From my experience as a Member of Parliament, one of the most rewarding roles is the great honour of attending a citizenship ceremony.
Participating in a ceremony where new Canadians take their oath of citizenship is a very special moment and a reminder of how truly fortunate we all are to call Canada home.
The oath of citizenship ceremony has been a proud Canadian tradition since 1947. I suspect the vast majority who have had the opportunity to participate in, or observe, such a ceremony would agree what a heartwarming and unforgettable event it is.
I mention this because it was with great sadness that I have recently discovered the government may soon provide an option for new Canadians to skip the citizenship ceremony and instead click a box online over the Internet, potentially without the presence of a citizenship judge, family members, elected officials, guests or anyone else.
According to the government, the answer is speed. For reasons unknown, the immigration process has become so backlogged there are now 358,000 citizenship applications waiting more than two years or more.
Eliminating the citizenship ceremony could potentially increase the speed of an application by as much as 90 days, according to the government. This is also what I find troubling. If one is in a two-year lineup and can shorten the wait by 90 days, many would likely elect to do so.
The bigger question is why has this backlog become so severe? The COVID pandemic is partly to blame, however, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) recently investigated the Express Entry immigration process.
The PBO, who released a report earlier this week, revealed some eyebrow-raising information. While governments often cite a lack of staffing as a common reason for failures in program delivery, the PBO determined in the case of this specific immigration program, the current staffing is “more than sufficient to meet the processing time” requirements of this program.
The PBO stated Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is, and I quote directly, “estimated to have 65% more staff than would be required to meet the goal.”
When the PBO asked further questions of IRCC, the department, and again I quote directly, “declined to provide information about the resources that would have been required to meet processing time goals in past years, citing that this information represents cabinet confidences.”
In other words, the department is hiding behind cabinet confidentiality, which suggests the cabinet ultimately has the information and does not want it released publicly so that it cannot be held accountable for these severe delays in immigration processing times.
In my view, this is a case where instead of fixing the problem at the top, firing the minister and appointing a new minister, the proposed fix is to undercut, if not potentially eliminate, citizenship ceremonies. I say “potentially” because it is unknown how many would still opt for an in-person citizenship ceremony if they were told that could increase the wait time by up to another three months.
As a counterpoint, perhaps some may view a traditional, in-person citizenship ceremony in today’s environment as a waste of time and would support an online oath process done over the Internet.
My question to you this week:
Do you believe an in-person citizenship ceremony is still essential?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.