Making CIC better

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) dates back as far as 1869 and the purpose it served were to build Canada into a strong nation through opening its doors to immigrants. Through the years policies have had to be changed or updated to better fit the ongoing changes that Canada required and to also benefit those who wished to immigrate and or become citizens of Canada. CIC accomplishes its quest to build Canada by offering immigrants to apply under various programs allowing them to enter Canada under the best possible opportunity. The majority of immigrants or refugees who come to Canada are granted permanent residency and under the current guidelines of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act they (permanent residents) have just as much rights as a Canadian citizens with the following exceptions:

  • not allowed to vote or run for office;
  • not allowed to obtain a Canadian passport;
  • hold certain jobs and;
  • unable to remain in Canada if convicted.

Although most of those in Canada as permanent residents apply for their Canadian citizenship after being in Canada for three years, I would like to see CIC implement in their policies that all permanent residents should become citizens within the first three years of living in Canada or even up to five years. Those that do not should be interviewed to see why they don’t wish to become citizens. However, in saying that, nobody should be forced to become a Canadian citizen as it should be a choice but anybody living and claiming all benefits as a born Canadian citizen should be proud to become a Canadian citizen.

Under the present guidelines, permanent residents can sponsor families coming to Canada, receive social benefits including healthcare, live/work or study anywhere in Canada and have protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights. The first and probably the biggest reason I would like to see this policy implemented is because of the right a permanent resident has to receive social benefits including healthcare. Canada’s healthcare is a precious and free benefit to its citizens as well as permanent residents but it is showing its strain. More particular in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador where people have to wait up to a year, if not longer, just for an MRI or even up to nine months to see certain specialists. I’m not saying that permanent residents are to blame for such wait times but this Province in particular has had a population growth within the immigrant family due to the industry growth. On a local talk show, a caller expressed his concern on how a group of refugees living in Newfoundland and Labrador as permanent residents are fighting for their rights to receive healthcare and as much as this caller had no issues with them receiving healthcare, he also expressed that as a citizen of Canada he should have first priority. Everyone is entitled to healthcare and the Charter of Rights dictates same but there has to be a boundary set in CIC policies that permanent residents could perhaps pay for emergency services, specialist appointments and for prescription drugs. This would certainly push those with permanent residency to obtain their citizenship and then can they be qualified for full healthcare benefits.

Further more CIC knows it is important to help families who come from other countries to reunite in Canada. If you are a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, you can sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, dependent child (including adopted child) or other eligible relative (parent and or grandparent) to become a permanent resident. CIC refers to the immigrants who are eligible to use this family sponsoring process as the Family Class. 1

I am in total agreement with the Family Class sponsoring class but what I’m hesitant to agree with is the fact that permanent residents are allowed to sponsor any of their family members. With the application backlog that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is experiencing, again giving permanent residents the right to sponsor family members including parents and grandparents will continue to increase and as more family members arriving Canada as permanent residents and they also sponsoring their extended family members, the cycle will continue and the backlog will continue to increase. If a policy within CIC is either changed or a new one implemented that permanent residents have to become citizens, CIC will have time to catch up on the backlog and not to mention give some breathing room to many benefits currently enjoyed by citizens. In 2010, Canada welcomed the highest number of legal immigrants in more than 50 years, at 280,636 permanent residents, Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Parliamentary Secretary Dr. Alice Wong announced today in Toronto and Vancouver. 1

Another example is that one of the easiest way for immigrants to come to Canada is by marrying a Canadian citizen and this continues to increase as this method automatically grants that person permanent residency. If the marriage fails, however, that immigrant will continue to be a permanent resident of Canada and can continue to live in Canada.

Of course, I am not suggesting that Canada gives up humanitarian tradition as this would be wrong and exceptions must be allowed by CIC to continue providing safety for those who truly need it. Refugees for example could be exempt from having to become citizens during a specified time period. I am only referring to those permanent residents who live in Canada indefinitely without ever deciding to become citizens but would be free to work in any industry, earn Canadian benefits, and make use of healthcare benefits and so on. If they are making the effort to earn a living in Canada, they should make the effort to become citizens. CIC can emphasize the advantages of becoming a Canadian citizen that will entice permanent residents to comply with the new policy, if such policy were to be implemented.

Frances Puglisevich
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


1 Canada welcomes highest number of legal immigrants in 50 years while taking action to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration system
Redesigning the Parent and Grandparent immigration program
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
The Pros and Cons to Canadian Citizenship

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