Speech Article from  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Speaking notes for the Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at an announcement regarding proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act

Ottawa, Ontario
February 25, 2016

As delivered

Thank you very much and good morning everybody.

I’m very pleased to be here with you this morning to announce the changes in the Citizenship Act in the new bill which I just introduced in the House whose number has now been determined to be C-6. I’m very pleased to announce these changes which are entirely consistent with the promises we made during the election campaign and on which we as a government were elected.

I will explain these issues in three categories. First of all under Bill C-24, Canadians who were convicted for certain crimes could have their citizenship revoked. However one could only have one’s citizenship revoked if one were a dual citizen and therefore this law created two classes of Canadians. This law created two classes of Canadians, and we strongly believe that there is just one class of Canadians, that all Canadians are equal, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

The previous law allowed citizenship to be revoked for those who were convicted of serious crimes, certain serious crimes but only those who had dual citizenship. Dual citizens were subject to revocation. Therefore we had two classes of citizens. And we believe very strongly there should be only one class of Canadians, that all Canadians are equal, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian from coast to coast to coast.

It is for that reason that it will no longer be possible under this law to revoke citizenship of any Canadian for crimes of the kind that were in the previous law. It will still be possible to revoke citizenship as it always has been for those who misrepresent who they are or who are guilty of citizenship fraud.

I think under the previous law there was also a risk of a slippery slope. If one crime made you eligible for revocation this year, what crimes could be added next year? There were concerns about the precise definition of dual citizenship.

All of those points are now moot, irrelevant because no citizen can have his citizenship revoked for reasons of committing these crimes. I would also say that we do have a criminal justice system. We do have courts. We do have prisons where those who are convicted of crimes are sent and that is the way in which we deal with this. We do not need to create two classes of citizenship in order to deal with those who are convicted of criminal offenses.

The second aspect of this bill is that we seek to reduce barriers which were imposed on those seeking to become citizens. I will mention five cases. First, the age range for language requirements used to be 18 to 54. C-24 changed it to 14 to 64 and we are changing it back to 18 to 54. Second, we are repealing the intent to reside provision that was in C-24. That provision created legitimate concerns of possible future citizenship revocation and so that provision will be repealed.

Third we are restoring the 50 percent credit for time spent in Canada by international students. If I were to be asked what is the most egregious part of this C-24 I would probably say citizenship revocation. If I were asked what is the stupidest part of C-24 I would say revoking the 50 percent credit for international students because international students are the perfect candidates to become Canadian citizens.

We are seeking them out as are other countries around the world. And so it makes no sense for Canada to punch them in the nose by taking away their 50 percent credit rather than nurturing them and seeking to welcome them into our midst.

We are therefore going to restore the 50 percent credit for international students, and I think it was a stupid move to get rid of this 50 percent provision because Canada should be trying to get international students, who are sought out around the world, to become citizens.

So it makes no sense to insult these people by getting rid of this provision for a 50 percent credit.

That was the third. The fourth is we are changing the physical presence requirement in Canada from four out of the past six years to three out of the past five years and this will allow individuals to apply for citizenship one year earlier.

The fifth and final point which is not in the law but which is a part of the issue of citizenship is we have these two citizenship books, books for aspiring citizens: Discover Canada and Découvrir le Canada and I will be working with my colleague Mélanie Joly, the Heritage Minister and also the Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett to modify the language in these books.

As they now stand they’re a little heavy on the War of 1812 and barbaric cultural practices. We will be proposing some changes to these books that will guide those who will be applying to become citizens of our country. The last of the three components - I’ve spoken about citizenship revocation, reducing barriers - but the last set of points I want to mention is that we will certainly retain program integrity and we will retain the fact that conditions to become Canadians remain real and meaningful.

Citizenship fraud remains an issue. It didn’t disappear with the past election. It remains an important element in the scene. It is important to continue to act to retain and strengthen program integrity. To that end we will retain the physical presence requirement. We will retain the language requirement, albeit in both cases with some relatively modest adjustments on the details but we will also introduce a new authority to seize documents that are thought to be fraudulent.

While we are reducing barriers which we view to be unnecessary and while we are ending citizenship revocation, we are also concerned to maintain program integrity and to maintain the point that conditions to become a Canadian citizen will remain real and meaningful. I thank you for your presence and I would be very happy to answer your questions.

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