Citizenship changes will mean longer wait to...
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Feb 06, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Citizenship changes will mean longer wait to become Canadian

OurWindsor.Ca

The federal government is introducing a series of sweeping reforms to the Citizenship Act that are designed to reduce processing times, tighten residency requirements and crack down on fraud — measures that will make it tougher for many to become Canadian.

“Our government is strengthening the values of Canadian citizenship,” Chris Alexander, the minister of citizenship and immigration, said Thursday.

“Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history.”

Under the changes — the first major revamp of the Citizenship Act since the 1970s — permanent residents will have to have a “physical presence” in Canada for four years out of six years, compared to the current three out of four years.

The federal government is introducing a series of sweeping reforms to the Citizenship Act that are designed to reduce processing times, tighten residency requirements and crack down on fraud — measures that will make it tougher for many to become Canadian.

“Our government is strengthening the values of Canadian citizenship,” Chris Alexander, the minister of citizenship and immigration, said Thursday.

“Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history.”

Under the changes — the first major revamp of the Citizenship Act since the 1970s — permanent residents will have to have a “physical presence” in Canada for four years out of six years, compared to the current three out of four years.

And it includes changes that allow citizenship to be revoked from dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason and spying offences, or those who take up arms against Canada. Permanent residents who commit these acts will also be barred from applying for citizenship.

The legislation, Bill C-24, “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” was introduced in Parliament on Thursday.

Political foes as well as refugee advocates were quick to criticize many of the amendments.

The Canadian Council for Refugees said it was worried about “increasing barriers” to citizenship, particularly for refugees — and that it was particularly opposed to the new powers to revoke citizenship in certain cases.

“Citizenship is a fundamental status — not something that is ‘deserved,’ ” said Loly Rico, president of the CCR. “It is wrong to use citizenship rules to punish people for wrongdoing — that’s the role of the criminal system.”

Lorne Waldman, president of The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, echoed that concern. “As Canadians, we make our citizenship feeble and fragile if we let government ministers seize the power to extinguish it,” he said.

Liberal and NDP Immigration critics were equally concerned. “I don’t trust the Conservatives to get this right, as their record of immigration reforms is horrible,” said NDP immigration critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe.

“They claim they are going to do something about waiting time . . . ,” said Liberal immigration critic John McCallum. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Others such as Bronwen Evans, managing director of the True Patriot Love Foundation, applauded a proposed change that calls for fast-tracking Canadian citizenship for permanent residents serving with — and individuals on exchange with — the Canadian Armed Forces.

Overall, the bill is consistent with the direction of the government when it comes to citizenship issues, said Andrew Griffith, former director general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration.

“This package of measures essentially makes citizenship harder to get, but easier to lose. That’s what they’ve essentially done.”

Debra Black is a senior reporter at the Toronto Star who covers immigration and diversity issues. Follow her on twitter @debrablack

Toronto Star

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