On November 5, 1999, the Government of Canada announced the proposal of a new Citizenship Act. According to Elinor Caplan, Canada’s Immigration Minister, the new Act is designed to “strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship by better defining what it means to be Canadian and by setting clearer criteria for acquiring citizenship.”
As the government revealed in its press release, some of the main features of the proposed legislation are the following:
- The legislation proposes setting more precise terms of residence, requiring that applicants be physically present in Canada for three years of the six years prior to applying. This is in contrast to the current law which requires three years of residence during the four year period prior to applying. In addition, the current law is somewhat unclear about the requirement of “physical presence” in Canada. Thus, while the new law would require actual physical presence in Canada, it would still allow for a certain amount of flexibility – particularly for people who are obliged to be out of the country for extended periods of time.
- The new Act would set new limits on the number of generations through which citizenship could be passed on to children born abroad. Under the proposed law, an individual born abroad to a Canadian would have Canadian citizenship. However, if that person stays outside of Canada and then has a child, the child would to apply to retain citizenship and meet the residence requirement before the age of 28.
- Individuals who obtained their citizenship through a false identity or who should have been prohibited from ever obtaining citizenship as a result of criminal activities, could have their citizenship annulled by the Minister.
- The new law would implement a simplified decision-making process whereby applications would be processed faster.
- A faster and more effective process would be instituted for the review of decisions.
- A new oath which clearly expresses loyalty to Canada would be introduced. The current oath (dating back to 1947) does not even mention Canada. The new oath would also call for Canadian citizens to confirm their respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens and the centrality of the principles of democracy.
- Finally, the proposed legislation would establish that foreign children adopted by Canadian citizens could become citizens without first becoming permanent residents.
If passed, this new legislation would represent the first major reform of Canada’s citizenship laws in over twenty years.