Article by Gilbert Ngabo from the Metronews Newspaper June 24, 2015
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.
Added immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges: “I’m not saying we should feel sorry for people who commit acts of terrorism, but it seems a bit arbitrary that we’d get two different punishments for the same actions.”
An online petition calling for the legislation to be repealed has been signed by nearly 100,000 people across the country. Many supporters are here in Toronto.
The possibilities of seeing the law changed are distant, Cohen and Desloges said.
“I don’t see any realistic notion that the change could happen any time soon,” Desloges said. “It’ll be very difficult for any other political party to try to reverse that.”
The new immigration legislation also requires:
People applying for citizenship declare their intent to live in Canada. Critics say that’s unfair because people born in the country don’t lose their citizenship by living elsewhere.
People 14 to 64 must now sit for the language test when applying for citizenship. The previous age was 18 to 54.