Proposal to make citizenship ceremonies optional a ‘disservice to all of Canada’

More coverage of this misguided proposal:

A proposal by the Canadian government to allow prospective citizens to tick a box on a website rather than affirm a formal oath of citizenship is causing concern among those who see the longstanding swearing-in ceremony as an important rite of passage for new Canadians.

As detailed over the weekend in the Canada Gazette, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is proposing to allow new citizens to fast-track their applications by giving them the option of affirming their citizenship oath via a secure internet webpage rather than raising their hands at a citizenship ceremony.

“In the 5 years from 2016–2017 to 2021–2022, citizenship grant applications have more than doubled, from 113,000 to 243,000,” read the statement published in the Gazette.

“Immigration levels continue to rise, with a target of 500,000 permanent residents for 2025, which will contribute to ongoing increases in citizenship applications.”

As of October 2022, the department said, around 358,000 citizenship applications were pending with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with some waiting over two years before having their citizenship ceremony — the last step in Canada’s long and drawn-out citizenship process. 

The change, the department said, would save prospective citizens two to three months of processing time. 

Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO Daniel Bernhard told the National Post that losing the ceremony is tantamount to losing an important chapter in Canadian history.

“It’s really unfortunate,” he said.

“The day you become a citizen is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion that has implications for every generation afterwards. People recognize that, and these are very special, meaningful and very emotional days, not just for the new citizens but also for their family and friends.”

Rather than giving options to bypass the affirmation, Bernhard said Canada should be doing more to celebrate citizenship.

Indeed, fewer Canadian permanent residents are going through the process of obtaining citizenship.

Last month, Statistics Canada reported that just under half of permanent residents who immigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2021 obtained Canadian citizenship.

That’s compared to just over 75 per cent in 2001.

A 2022 Leger poll commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship found immigrants are realizing that life in Canada isn’t as rosy as assumed, with the current leadership and/or government (43 per cent), high cost of living (35 per cent) and racism (19 per cent) listed as the top three reasons why they wouldn’t recommend others immigrate to Canada.

That same survey reported around 22 per cent of new immigrants saying they were likely to leave Canada over the next two years.

That said, the same survey reported 71 per cent of respondents saying Canada provides immigrants with a good quality of life.

While Bernhard understands the need for the government to streamline the process, particularly in this time where unreasonably long processing delays have become default for the federal public service, he stresses it shouldn’t be at the expense of ceremony.

“I understand the government is facing a lot of pressure from people who, very reasonably, want their applications to be processed more quickly, but I would hope that we would be able to find those efficiencies in other parts of the process,” he said.

“These celebrations are really special, and if we do away with them, that’s a disservice to all of Canada.”

Source: Proposal to make citizenship ceremonies optional a ‘disservice to all of Canada’