The Liberal government has introduced new legislation to remove barriers to citizenship erected by its Conservatives predecessors while retaining and extending officials’ authority to deal with fraud.
The changes, expected to be implemented this year, will provide greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship and help immigrants become full-fledged Canadian citizens sooner, said Immigration Minister John McCallum.
The government will also fulfil a significant campaign promise by repealing the controversial provisions introduced by the Tories last May that allow authorities to take away citizenship from dual citizens for “acts against national interest.” “We are honouring all of the commitments on which we were elected,” McCallum told the Star on Thursday. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It’s not up to the government to revoke citizenship. We want to facilitate the process of people becoming Canadian citizens while retaining program integrity.”
Despite the proposed changes, immigration officials still have the power to revoke citizenship if it was obtained by false representation or fraud, while the federal court continues to be able to remove the citizenship of those involved in organized crime, war crimes and crimes against humanities.
However, what matters most to would-be citizens would be the proposed changes to citizenship requirements:
Repealing the intent to reside provision that raised immigrants’ fear that their citizenship could be revoked if they moved outside of Canada.
Reducing the length of time that someone must be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship from four out of six years to three out of five.
Allowing time in Canada before permanent residency to count toward physical residency requirements, which would benefit refugees and those previously in Canada on study or work permits.
Amending the age range for language and citizenship knowledge exams, allowing those under 18 or older than 54 to be exempted.
Under the Harper government, the citizenship application backlog had ballooned with processing time significantly lengthened. New resources were brought in last year to reduce the wait time.
Reprinted with permission from Toronto Star.