The Liberal government of Canada is edging closer to reversing controversial changes to the way Canada grants citizenship that were brought in under the previous government, which was led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The bill, known as C-6, is considered a centrepiece of the new government's legislative agenda. The Liberal chair of the House Immigration Committee, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, said this week that he hopes the bill will pass into law in time for Canada Day, July 1, with the only major potential stumbling block being how the bill is handled by Conservative Senators once it reaches the Senate.
Among the proposed amendments is the repeal of a controversial provision that allows the government to revoke citizenship from dual Canadian citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.
The legislation would also reduce the amount of time permanent residents have to live in Canada in order to become eligible to apply for citizenship, from four out of six years to three out five years, and would allow applicants who spent time in Canada on temporary status to count this time towards the three-year requirement. This particular aspect of the legislation has been warmly welcomed by new immigrants, foreign workers, and international students alike who view their long-term future in Canada.
In addition, the proposed amendments would repeal the intent to reside provision and remove language proficiency requirements for certain applicants.
It would also allow the government the right to seize documents used to obtain citizenship fraudulently. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced earlier this week that two men, acting as immigration consultants, were summoned to appear in court. The men are accused of counselling individuals to misrepresent information in their applications, as well as forging and using counterfeit documents. They are also accused of having acted as immigration representatives in return for compensation, when in fact they were not authorized.
Currently, Canadian Immigration officials are looking at revoking the Canadian citizenship of about a dozen people after the auditor general found the government isn't doing enough to root out fraud in the citizenship system. The report uncovered instances of people with serious criminal records and others using potentially phoney addresses among those who managed to secure Canadian citizenship thanks to holes in the system.
Proposed changes to the Citizenship Act
A list of proposed amendments and how they correspond to the existing Citizenship Act can be viewed in the table below.
|Current Act||Proposed Amendment|
Authority to revoke citizenship for certain acts against the national interest of Canada. These grounds include convictions of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received, or for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
|Repeal national interest grounds for revocation.|
|Applicants must have the intention to reside in Canada if granted citizenship.||Repeal intent to reside provision.|
|Physical presence for 4 out of 6 years before the date of application.||Physical presence for 3 out of 5 years before the date of application.|
|Time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident may not be counted.||Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum of one year of credited time.|
|Minimum of 183 days physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.||Repeal the minimum 183 days physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.|
|Applicants aged 14-64 must meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.||Applicants aged 18-54 must meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.|
|File Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for four taxation years out of six years, matching physical presence requirement.||File Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for three taxation years out of five years, matching proposed new physical presence requirement.|
|Time spent serving a conditional sentence order can be counted towards meeting physical presence requirements. Convicted individuals who are serving conditional sentence orders (sentences served in the community with certain conditions) are not prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.||Time spent under a conditional sentence order cannot be counted towards meeting the physical presence requirements; and those serving a conditional sentence order are prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.|
|Provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they never met or no longer meet the requirements for the grant of citizenship, but does not apply to applications received before June 11, 2015.||Provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they never met or no longer meet the requirements for the grant of citizenship also applies to applications still in process that were received prior to June 11, 2015.|
No explicit authority for citizenship officers to seize fraudulent documents related to the processing of applications.
|Authority to seize documents provided during the administration of the Citizenship Act if there are reasonable grounds to believe they are fraudulent, or being used fraudulently.|