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Citizenship at the click of a button still possible: immigration minister

‘You don’t want to take these moments lightly, but we do need technological options’
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Marc Miller arrives for a cabinet swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. Miller says the controversial idea to allow new Canadians to take their oath of citizenship with the click of a button is an option worth considering, but there are no immediate plans for implementation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The new immigration minister is still considering a controversial option to allow new Canadians to take their oath of citizenship with the click of a button, but there are no immediate plans to implement it, he said Monday.

The government asked for public feedback in February about the idea to allow new Canadians to skip a virtual or in-person ceremony and opt instead to take the oath with the click of a mouse.

Consultation documents posted online say the new regulations were expected to come into force in June 2023, but the government has been mum about its plans since then.

The department is still mulling it over, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Monday, and he thinks it’s a good idea.

“You don’t want to take these moments lightly, but we do need technological options,” Miller said 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.”

It’s particularly important for people who live in remote or rural communities, who shouldn’t have to drive long distances to swear their oath, he said.

Earlier this year, then-immigration minister Sean Fraser pitched the idea as a temporary option to help work through backlogs of people waiting for their citizenship.

The change is expected to save people up to three months of processing time, the government consultation documents said.

The responses to that consultation offered mixed views on the idea: some called it a forward thinking approach, while others thought it would degrade the value of in-person ceremonies.

The department said in a statement 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 Monday.

“It’s about keeping the options open in the 21st century.”

Miller said he’s administered the oath three times since taking over the immigration file during the summer cabinet shuffle, and recognizes that preserving an in-person option is “paramount.”

“We have to we have to obviously preserve those.”

The government expects in-person participation will drop even more once the one-click option is introduced, and there would likely be fewer ceremonies overall.

Conservatives have vowed to oppose the measure over concerns it would “cheapen” the citizenship oath.

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,” Conservative immigration critic Tom Kmiec said in a statement Monday.

“The Trudeau Liberals are abandoning this special tradition and reducing our citizens to a bureaucratic number.”

During the pandemic, the government added the option to allow people to pledge their allegiance to Canada in a virtual ceremony, and the practice has continued.

“We saw a firefighter in B.C. that was able to do it on the fly,” Miller said, and suggested the option should remain.

“I think we need to maintain those.”

Even with the virtual ceremonies, there were still 68,287 people in the backlog as of July 23, waiting to take their oaths and enjoy all the benefits of Canadian citizenship.

READ ALSO: B.C. fire chief granted citizenship from front lines of Kelowna fire

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