Critics object to redefinition of citizenship while Canadian immigration authorities highlight streamlined services
Since receiving Royal Assent on June 19th, the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” (Bill C-24), has sparked sharp criticism. Amnesty International, members of the legal community, and other groups have stepped forward to oppose the bill, which changes the legal requirements to become a citizen of Canada, and empowers the government with new tools to strip citizenship.
Opponents contest the new amendments redefine the right of citizenship as a privilege that the government can arbitrarily revoke. Particularly susceptible are immigrants and Canadian-born citizens who hold dual citizenship, as well as those who have previously served in a foreign military operation, or other group, that opposed Canadian forces. Meanwhile, the new system expedites citizenship applications for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Objections to Bill C-24 have extended to legal measures, without success. Before the bill passed into law, lawsuits against Canadian immigration Minister Chris Alexander, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and Governor General David Johnston, challenged the proposed changes as unconstitutional.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), continues to defend the bill for adding value to Canadian citizenship and strengthening the integration of newcomers into Canadian society. The Canadian government anticipates the changes will also cut citizenship application processing times to less than a year, and reduce the backlog by more than 80 percent during 2015 and 2016.
Additionally, the reforms retroactively confer citizenship on some Canadian residents born before the 1947 Citizenship Act and who were formerly not considered citizens due to a legal loophole.
Reformed decision-making model
The changes overhaul CIC’s decision-making model, increasing their capacity for processing applications by expanding to over 450 decision-makers. The system has been streamlined from a three-step to a one-step process, in which citizenship officers now oversee all aspects of the majority of applications, minimizing the duplication of work.
CIC will also exercise greater authority in determining what makes a complete application, including the requisite evidence applicants must provide to substantiate qualification. Canadian immigration officials will have the power to place applications on hold or abandon them at any stage of the process, if an applicant cannot provide the requisite information or attend an interview.
What do the changes mean for citizenship applicants?
Bill C-24 modifies the citizenship application process in multiple ways:
Longer period of residency – Previously, permanent residents were required to have been in Canada for three out of four years before they could apply for citizenship. Bill C-24 requires candidates to have remained in Canada for at least four years (1460 days) within the six-year period preceding the application for Canadian citizenship.
Intention to reside – To be eligible for citizenship, permanent residents must intend to continue residing in Canada. Alternatively, if they reside outside of Canada but work either in the armed forces or public service, they must intend to continue working in those positions, or else be married and living with a spouse who holds one of those jobs.
Higher processing expenses – Processing fees for citizenship applications have increased from $100 to $300.
Age range – The required age range has been increased for language and knowledge tests. Applicants aged 16 to 64 are now required to take tests, whereas the previous bracket spanned the ages of 18 and 54.
If any of these changes to Canadian immigration law affect your plans to apply for Canadian citizenship, contact First Immigration Law Firm @ 514 360 4333.