One year later, Citizenship Act improvements lead to more new citizens – The numbers

Almost one year after the changes to residency requirements (from 4 to 3 years) and fewer applicants having to be tested for language and knowledge (from 14-64 to 18-54), the number of applications has increased.

As noted before, the residency requirement change is a one time impact, with this year being a “double year” with 3 and 4 year cohorts combined. The reduced testing requirements, primarily the 55-64 year olds, has both a one-time impact (those who put off getting citizenship) as well as ongoing.

The new “normal” will be known with the 2019 numbers:

This year, Citizenship Week (October 8 to 14, 2018) will be celebrated with 72 special citizenship ceremonies across the country. Citizenship Week also marks the 1 year anniversary of Bill C 6, which brought in important changes to the Citizenship Act, helping qualified applicants get citizenship faster.

The changes from Bill C 6 came into effect on October 11, 2017, and provided those wanting to become Canadian citizens with greater flexibility to meet the requirements. In particular, the changes reduced the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship from 4 out of 6 years to 3 out of 5 years.

By the end of October 2018, an estimated 152,000 people will have obtained Canadian citizenship since the changes came into effect, an increase of 40%, compared to the 108,000 people who obtained citizenship in the same period the year before.

Bill C 6 has allowed more permanent residents to apply for citizenship. In the 9 month period from October 2017 to June 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received 242,680 applications, more than double the 102,261 applications that were received in the same period the year before. Despite the increase in applications, processing times for routine citizenship applications remain under 12 months.

Source: Taking Canadian Citizenship to New Heights This Citizenship Week

Citizenship Applications Dramatic Increase Post-C-6 Residency and Testing Changes


The above chart includes full 2017 citizenship IRCC operational data (preliminary).

Following the coming into force of C-6 reduced residency requirements (from 4 to 3 year minimum) and exemption from knowledge and language assessment for 55-64 year olds, there was clearly pent-up demand. From January to September, 108,001 applications were submitted (monthly average 12,000), from October to December, 99,562 (monthly average 33,187: the changes came into force on October 11).

As I have noted before, the reduced residency requirement will have a one-year impact on all applicants that will work its way through until October 2019; the 55-64 year old exemption will have an ongoing impact on a sub-set of applicants (2009-13 data showed about six percent of all applications were from this age cohort).

Given current end-to-end processing times, one should start seeing the impact of this increase mid-2019.

The 14-17 year old exemption will have a minimal impact given that this cohort will have been in the Canadian school system.

New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week 

The coming into force of these changes within six months of Royal Assent is faster than the almost one year period for the C-24 changes that C-6 undoes. These will have an impact on the number of applications and new citizens.

  • The changes to residency requirements (from four out of six to three out of five years) will have a one-time impact, but with likely a small ongoing one.
  • The changes to testing ages are unlikely to have much of an impact with respect to 14-17 year olds given their time in the Canadian school system.
  • With respect to 55-64 year olds, there will be an ongoing impact. About seven percent (2013 numbers) of all applications were from this age cohort. So there will likely be both a significant one-time bump of those who have not applied over the last two and a half years given testing concerns (more than seven percent), as well as an ongoing impact of up to seven percent.
  • Fees will remain a significant barrier for lower-income immigrants, including of course refugees, and the Minister’s lack of flexibility remains of concern.

The impact of these changes in terms of any sense of pent-up demand will likely await first quarter 2018 data, with early signs from fourth quarter 2017 data:

Starting Oct. 11, permanent residents will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship if they have lived in the country for three out of the previous five years.

Also, applicants over 55 years of age are once again exempt from the language and knowledge tests for citizenship under the amended citizenship regulations to be announced by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on Wednesday.

The changes will be welcoming news for the many prospective applicants who have been holding off their applications since the newly elected Liberal government introduced Bill C-6 in March 2016 to reverse the more stringent changes adopted by its Conservative predecessor to restrict access to citizenship.

Citizenship applications are expected to go up, reversing the downward trend observed over the last few years after the Harper government raised the residency requirement for citizenship — requiring applicants to be in Canada for four years out of six — and stipulated that applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must pass language and citizenship knowledge tests.

Immigrant groups and advocates have said the more stringent rules discouraged newcomers’ full integration and participation in the electoral process.

“Citizenship is the last step in immigrant integration. Those unnecessary obstacles put in place by the previous government are hurting us as a country,” Hussen told the Star in an interview Tuesday. “We are proud of these changes and are excited about it.”

Another Liberal reform that takes effect next Wednesday is granting one year credit to international students, foreign workers and refugees for time spent in Canada before becoming permanent residents toward their residency requirements for citizenship.

Despite the anticipated surge in citizenship applications as a result of the relaxed requirements, Hussen said the department will ensure resources are in place to respond to the increased intake. However, he insisted there is no plan to reduce the current $630 citizenship fee for adults and $100 for those under 18.

The changes announced Wednesday are part of the amendments that received Royal Assent in June, including repealing the law that gave Ottawa the power to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens for crimes committed after citizenship has already been granted as well as handing over the power of citizenship revocation to the Federal Court from the immigration minister.

According to government data, 108,635 people applied for Canadian citizenship in the year ended on March 31. Historically, citizenship applications received have averaged closer to 200,000 a year. 

Source: New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week | Toronto Star, Government Bill C-6 Backgrounder

Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’

My take (and familiar refrain on fees):

Andrew Griffith, retired director general of the Immigration Department, said the changes are long overdue and should have been passed last year if the opposition parties had not dragged the debate on.

“It’s good that the bill is through,” Griffith told the Star. “It delivered the Liberal government’s campaign commitment to facilitate citizenship, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It has shifted the overall balance somewhat to facilitate (access to) citizenship.”

However, Griffith was disappointed that Ottawa has chosen not to deal with the exorbitant citizenship application fees — $630 for adults [$530 administration processing and $100 right of citizenship fee] and $100 for minors [plus $100 right of citizenship] — that some said have prevented eligible applicants, especially refugees, from becoming full-fledged Canadians.

“The issue that remains for me is the fee,” said Griffith. “If the government really believed in diversity and inclusion, they should ensure it is not an insurmountable financial barrier for people to become citizens.”

Source: Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’ | Toronto Star

Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent – Canada.ca

Useful backgrounder on the changes in Bill C-6 and the coming into force provisions.

Short summary for the key changes: repeal of revocation in cases of terror or treason and the intent to reside provision immediately, changes to residency, pre-Permanent Resident time partial credit, and age requirements for language and knowledge assessment this fall. Changes to the revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation expected early 2018.

Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on June 16, 2017. This chart explains the changes that have been made to the Citizenship Act and indicates when these changes are expected to come into force.

Source: Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent – Canada.ca

Liberals’ citizenship bill [C-6] to proceed with some Senate amendments

Being debated and voted on in the House Monday June 12.

Expect that the Senate will/should declare victory given two out of three amendments accepted, including the most important one of restoring procedural protections for those accused of fraud or misrepresentation:

Far more people lose their citizenship because it was obtained fraudulently, and the Senate wants to amend the bill in order to give those people a chance at a court hearing before their status is stripped away.

Hussen said the government will accept that proposal, albeit with some modifications of its own, including giving the minister the authority to make decisions when an individual requests it.

Hussen’s hand was partially forced by a recent Federal Court decision that said people have a right to challenge the revocation of their citizenship, although predecessor John McCallum had earlier suggested he would support the amendment.

“This amendment recognizes the government’s commitment to enhancing the citizenship revocation process to strengthen procedural fairness, while ensuring that the integrity of our citizenship program is maintained,” Hussen said in a statement.

The government will also accept a Senate recommendation that would make it easier for children to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.

But they are rejecting efforts to raise the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements from 54 to 59, saying it’s out of step with the goal of making citizenship easier to obtain. The current law requires those between the ages of 14 to 64 to pass those tests; the Liberals want it changed to 18 to 54.

Hussen thanked the Senate for its work making the bill “even stronger and for providing an example of productive collaboration on strengthening important legislation.”

The Senate has the choice of accepting the government’s decision, rejecting it, or proposing further amendments of its own, which could further delay the legislation.

Source: Liberals’ citizenship bill to proceed with some Senate amendments – The Globe and Mail

Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill

It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal government accepts all three amendments and how quickly the House will deal with C-6.

I suspect that the government may accept the procedural protections amendment in the case of revocation for fraud and right of minors to apply independently of their parents or guardians, while rejecting the exemption for testing change to 60 from 55.

Personally, I favour accepting all three in the interests of getting C-6 implemented quickly. The age exemption issue – a difference of five years – has been largely an “evidence-free” zone:

While I expect the Liberal government to reject The Liberals’ long-delayed citizenship bill is finally moving ahead almost a year after the House of Commons passed it, but it’s not law yet.

The Senate voted Wednesday in favour of the bill that will revoke a Conservative policy to remove Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism and treason.

Three amendments were introduced, however, which means the bill gets sent back to the House of Commons, where Liberals will decide whether to accept the changes or not. If they don’t, it goes back to the Senate again. Government House leader Bardish Chagger’s office said Wednesday amendments will be brought to the floor for debate “in due course.”

The new law will also require prospective citizens to be in the country for three out of five years before their application, a change from the four out of six years that are currently required. Applicants will no longer need to declare an intent to reside in Canada.

Bill C-6, which fulfills a major election promise to repeal elements of Conservative legislation, has trudged slowly through the upper chamber since last June. After a spurt of opposition delay tactics, senators had made a backroom deal to have a final vote by Wednesday.

The bill’s sponsor, independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, championed in particular an amendment, introduced by independent Sen. Elaine McCoy, that improves due process for people who are facing revocation of their citizenship due to fraud or misrepresentation.

After the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, revocation processes were streamlined such that people weren’t automatically granted a right to defend themselves if their citizenship was about to be taken away. The Liberal Bill C-6 didn’t reverse this change.

“Without this amendment,” said a statement from Omidvar’s office, “Canadians face an unjust administrative process and fewer safeguards than anyone wishing to challenge a parking ticket.”

Previous immigration minister John McCallum had told senators Liberals would “welcome” an amendment addressing this, but new minister Ahmed Hussen has not indicated support one way or the other.

Two other amendments were adopted. For older applicants, the law currently requires language proficiency in English or French up to the age of 64. The Liberal law proposed lowering this to 55, but senators decided to adopt Conservative Sen. Diane Griffin’s suggestion of a middle ground, setting it at age 60 instead. Another amendment, from Conservative Sen. Victor Oh, seeks to ensure minors can apply for citizenship separate from parents or guardians.

With physician-assisted dying legislation last summer, the House of Commons addressed Senate amendments right away (with the government rejecting most of them). On the other hand, the Senate is still waiting for the House of Commons to accept or reject an amendment on the RCMP union bill, C-7, which it adopted last June.

Source: Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill | National Post

Trudeau devalues citizenship: Gordon Chong

Over the top criticism and fear-mongering by Gordon Chong:

When Paul Martin Sr. introduced the bill in the House of Commons that became the Canadian Citizenship Act on Jan. 1, 1947, he said: “For the national unity of Canada and for the future and greatness of the country, it is felt to be of the utmost importance that all of us, new Canadians or old, … have a consciousness of a common purpose and common interests as Canadians, that all of us are able to say with pride and with meaning ‘I am a Canadian citizen.’”

Despite new acts in 1977 and 2002, as well as more recent legislation, those foundational words should be forever etched in our minds.

Subsequent revisions have vacillated between weakening and strengthening the requirements for granting citizenship.

The Harper Conservatives strengthened the value of Canadian citizenship in 2014 by increasing residency and language requirements with Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Applicants aged 14 to 64 were required to meet language and knowledge tests.

Permanent residents also had to have lived in Canada for four out of the six previous years prior to applying for citizenship.

The Liberals’ Bill C-6, an Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, proposes to reduce knowledge and language requirements (they only affect applicants aged 18 to 54) and reduce residency requirements to three of the previous five years.

Bill C-6 also proposes to repeal the right to revoke Canadian citizenship of criminals such as those convicted of terrorism.

As a citizenship court judge for several years in the ’90s, I can assure doubters that acquiring citizenship was relatively easy, especially for seniors over 65 with a translator.

Skilled professional translators have difficulty capturing the nuances between languages. It is not uncommon, for example, to see significant errors and omissions in the Chinese-language media when reporters rush to meet deadlines.

Obviously, without a comprehensive grasp of English, it is impossible to meaningfully participate in Canadian life.

Meanwhile, our federal government is frivolously throwing open our doors to potential terrorists and providing fertile conditions for the cultivation of home-grown terrorists by indirectly subsidizing the self-segregation and ghettoization of newcomers, further balkanizing Canada.

The cavalier Trudeau Liberals, peddling their snake oil political potions, are nothing more than pale, itinerant imitations of the Liberal giants of Canada’s past, shamefully repudiating their predecessors for immediate, short-term gratification.

These privileged high-flying Liberal salesmen with colossal carbon footprints should be summarily fired, solely for seriously devaluing Canadian citizenship!

Source: Trudeau devalues citizenship | CHONG | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun

C-6 Citizenship Senate Debates – Amendments update

As somewhat expected, the amendment allowing minors to submit citizenship applications independently, passed 47 to 24 votes (a similar amendment had been defeated during the House’s review of C-6).

As also expected, the Conservative amendment to “repeal the repeal” of the residency requirements was defeated, 51 to 28 votes.

No one argued about the intent of the amendment to allow minors to submit applications independently.

The main arguments used against this amendment were thus less substantive and more process. Senator Harder noted that the waiver provision of 5(3) had been used for 14 cases since January 2015 (always refreshing to have actual numbers rather than only individual cases cited). The “success” rate was 97 percent (not sure how this number was arrived as 13/14 is 93 percent), with applications processed in a “timely manner.”

Other points made by Senator Harder and other independent senators were around the point whether this amendment would be more appropriately considered in a broader review of the Citizenship Act rather than the more narrow focus of C-6.

In response, Senator Jaffer, the co-sponsor of the Bill, provided a number of examples that the amendment would cover. She noted that compassionate grounds cases can take many years and had largely been used for the “most extreme” cases and had largely been used for medical reasons. She had been “promised’ many times  that “We will deal with it in a few years,” with no follow-up and thus was skeptical of such assurances.

So far, the full Senate has approved three amendments:

  1. Restoration of procedural protections in cases of fraud and misrepresentation (Senator McCoy, see Senate amends Liberal citizenship bill to allow court hearings in fraud casesThe Senate has voted to amend the citizenship law to allow Canadians the right to a court hearing before their citizenship is stripped for fraud or misrepresentation);
  2. Raising the language and knowledge exemption age to 60 from 55 (Senator Griffin); and,
  3. Providing minors the right to submit an application on their own (Senators Oh and Jaffer)

The fourth amendment, sponsored by Senators From and Stewart-Olsen, would have “repealed the repeal” of the four years out of six physical presence, along with the minimum number of days required. This prompted a point of order by Senator Lankin asking that the Speaker rule the proposed amendment out of order as it negated the relevant provisions of Bill C-6. In the end, the Speaker allowed the amendment which was defeated 51 to 28.

Source: Debates 11 AprilDebates 12 April

Government looks to counter what Harder calls Conservatives’ ‘coordinated’ stall tactics in Senate and House @TheHillTimes

Bill C-6 appears to the “poster child” for these delaying tactics:

One of the examples of legislative slowdown that Sen. Harder cited is Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act.

The legislation addresses promises made by the Liberals during the last election campaign to amend parts of the previous Conservative government’s Bill C-24.

The legislation has had a slow slog through the Senate. It’s been before the Upper Chamber since it passed the House of Commons without amendments on June 17, 2016, and was debated eight times at second reading between September and December 2016.

As of deadline, it had received six days of debate at third reading. Amendments are being put forward, with at least two amendments passing by deadline, meaning the bill will have to return to the House.

The bill it is repealing, Bill C-24 spent four days total in the Senate, between first reading and royal assent.

Sen. Harder said both approaches are wrong, and the holdup on this and other bills have impacts on Canadians, or “want-to-be-Canadians,” in the case of Bill C-6.

“Our legislative agenda is very much tied to bringing what the government feels are important matters of conclusion to the Canadian public,” said Sen. Harder.

“All senators have a duty to review Government legislation, but also to decide in a reasonable timeframe, putting aside partisan gamesmanship and focusing on public policy,” Mr. Harder said in the paper. He also argued that the future reputation of the Senate does rely in part its ability to process government business.

“The final weeks of each Senate sitting—in June and December—are quite chaotic, as the Senate pulls out all the procedural stops to expedite government legislation, trying to do in two weeks what it could have done in two months. Government bills should not be rushed through the Chamber in extremis following a successful round of horse-trading,” Sen. Harder wrote.

Now, with six weeks to go until the scheduled end of the sitting, Sen. Harder in the interview, wouldn’t commit to not using time allocation in the remainder of the session to get things passed.

While the discussion paper is anticipated to go to the Senate Modernization Committee for further consideration, Sen. Harder said he’s hoping to work with the Senate leadership and all Senators to either find an agreeable approach to manage debate on bills, or to try out his proposal of a business committee on an experimental basis to get through to the summer.

“That’s all open to discussions amongst leaders and I hope that we can find some middle ground as to how to move forward,” Sen. Harder said.

Source: Government looks to counter what Harder calls Conservatives’ ‘coordinated’ stall tactics in Senate and House – The Hill Times

In response to John Ibbitson’s article and my retweet (To truly reinvent itself, the Senate must first prove its value), Senator Housakos and I engaged in a long Twitter debate where he placed the blame on the Independent Senators Group and tried to argue that the delays were not excessive and reflected the need for debate. In our back and forth, over the time required, we compared C-6 with both its predecessor, C-24 (2014) and C-14, assisted dying, dealing with a more complex and controversial issue.

C-6 has been in the Senate for 298 days and counting, C-14 took 31 days, C-24 16 days. Table below provides details.

C-6 2016 C-14 (assisted dying) 2016 C-24 2014
Committee Pre-Study

17 May 2016

03 Jun 2014

First Reading

17 Jun 2016

31 May 2016

16 Jun 2014

Second Reading

15 Dec 2016

03 Jun 2016

17 Jun 2014

Committee

07 Mar 2017

07 Jun 2016

18 Jun 2014

Third Reading Ongoing

15 Jun 2016

19 Jun 2014

Royal Assent

17 Jun 2016

19 Jun 2014

Total number of days 298 (11 April 2016)

31

16

And an op-ed by former Senator Hugh Segal on the need for equal treatment of all three groups: independents, conservatives and liberals:

The Senate must move past partisan paralysis