The federal government plans to introduce changes to the Citizenship Act during this upcoming session in Parliament. According to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, the new bill will be the “first comprehensive reform to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.” A federal budget for the bill may come as early as February
One issue that will not be immediately addressed in the Citizenship Act reform is “birth tourism”—granting citizenship just because a person is born in Canada. However, it was announced that steps will be taken to filter “citizens of convenience,” and that several measures will be annexed to the Citizenship Act to hinder and discourage this type of behaviour.
“It’s too soon to tell what vehicle we will choose for doing that. It involves the provinces because births take place in provincial medical systems and we want to get the solution right with our provincial partners,” Alexander stated. “I would expect action on that front this year but not necessarily as soon as the Citizenship Act.”
Another aim of the Citizenship Act reform is to help “Lost Canadians”—individuals who were previously denied Canadian citizenship for various reasons. “We want to make sure that those loopholes that have done great injustice to a few people for all of those decades are closed, and that Canadian citizenship embraces all of those it should have embraced from the beginning,” the Minister explained. “Some are children of war brides, some have other complicated circumstances which should never have barred them from citizenship, and we have to fix the legislation.”
In addition, with the amended rules, the Canadian government will also be allowed to strip someone of citizenship, albeit in exceptional circumstances. These encompass cases such as treason or acts of terrorism. This issue arose after a Lebanese-Canadian was revealed to be involved in the 2012 bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. As asserted by the Minister, “we need to be able to take citizenship away from dual nationals in extreme cases, where they’ve crossed a line that I think all Canadians will agree are grounds for that kind of move.”
Lastly, Immigrants may be required to wait longer before qualifying for Canadian citizenship. Currently, to be eligible for Canadian citizenship, permanent residents must have lived in Canada for three out of the four years preceding their application. However Minister Alexander said that the conditions for eligibility will be altered, and that the required term of permanent residency prior to becoming eligible to apply for citizenship will increase. It is argued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada that applicants would ultimately benefit from this change, as the longer term required will be offset by the faster processing of citizenship applications. Alexander declared that a major goal of the upcoming legislation is to expedite this process and better filter ineligible applicants.
To obtain more information on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Acts and Regulations click here.