Concerns have been raised recently that since the Conservatives overhauled the Canadian citizenship test in 2010, the standards have become too high and failure rates have raised considerably. The Globe and Mail reports that those changes made include a stronger emphasis on language skills, morechallenging questions on Canadian history, identity and values, as well as requiring a higher score to pass. According to The Star, on March 15, 2010 it was decided that, as done in the past, potential citizens would sit through a 30-minute test featuring 20 multiple choice questions but they would require a score of 75 per cent rather than 60 per cent in order to pass. Meaning, 15 correct answers would be required to attain citizenship rather than 12.
The Globe and Mail article goes on to state that the failure rate went from less than 4 per cent in 2009 to nearly 15 per cent in 2011. No doubt, a heavy jump. However, how notable is it when compared to Britain’s failure rate of 29.1 per cent — meaning, almost one in three immigrants does not pass the test?
The Globe and Mail spoke with University of Toronto politics professor Phil Triadafilopoulos who specializes in immigration and integration. According to Prof. Triadafilopoulos, there has been an increased focus on military history and the monarchy in the new test. It would certainly be disappointing if individuals were failing solely on the basis of questions many life-long Canadians could not answer themselves. However, prospective citizens are provided with a Discover Canada booklet filled with the facts and knowledge required to pass the written component of the test. Many of the questions focus on the rights and values held by Canadian citizens as well as facts on the country potential citizens hope to inhabit. Potential questions include “name two Canadian symbols” and “what is meant by the equality of women and men?” The government also offers free language training to all permanent residents seeking citizenship.
In order to obtain Canadian citizenship, an individual must have lived in Canada for a total of three years within the last four years. It would seem, therefore, that those seeking citizenship have a reasonable amount of time in which to seek out language courses, practice their French or English and learn more about Canadian history, values, institutions and symbols. Undeniably, newcomers to Canada have a lot on their plates as they seek out employment and work to settle into a new environment — but given the time allotment and aids offered are the requirements of becoming a citizen truly too much?