Canadian immigration reaches milestone with 150,000th new citizen of the year
Number of new immigrants doubles despite controversy surrounding new reforms
SCARBOROUGH, ONTARIO – At a ceremony on August 19, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander helped welcome Canada’s 150,000th new citizen of 2014. Compared to the Canadian immigration record of August 2013, the number of new citizens has doubled this year, a feat which the federal government attributes to its efforts to expedite visa processing times and reduce application backlogs.
Addressing the audience at the citizenship ceremony last week, Minister Alexander reported an eight-percent reduction of backlogs. This statistic follows on the heels of Bill C-24, the controversial “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.” The bill enacted a series of citizenship reforms, which have drawn criticism since receiving Royal Assent on June 19. Faced with protests from Amnesty International and the legal community, the government has defended the bill for streamlining the decision-making process and increasing the efficiency of the citizenship program. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) anticipates further reducing the application process to less than a year, while minimizing the current backlog of applications by over 80 percent.
Alexander affirmed his confidence in the new reforms in his address:
“Our government is proud to welcome more new citizens to the Canadian family,” Alexander told the Scarborough audience. “The increased number of new Canadians in 2014 is an indication that our government’s changes to the citizenship system are working. With our recent changes to the Citizenship Act, we will see improved processing times and high numbers of new Canadians taking on the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.”
Highest continuous immigration rates in Canadian history
Canada has reportedly admitted over 1.3 million new citizens since 2006. According to government statements, the country is now experiencing its highest continuous immigration levels ever, averaging an impressive annual rate of a quarter-million new arrivals.
The citizenship ceremony: a rite of passage
As the final step toward becoming a Canadian national, the citizenship ceremony marks the new citizen’s formal entry into the country in front of an audience of guests, which can include family members, friends, and other loved ones. The rite of passage occurs after the applicant has successfully completed a written test or oral hearing. Ceremonies are held across the country at various times of the year, with a citizenship judge usually presiding.
Accepting the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship, new citizens take an oath and receive a certificate at the ceremony. Guests in attendance who are already citizens may reaffirm their commitment to the country by repeating the words of the oath along with the new Canadians.
The Oath of Citizenship includes the following rights and responsibilities:
- to vote in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- to run as a candidate in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- to live and work anywhere in the country
- to apply for a Canadian passport
- to receive primary and secondary education
- to obey Canada’s laws
- to be responsible for oneself and one’s family
- to perform jury duty when called
- to vote in elections
- to help others in the community
- to protect the country’s heritage and environment.
In an official statement, Minister Alexander has called the citizenship ceremony “a moving and emotional celebration that reaffirms one’s commitment to Canadian values and traditions.”
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