An Act to amend the Citizenship Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Diane Finley  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act in order to

(a) permit certain persons who lost their Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to have their citizenship restored from the time it was lost;

(b) permit certain persons who, born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, did not acquire Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to become Canadian citizens from the time of their birth;

(c) provide that certain persons born outside Canada to a Canadian parent who was himself or herself born outside Canada do not acquire Canadian citizenship; and

(d) provide for a grant of citizenship, on application, to persons who have always been stateless and meet other specified conditions.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

June 16th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
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Director General, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Andrew Griffith

One of the things that I think I mentioned earlier is that one of the challenges with Bill C-37 was that we didn't really know exactly how many people were out there to reach. So we truly tried to look at what was the most effective way to reach people when we didn't know the audience. Given that we didn't have that much money, we looked at low-cost ways to do that.

The flag piece was probably using YouTube and the video to generate interest and awareness. We used that to drive interest to our website, where we had specific information in terms of the provisions. We also did a lot of targeted media outreach. It was not only outreach in terms of Canadian media, but also, in particular, with U.S. media, because we know there is a very large expatriate Canadian population there.

If I remember correctly, we got a really good article in the Wall Street Journal and we discovered the number of hits on our website and YouTube spiked tremendously after that one. Apparently for one period of time, it was the most popular downloaded article on the Wall Street Journal. My brother even saw it.

That was the main way to do it. The other thing we tried to do is very much look at the networks of expatriates abroad through our missions abroad. In addition to working closely with our embassy in Washington, we also worked very closely with other heads of mission. Our deputy minister wrote to other heads of mission to inform and allow them to have sessions with their expatriates to help make that.

I think we did a number of things overall. The other element I'd like to highlight is that we also developed a wizard or a self-help tool on our website that is designed to allow people to ask the standard questions and to give them a sense of whether they are citizens or not. We tried a number of these efforts to try to reach as many people as possible.

I think the hit statistics, both in terms of YouTube and our website, have demonstrated that we've been reasonably successful in reaching people. Can we do more? Of course we can do more, but I think overall we did a fairly major effort to reach as many people as possible.

June 16th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Richmond, BC

Anyway, can you also tell us more about all the work you've done in order to inform people about the changes caused by Bill C-37? There still seems to be some kind of misunderstanding by some people. Can you elaborate on that, please?

June 16th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
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Director General, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Andrew Griffith

Mr. Chair, in response to that question, obviously when we were developing Bill C-37 a number of consultations took place with a number of organizations that have appeared before this committee. All aspects of the bill were discussed during the process of looking at the bill. Of course, the actions of this committee in reviewing the bill also provided an opportunity for members of Parliament and witnesses to comment on the provisions of the bill. The pre-publication period, in terms of the actual detailed regulations related to the bill, also provided another opportunity for stakeholders to review the provisions of the bill and provide comments.

So in a nutshell, yes, there were certainly opportunities for people to provide comments on the different aspects of the bill. And those were also taken into account as the bill made its way through the process.

June 16th, 2009 / 9:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

I would like to know whether this is simply an oversight in the legislation. When we passed Bill C-37, did we realize that under the legislation, naturalized individuals, including some of the children adopted abroad, could pass on their citizenship, even outside the country, but was it forgotten that children adopted abroad obtained their citizenship directly? Is the problem simply that no provision was made for these cases, that it is just a silly mistake, or is there a reason why children born abroad and adopted according to the conventional procedure can pass on their citizenship abroad, while children who obtain their citizenship directly cannot do so?

June 16th, 2009 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Good morning. Bonjour.

This is meeting number 23 of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, on Tuesday, June 16, 2009. The orders of the day include the review of the subject matter of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, enacted in the second session of the 39th Parliament.

We have three guests here before us today. Nicole Girard is the director of legislation and program policy, citizenship and multiculturalism branch. Welcome, Ms. Girard. Andrew Griffith is the director general of citizenship and multiculturalism branch. Good morning to you, sir. Finally, we have Rick Stewart, who has appeared before us in the past. He is the associate assistant deputy minister of operations.

Mr. Griffith, I understand you are going to make a brief presentation to us on this topic. You have up to 10 minutes. Thank you very much for coming, sir.

June 11th, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You know, Mr. Shory, there is a fine line here. I'll let you continue for a little bit, but we are on Bill C-37.

June 11th, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
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Andrew Bilski Concerned adoptive parent, As an Individual

Good morning.

I'm an adoptive parent and a past board member of the Children's Bridge Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Children's Bridge.

I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak here today on a subject that's very important to me, my family, and thousands of other Canadian families with adopted children from other countries.

Canada, of course, is a nation of immigrants. Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean came here as a child refugee some 40 years ago, and now serves as Canada's 27th Governor General. Countless other immigrants, whether famous or not, have made significant contributions to their adopted country. They've served in Parliament, started companies, taught in schools, created art, policed our streets, grown our food and infrastructure, and raised civic-minded families.

I too immigrated here from the United States in 1976. To me, Canada represented multiculturalism, equality, justice, multi-party democracy, progressive social policy, and a voice of reason in an increasingly hostile world. I worked as a journalist here for nearly 30 years, and in that time I have never regretted my decision to become part of this great country. But lately I have been troubled by some aspects of Bill C-37, which ostensibly and laudably restores citizenship rights to so-called lost Canadians, but also perhaps unintentionally creates two-tiered Canadian citizenship.

My Canadian-born wife, Pamela, and I have two daughters. Bridget, born in Toronto in 1990, who will be entering her second year at the University of Western Ontario this September, and Nina, born in Zhangjiagang, China, in 1998, who is a grade five student at Clinton Street Junior Public School in Toronto. Nina, thankfully, is not subject to Bill C-37, and has the same citizenship rights as her Canadian-born sister.

I'm here today to speak for the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of other children who will not be so fortunate.

When Canadians adopt internationally, they give their children their surname, their love, their emotional and financial support, and their citizenship. With the passage of Bill C-37, however, thousands of foreign adopted children become second-class citizens. Unlike their Canadian-born siblings and friends, they've been stripped of the right to pass on Canadian citizenship to their own children born or adopted abroad.

To make matters worse, this deplorable situation seems to hinge on the mere method by which these foreign adopted children acquire Canadian citizenship in the first place. One group of children who come to Canada on a permanent resident visa and subsequently obtain citizenship through naturalization are not subject to Bill C-37. In other words, they're considered first-class citizens with the rights that most of us here enjoy. However, a second group that acquires citizenship by grant through direct route, the most popular method since December 2007, are subject to Bill C-37. In other words, they become second-class citizens with no right to pass on their Canadian citizenship to future generations born or adopted abroad.

My question is, why? What possible reason could the framers of this bill have to distinguish between these two groups of adopted children? Commenting on the intent of the bill, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has stated that the government wants to limit the right of citizenship to “those people who have some kind of enduring presence or commitment to Canada”.

If so, what's the evidence that the second group of children, the foreign adopted ones who acquired citizenship through the direct route, will not have an enduring presence or commitment to Canada? Are they more likely than other Canadians, such as Liberal Party of Canada Leader Michael Ignatieff, to live abroad for vast periods of their lives? Are they less likely than other Canadians, such as the 40% or so who don't even both to vote in federal elections, to be committed to this country?

I'd like to remind the committee that many countries, including China, revoke the citizenship of a child upon foreign adoption. If these adopted children are not Canadian, then what are they? Their only national allegiance is to their adopted country.

I've come here today to respectfully ask you to right this injustice. In attempting to bolster the value of Canadian citizenship, Bill C-37 diminishes the rights of many foreign-adopted children. In so doing, it tarnishes Canada's international reputation as a champion of human rights.

June 11th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
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Sarah Pedersen Acting Executive Director, Adoption Council of Canada

Let me start by saying that the Adoption Council of Canada is the only national organization representing the voices of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families across the country. We're thankful to have been invited today and to have been asked to share our concerns about how Bill C-37 affects the citizenship rights of adoptees.

We're concerned with the unanticipated impact of Bill C-37 as set out in the regulations. The new law that came into effect on April 17, 2009, limits Canadian citizenship to the first generation born to Canadian parents living outside of Canada. This law was supposed to streamline and simplify the citizenship process for internationally adopted children. Instead, this legislation takes away citizenship rights for some of these children. Adoptive parents across Canada are concerned that these regulations create two types of citizens with different rights, those who are adopted being relegated to an inferior class of citizenship under the bill.

The law was originally drafted to prevent Canadians of convenience--i.e., families who pass on citizenship over several generations without ever living in Canada. However, in attempting to solve this problem the government has created regulations that are confusing and create inequities for internationally adopted children.

Douglas Chalk, executive director of the Sunrise Adoption Centre and member of the Adoption Council of Canada states, and I quote:

...the government has reduced the citizenship rights of some internationally adopted children, and effectively created a lesser class of citizenship for them. Was this really necessary? It feels like a sledgehammer was used to kill a flea.

Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada, also notes, and I quote, that “the original intent of the legislation as we understood it was to simplify the citizenship process to treat children adopted abroad more equitably” rather than create yet another inequity.

What upsets adopting parents most is the notion that their children will have a lesser class of citizenship. In effect, this law discriminates against children adopted internationally. Adoptive parents do not want to feel that their children are second-class citizens. Adoptive parents in Canada are losing their tolerance for being discriminated against. Resentment at the inherent discrimination against adopting families, which is built into the EI legislation, has been simmering for the past decade. Now these families face a new law that discriminates against their children.

The Adoption Council of Canada is dismayed that the provisions of the Citizenship Act, which came into effect in April, create two-tiered citizenship. Our adopted children, Canadian citizens who will have lived almost their entire lives in Canada, will not have the same rights as other citizens born in Canada, even those in their very own family. They will not be able to pass on their Canadian citizenship to any of their children who may be born abroad.

The Adoption Council of Canada urges the government to rethink these provisions and find a solution that does not limit the rights of citizenship for internationally adopted children.

Thank you.

June 11th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
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Allan Nichols Executive Director, Concerned Group Representative, Canadian Expat Association

Good morning.

My name is Allan Nichols. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Expat Association. I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to appear before you to speak about Bill C-37.

To place my comments in the proper context, I'd like to briefly tell you a bit about the Canadian Expat Association.

The association is a non-governmental, not-for-profit community linking all Canadians living abroad. Canadians can now connect through the association, regardless of where they work and live, wherever they are in the world. Since opening its doors in the summer of 2007, the Canadian Expat Association has offered opportunities for members, in both French and English, to play a key role in representing Canadian expats, who until now have had no collective voice.

The association provides a platform for Canadians so that they can have access to and network with established Canadian clubs and business organizations around the world. It provides Canadians with useful information and analysis to ease the transition when they move and live abroad or when they return home. It assists Canadian business organizations and NGOs in promoting their activities to Canadians around the world. It acts as an advocate, working in partnership with businesses, NGOs, and federal, provincial, and territorial governments to promote the value of Canadian expats and to highlight their cultural and economic contributions. The association works to develop and foster relationships and to build partnerships with these various actors.

The goal is to internationally promote Canada and its most valuable resource: its people. The association currently represents approximately 1,000 people and a number of leading Canadian businesses. Efforts are under way to actively build its membership and to expand its profile overseas and across Canada.

An estimated 2.7 million Canadians are living and working abroad, nearly 9% of the total population of Canada. In fact, billions of dollars in bilateral trade can be directly and indirectly attributed to these Canadian expats who are involved in businesses around the world. Canadian expats are recognized as being in some of the most successful and influential networks, and as a direct result of their efforts, Canada is benefiting economically, culturally, and politically.

Canadians living and working abroad are linguistically adept, culturally articulate, and internationally mobile. They represent all regions of Canada, and most still identify Canada as their home. The experiences, knowledge, and networks of contacts these Canadians bring back have great value and have a profound impact on the country and on the economy.

I would like to now focus my comments on Bill C-37. While the intention of the bill is to limit the granting of Canadian citizenship to those who may not have ties to this country, we feel that the bill can be improved upon so that Canadians with significant connections will still be recognized. Let me explain.

It is our understanding that the current bill potentially limits the freedom of Canadian citizens to pass on their heritage. As members of this committee are well aware, we live in a highly mobile world. Canadians are seeking and finding opportunities around the globe and are returning with significant skills and investment. However, these achievements could be limited if there were a possibility that future generations would not be eligible to claim their Canadian heritage.

Canadians who have children abroad now have to contend with the possibility that their grandchildren might not meet the requirements of Canadian citizenship. Let me give you an example. A person decides to work abroad and begins a new stage of life by starting a family. This person then returns and raises children in Canada. Those children grow up and are active individuals who contribute to Canadian society. However, the opportunities for those children could now be limited if they want to start their own families. The children, if born abroad, will not be granted Canadian citizenship.

While we agree with the intention of Bill C-37 to protect the value of Canadian citizenship, the example I have outlined is an unfortunate and unintended consequence. When approximately 2.7 million Canadians are living and working abroad and providing tangible benefits to Canada, it does not make economic or cultural sense to put a limit on the opportunities for future generations.

We would recommend as the solution what other countries have worked out. For instance, the United States and Australia have faced the same dilemma. Their solution was to establish a residency provision for those children born abroad. In essence, such provisions recognize de facto their established citizenship and do not take their birthplace into account when it comes to their own children. A solution such as this would satisfy the notion that these people have meaningful ties to Canada.

Once again, thank you for inviting me to Ottawa. I'd be glad to now answer any questions you may have.

June 11th, 2009 / 9:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

We have a piece of legislation...and I listened to the predicaments of Mr. Neal, Ms. Scott, and Mr. Gélinas. If you were to suggest how we could move forward in a stronger way with Bill C-37 in terms of addressing some of their concerns--and forgive me, this is the first time I've met or been introduced to the three of them--it sounds to me that whether it's for their daughter or for themselves, their wish and their passion is to have Canadian citizenship.

They believe that Bill C-37 gave them that opportunity. It doesn't sound as though anyone disagrees with the legislation but there is disagreement or concern around carrying out the interpretation of it. Do you have any suggestions as to how we could strengthen that from a ministry perspective?

June 11th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

When you spoke about gender-based discrimination, you said that these 71 people had been discriminated against because of the legislation of the day. Earlier legislation was discriminatory because it made a distinction between men and women, between children born out of wedlock and those born in wedlock. You also mentioned religion and other grounds. You were not talking about discrimination pursuant to the provisions of Bill C-37.

June 11th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
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Lost Canadian Organization

Don Chapman

Yes, there are 71 people. Subsection 5(4) grants pretty much that this goes away. There is one more problem. You now have created under Bill C-37 Canadian citizens with fewer rights than other Canadian citizens.

June 11th, 2009 / 9:35 a.m.
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Lost Canadian Organization

Don Chapman

Actually, the bill was a wonderful bill. We're not talking about the second generation born abroad. We're talking about the lost Canadian bill. That brought in hundreds of thousands of people. That was a wonderful bill.

We always had some people who didn't quite fit under Bill C-37. We were at 73 people. Two have died since then without citizenship, so we're down to 71. We were promised that these cases would be fixed and be done. So those cases were there when we testified beforehand. They're still on the books, despite the promises that they would be taken care of. So there aren't really now many people left. This could be cleared up very quickly.

Regarding the second generation born abroad, it was take it or leave it. We took it with the promise, again with the Senate, that a new Citizenship Act would be forthcoming, because the 1977 Citizenship Act has become a barnacled creature. It's growing new barnacles of new amendments all the time. It has seen its better day. It's time for a new Citizenship Act.

June 11th, 2009 / 9:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Basically, I was repeating what Ms. Mendes said. We must make a distinction between two things.

First of all, we have the issue of Canadians who lost their citizenship and who did not regain it after Bill C-37 was passed. Then we have the issue of second-generation Canadians who in your opinion were treated unfairly after this bill is passed.

I am the Bloc Québécois's spokesperson on citizenship and immigration. I joined this committee while it was considering Bill C-37. I am very familiar with the bill, although I do not know its entire history.

Our committee prepared a report that was adopted unanimously and that recommended exactly the same measures as those found in Bill C-37. Nearly all the witnesses who appeared before us said that the legislation had to be passed, that it was urgent. The bill was passed unanimously by all parties.

In your opinion, how was a bill that overlooked so many people able to get through all the stages without any resistance?

June 11th, 2009 / 9:30 a.m.
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Lost Canadian Organization

Don Chapman

They still have people who are stateless. The first second-generation born-abroad stateless person that we know of is coming up in Austria. Austria does not confer citizenship. I was behind the scenes in the implementation of this bill. We did not want the second-generation born-abroad issue attached to this bill, but it got attached, and it was take it or leave it. Now that it's there, the provision.... And the gentleman you'd want to call in, too, is a gentleman by the name of Mark Davidson. He's now a DG of another department, but Mark was in on this.

The issue was that if a child was born in a country that didn't confer citizenship, let's say, Greece, Japan, and so forth, Canada, or one of the countries, immediately would come in and give that child citizenship based on the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. What came out was quite different. It's now saying that you bring your child back to Canada--and it becomes quite an issue to bring a stateless child across borders--the child will live in Canada for three years, and then the child can have citizenship.

Although, wait a minute, that's making the child an immigrant Canadian: this is completely contrary to the United Nations convention. It's totally wrong. Basically, if somebody, as in this case, is stateless, you can make them a citizen in three weeks. The Prime Minister proved that with the last remaining World War I veteran. End of story: it should be done right now.

There are major problems. Let's say, for instance, that we have a mother whose father happens to be elderly and living in the United States. The father is dying. This mother has a stateless child in Canada and can't leave the child to go take care of the father, because the child can't cross borders.

These are major problems and there are easy, easy, fixes. There are ways that were introduced into this bill to take care of this problem.

I have one last thing. One of the big things that was promised was that the Senate said, “If we agree to Bill C-37, you will give us a new citizenship act and start working on it”. It was promised and it has not come through.