Report of the committee
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of December 15, 2016, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.
Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.
KELVIN KENNETH OGILVIE
Observations to the Tenth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-6)
The committee observes a need for greater flexibility to allow exemptions to the language and knowledge testing requirements in order to obtain citizenship. While Bill C-6 makes changes to the age group that is required to take language and knowledge tests, there are other exceptional circumstances that can prevent a person from learning English or French which are not addressed by the bill. These circumstances may involve social, or physical and mental health factors. The committee heard that people from different socio-economic backgrounds have differential ability and capacity to acquire a new language. The committee suggests that the scope and accessibility of exemptions to language and knowledge testing should be reviewed with the goal of ensuring that applicants do not experience unreasonable delays or hardship to obtain citizenship.
Smart Permanent Resident Cards
During the committee’s hearings on Bill C-6, the committee was made aware that keeping a record of residency requirements would be easier with “smart” Permanent Resident Cards. The committee heard from one witness that the benefit of the smart card system is the maintenance of an accurate record of a person’s time spent in Canada would be kept. This will allow for more transparency on citizenship applications. Therefore, the committee urges the government to review and consider the implementation of a smart card residency program.
The committee also notes that citizenship application fees are rising at an accelerated pace. In February 2014, an individual application fee cost $100. Today, the cost is $530. This is more than a 500 per cent increase. There is an additional $100 right of citizenship fee. Altogether, the cost to acquire citizenship for a family of four with two minor children is $1,460. When extra costs such as language training and testing are taken into consideration, the costs are much higher. High citizenship fees can present a significant financial burden to potential applicants, and could act as a barrier for traditionally low income groups such as those with disabilities, single mothers and minorities. To ensure that potential applicants are not barred from citizenship based solely on their income, the committee advises the government to consider lowering these fees.