Bill C-24 went into full effect earlier this summer, with its value being brought in to question in the political, journalistic, and legal communities. But what does it mean for students in particular?
The bill states that you must spend at least 183 days in Canada each year for a total of four years to qualify for citizenship. International students spend at least 240 days a year here; most international students are completing a four-year program. According to these numbers, international students should be eligible for citizenship by the end of their degrees.
However, Bill C-24 has decreed that the time that international students spend in Canada while in school no longer counts towards the time necessary for procuring citizenship.
This policy is clearly unfair. Being a student here is the best way to understand the rights and responsibilities of a Canadian citizen — at no other time in your life will you have the resources and freedom to explore and appreciate all that Canada has to offer.
This is not to mention that typically, someone in their twenties who is fresh out of school and living in Toronto wants to be able to travel easily, vote, be eligible for as many jobs as possible, and have access to government social services. However, those privileges are only granted along with citizenship. Due to Bill C-24, the wait will be well over eight years before international students have access to citizenship.
Bill C-24 has also introduced a provision called “intent to reside.” Under this provision, if after a student is granted citizenship it is implied that they do not intend to live in Canada, their citizenship can be stripped from them. “Intent to reside” will likely be measured by the time that new citizens spend outside of Canada, and as such, limits people’s liberties to study, work, or even travel abroad back to their country of origin, perhaps to visit family or friends after graduating. What’s more, keeping the unpredictable job market in mind, if someone is employed abroad, or wishes to study outside of Canada, it doesn’t suddenly make them less Canadian.
But perhaps most damning is that Bill C-24 gives the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (or CIC) minister the authority to revoke the citizenship of dual-citizens or foreign-born citizens — who are referred to as “second-class” in the bill’s own language — if they are convicted of terrorism, treason, and spying-related offences in Canada or otherwise. It’s hard to imagine the CIC Minister deporting someone for no rational purpose, but the very fact that the minister now has the power to deport people is troubling for many reasons.
Deporting someone from the country they were born in echoes the racist “you don’t belong in this country” notion that many people of colour have heard their entire lives.
If the current government wanted to tarnish Canada’s reputation by putting forth a bill that is lazy and divisive, then they’ve achieved their goal. As for students, the best course of action right now is to be aware of all the ways that Bill C-24 is affecting you, and to plan ahead for the time you will spend here before you become a citizen.