Strengthening Canadian Citizenship?

April 2nd, 2014

As noted in my most recent blog, the Canadian government is proposing to amend the current Citizenship Act in a way that will fundamentally transform the meaning, scope and processing of Canadian citizenship.  The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (C-24) is the first major overhaul of citizenship legislation in Canada in 37 years.

Some of the important changes include:

– The requirement to be physically present in Canada for 183 days per year in at least four of the six years preceding the submission of a citizenship application

– The requirement for naturalized citizens to intend to reside in Canada.  The current law carries no such residency obligation.
– The requirement to submit proof of income tax filings, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act.

– The requirement for applicants aged 14 to 64 to demonstrate proficiency in at least one of Canada’s two official languages.

– The possibility of revoking Canadian citizenship from dual citizens, who were members of an armed conflict with Canada or from Canadians who are convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.

– The proposed legislation covers a lot of ground and is complicated.  It is in need of clarity and many of its sections will likely face court challenges such that final interpretation is years away.

In my opinion, at least two aspects of the new law ought to be reconsidered.  The first concerns the notion that naturalized citizens must have the intent to reside in Canada at the time they apply for citizenship. The implication is that Canadians born in Canada are free to travel and reside wherever they wish, whereas naturalized Canadians risk revocation of citizenship status for misrepresentation in the event they live abroad after gaining Canadian citizenship.  Aside from contravening mobility rights guaranteed by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it establishes two classes of Canadian citizenship.  That is not a good thing.

My second bone of contention has to do with the non-recognition of time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident .  This change is particularly unfair to foreign workers and students, who became permanent residents in recent years but do not yet qualify for citizenship.  Their journey to becoming fully Canadian will be considerably longer.  These individuals have been paying their dues.  They have worked hard on temporary work permits and study permits to prove their value to Canada before they earned permanent residence.  They have formed ties in Canada, socialized and paid taxes.  To remove the credit for time spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident is wrong.  At the very least, the new law should not be applied retroactively to anyone who has already applied for or achieved the status of a Canadian permanent resident.

This is not to say that there are no positive aspects to the proposed legislation.   The government has stated that the changes will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year.  As well, citizenship will be restored to individuals who had lost it or never received it due to outdated legislation.  These “lost Canadians”, though few in number, will benefit from the new law.

Time will tell whether the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act lives up to its name.

Previous Blog : New Canadians – The Lucky Few
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22 Responses to “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship?”

  • On April 2nd, 2014, MH said ...

    Let us hope that the law states clearly the processing time. Because who will garuntee the applications not to pile up again within few year later. After these changes, the immigrants will never trust the governments of Canada. Second issue, if any change has to be done to any law, the implimentation shall be considered from the day of retification which will affects the new comers only not to the existing people. So this will give for the new comer the freedom to choose and evaluate before deciding to come to Canada. While those who are already here with permits or PR’s, they decided to come based on the existing law and any changes will put them in a corner. May be the government doesn’t know the most of the immigrants are selling all what they own outside in order to immigrate leaving their jobs and families.

  • On April 2nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    The two major flaws in the proposed legislation are the ones you identified in this article. It is grave injustice to remove the credits that people who were on temporary status would get towards their residency requirement. The removal of the credit does not make sense at all.

  • On April 2nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    “My second bone of contention has to do with the non-recognition of time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident . ” —- I completely agree with with this comment as it pertains to my situation most. I came here since I was 16 in 2005 as an international student. It’s been almost 10 years now. I recently received my PR through the Canadian Experience Class. I was very upset to find out that my time here before becoming a PR can only be used for a maximum of 1 year to qualify for citizenship application – what about the rest of the 9 years in Canada? What do the 9 years of my time in Canada mean to the Canadian government? My time, the amount of money I brought into Canada, and the labour contribution from the positions I held – what do they all mean – to be a second class resident/citizen?

  • On April 2nd, 2014, sakhi said ...

    i love canada

  • On April 2nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    One thing I would like to relay here. The Canadian Immigration system is a flaws. Change the law and make it effective in certain time say 6 months after being passed. There are immigrants who had spend 3 years and ready to applied to citizenship and applications are being returned back due to proposed 4 years requirement that has never been a law. The new citizens have the right to also to make their living and work overseas if they found that things are not greener in Canada. To maintain being a Canadian citizen I do agree that they should pay their taxes but not on 25% of their income as being imposed currently.
    Advise to ours who would like to migrate to Canada. Think before migrating to this country, this is not what it portrays. Ask migrated Canadians what real life here.

  • On April 2nd, 2014, Pitu said ...

    Great…I agree with you on both points…. Requirement on Naturalized citizens is literally drawing 2 line…..Its injustice to students and temporary workers who have spent their valuable time and worked hard for Canada in Canada.

  • On April 2nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    My questions are:
    1. what happen if I apply now under the current law? will my application be refused? because I have not been 4 years here?
    2.What will happens with current naturalized citizens under the current law: does the restriction of living overseas will be applied to them?

    If anybody has answers, they’re very welcome!

  • On April 2nd, 2014, AME said ...

    So under the new law after I gain citizenship I can not travel or live outside canada !!!? suppose I got a contract outside canada. Also gaining the citizenship does not mean that I will cut off my family ties I may need to go and take care of my parents for example since it is not that easy also to bring them here. This is bad, when the journey to get citizenship finishes another journey starts proving yourself constantly that you are worthy of the citizenship by staying in canada no matter what or there is a chance you will lose your citizenship and all the time, effort….etc you made to gain it.
    Tying the citizenship to the taxes when I am abroad is equally bad. I can understand tying taxes to services received like pension plan …etc. but not to the citizenship. one question in this regard, how the law will treat a born canadain when he/she is abroad working and not paying his/her taxes? you are creating levels of citizenship and believe me this is not a good idea at all if your aim is to Strengthen Canadian Citizenship. I came from a country with 3 levels (this is what I know of. It could be more) of citizenship and guess what no strengthening there what so over. And as the blog says you are creating two classes, anybody remembers the slogan “separate but equal”!!!? Ugly slogan I hope I do not see it here in Canada.
    Also whoever spent time here and gains PR status after this like students should have his full time considered in full.

  • On April 3rd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    totally agree

  • On April 3rd, 2014, Marion said ...

    I am one of the Lost Canadians who may, or may not, get back the citizenship I lost in 2003, after having lived here since 1946. Children of War Brides and Canadian Servicemen of WWII are one group, with at least four groups not mentioned. As I lost my citizenship with no notice, warning, court process or forum for appeal I am concerned about the bill giving the Minister the right, officially, to revoke citizenship for ‘terrorism”, whatever that may be. If we do not have a court process, as in place for any criminal, what is to prevent this happening as it did for many Lost Canadians like myself? Revocation should be up to the judicial system, not individual politicians.

  • On April 4th, 2014, jam said ...

    After this change will apply…. can somebody explain me the difference between PR and Citizenship of canada. When we are not allowed to work outside canada after citizenship …it is some sort of PR with a passport which can only used for visit some place as a visitor….

  • On April 5th, 2014, AME said ...

    Jam, I think your approach is some how correct after this law is applied Citizenship is PR with passport which you can use to visit and come back to Canada (to strengthen your Citizenship ) because you need all your life to prove yourself worthy of the Citizenship. but born Canadian can go pretty much where ever they want!!!!

  • On April 6th, 2014, US canadian said ...

    as a American and Can I agree with the first problem you address,
    and i think this law will not one can make a distinguished 2 classes society, and they know the danger of that. If they will however create these two classes and the law will affect back all the naturalized canadians …. some 10 years ago, I will be the one to give canada my passport back and ask the reimbursement of the taxes I have paid all the time I have lived there and my contribution made to the economy, in order I sue them big time before they hear me say : FU canada and enjoy the arctic vortex! – from my florida beach house.
    As for your second concern I think it is not right. Look at the US immi. system. whoever is a student might take advantage of the canadian education system and they then go back home. their contribution is minimal and honestly speaking even the way it is now the law is quite favorable for them.Let them become perm residents, clearly state their intentions of staying in Canada, pay their taxes and dues and then they have a right to brag about this. And actually the increase of the perm resident requirements to 4 years from 3, is quite OK, when compared with the 5 years existing south of the border. this is a significant way contribution in the long run for the PR before they become citizens.
    What you fail to mention though and is scary is the power that a bureaucrat will take by giving the ministry all the powers to have the final say on a disputed case, when this should have been with the court which is totally independent and until now have done quite a good job, in shoving back up into the Immi. minister’s arse all the stupidity that dwells in his ministry.
    these are my 2 cents, as an european naturalized in both US and Can.

  • On April 8th, 2014, Mohammed said ...

    Tank you mr/attorney david cohen and cio.
    Yes, after 3 years ago I send all document Canadian citizen apply. But not answer and result still now.
    I know government Canada have best program other countries and more aportunity study and work ,life….I have UNHCR card

  • On April 22nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    If this is a proposed legislation, why is it that application for citizenship for Permanent Resident who had spent 3 years here are being returned by Immigration Canada?
    Can we sue Immigration Canada for their action against Permanent Residence on the proposed legislation that is being proposed yet being implemented. Being a tax paying Permanent Resident we demand a better treatment.

  • On May 5th, 2014, Farhan said ...


    If anyone of you can answer my following concern, than I will be highly thankful to him/her.

    I am a permanent resident of Canada… landed in July 2013, spent 4 months and got my PR card… I went back to my homeland for continuation of my studies… I am out of Canada since last 8 months and will probably come back after four more months….

    Will Canada’s government/immigration allow me to come back to Canada as the new policy stating that PR holders are not allowed to live outside canada for more than 6 months.

    Your replies will be highly appreciated.

  • On May 14th, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    can anyone please tell me when is this law being implemented? I have completed my 3 years as resident and will apply for citizenship in June. Is there a chance that my application will be returned? i mean its just a bill right? it hasnt been made a law yet.

  • On May 19th, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    Dear David,

    Many thanks for writing the article: “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship?”

    May I know once Bill C-24 become the new law.

    Will the provision on ” intention to reside in Canada” affect naturalized citizens that had obtained their Canadian Citizenship before the introduction of Bill C-24.

    In other words, is Bill C-24 a retroactive law on the stipulation of “intention to reside” in Canada.

    If your answer is no, it will not be retroactive; then can I claim that this provision of “intention to reside in Canada” will only affect those new naturalized Canadian citizens who applied after Bill C-24 become the new Canadian Citizenship Act.

    Thank you very much.

    All best regards

  • On July 31st, 2014, Frank T Johnson said ...

    Thanks for the update regarding about strengthening Canadian citizenship. Being a tax payer permanent resident we can demand for better treatment .Seek the assistance of a good immigration law firm who can help you out in any field of Canadian immigration services .

  • On November 12th, 2014, PAC said ...

    Among other provisions, the bill aims to increase the administrative efficiency of processing citizenship applications, cracks down on citizenship fraud, ramps up knowledge and residency-based requirements for citizenship, and extends citizenship to a larger number of “Lost Canadians”.

  • On November 25th, 2014, Marion said ...

    No word yet on when the clause re Lost Canadians will be implemented and some who applied for 5.4 grants were denied. There are still many Lost Canadians who will not yet get back their citizenship under the legislation.

  • On February 5th, 2015, Anonymous said ...

    Hello everyone… I believe many international students or Permanent Residents do not report all of their income. How does it affect a PR applying for citizenship if fail to report 1 or 2 income under the current and new proposed system?

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