‘Utterly unfair and unfortunate’: Immigrants, lawyers decry Bill C-24

June 24, 2015

By Gilbert Ngabo, Metro News |

It’s a tale of two contradictions, says David Cohen, a Toronto immigration lawyer.

Canada, a country that prides itself on diversity, has just made it harder for immigrants to become citizens.

Germain Zima is among the estimated thousands of Torontonians caught in the snarl of what moved through government channels as Bill C-24.

The law, which passed last year but started being enforced just this month, requires that immigrants be in Canada as permanent residents for four years before applying for citizenship. That’s up from three.

The legislation also means time spent in the country on a work or student visa will no longer be credited toward the citizenship countdown.

“It’s utterly unfair and unfortunate,” said Zima, who came to Toronto from Rwanda seven years ago and has been a permanent resident since 2013.

He had expected to be eligible for citizenship on July 4. Now he can’t apply until 2017.

“In the past, changes didn’t have hard effective dates, why now?” Zima asked, adding implementation of the law should be phased in to give people a chance to transition. “Stronger laws to allow authentic applicants to get citizenship are good, but shouldn’t punish all applicants.”

Cohen, who’s with the firm Campbell Cohen and operates the website canadavisa.com, has been watching the legislation since it was introduced by the Conservatives in February 2014.

His position is clear: “I don’t think it’s a very good law.”

Along with making the waiting period longer, the law gives the government authority to revoke citizenship if an immigrant is convicted of crimes such as terrorism or treason.

“They’ve now created essentially two classes of citizens, making some feel less Canadian than others,” Cohen said.

Read more