Canada cracks down on immigration laws
Eileen Finn is among one of the many thousands of permanent residents in Canada whose future as a Canadian citizen is uncertain.
The federal government is preparing to deliver the much-anticipated reforms to the Canadian Citizenship Act, which will be tabled later this year.
“It comes down to whether you think democracy or civic engagement is important,” said Finn, who has been a permanent resident in Canada for nearly a decade.
The bill is aimed at strengthening the value of citizenship and is expected to crack down on the eligibility requirements, making it much more difficult to qualify for Canadian citizenship.
“In any policy there will be genuine motivations for doing things that seem generous and there will be genuine motivations for doing things that seem less than generous,” said Chris Anderson, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“So it’s never going to be sort of an either or calculation, it’s probably going to be a really mixed bag, because again, citizenship is a very complex area.”
Anderson explained that the rhetoric around the topic of citizenship in Canada has shifted significantly over the last several years. The backlog of applicants waiting for the granting of citizenship is, however, at an all-time high, with roughly 365,000 people unsure of their status.
“I don’t think the government would disagree that they have actively sought to tighten citizenship rules, same as immigration rules and refugee rules,” commented Anderson. “They would, I think, historically have seen Canada as too lax and too generous, or too undemanding of newcomers and wish to increase the levels of demands or the strictness of their rules.”
For Finn, the application process has been unpleasant.
“When I first applied, the initial application is very straightforward and really different than the permanent resident application,” Finn said. “My initial impression was that a lot of the due diligence really happened in the permanent resident application and that’s more where they decide whether you’re allowed to come to Canada in the first place.”
After her initial application was submitted, Finn received a document titled the Residency Questionnaire.
At this point, Finn realized her long road to citizenship was only just beginning.
The Residency Questionnaire is issued to citizenship applicants when Citizenship and Immigration Canada bureaucrats have considerable doubt as to whether the applicant has really resided in Canada for three of the four previous years. The questionnaire requests extensive documentation dating back to when the applicant first arrived in Canada, an especially daunting task for someone like Finn who has resided in Canada for nearly a decade.
Anderson explained that this form is used for roughly 20 per cent of citizenship applicants.
Andrew Cash, NDP Member of Parliament for Davenport and official opposition critic for multiculturalism, spoke with The Cord regarding the government’s stance on immigration and citizenship.
“There are a lot of people who follow the rules, who faithfully turn in their applications, who make sure that they do what is required,” Cash said. “Then rules change and commitments that are made by the government are not kept. So there are a lot of folks out there who are really upset with the way in which this government is handling the immigration file.”
Finn is calling for greater transparency on the part of the government.
“People should be able to get information, actual quality information about what it happening in their file.”