Changing the meaning of citizenship
Originally published in Cultures West Magazine Fall 2015 Issue
The government of Canada introduced the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24) in February 2014, and the bill received royal assent in June 2014.As of June 11, 2015 all the provisions are now in force. This new law fundamentally changes our citizenship laws including the requirements for obtaining citizenship and expanding the grounds to take citizenship away.
Citizenship is now harder to obtain
Citizenship is now harder to obtain The government has increased the fees for filing an application from $400 to $630. The language testing requirements are also much stricter, now requiring applicants until the age of 64 to take the test; prior to the changes, applicants older than 54 were exempt. Permanent residents will also take longer to be able to apply for citizenship as the new requirement means they must be physically present in Canada four out of six years instead of three out of four. Further, applicants can no longer count their physical presence in Canada while they were not yet permanent residents. This means people who were working or studying legally in Canada can no longer include this time when calculating their physical presence in Canada. This will create even more delays for temporary workers, students, refugees, and live-in caregivers to be eligible for Canadian citizenship.
Applicants must now declare that they “intend to reside in Canada”
There is a new requirement for the granting of citizenship – applicants must now declare that they “intend to reside in Canada.” The “intent to reside” condition makes the nature of a naturalized Canadian’s citizenship different than those of Canadians who were born in Canada. It is only the naturalized Canadian who will have to wonder whether they are violating their declaration if they decide to study, accept a job, or move in with a romantic partner outside of Canada.
There are more grounds to revoke citizenship and less procedural protections for those subject to citizenship revocation proceedings. Before this law came into effect, the government could only revoke citizenship in cases where a person was found to have misrepresented on their immigration application. The new law allows the government to revoke the citizenship of people convicted of serious offences like terrorism or treason. Yet these laws do not apply to all Canadians – the new revocation power only applies to dual citizens. Moreover, the new law lessens a person’s procedural rights in these circumstances. Most revocation proceedings will now happen without a hearing. It will be a paper process with a government bureaucrat.
This law has created different classes of citizenship in Canada
This law has created different classes of citizenship in Canada, providing some citizens with a better more robust citizenship than others. Dual citizens have less secure citizenship than mono-citizens; newly naturalized Canadians have an even less secure citizenship. The government has already begun issuing revocation notices. BC Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers have announced that they intend to file a constitutional challenge to the new law.