Bill C-397 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (persons born abroad)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Olivia Chow NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Private Members' Business
September 28th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on Bill C-467, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (children born abroad), a private member's bill tabled by the member for Vancouver South.
The bill would amend the Citizenship Act to provide that a child born abroad to or adopted abroad by a citizen employed outside Canada, in or with the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration or the public services of a provinces be considered like a child born in Canada.
I should say at the outset that New Democrats support the bill. We hope it passes this stage and we look forward to discussing it further at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
In recent years, Parliament has spent some time on trying to fix the provisions of the Citizenship Act. We have seen great concern about this law over the years. Problems with the 1947 Citizenship Act in particular led to many Canadians, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Canadians, losing their citizenship. These lost Canadians, as they are called, were and are folks who, any reasonable person would agree, are indeed fully Canadian but because of the peculiarities of the law were excluded from citizenship.
Bill C-37, debated and passed in the previous Parliament, went some way to correcting these problems. However, some problems still exist, as the subject matter of the bill before us today attests.
The Lost Canadians Organization, headed very ably by Don Chapman over very many years, has done incredible work on these issues. They describe the current situation this way:
While Bill C-37 solved the citizenship problems of hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose citizenship had been taken away from them by the arcane provisions of the 1947 Citizenship Act, it also created a new problem of statelessness in children who are born abroad after April 19, 2009, to Canadians who themselves were born abroad.
What this means is that Canadian citizens who were born abroad, called the first generation born abroad, cannot pass on their citizenship to their children if those children are also born abroad. Hence, the second generation born abroad rule, which came into effect in April 2009, has already started to create serious problems for Canadian citizens who do not realize that their children do not qualify for Canadian citizenship.
New Democrats, while supporting the bill before us, believe that it does not go far enough. It is clear that Canadians working in some capacity for the government, in the armed forces or the diplomatic core for example, should be able to ensure that Canadian citizenship is passed to their children, born while they are working overseas, in exactly the same way it would be if that child had been born here in Canada.
There should be no discrimination against children of Canadians who are serving our country overseas, but why the limitation imposed in this bill? Why does this bill not apply to the children of Canadians studying overseas or to those of Canadian journalists working in another country or to those Canadians who work in international aid and development.
What about the children of Canadians working for a Canadian company offshore? Surely these Canadians continue to make a significant contribution to our country by their overseas service. Why should their children and grandchildren be subject to different criteria for maintaining Canadian citizenship than children born here in Canada or than children born to folks serving the government or the armed forces.
This is especially true of children born to Canadians overseas who risk statelessness. This can arise due to the laws of some countries which do not confer citizenship status on children born in that country as we do here in Canada. We must always ensure that no one is at risk of being stateless and our laws must never contribute to someone being or becoming stateless, but we also risk creating statelessness by not allowing a child born to Canadians overseas the ability to pass on their citizenship to one of their children who was also born outside Canada. This must be fixed.
My colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina and the New Democratic citizenship and immigration critic, has identified this problem. That is why she has also tabled a private member's bill, Bill C-397, to resolve this problem. Her bill would end the second generation citizenship cutoff for all children born abroad to Canadian parents.
These changes are crucial in today's world, a world that, thanks to the ease of travel and globalization, is much smaller than it once was, and a world where it is increasingly common and even necessary to work in a foreign country.
Canada is strengthened by the experience gained and the work performed by Canadians overseas. We should be encouraging such activity, not putting in place barriers to it. Ensuring that the children born to Canadians working overseas have Canadian citizenship in exactly the same way that children born here would address one such barrier.
The member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out an interesting aspect of this situation when she spoke to the bill. She noted that in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and perhaps other provinces, pregnant women have sometimes been sent to U.S. hospitals to give birth because of the lack of space in Canadian neo-natal care units. She wondered if these families knew that because their child was born outside Canada, that there would be a limitation on their child's ability to pass on Canadian citizenship to his or her child if that child were also born outside Canada. She wondered if people knew that their grandchild could potentially be stateless given this situation. Surely this is not an acceptable risk in these particular circumstances.
Some people would doubt the attachment to Canada of Canadians who live and work overseas. While there may be some who find Canadian citizenship convenient, we would be wrong to assume that is true of the vast majority of those who are affected by these circumstances.
We must also ensure that we do not enshrine different classes of citizenship in our laws. Canadians must not be punished because they chose to work overseas and their children and grandchildren must not be punished because they happen to be born outside Canada. There must not be two types of Canadian citizenship: one for those of us born here and one for those of us born elsewhere.
It may be necessary to consider ways to ensure attachment to Canada for individuals who spend considerable time away from home but that is a far different project than putting arbitrary limits on citizenship.
The NDP has made it clear that we will seek amendments to this bill at committee that would ensure it addresses the situation of all children born outside Canada to Canadian parents, not just those born to members of the Canadian armed forces or who are directly working for the Canadian or provincial governments.
To paraphrase what the member for Trinity—Spadina said in her speech, no child should be left stateless because his or her father or mother, or grandfather or grandmother, chose to become an aid or development worker and do good work outside Canada. No child should be left stateless because his or her parents or grandparents decided to work as journalists overseas. No Canadian mother working overseas should be forced to travel home to Canada, interrupting her family and career just to have her baby in Canada to preserve that child's full citizenship rights.
This bill is a start and it provides an opportunity, which is why I will support it. I hope other members will do the same.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Madam Speaker, in about a month Canada will host the G20 and we will welcome many countries to Canada. We are a trading nation. We want to encourage our children and all our professionals and businesses to trade with other countries, to visit them, to study or work abroad. Yet we have a citizenship law that discourages them to do so because their grandchildren may not become citizens.
Bill C-467, which I and the New Democratic Party of Canada support, would amend the Citizenship Act to remove the second generation citizenship cut-off for children born abroad or adopted abroad by a Canadian citizen who has been employed outside of Canada in the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration and the public service of a province.
The second generation citizenship cut-off applies to children whose parents are Canadian citizens and were also born outside of Canada. If these children are also born outside Canada, they do not automatically receive Canadian citizenship. We know already of two Canadian children born to Canadians who have become stateless.
Even though I will support the bill, it simply does not go far enough. The bill only applies to the public servants and armed forces personnel.
According to the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, in 2009 approximately 2.8 million Canadians lived abroad. The Canadian public servants and armed forces members only represent a very small fraction of those numbers of Canadians living and working overseas.
These are Canadians. They have chosen to live and work abroad perhaps as journalists, aid workers or students. We just cannot and should not deny them the right to pass on citizenship to their children or their grandchildren just because they spent some time overseas.
For example, Senator Munson was at a press conference that I attended. Because he was a journalist for many years, his son was born abroad. His son is also a journalist and lives outside of Canada. If he happens to have a baby, Senator Munson's grandchild would be stateless. Is that fair? Absolutely not.
We need to end the second generation citizenship cut-off for all children born abroad to Canadian parents. That is exactly what one of my private member's bills, Bill C-397, would do.
I hope my colleague, the member for Vancouver South, would be willing to work with me to amend this bill at committee to include all children born abroad.
There seems to be an assumption that because some Canadians chose to live and work outside of Canada, they somehow do not have strong ties to Canada. In fact, some people even call them citizens of convenience. What an insult.
I have heard from many of them. They are proud Canadians. They have strong ties to this country. Sometimes they represent us. Sometimes they represent their companies. Many of these are Canadian companies, multinational companies. However, it seems the government's general policy is to encourage them to cut off their ties by denying them the right to pass on full citizenship rights to their children or their grandchildren.
We are now living in an interconnected world and governments need to consider this and adjust some of their policies so our citizens can feel free to travel and not be punished. The simple fact is we need to completely rethink the way we treat Canadians working or living abroad. Instead of pushing them further away, we need to recognize them as proud Canadians and do what we can to help strengthen their ties with their country, our country, Canada.
I want to give an example of a woman I met, Helen Chatburn, a Canadian citizen who was born in England and is expecting a child. Helen works in Nigeria for an organization funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. Remember that Helen grew up in Canada. She is a Canadian, but if Helen were to give birth in Nigeria, her child would not have Canadian citizenship. Helen has been left with no choice but to fly to Canada, seven months pregnant, to give birth here. What absurdity. This woman is risking her health in order to grant her child Canadian citizenship because of this flaw in the Citizenship Act.
The second generation cutoff ought to be revoked entirely because it does nothing to protect the value of citizenship. In British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, due to the shortages in neonatal care units, pregnant women have been sent to the U.S. to give birth, but they may not know that if their kids have a child overseas, their grandchild could be stateless.
As Valerie Bolduc, director of community development at the Canadian Expat Association states:
Technically, you can be fourth-, fifth-generation born-abroad and have lived in Canada practically your whole life.
Why not give them the same rights as children born here if they all have Canadian parents?
The Citizenship Act affects children and their families. Not only does it fail to protect the values of citizenship, but it also undermines them because it deprives the children of Canadian citizens of their full rights of citizenship.
Also, this bill does nothing to address the two-tiered citizenship for adopted children. If an adopted child is made a Canadian citizen before moving to Canada, which we would want to do, the second generation cutoff would apply to these children. However, if the adopted child is brought to Canada first as a landed immigrant and the parents apply for citizenship while the child is in Canada, and that child would have to wait for a year or so, the rule would not apply.
This bill only addresses children adopted abroad by citizens employed outside Canada. That also is not fair.
Remember, our most valuable resource is our human capital. That is the most important element. Let us not squander it by allowing the Conservatives' retrograde policies to stand.
We will look to amend this bill at committee for it to apply to all children born abroad to Canadian citizens, not just those who are in the army or who are diplomats. In a country with an aging population, we must value our children, every one of them, whether they are born outside Canada or in Canada, whether they are adopted by Canadians, coming to Canada as citizens or landed immigrants. We need more Canadian children, not fewer.
No child should be left stateless because his or her father or mother chose to become an aid worker to do good work outside Canada. No child should be left stateless because his or her parents or grandparents decided to become a journalist overseas. No mom should have to be forced to travel to Canada just to have her baby, thus interrupting her career and her good work in a developing country. No executive should have to worry about not representing her own company in order to come back to Canada to have her baby.
Let us adopt this bill and fully amend it so that all children will be treated equally.
May 25th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present to the House of Commons a petition from citizens asking the government to restore citizenship equality to persons born abroad.
The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to pass NDP Bill C-397 which would restore equality among all Canadians no matter where they were born. They are asking the government to ensure that the citizenship status of children and grandchildren of ex-pat Canadians and adoptive families is not downgraded or outright stripped away.
The petitioners are also asking the government to revoke without delay the provision which as of April 17, 2009 is causing statelessness in some born-abroad children of born-abroad Canadians
The petitioners want Canada to treat citizenship in a manner that reflects and promotes Canada's economic, social, intellectual and humanitarian engagement with the world.
December 7th, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have another petition regarding people who work abroad and what is going to happen to their children.
Prime ministers have been in different countries encouraging trade. We have noticed that, as of April 17, 2009, children and grandchildren of Canadian ex-pat and adoptive families have had their citizenships downgraded, or worse, stripped away. These families, which recently were able to pass on their Canadian citizenship for their born-abroad children, have had such rights stripped away.
They call upon the Government of Canada to adopt NDP Bill C-397, which would restore equality among all Canadians no matter where they are born and ensure that the citizenship status of the children and grandchildren of Canadian families that work overseas and government diplomats would not be downgraded or stripped away outright. That would cause statelessness in some born-abroad children. They ask that we remain in compliance with Canada's ratification of the 1961 convention on the reduction of statelessness, et cetera.
Support Measures for Adoptive Parents
Private Members' Business
November 24th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be in the House today to speak about this important issue, Motion M-386.
The challenges that face adoptive parents are not often discussed. This means their struggles often go unnoticed and uncorrected by this country's legislative bodies.
This motion, though it does not offer any solutions to these struggles, does draw attention to the situation adoptive parents find themselves in and as a result, allows for more discussion on what measures are in place and which measures are lacking.
The motion tabled by the hon. member for Essex calls for:
--the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be instructed to examine current federal support measures that are available to adoptive parents and their adopted children, recognizing and respecting provincial and territorial jurisdictions in this regard and, following completion of its study, report back to the House with its findings.
Though the motion's ultimate goal can be achieved through other means, it does not detract us from its purpose, to take stock of what resources are currently available for adoptive parents and find out where there is a lack of support.
Let us now look at some of the challenges facing adoptive parent families.
This past summer was devastating for many adoptive families across Canada, and my riding of Sudbury was no exception.
When Imagine Adoption made its bankruptcy announcement on July 14, over 500 families were thrown into limbo. Imagine Adoption is a federal adoption agency registered with the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services and a registered non-profit agency.
When the bankruptcy was announced, Imagine Adoption closed its doors and its accounts were frozen, leaving hundreds of families financially and emotionally devastated. The adoption agency is now only a closed website that redirects families to the bankruptcy trustee's website where parents can read about the group's restructuring plans.
Constituents of mine, who I met numerous times, were in the middle of adopting a child from Ethiopia when the news hit of Imagine's bankruptcy. With no adoption agency to turn to, the two of them were left to navigate the highly complex bureaucratic channels in Ontario and with the High Commission in Nairobi to find out where their paperwork was, what stage the visas were at, and what representative was dealing with their file in Ethiopia.
In this person's own words, “This turn of events has left those of us with files in waiting full of dread that our files will be pulled and our spot in the queue lost; this is to say nothing of the absolute fear being experienced by those families who have actually been matched with their child”.
This couple are not the only constituents who have contacted me on this issue. I have heard from numerous families that were also concerned.
These Sudburians understand that adoptive parents face tough challenges, not to mention a remarkably complex approval process and uncertainty levels when dealing with adoption cases overseas.
This is why we need to look into what resources are available for these parents. Moreover, this is why we need to take action now to help those who are still in limbo, still waiting for their families to be complete.
The challenges facing adoptive parents are not news to New Democrats. Rather, we have been listening, listening to the biggest concerns raised by adoptive parents and doing what we can to make their lives better.
I would like to touch on the good work that two of my colleagues are doing on this issue, the first initiative from my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster and the second from my caucus member from Trinity—Spadina.
In January of this year, my caucus member from Burnaby—New Westminster introduced Bill C-413, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code (extension of benefit period for adoptive parents).
If passed, this bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code to ensure that an adoptive parent is entitled to the same number of weeks of leave as the biological mother of a newborn child.
Under the current employment insurance program, adoptive parents are given 35 weeks of paid leave and a further 15 weeks of unpaid leave afterwards. Only birth mothers are able to take an additional 15 weeks of maternity leave.
This inequality between birth parents and adoptive parents received national attention in January of 2008, when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal by an adoptive mother from British Columbia, Patti Tomasson, who was fighting for the same maternity leave benefits as birth mothers. Ms. Tomasson applied for maternity leave after she adopted her two daughters, Sarah, who is now eight, and Hannah, who is now four.
The Supreme Court was upholding an August 2007 decision by the Federal Court of Appeal that ruled Ms. Tomasson did not qualify for maternity benefits because she did not undergo the psychological experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Canada was upholding antiquated laws, laws that need to be reviewed and revised in order to be fair to both birth and adoptive parents.
Adoptive parents like Ms.Tomasson need the extra leave to bond with their children. Recent studies of adoptive parents have shown that many would have liked to have the extra 15 weeks in order to help them better support their children.
As another parent, Heather Rowe, said:
The emotional time is as important as the physical," she says. "In fact, mothers who haven't given birth maybe need more time to envelop the child. As soon as you find out you've been approved you fall in love, but because you don't have the physical presence of the baby inside you, you don't start the physical bonding until you are actually holding the baby.
In fact, adoption professionals and researchers around the world identify a few of the issues as: post-adoption depression for the adoptive parents as a result of the adoption process; attachment and bonding from parent to child and child to parent; health issues or developmental issues; large barriers and cultural adjustment, as well as onerous adoption processes; and in the case of international adoption, issues of trauma, abuse, neglect or multiple foster care placements which make it difficult for the parents to build an immediate trust relationship with the child.
The bill introduced by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster would take these challenges into account by installing parity between adoptive and biological parents in this regard. The Adoption Council of Canada, a federally incorporated, charitable body, calls for the same measures to be taken.
Another worthy initiative that my caucus has put forward is Bill C-397, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (persons born abroad). As of April 17, the date Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act from the 39th Parliament came into effect, the children and grandchildren of Canadian expatriate and adoptive families have had their citizenship downgraded, or worse, stripped away.
Families who were recently able to pass on their Canadian citizenship for their born-abroad children have had such rights stripped away. Changes in citizenship and immigration law that were meant to restore citizenship to lost Canadians have instead created a new generation of lost Canadians.
The bill introduced by my caucus member for Trinity—Spadina would restore equality among all Canadians no matter where they were born and ensure the citizenship status of children and grandchildren of expatriated Canadians and adoptive families is not downgraded or outright stripped away. It would also treat citizenship in a manner that reflects and promotes Canada's economic, social, intellectual and humanitarian engagement with the world, and these initiatives are just a start.
I thank the hon. member for Essex for initiating this important conversation once again. I hope that in doing so, others begin to recognize the importance of updating our current laws to make life fairer for adoptive parents and their families.
May 27th, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-397, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (persons born abroad).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Citizenship Act for persons born abroad, which has been seconded by the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
The purpose of the bill is to restore equality for all Canadians. On April 17, some very young, internationally adopted children suddenly became lesser Canadians. On that same day some children born abroad will be stripped of their right to inherit their Canadian parents' citizenship.
It is not fair to create two levels of citizenship. It is not fair to strip away the right of parents to pass down their Canadian citizenship to their children.
We know that millions of Canadians work abroad. Some work for Canadian corporations, some teach in schools and universities and others work for the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, such as UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.
By enacting this legislation, the government would treat citizenship in a manner that reflects and promotes Canadian economic, social, intellectual and humanitarian engagement with the world.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)