Political Parties Respond to OCASI Questions for General Election 2015

OCASI [Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants] surveyed the major parties regarding immigration-related issues. The following excerpts their responses to the question below on citizenship. The Conservative Party did not submit a response given that it has largely implemented its policies:

“3. Citizenship

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for immigrant who arrived in 2007 and 79 percent for those who arrived in 2000. These are the findings of research on citizenship acquisition released earlier this year. Access to citizenship has become more restricted, and naturalized citizens and those with dual citizenship are treated differently under the law.

Question: How will you ensure access to citizenship and exercise of citizenship is equitable?”

NDP:  Under Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, it has become harder and harder for immigrants to come to Canada and succeed. They’ve created huge backlogs, increased fees, politicized the citizenship test, made children and seniors pass language tests, and created new categories of citizenship rights. An NDP government will work with stakeholders to restore fairness and transparency to our citizenship and immigration system and to undo harmful Conservative changes. We will repeal Conservative legislation that treats naturalized and dual citizens differently from other citizens. We will review the citizenship test. And we will remove the requirement for 14-17 year olds and 55-64 year olds to pass a language test in order to receive citizenship.

Liberal:

Citizenship application wait times have ballooned during Mr. Harper’s time in office. Not content to quadruple fees and double processing times, the Conservatives have unnecessarily erected new barriers for aspiring citizens. We are witnessing ever more difficult language testing imposed on older potential Canadians, and the scrapping of the credit for time spent in Canada, which was previously extended to international students. In all of these areas, a combination of Conservative cynicism and budget cutbacks have abandoned those people who find themselves in the immigration system.

Over and over during the Harper decade we have heard how Canadians cannot get access to the services they need in a timely manner. A Liberal government will create new performance standards for services offered by the federal government, including streamlining applications, reducing wait times, and money- back guarantees. Performance will be independently assessed and publicly reported, including immigration processing. After years of cuts, all of these services take too long and do not provide the service that Canadians deserve.

Liberals believe that leading this country should mean bringing Canadians together, not dividing them against one another. We will repeal the parts of Bill C-24 that introduce unnecessary barriers and hardships for people to become Canadians. With C-24, the Conservative government has created a second class of citizen—dual nationals whose Canadian citizenship can revoked by the government without due process. Liberals believe in a Canada that is united and strong not in spite of its differences, but precisely because of them. These values have been abandoned under Stephen Harper, who wants us to believe that some of us are less Canadian than others.

Liberals believe that citizenship is a fundamental building block of Canada. No elected official should have the exclusive power to grant or revoke this most basic status. This bill devalues Canadians citizenship and undermines Canada’s economic well-being by making it harder to attract international talent and expertise to Canada.

Green:

The research clearly demonstrates that access to citizenship is rapidly becoming an unrealizable pursuit for many immigrants to Canada. Our immigration and refugee protection system is not prepared for 21st­century realities or challenges. A system with more than 50 entry streams that by 2010 had produced a backlog of one million applications ­ many of which languished in the queue for up to five or six years ­ is a dysfunctional nightmare at best. It is an embarrassment to a country like Canada that increasingly depends on interconnectedness with the rest of the world.

Immigration is first and foremost about citizenship. The Green Party is the only federal party to have concluded that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is irredeemably flawed and must be scrapped. Weak mechanisms for assessing labour shortages have allowed the TFWP to undermine wage and labour standards. At the same time, the program exploits foreign workers.

Any reforms to Canada’s immigration system must strengthen our social fabric and be consistent with our fundamental values of the rule of law, equality, and fairness. The Green Party will initiate a comprehensive overhaul of Canada’s immigration and refugee protection system. Our reforms will ensure an efficient and predictable path to citizenship for all immigrants and their families. In addition to the policies discussed in depth here, we will establish pathways to citizenship for temporary foreign workers and the families of new Canadians. Greens will work with municipalities and provinces to improve the integration of new Canadians. We will also repeal Bill C­24 which allows the minister of citizenship to revoke citizenship. Citizenship is a category that cannot have classes.

New Democratic Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]

Liberal Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]

Green Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]

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 Political Parties Respond to OCASI Questions for General Election 2015

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for sharing the question and responses regarding citizenship, which I found most interesting and encouraging. Having been without citizenship for 11 years, despite living here since 1946 and being a previous voter until 2004, I must accept that I will not be voting in this election. Given the excellent answers above, if I could vote, I might find myself following the advice of Premier Danny Williams in 2008 to “just vote ABC”.

    My adult children are excellent Canadian citizens, born in Canada, hardworking, contributing and law abiding, and have lived here all their lives. Yet, due to the recent “Strengthening(?) the Canadian Citizenship Act”, they are now relegated to the second class of citizenship. It was not their fault that they were, unfortunately, born to parents who were born in Britain and Belgium due to WWII. Personally, I am absolutely appalled that this has happened to them and other family members. I do not believe it will protect any Canadians from a terrorist.

    There must be many thousands, perhaps over a million,Canadians in the same situation.
    I find it unbelievable that this government has done this to its own citizens and am thankful to see that the other political parties find it unacceptable.

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