High number of women failing citizenship test reflects barriers they face, advocates say

Some good analysis of the effects on gender from some of the earlier policy and program changes to the citizenship program.

Not surprising but now data and evidence-based (disclosure: I have shared my citizenship data and talked with Neighbourhood Legal Services). IRCC does not publish a gender breakdown for citizenship unlike other programs:

According to data obtained under a freedom of information request, far more women than men have their citizenship applications rejected because they are unable to meet the knowledge or language requirements.

Although the Liberal government passed a bill this month to relax some of the more stringent citizenship requirements imposed by its Conservative predecessor, critics say the changes fail to address the barriers faced by immigrant women hoping to acquire Canadian citizenship.

Between 2007 and March 2017, more than 56,000 people had their citizenship applications refused, the majority of them for failing the language and knowledge requirements, said Jennifer Stone of the Neighbourhood Legal Services, who requested the data after spotting a rising number of women coming to her office for help with their applications.

“Women and refugees are disproportionately affected by the language and knowledge requirements. Now we have data that could bear that out,” Stone said. “For them, it’s not a matter of won’t. It’s a matter of can’t.”

Stone said that in recent years the number citizenship cases received by her clinic has skyrocketed and the majority of clients having difficulty obtaining citizenship are refugee women or sponsored spouses.

A gender breakdown of the refusals showed that 24,286 or 60 per cent of the 41,071 who failed the citizenship knowledge test were women. Of the 14,779 who failed the language requirement, 66 per cent or 9,754 of them were female, according to the data.

Refugees appear to be disproportionally affected by the tightened citizenship requirements introduced by the former Conservative government: raising the passing mark for the citizenship exam, demanding proof of language proficiency and drastically increasing the non-refundable citizenship application fee to $530 from $100.

The number refugees who obtained their citizenship dropped by 25 per cent to 20,059 between 2010 and 2015 from 26,725 between 2005 and 2009.

By comparison, the citizenship conversion rate for those who came under family reunification declined by 19.6 per cent while the number of new citizens who immigrated under the economic class went up by 0.9 per cent.

Tenzin Tekan, a community legal worker with Parkdale legal clinic, said she was not surprised by the statistics.

“For someone with no formal education, it’s hard,” Tekan said. “We welcome the news about the changes (by the Liberals), but it’s not going to help everyone.”

Although there is a provision in the Citizenship Act that waives the knowledge requirement based on medical opinions that applicants will “never” pass the exam, it’s a long, tedious process.

Source: High number of women failing citizenship test reflects barriers they face, advocates say | Toronto Star

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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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