Canadian citizenship: Your rights and responsibilities as a citizen

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Canadian citizens enjoy rights and freedoms that are inscribed in Canada’s human rights codes and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These include:

  • Equality Rights – all Canadians are equal under the law. Everyone deserves equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.
  • Democratic rights – freedom to participate in political activities, express belief and opinion, exercise the right to vote, and to run for public office.
  • Legal rights– everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, have legal representation and be informed that it is their right, and to have an interpreter during court proceedings.
  • Mobility rights – citizens have the right to live and work anywhere they choose in Canada, enter and leave Canada freely, and apply for a passport.
  • Language rights – freedom to use either official language, English and French, when communicating with the federal and provincial governments.
  • Multiculturalism – in line with the fundamental belief in equality, Canadians celebrate and live in harmony with all cultures. They work hard to respect pluralism and value the dignity of every person regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or religious affiliation.

All Canadians enjoy fundamental freedoms of thought, religion, expression (speech and of the press), peaceful assembly, and association.

Responsibilities of a citizen

Just as important as knowing your rights is knowing your responsibilities. These include:

  • Obeying Canadian law – Individuals and governments must abide by the rule of law. No one is above the law.
  • Being responsible for yourself and your family – part of Canadian values is taking care of yourself and your family. This means holding a job, working hard in keeping with your abilities, and contributing to Canada’s prosperity.
  • Serving on a jury – serving on a jury is a duty and a privilege that contributes to the integrity of the justice system.
  • Participating in the democratic process – this involves voting in federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal elections.
  • Participating in community life – volunteering and helping others in the community is the Canadian way of life.
  • Protecting the heritage and environment–as a citizen, it is part of your duty to preserve Canada’s natural, cultural, and architectural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Can a person lose Canadian citizenship?

Under the Strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act (SCCA), a person’s citizenship may be revoked if they obtained and retained their citizenship by:

  • false representation
  • fraud; or
  • knowingly concealing information that may have a bearing on their eligibility for citizenship or permanent residence

Persons who are citizens of two or more countries may have their Canadian citizenship revoked if they:

  • were convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences, and sentenced to imprisonment
  • served in the armed force or an organized armed group of a country that was engaged in armed conflict against Canada

After revocation, a person’s status may change to permanent resident or foreign national, as the case may be. If a person lost his citizenship due to false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material information, they would have to wait 10 years from the date of revocation before they can apply for citizenship. He or she must also meet all the requirements of the Citizenship Act under subsection 5(1). If it was revoked due to terrorism, high treason, treason, spying, or for serving in an armed force or organized armed group of a country engaged in armed conflict with Canada, the person is permanently barred from being granted citizenship.

Note: This article was written before the passing of Bill C-6 (An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act). Please see Community Resources below to know recent changes to the Citizenship Act.

Can I be a dual citizen?

Canadians are allowed to take dual citizenship while keeping their Canadian citizenship. However, other countries have their own rules as to whom they consider to be citizens. Some do not legally recognize dual citizenship. If you are interested in having dual or multiple citizenship, ask about the rules, eligibility and the process of application from the embassy or consulate of your country of citizenship.

Sources: Discover Canada, Rights and responsibilities of citizenship; Your rights and duties, SOS Canada 2000; Revocation of citizenship, Government of Canada site. Accessed June 8, 2017.

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Community Resources

Know about the recent changes to the Citizenship Act: Citizenship Bill Receives Royal Assent.

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