Law that ends what many consider to be second class citizenship receives royal ascent
Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act, has received Royal Assent.
These changes to the existing act streamline the path to obtaining citizenship, enhance program integrity and repeal certain provisions of the law that in many ways effectively created two different classes of Canadian citizen – a primary example being revoking Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of crimes against the national interest. These include things like terrorism, treason, or espionage. This is a big change from the original version of the law that was introduced by the previous Conservative government. Dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of these crimes will face the Canadian justice system, like any other national, now. Other changes include applicants no longer being required to intend to continue to live in Canada once granted citizenship, providing more flexibility to those who need to live outside of Canada for work or personal reasons.
There are other changes coming down the pipe that will take effect this fall. These include added flexibility to both younger and older eligible immigrants to obtain citizenship, reducing the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada to three out of five years – instead of four out of six years, before applying for citizenship, and amending the age range for people to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship from 14-64 years to 18-54 years.
“It’s good that the bill is through. It delivered the Liberal government’s campaign commitment to facilitate citizenship – that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It has shifted the overall balance somewhat to facilitate citizenship.” -Andrew Griffith, former director general of the Immigration Department.
While citizenship officers maintain their powers to strip citizenship from new Canadians in cases of fraud and misrepresentation (we’ve touched on this in past posts), and individuals convicted of crimes will be barred from being granted citizenship, the Federal Court, instead of the immigration minister, will be the decision-maker in all revocation cases.
There are issues with citizenship that the government did not touch in these changes, namely the high cost of obtaining it. Many consider the cost of $630 for adults and $100 for minors — discouraging and prohibitive for eligible applicants – especially refugees. As per the CBC, in the first nine months of 2016, there were 56,446 applications filed for citizenship, a decrease of nearly 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier, when 111,993 applications were submitted.