Citizenship Act Amendments Passed

One of the most contentious aspects of the last Federal election was the platform of the incumbent government, which included powers that allowed the government to strip Canadians of their citizenship based on national security. With their defeat, the majority government in place has had the ability to attempt reforms in the area of citizenship that were mentioned during the campaign (but not the official platforms).

After several amendments were proposed by the Senate to the Citizenship Act and agreed to by the House, The Senate voted to send Bill C-6 for Royal Assent on June 15, 2017. Until this date the Bill had passed through the House on June 17, 2016, and was debated eight times between second reading from September to December 2016.

The changes, as described by the legislative summary, are as follows:

(a) remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security;
(b) remove the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada;
(c) reduce the number of days during which a person must have been physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship and provide that, in the calculation of the length of physical presence, the number of days during which the person was physically present in Canada before becoming a permanent resident may be taken into account;
(d) limit the requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54; and
(e) authorize the Minister to seize any document that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe was fraudulently or improperly obtained or used or could be fraudulently or improperly used.

In a release by Senator Ratna Omidvar, the Senate Sponsor of Bill C-6, she stated,

Newcomers to Canada can now qualify to become full participants sooner and with fewer barriers. They can become naturalized in the knowledge that their citizenship is a right, and not a privilege which can be taken away.

Citizenship is one of the most powerful indicators of inclusion and belonging. When we facilitate citizenship for newcomers and protect the fundamental equality among all citizens by birth or naturalization, we are nation-building.

This is a significant law for all Canadians and for Canadians-in-the-making.

Senators have used C-6 as an opportunity to demonstrate how the Senate still plays an important role in independently improving legislation, and in the protection of minorities.

One of the other changes which occurred in the Senate, as championed by Senator Victor Oh, was for minors to apply independently for citizenship.

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