02/06/2014 10:11 EST | Updated 04/08/2014 05:59 EDT

New citizenship rules would crack down on fraud

The Canadian government is proposing sweeping changes today in what is being called "the first comprehensive reform to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation​."

Under the Conservative government's Bill C-24, proposed changes would give the immigration minister the power to revoke a person's citizenship for acts against Canada's national interest.

The government, for instance, would have the power to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals "who were members of an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada."

The government would also have the ability to revoke citizenship from anyone who has been "convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received."

The immigration minister would have the final say in decisions to revoke citizenship, not the governor in council, as is the case now.

Complex cases such as "war crimes, crimes against humanity, security, and other human or international rights violations" would be decided by the Federal Court.

'Lost Canadians'

While the government implemented some changes in 2009 to restore citizenship to people who had lost it or had never received it due to outdated legislation, according to the government, a small number of people were still not eligible to receive it.

Under the proposed changes, the government would "retroactively" give citizenship to Canadians who have not been able to receive it for one reason or another over the years.

Citizenship would be extended to "Lost Canadians" born before 1947 as well as to their first-generation children born abroad.

The bill would give citizenship to individuals who were born or naturalized in Canada, as well as to any British person residing in Canada prior to Jan. 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland.

The changes wold also to the children of these "Lost Canadians."

Cracking down on fraud

The new legislation would also look to regulate the work of consultants in citizenship matters in an effort "to hold them to higher professional and ethical standards."

The bill would make it an offence for unauthorized individuals to represent or advise a person on a citizenship application or citizenship hearing for a fee.

In an effort to crack down on citizenship fraud, the government would increase the fines and penalties for misrepresentation to $100,000 or up to two years in prison.

The proposed new penalty for a fraud offence would run up to a maximum of $100,000 and/or five years in prison.

Under the proposed bill, application fees for adults would increase to $300 from $100 effective Feb. 6, 2014. Fees for minors would remain the same.

Permanent residents applying for citizenship would be able to apply after living in Canada for four years out of the six last years, instead of the current three years out of four.

The new bill would also look to fast track citizenship for permanent residents serving with the Canadian Armed Forces.