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Former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffith claims that new version of citizenship test affects applicants from visible minorities more than those with European roots

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Former citizenship director general Andrew Griffith, who oversaw the early days of the citizenship reforms, retired in 2013.

/ SUPPLIED PHOTO

Former citizenship director general Andrew Griffith, who oversaw the early days of the citizenship reforms, retired in 2013.

By:  Immigration reporter, Published on Tue Mar 24 2015

The percentage of immigrants who become citizens has been dropping dramatically in recent years — from 79 per cent to 26 per cent among people who arrived between 2000 and 2008.

Sounding the alarm is former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffith, who suggests that recent reforms which raised barriers to becoming a citizen could lead to immigrants’ widespread disengagement from Canadian public life and identity.

His analysis — part of his study being presented at a conference this week — of the impact of the Conservatives’ reforms also suggests that the new version of the citizenship test has adversely affected applicants from visible minorities more than those with European roots.

“In the past, citizenship was viewed as a stepping stone to immigrant integration, and it should be done earlier on,” said Griffith, who will present Multiculturalism in Canadaat a three-day national immigration and settlement conference in Vancouver that starts Thursday.

“These changes have made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens, without the ability to engage in the Canadian political process.”

Based on latest government data, Griffith found that the ratio of permanent residents who eventually become citizens has been in decline since 2000, and has dropped most rapidly in recent years.

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 have acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for the wave of immigrants settling in 2007, and 79 per cent of those who arrived in 2000.

Griffith said the government data used in his analysis was selected to reflect the fact that it takes immigrants an average six years to acquire Canadian citizenship. The 2008 cohort best indicates the early impact of reforms implemented by the Conservative government.

The permanent-resident-to-citizen conversion rate does generally rise the longer immigrants have been in Canada. But an 18 per cent decrease between the 2008 and 2007 cohorts is alarming, Griffith said.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Johanne Nadeau said Canada has one of the highest naturalization rates in the world, “as 86 per cent of eligible permanent residents for Canadian citizenship decide to acquire it.”

She suggested the Griffith is misinterpreting the data because “he is not taking into account those (permanent residents) who are not yet eligible to become citizens because they haven’t met all of the requirements needed to begin the citizenship process.”

Citizens are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can vote in elections and are entitled to Canadian passports. Permanent residents do not have the privileges of voting and having Canadian passports and are also vulnerable to revocation of their status and removals from Canada.

(…)

Since 2010, reforms have included a new citizenship test and institution of a higher score needed to pass it: 75 per cent (or 15 out of 20 multiple choice questions) from 60 per cent. The test measures applicants’ knowledge of Canadian history, culture and values.

(…)

Immigrants from the Caribbean saw their pass rate go down by almost 20 per cent, while those from the South Asian, Southern and East African communities all experienced a decline of more than 15 per cent.

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https://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-24/

2014

Bill C-24

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Chris Alexander  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to, among other things, update eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, strengthen security and fraud provisions and amend provisions governing the processing of applications and the review of decisions.

Amendments to the eligibility requirements include

(a) clarifying the meaning of being resident in Canada;

(b) modifying the period during which a… read more

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 16, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • June 10, 2014 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
  • June 10, 2014 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
  • June 9, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
  • May 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
  • May 29, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, because it: ( a) does not provide an adequate solution for reducing citizenship application processing times, which have been steadily increasing; ( b) puts significant new powers in the hands of the Minister that will allow this government to politicize the granting of Canadian citizenship; ( c) gives the Minister the power to revoke citizenship, which will deny some Canadians access to a fair trial in Canada and will raise serious questions since Canadian law already includes mechanisms to punish those who engage in unlawful acts; and ( d) includes a declaration of intent to reside provision, which in fact gives officials the power to speculate on the intent of a citizenship applicant and then potentially deny citizenship based on this conjecture.”.
  • May 28, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more

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