Citizenship is a privilege that comes with responsibilities
Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 06:00 am
Earlier this month, our government introduced Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.
This is the first comprehensive Reform of the Citizenship Act since 1977, the year the Bee Gees released the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, Smallpox was officially eradicated, and Pat Quinn played his final NHL game for the Atlanta Flames.
Times have changed and it is our responsibility to ensure Canada’s citizenship laws keep pace.
As a proud Canadian, I believe true citizenship requires a willingness to contribute and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history.
Canada is a wealthy and generous nation, however, we are not in the business of providing a passport of convenience to those who would seek to take advantage. We must make it clear that Canadian citizenship comes with both duties and rights; privileges and responsibilities.
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act will require all applicants from age 14 to 64 to pass the knowledge of Canada and language proficiency tests. It will also require citizenship applicants to be physically present in Canada for a total of four out of their last six years.
Those who pursue citizenship through fraud and misrepresentation will face tough new penalties: A fine of up to $100,000 and/or five years in prison. It expands the ground on which foreign criminals are barred. In addition, this new bill will allow the revocation of citizenship from dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, and spying offences, or who take up arms against Canada.
At the same time, our government recognizes the need to reduce unwarranted red tape and improve efficiency for Canadian taxpayers.
To that end, Bill C-24 will reduce the decision-making process from three steps to one. It is expected that, by 2015 to 2016, this change will bring the average processing time down to under a year, and the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 per cent. At the same time, The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act increases citizenship fees to ensure applicants are responsible for the majority of the processing cost. In addition, it provides swift access for permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I firmly believe that Canadian citizenship, sought by so many around the world, is a privilege. These new rules are tough but fair. They rightly reinforce the value of citizenship, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and simplify the process for new Canadians who play by the rules.