Bill C-24 recently went into effect, amending the Canadian Citizenship Act.
The changes are controversial, to say the least. Most dramatically, it has created a two-tier system for citizenship, where persons who hold citizenship under certain conditions can have it revoked. It also has dramatic implications for the citizenship application process, creating new challenges for immigrants. Let’s look at the details you need to know.
How Can There Be Two Tiers of Citizens?
Strictly speaking, all citizens are still equal before the law in most areas. But international law prohibits Canada from making any person “stateless,” or without citizenship in any country. This means that persons with single citizenship cannot be stripped of citizenship, but persons with dual citizenship can. There is an exception for those who obtained their citizenship by fraud, who can be stripped of their Canadian citizenship even if it would render them stateless.
Why is Two-Tier Citizenship Controversial?
There are many concerns with the two-tier system. First, persons born in Canada who obtain dual citizenship could also have their rights removed. Even more worryingly, citizenship can be removed without a conviction for a crime. The federal government can take away the citizenship of persons suspected of certain serious crimes, like fighting an armed conflict against the Canadian armed forces, and deport them.
How Do the Changes Make it Harder to Become a Citizen?
The Act has made the citizenship application process more difficult in the following ways:
- Potential citizens must have lived in Canada for 4 years of the last 6 – under the previous rules it was 3 of the last 4.
- Potential citizens must have physically resided in Canada for at least 183 days for each of the 4 years.
- Only time spent as a Permanent Resident, not as a Temporary Resident, now counts towards obtaining citizenship.
- Citizens now cannot use an interpreter when meeting the knowledge requirement.
- Applicants must file Canadian income taxes for at least four years before applying.
- Applicants can be denied on the basis of foreign criminal charges.
Can the Changes Make it Easier to Become a Citizen?
In some cases, the changes can be beneficial. Changes that help potential citizens include:
- Persons who have served with the Canadian Armed Forces, either on transfer from another military or as Permanent Residents, are offered a fast-track immigration process.
- “Lost Canadians” who missed out on citizenship due to loopholes in pre-1947 laws, and their children, can apply for citizenship.
- The Minister can award citizenship at his/her discretion.
These changes are sweeping, but may not be permanent. We will keep you updated as the government continues to consider these controversial new rules.