By Gerald V. Paul
“Immigrants have become the black sheep. We are presumed guilty of fraud and everything unless we can prove that we are not,” says Nastran Adibrad, a Toronto psychotherapist.
A concerned community view is that Ottawa’s proposed citizenship reform will punish good immigrants by putting up more hurdles in becoming full-fledged members of society.
They are restricting citizenship. Will not strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. And so the arguments go, as Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander has been hearing, while discouraging newcomers from full civic participation. Some even wonder if Canada is still a welcoming country.
These sweeping changes to the Citizenship Act by the federal government includes: reduce times, tighten residency requirements and crack down on fraudmeasures that will make it tough for many to become Canadian.
But Alexander stressed “Our Government is strengthening the values of Canadian citizenship. Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history.”
A concerned Lorne Waldman, president of The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, noted “As Canadians, we make our citizenship feeble and fragile if we let government ministers seize the power to extinguish it.”
Liberal and NDP immigration critics were equally concerned, “I don’t trust the Conservatives to get this right, as their record of immigration reforms is horrible,” said NDP critic Lysane Blanchette- Lamothe.
“They claim they are going to do something about waiting time…,” said Liberal critic John McCallum. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Also, Alexander plans to consult with the provinces and territories to find an “appropriate way” to deal with birth tourism – when a woman visits Canada to give birth to obtain Canadian citizenship for her child.
“We want to address the issue of people who have absolutely no strong connection to Canada and have no desire to live here, coming solely for the purpose of giving birth and then leaving,”Alexander said.