News / Toronto

Liberals' Bill C-24 changes welcome news to future Canadian citizens

Less than a year since Harper-government introduced the controversial law, Liberals are proposing to repeal it

Germain Zima, who was prevented from applying for citizenship when Bill C-24 came into effect last year, is thankful the government is moving toward repealing the law.

Liz Beddall/ Metro

Germain Zima, who was prevented from applying for citizenship when Bill C-24 came into effect last year, is thankful the government is moving toward repealing the law.

The Liberal government’s plan to quash laws that make it harder for people to become Canadian citizens is music to Germain Zima’s ears.

“I still can’t believe it,” the Toronto-based human resources analyst said Thursday as the plan was announced.

The 33-year-old father of a newborn son was just weeks away from submitting his citizenship application when, last June, the Conservative government changed the rules, making immigrants wait longer to apply. Zima has since been at the forefront of calls for the new government to change the law.

“A law that alienates some was un-Canadian,” he said. “Repealing it, and repealing it this quick, that’s Canadian.”

The proposed changes — expected to take effect sometime this year — will provide greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet requirements for citizenship, Immigration Minister John McCallum said.

Permanent residents would be required to be in Canada for three years, down from four, before applying. They would get credit for time spent on student or work visas prior to becoming permanent residents, a practice the Conservatives nixed.

The age range for language and citizenship knowledge exams would also be amended, exempting those younger than 18 or older than 54.

McCallum’s bill would also repeal perhaps the most controversial provision of the law: Allowing the government to revoke citizenship from dual citizens convicted of “acts against national interests.”

Immigration officials would still have the power to revoke citizenship if it was obtained by false representation or fraud. The federal court could still revoke citizenship for people involved in organized crime, war crimes and crimes against humanities.

The review is also about peeding things up. The backlog of citizenship applications ballooned under Stephen Harper’s government. McCallum said new resources have been brought in and applications are now being processed within 12 months. The backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of the year.

--With files from Torstar News Service

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