Government welcomes Royal Assent of Bill C-24, Civil Liberties Groups Plan Legal Challenge

Key messages from the CIC’s Press Release:

Improving efficiency

Canada’s citizenship program is being improved by reducing the decision-making process from three steps to one. It is expected that, by 2015–2016, this change will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year. It is also projected that by 2015-2016, the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 percent.

Reinforcing the value of Canadian citizenship

The government is ensuring citizenship applicants maintain strong ties to Canada. These amendments to the Citizenship Act provide a clearer indication that the “residence” period to qualify for citizenship in fact requires physical presence in Canada.

More applicants will now be required to meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test to ensure that new citizens are better prepared to fully participate in Canadian society. New provisions will also help individuals with strong ties to Canada, such as by automatically extending citizenship to additional “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947 as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.

Cracking down on citizenship fraud

The updated Citizenship Act includes stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison and expands the grounds to bar an application for citizenship to include foreign criminality, which will help improve program integrity.

Protecting and promoting Canada’s interests and values

Finally, the amendments bring Canada in line with most of our peer countries, by providing that citizenship can be revoked from dual nationals who are convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism, high treason and spying offences depending on the sentence received or who take up arms against Canada. Permanent residents who commit these acts will be barred from citizenship.

As a way of recognizing the important contributions of those who serve Canada in uniform, permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have quicker access to Canadian citizenship. The Act also stipulates that children born to Canadian parents serving abroad as servants of the Crown are able to pass on Canadian citizenship to children they have or adopt outside Canada.

Government welcomes Royal Assent of Bill C-24 – Canada News Centre.

And the press release from the Canadian Association Of Refugee Lawyers and British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA):

Bill C-24, introducing sweeping changes to Canada’s citizenship laws that make citizenship harder to get and easier to lose, has passed through the House of Commons and is now being considered by the Senate.  CARL, BCCLA and Amnesty International take the position that this proposed law has dramatically negative effects on Canadian citizenship, eliminating equal citizenship rights for all, and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as international human rights. According to the organizations, the new law will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.

“This proposed law would allow certain Canadians to be stripped of citizenship that was validly obtained by birth or by naturalization. We think that is unconstitutional, and we intend to challenge this law if it is passed,” said Lorne Waldman, President of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “We have presented our arguments to the House of Commons and to the Senate, in an attempt to get them to change or stop this Bill. But the government hasn’t listened, it refuses to amend the bill, and we feel we will have little choice but to challenge it in the courts.” …

“The ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act’ does exactly the opposite of what the title proclaims. It makes citizenship less secure,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “In Canada, lawfully-obtained citizenship has always been permanent – once a Canadian, always a Canadian – and all Canadians have always had equal citizenship rights. This bill turns the whole idea of being Canadian upside-down, so that the Canadian citizenship of some people will be worth less than the Canadian citizenship of others. That is wrong, and it must be challenged.”

PRESS RELEASE: New citizenship law will be challenged on constitutional grounds, if passed, say rights groups

In case you missed it, my assessment, The new citizenship act is efficient. Is it fair?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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