Canada is still considering the implementation of the controversial one-click citizenship oath in place of virtual or in-person ceremonies, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has said.
The government sought public opinion in February about the introduction of this idea, with consultation documents posted online saying that the new regulations were expected to come into force in June 2023.
Since then, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been silent on the matter.
Miller is supportive of the department’s continued consideration of this measure, as “you don’t want to take these moments lightly,” as he asserted on his way into Question Period.
“The department has been criticized, rightly, for not being adjusted to the 21st century and that option is one I think that we should preserve.”
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Miller has advanced the utility those living in remote or rural communities would derive from such an arrangement, by having to not drive long distances to swear in their citizenship.
Miller’s opinion stems from then-immigration minister Sean Fraser’s pitch earlier this year for a temporary introduction of the one-click oath to clear up citizenship backlogs; up to three months of processing times can be saved through such an implementation, as per government consultation documents.
Mixed views were generated with this idea – as reflected in the 691 comments sent in – with some calling it a forward-thinking approach and others calling it a degradation of the value of in-person ceremonies to the standard of online shopping.
The department said in a statement from Monday that the comments will “inform the next steps and the development of implementation plans.”
“I’ve heard from Canadians and advocates of the importance of actually being in person. I’ve also seen the importance of virtually, when there’s no question about someone’s loyalty or citizenship or oath or the seriousness he should take the Canadian citizenship,” Miller said.
“It’s about keeping the options open in the 21st century.”
As someone who has administered the oath thrice in the past, Miller believes the in-person option as “paramount.”
However, the number of people opting in for it is expected to drop with the advent of an in-person option. Conservatives oppose this possible “cheapening” of the citizenship oath, asserting – via Conservative immigration critic Tom Kmiec – that the government wants to “reduce it all to a click on a website or an app as if citizenship were no more than consenting to terms in a contract.”
“The Trudeau Liberals are abandoning this special tradition and reducing our citizens to a bureaucratic number.”
Other critics were concerned about the possibility of fraud, despite government plans to use a secure web portal for one-click oaths.
Despite the introduction of a virtual ceremony due to the pandemic, a backlog of 68,287 people remains as of July 23.