Citizenship tests are increasingly used by national governments as part of their naturalization procedures. Several analysts suggest that citizenship tests are indicative of a converging trend toward civic integration, especially in Europe. The reform of the Canadian citizenship test in 2009–2010 represents an opportunity to examine the mobilization of tests in different national context. Are citizenship tests necessary the central tools of civic integration policies? In order to answer this question, this article first argues that it is crucial to understand citizenship tests as public policy instruments. Using the approach developed by Pierre Lascoumes and Patrick LeGalès, the article compares the emergence and characteristics of the citizenship tests implemented by Canada and the United Kingdom. Stemming from this analysis, this article demonstrates that the two citizenship tests are different instruments despite their similar appearances. The Canadian test remains, despite the reform, an instrument to promote naturalization and integration. In contrast, in addition to promoting civic integration, the British test is also an instrument of immigration control.
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As described by Will Kymlicka in 2003, prior to the reforms, the two countries shared several characteristics in matters of naturalization and citizenship. He stresses that "[i]n particular, the requirements for naturalization are modest; dual citizenship is allowed, public support is provided to enable immigrants to meet these requirements, and the status of non-citizens is relatively well protected "(Kymlicka 2003, 200). Moreover, in a more recent comparative analysis, Marc Morjé Howard argued that "[…] Britain remains one of the most liberal countries within the EU-15", despite the inclusion of civic integration requirements (Morjé Howard 2009, 161). This also reinforces the rationale for drawing the comparison; indeed, of all European countries, the UK turns out to be the one that is most like Canada.
For an exception, see the analysis conducted by Van Oers (2010).
Howlett (2011) presents an exhaustive and up-to-date overview.
As demonstrated by the debate surrounding the publication of The Path to Citizenship (United Kingdom 2008b), a report by the UK Border Agency, the test is still a prominent instrument for reform. During the preparation of the report, the idea of making the citizenship test a precondition for immigration was seriously discussed though ultimately rejected (Ahmed 2008).
Less than ESOL Entry level 3.
Examples of the questions used to prepare the Canadian and British tests are presented in Appendix A.
In discussing the reform, the Minister responsible, John Kenney, stated that this requirement would henceforth be strictly enforced (e.g., Kilpatrick 2009).
Of the candidates who failed the test, about 80% were still awarded citizenship after an interview with a citizenship judge (Keung 2009).
Numbers provided by the Home Office. The Home Office does not have information on the average number of times candidates take the test before succeeding (source: author’s correspondence with the Home office, 04 May 2010).
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Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, at the Congrès annuel de la société québécoise de science politique and at the ECPR Graduate Conference. The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their questions and suggestions to improve the paper. The members of the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Governance and its Chair, Jane Jenson, as well as Audrey L’Espérance, Éléonore Lépinard, Caroline Andrew, Catherine Ellyson and Paul London all provided helpful comments in the process of writing this paper.
Appendix A: Example of questions for the preparation of citizenship tests
Appendix A: Example of questions for the preparation of citizenship tests
(The candidates are provided with multiple choice answers when taking the test)
|• “Name two key documents that contain our rights and freedoms”||• “True or false ? 'Adults who have been unemployed for 6 months are usually required to join New Deal if they wish to continue receiving benefit.”|
|• “Identify four rights that Canadians enjoy”||• “What is a quango ?”|
|• “Name four fundamental freedoms that Canadians enjoy?”||• “Do women have equal rights in voting, education and work, and has this always been the case? ”|
|• “What is the significance of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best?”||• “When do children take tests at school? ”|
|• “What is meant by the equality of women and men?”||• “What sports and sporting events are popular in the UK? ”|
|• “What are some examples of taking responsibility for yourself and your family?”||• “What services are provided by local authorities? ”|
|• “When you go to vote on election day, what do you do?”||• “Are newspapers free to publish opinions or do they have to remain impartial? ”|
|• “Who is entitled to vote in Canadian federal elections?”||• “How and where is refuse (rubbish) collected? ”|
|• “Who is your Member of Parliament?”||“What is the film classification system? ”|
|“What is the capital of the province or territory that you live in?”||“How can a person get a driving licence?”|
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Paquet, M. Beyond Appearances: Citizenship Tests in Canada and the UK. Int. Migration & Integration 13, 243–260 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-011-0233-1
- Citizenship tests
- Civic integration
- Public policy instruments