Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to announce legislation regarding citizenship

Ottawa, Ontario, June 10, 2010

As Delivered

Good morning. This morning, I introduced Bill C-37, the Strengthening the Value of Canadian Citizenship Act.

This bill aims to amend the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In accordance with the commitment stated in the Throne Speech, these amendments are intended to simplify the process of revoking the citizenship of people who acquired it by making false statements, by fraud, or by hiding important facts, including war crimes.

Citizenship is about more, far more than a right to carry a passport or to vote. It defines who we are as Canadians, including our mutual responsibilities to one another and a shared commitment to the values that are rooted in our history like freedom, unity and loyalty.

That’s why we must protect the values of Canadian citizenship and must take steps against those who would cheapen it. Citizenship fraud is becoming a serious issue. There are a number of ongoing police investigations across the country and charges have been laid into the practice of crooked citizenship consultants who sell packages on how to create bogus proof of residency in order to obtain Canadian citizenship.

I myself saw an advertisement being circulated in Dubai by a crooked citizenship consultant. It offered to help people, for a package fee, set up false evidence of residency in Canada to qualify for citizenship and advertised that this would yield the benefit of free healthcare, subsidized tuition rates for post-secondary institutions and higher salaries back in the Gulf states. 

My officials have noticed a trend where the same addresses pop up in our system hundreds of times over amongst people applying for citizenship. This means that large groups of citizenship applications are using the same address to prove their residency here in Canada.

For example, last year the Globe and Mail reported about an ongoing investigation into a consultant in Mississauga operating in the same building as a settlement organization and using that business address as the home address for over 300 people from the Middle East applying for Canadian citizenship.

I myself have sat in on interviews at our Citizenship bureau in Mississauga and came across one applicant who was supposedly living at the same address in one apartment with 25 other citizenship applicants.

And the most common example of this fraud comes from Quebec. As reported by Radio‑Canada, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), Quebec’s health insurance agency, opened an investigation a few years ago [TR note: French reads “il y a un peu de, il y a un peu de plus ans”?]. They concluded that, in over 1,000 cases, people used a consultant to falsify their residence here in Canada.

These measures cheapen the value of Canadian citizenship. So today, we’re taking measures to protect that Canadian citizenship from those who would lie in trying to obtain it.

Because so many law abiding immigrants come to Canada with the dream of becoming citizens, we want to protect the value of it for them. We need to crack down on this widespread fraud and tackle those who seek to cheapen Canadian citizenship.

Today’s amendments would do the following.

They would add legal authority to regulate these consultants by making it a crime to operate as an unregistered citizenship consultant. This is complementary to the amendments that I recently proposed in the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultant Act, Bill C-35.

What we’re proposing today in this bill is to actually make the practice of acting as a citizenship consultant subject to precisely the same regulations under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

We will create a single regulatory body, designated by the Minister, which will be responsible for ensuring professional and ethical conduct on the part of both immigration and citizenship consultants. Often, they are the same people.

We are going to increase penalties for committing citizenship fraud to, up to a maximum of $100,000 or five years in prison or both.

We’ll strengthen the citizenship residence requirement, so that people applying for citizenship would actually have to be physically present in Canada for three of the previous four years.

I know this might raise the question, “you mean that’s not already the case?”

That was the question I had when I was initially briefed on the fact that, due to some clever legal work by some people’s lawyers, some courts have accepted something other than physical presence – such as having a post office box in Canada – as being sufficient to satisfy the Citizenship Act’s requirement that an applicant for citizenship be present in Canada for three out of four years.

We will, for the purposes of greater clarity, amend the law to be absolutely clear: that residency means physical presence in Canada for three out of four years. I think it’s just common sense.

We will prevent foreign criminals from becoming Canadian citizens, so those who have been found guilty of serious crimes that would also be serious crimes in Canada would be ineligible to obtain Canadian citizenship. But the Minister would retain the ability to provide exemptions. So, for example, a person who might have a criminal record for political activity in a despotic state could be exempted from the application of that grounds for ineligibility.

We will strengthen the new limitation on the ability to acquire citizenship for the second generation born abroad. We will ensure that this Act does not intentionally exclude any eligible citizenship applicant. We will guarantee that the children of people serving Canada abroad, the children of Crown public servants, are not disadvantaged because of their parents’ service to Canada and are able to pass on citizenship to their children.

And we will streamline the revocation and removal process and make the revocation process more transparent by shifting the decision making on revocations from the Governor in Council to the Federal Court of Canada.

This is an important amendment that stakeholders and experts have long called for, noting the extraordinary long and complex process for Canada to revoke citizenship from war criminals and others who lied about their crime filled past when they applied to come to Canada. We will now streamline the process. The decision will not be taken by the Cabinet any longer, but instead by the Federal Court, following an application to it by the Minister of Citizenship.

People must know that citizenship can be revoked if a person commits a fraudulent act to obtain it or hides important circumstances when applying for citizenship or permanent residence.

We need consultants to clearly understand that we will not tolerate those who commit fraud to help anyone obtain citizenship here. As I mentioned earlier, Canadian citizenship is more than a legal status and more than a passport. These amendments would preserve the value and integrity of our common citizenship, both today and for the future.

Canadian citizenship is more than a legal status and more than a passport. These amendments will preserve the value and integrity of Canadian citizenship, both today and in the future.

Thank you very much.

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