During the 2015 election campaign Canadian-Iranians living in North Vancouver raised two major concerns with me. These were:
- Significant unhappiness with the changes the Harper Government had made regarding citizenship (Bill C-24). In particular, the creation by that Government of two classes of citizens – one for dual citizens whose citizenship could be revoked and one for those with a single Canadian passport – from whom citizenship could not be revoked.These concerns resonated strongly with me. It is my firm belief that all citizens of Canada, regardless of their background, should be treated fairly and equally.
- Difficulties associated with getting visas for family members for travel between Iran and Canada because of the lack of an Embassy or other Canadian diplomatic representation in Iran.
During the election campaign I said I would work on both these issues if I was elected to be your representative in Ottawa.
The Liberal Party itself campaigned on a clear commitment to address several of the changes implemented in Bill C-24.
I am proud to say that our government has delivered on our promises with regard to Bill C-24 when it passed Bill C-6 – an Act to amend the Citizenship Act.
Our government rejects a two-tiered approach to citizenship. The changes made by Bill C-6 will ensure every Canadian is treated according to the same rules. Bill C-6 also provides more flexibility for eligible applicants to meet the requirements for citizenship and enhances program integrity.
Changes that came into effect on June 19, 2017 include:
- Repealing of the ability to revoke citizenship from dual citizens convicted of crimes against the national interest – a key provision of the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper’s Bill C-24 and
- Making it easier for minors to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent.
Additional changes that came into effect starting October 11, 2017 include:
- Reducing the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship to three out of five years
- Amending the age range for applicants to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship from 14-64 years to 18-54 years
- Counting some of the time applicants spend in Canada as temporary residents or protected persons toward their physical presence requirements for citizenship; and
- Reducing the time required for applicants to file income taxes before applying for citizenship from four out of six years to three out of five years
The passing of Bill C-6 represented an important promise kept by our government – one that will address several issues with the citizenship process. Our Canadian identity is one that has been shaped by countless contributions of immigrants to this country. I am proud to be part of a government that encourages newcomers and citizens alike to continue to shape this great land.
With regard to diplomatic representation and facilitating better access to consular services between Iran and Canada, we continue to work on this matter. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been engaged on the issue and a delegation of Canadian officials has recently been on the ground in Tehran to discuss consular matters with the Iranian Government.
These initial conversations represent the first time in many years that Canada and Iran have spoken directly. Canada recognizes the importance of speaking directly to Iran about many topics including consular and human rights cases, and is considering carefully on how to best engage with Iran on these matters, by taking a careful and gradual approach.
We clearly would like to ease the burdens that are placed on Iranian-Canadians as a result of the current diplomatic situation. We do however need to ensure that Canadians interests are protected and advanced in the context of any discussions with the current Government of Iran.
I will continue to advocate on your behalf for measures that will make it easier for families to obtain visas and other relevant services in a manner that requires less effort and is more timely. I will continue to keep you advised as to progress regarding this issue.