Senate proposes major amendment to Liberal citizenship legislation [C-6] : ‘It goes a long way’

As indicated during committee hearings, the amendment to restore procedural protections to those accused of fraud or misrepresentation was tabled in the Senate March 9:

The Liberal government’s update to immigration law is poised to be changed by the Senate after a major amendment was introduced Thursday.

Elaine McCoy, who acts as a “facilitator” for a de facto caucus of independent senators, tabled the amendment during debate over the third reading of Bill C-6.

If someone is served notice their citizenship is being revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation, the amendment requires the immigration minister to inform them of their right to appeal that decision in Federal Court.

Under Conservative legislation that took effect in May 2015 (referred to as Bill C-24), the process for citizenship revocation was significantly streamlined, and revocation notices have since ramped up significantly. The National Post reported last month that at least 236 people were served notice since the Liberals took power in November 2015.

Under the new process, people can submit written arguments as to why their citizenship should not be revoked, but there’s no clear option to have these arguments assessed by an independent judge.

It’s a loophole that many committee witnesses, in both the House of Commons and the Senate, argued should be fixed with the Liberal update. In the House, New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan attempted to move amendments but they were ruled out of scope at committee stage.

It’s in the Senate that proponents hoped to see the fix. Previous immigration minister John McCallum told senators he would “welcome” such an amendment, but new minister Ahmed Hussen said in Senate committee last week he would have to see the amendment before promising the government would commit to it — although “we are committed to procedural fairness.”

McCoy said the amendment is designed to give people “due process.” It puts decision-making back in the hands of the elected and accountable minister, she said, and allows the independent judiciary to review those decisions.

Drawing laughter from fellow senators, McCoy gave an example of how anonymous the revocation system has become. A revocation notice letter she obtained was signed with a citizenship analyst’s number rather than their name — “D 1816,” she said.

“This amendment is not going to fix everything, but it goes a long way,” McCoy said.

It’s been a “labour of many, many months,” the bill’s sponsor, Ratna Omidvar, added Thursday. The amendment is four pages long and determines exactly how the process would work — the “bare bones of due process,” Omidvar said, including a 60-day deadline for people to decide whether or not to take their appeal to court.

André Pratte, rose to support McCoy’s amendment. It addresses a “serious shortcoming,” he said, and will make the entire citizenship revocation process “much fairer.”

“Some will wonder why are we doing favours to people who have cheated the system. I would argue those are not favours, but fundamental human rights,” Pratte said.

Conservative senator Yonah Martin indicated Thursday she was concerned about the amendment being out of scope, and wondered why it wasn’t moved in committee. But McCoy said she was trying to be transparent by sharing the amendment with senators ahead of time and allowing it to be brought to the wider chamber.

Another Conservative senator, Daniel Lang, said he is concerned that some people could drag out the process over “years and years and years without any definitive decision being made.” Omidvar responded that court isn’t automatic. The amendment requires people to specifically ask for a court appeal in order for that appeal to be heard. Imposing a deadline on the court might not be possible, she added.

Debate was adjourned Thursday and the Senate now enters a two-week break, meaning votes on the amendment and the bill can’t happen until at least the week of March 28. If the Senate passes an amended version, the House of Commons will have to decide whether or not to accept the amendment before the bill can become law.

Source: Senate proposes major amendment to Liberal citizenship legislation: ‘It goes a long way’ | National Post

The text of the amendment can be found here: Motion in Amendment

Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) Report on C-6 Citizenship Act Changes

The text of the committee report, dated 7 March 2017. presented to the full Senate for Third Reading:

Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of December 15, 2016, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.

Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

KELVIN KENNETH OGILVIE, Chair

Observations to the Tenth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-6)

Language Exemptions: The committee observes a need for greater flexibility to allow exemptions to the language and knowledge testing requirements in order to obtain citizenship. While Bill C-6 makes changes to the age group that is required to take language and knowledge tests, there are other exceptional circumstances that can prevent a person from learning English or French which are not addressed by the bill. These circumstances may involve social, or physical and mental health factors. The committee heard that people from different socio-economic backgrounds have differential ability and capacity to acquire a new language. The committee suggests that the scope and accessibility of exemptions to language and knowledge testing should be reviewed with the goal of ensuring that applicants do not experience unreasonable delays or hardship to obtain citizenship.

Smart Permanent Resident Cards: During the committee’s hearings on Bill C-6, the committee was made aware that keeping a record of residency requirements would be easier with “smart” Permanent Resident Cards. The committee heard from one witness that the benefit of the smart card system is the maintenance of an accurate record of a person’s time spent in Canada would be kept. This will allow for more transparency on citizenship applications. Therefore, the committee urges the government to review and consider the implementation of a smart card residency program.

Fees: The committee also notes that citizenship application fees are rising at an accelerated pace. In February 2014, an individual application fee cost $100. Today, the cost is $530. This is more than a 500 per cent increase. There is an additional $100 right of citizenship fee. Altogether, the cost to acquire citizenship for a family of four with two minor children is $1,460. When extra costs such as language training and testing are taken into consideration, the costs are much higher. High citizenship fees can present a significant financial burden to potential applicants, and could act as a barrier for traditionally low income groups such as those with disabilities, single mothers and minorities. To ensure that potential applicants are not barred from citizenship based solely on their income, the committee advises the government to consider lowering these fees.

Source: Report details – Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values

While I agree with Ivison (and Anglin) on focusing on outcomes, not meaningless values declarations, his characterization of the repeal of revocation from dual nationals convicted of terrorism or treason can hardly be called “pandering,” given that polling indicated strong support for the Conservatives on this issue.

In fact, the Conservatives “pandered” by making revocation part of C-24 when available evidence indicates revocation would not be a deterrent and that revocation would most likely be found to violate the Charter, given different treatment for dual (or multiple) nationals compared to Canadian nationals only (and the list of those convicted and charged includes both categories).

While the other changes could be labelled as “pandering,” they could also labelled as “responding” to the concerns of new Canadian voters, irrespective of the merits or not of the original policies and subsequent changes:

The Conservatives reformed the system over their time in power, so that family class immigration was on the decline (down 18 per cent in 2014), while economic immigration was on the rise (up 11 per cent). New programs such as the Express Entry system were introduced to speed the application process for people with the skills Canada needs.

But the 2015 election meant a change of emphasis. The Liberals promised to prioritize family reunification, granting points under the Express Entry system to applicants with siblings in Canada and doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents.

Immigration targets have been raised to 300,000; visa requirements on Mexico have been lifted; language requirements have been watered down for younger and older applicants; while the residency requirement for citizenship has been reduced to three years from four, one of the lowest among peer countries.

Perhaps the most egregious example of political pandering was the repeal of the law that revoked citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or treason. If you can have your citizenship revoked for misrepresentation, does it make sense that you are able to keep it after being caught planning to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto, as was the case with Zaharia Amara, ringleader of the Toronto 18 terror group, who recently saw his citizenship reinstated?

Justin Trudeau’s pledges on immigration had the desired impact — a shift in allegiance of a number of visible minority communities to the Liberals.

But they made no sense from a policy perspective. Their adoption has created an opportunity for the Conservative Party to make a pitch to voters who agree that immigration is a necessity for economic growth, yet do not believe parties should use bad policy in a bidding war for votes.

The idea to increase the number of face-to-face interviews for immigrants is a good one, but the rest of Leitch’s plan is unworkable. As Howard Anglin, a former chief of staff to Jason Kenney when he was immigration minister, wrote recently in iPolitics, the Conservatives considered a values pledge for new citizens. After looking at examples from Australia and the Netherlands, they concluded such pledges were “empty exercises.”

“Even assuming one could agree on a list of values that newcomers would pledge to uphold (would Conservatives trust Trudeau to draft this? Would Liberals have trusted Stephen Harper to?), it would be about as meaningful as clicking ‘accept’ on a computer program’s ‘terms of use’ and, in practice, even less enforceable.”

A more sensible immigration policy would forget about “values” and concentrate on outcomes — where the focus is on attracting smart workers who will help Canada navigate an age of automation and job displacement.

As author Peter C. Newman once noted: “When a nation’s elite is three generations removed from steerage, it cannot afford too many pretensions.”

Source: John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values | National Post

Senate hearings on C-6: Clause-by-clause complete, on to third reading March 2

Summary: C-6 was approved on division by the SOCI and reported out to the full Senate for third reading, with Conservative senators opposed. Three observations were appended to the report: greater flexibility for exemptions to knowledge and language assessment, reviewing possible use of smart permanent residency cards, and considering a reduction in citizenship fees. Senator Eggleton, as Deputy Chair, while supporting C-6 noted that an amendment was needed with respect to revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, given the lack of due process, and an amendment would be tabled at third reading.

Clause-by-clause: All clauses of C-6 were carried on division, with Conservative senators opposed to all provisions. Clause 3 (repeal of the revocation provision for dual nationals convicted of terrorism or treason) and the related clause 20 (reinstatement of citizenship of those whose citizenship was revoked for terrorism or treason) were subject to recorded votes, with all Conservative senators opposed.

Observations

Citizenship for children born abroad (non-genetic link): Senator Omidvar noted testimony of the Barreau du Quebec (check) flagging issues related to children born abroad but without any genetic link to their Canadian parents (e.g., surrogates, in vitro). After consideration discussion, officials noted that children adopted abroad had direct access to citizenship (C-14 in 2008) with no difference in treatment between male-female and same sex couples. With respect to surrogates or in vitro children, a genetic or gestational (Canadian mother born) was required. With this clarification, the observation was withdrawn.

Greater flexibility for exceptions to knowledge and language assessment: Senator Omidvar noted the testimony by a number of witnesses regarding the difficulty some immigrant have with respect to testing. Under “exceptional circumstances” (e.g., social, physical, mental health, disabilities, lack of time for women with caregiving responsibilities).

A number of senators expressed concern that the language was overly broad. Moreover, questions had already been raised by former citizenship judge Watt that the assessment process was not strong enough. Officials indicated there was already considerable scope for discretion in such cases and that 80 percent of waiver requests were granted (320 waivers). Officials also noted that the citizenship test was available in large print and brail versions. The Minister had broad grounds to waive these requirements and the department was confident it had the needed authorities and instructions in place.

Omidvar noted that language and knowledge assessment had become more difficult since the time judge Watt was active. She noted that often applicants in this situation had to go to court to obtain waivers and the system was not as flexible and accommodating as portrayed and reminded all of the wording “exceptional circumstances.” In the end, observation carried.

Smart permanent residence cards: Senator Frum, picking up on lawyer Julie Taub’s point about the need for smart cards to automatically track entry and exit to minimize the burden on immigrants and reduce residency fraud, tabled an observation that asked the government “to implement” smart PR cards. However, she also offered a softer version: “review or consider.” A number of senators expressed support for the concept but noted the practical difficulties of implementation The Chair deftly secured agreement for the “review and consider” language.

Fees: Senator Eggleton returned to the issue of the sharp increase of citizenship fees from $100 to $530 plus right of citizenship fee of $100, resulting in a cost of $1,460 for a family of four, with possible additional costs of language assessment. This posed a financial burden and barrier to low-income immigrants and thus his observation requested the government consider lowering fees.

Referring extensively to my submission (https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/Briefs/C-6_A_Griffith_e.pdf) and its attribution of the much of the 50 percent drop in  applications to this increase, he noted that it belied the assertion in the Canada Gazette notifications that no drop was anticipated. Historically, about 200,000 applications were submitted, the current trend would see less than 100,000. Departmental staff believe that other reasons are involved which may be the case given other elements of C-24.

Canada should not discourage people from becoming citizens and becoming a citizen shouldn’t be based on financial means. Cost recovery may have been supported by one witness but other witnesses noted that this created a barrier for many immigrants. Income testing for waivers was “not the way to go” as it marginalized people more. He did not agree with the department’s position.

Senator Frum probed regarding waivers for those who submitted evidence of hardship while those who could pay should pay. Senator Neufeld noted that the committee had heard from officials and the Minister and that the fees were what was needed to cover the cost of the program.

Senator Eggleton noted that an increase from $100 to $530 is a problem. One did not need to roll back the fee to $100 but perhaps to $300, addingg that the right to citizenship fee of $100 was “ridiculous. He reiterated his concern that an income test would stigmatize low-income immigrants.

Observation carried.

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation amendment (Hill Times):

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar, who was appointed last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says Senators are preparing to amend a key plank of the government’s mandate next week, the Citizenship Bill C-6, a move she calls “necessary” and says she’s received support from some Senate Liberals as well.

Sen. Omidvar, an international expert on migration who is sponsoring Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, in the Senate, told The Hill Times on Thursday that she’s nearing the completion of drafting an amendment that would put an end to Canadians being stripped of their citizenship without a hearing. Sen. Omidvar wants to remove a law brought in by the previous Conservative government which allows for the revocation of citizenship of anyone who the government deems to have been fraudulent or misrepresented themselves during the application process.

Currently, the provision is not part of Bill C-6, despite the fact that the legislation features other repeals of Conservative legislation. As it stands, Bill C-6 addresses promises made by the Liberals during the last election campaign to amend parts of the previous Conservative government’s Bill C-24 from the last Parliament.

….The amendment would include the right of the individual whose citizenship is in question to appeal their case to the Federal Court, without leave, she said. “It would have a timeline attached to it, it would enable the appellant in this case to have access to full disclosure of documents that were used to reach the original decision. The individual would have the right to provide more evidence that may or may not have been available,” said Sen. Omidvar.

On Thursday, the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee passed the legislation without amendment, but warned that the proposed amendment was still coming.

Sen. Omidvar said she believes she will have enough Senate support for her amendment to pass when she brings Bill C-6 back up for debate in the Upper Chamber next week.

“Everyone feels an amendment is necessary, we are now arguing about its shape and size … but I’m confident that we will craft an amendment that is hopefully accepted, first by the Chamber, and then by the House,” she said.

Amending government’s Citizenship Bill ‘necessary,’ says Sen. Omidvar, Senate sponsor of Bill C-6

 

Senate Hearings on C-6: Minister Hussen and Witnesses March 1

Summary: Senate committee hearings on Bill C-6 finished March 1 with the last set of witnesses, including Minister Hussen and officials, with the clause-by-clause review taking place this morning. The Minister was challenged particularly on the lack of procedural protections in the cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation. While he stated his general willingness to consider improvements, the overall tenor of his responses and those of his officials was to defend the current process. Conservative senators questioned the rational for the elimination of knowledge and language assessment for 55-64 year olds, probed the protections of the current revocation process for misrepresentation and expressed their disagreement with the repeal of revocation in cases of treason or terror. Senator Eggleton, just as he had during C-24, expressed his concern over the impact of the increase in citizenship fees, with the Minister and officials defending the increase and arguing it did not cause the decline.

The clause-by-clause review this morning may see a number of observations (greater flexibility for those applicants who have difficulty in knowledge or language assessment, the impact of citizenship fees). An amendment to improve procedural protections is expected to be introduced at third reading.

External witnesses

Robert Watt, a former Vancouver-based citizenship judge 2009-15 focussed his remarks on his experience in reviewing thousands of applications. While the majority clearly demonstrated the desire to stay and contribute, a basic competence in language and understanding of Canada, a small number had a more instrumental interest in having a Canadian passport and the benefits of medicare and tax credits, or being “citizens of convenience. He believed strongly that the intent to reside should remain given the clear signal it sends that a new citizen should centre her of his life in Canada; that the current residency requirements of four to six years should not be reduced and the need for the department to have “robust audit procedures” to check the validity of third-party language assessment.

Lorne Waldman of CARL, and Josh Patterson of BCCLA spoke on to restore procedural protections for revocation in cases of fraud and misrepresentation, either reverting to the previous access to the Federal Court or some other procedure that involved the right to a hearing, the right to disclosure, an independent decision-maker and reversion to permanent residence status rather than foreign national.moan independent

Main questions

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation and procedural protections: Most of the time was taken up by this issue, with questions and witnesses noting the contrast between the solid procedural protections for permanent residency misrepresentation and refugee determination and the limited protections for citizenship misrepresentation. Patterson and Waldman repeatedly noted the dubious constitutionality of the provision. In terms of which option was preferred, they noted their preference for an expansion of the IRB to handle such cases, given their experience and expertise. However, as there was no reference to a possible IRB role, that was beyond the scope of what could be considered and thus some variant of a process providing an oral hearing before the Federal Court was provided. There was relatively low risk of cases being appealed beyond the Federal Court level. A number of examples were cited highlighting the limitations of the C-24 approach.

Smart Permanent Resident Cards to track entry and exit (raised by Julie Taub in last set of hearings): Watt noted that pending technological developments, applicants should present their travel documents to CBSA (but was unclear how that would work). Waldman noted that unlike the EU, Canada does not control on leaving the country. This would be a significant change and would be expensive to implement. While it would work for airports, it would not be practical for land crossings given the resulting delays.

Fees: Senator Eggleton continued to press on fees, noting the dramatic increase in fees and that applications had taken a “real nose dive,” noting the points made in my brief (https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/Briefs/C-6_A_Griffith_e.pdf). He noted that the press on full cost recovery did not take into account that those applying for citizenship were taxpayers too, and they would be contributing for many years. Waldman confirmed the impact on immigrants, that the costs to families, including external language assessment, was in the $1,000s and that the government had to look at costs as a barrier if Canada wants to encourage people to become part of the fabric of society. Watt noted the fee increases came near the end of his term but he had seen instances of individuals and families struggling even with the previous fees, and a “good case” can be made to balance accessibility and cost recovery.

Language proficiency and age requirement: Watt was probed further on what he meant by the need for a robust audit on whether or not language requirements were met. He responded by noting the wide range of organizations offering assessment services and that random audits were needed to ensure that the level had been attained. He noted that some applicants may lose proficiency in the period between getting assessed and becoming citizens (but also noted that the reverse could occur). Patterson noted there was no issue with respect to 14-17 year olds as they would learn in schools or the workforce. For 55-64 year olds, economic class immigrants already would have met language requirements, and the issue was with respect to family class, particularly parents and grandparents. He referred to Avvy Go’s earlier testimony regarding the barriers faced by low-income immigrants and refugees and believe a better approach was increased resources for language training.

Residency requirements: Watt was challenged whether one more year or less made a difference in terms of integration. He responded by noted the importance that the clarity that residency meant physical presence provided given previous Federal Court jurisprudence. He never saw any evidence from IRCC that an additional year would be burdensome and did not believe it was. Waldman confirmed the helpfulness of the physical residency definition but noted that the change to three out of five years was particularly helpful to refugees as they had no other citizenship. The restoring of part-time credit for time spent in Canada prior to becoming a Permanent Resident was also a welcome improvement.

Minister Hussen and officials

Minister Hussen opened by noting that the previous government’s changes had created barriers to citizenship. C-6 would repeal some of the changes and facilitate citizenship, and send a clear signal of Canadian inclusivity, fairness and diversity (“diversity is our strength”). C-6 was part of implementing the Speech from the Throne commitment to make it easier for immigrants to participate.

Repeal of the national interest revocation provision (terror treason) was to ensure that Canadians, whether single, dual or multiple nationality were treated equally and the government did not support treating people differently, noting the positions of organizations such as the CBA and CCR along with focus groups “much troubled” by this distinction. Those convicted of terrorism or treason will face the Canadian justice system and will “go to jail for a long time.” Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation was different.

Other measures in C-6 removed barriers. Repeal of the intent to reside provision would reassure citizens that they were not at risk of losing citizenship. Physical presence was maintained but citizenship could be attained one year earlier. Providing part-time credit for pre-permanent residency time provided greater flexibility for those such as international students who had “started building connections.” The return to the previous 18-54 age requirements for testing recognized that 14-17 year olds would meet these through the school system while easing the burden for55-64 year olds.

He also reiterated the government’s commitment to program integrity, noting the provision that would allow the government to seize fraudulent documents.

Main questions

Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation and procedural protections: As in the previous session, the absence of procedural protections was the main focus. Minister was repeatedly challenged along the earlier testimony by legal experts, and was reminded that his predecessor had indicated he would welcome an amendment in this regard. The Minister repeatedly stated that he believed that the present process has safeguards and is sound, but he was open to proposals that would improve protections.

A number of questions served to clarify the steps in the process and the criteria used by officials to assess whether revocation was warranted. Factors included: age of applicant, extent of ties to Canada, whether they were primarily living in Canada or not, and the health of an individual. The process was completely delegated to officials.

Some questions concerned the assertions of CARL/BCCLA:

  • no right to disclosure: unanswered by Minister unless I missed it
  • no H&C consideration: Minister replied party can provide under personal considerations
  • no right to counsel: Minister replied absolute right to counsel (in preparation of documents)
  • no right to appeal: Minister said not correct (seek leave which is not the same thing)

Minister resorted at one point by noting that C-6 only dealt with some issues – dual national revocation and removing barriers – and that the appeal mechanism was “not central” to C-6. He was, however, “committed” to procedural fairness.

Officials confirmed that the majority of cases pertained to residency, with other cases related to identity or not disclosing criminality.

Revocation (terror or treason): Conservative senators challenged Minister on the rational to repeal the revocation provisions of C-24 and he reiterated the equal treatment arguments. He confirmed that the one person whose citizenship which had been revoked under the C-24 provision would have his citizenship reinstated.

Fees: Senator Eggleton raised the same questions as before. Minister replied that the drop was more attributable to the barriers contained within C-24, primarily the longer residency requirements. Fees were much lower than many countries, citing the USA and UK (comment: correct, but not mentioning Australia and NZ which are lower). Officials reiterated the direct correlation between the extended residency requirement, noting the sharp drop after June 2015 when the four-year minimum came into effect.

Comment: The one-year transition effect ended in June 2016. The final 2016 numbers, due out any day now, will confirm a sharp decline. The July-September numbers – the first quarter after this transition period – do show an increase (from 11,970 to 20,329) but one far short of the historical number of applications (about 200,000 per year or 50,000 per quarter). Hence fees matter!

Language proficiency and age requirement: In response to questions regarding the number of applicants 55-64, officials provided some useful data. 7.7 percent of all applicants were in this age category (not clear which year – I have a pending request for this data). Officials noted that the numbers of this age group had dropped from 15,243 last year to 2,317  (believe it referred to mid-year comparisons 2016 to 2015), with total applications of 67,000 (not clear which period she was referring to). Minister indicated his confidence in language assessment process.

Officials noted that applications were not accepted if the applicant had little or no language. Settlement programs provided language training and applications would be accepted following successful completion. Officials also noted the various steps to ensure the integrity of the citizenship test. On the citizenship study guide, officials confirmed that the current guide was written higher than CLB-4 (the formal requirement) and that it would be re-written to be more aligned to the requirement: not to “simplify but in clearer language.”  Officials were also looking at including more language on Indigenous peoples, given TRC recommendation number 93.

Minister reiterated that it was important for 55-64 year olds to obtain citizenship, that it contributed further to their integration and they contributed to Canadian society (e.g., providing child care) and this restored what “has worked in Canada for more than 40 years.”

Integrity: In addition to points in opening remarks, Minister noted that the department had agreed with all recommendations in the OAG audit of the citizenship program, with all either acted or being acted upon.

Only media coverage I have seen is in the National Post (Immigration minister defends legislation that prevents convicted dual nationals from losing citizenship), largely unbalanced as it focuses mainly on the testimony of one witness, Julie Taub, and her critique of C-6)

 

Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right: Chapman misses the mark

While I have a great deal of respect for Don Chapman and other advocates who successfully pushed the previous government to address the issue of “lost Canadians” in C-37 (2009) and C-24 (2014), I find his latest op-ed misses the mark, arguing for opening up the constitution to add citizenship as a right in the Constitution.

Apart from the fact that no government in their right mind would open up the Constitution given the divisive process that would result (been there, done that!), their column makes assertions about numbers (“many”) without any real serious look at the data.

The data we have primarily consists of the demand for citizenship proofs. The 2009 and 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act addressed the majority of the potential cases; however, the number of annual proofs did not change significantly, suggesting less demand than Chapman and other advocates claimed.

citizenship-proofs-2010-15

That is not to say that some cases remain, but that they are best dealt with individually through consideration for a discretionary grant of citizenship (s 5(4) of the Act).

Moreover, as one of my former colleagues noted:

mark-on-chapman

Chapman also engages in fear mongering with respect to Canadian dual nationals living in the US being forced to renounce their US citizenship in order to avoid potential revocation in cases of acts of terrorism or treason. C-6, currently in the Senate, will repeal this provision and thus address the major Charter violation that treats dual nationals separately from “mono-nationals”:

The practical implication is that the more than 100,000 Canadian casualties from the First and Second World Wars never lived to become citizens, and many of their children have spent decades fighting for their right to citizenship, denied them simply because their fathers did not survive the war. The hallmark of former minister of citizenship and immigration Jason Kenney was the consistency with which he denied these applicants. Although many of these Canadians eventually regained their citizenship through parliamentary victories, too many died as they were simply waited out by Ottawa.

Particularly heinous is the untold number of Indigenous Canadians that are currently stateless because their parents never registered their births, rightfully fearing their children would be sent to a residential school. Now adults, these Canadians have no rights or benefits. They are citizens of nowhere, unable to legally work, marry, attend school, buy a home, get a loan, drive a car or even take a bus, train or plane without identification. They are ghosts in their own land, forced to live in the shadows.

Even recent amendments that reinstated citizenship to some have left many others stateless, and did nothing to prevent that reinstated status from being stripped in the future.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s policies further complicated citizenship rights, making second-class citizens of anyone with dual-citizenship status. With the current political turmoil in the United States, thousands of these dual citizens – especially targeted professionals such as journalists and human-rights workers – now face the painful option of renouncing their U.S. citizenship, fearing their second-class status in Canada could, on a whim from our leadership, force them to live in Mr. Trump’s United States.

Our national identity has no foundation if we have no inherent rights, and Mr. Trump’s idle threats against his own people prove how urgent it is to give serious thought to our Canadian citizenship – what it actually is, how we get it and how it’s lost.

As we approach our 150th birthday, this is the perfect time to focus on defining and protecting our identity. It is time to make citizenship a constitutional right. Pierre Trudeau gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Prime Minister to take the final step to true nationhood: an inviolable, constitutional right of citizenship.

Source: Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right – The Globe and Mail

High fees blamed for sharp decrease in Canadian citizenship applications | Toronto Star

Another article on the impact of the increase on citizenship fees, just before Minister Hussen testifies before the Senate committee studying the bill:

The number of immigrants applying for citizenship has plunged by a whopping 50 per cent at the same time as Ottawa has stripped a record number of Canadians of their citizenship.

According to the latest data from the Immigration Department, only 56,446 new citizenship applications were received in the first nine months of last year, a sharp decline from the 111,993 during the same period in 2015.

The number of new citizens approved also dropped by 48 per cent from 198,119 to 111,435 over the same period, said Andrew Griffith, a retired director general of the department who obtained the data.

While the tightened language proficiency and longer residency requirements have contributed to the decline, the steep increase in citizenship application fees under the former Conservative government is a key factor, Griffith said.

The processing fee was raised from $100 to $300 in February 2015 and again to $530 later that year, with an additional $100 right-of-citizenship fee required once the application is approved. Historically, citizenship applications have averaged close to 200,000 per year.

“The fee hike is a huge part. When you increase the price, you are not going to be able to afford it,” noted Griffith, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “The fee is a significant barrier. If you are a professional, you can pay it with no problem. But if you are low-income, it becomes a burden.”

The federal Liberals have tabled Bill C-6 to amend the Citizenship Act, which would make citizenship less restrictive by reducing the residency requirement to three out of four years from four out of six and limiting the language and knowledge tests to applicants aged 18-54, instead of 14-64. However, there is no mention of a fee reduction in the bill.

Toronto lawyer Avvy Go, who spoke at Senate hearings into the bill, said the fees are a problem for the low-income households she serves at the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

The legal clinic organized a number of workshops in 2015 to urge eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship before the changes by the Tory government came into effect. Many attendees to the workshops said they were not able to afford the fees, Go told the Star.

“When you look at who the poor are, they are people from racialized communities, women and the disabled, who are bearing the consequences. You are going to further disenfranchise the vulnerable,” said Go.

“Many of my clients work long hours in restaurants and are paid minimum wages. They have to choose between putting food on the table and applying for citizenship. Many have no choice but choose to put food on the table first.”

Source: High fees blamed for sharp decrease in Canadian citizenship applications | Toronto Star

Senate Hearings on C-6: Witnesses February 15-16

The Senate’ Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) committee started hearings this week on Bill C-6 repeal and other changes to the previous government’s C-24 legislation that made citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose”

Witnesses reflected a balance of views on the proposed changes with few surprises compared to the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee hearings last year, or for that matter, much of the discussion around C-24 in 2014.

The changed composition of the Senate compared to the 2014 C-24 review (more non-affiliated senators, Trudeau appointments) was reflected in the selection of witnesses and questions.

As expected, discussion focussed on the main elements of C-6:

Revocation (terror or treason): Witnesses from the CBA, Quebec Bar, Audrey Macklin, and Craig Forcese all supported repeal of this provision, Reis Paghtakan opposed its repeal but only for terrorist convictions in Canada, and CIJA and Julie Taub opposed its repeal in all cases. Questioning by Senators included the legal and constitutional aspects of revocation, whether or not this acted as a deterrent, and the possible impact this could have with respect to war crimes.   There was a useful discussion on the difference between revocation for misrepresentation and for crimes of terror or treason; the former pertaining to crimes committed before being granted citizenship, where misrepresentation was the issue, and crimes committed after being granted citizenship, where the issue was whether the criminal system was sufficient to handle such cases or a supplementary punishment through revocation was warranted. Needless to say, the issue of differential treatment for dual nationals and Charter rights was raised repeatedly. Forcese and Macklin noted the negative impact such differential treatment had with respect to integration and countering violent extremism.

Revocation (misrepresentation): While not part of C-6, the absence of procedural protections – paper process, no right to a hearing, no right to an appeal – was raised repeatedly with virtually all witnesses indicating this remained an issue. Most favoured a return to the previous system of appeals to the Federal Court. Taub, however, emphasized how easy it was to commit residency fraud and misrepresentation, the need for smart Permanent Resident cards to track entry and exit, but did not comment on the need or not for protections. CIJA acknowledged the need for some procedural protections but wanted to ensure that these did result in endless appeals as happened in the Oberlander case.

Language and knowledge assessment: All agreed language was important to integration. No witnesses disagreed with the proposed removal of language and knowledge testing for 14-17 year olds. Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC) noted time, money and educational challenges for their low-income and refugee clientele, the need for expanded language training and related supports such as child care and income support and greater flexibility to waive requirements on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The cost of language assessment was also mentioned. CBA noted that writing the knowledge test in english or french imposed a double requirement and they would have been happy with keeping the testing requirement for 55-64 year olds but with the flexibility to do the test with an interpreter.

The most interesting recommendation was from Paghtakan, where he continues to advocate for scrapping language assessment as is a pre-requisite for economic class immigrants for permanent residency status. Duplication meant more expense to the government and more costs to immigrants. Most family class immigrants are parents and grandparents who would thus be exempt given the proposed change in age requirements while refugees could wait until they attain 55.

Chair noted earlier work by committee that showed 55-64 year olds formed about one-third of the active workforce.

Residency: Taub questioned the change in residency from four out of six years to three out of five, arguing that it was more generous than other countries and that this and other measures would increase the number of citizens of convenience. Paghtakan, while he had supported the four of six requirement of C-24, had no issue with the change to three of five given the maintenance of physical presence. The strength of Taub’s intervention on residency-related questions prompted Senator Petitclerc why all Taub’s points were so negative without mentioning the positive benefits of citizens contributing abroad. Taub cited citizens who install their family and return to the Gulf or Hong Kong where they can make more money and not pay Canadian income tax.

Intent to reside: Only Taub supported maintaining the intent to reside provision given its symbolic importance. The other lawyers testifying noted that situations can change following applying for citizenship and the consequent risk of misrepresentation cases and thus supported its repeal.

Pre-Permanent Residency time partial credit: Again, only Taub opposed restoring this pre-C-24 provision for Temporary Foreign Workers and international students, stating that this facilitated citizens of convenience.

Other issues

Oath: Paghtakan endorsed the TRC recommendation to amend the citizenship oath by adding the words “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” to assist new Canadians appreciate and understand this aspect of Canadian history and society.

Parental passing citizenship to children with no genetic link (in vitro): Quebec Bar raised gap in current legislation which based parental status on the genetic link (save for adoptions) rather than the relationship as in case of in vitro children.

Religious accommodation language testing: CIJA noted that many language testing centres only provided this service on Saturday (Sabbath), with extensive delays in accommodation.

Smart permanent resident card (chip or magnetic strip): Taub argued strongly that the PR card should be a smart card like any gym card that would allow tracking of entry and exit and make it easier for applicants to prove they met the residency requirements without having to search through documentation. (Comment: sounds good in theory but not a simple change, compounded by government challenges in managing complex IT projects as seen with Phoenix and Shared Services Canada.)

Fees: MTCSALC noted that the increase in citizenship processing fees from $100 to $530 made it prohibitive for many low income and refugee immigrants. The recent CBC article on the impact of citizenship fees on the number of applications was cited by Senator Eggleton. Taub argued that reduction was not just related to the increase of fees, that other factors — change in residency requirements, language testing — were also factors. She supported full cost recovery but with subsidies for low-income applicants.

Canadian citizenship applications decline after processing fees triple

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Citizenship Country Comparisons

Article based in part on my brief, C-6 Senate Hearings: Expected Impact on the Naturalization Rate.

The IRCC comment that the government has no plan to reduce fees is notable and surprising, given its diversity and inclusion agenda and expanded Immigration levels.

Equally notable that the IRCC spokesperson is incorrect on the level of Australia’s citizenship fee, our most appropriate comparator country (above comparison chart). He also cites that the increase in citizenship fees was not raised in recent consultations on immigration levels despite there being no questions in the consultation document on citizenship (IRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?):

A sharp fee increase has helped fuel a dramatic drop in the number of immigrants applying to become Canadian citizens, according to immigration advocates.

In the first nine months of 2016, there were 56,446 applications filed for citizenship, a decrease of nearly 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier, when 111,993 applications were submitted.

The figures are included in a briefing by former Immigration and Citizenship director general Andrew Griffith prepared for the Senate social affairs, science and technology committee, which begins hearings this week on Bill C-6, a law to amend the Citizenship Act.

Griffith, an author on immigration issues and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, calls it an “alarming” trend that can be linked directly to a steep increase in fees.

The processing fee jumped from $100 to $530 in 2014-2015, which amounts to a tripled price tag when the additional $100 “right of citizenship” fee is added.

“If you’re a professional doing reasonably well, you may not like it, but you pay it. It’s important to you,” Griffith told CBC News. “But if you are a struggling immigrant or refugee, suddenly $630 may become prohibitive, and especially if you’re talking about a family of four or more.”

Newcomers face other costs associated with the citizenship process, including language testing, he said. He recommends cutting the processing fee to $300, abolishing the right-of-citizenship fee, and considering a waiver for refugees and low-income immigrants.

Financial and other barriers

Griffith’s brief points to a broader pattern of declining naturalization rates. He warns that a growing part of the population may not fully integrate by becoming citizens due to financial or other barriers and that could lead to marginalization.

“We’ve always prided ourselves where we have a model where we don’t just encourage immigration, but we encourage immigrants to become citizens so they be fully part of society. They can take part in political discussions, they can vote and do all the things that are part of it,” he said.

Bill C-6 reverses reforms brought in by the previous Conservative government and takes steps to streamline and strengthen the integrity of the citizenship process. Those include reducing the time permanent residents have to live in Canada to become eligible for citizenship, counting time for work or study in residency requirements, and reducing the language proficiency requirements for younger and older immigrants.

Oath

A man raises his hand while taking the Oath of Citizenship at a ceremony in Mississauga, Ont. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

But the government does not appear prepared to reverse the fee hike brought in by the Conservatives.

Bernie Derible, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said citizenship fees in Canada are “significantly less” than other comparable countries such as the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Throughout the cross-country consultations last summer, there was little discussion or concern raised about the fee, he added.

Dory Jade, CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said he has heard from plenty of clients who are delaying citizenship because they can’t afford the fees.

Make process ‘accessible and easy’

“If we want to bring immigrants, especially under a Liberal government which believes in nation builders, making it accessible and easy to become members of your society is a big, big issue,” he said.

Jade has met with officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to propose a way to address the financial burden.

He said he was told by officials that the current fees are not cost-recovery, which means they are still financed in part by the tax base despite the increase. [Note: IRCC costing study indicated processing cost $555, about the same as the current fee of $530.] But he suggested the government could ease the cost barrier by adopting a tax-like formula based on income, developing a loan program, or capping the total fee for a family.

Stephen Green, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, said he has not heard of the fee being a significant factor in seeking citizenship. He said many of his firm’s clients who don’t currently qualify under the existing law are anxiously awaiting C-6 to become law so they can apply for citizenship.

The Senate social affairs committee hearings will be held Wednesday and Thursday this week, with a number of immigration and refugee lawyers and academics scheduled to testify.

Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected

Not a new story – see McCallum doesn’t want to let fraudsters ‘off the hook’ through moratorium on citizenship revocation.

The increase in numbers reflects largely the results of investigations initiated under the previous government, combined with the removal of previous procedural protections (recourse to Federal Court).

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IRCC Data Number of Investigations

But encouraging that a procedural protections fix looks likely judging by comments by Senator Omidvar on the eve of C6 committee hearings:

Josh Paterson, executive director of the association, told the National Post an assurance of due process should’ve been part of Bill C-6. “People readily grasp that when you take away someone’s citizenship, they ought to be entitled to a hearing if they want one.”

Paterson said he has been talking to senators about amendments. So has NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who tried amending the bill in a House of Commons committee but had her amendments ruled out of scope.

“It was frankly astounding to me that (the Liberal government) neglected to fix that critical part in the bill,” she said. “Virtually all of the witnesses came forward to say that we need to restore due process.”

The Senate sponsor of Bill C-6, independent senator Ratna Omidvar, confirmed there are plans to table such amendments in the Senate, likely at third reading.

“Everyone was open to an amendment,” she said in an interview, adding she’s “fairly positive” it will prove uncontroversial, since the argument for due process “would win over any ideological argument.”

Former immigration minister John McCallum had told senators in October he would “certainly welcome” the amendment, and told the Commons he believed “people should have a right to a proper appeal.” Bernie Derible, director of communications for new minister Ahmed Hussen, said “it would not be appropriate” for the minister to comment while the Senate deliberates.

Saying the bill’s passage is long overdue, Omidvar predicted things could wrap up in March. But its passage through the Senate will come with controversy, especially as Tory senators are expected to assert their belief that citizenship should still be revoked from convicted criminals.

It’s a sentiment shared by many. More than half of Canadians, 53 per cent, would rather have kept Bill C-24 as-is, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll from March 2016, which questioned 1,492 people and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

In a speech to the chamber in December, Conservative Daniel Lang noted measures in Bill C-24 have already been used to revoke citizenship from several people — part of the “Toronto 18” — who were involved in Toronto terror plots in 2006.

“Dual national Canadian terrorists are not like every other Canadian, and they don’t deserve the same rights and privileges as every other citizen,” Lang argued. “Why do you think that perpetrating an act of terrorism is of less gravity than someone who commits a fraudulent act by signing a false affidavit?”

Explaining increases in citizenship revocation, Caron said immigration workers have been prioritizing “the most serious cases such as those involving serious criminality or organized fraud.” Examples include assuming a fraudulent identity, producing doctored documents to conceal criminality, or falsifying residence records.

Since November 2015, 14 people have had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes they committed while they were permanent residents of Canada, and another five had citizenship revoked for hiding crimes committed before they immigrated.

In the former case, if their citizenship is revoked, people revert back to being foreign nationals, while in the latter case, people revert back to being permanent residents.

Revocation doesn’t necessarily result in a deportation order, but depending on the situation, the Canada Border Services Agency sometimes takes “enforcement action such as removal,” according to papers submitted to parliament.

A document tabled in response to a question on the order paper says an additional 100 people, at least, had their citizenship applications rejected due to misrepresentation between November 2015 and November 2016.

Source: Dramatic increase in people having Canadian citizenship revoked since Trudeau elected | National Post