Propose changes to Canadian Citizenship

The Canadian Government has introduced a new bill, Bill C-24 to change the Citizenship Act.  While the Government claims that the Bill will improve processing times while strengthening the integrity of Canadian citizenship, what is really does is to make it harder for immigrants to become Canadian citizens, and easier for the Government to strip citizenship status from Canadians.

The following highlights some of the key problems with the Bill:

Residency Requirements – the Bill C-24 proposes to increase the residency requirement from the current 3 out of 4 years, to 4 out of six years.  It also takes away the current rule which recognizes the time spent by an applicant prior to obtaining their permanent resident up to a period of one year.  Increasing the time requirement to 4 out of 6 years will automatically increase the time it will take for someone to become a citizen.   Not recognizing time spent prior to the PR status will have a negative impact particularly on refugees and live-in-caregivers, as well as on immigrants who are accepted under the Canadian experience class.  It may also affect sponsored spouses who have a two year condition attached to their immigration status, as it is not clear if those two years can be counted towards their citizenship application.

Intent to Reside – the Bill introduces an “intent to reside” provision, which requires an applicant to declare that they intend to reside in Canada after becoming a Canadian citizen. This is unfair because it only applies to people who are naturalized citizens, but not to those who are born in Canada.  It also makes it possible for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke the citizenship status of a Canadian who, for reasons beyond his/her control, has to leave Canada after obtaining his/her citizenship status.

Language/knowledge requirement – Bill C-24 dramatically expands the group of individuals who are required to meet these requirements in order to become citizens of Canada.  Under the current law, individuals between the age of 18 and 54 are required to meet these requirements in order to become Canadian citizens. Bill C-24 will require applicants between the age of 14 and 64 to pass the citizenship test.  This is going to have a serious impact on many refugees and new Canadians, especially those who came under the family class program, including women who came as sponsored spouses and people who are sponsored as parents and grandparents.

Fee Increase – another change, which has already taken effect in February, 2014 is the fee increase.  The fee required for an adult application is now $400 and for children it is $200.   This affects low income immigrants in particular.

New Power to Strip Dual Citizens of their Canadian citizenship – Bill C-24 proposes new powers for the Minister to strip citizenship from dual citizens in cases of ‘treason”, or “terrorism”.  The Minister, and in some cases, the Federal Court will be authorized to strip Canadian citizenship because a citizen with dual citizenship has been found guilty of treason or terrorism.  That includes convictions outside of Canada.   And the provision will be applied retroactively.  There are two main issues with these new powers: First, it creates a two-tier citizenship separating those who have dual citizenship and those who do not.  Second, this provision applies even if the convictions are handed down by undemocratic countries which have serious human rights problems.

Access to Federal Court – Bill C-24 is replacing the automatic right to appeal to the Federal Court with an application for judicial review, with leave from the Court.  This will not only limit the access for many applicants to challenge a negative decision, but more importantly, it will reduce judicial

oversight of unreasonable decisions made by the Minister and by citizenship judges.

In conclusion, if Bill C24 is passed, fewer immigrants will become citizens of this country.  That means more and more immigrants will be denied the right to vote.

It is in the interests of Canada that we encourage and allow more immigrants to become citizens.

Citizenship Act should promote equality and respect for all people.  Bill C-24 does the exact opposite.  Call your Member of Parliament and tell him or her not to pass this Bill.

Changes to the Old Age Security program

The Government of Canada, in Budget 2012, announced three changes to the OAS program:

1.      The age of eligibility:

Starting in April 2023, the age of eligibility for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will gradually increase from 65 to 67 over six years, the ages of eligibility for the Allowance and the Allowance for the Survivor will also gradually increase from 60 to 62, with full implementation by January 2029.

People born between April 1, 1958, and Jan. 31, 1962, will become eligible to receive OAS benefits between the ages of 65 and 67, depending on their actual birth date. People born on or after Feb. 1, 1962, won’t be eligible for OAS until age 67.

People currently receiving the OAS pension and benefits and those born on or before April 1, 1958 will not be affected by these changes.

2.         voluntary deferral of the OAS to get a higher a rate

As of July 2013, you can defer receiving your Old Age Security (OAS) pension for up to a maximum 60 months (5 years) after the date you become eligible for an OAS pension in exchange for a higher monthly amount. If you delay receiving your OAS pension, your monthly pension payment will be increased by 0.6% for every month you delay receiving it, up to a maximum of 36%.  For example, Canadians who defer the OAS pension for one year (to age 66 instead of 65) would receive about $6,948 annually (in 2012 dollars) instead of $6,481. Someone who defers the OAS benefit for the maximum five years would receive $8,814 instead of $6,481.

The voluntary deferral benefit people who are able to continue working and those who can afford to wait to receive an Old Age Security (OAS) pension.  People who earn more than the maximum annual income allowed for a given year will have to repay part or their entire OAS pension. If they are able to delay receiving it until they have a lower income, they will be able to keep more of the OAS pension, and their OAS pension amount will be higher because of the increases for every month they delayed receiving it.

The deferral increase applies only to Old Age Security (OAS) pension, and not to the OAS benefits (Guaranteed Income Supplement, Allowance and Allowance for the Survivor).

3.  introduce an automatic enrolment process

Starting from April 2013, Service Canada implemented a process to automatically enrol seniors who are eligible to receive the Old Age Security pension.

If you can be automatically enrolled, Service Canada will send you a notification letter the month after you turn 64. If you do not receive this letter, you must apply for your Old Age Security pension.

OAS benefits for sponsored immigrants

If you are a sponsored immigrant, you are not eligible to receive OAS benefits (Guaranteed Income Supplement, Allowance and Allowance for the Survivor) during your sponsorship period unless you have 10 years of residence in Canada after the age of 18, or your sponsorship agreement ends because your sponsor:

•           suffers personal bankruptcy
•           is imprisoned for more than six months
•           is convicted of abusing you
•           dies

Propose change make it tougher for sponsored parents and grand parents to get GIS

The Conservatives plan to make it tougher for immigrants to qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).  Right now, immigrants need to be in Canada for 10 years to be eligible for Old Age Security (OAS) and GIS.

The government is proposing to extend that time to 20 years before an application for GIS can be made. Applications for OAS would still be allowed after 10 years.

The new measures only apply to immigrants who arrive under the parents and grandparents program – in which the sponsor already in Canada agrees to bear financial responsibility for their relatives.

Under the new plan, someone who is sponsored would not qualify for GIS.

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