CIC turns to corporate Canada to help promote citizenship

Expanded considerably since my time when there was concern about having Tim Hortons provide free coffee and Timbits at citizenship ceremonies. A fine line between sponsorship, to strengthen citizenship ceremonies (which these appear to do) and diminishing the civic role and symbolism:

It’s all part of an ongoing effort by CIC to partner with corporate Canada to promote Canadian citizenship. In 2012, CIC’s communications branch began to look at private-sector partnerships as a way of promoting “two-way integration” between newcomers and the Canadian public, while also reducing the costs associated with hosting citizenship ceremonies and promoting Canadian values.

That same year, the department received an unsolicited “promotional opportunity” from retailer Canadian Tire to “leverage CIC messaging around Citizenship Week 2012 and throughout the NHL hockey season,” according to a briefing note from then-deputy minister Neil Yeates to Jason Kenney, and obtained by Embassy through an access-to-information request.

“Canadian Tire is willing to make some of its marketing channels available to us,” the briefing, sent to Mr. Kenney in August 2012, states. “CIC will explore with [Canadian Tire] the promotion and distribution of relevant CIC information products using appropriate communication channels.”

Later that year, Canadian Tire sponsored an enhanced citizenship ceremony for 50 new Canadians at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

“In August, you approved moving forward with Canadian Tire on this pilot project,” a subsequent memo from Mr. Yeates to Mr. Kenney states. “CIC will be fully responsible for all aspects of the citizenship ceremony at the [Hockey Hall of Fame]. Canadian Tire will be formally thanked for its sponsorship of the ceremony, and will host the post-ceremony reception. Canadian Tire signage could be displayed in the reception area.”

The undated memo, sent to Mr. Kenney in the weeks before Citizenship Week celebrations in October 2012, also highlights an agreement by Canadian Tire to help the department distribute government-produced promotional materials at its stores across the country.

“The collateral material will encourage patrons to visit the Discover Canada guide on CIC’s website. Collateral material will include both CIC and Canadian Tire logos and will be centred on the concept of hockey as part of Canadians’ shared heritage,” Mr. Yeates told Mr. Kenney at the time. “The collateral material will link to a landing page that CIC will create on its website, highlighting the Discover Canada guide, hockey and a link to Canadian Tire Hockey School website.”

… NDP MP Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, her party’s critic for citizenship and immigration, called the corporate sponsoring of citizenship ceremonies “unbelievable,” especially in light of the government’s decision to increase the citizenship application fee from $300 to $530 at the beginning of this year.

“Citizenship should not be used as a marketing tool or to connect individuals to private companies,” Ms. Blanchette-Lamothe said. “The Conservatives [nearly] doubled the fees needed to obtain citizenship. I think they should be able to offer proper services with no other interests than new citizens’ interests and the promotion of Canadian citizenship.”

CIC turns to corporate Canada to help promote citizenship | Embassy – Canada’s Foreign Policy Newspaper.

Minister knew Canada wouldn’t meet Syrian refugee commitment

Caught out. At best, misleading the House and Canadians.

Four days later [March 25, 2014], C.I.C. officials told Alexander in a briefing note that the government “will not meet its Syrian private sponsorship commitment by the end of 2014” because “it takes time for private sponsors to organize and raise the funds to welcome a refugee to Canada.”

Highlighting the point, officials provided Alexander an update on June 10 that showed just 58 private sponsorship applications had been approved since January.

The update, which did not say how many, if any, had actually arrived in Canada, was provided the day before Alexander hung up on CBC’s As It Happens when he was being asked about the government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

The minister later said he hung up because he was late getting to question period. But the incident prompted suspicions the government was lagging in its promise to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees.

Alexander had repeatedly said more than 1,150 Syrians had received “Canada’s protection,” a figure he also cited in the House of Commons throughout the spring.

However, the documents show that number refers to all Syrian refugees accepted since 2011, including 942 who had travelled to Canada on their own before applying for asylum in the country.

Only 219 had actually been resettled from overseas, of which 93 had arrived in 2014 and would count toward the commitment to take in 1,300.

Liberal immigration critic John McCallum says the fact the Conservative government won’t meet its own “pathetically, ridiculously small” commitment demonstrates it has no real interest in accepting Syrians into Canada.

“They don’t care,” he said Friday. “It’s not a priority. If they cared, they could get the United Nations and people out in the field to give them huge numbers. There’s no shortage of needy people out there.”

NDP immigration critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe said the documents could explain why Alexander has been extremely evasive when asked to provide concrete numbers about how many Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada as part of its commitment to the UN.

“I would be very ashamed if I was the minister and I wasn’t able to fulfil such a small commitment in that massive crisis,” she said. “There’s nothing to be proud of in how the government has answered the international call.”

Always safer to stick to the truth, provide an explanation for some of the difficulties, rather than being ‘clever’ and  evasive. Eventually, the truth will come out.

Minister knew Canada wouldn’t meet Syrian refugee commitment | Ottawa Citizen.

C-24 Citizenship Act: On to Third Reading – June 3

Committee debate on C-24 concluded June 3rd with the Bill approved in its entirety without amendment along party lines.

A large focus of the debate was on revocation (clause 8). Liberals proposed amendments, all rejected:

  • Requiring Minister to hold on independent hearing for revocation fraud, rather than Ministerial discretion;
  • Onus of proof for dual citizenship should be on government, not citizen; and,
  • Full judicial appeal for revocation fraud cases, rather than leave to the Federal Court.

NDP did not table amendments but rather focussed on the principles and approach behind revocation, focussing on how it created two classes of citizenship, and discriminatory treatment between single or dual nationals. Citizenship was not “like a drivers licence,” and was not just a privilege but also a right. Concern was also expressed about judicial processes in foreign jurisdiction and that even a right to another citizenship could mean revocation even if minimal or no connection to that country. Moreover, constitutionality of revocation for dual nationals was very questionable.

Government responded by restating that C-24 had been reviewed by the Minister of Justice and was Charter compliant. He spoke to the equivalence to Canadian crimes but was less specific as to equivalency of judicial processes aside from noting that Minister had power to waive revocation if concerns about foreign justice processes. He said “nobody wants a terrorist as a neighbour” and that we are talking about criminals, not law-abiding citizens. He didn’t know anyone “who wants them to keep citizenship” and that this send a strong message that Canada should not be a haven for terrorists.

Other amendments (all defeated) and opposition included:

  • Clause 9 (Canadian Forces credit): deletion of “intent to reside”;
  • Clause 11 (application suspension): concerns over increased Ministerial discretion;
  • Clause  12 (citizenship judge): changing onus of proof of “intent to reside” provision to Minister from applicants, as well as reducing Ministerial discretion;
  • Clause 14 (timelines): concerns expressed regarding the short delay for applicants to prepare their case (30 days);
  • Clause 15 (suspicion of security risks): concerns that innocent people could be affected;
  • Clause 18 (consultants): addition of law students to those permitted to provide consultant services;
  • Clause 19 (offences outside Canada): concerns regarding foreign judicial processes and lack of clarity on how these would be judged to be equivalent or not to Canadian processes;
  • Clause 20 (judicial review with leave): opposition to no longer providing applicants full right of appeal and concerns about Ministerial discretion;
  • Clause 31 (transition measures) amendment to grandfather current permanent residents in the system.

The most lively exchange came at the end on the ostensible issue of the proposed title, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

The NDP started off by noting their support for addressing Lost Canadian issues, new penalties for fraud, and greater clarification of the rules around residency. However, some elements were very problematic and weakened citizenship, in particularly, intent to reside, elimination of credit for pre-permanent residency time, and revocation. She challenged again the constitutionality of proposed revocation for dual nationals, noting the testimony of lawyers, as well as the Government’s record before the courts. The NDP’s own consultations indicated considerable opposition, and she cited the recent petition against C-24 with more than 25,000 signatures.

The NDP was extremely frustrated by the process and deplored that the Government had not listened to witnesses (“pourquoi les avoir invités?”). The Government had not accepted any, nor proposed any, amendments. The Government remained “entêtés dans son idéologie.” “C’était ridicule” as citizenship concerned fundamental rights.

The Government responded to what he called a “rant.”. Canadians “gave the government a mandate to govern as a majority.” Canada has changed since the 1977 Citizenship Act. C-24 is a blueprint for improvement, including faster citizenship processing. Every member has constituents complaining about current processing times of 2-3 years. The Bill provides an opportunity to “fix it” by 2015-16. He listed the other improvements: aligning fees to cost of processing, ensuring applicants maintain strong ties to Canada, addressing Lost Canadians, strong penalties for fraud, Crown servants, among others. Canadians did not view revocation as “harsh” and this was in line with other countries (UK).

He closed by stating that “this is a major and significant step forward for Canada. Canadians elected a government with a strong mandate to bring forward legislation that strengthens Canada.”

And with that, the Bill was voted on as a whole, “carried on division” and moves on the third reading.

***

The following clauses were carried without debate: 10 (evidence of citizenship), 13 (obligation to answer truthfully), 16 (GIC security rulings), 17 (not counting time in jail for residency), 21 (delegation of authority). 22 (additional information), 23 (proof of certificates), 24 (certificates of citizenship), 25 (regulations), 26 (regulations – Minister), 27 (sunsetting), 28 (definition document of citizenship), 29 (consultant fines), 30 (limitation period), and 32 through 46 (essentially technical transition provisions).

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading

On the eve of Second Reading of C-24 Citizenship Act revisions, a broadside by Minister Alexander against the critics of the Bill.

Not quite in the Pierre Polievre school of how to promote your Bill, but quite remarkable given Alexander’s previous career as a diplomat where language was more nuanced, to say the least (see Konrad Yakabuski’s earlier profile Chris Alexander balances his portfolio and power).

Always unfortunate when a Minister feels more comfortable attacking those opposed to legislation as hypocrites, rather than arguing the merits of the Bill.

But the opposition also has some responsibility. While active in Committee, there is by no means the same focussed attention on C-24 as there was for Bill C-23 (elections), C-13 (cyberbullying and surveillance) and the ongoing Temporary Foreign Workers controversy. Opposition parties also make choices on how hard to push issues on both policy and political grounds. Their calculation appears to favour more pro-forma opposition, albeit based upon legitimate concerns over some aspects of the Bill, rather than a more high profile effort. Unless I have missed it, have not heard either opposition leader say much on C-24:

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is accusing the opposition of “folly and hypocrisy” as the government prepares to shepherd its controversial citizenship bill over its next legislative hurdle.

“Both the Liberals and the NDP remain offside with Canadians who recognize the immense value of Canadian citizenship and the importance of protecting its integrity,” Alexander said in a statement.

“It is shameful that activist immigration lawyers, who never miss an opportunity to criticize our governments citizenship and immigration reforms, are attempting to drum up business by promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians.”

As to the “drumming up business” line, all of those supporting or opposing the Bill do so from their perspective, values and interests. This does not necessarily diminish the value of their comments, for or against.

And while some elements of C-24 may “reduce the business” for immigration and refugee lawyers (i.e., revocation for fraud at Ministerial discretion, rather than the courts), other may “drum up business”  (i.e., revocation for terror and treason). Somewhat ironic to say the least.

Last night’s somewhat perfunctory Parliamentary debate at Second Reading allows C-24 to proceed to a vote today.

We will see how the next stages proceed and whether the Government will consider any changes to the Bill (some C-24 supporters recommended some process changes). In any case, the Bill will make it through by the summer recess.

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading.

C-24 – Citizenship Act Revisions – Committee Hearings Started

Will be interesting to see how these play out. First day was essentially introduction plus some initial positions from the opposition parties:

… NDP opposition critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe started off by asking Alexander to address the bill’s constitutionality. Given the Harper government’s record on tests of constitutionality before the Supreme Court recently, the question’s a touchy one.

In particular, she asked whether the new requirement for those applying for Canadian citizenship to declare their intention to reside in Canada post-citizenship — violated sections six and 15 of the Charter — those that protect the right to free mobility and equal protection under the law.

“With regard to our bill and the constitution — of course we reviewed this bill in that context. I carried this out with my colleague the minister of justice and we believe this bill is in complete conformity with the requirements of our constitution,” Alexander answered in French.

“It is reasonable, in our view, to require that a permanent resident wishing to become a Canadian citizen express his or her intention to reside in Canada.”

Liberal critic John McCullum focussed on the impact of no longer providing credit to foreign students for time spent in Canada prior to becoming permanent residents as part of residency qualifications. Minister Alexander restated the government’s position.

This change also affects refugees, arguably not a priority for the Government, and live-in caregivers. The latter, largely Filipinos, may, should the Filipino Canadian community become active on this issue, may be more problematic given that this community is one of the Government’s political target communities.

To be continued, and thanks to iPolitics for covering the hearings.

Citizenship reform bill is constitutional, Alexander assures committee