Venture Explains: Canada’s Bill C-24

Becoming a Canadian citizen just got much tougher.

What is it? Canadian lawmakers recently passed Bill C-24, or the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. The controversial piece of legislation is designed to harden the rules around becoming a fully-fledged Canadian. For example, before applying for citizenship, permanent residents now must have lived in the country for four out of the past six years, and also must have resided in the country for 183 days or more for each of the four years out of the past six. Previously, permanent residents only had to be in Canada for three of the four years in the run up to applying for citizenship.

Why should we care? For obvious reasons, gaining Canadian citizenship has long been an ambition held by many Arabs living in the perennially precarious Middle East. But if granted citizenship, the current Canadian government is worried that a significant number of them will turn out to be “Canadians of convenience,” a term first coined after Canada evacuated thousands of Lebanese-Canadians from Lebanon during its 2006 conflict with Israel, only for the majority to head back a short while later once the fighting had eased. “Canada is fed up with passport-holding citizens whose relation with the country is nothing but a piece of paper,” Sheref Sabawy, a Canadian-Egyptian politician, told Al Arabiya News.

Where is it going? Bill C-24 can be viewed as part of a tightening up of immigration and naturalization rules being adopted by cautious Western governments in what they see as an increasingly economically and politically uncertain world. In Canada’s case, some believe the passing of C-24 will eventually lead to the abolishment of the renowned law which states that anyone who’s born in Canada automatically becomes a citizen. Furthermore, some rights groups fear that C-24 could also pave the way for Canada to strip dual nationals who are convicted of serious crimes of their citizenship.