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e-4511 (Citizenship and immigration)

Initiated by Andrew Griffith from Ottawa, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

  • The government has published a notice in the Canada Gazette permitting self-administration of the citizenship oath;
  • Affirming the Oath of Citizenship in the presence of other new Canadians was the will of Parliament when the original Citizenship Act was approved by Parliament in 1947 and has been central to citizenship since Canadian citizenship ever since;
  • One of the fundamental objectives of the citizenship program is "to enhance the meaning of citizenship as a unifying bond for Canadians;”
  • Citizenship ceremonies mark the end of an often lengthy and difficult immigration journey and provide a unique celebratory moment for new and existing Canadians;
  • Most citizenship ceremonies should be in-person rather than virtual given their greater impact on new Canadians;
  • The stated cost and time savings in the notice are unlikely to be realized and are minimal in relation to total processing time and overall cost of the citizenship program; and
  • Two-thirds of submissions opposed the proposed change.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to:
1. Abandon plans to permit self-administration of the citizenship oath;
2. Revert to in-person ceremonies as the default, with virtual ceremonies limited to 10 percent of all ceremonies;
3. Focus on administration and processing efficiencies prior to citizenship ceremonies, where most frustrations are; and
4. Explore evening and weekend ceremonies to improve accessibility along with more flexible scheduling management.

Response by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): PAUL CHIANG, M.P.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to explore the use of an online tool that could enable the self-administration of the Oath of Citizenship (the Oath) in some circumstances. Extensive analysis is underway to assess various options for implementation, particularly surrounding the client experience journey, measures related to the integrity of the process and an ongoing commitment that citizenship ceremonies remain an important part of Canadian tradition. Additionally, the Department continues to reflect on the feedback received from Canadians, which will be incorporated into the assessment of options and decisions on a way forward.

The Department introduced video ceremonies in April 2020 as a means of adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to enable the Department to allow the flexibility for clients to take the oath in a safe and secure environment. Video ceremonies continue as a stream of service delivery and have proven to be an important tool for reducing processing times for applicants and increasing the number of candidates that can take the Oath each month. As we have learned: video ceremonies can also accommodate both larger groups of individuals per ceremony than in-person events; allow for participation of applicants from rural areas; and, bring together new Canadians from across the country for their citizenship ceremony. From January 1, 2023 to September 30, 2023, the Department has held on average 50 in-person ceremonies and 224 video ceremonies per month with an average of 79 and 135 invited participants per event, respectively. This has resulted in 276,540  new citizens, exceeding pre-COVID levels.

A number of factors are considered when scheduling ceremonies, including operational demands, the availability of presiding officials and appropriate venues. While citizenship ceremonies are primarily scheduled on weekdays and during working hours, the Department will occasionally schedule after regular business hours or on weekends and public holidays. The Department does hold ceremonies outside of core operational hours, but these events are considered on a case-by-case basis for significance, public interest and operational capacity. For example, the Department hosted several citizenship ceremonies across the country on Canada Day.

While the Department has made strides in returning to the 12 month service standard for the granting of citizenship, further modernization efforts will enable faster processing times as well as improved client service. In 2023, IRCC launched a review of Canada’s immigration system, and has spent the last few months meeting with stakeholders and receiving feedback from people who use the immigration and citizenship system, and others who have creative ideas on how to improve it. In hearing the strengths and challenges of current immigration and citizenship programs, policies and services has helped to inform where we need to go in the future and the steps we will need to take to get there.

New capabilities are planned via a modernized operating platform—such as an online single window portal into immigration programs, enhanced automation and digital self-service—and will transform the way we do business up to and including in the citizenship process. It will speed up processing and improve program integrity, while making the immigration to citizenship journey clearer and more human-focused for clients. Additionally, the portal will allow applicants to access all of IRCC’s programs and services and to interact with the Department. It will offer a more positive and personalized experience to those looking for information, applying for programs and services, and checking for updates on the status of their application(s).            

Although the new platform and portal will bring rapid and real enhancements, we have not been waiting on them to improve on what we do; we have made strides since 2020 with the introduction of electronic citizenship applications (e-applications), online citizenship tests, online application tracker to monitor progress, electronic certificates (e-certificates) of Canadian citizenship, and video citizenship ceremonies. These advancements have shown results. In July 2022, the Department had a citizenship grant inventory of 381,859 applications and a processing time, from application received to the client taking the Oath of Citizenship, of 26 months. By September 2023, the grant inventory had been reduced to 247,931 applications, and the processing time had improved, lowering to 17 months.

Canadian citizenship is a valuable status and the Department will ensure the Citizenship Program continues to modernize the process.

Open for signature
July 12, 2023, at 3:03 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 10, 2023, at 3:03 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard)
October 20, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01787)
Government response tabled
December 4, 2023
Photo - Tom Kmiec
Calgary Shepard
Conservative Caucus