The new Immigration Minister is currently contemplating a controversial proposal to enable new Canadian citizens to take their citizenship oath with a simple click of a button. However, as of Monday, there are no immediate plans to put this into action, according to his statement.
In February, the government sought public input regarding the possibility of allowing new Canadians to forego traditional virtual or in-person citizenship ceremonies and instead opt for a digital oath-taking process. Documents released for consultation indicated that these new regulations were initially set to be enforced in June 2023. Still, the government has remained silent about its intentions since then.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller stated on Monday that his department is still deliberating the matter, expressing his belief in the potential of the idea. He emphasized the need for technological options, acknowledging the criticism that the department has faced for not adapting to the demands of the 21st century. Miller highlighted the significance of this approach, particularly for individuals residing in remote or rural areas who should not be required to travel long distances for the oath-taking ceremony.
Earlier this year, former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser proposed this idea as a temporary solution to address citizenship application backlogs. The proposed change is anticipated to save applicants up to three months of processing time, as mentioned in the government’s consultation documents.
Feedback from the consultation yielded mixed opinions on the proposal, with some viewing it as forward-thinking and efficient, while others expressed concerns about its impact on the value of in-person ceremonies.
In a statement on Monday, the department indicated that the comments received during the consultation would guide the development of implementation plans.
Miller acknowledged the importance of in-person ceremonies but stressed the need to keep options open in the 21st century. He acknowledged that he had administered the oath in person multiple times and emphasized the paramount importance of preserving this option.
The government anticipates a decline in in-person participation once the one-click option is introduced, leading to fewer overall ceremonies.
The Conservative opposition has vowed to oppose the measure, fearing that it would diminish the significance of the citizenship oath. Conservative immigration critic Tom Kmiec criticized the government’s approach, describing it as reducing citizenship to a mere online transaction.
During the pandemic, the government introduced virtual ceremonies as an option, and this practice has continued. Miller highlighted instances of individuals, like a firefighter in British Columbia, taking the oath virtually and suggested the need to maintain this option.
Despite the availability of virtual ceremonies, there was still a backlog of 68,287 individuals as of July 23, waiting to take their citizenship oaths and fully enjoy the benefits of Canadian citizenship.
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