The Canadian government has made several comprehensive amendments to the Citizenship Act, the first major reforms to the Act since 1977.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander announced that the reforms “ensure new citizens are better prepared for full participation in Canada’s economy and Canadian society.” Calling it “a win for newcomers,” Alexander also declared the amendments “a win for Canada in terms of making the most of the opportunities that our fair and generous immigration system provides.”

These have been put in place since June 11th of this year and include the following:

  • To ensure strong attachment to the country, adult applicants must now be physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (or four years) during the six year period before the date of their application, and must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of four calendar years within the qualifying period.
  • Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge of Canada and English or French language requirements.
  • Citizenship will be automatically extended to additional “Lost Canadians” on June 11th, who were born before 1947 but did not become citizens on January 1, 1947 when the Canadian Citizenship Act first came into effect. This also applies to children born in the first generation outside Canada.
  • In order to be eligible for citizenship, adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens and meet their personal income tax obligations.
  • Stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation — including a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison — have also been introduced. This is aimed at deterring unscrupulous applicants who are prepared to misrepresent themselves or advise others to do so.
  • The newly-designated Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) is the regulatory body for citizenship consultants. Only members of the ICCRC, lawyers or notaries (including paralegals and students at law) can be paid to provide citizenship applicants with representation or advice.

The government expects these citizenship reforms will deter those who become Canadian citizens to access taxpayer-funded benefits without contributing to the economy or having any attachment to Canada. Minister Alexander continued, saying the government is “eliminating long backlogs, and streamlining our own processes. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian citizenship is highly valued and stays that way — Promise made, promise kept when it comes to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship.”

This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Canadian immigration laws change frequently; please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances. We have been assisting our clients for more than 25 years in achieving their immigration goals.

The Ontario’s provincial nominee program has joined other provinces in selecting candidates through the Express Entry Pool. In 2015 Ontario has a target of 5,200 nominations for the Provincial Nominee Program and Ontario Express Entry.

As of June 2015, a new stream for Canadian immigration is now open in the province of Ontario. Titled the Opportunities Ontario: Human Capital Priorities Stream (or HCPS), it works similar to and in coordination with the federal Express Entry immigration selection system.

Potential candidates from the Express Entry pool nominated by Ontario through this stream will receive an automatic 600-point increase in their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores, and are awarded an invitation to apply for permanent resident status in Canada from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) through their MyCIC accounts.

Through the Provincial Nomination Program (or OOPNP), those interested in living in Ontario can receive a nomination provided that they already qualify as Express Entry pool candidates. The OOPNP also aims to help employers apply for permanent, full-time positions, and recruit skilled foreign nationals for work in Ontario.

Who is Eligible?

Since eligibility for the HCPS is limited only to those who have been accepted into the Express Entry pool, we’ve devised a checklist with some helpful links and shared it here for those who already qualify.

The application process is broken down into several steps to help keep track Besides the eligibility requirements the candidates must have successfully created an Express Entry profile and indicated an interest in immigrating to either Ontario or “All Provinces and Territories.”

Applicants must:

• Have a minimum 1 year of full-time or part-time equivalent employment or paid work experience in one specific national occupation classification (NOC) level 0, A or B. Required are 1,560 hours of work or more in one of these recognized fields

• Have a Canadian bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree, or submit to an educational credentials assessment report produced by a recognized organization or agency. This is meant to indicate whether an applicant’s foreign education credentials are equivalent to any of the aforementioned Canadian degrees.

• Have a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 or higher in all language competency areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking in either English or French.

• Have a minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 400, and maintain that score throughout the Ontario nomination processing stage and during federal application for permanent residency.

• Possess settlement funds, supported by bank statements, that are readily transferrable to a convertible currency.

• A statement of intent to live in Ontario, and an indication of ties to the province.

What comes next?

Selected profiles will receive a Notification of Interest from Ontario sent to their MyCIC account. This notification represents a formal invitation to apply to OOPNP under the HCPS, and gives candidates 45 days to submit an application.

Applicants can choose which of the federal immigration programs they wish to be assessed against — the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) or the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) — before OOPNP can assess the nomination.

Who is not eligible?

Refugee claimants in Canada are ineligible to apply for the program. Other exceptions include candidates who have not yet received a PT notification from the province, and those who have not been accepted into the Express Entry pool.

Besides the eligibility requirements the candidates must have successfully created an Express Entry profile and indicated an interest in immigrating to either Ontario or “All Provinces and Territories.”

Even before these new requirements, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations required that a marriage that takes place outside Canada must be valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law. The new requirements have clarified the provisions and created some exceptions for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird delivered an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in September of 2013, highlighting child marriage in foreign policy. Known also as forced marriage, this practice has become a principal concern for the Canadian government. It’s a central part of the government’s mandate to address harassment and vulnerability of women and girls, and to reduce the exploitation of same.

According to the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), one third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18; at least 1 in 9 of are married before the age of 15. ICRW also reports that in 2010 alone, 67 million women aged 20-24 had been married before the age of 18. A great deal of these unions are made without consent; often, the girls themselves are the last to discover that they’ve been wed. Girls living in poorer households are twice as likely to marry before coming of age, and the consequences of this harmful practice have been shown to further perpetuate the destructive cycle of poverty.

In India, the Child Marriage Restraint Act prohibits the practice of child marriage. Anyone who marries a child (defined as females under 18 and males under 21 years of age) or performs, conducts or directs any child marriage can be punished with imprisonment. A large number of girls under age 18 voluntarily get married but most of them marry under some form of pressure.

The Canadian government has changed it’s sponsorship requirements to help curb this practice. Here’s a breakdown of the amendments and related exceptions:

1. Raising the minimum age of eligibility.

The minimum age requirement to be eligible for sponsorship has been raised to 18 years of age. Only spouses over the age of 18 can be sponsored as such. Exceptions to the rule include spouses or common-law partners who are considered dependents under 18; individuals in the underage category can be sponsored as dependent children or de facto family members.

Another exception makes mention of spouses or common-law partners from refugee camps who are under the age of 18. These may still be considered ‘de facto’ dependents, and can be considered for sponsorship based on humanitarian or compassionate grounds. Applicants are then assessed by Canadian immigration officers on a case-by-case basis, to assure vulnerable applicants are afforded some degree of flexibility.

2. Marriages conducted by proxy

Marital unions conducted by fax, telephone, through the internet or by any similar means are insufficient for spousal sponsorship. Long-distance participation in a marriage ceremony, while formerly considered for immigration purposes though never legally valid in Canada, is now also excluded.

Both parties must be physically present at the ceremony. Consent is more difficult to ensure when one or both parties are in attendance. Again, this amendment is in place by the Canadian government to reduce the exploitation of women and girls. It is the government’s position that marriages by proxy often necessitate forced marriage.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces away on service leave are exempt. Should a marriage fall under the category of excluded relationships but nevertheless qualifies as common-law, the sponsorship application will be processed as common-law and not under spouse. Again, if an individual’s safety or well-being is at risk, immigration officers still retain some humanitarian flexibility under the new regulations.

3. Five-year sponsorship bar

This amendment applies to those who have previously been sponsored to come to Canada in the spouse and common-law categories. Sponsors that become permanent residents or Canadian Citizens after being sponsored under these two categories must hold status as a permanent resident or citizen for a minimum of five years immediately prior to applying for sponsorship.

Changes in the Canadian immigration laws would help but are not likely to have any substantial affect. The agencies involved should seek to create awareness in countries where these practices continue to be prevalent and their respective laws regarding forced and child marriages be enforced.

Continuing on with our Real Estate Blog Series on the Real Estate Agents’ Duty of Care: Legal Framework, part 9 focuses on how to reduce the risk of liability when dealing with clients – as a real estate agent.

How to Reduce Risk of Liability

To reduce their risk or exposure to liability, real estate agents are obligated to follow specific principles which can reduce their exposure to negligence lawsuits. While by no means exhaustive, the following list details five of the most relevant principles:

  1. Provincial Laws: Become familiar with Ontario’s laws concerning legal framework, laws, policies, practices, and standards of care for real estate agents, outlining their obligations and duties as a real estate professional.
  1. Set Relationship Parameters: Only perform activities that are within the scope of a real estate agent. Sometimes it may seem that going above and beyond to satisfy a client will set you apart from the rest; by taking on more responsibility than normally required of a real estate agent, however, you may also have increased your risk of liability and exposure to a negligence or misrepresentation suit.
  1. Continuing Education: Stay abreast of changes in real estate legislation by taking advantage of continuing education opportunities. Be active in national and local professional organizations to hone your skills and keep your knowledge fresh and up to date.
  2. Document your transaction every step of the way: Memorialize conversations in writing; maintain an archive of all electronic interactions whether through e-mail or text message. Two people may remember the same conversation in completely different ways. Who would the Court believe?
  3. Signed Amendments: Always discuss any changes or alterations with client in detail. Have your clients initialize changes to documents; a contract alteration without written authorization is unlikely to stand up in court. Additionally, you may want to consider having clients initial other transaction documents, such as property disclosure forms, home inspection reports, septic inspection reports and estimates for repairs, to indicate the documents have been discussed and delivered to client.

The above discussion illustrates the potential liability of real estate brokers which, to a large extent, depends upon the relationship between the parties and the nature of the facts and circumstances of each case, as well as the alleged concealment or misrepresentation. Where the purchaser with diligence could have discovered the truth, courts have refused to impose the obligation on the broker to make accurate disclosure. Where the broker has assumed a duty to the plaintiff, either by acting as broker on that party’s behalf, or by taking some action on behalf of the party it does not represent, the court will be more likely to find the broker liable for fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Continuing on with our Real Estate Blog Series on the Real Estate Agents’ Duty of Care: Legal Framework, part 8 focuses on case law with reference to negligence claims reaching the courtroom.

Wemyss V. Moldenhauer – [2003] O.J. No. 38

Facts and Decision

In this case, the plaintiff Wemyss brought an action against Moldenhauer and Sutton Group Fox Realty for damages in negligence and a breach of fiduciary duty, which arose from a real estate transaction.

Wemyss wanted to purchase a home and hired Moldenhauer as his real estate agent; Moldenhauer was employed by Sutton. Wemyss became interested in a particular property, but was concerned about possible problems with its septic system. Moldenhauer drafted an agreement containing an inspection clause.

Offers were then exchanged between Wemyss and the vendor. Eventually, Wemyss accepted an offer of $980,000 for the property and, at Moldenhauer’s direction, initialed all handwritten changes made to the agreement by the vendor. The inspection revealed a problem with the septic system, priced at approximately $10,000 to repair. When he sought to terminate the deal and recover his $50,000 deposit Wemyss discovered that the inspection clause had been amended to limit its application to structural defects. He argued that Moldenhauer had not brought this amendment to his attention when he was asked to initial the changes to the agreement.

Moldenhauer maintained that he had specifically drawn Wemyss’s attention to the clause and had explained what it meant. The Court did not accept Moldenhauer’s arguments and held him liable for Wemyss’s loss.

The action went through; Moldenhauer was held liable to pay Wemyss the $50,000 deposit which he forfeited as the transaction was incomplete. Once again, the court held that Moldenhauer did not meet the standard of care expected of a real estate agent: Moldenhauer had failed in his duty to mention the amendment of the inspection clause to Wemyss. Moldenhauer had statutory and fiduciary obligations to advise Wemyss that the clause had been fundamentally altered, and that Wemyss would be unable to get out of the transaction if the inspection revealed a problem with the septic system.

Considering the contractual relationship between Wemyss and Moldenhauer, contributory negligence principles weren’t applicable to this situation. In any event, Wemyss was not negligent for having failed to read the inspection clause, nor for not having obtained legal advice before signing the agreement. In these circumstances he was entitled to rely upon Moldenhauer’s expertise. Wemyss made extensive efforts to persuade the vendor to return the deposit and was not obligated to pursue litigation. It was also not unreasonable for Wemyss to have decided not to close the deal and pay for the repairs.