On June 19, Bill C-24 received Royal Assent. This new bill will bring numerous changes to Canada’s Citizenship Act. Most of these changes will mean that persons immigrating to Canada will have to meet new requirements, which make it significantly harder to acquire Canadian Citizenship. Notable changes to the Citizenship Act include:
Under the former act, any person immigrating to Canada had to meet the requirement of being present in Canada 3 out of 4 years (for a total of 1,095 days). The amendments will increase the required length of stay to 4 years out of 6 (for a total of 1,460 days). It will also add new requirements such as being physically present in Canada for a minimum of 183 days per year in 4 out of those 6 years. These amendments also eliminate the time spent prior to obtaining permanent residence from the calculation and requires applicants to sign an “intent to reside” provision. Prior to Bill C-24, time spent in Canada prior to obtaining permanent residence could, in some circumstances, be included in the calculation. There was no obligation to sign an “intent to reside” provision.
Adults and youth aged 14 to 64, compared to adults 18 to 54 years old under the former act, will be required to meet the language requirements and pass Canadian the knowledge test. This modification will result in a significant increase in the amount of people that are required to pass such requirements. The knowledge test may not be passed with the aid of an interpreter, yet another hurdle for prospective citizens to overcome.
The Bill adds various provisions that will shorten the processing time of applications. The citizenship grant will become a one-step process, instead of a three-step process, which is the former process. Furthermore, Canadian Armed Forces members who have served at least 6 months with the forces will be able to obtain their citizenship through a new fast-track process.
Adult applicants will be required file Canadian income taxes in order to be eligible for citizenship. This is not a requirement under the former provisions.
The most significant change to the Citizenship Act is the ability of the government to revoke the citizenship of any Canadian citizen who has engaged in acts against the interest of Canada such as members of armed forces or organized armed groups who have taken arms against Canada as well as persons convicted of terrorism, spying or high treason, provided that they hold dual citizenship. This means that even Canadian-born citizens may see their Canadian citizenship revoked if they hold dual citizenship. Due to Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Canada has an international obligation to reduce the number of stateless individuals and as such, cannot revoke citizenship to those who, by revoking their Canadian citizenship, would result in statelessness.
The revocation will be decided by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for “routine” cases or by the Federal Court for more complex matters. This is an important change because, prior to Bill C-24, any discretionary granting or any revocation of citizenship was given by the Governor in Counsel, the final decision maker, whereas the new final decision maker is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with the exception of complex matters relating to revocation.
Once citizenship is revoked, the individual in question will face removal (deportation) from Canada. It is already being argued that the revocation of citizenship for Canadian-born citizens is beyond the Parliament’s constitutional competence. These draconian measures passed under the cloak of “reinforcing Canadian values” will surely do nothing to reinforce Canadian values but will definitely put numerous individuals at risk of persecution when facing revocation of their citizenship and removal from Canada. These new amendments will have the result of increasing the overall powers of the government, specifically the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in respect to the granting and revocation of Canadian citizenship.