Adults applying for Canadian citizenship are required to demonstrate “an adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship”. This knowledge is demonstrated through a 30-minute test that is known as the “Citizenship Test”. The test contains 20 questions, of which applicants must answer 15 correctly. In November, 2009, the Conservative government introduced a new citizenship study guide called Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. In March, 2010, a new test was introduced to reflect Discover Canada. This test was much harder than the previous one, and test-takers were required to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the political, geographical, and cultural characteristics of Canada. As the test was more difficult, the pass-rate predictably fell.
On September 30, 2010, the government amended the Citizenship Regulations to introduce further changes to the citizenship test. Pursuant to the amendments, the “rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship” will now be tested.
Previously, the relevant portion of the Citizenship Regulations read:
15. The criteria for determining whether a person has an adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship are that, based on questions prepared by the Minister, the person has a general understanding of
(a) the right to vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections and the right to run for elected office;
(b) enumerating and voting procedures related to elections; and
(c) one of the following topics, to be included at random in the questions prepared by the Minister, namely,
(i) the chief characteristics of Canadian social and cultural history,
(ii) the chief characteristics of Canadian political history,
(iii) the chief characteristics of Canadian physical and political geography, or
(iv) the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).
Pursuant to the amendments, the section now reads:
15. (1) A person is considered to have an adequate knowledge of Canada if they demonstrate, based on their responses to questions prepared by the Minister, that they know the national symbols of Canada and have a general understanding of the following subjects:
(a) the chief characteristics of Canadian political and military history;
(b) the chief characteristics of Canadian social and cultural history;
(c) the chief characteristics of Canadian physical and political geography;
(d) the chief characteristics of the Canadian system of government as a constitutional monarchy; and
(e) characteristics of Canada other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d).
(2) A person is considered to have an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship if they demonstrate, based on their responses to questions prepared by the Minister, that they have a general understanding of the following subjects:
(a) participation in the Canadian democratic process;
(b) participation in Canadian society, including volunteerism, respect for the environment and the protection of Canada’s natural, cultural and architectural heritage;
(c) respect for the rights, freedoms and obligations set out in the laws of Canada; and
(d) the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).
So what’s new?
First, the test for determining adequate knowledge of Canada and the test for determining awareness of the privileges of citizenship have been broken out into two sections. This undoubtedly improves clarity and is more reflective of the corresponding provision in the Citizenship Act.
Second, the amount of testable subjects to determine “knowledge of Canada” has been expanded upon. While potential citizens previously essentially only had to understand the voting system and one other characteristic of Canadian history as enumerated in s. 15(c), the regulations suggest that they will now be expected to know all the topics contained in Discover Canada. As well, new topics have been added. Prospective citizens will be expected to know key points about Canadian military history and to know the characteristics of Canada’s system of government as a constitutional monarchy.
Previously in this blog, I jokingly recommended that people needing to become familiar with Canada need only watch the video below:
As a result of the amendments, I am now recommending that people upgrade to this video:
Third, the test for determining the “responsibilities and privileges of citizenship” have also been expanded upon. When the “Strengthening the Value of Canadian Citizenship Act” was introduced, I commented on how I thought that the Bill’s title completely misunderstood how citizenship is valued by prospective immigrants, and, indeed, probably by most Canadians. I argued that the value of Canadian citizenship wasn’t determined by difficult it was to obtain, but rather by how strong Canada’s economy and how greatly are individual liberties are protected. I have a similar issue with the “responsibilities and privileges of citizenship” section. Previously, this meant testing voting and an understanding of Canada’s electoral system. Now, a plethora of new subjects from volunteerism and architecture are introduced. Since when is volunteerism and the protection of Canada’s architectural heritage a feature of being a Canadian citizen?
Mandatory Questions Removed
Previously, the citizenship test contained certain mandatory questions which needed to be answered correctly by applicants in order to pass. These questions tested the applicant’s knowledge of “the right to vote”, the “right to run for elected office”, and “voting procedures related to elections”. Remarkably, these three questions, which I believe are the only true questions that test an understanding of the rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship, are no longer mandatory.
The Chinese-Canadian newspaper Sing Tao has picked up this story.
對於公民及移民部剛修訂公民入籍考試內容，有移民律師指對中國大陸及台灣的移民仍會感到太深，因此不及格率仍會很高；另有律師指不明白，為何新修訂的入籍 考試中，要考加國的軍事歷史及義工精神（volunteerism）。而有入籍考試導師則指出，修訂之後，最困難的將是口試部分，考生需要具有一定的英語 表達能力，才能過關。
移民律師錢路表示，由3月15日生效的新版入籍考試內容，實在是非常難，雖然他沒有實際的數字，但他相信不及格率一 定很高，他指《發現加拿大：公民權利和責任》不錯是一本很好、更是很值得看的書，但要讀懂它，必須具備本地中學畢業，還要成績好的學生程度，對於來自中國 大陸及台灣的一般移民來說，這本書肯定是過於艱深。