocate, the case of a dissenter facing imprisonment for speaking out against Putin’s war war should be a no-brainer.

I think this argument is harder for Ilya to make than for me to make. He’s a noted legal scholar who generally favors following the law. I’m not.

I agree with him, though, that Canada and the United States and other Western countries should open their doors to people fleeing repression in Russia. I’ll up the ante. They should also open their doors to people fleeing repression (such as the draft) in Ukraine.