A new report reveals that the number of new immigrants to Canada who went on to become citizens declined dramatically in the new millennium.
The new study by Canada’s former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffiths finds that the percentage of Canadian immigrants who became citizens declined from 79 percent to only 26 percent during the period of 2000-2008.
The study arrives at a time when immigration has become a ‘hot button’ topic within the Canadian political discussion, particularly in the wake of recent major reforms to Canada’s immigration laws; in addition, it is widely anticipated that the Conservative government will call a national election before year’s end, and that immigration will be one of the key issues during that election.
According to the study, one of the main reasons for the dramatic decline in the number of new Canadian citizens may be the increasing difficulty for immigrants to obtain their citizenship. The study, entitled Multiculturalism in Canada, is critical of the new immigration laws and states that changes to the laws have “made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire (Canadian) citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens.”
Based upon government data, the study found that the rate of new immigrants who became Canadian citizens increasingly declined in the first eight years of the new millennium; in fact, in 2008, only 26 percent of permanent residents within Canada had acquired citizenship, compared to 44 percent just one year earlier and a whopping 79 percent who arrived in 2000.
According to Griffith, the citizenship numbers from 2008 are the most reliable indicators of the impact of the current Conservative government’s immigration policies; the Stephen Harper Conservative government was first elected to office in 2006.
Not surprisingly, the government rejected the view that their immigration policies have negatively impacted the number of immigrants who become citizens. A spokesperson for Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) pointed out that Canada still has “one of the highest naturalization rates in the world”, and that 86 percent of permanent residents go on to receive their Canadian citizenship.
The CIC spokesperson said one explanation for Griffith’s findings of a steep decline in citizenship for immigrants could be that he was not taking into account “permanent residents who are not yet citizens because they have not yet met all the requirements of obtaining citizenship.”
Griffiths, the author of the study, retired from his position with the government in 2013 and said he actually understands “the rationale” behind the changes made to the immigration law by the Conservative government. However, he said he worries that the recent changes to immigration rules “creates excessive barriers” for Canadian immigrants who wish to become citizens.
Griffiths added the decline in obtaining Canadian citizenship varied based on the nationality of new immigrants; for example, immigrants from the Caribbean experienced a 20 percent decrease in obtaining citizenship, compared to South Asia and Southern and Eastern Africa immigrants whose rate of citizenship dropped by 15 percent.
Among the recent changes made to obtaining Canadian citizenship were increases in processing fees for individuals from $100 to $530, with an additional $100 “Right To Citizenship” fee also required to complete the citizenship process.