Changes to Canadian Citizenship Act to Become Law
Bill C-6, an act proposing changes that would make it easier for permanent residents to become Canadian citizens, is a step closer to becoming law. Canadian Senator Mobina Jaffer posted on Twitter on June 15 that the bill may receive royal assent as soon as next Monday.
Bill C-6 is now awaiting royal assent after Senate passed the legislation on June 15 in a vote of 51 for and 29 against. The Senate had previously passed the bill, with three amendments, on May 3. Those amendments were reviewed by the government, after which the bill returned to Senate and passed again with a stronger majority than that previous vote.
Changes to citizenship eligibility requirements
Bill C-6 proposes various changes to the Citizenship Act, many of which serve to repeal changes introduced by the Conservative government with Bill C-24 in 2014. That bill raised the residency requirement for permanent residents to become eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship to four years out of the six years preceding the application.
Bill C-6 reduces the number of days during which a person must have been physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship to three years out of five, as was the case before Bill C-24 was introduced. In addition, it allows permanent residents who had spent time in Canada before obtaining permanent resident status, for example as a temporary foreign worker or an international student, to count a portion of that time towards the residency requirement.
“We want newcomers to be able to build successful lives, and we know that for temporary workers, for international students who become permanent residents after, their attachment to Canada starts way before they even become permanent residents, let alone Canadian citizens, so we recognize that bringing back the residency requirement to three years out of five, as opposed to four years out of six under C-24, is the right thing to do,” Hussen explained.
Bill C-6 also removes the intent to reside provision, which requires that an applicant intends to reside in Canada after they obtain citizenship.
Another key provision of Bill C-6 is the removal of government’s ability to revoke citizenship from dual citizens on the basis of national security, a feature that the government has accused of creating two-tiered citizenship. “C-24 took us down the road to introduce two-tier citizenship, and we absolutely abhorred that and denounced that at the time, and we knew that Canada should never have two-tiered citizenship,” said Hussen, at the recent Canadian Bar Association (Immigration Section) conference.
The first amendment related to proposed changes to the age requirements for permanent residents to prove knowledge of Canadian culture and language ability in English or French, from the current requirement of 18 to 59, 18 to 54. Senate amended this proposition back to 18 to 59, but the Liberal government did not support this.
Explaining the decision, Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, stated, ‘This amendment is not in line with the intent of Bill C-6 to facilitate citizenship to eligible immigrants… Therefore, Bill C-6 returns the age for language and knowledge requirements back to 18 to 54 years of age. By doing so, Bill C-6 will reduce barriers to citizenship.’
The Senate proposed a second amendment to make it easier for children under the age of 18 to apply for citizenship without the support of their parent, and without needing to apply to the Minister for Citizenship on compassionate grounds. Under Bill C-6, children with Canadian permanent resident status under the age of 18 without Canadian parents, or whose parents may not be willing or able to apply for citizenship, would be able to apply for citizenship independently, without needing to join a parent on an application.
Finally, the third amendment proposed to add the right to appeal to individuals who lose their citizenship on the grounds that it was obtained fraudulently. The government also agreed to this amendment, adding that ‘all individuals would have the option to request that their case is referred to the Federal Court for a decision.’
Key campaign commitment
The changes enshrined in Bill C-6 formed a key component of the Liberal government’s campaign when they came to power in November 2015. In his speech at the conference, Hussen stated, “We want more permanent residents — in fact, we want all permanent residents, if possible — to become Canadians, and so Bill C-6 will remove those barriers and give permanent residents greater flexibility to meet the residency requirements so that they can become Canadian citizens.
“I’m proud of the fact that Bill C-6 will receive, we’re confident that C-6 will receive royal assent in the very near future,” Hussen concluded.
“The Senate’s amendments were largely commendable, and I am glad to see that the government supports these key modifications that are intended to make citizenship more accessible to more people,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“The Liberal government continues to deliver regarding immigration and citizenship, by taking concrete action in turning campaign promises into real legislation. In the event that Bill C-6 receives royal assent, I look forward to the difference this will make to the lives of many new Canadians.”