Canada faces dramatic drop in citizenship, prompting concerns about disengaged immigrants

Canadian Multiculturalism: Evidence and Anecdote Deck - Images.039Further to yesterday’s post regarding my forthcoming book (Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote) and the deck summarizing some of the high level results, the Toronto Star article focussing on my findings regarding citizenship take-up and the impact of the 2010 changes (the chart above shows the impact of the citizenship test changes on different ethnic groups):

“In the past, citizenship was viewed as a stepping stone to immigrant integration, and it should be done earlier on,” said Griffith, who will present Multiculturalism in Canada at a three-day national immigration and settlement conference in Vancouver that starts Thursday.

“These changes have made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens, without the ability to engage in the Canadian political process.”

Based on latest government data, Griffith found that the ratio of permanent residents who eventually become citizens has been in decline since 2000, and has dropped most rapidly in recent years.

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 have acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for the wave of immigrants settling in 2007, and 79 per cent of those who arrived in 2000.

Griffith said the government data used in his analysis was selected to reflect the fact that it takes immigrants an average six years to acquire Canadian citizenship. The 2008 cohort best indicates the early impact of reforms implemented by the Conservative government.

The permanent-resident-to-citizen conversion rate does generally rise the longer immigrants have been in Canada. But an 18 per cent decrease between the 2008 and 2007 cohorts is alarming, Griffith said.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Johanne Nadeau said Canada has one of the highest naturalization rates in the world, “as 86 per cent of eligible permanent residents for Canadian citizenship decide to acquire it.”

She suggested the Griffith is misinterpreting the data because “he is not taking into account those (permanent residents) who are not yet eligible to become citizens because they haven’t met all of the requirements needed to begin the citizenship process.”

Citizens are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can vote in elections and are entitled to Canadian passports. Not only do permanent residents not have those privileges, they are also vulnerable to revocation of their status and removals from Canada.

“I understand the rationale behind these government changes,” said Griffith, who worked for the government as the reforms were developed and rolled out, and retired in 2013.

“But I’m on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion. We need to make sure those who apply for citizenship take it seriously, but we don’t want to inadvertently create excessive barriers and shift the relationship of some of the communities with the country.”

… “When you make it more difficult for some communities to become citizens, you are going to create issues with their engagement, attachment and identity of Canada,” said Griffith.

“The question is how we balance between ensuring the rigours of the (citizenship) process and yet making it fair and reasonable.”

Canada faces dramatic drop in citizenship, prompting concerns about disengaged immigrants

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.

One Response to Canada faces dramatic drop in citizenship, prompting concerns about disengaged immigrants

  1. Victoria says:

    From my own experience, Andrew. Ther eis a certain momentum that builds up on the path to citizenship. A new requirement that seems perfectly reasonable to citizens can be so disheartening and stop the process cold.. Between two visits to the prefecture they added a language test. I had all the papers and now here is this thing which stopped me in my tracks. It meant finding a school that administered the test, making the appointment, searching the Internet for some indication of what I had to know for it and so on and so forth. It was also a sense I got of trying to hit a moving target. Too many changes to the process that are too close together give the impression that even if you do manage to get everything in order (and what an order that is) you could still get sandbagged by yet another requirement. And once it stops, that momentum, it’s very hard to get it back and find the motivation to try again. Because with a permanent residency card you can pretty much do just about anything you need to do. So you find yourself asking why am I going to all this trouble? And if they really wanted me to be a citizen they wouldn’t make it so damn hard and bureaucratic. (Speaks the woman on her third 10-year French residency card. Hell, if it comes to that I just renew the card in a few years for the FOURTH time. Not the end of the world. 🙂

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