Will we still have Citizenship Ceremonies?
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 ceremonies 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 all agree what a heartwarming and unforgettable event these ceremonies are.
I mention these things as it was with great sadness; I have recently discovered that the Trudeau Liberal 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 same Trudeau Liberal government, the answer is speed. For reasons unknown, the immigration process has become so backlogged under this Liberal government that there is now a backlog of 358,000 citizenship applications waiting over two years or more.
Eliminating the Citizenship ceremony could potentially increase the speed of an application by as much as ninety 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 ninety days, many would likely elect to do so.
The bigger question is why this backlog has become so severe under this Liberal Government?
The COVID pandemic is partly to blame; however, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) recently investigated the “Express Entry Immigration Process.”
The PBO, who released this report earlier this week, revealed some eyebrow-raising information.
While governments often cite lack of staffing as a common reason for failures in program delivery, the PBO determined that 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 that 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 that 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 and firing the Minister to appoint a new Minister, the proposed fix is to undercut, if not potentially eliminate, citizenship ceremonies.
I say potentially as 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 Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.