Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in the House to the important changes, proposed by the government, relating to the Citizenship Act. These changes would go a long way to encourage immigrants to take the path to full membership and permanent belonging in Canadian society.
Obtaining Canadian citizenship more quickly would ensure the best transition possible for newcomers into Canada. Immigrants who become Canadian citizens tend to achieve more economic success. That is good for all Canadians. The proposed legislative change would allow greater flexibility for applicants to meet citizenship requirements, thereby also helping to foster a sense of belonging and connection to Canada.
Overall, the changes would make an impact in three major areas of concern. First, the changes would remove portions of the act that were implemented in 2015, which clearly created two-tiered citizenship. Second, the changes would provide a higher degree of flexibility for applicants to meet requirements for citizenship. Third, the changes would further enhance the integrity of the citizenship program.
Today, I want to address the proposed changes that would give people applying to become Canadians greater flexibility to meet these requirements. These changes would allow immigrants to achieve citizenship faster, which is a goal worth pursuing. The rationale behind the proposed changes lies in the government's goal to encourage immigrants to more fully integrate into Canadian society and to help them build successful lives in Canada.
I want to look at one specific change among several that the government is proposing. It concerns the ability of prospective citizens to count the time they spend in Canada before they become permanent residents toward meeting the citizenship requirements. In the legislation that received royal assent in 2014, this ability was removed. Our government simply wants to restore it.
Under the new proposal, time spent in Canada as a temporary resident or a protected person prior to becoming a permanent resident would count toward meeting the physical presence requirement. The Citizenship Act would be amended to allow each day that a person was physically present as a temporary resident or protected person to be counted as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum of 365 days. Moreover, every day that a person was physically present in Canada as a permanent resident would count as one day of physical presence for citizenship. This means that an applicant could accumulate up to 365 days as a temporary resident or as a protected person. They could accumulate the remaining required 730 days as a permanent resident to meet the 1,095 days of physical presence required to become a citizen.
Who could benefit from this credit? Temporary residents, such as international students, would be one group. Foreign workers would benefit as well. Also, parents and grandparents in Canada with valid temporary resident status could apply this credited time to their citizenship application. In addition, protected persons, those whom Canada has accepted as convention refugees, who went on to become permanent residents could also apply this time in Canada toward the physical presence requirements. This is about recognizing that immigrants often begin building an attachment to Canada before they become permanent residents.
These priorities draw heavily from our election platform commitments. As the minister said earlier, allowing time spent residing in Canada before becoming a permanent resident to count toward citizenship requirements would be received favourably, especially by post-secondary students who come to this country to study and want to stay here and build their careers here and continue contributing to Canada. The Prime Minister has also asked the minister and his cabinet colleagues to reinstate the credit given to international students for time they spend in Canada before becoming permanent residents, and to eliminate the provision that requires citizenship applicants to intend to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship.
The reasons the government has for repealing some of the recent changes to the Citizenship Act are simple. We are committed to a Canada that is both diverse and inclusive. It is easy to take diversity for granted in a country like Canada. We have raised children who think nothing of hearing five or six different languages spoken on the playground or at school.
One-fifth of Canadians were born elsewhere. They chose to immigrate to Canada. More than half the citizens of Toronto were born outside of our country.
Against this backdrop, the importance of diversity can sometimes be taken for granted. There is no doubt we are a better country, a stronger country, a more successful country, because of this diversity. Canadians are proud of our country and proud of our values.
We welcome immigrants, we help them settle, we help them integrate, and we help them succeed. This is our history, it is our present, and it is our future. We encourage all immigrants to take the path of full membership in Canadian society. One of the strongest pillars for a successful integration into Canadian life is achieving citizenship.
I am sure, as members of Parliament, we have all been at citizenship ceremonies and we can all attest to how moving these functions can be. It is an important step in the life of immigrants.
The success of our immigrants is our success as a strong and united country. The strength of our new Canadians is what makes us all stronger.
I urge every member of this House to consider supporting Bill C-6.