Citizenship amendments change what it takes to be Canadian
New Canadians take part in a citizenship ceremony in this undated file photo.
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, June 30, 2014 7:48AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, January 21, 2015 9:14AM EST
July 1 is supposed to be a day to celebrate Canadian identity, but recent amendments to the Citizenship Act have redefined what it takes to be legally declared Canadian.
The Conservative Government's Bill C-24 received Royal Assent on June 19, significantly changing the requirements to attain (or in some cases maintain) Canadian citizenship.
The government called it the "Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act." They say the changes clarify and add value to citizenship, and ensure that newcomers are more prepared to join and have a stronger bond with Canadian society.
But those who opposed the bill said the changes turn citizenship from a human right to a privilege that can be arbitrarily taken away. Critics include Amnesty International, The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and lawyer Rocco Galati, who has filed a legal challenge against the amendments.
Changes to the citizenship application process
The changes require that permanent residents be physically present in the country for longer than before, in order to gain citizenship. Under the old rules, permanent residents had to be living in Canada for three out of four years. Now, they must be physically present for at least 183 days per year in four of the six years before their application.
In addition, permanent residents seeking citizenship must intend to continue to live in Canada. Or, if they are living outside of Canada but working in public service or with the armed forces, they must intend to keep working those jobs, or to stay married and living with a spouse who works one of those jobs.
The changes also expand the age bracket for language and knowledge tests. Before, those citizenship tests were required for citizenship-seekers between the ages of 18 and 54. Now, those aged 16 to 64 are required to take the tests.
The fees for processing citizenship applications have also gone up from $100 to $300.
New government powers to revoke citizenship
Controversially, the changes give the government powers to revoke the citizenship of Canadians who have dual citizenship and are found guilty in terrorism or treason cases.
This has attracted attention recently, with the high-profile case of Mohamed Fahmy. Fahmy is an Egyptian-Canadian journalist who was recently found guilty of terrorism in Egypt. The prime minister's office said Thursday that it has no intention of revoking his citizenship.
The new bill also gives the citizenship and immigration minister the power to revoke citizenship for people who have served in a foreign army or organization that fought against Canadian forces. This includes overseas extremist organizations.
Granting citizenship to "Lost Canadians"
There is a small population of people who were born before the first Citizenship Act in 1947 and who didn't have citizenship until this point. The new changes retroactively grant citizenship to those "lost Canadians" who fell through legal loopholes