Major changes to Citizenship Act

By Sukhram Ramkissoon 

The changes in the Citizenship Act accelerate citizenship for permanent residents serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as well as foreign nationals on exchange with the Forces.

Members of the Armed Forces and those on exchange with the Forces who have served for one year less than the residence requirement would qualify for a grant of citizenship, provided they meet all other requirements. This measure honours the important contributions of those who serve Canada.

Citizenship by descent

The government has been working hard to maintain the integrity of Canada’s generous immigration system and to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. That is why the Citizenship Act was amended in 2009 to limit – with a few exceptions – citizenship by descent to one generation born outside Canada.

This resulted in children born to Canadian parents outside Canada only being Canadian at birth if: one parent was born in Canada; or one parent became a Canadian citizen by immigrating to Canada and was later granted citizenship (also called naturalization).

The amended act now extends the exception to the first generation limit to ensure the children of Crown servants can pass on citizenship. Specifically, this amendment ensures that children of Crown servants and members of the Canadian Armed Forces born or adopted abroad while their Canadian parent(s) was (were) serving a federal, provincial or territorial government abroad are not negatively affected by their parents’ service to Canada, and that they are able to pass on Canadian citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad.

Strengthening safeguards for adoptees

Under the new rules, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will require that international adoptions completed in Canada are not done in a way that circumvents The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, where it applies, or other legal and procedural requirements for inter-country adoptions, such as laws of the adopted child’s country of origin before citizenship is granted.

The language of the previous Citizenship Act did not adequately reflect that international adoption requirements must be met with respect to international adoptions completed in Canada.

Revoke or deny citizenship for terrorism, high treason, treason or spying

Amendments will enable the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens and deny it to permanent residents who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence.

This measure underscores the commitment to protecting the safety and security of Canadians and promoting Canadian interests and values. It also reinforces the value of Canadian citizenship.

Amendments will also provide the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada, and deny it to permanent residents for the same reasons.

Barring citizenship for foreign criminality and national security

Amendments will deny citizenship to criminals charged with or convicted of serious crimes outside Canada as well as criminals serving a sentence outside Canada. Previously, the act barred applicants from citizenship when they had been charged with or convicted of any indictable offence in Canada, or if they were serving a sentence in Canada.

There was no such bar for foreign criminality. The amendments will expand the bar to include individuals who have been charged with or convicted of similar crimes abroad, in the four years preceding their application, from obtaining citizenship.

Therefore, an individual will not be granted citizenship while subject to a foreign criminal proceeding, or for a conviction and sentence outside Canada. A ministerial discretion to waive exists for exceptional cases to ensure applicants facing unfounded charges would not be permanently barred.

Moreover, the changes will strengthen CIC’s ability to refuse citizenship to individuals who pose a security risk bringing the Citizenship Act more closely in line with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and strengthen CIC’s ability to refuse citizenship to those who pose a security risk.

Under the old act, refusal on security grounds was limited to cases where an applicant was going to engage in threat-related activities. Under the change, the Governor in Council will have the authority to deny citizenship in cases where a person “has, is or may engage” in threat-related activity.

In these cases, applicants will be barred from reapplying for citizenship for 10 years.

Sukhram Ramkissoon is a member of ICCRC and specialises in immigration matters at 3089 Bathurst St., Toronto, Suite 219A. Phone 416-789-5756.

Sukhram Ramkissoon
Sukhram Ramkissoon