Canada to Lebanese: No More Free Pass

English: Oath of citizenship ceremony
English: Oath of citizenship ceremony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Canadian government has begun the process of cracking down on passport holders who have claimed citizenship through falsely alleging residence in the country.

Many Lebanese citizens feel that they are in need of a second nationality, a safety net of sorts, given their country’s explosive history. They think of Fairouz’s song A Little House in Canada when they eat out-of-date food, or can’t find proper housing.

The song captured the sentiment of Canada as a haven and refuge for those looking to escape their troubled land.

Canada has become the top destination for those seeking a back-up citizenship after it opened its doors to immigrants from around the world.

The image of Canada provides peace of mind for immigrants who want to live without fretting about education, healthcare, housing, and retirement.

These are some of the many reasons why Lebanese have devised all sorts of ways to get their name on a Canadian passport. Often this involves a little trickery, whereby the person in question – through friends that reside there – fabricates the necessary paperwork that makes it appear as if he or she is employed and residing in Canada – paying rent, phone bills and taxes.

Jason Kenney declared that his government “will begin revoking the citizenships of thousands of naturalized citizens who are believed to have claimed to be in the country when, in fact, they were abroad.Perhaps Canada brought this upon itself by not stamping the passports of exiting travellers, as many countries do. On the Lebanese side, one has the option of stamping their entry and exit on a separate piece of paper. Thus a Lebanese can visit Canada and return home without any trace of them having departed the former.
It is surprising that the Canadian authorities overlooked this scheme for so many years. Only now are they beginning to take measures to crack down after minister of immigration Jason Kenney declared that his government “will begin revoking the citizenships of thousands of naturalized citizens who are believed to have claimed to be in the country when, in fact, they were abroad.”

“We estimate that up to 3,100 Canadian citizens may have acquired their citizenship through deception. Therefore, we will begin the process of withdrawing it from them.”

These measures will not only involve Lebanese, according to the minister, for there are “11,000 people from 100 countries who are implicated in deceiving the authorities,” adding that, “the Canadian government has learned that thousands were residing outside the country, paying intermediaries up to $25,000, in some cases, to make it appear that they are living in Canada.”

According to the spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Nancy Caron, “the department of immigration only started using international file management system technology in 2004, which has helped us expose suspicious activity and deception.”

She added that the government campaign will not only involve revoking any violator’s citizenship, their case will also be referred to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for further action against the accused and those who abetted them.

“There is no time limit to our investigation and we intend to remove citizenship from all those involved,” she warned.

Caron explained that the problem “is international, and the cases we have before us includes up to 100 nationalities, most of whom live outside Canada. We suspect that that around 11,000 people may have lied, when they applied for citizenship or permanent residency, and we have already initiated action against 530 of them,” adding that “there may be up to 5,000 permanent residents who have forged their applications that we are in the process of investigating further.”

She noted that her agency has “devised new citizenship questions which will help expose those who may be trying to mislead the authorities.”

According to Stephen Handfield, a lawyer who specializes in immigration, the current Canadian government is taking a hard line on immigrants in accordance with the politics of the ruling Conservative Party.

It is worth noting that Canadian law stipulates that those seeking citizenship must reside in the country for at least three consecutive years before applying.

Abiding by the Law

Many Lebanese are indeed concerned about the new measures being taken by the Canadian government, but they insist that they will abide by the law.

Nada, for example, decided to move to Canada in order to get her citizenship there. She says that the whole process – including plane tickets, everyday costs, and fake bills – has cost her around $20,000.

She’s not too worried about the citizenship exam. She does, however, face some obstacles such as coming up with report cards and doctors’ bill, as was requested of some of her friends during the examination.

Her main concern is the future of her children who are already Canadian citizens due to the fact that they were born there.

the whole process – including plane tickets, everyday costs, and fake bills – cost around $20,000.Nada is just one among the many Lebanese who are seeking Canadian citizenship but not necessarily to live there.
They will be have to be more careful than in the past now that the Canadian government has adopted more restrictive measures which obligate them to reside in the country.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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