Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’

My take (and familiar refrain on fees):

Andrew Griffith, retired director general of the Immigration Department, said the changes are long overdue and should have been passed last year if the opposition parties had not dragged the debate on.

“It’s good that the bill is through,” Griffith told the Star. “It delivered the Liberal government’s campaign commitment to facilitate citizenship, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It has shifted the overall balance somewhat to facilitate (access to) citizenship.”

However, Griffith was disappointed that Ottawa has chosen not to deal with the exorbitant citizenship application fees — $630 for adults [$530 administration processing and $100 right of citizenship fee] and $100 for minors [plus $100 right of citizenship] — that some said have prevented eligible applicants, especially refugees, from becoming full-fledged Canadians.

“The issue that remains for me is the fee,” said Griffith. “If the government really believed in diversity and inclusion, they should ensure it is not an insurmountable financial barrier for people to become citizens.”

Source: Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’ | Toronto Star

Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent – Canada.ca

Useful backgrounder on the changes in Bill C-6 and the coming into force provisions.

Short summary for the key changes: repeal of revocation in cases of terror or treason and the intent to reside provision immediately, changes to residency, pre-Permanent Resident time partial credit, and age requirements for language and knowledge assessment this fall. Changes to the revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation expected early 2018.

Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on June 16, 2017. This chart explains the changes that have been made to the Citizenship Act and indicates when these changes are expected to come into force.

Source: Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent – Canada.ca

Liberals’ citizenship bill [C-6] to proceed with some Senate amendments

Being debated and voted on in the House Monday June 12.

Expect that the Senate will/should declare victory given two out of three amendments accepted, including the most important one of restoring procedural protections for those accused of fraud or misrepresentation:

Far more people lose their citizenship because it was obtained fraudulently, and the Senate wants to amend the bill in order to give those people a chance at a court hearing before their status is stripped away.

Hussen said the government will accept that proposal, albeit with some modifications of its own, including giving the minister the authority to make decisions when an individual requests it.

Hussen’s hand was partially forced by a recent Federal Court decision that said people have a right to challenge the revocation of their citizenship, although predecessor John McCallum had earlier suggested he would support the amendment.

“This amendment recognizes the government’s commitment to enhancing the citizenship revocation process to strengthen procedural fairness, while ensuring that the integrity of our citizenship program is maintained,” Hussen said in a statement.

The government will also accept a Senate recommendation that would make it easier for children to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.

But they are rejecting efforts to raise the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements from 54 to 59, saying it’s out of step with the goal of making citizenship easier to obtain. The current law requires those between the ages of 14 to 64 to pass those tests; the Liberals want it changed to 18 to 54.

Hussen thanked the Senate for its work making the bill “even stronger and for providing an example of productive collaboration on strengthening important legislation.”

The Senate has the choice of accepting the government’s decision, rejecting it, or proposing further amendments of its own, which could further delay the legislation.

Source: Liberals’ citizenship bill to proceed with some Senate amendments – The Globe and Mail

Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill

It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal government accepts all three amendments and how quickly the House will deal with C-6.

I suspect that the government may accept the procedural protections amendment in the case of revocation for fraud and right of minors to apply independently of their parents or guardians, while rejecting the exemption for testing change to 60 from 55.

Personally, I favour accepting all three in the interests of getting C-6 implemented quickly. The age exemption issue – a difference of five years – has been largely an “evidence-free” zone:

While I expect the Liberal government to reject The Liberals’ long-delayed citizenship bill is finally moving ahead almost a year after the House of Commons passed it, but it’s not law yet.

The Senate voted Wednesday in favour of the bill that will revoke a Conservative policy to remove Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism and treason.

Three amendments were introduced, however, which means the bill gets sent back to the House of Commons, where Liberals will decide whether to accept the changes or not. If they don’t, it goes back to the Senate again. Government House leader Bardish Chagger’s office said Wednesday amendments will be brought to the floor for debate “in due course.”

The new law will also require prospective citizens to be in the country for three out of five years before their application, a change from the four out of six years that are currently required. Applicants will no longer need to declare an intent to reside in Canada.

Bill C-6, which fulfills a major election promise to repeal elements of Conservative legislation, has trudged slowly through the upper chamber since last June. After a spurt of opposition delay tactics, senators had made a backroom deal to have a final vote by Wednesday.

The bill’s sponsor, independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, championed in particular an amendment, introduced by independent Sen. Elaine McCoy, that improves due process for people who are facing revocation of their citizenship due to fraud or misrepresentation.

After the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, revocation processes were streamlined such that people weren’t automatically granted a right to defend themselves if their citizenship was about to be taken away. The Liberal Bill C-6 didn’t reverse this change.

“Without this amendment,” said a statement from Omidvar’s office, “Canadians face an unjust administrative process and fewer safeguards than anyone wishing to challenge a parking ticket.”

Previous immigration minister John McCallum had told senators Liberals would “welcome” an amendment addressing this, but new minister Ahmed Hussen has not indicated support one way or the other.

Two other amendments were adopted. For older applicants, the law currently requires language proficiency in English or French up to the age of 64. The Liberal law proposed lowering this to 55, but senators decided to adopt Conservative Sen. Diane Griffin’s suggestion of a middle ground, setting it at age 60 instead. Another amendment, from Conservative Sen. Victor Oh, seeks to ensure minors can apply for citizenship separate from parents or guardians.

With physician-assisted dying legislation last summer, the House of Commons addressed Senate amendments right away (with the government rejecting most of them). On the other hand, the Senate is still waiting for the House of Commons to accept or reject an amendment on the RCMP union bill, C-7, which it adopted last June.

Source: Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill | National Post

Trudeau devalues citizenship: Gordon Chong

Over the top criticism and fear-mongering by Gordon Chong:

When Paul Martin Sr. introduced the bill in the House of Commons that became the Canadian Citizenship Act on Jan. 1, 1947, he said: “For the national unity of Canada and for the future and greatness of the country, it is felt to be of the utmost importance that all of us, new Canadians or old, … have a consciousness of a common purpose and common interests as Canadians, that all of us are able to say with pride and with meaning ‘I am a Canadian citizen.’”

Despite new acts in 1977 and 2002, as well as more recent legislation, those foundational words should be forever etched in our minds.

Subsequent revisions have vacillated between weakening and strengthening the requirements for granting citizenship.

The Harper Conservatives strengthened the value of Canadian citizenship in 2014 by increasing residency and language requirements with Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Applicants aged 14 to 64 were required to meet language and knowledge tests.

Permanent residents also had to have lived in Canada for four out of the six previous years prior to applying for citizenship.

The Liberals’ Bill C-6, an Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, proposes to reduce knowledge and language requirements (they only affect applicants aged 18 to 54) and reduce residency requirements to three of the previous five years.

Bill C-6 also proposes to repeal the right to revoke Canadian citizenship of criminals such as those convicted of terrorism.

As a citizenship court judge for several years in the ’90s, I can assure doubters that acquiring citizenship was relatively easy, especially for seniors over 65 with a translator.

Skilled professional translators have difficulty capturing the nuances between languages. It is not uncommon, for example, to see significant errors and omissions in the Chinese-language media when reporters rush to meet deadlines.

Obviously, without a comprehensive grasp of English, it is impossible to meaningfully participate in Canadian life.

Meanwhile, our federal government is frivolously throwing open our doors to potential terrorists and providing fertile conditions for the cultivation of home-grown terrorists by indirectly subsidizing the self-segregation and ghettoization of newcomers, further balkanizing Canada.

The cavalier Trudeau Liberals, peddling their snake oil political potions, are nothing more than pale, itinerant imitations of the Liberal giants of Canada’s past, shamefully repudiating their predecessors for immediate, short-term gratification.

These privileged high-flying Liberal salesmen with colossal carbon footprints should be summarily fired, solely for seriously devaluing Canadian citizenship!

Source: Trudeau devalues citizenship | CHONG | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun

C-6 Citizenship Senate Debates – Amendments update

As somewhat expected, the amendment allowing minors to submit citizenship applications independently, passed 47 to 24 votes (a similar amendment had been defeated during the House’s review of C-6).

As also expected, the Conservative amendment to “repeal the repeal” of the residency requirements was defeated, 51 to 28 votes.

No one argued about the intent of the amendment to allow minors to submit applications independently.

The main arguments used against this amendment were thus less substantive and more process. Senator Harder noted that the waiver provision of 5(3) had been used for 14 cases since January 2015 (always refreshing to have actual numbers rather than only individual cases cited). The “success” rate was 97 percent (not sure how this number was arrived as 13/14 is 93 percent), with applications processed in a “timely manner.”

Other points made by Senator Harder and other independent senators were around the point whether this amendment would be more appropriately considered in a broader review of the Citizenship Act rather than the more narrow focus of C-6.

In response, Senator Jaffer, the co-sponsor of the Bill, provided a number of examples that the amendment would cover. She noted that compassionate grounds cases can take many years and had largely been used for the “most extreme” cases and had largely been used for medical reasons. She had been “promised’ many times  that “We will deal with it in a few years,” with no follow-up and thus was skeptical of such assurances.

So far, the full Senate has approved three amendments:

  1. Restoration of procedural protections in cases of fraud and misrepresentation (Senator McCoy, see Senate amends Liberal citizenship bill to allow court hearings in fraud casesThe Senate has voted to amend the citizenship law to allow Canadians the right to a court hearing before their citizenship is stripped for fraud or misrepresentation);
  2. Raising the language and knowledge exemption age to 60 from 55 (Senator Griffin); and,
  3. Providing minors the right to submit an application on their own (Senators Oh and Jaffer)

The fourth amendment, sponsored by Senators From and Stewart-Olsen, would have “repealed the repeal” of the four years out of six physical presence, along with the minimum number of days required. This prompted a point of order by Senator Lankin asking that the Speaker rule the proposed amendment out of order as it negated the relevant provisions of Bill C-6. In the end, the Speaker allowed the amendment which was defeated 51 to 28.

Source: Debates 11 AprilDebates 12 April

Government looks to counter what Harder calls Conservatives’ ‘coordinated’ stall tactics in Senate and House @TheHillTimes

Bill C-6 appears to the “poster child” for these delaying tactics:

One of the examples of legislative slowdown that Sen. Harder cited is Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act.

The legislation addresses promises made by the Liberals during the last election campaign to amend parts of the previous Conservative government’s Bill C-24.

The legislation has had a slow slog through the Senate. It’s been before the Upper Chamber since it passed the House of Commons without amendments on June 17, 2016, and was debated eight times at second reading between September and December 2016.

As of deadline, it had received six days of debate at third reading. Amendments are being put forward, with at least two amendments passing by deadline, meaning the bill will have to return to the House.

The bill it is repealing, Bill C-24 spent four days total in the Senate, between first reading and royal assent.

Sen. Harder said both approaches are wrong, and the holdup on this and other bills have impacts on Canadians, or “want-to-be-Canadians,” in the case of Bill C-6.

“Our legislative agenda is very much tied to bringing what the government feels are important matters of conclusion to the Canadian public,” said Sen. Harder.

“All senators have a duty to review Government legislation, but also to decide in a reasonable timeframe, putting aside partisan gamesmanship and focusing on public policy,” Mr. Harder said in the paper. He also argued that the future reputation of the Senate does rely in part its ability to process government business.

“The final weeks of each Senate sitting—in June and December—are quite chaotic, as the Senate pulls out all the procedural stops to expedite government legislation, trying to do in two weeks what it could have done in two months. Government bills should not be rushed through the Chamber in extremis following a successful round of horse-trading,” Sen. Harder wrote.

Now, with six weeks to go until the scheduled end of the sitting, Sen. Harder in the interview, wouldn’t commit to not using time allocation in the remainder of the session to get things passed.

While the discussion paper is anticipated to go to the Senate Modernization Committee for further consideration, Sen. Harder said he’s hoping to work with the Senate leadership and all Senators to either find an agreeable approach to manage debate on bills, or to try out his proposal of a business committee on an experimental basis to get through to the summer.

“That’s all open to discussions amongst leaders and I hope that we can find some middle ground as to how to move forward,” Sen. Harder said.

Source: Government looks to counter what Harder calls Conservatives’ ‘coordinated’ stall tactics in Senate and House – The Hill Times

In response to John Ibbitson’s article and my retweet (To truly reinvent itself, the Senate must first prove its value), Senator Housakos and I engaged in a long Twitter debate where he placed the blame on the Independent Senators Group and tried to argue that the delays were not excessive and reflected the need for debate. In our back and forth, over the time required, we compared C-6 with both its predecessor, C-24 (2014) and C-14, assisted dying, dealing with a more complex and controversial issue.

C-6 has been in the Senate for 298 days and counting, C-14 took 31 days, C-24 16 days. Table below provides details.

C-6 2016 C-14 (assisted dying) 2016 C-24 2014
Committee Pre-Study

17 May 2016

03 Jun 2014

First Reading

17 Jun 2016

31 May 2016

16 Jun 2014

Second Reading

15 Dec 2016

03 Jun 2016

17 Jun 2014

Committee

07 Mar 2017

07 Jun 2016

18 Jun 2014

Third Reading Ongoing

15 Jun 2016

19 Jun 2014

Royal Assent

17 Jun 2016

19 Jun 2014

Total number of days 298 (11 April 2016)

31

16

And an op-ed by former Senator Hugh Segal on the need for equal treatment of all three groups: independents, conservatives and liberals:

The Senate must move past partisan paralysis

C-6: Senate Debate – Language and Knowledge Testing Age

In addition to the amendment proposed by Senator McCoy to restore procedural protections for those accused of fraud or misrepresentation, and the forthcoming amendment allowing minors to submit citizenship applications on their own (see C-6: Senate bill would let children become citizens separately from parents), Senator Griffin proposed a (compromise?) amendment, proposing a cut-off age of 60 for knowledge and language testing, compared to the current 65 of C-24 and the proposed 55 of C-6.

To her credit, she went back to the Mulroney and Chrétien eras to find justification for 60 being an appropriate cut-off.

I would, however, take issue with the Library of Parliament’s assertion, according to Senator Griffin’s speech, that it was “not decided at either the political or the senior departmental levels.”

Inconceivable. Any such change would have to be signed off by the Deputy and Minister. Moreover, as the timing of April 2005 was prior to the 2006 election, with the main target being new Canadian voters in key ridings.

One of the problems with all the age proposals is the lack of good evidence and policy analysis of their rationale. ATIP records show that there was no such analysis done in 2005 when then Minister Volpe reduced the cut-off to 55, none in 2014 when then Minister Alexander raised it to 65, and again none in 2016 when then Minister McCallum reduced it back to 55. (I didn’t make any ATIP requests earlier than 2005).

And while good policy and political arguments have been made on both sides of the issue, it is unfortunate that various governments appear to have made their policy choices without documented consideration of departmental analysis, suggesting that the decisions were primarily political.

Her research prompted more research by the Bill’s sponsor, Senator Omidvar, indicating that there was more departmental involvement and advice than ATIP records show.

In the end, the Senate approved the amendment, meaning the Government will need to decide whether to accept this (and other amendments) or, as in the case of assisted dying, send it back to the Senate unchanged.

Have included the text of Senators Griffin and Omidvar to provide the flavour of the debate:

Senator Griffin:

Honourable senators, today I rise to speak to Bill C-6. I want to propose an amendment to the bill, but first I want to give you my reasons why.

The age of 55 to demonstrate sufficient language proficiency is too low and should be increased. This is in part due to the fact that a permanent resident at age 49 to 50, after a five-year waiting period, could become a Canadian citizen at age 55 without any knowledge of either French or English.

I think an amendment to increase that level to 60 years of age is particularly important to people in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and rural Canada.

Note that I support a waiver on compassionate grounds. This is found in section 5(3) of the Citizenship Act. I respectfully disagree with routine waivers simply because an applicant is 55.

I am proposing age 60 due to the evidence-based recommendations by studies during the Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien governments. According to the Library of Parliament, the age of 55 for an exemption from the requirements is a more recent trend that was not decided at either the political or the senior departmental levels.

As well, the Library of Parliament analyst cannot find any record of age 55 being transmitted through ministerial instruction. The age of 55 appears to have been decided at a middle management level via an instrument of delegation.

The age exemptions for language and knowledge were never defined in statute prior to the Conservative government’s changes to the Citizenship Act that legislatively set the age to 65.

Prior to this point, there was a requirement for all permanent residents who wished to acquire citizenship to satisfy the knowledge and language requirements, and individuals who could not fulfill these requirements had to request a waiver.

In the early 1980s, the criteria for a routine waiver was set at 65 and over. By 1994, the waiver was lowered to 60. At some point between 1994 and 2014, the waiver was again lowered, this time to 55. But these lowerings were never done at the political level.

Studies from the Mulroney and Chrétien eras recommended using 60 as the benchmark for waivers. In particular, in 1994, the House of Commons committee from the Chrétien government advocated against the routine waiving of language requirements for older applicants.

To paraphrase its report, the Immigration Committee felt that Canadians must be encouraged to obtain a degree of knowledge in one of the official languages. The committee viewed citizenship as a two-way street, and older immigrants should be encouraged to walk as far along that street as possible. The committee warned that routine waiving of language requirements is a form of misplaced passion that could ghettoize people and hinder participation in the broader Canadian mosaic.

The Salisbury-Addison Convention indicates that the Senate should generally not defeat major campaign platform commitments. Effectively, the Senate must defer to the wisdom of the electorate on major platform commitments. However, the lowering of the exemption age to 55 is not a campaign promise. The closest phrase is found in the backgrounder brief called “A New Plan for Canadian Immigration and Economic Opportunity” which states:

“We will repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 that create second-class citizens and the elements that make it more difficult for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens.”

With creativity and imagination, the government could claim that this promise implies the repeal of the age requirement in statute and a restoration of the traditional waiver system. It is clear that entrenchment in statute of age 55 is not contemplated in this promise.

At present, there is a paradox where middle management decision-makers have gradually lowered the age requirement while the lifespan of Canadians is increasing. Age 55 is quite young. I do note with a certain degree of irony that this issue is being debated in this chamber where our average age for a senator is 65.

I draw attention to the comment that former minister John McCallum made to the House of Commons Immigration Committee about the language requirements.

“We did not have consultations specifically on the economic implications of returning to the 55 to 64, but I’m told neither did the previous government on the impact going the other way. So we are reverting to the status quo ante and our predecessors didn’t consult our moving away from it.”

The minister is incorrect in his statement. As discussed earlier, a return to the status quo ante implies not defining 55 in statute and there was no political or senior management direction supporting lowering the age to 55. I stress the lower age runs contrary to the evidence-based recommendations from the Mulroney and Chrétien eras.

One of the primary elements of citizenship is participation in the democratic process, and as a reflection of the smaller population in Atlantic Canada, elections and civic engagement are key elements to successfully integrating into the community.

For example, in Prince Edward Island, the average provincial riding size is about 4,000 people. In the case of my home riding, Vernon River—Stratford, in the last election, after a recount, the two top candidates were tied so the returning officer, according to law, flipped a coin to decide the winner.

Several other ridings were decided by fewer than 100 votes, so this highlights the point that every vote is important and new citizens do have a right to vote, whether or not they can understand the candidates. It is difficult in Eastern Canada for individuals to participate fully in society and in the democratic process without having a working knowledge of either French or English.

I note that a significant number of committee witnesses who spoke to Bill C-6 focused on the national security provisions of the legislation. With respect to age requirements, a cursory examination appears to show none of the witnesses were from Atlantic Canada and the vast majority were from Ontario.

In light of this, I’m putting forward this amendment to highlight that legislative amendments on Canadian citizenship must involve more stakeholders than solely those from the larger population centres.

As well, I’ll point out that in proposing this amendment I am fulfilling the Prime Minister’s vision that senators examine and revise legislation while representing regional, provincial and minority interests.

Senator Omidvar:

Honourable senators, I find I’m rising yet one more time to speak to you about Bill C-6. I wish that were not the case but I wanted to start off on a positive note.

Thank you, Senator Oh, for sharing your amendment with us and your notes. It makes all our jobs so much easier when we understand what you’re thinking. I agree with our facilitator, Senator McCoy, that in fact this should become not just good practice but standard practice. I look forward to working with all those who make these agreements to further this idea.

I would also like to thank my colleague Senator Griffin for her interest and her contribution to the dialogue and debate on this very important bill. And in particular I want to thank her for her readiness and willingness to step up to the plate. I spoke to her yesterday — I think it was eight o’clock in the morning — and I asked whether she would be ready to speak on her amendment. She blinked maybe once and then said “yes,” so kudos on your responsiveness, really.

I will say as much as I admire my colleague from beautiful P.E.I. — and I have learned something about P.E.I. in my conversations with her — I do not support this amendment and I will be voting against it.

First, honourable senators, let me remind everybody this is a repeal bill. It means it repeals certain provisions to take them back to where they were before, not to another place, not to tweak it, to massage it or find another playing field, but to bring it back to where we were before, and that was age 55.

Second, changes to the Citizenship Act were part of the election promise. The Liberal government was elected on a platform with a particular mandate and this change is part of it. As the Prime Minister said, “We will repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 . . . that make it more difficult for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens.”

Senator Griffin is absolutely right; she has done her research very well. There is no particular reference to age, but I believe that lowering the age exemption is part and parcel of this promise and one that I am personally delighted that the Prime Minister has chosen to keep.

Senator Griffin is proposing to raise the waiver age for exemption of language and knowledge testing from 55, which is in the bill, to 60 — five years. And I would like to focus my comments on why five years matter and to whom.

I would like to start with evidence, just as Senator Griffin did. She pointed to some research in the Mulroney and Chrétien eras. I won’t dwell too much on this point. I just want to remind everyone that the source of immigrants to Canada has diversified significantly since then, especially in the 1990s, which would not be captured in the statistics available at that time. Policy recommendations at that time made sense, perhaps, for a country of primarily European immigrants.

But I wanted to look for recent evidence, so I turned to one of the most knowledgeable people in the field of citizenship, and that is Andrew Griffith, the former Director General in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. He filed an access to information request to find the documentation behind the 2014 decision to raise the waiver age from 55 to 65, and the department returned his request with zero documentation. Mr. Griffith concluded: “We are in an evidence-free zone.”

But did I find some evidence. I looked for it in a different place with a different lens, and I found it in the gender-based analysis that was conducted for Bill C-24. No gender-based analysis was conducted for Bill C-6 because it was felt it still held in that one year. This is what we know, because it is what the GBA said: that from 2000 to 2004, when the waiver age was 60, which is exactly what Senator Griffin is proposing to do, applicants aged 55 to 60 had a 5 per cent lower test pass rate than the rate of all other age groups. In other words, testing impacted those aged between 55 and 60.

I went back a little further in history, and I determined that it was in 2005, under Prime Minister Paul Martin, that the age was lowered from 60 to 55. The Minister of Immigration was Joe Volpe, in Prime Minister Paul Martin’s cabinet. I just picked up the phone yesterday, called him and was lucky enough to find him. I said, “Mr. Volpe, can you remember if there was evidence behind your decision?” We are dealing with memory, I understand, but he was very clear when he said to me that he relied on evidence to make this decision, and the evidence was collected by the department and concluded that testing poses a particular barrier for older immigrants.

He went on to say that it didn’t make sense to deprive them of the opportunity to become citizens. It didn’t make sense that one could only be an exemplary citizen or a good citizen if you could pass a test.

There is some other evidence that I will cite briefly. We know there is a falling rate of applications for citizenship; this is documented, again, by Andrew Griffith. He found a nearly 50 per cent drop in applications in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. I want to remind us all what Senator Eggleton said: The fees for citizenship applications have risen an astronomical 500 per cent. It costs roughly $630 per person to apply for citizenship.

I want you to consider someone who is 55 years old, who is lower income, who is supporting a family and putting food on the table, and they have to then put $630 on the table for a citizenship application test, and they are nervous about passing it. So I conclude that testing has a disproportionate impact on older immigrants and therefore constitutes a disincentive.

Let me talk a little bit about who this change will impact. It’s a small minority, by the way, of citizenship applicants. Historically, only about 8 per cent of the total number of citizenship applications received each year has come from this age group. Who are they? We are not talking about people who choose to come to Canada for the labour market. Their age would, in fact, be a great disqualifier. We are talking about refugees, parents, grandparents and spouses. In particular, I am talking about women who have come to Canada as sponsored spouses, a parent or as a refugee.

Elke Winter, Associate Professor of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at the University of Ottawa, testified during witness hearings on Bill C-24 that, for the “less educated, non-European-language speakers, and the economically vulnerable,” it makes citizenship much harder to obtain.

Let me restate what I have pointed out in both of my speeches on Bill C-6. Sadly, I think there are way too many people who need to hold down more than two jobs simply to make the rent and pay their bills. These people, again, many of them women, work in factories where they operate within a context where language acquisition either does not matter or is not necessary.

Again, these women aged 55 and over are good enough to work, good enough to raise their children, good enough to send them to university and good enough to pay taxes, but they are not good enough to become Canadians.

I have heard no credible evidence that changing the age one way or another is an incentive to learning a language. But I have heard that it is a real barrier based on your socio-economic status, your gender and your race. I feel I am hugely disadvantaged in this chamber because I do not speak French. I think it is a big disadvantage. I know I can try to learn it, but I figured out that it would be incredibly difficult to get up to the fluency of Senators Pratte and Dupuis. I try to listen to them, but I know it is hard. I am someone who has a natural tendency to learn languages — I speak six of them — but I know now it would be too hard to learn that language.

Barriers like being too poor, too busy, too badly needed at home, too fearful and too risk-averse: for vulnerable people, a barrier is a barrier. I’m afraid I cannot see an incentive in it.

Miss Avvy Go of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian legal clinic reminded us that your ability to learn a language depends on your mental health, family status, income, working hours and more.

I will agree with each one of you that we need to spend more money on languages. Language is invaluable for those who have it, and we should strive to open our official languages to include more of our citizens. But we should not do this by erecting barriers. We should not do it at the cost of disenfranchisement.

We heard yesterday that language requirements can be waived on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Senator Eggleton posed the very pointed question: How many times has this policy actually been applied?

Today, in the morning, I was speaking to the director generals and deputy ministers of the department. I asked them this question, and there was, sadly, no answer.

Let me make an assumption: If passing a test is a challenge, I wonder how much more challenging it would be to arrange a waiver. But I do have some very concrete evidence about the good things that happen when you do become a citizen. It is scientifically proven that you have a greater attachment to the labour market. You develop a greater sense of belonging to Canada and its institutions. You have a greater investment in ownership, and you invest in this country in many ways. I really believe this is the spirit of what both Senator Griffin and I want.

Senator Griffin made a very interesting point about political participation. Her story, about the one vote being decided in a coin toss, was fascinating. Senator Griffin is rightly anxious that more people participate in the democratic process. But she is also anxious that they participate in it in an informed way. Well, frankly, I’m not sure whether other Canadians are well-informed about our system or not. We don’t have a test for them, and they participate in it.

But I do know this: Immigrants have a knowledge of civics from an unusual source of information, and this is from a flourishing ethnic press, both online and offline. I spoke to Naomi Alboim, a distinguished professor from Queen’s University, who said to me that not being able to speak the language does not mean you don’t understand the democratic process and the rights and responsibilities attached to it. She pointed to the ethnic press and its prevalence and role in civic education.

So I did some research this morning. I had some fun. I discovered that the largest immigrant group on Prince Edward Island is Mandarin-speaking. There is a Mandarin-English publication called Ni Hao PEI. It’s a quarterly newspaper. And I looked at the top news stories in 2017. They were not about mainland China politics. Here are three headlines: Get to know a farmer!; P.E.I. farmland — the new investment of choice; P.E.I. rural schools: natural decline or time for change?

I don’t think we should assume that Canadian civics and curiosity requires a certain degree of English and language. You can get it from other sources.

I have a case in point. My mother lives with me; you have heard me talk about her. She is a delightful mother, close to 90 years old, although she wants to be 85. She got her citizenship in the late 1980s, when she was much younger. I do not remember what tests there were, but there were tests. In the meantime, the bars on language and knowledge testing has been raised. It’s become digital. I doubt whether she would pass.

Here is also something that is true: She is up on politics, sometimes more than I am, because she is glued to the wonderful South Asian television channel called OMNI. She has her daily dose of Bollywood drama. But she quizzes me often, especially when I come home from the Senate, on things she has heard about on the South Asian news. This became really clear to me when we were talking about assisted dying, because it’s a matter relevant to her. She asked me every day: What is the access? What are the provisions? Who will administer it? She really gave me the run-through.

I reject the notion that if your English or French is not good enough to pass a test it is not good enough to understand how to participate in the political process. Let us try telling that to all our Italian, Greek, Polish and Ukrainian immigrants.

Let me conclude with five years. Five years is a long time. I’m a rookie senator today. In five years, I hope to be a halfway competent senator. Let me think about what happens to a low- income woman who is 55 years old.

Source: C-6 Debates: Language and Knowledge Assessment April 5

C-6 Debates: Language and Knowledge Assessment April 6

C-6: Senate bill would let children become citizens separately from parents

The Senate continues to play a larger role in legislation. In this particular case, the comparison countries used are not the usual ones (Australia, NZ, UK, USA) but rather Norway and Denmark.

Interesting, given that overall their citizenship regime is much more restrictive than in Canada, save in this instance:

Tens of thousands of children could benefit from a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act to allow Canadian residents under the age of 18 to apply on their own for Canadian citizenship, say advocates.

Ontario Senator Victor Oh proposed legislation on Thursday that asks Canada to follow the lead of Norway and make it possible for minors to apply for citizenship separately from their parents.

The proposal would apply to a cross-section of youths in Canada — including asylum seekers, children estranged from their parents, young people with criminal convictions, and minors who don’t want to follow their parents back to nations such as India and China that don’t allow dual passports.

Canadian law currently requires permanent residents who want to apply for citizenship to be at least 18 years of age or to be included in a parent or guardian’s immigration application.

That “places some highly vulnerable minors at risk of removal once they become adults,” says a brief prepared by the senators.

A change in the citizenship law could have significant consequences for thousands of young people in Ontario and B.C., where three out of 10 residents are foreign-born.

In addition, the senators’ amendment is a response to the growing number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada, which rose by more than 50 per cent to 3,400 in 2016.

Senator Ho’s motion, which has been supported by B.C. Senator Mobina Jaffer, echoes similar recommendations made last year to an Ottawa citizenship committee by Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan and Winnipeg Conservative MP Michelle Rempel.

“This would be the biggest push forward for children’s rights in Canada in decades,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who helped the senators draft the proposal.

Currently, the only way that a Canadian resident under 18 can apply for citizenship on their own is on “compassionate” grounds. But that avenue is rarely used.

In contrast, Norway allows citizenship applications from youth who have been in the country for five of the previous seven years. Denmark is open to youths becoming immigrants on their own if they have gone to school in the country for four years.

The background paper accompanying the complex legislative proposal said it would make it possible for the following kinds of young people to become Canadian citizens through their own application process:

• “Unaccompanied minors,” that is young people who arrive in Canada unaccompanied by an adult. The brief argues many are at risk of exploitation and abuse by traffickers.

• Children who have gone into “protective custody” because of physical or sexual abuse by their parents or guardians.

• Children who are orphans, or who have run away from their parents or guardians.

• Children of parents who are permanent residents but who do not meet language requirements to become citizens.

• Children who as young adults become convicted of a criminal offence.

Kurland said the revised application process would also be open to minors whose parents have applied for immigration status but who have worked outside of Canada for so long that the parents fail to meet requirements for citizenship.

In addition, the immigration lawyer said new legislation would allow a youth in Canada to follow a different route from their Canadian-resident parents — who might decide against becoming citizens of Canada because they don’t want to give up the passport of their homeland.

Unlike Canada, China and India, which are two of the largest sources of immigrants to Canada, do not allow dual citizenship.

Source: Senate bill would let children become citizens separately from parents | Vancouver Sun

Trudeau’s Senate representative slams ‘obstructionist’ Conservative delay tactics in new report [e.g., C-6]

The Conservative caucus use of procedural delaying tactics is certainly evident with respect to C-6 Citizenship Act changes:

In a scathing new document, the government’s representative in the Senate slams Conservatives for “zealously” delaying government bills.

In the 21-page “discussion paper,” Sen. Peter Harder says “obstructionist” senators are “time-wasting,” delaying the Liberal government’s agenda and blocking Senate modernization to score their own “partisan points.” He proposes an all-party “business committee” set schedules based on individual bills to ensure House business doesn’t indefinitely stall in the Senate.

The committee idea itself is a “very good” one, says Conservative senator Stephen Greene, but Harder “made the acceptance of the structure a bit difficult on our side because he took a few potshots at Conservatives, and the reaction on our side might not be too pleasant, to put it mildly.”

Greene said Conservatives are using tactics available to any opposition, and that Liberals have used in the past. “Filibustering and delaying tactics are not bad things in and of themselves, if they’re used with restraint,” he said. “From Sen. Harder’s point of view, it might look excessive, but from the Conservative point of view, it’s not.”

The paper, dated Friday, is being circulated to senators this week following further delays for the Liberals’ citizenship bill, C-6. The bill, which repeals major elements of Harper-era citizenship legislation (Bill C-24), has languished in the Senate since last June.

Voting on a third-reading amendment to the bill was delayed throughout the evening last Thursday by various adjournment motions from the Conservatives. It was a longer-than-average evening with lengthy waiting periods in between votes on the motions. At one point, the Independent Senators Group ordered pizza for itself. Greene called the session a “trainwreck.”

“The apparent strategy is to hinder the progress of government bills, even those that seek to enact clear election promises, for as long as possible,” Harder writes in his paper, listing other examples of delays.

“Some Senators would prefer for the Senate to remain stuck in time, available as a platform to advance partisan interests. … Sober second thought has become a game of procedural cat-and-mouse.”

Harder says a business committee would make collaborative decisions on time management with input from leaders of each caucus or group, the bill’s sponsor and critic, and the chair of the committee to which the bill would likely be referred.

Source: Trudeau’s Senate representative slams ‘obstructionist’ Conservative delay tactics in new report | National Post