Canadian citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience but rather a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history.
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24, will replace the antiquated 1977 act by introducing changes that will reinforce the value of citizenship while ensuring the integrity of the immigration system is protected.
It will streamline Canada’s citizenship program by reducing the decision-making process from three steps to one so that by 2015/16, this change will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year and, the current backlog is projected to be reduced by more than 80 per cent.
This bill will also ensure citizenship applicants maintain strong ties to Canada. It will provide a clearer indication that the “residence” period to qualify for citizenship requires a physical presence in Canada.
More applicants will now be required to meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test, to ensure that they are better prepared to fully participate in Canadian society.
I am pleased to see that the bill will also have new provisions to help individuals with strong ties to Canada, by automatically extending citizenship to additional “lost Canadians” who were born before 1947, as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.
Included in this legislation are stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation (a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison), as well as expanding the grounds to bar an application for citizenship to include foreign criminality which will help improve program integrity.
C-24 will bring Canada in-line with most of our peer countries by providing that citizenship can be revoked from dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, and spying offences (depending on the sentence received), or who take up arms against Canada.
Permanent residents who commit these acts will be barred from applying for citizenship.
In recognizing the important contributions of those who serve Canada in uniform, permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have quicker access to Canadian citizenship.
The act also stipulates that children born to Canadian parents serving abroad as servants of the Crown will be able to pass on Canadian citizenship to children they have or adopt outside of Canada.
Our government believes Canadian citizenship is more than a passport of convenience. It should promote attachment to Canada and Canadian values, and it comes with rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.
Colin Mayes is Okanagan-Shuswap MP.