A controversial Conservative bill that gives the government power to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals is a step closer to being reversed by the Liberals.
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.
Now Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who used the reversal of the bill as part of their election campaign, are pushing to get an amendment through by Canada Day.
During the 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.
The major barrier to the amendment, Bill C-6, is getting it through the Conservative-dominated Senate, although if Liberals and independent senators all voted together, it would pass.
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 making children as young as 14 take a test on language and knowledge of Canada and increasing the time a permanent resident needed to live in the country before qualifying.
Both of these changes are also set to be reversed by the Liberal Bill C-6, which would also allow candidates to add on time spent in Canada before being granted permanent residency.
Proposed amendments also include considering the needs of disabled people making applications and a clarification of McCallum’s power to grant citizenship in special cases.
Bill C-6 would additionally allow the government to seize any documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications, helping Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in the fight against such cases.
A recent report by the auditor-general criticised the Immigration Department, under the former government, for granting citizenship to candidates with criminal records and false address histories.
The audit in part blamed a lack of communication between the immigration department, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.
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 repeals 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.
- Repeals a requirement that adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
- Restores consideration of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident (non-PR) for most applicants to a maximum of one year of credited time.
- Reduces the period to three years for adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Repeals authority 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.
- Authorizes Minister to seize documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications.
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