Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Creating Better Immigrants Through Tougher Citizenship Laws.

Anything obtained easily is taken for granted and is not as appreciated as something that is obtained through determination and hard work. Indeed, it is perceived as an entitlement, as something that no one can deny you. This is the current state of Canadian citizenship. It is too easily granted and too quickly given out like discount coupons are for a store's "one day only sale" to everyone who passes through its doors. Canada needs to toughen its citizenship laws. By doing so we would be making better citizens of immigrants.

Andrew Cohen writes about this in the Ottawa Citizen. While commenting on the new citizenship guide he has this to say:

There is much to be done. Generally speaking, we should make citizenship harder, not easier, to obtain. To this end, make the citizenship test mandatory for those under 65, not 55. Test aggressively on language, ensuring that applicants have a working knowledge of English or French. Many do not now.

Appoint citizenship judges who are serious about citizenship, not political hacks. Extend the residency requirement for new Canadians from three to six years.

Rewrite the citizenship oath to reflect obligation and duty. Draft a charter of responsibilities. Tax Canadians living abroad after they have been away a number of years. Reconsider dual citizenship.

None of this is easy. Some of the more contentious questions might go to a royal commission.

I don't know if I agree with him on all points but I do feel that three years residency is too short a time for citizenship. In fact I think this is the shortest residency time any country in the world expects of its immigrants before it grants them citizenship. And not by coincidence is it short enough to quickly produce voters for the next election, expectedly for the Liberal party. Similarly, it is absolutely ridiculous that Canada grants landed immigrant status to live in caregivers after a mere two years of baby sitting. That we grant landed immigrant status to live in caregivers is ridiculous in itself.

I don't think the refugee stream should be another avenue to citizenship. Technically refugees are not immigrants. They are supposed to be temporary residents with the intent of returning to their country once it is safe.

I also don't think citizenship should be granted to anyone who is born on Canadian soil. This should be a right of citizenship not to people just passing through. This would curtail the incidence of anchor babies or "passport babies". Earlier this year an 8 1/2 month pregnant Ugandan woman gave birth to a child in Canadian air space as she traveled to the U.S. from Denmark ostensibly driven by the motive to give her child U.S. citizenship by having it born in U.S. territory (why else would she be traveling so late in her pregnancy?). But the child was born in Canadian air space and the Canadian government, without precedent, gave the child citizenship. Canada or the U.S., to the Ugandan woman I doubt it made any difference. Many other temporary residents, be it on travel visas or work visas, intentionally get pregnant here if not pregnant already for the same reason. We shouldn't encourage or reward this behaviour.

Adding another point, any immigrants who have lived abroad for an extended amount of time should have their citizenship brought under review with the possibility of it being revoked. Leaving Canada for an indefinite amount of time after obtaining citizenship doesn't sound like someone who is committed to the country like the 50,000 "Canadians" in Lebanon or the some 250,000+ "Canadians" living in Hong Kong. If they are not going to be taxed on their foreign incomes then what good are they to the country? Why should the benefits of Canadian citizenship be readily available to them when their commitment to the country they chose to immigrate to is lacking? For native born Canadians citizenship is their birthright but to move to Canada, stick around long enough to get citizenship, then take off again is something other. Longer residency requirements would address this issue.

Immigrants today, irrespective of their complaints and whining, have never had it easier at becoming a citizen. Post WWII immigrants had to work for it like those who preceded them. They had to live in the country longer, they didn't have free language training, nor an army of social workers and social programs at their service. It was baptism by fire. They didn't have the internet or satellite T.V. to keep them in touch with the home country or cheap air travel to make frequent and extended trips to their native lands. They came to Canada with the intent of staying here for good. And they were better for it. They became Canadians wanting to become "more Canadian than Canadian". And they appreciated Canada more for it. Sadly, this is lost with recent cohorts of the past several years, perhaps decades, for whom Canadian citizenship is an insurance policy and a list of entitlements and benefits, nothing more.

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