Canadian Citizenship: Practice and Policy – Library of Parliament Paper

Good and useful overview:

Canadian citizenship can be obtained through birth on Canadian soil, by descent through birth or adoption outside of Canada to a Canadian citizen, or through naturalization (the process by which citizenship is obtained by a foreign national). Requirements related to citizenship are laid out in the Citizenship Act, as well as in the Citizenship Regulations and Citizenship Regulations, No. 2.

Responsibility for implementing the Citizenship Act lies with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, who is supported by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in managing the citizenship application process. The Citizenship Commission – an administrative body under IRCC that is made up of citizenship judges – also plays an important role, with duties including assessing citizenship applications to ensure they meet certain requirements under the Act and administering the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship.

To become a Canadian citizen through naturalization, an individual must first obtain permanent residency in Canada and then apply for citizenship after meeting residency and other requirements. Applicants between 18 and 54 years of age must also complete a written test based on the official citizenship study guide (Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship) and attend an interview to test their abilities in English or French and to discuss their application. Successful applicants attend a citizenship ceremony and take the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, through which they swear or affirm their allegiance to the Queen of Canada.

Loss of citizenship can occur if it is revoked (for example, due to citizenship being acquired or retained through false representation) or it can be renounced voluntarily (for example, if an individual chooses to become a citizen of a country that does not allow dual citizenship).

Several issues are currently at the forefront of discourse on citizenship policy. For example, census data show that the rate of citizenship among eligible immigrants declined between 2006 and 2016. The citizenship rate varies for different groups, with contributing factors including income level, education level and country of origin.

Another key issue is that of “lost Canadians,” which refers to individuals who were born before the 1977 Citizenship Act came into force and who should have been Canadian citizens under that Act but were deprived of Canadian citizenship because of outdated or obsolete provisions in the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947. Many of the problems associated with “lost Canadians” have been addressed through amendments made to the Citizenship Act since 1977. Those whose cases are not covered by legislative amendments may be granted citizenship on a case-by-case basis at the minister’s discretion.

Finally, the concept of birth tourism refers to the practice by foreign nationals of coming to Canada to give birth for the sole purpose of securing Canadian citizenship for their child. While data suggest an increase in non-resident births in the past decade, it is difficult to determine how many non-resident births are cases of birth tourism. The federal government has recognized the need to better understand the extent of this practice and has commissioned further research on this topic.

Source: https://hillnotes.ca/2020/12/07/executive-summary-canadian-citizenship-practice-and-policy/

Full report link: https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/202064E

Our Canadian war dead deserve the honour of their citizenship

Largely a repeat of previous columns, with Chapman remaining in denial about Canadian soldiers being British subjects at the time. The distinct Canadian citizenship, versus British subjects resident in Canada, only became a legal reality upon the implementation of the first Canadian citizenship act in 1947:

Over the course of both world wars, 111,000 servicemen wearing Canadian uniforms gave their lives, their last full measure of devotion. Our government calls them Canadian heroes but not Canadian citizens. They’re embraced as British Subjects only.

That means the Brits fought all our infamous “Canadian” battles — from the Somme, Arras, and Vimy Ridge during the First World War, to Dieppe and D-Day in the Second.

This is an egregious rewrite of history, perpetrated by former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King — the force behind deliberate deceptions as to the origin of Canadian citizenship.

That means the Brits fought all our infamous ‘Canadian’ battles

In 1867 our first governor general announced, with pride, that Canada had just created a new nationality. Over time, often controversial legislation evolved further the definition of Canadian citizenship. In 1943 as a rallying cry to the soldiers heading into war, Ottawa published a booklet saying they were fighting as “citizens of Canada,” a widely accepted belief, both then and now. Numerous Supreme Court decisions upheld this as truth.

Nonetheless, like a magical sleight of hand, in January 1947, King had himself sworn in as Canada’s first-ever citizen. While historic nonsense, today’s government buys into it, thus refusing to accept our war dead.

This June 6, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, will we be honouring Canadian or British soldiers?

Canadians don’t seem to care — a stark contrast to our southern neighbours. If the U.S. rejected their war dead, Americans would be screaming — and rightly so. In Canada, the Lost Canadians organization is almost alone in embracing our heroes as also having been citizens.

During the Harper years we filed a petition asking the government to recognize them. The Conservatives refused. Next came the Trudeau government, responding similarly. Interesting how both sides publicly and eagerly embrace “our” soldiers, like on Remembrance Day or the 75th anniversary of D-Day, but behind the scenes with double-standard clarity, they snub with equal enthusiasm.

Don’t our Canadian heroes deserve better?

Mackenzie King’s racist and anti-Semitic ways are well documented. Catering to his base, he wanted to rid Canada of what they considered to be “undesirables.” Targeted were Asians, starting with Japanese-Canadians. In the mid-1940s Mackenzie King’s cabinet issued an Order in Council cancelling their citizenship. The Supreme Court upheld that Order in 1946, leading to 4,000 people first being stripped of their Canadian citizenship and their legal rights, then deported. Seven hundred were children born in Canada.

How can you cancel citizenship in 1946 if it didn’t exist till 1947? You can’t in law, but you can through grandstanding and creating false narratives.

To explain King’s about-face, it had everything to do with getting rid of the Japanese-Canadians. At the time, in 1946, the United Nations considered the deportation of one’s own citizens to be a “crime against humanity,” especially after what had just happened in Germany. To avoid running afoul of international opinion, King cancelled the citizenship of Japanese-Canadians. Almost 4,000, most of them born or naturalized Canadians, were sent to Japan. Almost immediately afterwards King had himself sworn in as “Canada’s first Canadian citizen.”

It was a lie then, and it’s a lie now. The problem is that for 72 years, Canada has denied citizenship to people born before 1947, saying it didn’t exist until then.

Lost Canadians has advocated for legislation to correct the pre-1947 citizenship anomalies. To date there have been seven bills correcting most of the citizenship problems. But not, as of yet, for those who gave their lives for Canada in the world wars.

This D-Day, who will you be honouring? Every Canadian prime minister should be proud to call Canada’s fallen heroes “citizens.” Whomever is buried in the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier should not be a foreigner.

Citizenship Numbers 2018

The final 2018 citizenship numbers are out showing the impact of the Liberal government changes in C-6 on residency (from four out of six years to three out of five years) and the reduced language and knowledge requirements (from requiring testing of 14 to 64 year olds to testing for 18 to 54 year olds). Theses changes came into force 11 October 2017 and thus applied to the full 2018 year).

The number of both applications (259,047) and new citizens (176,303) is accordingly up significantly from previous years.

As I have noted earlier, the residency changes essentially have a one-time effect while the language and knowledge requirement changes have both a one-time effect (55-64 year olds who had been holding off applying until reaching 65) and an ongoing effect. Historically, 55 to 64 year olds are about six percent of applications (pre C-24 changes).

As always, IRCC’s management of citizenship is characterized by its roller coaster ride of deep drops and steep increases, in sharp contrast with IRCC’s steady management of immigration, with only minor fluctuations and a steady increase.

Of note as well, previous steep increases correlated with upcoming elections as suddenly resources are found to deal with backlogs (2006 and 2015 elections).

In contrast the increase prior to the 2019 election reflects policy changes (viewed of course in part through a political positioning lens).

The 2019 full-year citizenship application statistics will isolate the effects of the steep citizenship fee increases in 2014 and 2015 from the effects of the policy changes.

Lastly, IRCC has officially discontinued the quarterly management reports given other reporting requirements and the provision of more monthly reports. Unfortunately, for citizenship, the monthly reports only include the number of new citizens and not the number of applications, which are a key leading indicator.

Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people: Consultations

Good account of the results of the consultations:

A revised oath of citizenship that will require new Canadians to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous people is nearly complete.

The proposed new text was put to focus groups held by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in March, following months of consultation by departmental officials.

The language comes from the 94th and final recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the legacy of Canada’s residential schools.

Implementing that recommendation was one of the tasks given to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen when he was sworn into his portfolio in January 2017, but work on it began soon after the commission delivered its recommendations in late 2015, briefing notes for the minister suggest.

Focus groups mixed on proposed changes

The notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show the government also wants to modify the script delivered by those who preside over citizenship ceremonies. The proposed notes say the script should refer to ceremonies on traditional territories, and include remarks on the history of Indigenous people.

When it comes to the oath, the inclusion of a reference to treaties is the only proposed change.

Changing the wording requires a legislative amendment to the Citizenship Act. The Liberals are in the process of overhauling the act in a bid to make citizenship easier to obtain.

When the proposed text was put to focus groups composed of both recent immigrants and longtime Canadian residents, reaction was generally positive, according to a report posted online by the Immigration Department this week.

But there was a caveat: “Participants only agreed with the modifications insofar as newcomers are adequately educated about Indigenous Peoples and the treaties,” the report said.

“Many felt that they themselves would struggle with this new formulation, given their own limited knowledge of the treaties.”

Some wondered about the need for changes at all.

“A few participants took it upon themselves to question the need to modify the oath and that it might represent a precedent whereby other groups in Canada will want to be represented in the oath,” the report said.

The new oath comes along with a major overhaul of the study guide used for the citizenship exam. A draft copy obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this year revealed it, too, will include extensive references to Indigenous history and culture.

The Liberals had originally been aiming to unveil both the new guide and oath around Canada Day, but work is ongoing.

It reads: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Source: Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people – Politics – CBC News

More federal action needed to restore lost Canadian citizenship rights: Rock and Axworthy

Former Ministers Alan Rock and Lloyd Axworthy argue in favour of the proposed expansion of voting rights for non-resident Canadians in Bill C-33 and repeal of the first generation limit to the transmission of  Canadian citizenship.

The main weaknesses in their arguments:

  • Reinforces a global, more instrumental concept of citizenship, without a meaningful connection to Canada;
  • C-33 only requires a citizen to have been born in Canada in order to have voting rights, irrespective of how little time spent in Canada;
  • Repealing the first generation limit means a further weakening of the meaningfulness of citizenship and connection to Canada, as again the second or subsequent generations could retain citizenship without having lived in Canada;
  • Immigrants wishing to become citizens to be physically present in Canada (four out of six years currently, three out of six as proposed in Bill C-6) and retention after the first generation should, at a minimum, require residency;
  • Like others, they exaggerate the number of Canadians with connections to Canada. Passport data shows about 630,000 active non-resident adult passport holders, not the 2 to 3 million cited. This is a minimal connection test (taxation data shows about 130,000);
  • The exemption to the first generation limit for public servants serving abroad recognizes the fact that they work directly for the government, rotate regularly back to Canada, and pay Canadian taxes. This is quite different from those who spend their entire life abroad, do not return regularly for more than short visits, and for the most part, don’t pay Canadian taxes; and,
  • Largely targeted towards globally mobile professionals, Ministers Rock and Axworthy’s proposal fails to consider the implications for the broader population, whether it be the many non-resident Canadians who simply live their lives abroad without making “important global contributions” or resident Canadians who may feel that granting citizenship without residence devalues the meaning of being Canadian. 

    Their proposal is largely targeted towards those globally mobile professionals without considering the implications to the broader population of non-resident Canadians.

Canada’s former Minister of Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, recently observed that in the 21st century, there are many good reasons why Canadians choose to live overseas, and that there is no reason to create barriers to their participation in democratic processes.

We agree, but would go further. Canadians living and working overseas face government barriers not only in participating in democratic processes, but also in passing along citizenship. These must be addressed.

The occasion for the comments made by Ms. Monsef – recently appointed Minister of Status of Women – was the introduction of legislation to repeal provisions of the federal Fair Elections Act. Adopted in 2014, this statute provides, amongst other things, that Canadians living overseas can vote only within five years of leaving Canada, and must have the stated intention of returning home.

In repealing this provision through Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, the federal government will remove one important penalty for Canadians living and working overseas. However, it is overlooking a potentially even greater disincentive.

A little-known 2006 amendment to the Citizenship Act limits Canadian citizenship to just the first-generation of children born to or adopted by Canadians who live outside Canada. Thus, children born to or adopted by Canadian parents who are travelling, studying, or working abroad become citizens of Canada at birth or at the time of adoption, but their children are not entitled to Canadian citizenship if they are born outside Canada.

This is harmful for at least two reasons.

First, the amendment to the Citizenship Act strikes us as discriminatory, and out of step with the principle that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” as articulated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The amendment effectively creates two classes of Canadians: those who can pass along citizenship to their children and those who cannot. Furthermore, the amendment discriminates in favour of federal employees and military personnel who serve outside Canada. Under the current legislation, they are explicitly exempted from the limits on citizenship imposed by the amendment.

Second, Canada is deeply interconnected economically, socially and culturally with communities and countries around the globe. Canadians have a long history of important global contributions in international finance, peacekeeping, United Nations’ service, and humanitarian action, to name a few. We should be encouraging Canadians to venture beyond our borders to contribute to the broader global community, whether this be as students, travellers, or professionals – now, more than ever. Unfortunately, the current provisions of the Citizenship Act may have the opposite effect, by deterring Canadians from going overseas to work.

To date, the government has sought to justify this provision based on “simplicity and transparency.” We respectfully submit that any administrative advantages are substantially outweighed both by the principles of fairness and equity required by Canadian law, and by the importance of maintaining Canada’s standing in, and contributions to, the community of nations.

In terms of scope of impact, it is worth considering that at any point in time, 2-3 million Canadians live, work, or travel overseas. If even 0.5 per cent of these people have children overseas, this would amount to 10,000-15,000 children whose rights are limited and whose options are narrowed by this legislation each year. These numbers underscore the urgency and importance of addressing this matter quickly.

As the Government moves to restore voting rights to Canadians living overseas, it should also restore another fundamental birthright by allowing foreign-born descendants of Canadians who were themselves born outside our country to begin life with Canadian citizenship.

Source: More federal action needed to restore lost Canadian citizenship rights – The Globe and Mail

The Evolution of Citizenship: Policy, Program and Operations

There are comparatively few articles on the history of Canadian citizenship, particularly with respect to the administrative and operational aspects.

This article, being published in installments by the Canadian Immigration Historical Society (CIHS), aim to fill that gap and provide useful historical context to some of today’s policy and public debates.

I would like to thank the CIHS for their encouragement and support, particularly Valerie de Montigny, whose critical review and careful editing helped enormously.

The first instalment: Bulletin 78 – September 2016

Given that this history may provide context for some of the upcoming debates over the amendments to the Citizenship Act in Bill C-6, currently before the Senate, the full article can be found at the following link:

The Evolution of Citizenship: Policy, Program and Operations

Ottawa softens stand on stripping citizenship over false papers

More on revocation for fraud and misrepresentation, and the Minister’s openness to suspend revocation pending changes to the Citizenship Act that restore some measure of greater procedural protections to those accused of fraud:

Immigration Minister John McCallum says he is open to granting a moratorium on the revocation of citizenship from Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications, an issue that has been thrust into the spotlight by the circumstances of cabinet minister Maryam Monsef’s citizenship.

Mr. McCallum’s comments come a week after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a legal action with the Federal Court asking the government to put a stop to all revocations until it could fix a law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing.“I will consider that moratorium. I won’t rule it out unconditionally,” Mr. McCallum told Senate Question Period on Tuesday. “What I am saying is that we would welcome a reform to the system.”

The Federal Court application made headlines when lawyers on the case said that Ms. Monsef, Democratic Institutions Minister, could have her citizenship revoked under the current law for having an incorrect birthplace listed on her citizenship papers. Ms. Monsef said she only learned that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she had believed, after an inquiry from The Globe and Mail last month. She said her mother never told her and her sisters they were born in Iran because she did not think it mattered.

While Ottawa is considering the moratorium on revocations, the government says it is committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing for Canadians who face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented themselves in their citizenship and permanent residency applications.

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she is going to propose an amendment to the government’s citizenship Bill C-6 to reverse the Conservative law that took away the long-standing right.

“I am hopeful that they will allow this amendment to be tabled,” Ms. Omidvar said. “Everybody’s hoping they’re able to do it in this bill at the Senate. But if not, I’ve been told that it will be fixed through legislation.”

MPs tried to table the amendment to Bill C-6 at the House immigration committee earlier this year, but was it declared to be out of scope by the committee chair. Ms. Omidvar noted that the Senate procedure rules are different, so the amendment still has a chance in the Red Chamber.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-softens-stand-on-stripping-citizenship-over-false-papers/article32254296/

Will changes to the Citizenship Act affect the naturalization rate? – Policy Options

My piece in IRPP’s Perspectives on the need for the Senate to consider the decline in the naturalization rate in its review of Bill C-6’s changes to the Citizenship Act.

Source: Will changes to the Citizenship Act affect naturalization rate? – Policy Options

Citizenship Act: Changes to revocation for misrepresentation coming

At the CIMM hearings 5 May on the IRCC estimates, Minister McCallum committed to address the concerns raised by witnesses regarding that revocation for fraud or misrepresentation lacked  procedural protections and due process (e.g., no right to appeal).

He stated that he would return in the fall with legislation and that IRCC was considering options. This could not be done “overnight” in the “proper way” and hinted that some of these options might include machinery changes (e.g., role for IRB).

In addition, he acknowledged that some of the amendments ruled inadmissible (see C-6 Citizenship Act: Clause-by-clause review) may be possible at some future date.

C-6 Citizenship Act: Clause-by-clause review (updated)

No major surprises as CIMM reviewed the draft bill. The NDP tabled 25 amendments, the Conservatives three, and Elizabeth May eight.

The Conservatives noted their objections to the reduced residency requirements, the repeal of the intent to reside provision, the reduction in knowledge and language testing to 18 to 54 from 14 to 64, and revocation in cases of terror or treason. They also tabled an amendment having a five-year review provision (not part of the Conservatives’ C-24) which the Government-side voted down.

The Bill was approved, with a few minor amendments, largely on party lines, and will be reported to Parliament.

Amendments passed:

Clause 1

That Bill C-6, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 3 the following:

“(13) Subsection 5(4) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(4) Despite any other provision of this Act, the Minister may, in his or her discretion, grant citizenship to any person to alleviate cases of statelessness or of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

That Bill C-6, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 3 the following:

“(13) Section 5 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (3):

(3.1) For the purposes of this section, if an applicant for citizenship is a disabled person, the Minister shall take into consideration the measures that are reasonable to accommodate the needs of that person.”

The discussed amendments included:

Admissable

Citizenship applications by youth (under 18, NDP and CPC): Government side voted this down, arguing that Minister had adequate flexibility to waive requirement when merited.

Submission of tax returns (CPC): Richard Kurland’s recommendation to clarify the language in the Act to make it a requirement to file taxes when applying..

Accommodation for persons with disabilities (NDP): Discussion focused on existing accommodation practices, whether this also covered invisible disabilities such as cognitive or learning disabilities and whether or not existing practices and legislation like the Canadian Human Rights Act were adequate. In end, CIMM adopted unanimously to send stronger signal.

Youth criminality (NDP) and not allowing youth criminal records to be considered for citizenship: Defeated with government arguing that existing protections – serious charges, free from record for four years – were appropriate rather than wholesale ban.

Knowledge and language test (allowing interpreter for knowledge – NDP): Government stated that the knowledge test was specified in the Act. The review of Discover Canada, including its language level, would make it easier for people. However, language was critical to integration and the Government defeated the amendment.

Inadmissible (outside scope of C-6)

Restoration or creation of an appeal process in cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation (NDP): Although out-of-scope, the NDP noted the earlier signals of the Minister with respect to being open to reviewing the issue and expressed hope that the Minister would come back in the fall, recommending an expansion of the Immigration Appeal Division’s role to include citizenship revocation cases (for fraud or misrepresentation).

Statelessness and remaining ‘Lost Canadians’ (NDP): One of the few statelessness amendments to be considered admissible was in relation to revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. Defeated. However, an amendment providing the Minister with greater discretion was passed.

Changes in oath to include TRC recommendation 94 (reference to treaties with Indigenous peoples (NDP)

Ability to suspend application processing indefinitely (NDP)