An immigrant can apply to become a citizen three years after moving to Canada.
It's the final step in immigrating and, as opposed to permanent residency, allows people to vote and carry a Canadian passport.
But, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, more and more newcomers are failing the citizenship test since the Harper government had made the exam a lot tougher.
In 2010, the Conservatives overhauled the test, requiring a higher score to pass — 15/20 instead of 12/20 — and emphasized the need for newcomers to speak English or French. The test also included more challenging questions about Canadian history, identity and values.
The changes have hurt some immigrant communities harder than others, according to pass-rate data kept by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and obtained by the Globe.
"Across the board, the failure rate nearly quadrupled from less than four per cent in 2009 to nearly 15 per cent last year," notes the article.
"Nearly half of the Afghan-born immigrants vying to become Canadians last year, for example, failed; that's compared to only 21 per cent in 2009."
For people born in Vietnam, test failure rates went from 14.8 per cent in 2005 to 41.2 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, fewer than two per cent of immigrants born in Australia, England and the United States failed last year
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University of Toronto politics professor Phil Triadafilopoulos told the Globe that the tougher questions mixed with language comprehension problems make the test more difficult for those not from English speaking countries.
"Coming from a place that was ruled by Britain once upon a time means you're likely to do well and that's probably because you can read the [study] guide more efficiently and read the test more efficiently," he said, adding that it's becoming a de facto language test.
"The question is, what is the function of these tests?
"They play a gatekeeper role and they create, quite literally, a boundary or a barrier to people who are keen and interested in becoming Canadian citizens."
Would you pass the Citizenship test?
Here are some sample questions. (See answers below)
1. Name two fundamental freedoms protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
a. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
b. Equality rights and to care for Canada's heritage.
c. Basic freedoms and obey laws.
d. Aboriginal peoples' rights and to volunteer.
2. From where does the name "Canada" come?
a. From the Inuit word meaning country.
b. From the French word meaning joining.
c. From the Métis word meaning rivers.
d. From "kanata", the Huron-Iroquois word for village.
3. Who has the right to run as a candidate in federal elections?
b. A Canadian citizen who is 16 years old.
c. Any man who is at least 18 years old.
d. Any Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old.
4. How many Canadians have been awarded the Victoria Cross (V.C.), the highest honour available to Canadians?
5. What are some examples of taking responsibility for yourself and your family?
a. Buying a house and a TV.
b. Getting a job, taking care of one's family and working hard in keeping with one's abilities.
c. Doing laundry and keeping the house clean.
d. Study hard so you can earn enough money to take a vacation.
1. A 2. D 3. D 4.B 5. B