The recent news of permanent residents not embracing Canadian citizenship is somewhat startling. The percentage, according to The Institute for Canadian Citizenship, has fallen alarmingly since 2001 and going by the data collected by Census 2021, 45.7% of PR became citizens in the past 10 years. And that’s a 60% fall since 2016.
The numbers are telling of the dilemma many are in. But why are so many Permanent Residents undecided about embracing Canadian Citizenship? “I have been eligible to apply since last year, but I am waiting-it-out. I have many financial bonds back in India, and my change is status will bring in unnecessary tax implications on the same. Also, I am not sure of the other benefits of becoming a citizen. As far as I know, PRs have it all, no point putting in the money and the effort” says A. Raj (name changed to protect privacy).
Canada, renowned for its welcoming spirit and diverse cultural landscape, attracts a multitude of immigrants from all corners of the globe seeking a better life. Many newcomers arrive in the Great White North as permanent residents, granted the opportunity to live and work in this prosperous nation. However, despite Canada’s reputation for inclusivity and opportunities, a significant number of permanent residents hesitate to take up Canadian citizenship.
Perceived Lack of Benefits of Canadian Citizenship
One of the primary reasons some new permanent residents hesitate to become Canadian citizens is the perception that there are limited additional benefits in doing so. As permanent residents, they already enjoy most of the rights and privileges of Canadian citizens, including access to healthcare, education, and social services.
Dual Citizenship and Ties to Homeland
“It is hard to give up citizenship of a country that you were born in. Even Though newcomers come in with love and hope, it is hard to cut off that umbilical cord. For Indians, we aren’t allowed to have dual citizenship, and that makes us choose. Although, this is my new home, but giving up citizenship is emotional,” says Kumar, a new citizen.
Fear of Losing Home Country Benefits
“For citizens who relinquish citizenship, it is hard to engage with the system in India. Your house, your financial bonds etc. will be hard to use without paying a hefty tax. And I believe that’s true for many countries. A lot of us have lifelong saving there, so one has to rethink one’s move,” asserts A. Raj.
Language Proficiency and Knowledge Tests
The Canadian citizenship application process includes language proficiency and knowledge tests. For some newcomers, especially those with limited language skills or lower education levels, these tests can be intimidating. Fear of failing these tests may discourage them from pursuing citizenship, despite their desire to become fully integrated members of Canadian society. “ Before I sat for my exam, I never heard of anyone failing citizenship test, but to my surprise, my very dear friend’s wife flunked her test,” says Kumar. “It isn’t that easy. It is challenging, given that you will be learning about the history of a country.”
Acquiring Canadian citizenship comes with application fees and related costs, which might be financially burdensome for some new permanent residents. These expenses, coupled with potential legal and administrative costs, can be significant for individuals or families on limited budgets.
“Me and many of my friends didn’t come in to settle permanently. We came in to see if it was ok. However, within a year, we decided to stay on longer. But many of my friends are hesitant about the future, given that healthcare and housing are such an issue. Canada grows on you, but some problems are real, and it affects the decision to make it your permanent abode,” Kumar signs off.
While Canada continues to be a sought-after destination for immigrants, the reluctance of some new permanent residents to pursue Canadian citizenship is a multifaceted issue. As a nation built on diversity and inclusion, understanding and addressing these concerns is crucial. Canadian policymakers and communities should strive to provide comprehensive information about the benefits of citizenship, while also respecting the cultural diversity and unique identities that immigrants bring to the country. By fostering an environment of understanding and support, Canada can encourage more permanent residents to embrace citizenship and fully participate in the nation’s social, economic, and political fabric.