OCASI Comments On Proposed Citizenship Changes

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OCASI has prepared a preliminary analysis of Bill C-24, the Citizenship amendment Act tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday February 6, 2014. We will develop a fuller analysis as we continue to review the Bill and prepare for public comment opportunities through the Parliamentary Standing Committee later in the year.

The government has already doubled the citizenship application fees from $200 to $400. The change is already in effect and will remain so regardless of what happens to Bill C-24.

The following is a brief summary of the main changes in the proposed legislation:

1. Length of time is increased

  • A permanent resident must have been a resident of Canada for 4 out of the last 6 years, compared to 3 out of the last 4 years.
  • Time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident will no longer count. The proposed change will impact refugee claimants, Temporary Foreign Workers and International Students who transition to permanent residency through a two-stage process.
  • Issue: Increasing the amount of time a permanent resident must wait before becoming a full participant in Canadian society will not strengthen democracy in Canada. Some permanent residents, such as those who were Convention Refugees, will face difficulties in travelling to see family or take advantage of overseas employment opportunities.
  • Issue: The government has said that the Bill will reduce the processing time. But this may not make a real difference to immigrants since they will have to wait longer to apply.

2. More requirements

  • The requirement to show proof of language at the time of application has now been extended for those aged 14-64. The current Act applies to applicants for ages 18-54.
  • Applicants can no longer use an interpreter to meet the knowledge requirement.
  • Issue: The change will impact on seniors who are currently exempt from these provisions, including those who have been working since they arrived and did not have time to take a language test, those who know enough English or French to live and work in Canada but not enough to pass the required language test, and those who do not have the capacity to learn a new language such as older refugees.

     

     

3. Revocation of citizenship

  • The proposed Act gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration new power to revoke Citizenship. At present, the final decision-maker is the Governor in Council.
  • The current legislation prevents permanent residents with domestic criminal charges and convictions from getting Citizenship, within certain criteria (time of application). The proposed legislation extends this provision to permanent residents with overseas criminal charges and convictions.
  • The proposed legislation allows the Minister to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who were part of armed forces or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada, and to withhold it from permanent residents.
  • The proposed legislation allows the Minister to revoke citizenship and deny it to permanent residents who are convicted of terrorism, treason or spying, with limitation based on the sentence received.
  • Issue: The proposed legislation treats dual citizens differently, which violates the fundamental principle that all citizens are equal. The legislation creates double punishment, by using Citizenship rules to punish individuals, in addition to the consequences they would face through the criminal justice system. We know that mistakes have been made in the criminal justice system on several occasions and individuals have been wrongfully charged and wrongfully convicted. The proposed changes will impact those who are innocent of any wrongdoing but have been charged and convicted.

4. New provisions to include “lost Canadians” (pre-1947 cases)

  • The proposed legislation introduces measures to provide citizenship to those who have been unfairly excluded for many years as a result of gaps and oversights in the current legislation.
  • OCASI welcomes these measures that right a decades-long injustice. However, the new measures will not extend citizenship to the second-generation born overseas, who lost that right through amendments introduced in 2009.

Click here for the full text of Bill C-24.

Contact:
Amy Casipullai, Senior Policy and Communications Coordinator
[email protected] tel: 416.322.4950 x 239