Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Chris Alexander  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things, update eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, strengthen security and fraud provisions and amend provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions.

Amendments to the eligibility requirements include

(a) clarifying the meaning of being resident in Canada;

(b) modifying the period during which a permanent resident must reside in Canada before they may apply for citizenship;

(c) expediting access to citizenship for persons who are serving in, or have served in, the Canadian Armed Forces;

(d) requiring that an applicant for citizenship demonstrate, in one of Canada’s official languages, knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship;

(e) specifying the age as of which an applicant for citizenship must demonstrate the knowledge referred to in paragraph (d) and must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages;

(f) requiring that an applicant meet any applicable requirement under the Income Tax Act to file a return of income;

(g) conferring citizenship on certain individuals and their descendants who may not have acquired citizenship under prior legislation;

(h) extending an exception to the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent to children born to or adopted abroad by parents who were themselves born to or adopted abroad by Crown servants; and

(i) requiring, for a grant of citizenship for an adopted person, that the adoption not have circumvented international adoption law.

Amendments to the security and fraud provisions include

(a) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who are charged outside Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament or who are serving a sentence outside Canada for such an offence;

(b) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, while they were permanent residents, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring those persons from acquiring citizenship;

(c) aligning the grounds related to security and organized criminality on which a person may be denied citizenship with those grounds in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and extending the period during which a person is barred from acquiring citizenship on that basis;

(d) expanding the prohibition against granting citizenship to include persons who, in the course of their application, misrepresent material facts and prohibiting new applications by those persons for a specified period;

(e) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after having been convicted of certain offences;

(f) increasing the maximum penalties for offences related to citizenship, including fraud and trafficking in documents of citizenship;

(g) providing for the regulation of citizenship consultants;

(h) establishing a hybrid model for revoking a person’s citizenship in which the Minister will decide the majority of cases and the Federal Court will decide the cases related to inadmissibility based on security grounds, on grounds of violating human or international rights or on grounds of organized criminality;

(i) increasing the period during which a person is barred from applying for citizenship after their citizenship has been revoked;

(j) providing for the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens who, while they were Canadian citizens, engaged in certain actions contrary to the national interest of Canada, and permanently barring these individuals from reacquiring citizenship; and

(k) authorizing regulations to be made respecting the disclosure of information.

Amendments to the provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions include

(a) requiring that an application must be complete to be accepted for processing;

(b) expanding the grounds and period for the suspension of applications and providing for the circumstances in which applications may be treated as abandoned;

(c) limiting the role of citizenship judges in the decision-making process, subject to the Minister periodically exercising his or her power to continue the period of application of that limitation;

(d) giving the Minister the power to make regulations concerning the making and processing of applications;

(e) providing for the judicial review of any matter under the Act and permitting, in certain circumstances, further appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal; and

(f) transferring to the Minister the discretionary power to grant citizenship in special cases.

Finally, the enactment makes consequential amendments to the Federal Courts Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 16, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 10, 2014 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 10, 2014 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
June 9, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
May 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
May 29, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, because it: ( a) does not provide an adequate solution for reducing citizenship application processing times, which have been steadily increasing; ( b) puts significant new powers in the hands of the Minister that will allow this government to politicize the granting of Canadian citizenship; ( c) gives the Minister the power to revoke citizenship, which will deny some Canadians access to a fair trial in Canada and will raise serious questions since Canadian law already includes mechanisms to punish those who engage in unlawful acts; and ( d) includes a declaration of intent to reside provision, which in fact gives officials the power to speculate on the intent of a citizenship applicant and then potentially deny citizenship based on this conjecture.”.
May 28, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the parliamentary secretary. I never had the chance to congratulate him here in the House for his nomination since he became parliamentary secretary.

I have just a quick question. At the beginning of his speech he was saying that the reason the bill is before the House is that there have been a lot of fraudulent applications, like people living outside the country, and people using false documents. I would think that would already be breaking the law and I am not sure why he would need this extra piece of legislation. I would think we would need an extra piece of legislation to help people who want to obtain their Canadian citizenship.

I previously asked my colleague from the Liberal Party about being a member from the Toronto area. This member is from the Toronto area. Does he not see cases where it is a huge problem getting Canadian citizenship with proper documents? Applicants are waiting for way too much time and are also waiting sometimes because the fee is too high. Can he comment on that?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will point the member to the bill. The bill clearly puts forth some excellent points in dealing with the regulation of the whole citizenship and immigration consultant industry.

In the second part of his question, of course I am a member of Parliament from the Greater Toronto Area. He will be happy to hear this, I am sure. One of the things the bill does is streamline the decision making process for granting citizenship. We are going to have more people within the decision making body now, people who are experts, officers in citizenship and immigration. Once they obtain all of the proper information, they will be able to grant citizenship, whereas today, the authority for that only belongs to citizenship judges.

If the bill passes through the House—and I hope all members see the light and pass it, because it really is excellent legislation—it would speed up the process from a three-step process to a one-step process. Those people coming into our offices would obtain their citizenship in under a year, as opposed to waiting the length of time they are waiting now.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to be here to rise to speak in support of Bill C-24, which really does demonstrate our government's commitment to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship.

Canadian citizenship, as every one of us in the House knows, is among the most valued citizenships in the world and the bill would ensure that it remains that way.

First, let me be clear. We want newcomers to come to Canada. We need them to grow this country, as Canada has throughout its great history. They are the nation builders of today and the nation builders of tomorrow. The question is how we get there.

We have accepted 1.4 million new citizens to Canada since the Conservatives were elected in 2006. That is an unprecedented number that puts Canada among the top countries among our peers. That is a lot of people, and we welcome them.

We also believe we should help to prepare those people, those newcomers, in the very best way we can, so they can succeed here. Enter Bill C-24. It is in all of our best interests to do that.

What does this really mean on the ground? There are three things it means.

First of all, it means we want newcomers to bond with their new home. We want them to feel they are part of Canada. We believe they should have a strong attachment to this country by having a significant Canadian experience before they become citizens. Hence, that means adding one year, going from three years to four years' residency, or actually 1,460 days now, before they can become a citizen.

Second, we require that they, yes, actually be present here in Canada while they are building that understanding of Canadian values and way of life.

Third, to help our newcomers integrate, we believe they should know one of our official languages. It seems reasonable to most people. This will help our newcomers to succeed and it will help Canada to succeed by opening its doors to them.

Gillian Smith of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship works extensively with Canada's newcomers, and she said she has found overwhelming support among them for these kinds of changes. Our newest citizens report that the measures that actually help them to foster their connections and attachment with Canada have had the most positive effect on their integration.

Their sense of belonging comes in large measure from actually experiencing Canada first-hand, its people, nature, culture, heritage, and yes, its cold winters, its hockey, its Tim Hortons, and all of that which goes along with being a Canadian. This is where our connections with each other really develop.

An understanding of one of our official languages and a deeper knowledge of these kinds of values and traditions help newcomers become active members of Canadian society a lot sooner. This will assist them on their path to seize the opportunities that are the reason they are coming to Canada, and that is what we want.

Our government's proposed changes would also expand the ages for citizenship applicants who are required to demonstrate this kind of language proficiency, as well as take the knowledge test. Currently, it is from ages 18 to 54. It would go from ages 14 to 64.

There are critics who will say that these moves to strengthen the residency and language requirements would make it harder to become a Canadian citizen. We believe that people who really wish to hold the coveted Canadian passport, to call Canada their home, will achieve these requirements. Something valued is something that really is worth working for.

In the past, it has not always been that way. I point to immigration lawyer Raj Sharma, who told my friend Doug Dirks, the host of CBC Calgary's The Homestretch, that “basically, an eight-year-old with a crayon could have passed the previous knowledge test to become a Canadian citizen...”. That is actually what he said. This is one very busy immigration lawyer.

This is something we do not take lightly. By strengthening the residency and knowledge requirements, we are making sure new citizens are both more committed and fully prepared to actually take up life here in Canada. This is balancing rights and responsibilities.

The Aga Khan was here in this House today, and he spoke about this very thing. He talked about a healthy civil society, and he said that Canada accepted a major wave of Ismailis in the 1970s during the brutal Idi Amin era. The Aga Khan placed Canada first among all in creating a pluralistic society. However, in building a healthy civil society, the Aga Khan said what that takes is balancing rights and responsibilities. That is exactly what the act would do for new citizens.

Author Nick Noorani expressed a similar sentiment on CBC Radio a while back when he said it is not becoming more difficult, it is putting in place checks and balances.

He also said he is a very proud Canadian and believes that anyone who wants to become a Canadian should follow certain rules and regulations. For instance, he said, for people who have misused the system, the government is now putting a premium on Canadian citizenship, as well it should be.

To come back to the residency requirement, it would only include time that the person spends in Canada as a permanent resident, which has not always been the case. In the past, the rules were a little fuzzy and often taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. We are making them crystal clear. Newcomers who are coming to build Canada expect and want to be contributors, and this would give them more time to establish themselves here.

My own son-in-law would be affected by these proposed changes. He would have to spend an extra year in Canada to get citizenship, and that is okay. Canadian citizenship is something worth working for.

This is what Canadians rightly expect. They welcome newcomers as citizens and full members of our Canadian family, but not people who want to hold a citizenship of convenience as a backup plan while they live and work somewhere else.

However, there will be exceptions. Applicants who are outside of Canada because they are accompanying either their Canadian spouse or parent who is employed in the Canadian Armed Forces, or as a servant of the Crown, could still qualify for citizenship. This is to prevent residents from being penalized for their family's service abroad for Canada. We are honouring those who serve Canada, and showing our gratitude for those who put their lives on hold in service to our country.

Canadian citizenship is an honour and a privilege. It comes not only with rights, but with responsibilities. Immigrants understand that. They are very proud to fulfill these responsibilities. In fact, over 85% of permanent residents who have gone on to become citizens support these initiatives.

In 2012, more than 110,000 people became proud Canadian citizens. This year alone, we held 1,722 citizenship ceremonies from coast to coast to coast.

One of my favourite things to do as a member Parliament is to preside over citizenship ceremonies. They are heartwarming and even tear-jerking. As a Canadian, I feel honoured that these people have chosen Canada and are taking a pledge to become part of the Canadian family. They have often undergone great hardship to come to Canada, but it has been worth it because of the value of Canadian citizenship that this act underscores.

These people want to come and contribute to our economy. Many have come to Canada for security for their home and family under the rule of law. They are overwhelmingly pleased with these changes because, again, they value Canadian citizenship. They believe that it should only be granted to people like them who live and play by the rules.

We have to continue to ensure that this is the Canada we are protecting and preserving for all of us into the future. The strengthening Canadian citizenship act would enhance the value and integrity of our Canadian citizenship and would ensure that it is going to be valued just as much by future generations.

We are accepting unprecedented numbers of immigrants, and earlier I mentioned it has been 1.4 million people since 2006. We are ranked as the top among our peer countries in this.

The strengthening Canadian citizenship act that we are very proud to be putting forward today is a necessary measure. It is supported by newcomers to Canada. It will ensure that we can continue to keep the doors to Canada open, create this pluralistic society that the Aga Khan talked about and that all of us are proud of, and ensure that newcomers are in the very best position to succeed when they come to Canada.