by Katharine Starr
New immigrants to Canada may have an easier time qualifying for citizenship with changes coming in the next few weeks to the Citizenship Act, says Immigration Minister John McCallum.
“We are in general trying to reduce the barriers people have to overcome to become a citizen,” McCallum said in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Thursday.
During the recent election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to repeal the Conservatives’ controversial bill C-24, also known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. The bill, which became law last year, gave the government the power to remove Canadian citizenship from people convicted of terrorism, espionage or treason if they also held foreign citizenship.
But McCallum said the Liberal government has two main goals when it comes to making its changes to the Citizenship Act.
“We would make it impossible for the government to take away someone’s citizenship, and we would reduce the barriers currently in place that people have to overcome,” he said.
One of those barriers is a test to prove language proficiency in English or French. Bill C-24 expanded the age range for people required to take that test, to those aged 14 to 64 from a range of 18 to 54.
McCallum hinted the government is considering restoring the original age limit, among other changes.
“We could bring it back to [age] 54,” he said. “That’s an adjustment at the margin on the grounds that some older people coming to this country may not be fully proficient in English, although their children will be and their grandchildren certainly will be.”
“It’s one of the things we are potentially considering,” he added.
But McCallum made clear the government has no plans to scrap the language testing.
“I think you could call it tweaks to the system, and certainly not ditching the system.”
As for when Canadians can expect an announcement from the government, McCallum said to be on watch “in the coming days and weeks, but not very many weeks.”