Thursday, March 6, 2014

Canadian citizenship rules make integration more difficult

A new report from a Canadian think tank alleges that recent changes to the Canadian citizenship regime favour some immigrants over others and run contrary to the Canadian multicultural ethos.

The report, Becoming Canadian, was written for the Institute for Research into Public Policy by Dr Elke Winter. The Institute is Canada's oldest non-partisan think tank. Dr Winter says that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, elected in 2006, has introduced changes to the citizenship process that favour educated, and possibly white, immigrants.

Dr Winter says that when it came to power, the Harper government
  • Issued a new citizenship guide,
  • Introduced anti-fraud measures to prevent fraudulent citizenship claims
  • Designed a new citizenship test
  • Modified the Canadian citizenship test and
  • Increased the language requirements for citizenship



Harder to obtain citizenship

The Canadian government said that these measures were designed to 'enhance the value of Canadian citizenship' but Dr Winter says that their effect has been to make it harder to get citizenship, particularly for those who do not speak French or English as a first language and those with lower levels of education. There is some suggestion that non-Europeans are disadvantaged too.

Dr Winter says that, because Canada is still a country that grows its population primarily through immigration (67% of the annual population growth comprises naturalized rather than new-born Canadians) the immigration rules and procedures are extremely important to the way in which the country develops.

Since 2006, she says, the number of people becoming citizens annually has fallen sharply. In 2008, 176,572 people were made citizens. In 2012, only 113, 142 did so. At the same time, the number of citizenship applications has risen sharply (from 242,400 to 317,440). The waiting time for a citizenship application to be processed has risen from 25 to 35 months.



New rules favour educated Europeans

Dr Winter argues that, by linking citizenship to language ability and a Canadian citizenship test that tests applicants on Canada's British past, the country undervalues some migrants and privileges educated, European migrants over Asian and African ones.

'Even if lowering the overall number of permanent residents who become citizens is not a purpose of the new policy measures, slowing down access to Canadian citizenship is a de facto outcome' the report says.

Dr Winter says that the government's measures have been designed to
  • Control immigration
  • Increase social cohesion
  • Increase national security and to
  • Improve new citizens' economic and social integration



Results are 'more stratified by socio-economic background '

However, she finds that, either intentionally or otherwise, 'this approach has produced results that are 'more stratified by socio-economic background, and arguably by ethnocultural origin that the original model'.

Nonetheless, she concedes that 'Canada has remained a world leader in converting immigrants into citizens, with more than 75% of permanent residents being granted citizenship'.

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