OTTAWA — The federal government is poised to deliver on what’s been dubbed the “first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.”
Aimed at strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship, there’s much speculation as to what will be in the highly anticipated and potentially controversial bill to be tabled in 2014.
Considered the final frontier in the government’s massive overhaul of the Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) file, the changes will be spearheaded by newly minted Immigration Minister Chris Alexander who, with other stakeholders, spoke to Postmedia News about what’s in store.
How long is long enough before you can apply for citizenship?
Permanent residents must reside in Canada for at least three of the previous four years to qualify.
Alexander said it’s time to consider increasing the threshold.
“I think the balance of considerations is in favour of a longer requirement,” he said. “There’s only one way of truly understanding what it means to be Canadian, what it means to participate in Canadian life, and that is by living here.”
Alexander wouldn’t give numbers, but Vancouver lawyer and immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland thinks extending the timeframe to four-in-six years would be suitable. He thinks it would also be wise to require applicants to submit at least two income tax returns.
Just because you’re born here doesn’t make you Canadian
Former immigration minister Jason Kenney was adamant: Granting citizenship based on place of birth is “outdated” and the rules need to change to prevent the proliferation of passport babies.
While it hasn’t exactly softened its tone, the government has, perhaps, not figured out how to deal with the issue just yet.
“It’s something we need to look at. There is clearly abuse,” Alexander said. “People who come here as birth tourists solely for the purpose of acquiring citizenship for newborns and without any intention of immigrating and living here permanently — we need to find a way of addressing that.”
Kurland warns the government will have a legal fight on its hands if it heads down this road. While a number of European countries have created databases containing family trees that can be shared with other countries, Kurland calls a serious breach of privacy that’s got some ethnic groups particularly worried.
“If they dare tinker with that, I’m coming out with all pistols loaded,” he said, noting Muslims, for example, worry about the behaviour of relatives who could land them on a no-fly list.