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Proposed Changes to the Citizenship Act

 by Andrew Z. Wlodyka

An amended Citizenship Act has already been introduced in Parliament in the form of Bill C-63. This Bill has received second reading and is presently before a Parliamentary Committee for clause by clause study. However, Bill C-63 was not passed when Parliament recessed for the summer. A new Minister has been appointed by the Prime Minister to replace Lucienne Robillard. Her name is Elinor Caplan and it is uncertain at this stage whether she has the same commitment to the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act, as did her predecessor.

The highlights of the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act include

  • granting citizenship to foreign adopted children
  • a change in the residency requirement for acquisition of Canadian citizenship
  • the removal of certain appeal rights relating to revocation of citizenship
  • denial of citizenship to certain applicants on public interest of security grounds.

The most contentious issue is the proposed amendment that would require a permanent resident to reside physically in Canada for three years before he or she would be granted citizenship. At the present time, the term "residence" is not defined in the Act. Both the Citizenship and Federal Court are divided on the meaning of the term "residence". The majority of the judges of both the Citizenship Court and the Federal Court are of the view that the present legislation does not require three years' physical presence in Canada. It is the quality of the attachment to Canada that is the most important factor to take into account to determine residence and not just how much time is spent physically here by the prospective applicant.

The latest proposal on residence that has been reviewed by the Parliamentary Committee studying this issue, would give an applicant for citizenship six years to accumulate three years of physical residence in Canada. The main argument from the Department in support of this change is that it is only through physical presence in Canada that an immigrant will learn the rights and obligations of Canadian citizenship.

I need to be convinced that physical presence is the only way to achieve this goal. The proposed standard is in my view inconsistent with the demands of a global economy. Should this test be implemented, the result will be that many successful business immigrants who choose Canada as their permanent home will be prevented from ever obtaining Canadian citizenship.

It is very likely that another driving force in the proposed new standard of residence that requires physical presence in Canada for a required period is the desire by the Government to have a system in place that will be easier to administer and thereby save the Government of Canada considerable money. The system would not require independent citizenship judges but could be administered by a Federal bureaucracy. There would also be a reduction in the number of contentious cases that will need to be resolved by the Federal Court on appeal.

family class | independent skilled workers | investors | entrepreneurs

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This page last updated: October 6, 1999
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