Canada faces dramatic drop in citizenship, prompting concerns about disengaged immigrants

posted on March 25, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star | Link to Article

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star | Link to Article

The percentage of immigrants who become citizens has been dropping dramatically in recent years — from 79 per cent to 26 per cent among people who arrived between 2000 and 2008.

Sounding the alarm is former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffith, who suggests that recent reforms which raised barriers to becoming a citizen could lead to immigrants’ widespread disengagement from Canadian public life and identity.

His analysis — part of his study being presented at a conference this week — of the impact of the Conservatives’ reforms also suggests that the new version of the citizenship test has adversely affected applicants from visible minorities more than those with European roots.

“In the past, citizenship was viewed as a stepping stone to immigrant integration, and it should be done earlier on,” said Griffith, who will present Multiculturalism in Canada at a three-day national immigration and settlement conference in Vancouver that starts Thursday.

“These changes have made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens, without the ability to engage in the Canadian political process.”

Based on latest government data, Griffith found that the ratio of permanent residents who eventually become citizens has been in decline since 2000, and has dropped most rapidly in recent years.

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 have acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for the wave of immigrants settling in 2007, and 79 per cent of those who arrived in 2000.

Griffith said the government data used in his analysis was selected to reflect the fact that it takes immigrants an average six years to acquire Canadian citizenship. The 2008 cohort best indicates the early impact of reforms implemented by the Conservative government.

The permanent-resident-to-citizen conversion rate does generally rise the longer immigrants have been in Canada. But an 18 per cent decrease between the 2008 and 2007 cohorts is alarming, Griffith said.

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