IRCC Departmental Plan 2017-18 – Citizenship section ignores the main issue of declining naturalization

I have been holding off these comments on the IRCC Departmental Plan until the final 2016 citizenship statistics were released. The above chart now includes these showing a steady decline in applications:  198,000 in 2014 (about the historical norm), 130,000 in 2015 and 92,000 in 2016. The number of new citizens, reflecting the additional funding to clear up the backlog of some 300,000 applications, rose to 263,000 in 2014, then dropped somewhat to 235,000 in 2015, with a sharper drop to 148,000 in 2016.

With the number of permanent residents close to 300,000, over time this will mean fewer immigrants taking up citizenship, a major break with the immigrant-to-citizen model.

This “elephant in the room” is mentioned nowhere in the IRCC Departmental Plan (or Performance Report), nor is there any discussion of the societal risks of fewer immigrants taking up Canadian citizenship.

IRCC maintains a meaningless performance management standard: IRCC uses the benchmark of  the overall naturalization rate of all immigrants, no matter how long ago they came to Canada, rather than the more relevant number who have become citizens in the last 6 to 8 years.

Planned spending is $62 million, projected to remain flat for the next three years (three percent of departmental spending).

Priority: Diversity and attachment

The Department provides newcomers with access to Canadian citizenship and promotes the rights and responsibilities associated with Canadian citizenship, thus fostering a sense of belonging for newcomers and Canadians.

  • Provide support for proposed legislative changes to the Citizenship Act (Bill C-6) which seek modifications to provisions such as revocation as well as residency and language requirements for citizenship applicants.
  • Continue to promote citizenship awareness, including through Canada 150 celebrations, and update the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship to be more reflective of Canada’s diversity.

Priority: Efficient processing

The Department aims to ensure that its screening processes are faster for clients and more effective for Canadians.

  • Expand the eligibility for the new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) with proposed expansion for certain travellers from Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania. As well, explore further opportunities to facilitate travel to Canada by lower-risk foreign nationals, such as the increased use of automation to make visitor screening faster, more secure and effective for both travellers and Canadians.
  • Implement innovative approaches to increase efficiencies and reduce processing times, including reducing the processing time for spousal applications by half, to 12 months. Improve the citizenship application process, enabling qualified permanent residents to obtain citizenship more quickly. The Department will also target citizenship application backlogs and develop tools to improve how work is distributed and handled across its service delivery network.

Program 3.2: Citizenship for Newcomers and All Canadians

The purpose of the Citizenship Program is to administer citizenship legislation and promote the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. IRCC administers the acquisition of Canadian citizenship by developing, implementing and applying legislation, regulations and policies that protect the integrity of Canadian citizenship and allow eligible applicants to be granted citizenship or be provided with a proof of citizenship. In addition, the program promotes citizenship, to both newcomers and the Canadian-born, through various events, materials and projects. Promotional activities focus on enhancing knowledge of Canada’s history, institutions and values, as well as fostering an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.

Planning highlights

  • Implement changes to the Citizenship Act following Royal Assent of Bill C-6, including corresponding updates to the Citizenship Regulations.
  • Update the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, in support of Canada 150 celebrations.
  • Continue to collaborate with federal partners and national Indigenous organizations to explore options to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.

2017–2018 Departmental Plan

The 2015-16 IRCC Departmental Performance Report does not provide any meaningful reporting on citizenship but states:

The Department, through its regular performance reporting processes, has developed specific performance indicators to cover the Citizenship Program’s key outcome areas, including awareness of the responsibilities and privileges associated with Canadian citizenship; desire and successful uptake of Canadian citizenship by newcomers; the integrity of the Citizenship Program; and the value attached to Canadian citizenship. As data are not available at this time, results will be reported in the future.

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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