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Liberals cancelling ex-Tory govt’s citizenship revocation order

Create: 03/08/2016 - 01:21

The Federal Liberals plan to do away with measures enacted by the previous Conservative government which allowed Ottawa to revoke the citizenship of Canadians convicted of terrorism and other serious offences since last year.
Amending Citizenship Act
Last week, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum introduced legislation to amend the Citizenship Act, potentially providing greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship, while helping immigrants obtain citizenship faster.
“The Government is keeping its commitment to repeal certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, including those that led to different treatment for dual citizens,” McCallum said in a conference call from Ottawa in which Newsfirst Multimedia participated. “Canadian citizens are equal under the law. Whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold a dual citizenship,” he added.
Provisions to be repealed
Among the changes, the government’s bill would repeal provisions that allow citizenship to be revoked from dual citizens who engage in certain acts against the national interest. McCallum said all Canadians who commit crimes should face the consequences of their actions through the Canadian justice system rather than by having their citizenship revoked.
“It is a point of principle,” he said. “We believe that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian whether it’s a good Canadian or whether it’s someone who’s committed a serious crime. All of them are Canadians. We have a criminal justice system, we have prisons which we use to deal with criminals.
“So when someone commits a serious crime that person goes to jail,” he continued. “We believe that is is how crime should be dealt with in this country and that we do not need to superimpose on top of that a system that creates two classes of Canadians.”
Reducing presence requirement
The bill also proposes to reduce the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before qualifying for citizenship by a full year. The proposed legislation would credit applicants for the time spent in Canada as temporary residents or protected persons.
The age range to meet French or English language requirements and pass a knowledge test to qualify for citizenship, would change to 18-54 from 14-64. McCallum said the changes support the Liberal government’s goal of removing barriers for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada.
The changes in the proposed legislation would also provide greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship while helping immigrants obtain citizenship faster. They would repeal provisions of the Citizenship Act that allow citizenship to be revoked from dual citizens who engage in certain acts against the national interest.
False representation rule remains
Legislative changes that came into effect in May 2015 under the former Conservative government created new grounds for citizenship revocation that allowed citizenship to be taken away from dual citizens for certain acts considered to be against Canada’s national interests.
These grounds included convictions for terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received, or for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada. The Liberal government’s bill repeals these grounds. However, according to McCallum, the ability to revoke citizenship where it was obtained by false representation, by fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances will remain in place.
Revocation in fraud cases
Under those terms, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister would continue to have authority to revoke citizenship in basic fraud cases, such as identity and residence fraud (which constitute the majority of cases), and the Federal Court would continue to have authority to revoke citizenship in cases where the fraud is in relation to concealing serious inadmissibilities concerning security, human or international rights violations, war crimes, and organized criminality.
Also since June 2015, adult applicants needed to declare on their citizenship applications that they intended to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. The provision created concern among some new Canadians, who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada. The Liberal Government is proposing to repeal this provision.
Time spent here to be lowered
The government is also proposing to reduce the time required to be spent in Canada for citizenship for adults to three years (1,095 days) within the five years before applying for citizenship. This will mean applicants can apply one year sooner than they can now. Currently, the Citizenship Act requires applicants to be physically present in Canada for four years (1,460 days) within the six years immediately before applying for citizenship.
Under the current Citizenship Act, people cannot count time they spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident towards meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship. The changes in the new bill would let non-permanent resident time count toward the new three-year physical presence requirement for citizenship, for up to one year.
Meeting the government’s goal
Under this change, each day that a person is authorized to be in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident could be counted as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship.
McCallum said the changes support the Government’s goal of making it easier for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada, reunite their families and contribute to the country’s economy. He said the time credit will also encourage skilled individuals to come to Canada to study or work, and benefits certain types of individuals such as protected persons, parents and grandparents on visitors’ visas.

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Martin C. Barry