by Lorne Gunter
Canadian citizenship papers don’t mean much if you hand them out as freely as doomsday pamphlets outside a cult headquarters. And for decades, whether it was run by Liberals or Tories, Ottawa has given away citizenship as though it were perishable and the supply was rapidly reaching its best-before date.
Want a Canadian passport, but you don’t want to live here? Sure. Have two! Want to float ashore with no ID and live here for years at taxpayers’ expense while we sort of investigate your claim? You bet! Commit a crime and be ordered deported, but don’t really want to leave? Psst. Let us let you in on a little secret; we don’t follow up on deportation orders much anyway.
For nearly a quarter century, that was the attitude of first the Trudeau government, then the Mulroney government and finally the Chretien cabal.
But no more. You have to hand it to Stephen Harper and his immigration minister, Jason Kenney, they have made citizenship mean something again.
On Monday, Kenney announced his department is going to strip 3,100 immigrants of their citizenship for having obtained it fraudulently.
Another 8,000 newcomers are under investigation for similar infractions.
Mostly the offenders used immigration “consultants” who promise quick and easy entry to Canada for those willing to pay their fees.
In addition to cracking down on sham immigrants, Kenney has been working with legitimate immigration counsellors to weed out the fly-by-night operators. He has implemented tough new rules on who may charge for immigration assistance and what kinds of promises they can make.
He has also tightened up the citizenship exam, made the citizenship manual more reflective of Canadian values (rather than peddling multicultural dross), streamlined the refugee determination process to permit fewer appeals by unsuccessful asylum-seekers, beefed up enforcement of deportation orders issued against violent criminals, tightened up the availability of tax-funded benefits and made it possible to detain people smuggled into the country in a secure location so they don’t dissolve into the woodwork while their cases are heard.
This probably seems like common sense to most Canadians — both those born here and those millions who have come here legally.
But since previous governments gave away citizenship like candy, a rich industry has grown up around facilitating immigration applications and lobbying for looser and looser rules.
And, of course, the profiteers in that industry and the soft-hearted advocates for more and more multiculturalism are always quick to level allegations of racism against anyone who, like Kenney, tries to put roadblocks up in the fast lane or barricade the backdoor.
Most of the 3,100 included in Kenney’s move had used consultants to establish that they met the residency requirements for citizenship, even though they lived in Canada insufficiently long or not at all.
Surely making citizenship mean something again is not racist.
It’s as important to preserving the value of citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants we welcome each year as it for the tens of millions of us born here.
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