Last Updated on April 6, 2017
January 9, 2017 – Canada is celebrating 70 years since the original Canadian Citizenship Act was passed into law.
Then Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie received the first certificate – number 0001 – on January 3, 1947, marking the point at which Canadian citizenship first became a legal status.
To mark the anniversary, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) granted 26 new citizenships at Canada’s Supreme Court on January 3, 2017, in an event that resembled the first-ever ceremony.
The creation of the act saw Canada become the first Commonwealth country to create its own class of citizenship, separate from the U.K.
Canada has welcomed 1.5m new citizens in the last decade.
The Citizenship Act in its current form is a source of controversy after a 2014 Conservative move to grant the government power to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals.
Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, was made law in 2014 by Stephen Harper’s government, who argued it would allow citizenship to be taken from convicted terrorists.
Opponents said it effectively created two classes of Canadian citizen.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who used the reversal of the bill as part of their election campaign, are pushing to get the changes revoked, among other modifications, as part of new legislation, Bill C-6, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act.
During the 2015 general election campaign, the Liberals branded the bill unfair and used the slogan ‘A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’ to make their stance on the matter clear.
While the right to strip, citizenship was the headline clause of the controversial Conservative bill, there were several other changes made to the process of granting citizenship, including requiring children as young as 14 pass a language test and demonstrate knowledge of Canada while increasing the time a permanent resident needed to live in the country before qualifying for citizenship.
Both of these changes are also set to be reversed by the Liberals, in a bill that would also allow candidates to add on time spent in Canada before being granted permanent residency.
Bill C-6 would additionally allow the government to seize any documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications, helping IRCC in the fight against such cases.
Summary of proposed changes under Bill C-6:
- Applicants must be permanent residents of and physically reside in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date of their application, and repealsthe requirement that applicants must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the qualifying years.
- Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements. Applicable criteria will be defined under future regulations.
- Repealsa requirement that adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
- Restoresconsideration of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident (non-PR) for most applicants to a maximum of one year of credited time.
- Reducesthe period to three years for adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Repealsauthority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
- AuthorizesMinister to seize documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications.
Bill C-6 is currently awaiting a second reading before the senate.
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