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Citizenship

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Citizenship

Jennifer Elrick

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Canada encourages permanent immigrants to adopt Canadian citizenship, and naturalization is regarded by the government as "a significant step in the integration process for newcomers because it signifies full participation in Canadian life."

Saleswoman at a vegetable stand in Toronto's St Lawrence Market. (© picture alliance / zb)

As a result, the country has one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. In 2011, 85.6 percent of all immigrants who were entitled to naturalize had done so. Over two-thirds (78.3 percent) of Canada’s entire population is Canadian by birth, and another 15.8 percent has acquired citizenship by naturalization, meaning that 94 percent of people residing in the country are Canadian citizens.

The high naturalization rate is probably one reason that explains why high levels of immigration and diversity have failed to become political issues that can be taken advantage of by right-wing parties during elections, as has happened in many European countries over the past decade. The high naturalization rate means that the majority of immigrants have the right to vote, and their votes affect election outcomes in areas with the most electoral districts, i.e. the major urban centers where immigrants tend to settle. Thus, politicians (and the parties they belong to) have more to lose than to gain from resorting to inflammatory anti-immigrant or anti-diversity rhetoric.

Naturalization requirements changed slightly in 2010. In order to become a naturalized citizen, a person must be a permanent resident of Canada (i.e. must have been granted permission to reside permanently in Canada by immigration authorities), must have lived in Canada for at least three out of the four years prior to application, must demonstrate the ability to communicate in English or French (by passing a language test or by having completed a post-secondary degree in English or French), and must pass a citizenship test to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Since the new test was introduced in 2010, higher failure rates – which jumped from 4 percent to 30 percent – have been a recurring issue. However, the government has responded by adjusting the test to keep the pass rate at the targeted level of 80-85 percent: a clear sign high naturalization rates are still a policy goal.

Maintaining dual citizenship has been possible for Canadian citizens since 1977. In 2011, 944,700 individuals, or 2.9 percent of the population, had multiple citizenships, 79.5 percent of whom were immigrants.
In 2009, a new Citizenship Act took effect, limiting the acquisition of Canadian citizenship by descent to the first generation born outside Canada. In other words, if someone is born outside Canada and obtains Canadian citizenship from a parent, that person can no longer pass Canadian citizenship on to their own children, if they are also born abroad. All persons born on Canadian territory automatically acquire Canadian citizenship (jus soli).

Fussnoten

Fußnoten

  1. Cited in Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2006).

  2. Statistics in this section are taken from Statistics Canada (2013b).

  3. For a detailed account of the argument, see Triadafilopoulos (2012).

  4. For more information on the citizenship test and the material to prepare for it, see the CIC website: Externer Link: www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/discover/index.asp (accessed: 7-16-2013)

  5. See Joppke (2013) for more on this discussion.

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Jennifer Elrick is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on family-related immigration policies in Canada and Germany since 1945. E-Mail Link: jennifer.elrick@mail.utoronto.ca