Canadian citizenship: Apply now and vote later

The major changes made to Canada’s citizenship and immigration laws and policies in recent times pose serious dangers for immigrants and their families.

Fortunately, there are two courses of action that need to be taken with some urgency, to secure one’s interest now and to punish the uncaring perpetrators of second-class citizenship and residency by voting against them in next year’s federal elections.

The first is for permanent residents who qualify to apply for citizenship under the previous “three out of four years” system to submit their applications now, as the new “four out of six years” system has not yet been implemented.

The second course of action involves protesting and challenging in court the constitutional legality of the law enacted on the basis of the final version of Bill C24. This new law makes citizenship harder to get, through two provisions that are more restrictive than previous requirements: candidates in the 14-64 age group must prove a certain level of knowledge of Canada and of one of Canada’s two official languages, English and French; and they must have lived in Canada at least four out of the six years before the date of their application.

That new law inhumanely discriminates against large numbers of permanent residents whose linguistic limitations, level of academic education and time constraints as working parents prevent them from preparing for and passing the required language and civics tests. It also imposes a harshly longer period of waiting before permanent residents can become citizens.

Think of persons who have demonstrated their substantive commitment to Canada by living, working and paying taxes here for several years. Then imagine them having to wait six years of permanent residence and two to three years of processing time before acquiring citizenship and the right to vote in our elections.

These harsh and inhumane considerations are the “human rights” arguments of the constitutional challenge of the new law being promoted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Our responsibility as individuals, community organizations and interest groups is to support their fight for the basic human rights guaranteed by our Canadian Constitution Act 1982 and in particular our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Caribbean Camera makes no apologies for its forceful support of such a noble cause. The reprehensible ideological intent behind the new law can be clearly established from two additional measures favored by its Conservative proponents.

One of those measures is to provide for the withdrawal of citizenship from naturalized Canadian citizens who are convicted of certain crimes and the second is for the exclusion from citizenship by birth of persons born in Canada of parents who were neither citizens nor permanent residents of this country (anchor babies).

Canadian values demand that all persons in Canada enjoy the full extent of the rights enshrined for them in our Constitution, on a fully equitable basis.