February 20, 2014
Bill C-24 – Amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act: Citizenship To Be Redefined, Re-positioned and Re-evaluated
On 6 February 2014 the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The Act proposes to fundamentally transform the meaning, scope and processing of Canadian citizenship. The important details, found within a complex set of proposed amendments necessitates a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the legal consequences of allowing mass changes to everything from eligibility to appeal in a larger-than-life overhaul of the legal landscape surrounding citizenship as we now know it in Canada.
Scope of the Changes
- Applicants must be physically present in Canada for 1460 days out of six years.
- Applicants must spend 183 days per calendar year in Canada in the four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years prior to submission of their application.
- Applicants over the age of 14 must file Canadian income tax for each, as required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Credit will no longer be granted for time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident;
- The Applicant may not depart from Canada while waiting the processing of their application for citizenship.
- Special treatment for certain classes (Canadian Forces, etc.) – apparently this has not been extended to those providing aid or humanitarian efforts abroad of behalf of Canada
The Bill extends citizenship to “Lost Canadians” born before 1947, as well as their first generation children born abroad who may have been deemed ineligible in the past.
Applicants aged 14-64 as opposed to 18-54 must demonstrate proficiency in one of Canada’s two official languages.
The Bill seeks to expand bans on those individuals with foreign criminal charges and convictions. In addition, this Bill will allow refusal of applications on the basis of fraud and extend the bar for misrepresentation.
Judicial Review rather than appeal
Applicants will no longer have a direct right of appeal as a leave requirement to access the Federal Court has now been introduced.
The Act establishes the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens. Revocation no longer necessarily flows through the Federal Court as ministerial decisions can be made without recourse to the courts.
The Bill promises to reduce processing time to under one year.
The Bill requires applicants for citizenship to have the “intent” to reside in Canada.
The provisions are dense, difficult to decipher and in need of clarity. The calls for change surrounded the need for a single residency test but the Bill goes so much further. But let’s start with residency. A strict physical residence test is a welcome relief for many after years of uncertainty. But this must be balanced with the reality of a global environment. It may exclude many outside Canada including internationally known Canadians including artists, actors, and professional athletes. Why does the new law need to go this far to eliminate the fraudsters?
For example, proving “intent to reside” for example will be an expensive exercise to enforce and the amendments could create two classes of Canadian citizens with potentially impaired mobility rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadians who received their citizenship by birth can freely choose to live outside of Canada while naturalized citizens may be expected to exclusively reside in Canada unless they are in the armed forces.
Another key concern is the power to revoke citizenship without recourse to the Federal Court. There appears to be two revocation streams but one is insulated from judicial review. In essence and taken to a logical extreme a citizen would have access to the courts to challenge a parking ticket but not for the revocation of one’s citizenship. At stake in Bill C-24’s current form is not only who receives and keeps citizenship but the foundational values, rights and freedoms that define us as Canadians.
These comments and analyses are part of a larger article featured in this month’s issue of Immquest.