As detailed over the weekend in the Canada Gazette, Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration is proposing to allow new citizens to fast-track their applications by giving them the option of affirming their citizenship oath via a secure internet webpage rather than raising their hands and doing so at a citizenship ceremony.
Becoming a citizen at a swearing-in ceremony was a historical and honourable institution in Canada many of us immigrants have never forgotten and of which each of us is very proud. The federal government is considering doing away with the ceremony, doing away with the pomp and ceremony that such an important event deserves to retain.
From 2016-2022, the number of citizenship grant applications doubled from 113,000 to 243,000. The Federal government’s immigration objective is 500,000 permanent residents by 2025.
The federal government defends the proposed change to the citizenship granting ceremony as a time saver. At this time, the wait time for the ceremony has taken over two years.
There has been vociferous criticism of the government’s proposal.
Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO Daniel Bernhard told the National Post that losing the ceremony is tantamount to losing an important chapter in Canadian history.
He said, “The day you become a citizen is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion that has implications for every generation afterwards. People recognize that, and these are very special, meaningful and very emotional days, not just for the new citizens but also for their family and friends.”
For new Canadian Vivian Chan, the act of raising her hand and affirming an oath to her new home meant far more than just fulfilling a legal obligation.
“For me, it was very important to raise my hand during my citizenship oath-taking ceremony,” she told the National Post.
“It definitely wouldn’t have the same meaning if I were just offered to click ‘yes’ on a computer.”
If approved, the changes would come into force this June.
However, it should be noted that fewer Canadian permanent residents are going through the process of obtaining citizenship.
At the beginning of the year, Statistics Canada reported that less than 50 percent of permanent residents who immigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2021 obtained Canadian citizenship.
That’s compared to just over 75 percent in 2001.
Immigrants are concluding that life in Canada isn’t as rosy as they believed it would be: current political leaders are not as appealing as expected, high cost of living, and racism are the top three reasons why they wouldn’t recommend others immigrate to Canada.
Twenty-two percent of new immigrants say they may be leaving Canada over the next two years.
Under the proposed regulations, citizenship applicants would have the option to take their oath online, through a secure online solution, and doing so would not require a witness.
Citizenship applicants would still have the option to swear or affirm the Oath of Citizenship before a citizenship judge at a ceremony.
The changes would reduce processing times while allowing prospective citizens to meet the legal requirements of being granted citizenship.
Some understand the need for the government to streamline the process, particularly at this time when unreasonably long processing delays have become the default for the federal public service.
The feeling is that the government is facing a lot of pressure from people who, very reasonably, want their applications to be processed more quickly, but one hopes that efficiencies and expeditious changes can be found to improve the process.
As Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson, Nancy Caron told the National Post, “These celebrations are really special, and if we do away with them, that’s a disservice to all of Canada.”
[Sourced from The National Post, Feb. 2023.]