Critics are expressing concern over reforms to Canada’s citizenship laws, saying that the changes will both make it harder for newcomers to gain their citizenship status, as well as devalue the citizenship of Canadians living abroad.
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act was introduced by the Conservative government to Parliament early this year, and seeks to extend the required times between landing as an immigrant and being eligible for citizenship.
While representatives from the government, including Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, tout the changes as a way to improve the citizenship system and ensure that “people who are becoming citizens have really lived here,” critics are concerned that the changes will discourage immigrants from seeking that status and, contrarily to the government’s apparent aims, weaken their attachment and loyalty to Canada.
Landed immigrants are able to access Canada’s social services, but are unable to vote and not taxed at the same rate – two factors that could be seen to weaken both their attachment to Canada, as well as Canada’s investment in them. In the new global marketplace, a sense of loyalty to one’s adopted country is imperative for skilled workers to plant long-term roots, argue economics professor Don Devoretz and Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada president and CEO Yuen Pau Woo in a recent piece for the Toronto Star.
Devoretz and Woo say that policies built on a sense of spite – the idea that some newcomers are taking Canadian citizenship for granted – may appease some here at home, but could dissuade the skilled workers that Canadian immigration policies have specifically been targeting. This is particularly true of young, educated workers who are most likely to work abroad for extended periods of time.
The answer, they say, is not to make it harder for them to obtain citizenship, but instead to limit access to Canada’s social programs and benefits for those who choose to live outside of the country. An immigration policy that is designed to attract Canada’s high-skilled workers should also be concerned with retaining them in the long run.
Sources: Toronto Star