Canada’s flawed bill will make it easier for ‘citizens of convenience’

May 14, 2016

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun |

Some of what Robert Watt saw and heard during six years as a citizenship judge shocked him. It’s why he’s so deeply concerned about some of the Liberals’ proposed amendments in Bill C-6.

“Memorably, on one occasion, several newly sworn in citizens brought suitcases to the ceremony room for a rapid departure to Vancouver International Airport,” he wrote in a submission to the committee that studied the bill.

He calls them citizens of convenience.

“Very early on, it became clear that a noticeable percentage of all applicants were not really interested in citizenship,” he said.

Many had left Canada immediately after making an application to return to work or to school in their country of birth or residence. They stayed there until they were required to come back to have their documents checked and take the knowledge test. Then, they’d leave again, “coming one more time to take the (Citizenship) Oath, and then leaving again.”

In many cases, he wrote that they “distorted and misrepresented” how long they had been in Canada. Using their permanent residents’ cards, they left no record of the times they came and went from Canada via the United States.

Along with other citizenship judges, Watt held hearings to try to extract the truth about how much time they had been here. In some cases, they found that applicants in line for citizenship had been outside Canada for so long that even their permanent resident cards had expired.

“These applicants were at first startling,” Watt wrote. “Then, as they kept turning up, they provided the most dramatic evidence why it was essential to have the requirements for citizenship made as clear as possible; and, to have assessment processes which would ensure that those who deserved citizenship and truly qualified for it, received it and those who fell short … did not.”

Three of the Liberals’ amendments cause the former citizenship judge the most concern. They are: reducing the amount of time spent in Canada before applying for citizenship; limiting the requirement to speak one of the two official languages; and, eliminating the “intent to reside” provision.

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