Bill C-467 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (children 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.
Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduced, as of Oct. 28, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends 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 service of a province be considered like a child born in Canada.
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
September 28th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver South for introducing this bill that covers an area that has not been properly addressed in the Citizenship Act.
Ensuring that public servants' children and Canadian armed forces children are able to transmit citizenship is an important aspect of this bill and I strongly support it.
We should also restore citizenship to some people who lost their citizenship because they were born outside Canada, and this should be effective as of the date they lost it, for the reasons covered by the bill introduced by my colleague from Vancouver South.
I am happy to know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration supports the principle of this bill and that he would like to see it sent to committee, so that changes and amendments can be made to make it enforceable and practical.
Children of our public servants and members of our armed forces should not be penalized and prevented from transmitting their Canadian citizenship, simply because they were born abroad. Many of these people have no choice but to be working abroad when their children are born. These are not choices they make willingly. When someone is sent by their government to be a commissioner in a Commonwealth country, they must go because it is their duty to do so.
In fact, it was an international trade commissioner, Howard Cummer, who worked in Singapore in 1979, who brought his children's case to the member for Vancouver South's attention. Because they were born in Singapore while he was posted there, they could not transmit Canadian citizenship to their children because their jobs had taken them abroad as well. Their children will therefore not be Canadian citizens.
It is important for Canada to recognize the services provided by its public servants, be they diplomats or soldiers, and even if it is our provinces that send them abroad to carry out certain duties on behalf of their government. They should be covered, and we have to make it possible for them to transmit Canadian citizenship to their children.
The goal of this bill is very reasonable, and we can amend it to make it even more relevant. I think that Bill C-467 deserves our full support, and I believe that we can count on the government's support for this.
The member for Ottawa—Vanier introduced Bill C-443 which addresses the broader issue of Canadians overseas. It deals with the fact that there are a number of Canadian citizens working abroad for the United Nations or its agencies and for NGOs and, heaven knows, we fund them through CIDA, so it would perhaps be a good idea to eventually look at their circumstances when they have children abroad and how their citizenship could be transmitted to their children in the future.
I commend my colleague from Vancouver South for bringing this forth and hope that we can count on the support of the House to pass it.
Private Members' Business
September 28th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to add to the debate on Bill C-467 brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South. This private member's bill stems from the passage two years ago of an act to amend the Citizenship Act.
The government supports the intentions of Bill C-467, which would treat children born abroad or overseas by crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada so they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.
We do have concerns with the bill as it is currently drafted, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences. However, we are looking forward to working in committee to make a few changes that will be needed to ensure the bill achieves its desired objective.
As the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has said, few things in this world are more precious to Canadians than their citizenship. However, over the past several years we have heard from people who thought they were proud Canadian citizens, only to discover that their citizenship did not exist in law due to inconsistencies in citizenship legislation. When they applied for a passport, they were told that they were not Canadian citizens. People who lived or worked here for years without Canadian citizenship could be denied benefits, such as pensions and health care.
The Government of Canada took this matter very seriously. These were unfair situations due to outdated legislation and so we corrected the mistakes of the past and righted a series of wrongs.
As hon. members are aware, amendments to the Citizenship Act have restored Canadian citizenship to those who ceased to be citizens under the 1947 act. These changes gave citizenship to those who never had it but were born of a Canadian, such as the so-called border babies. These were people whose families live close to the Canada-U.S. border and for whom the closest hospital in which to give birth was in the United States.
We can only imagine how difficult it had to be for someone to believe that they were Canadian, only to discover later that their citizenship was not valid all along. We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who came forward and testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. They told heart-wrenching stories of how this loss of citizenship had affected them personally.
We also amended the Citizenship Act to support Canadian parents who adopt children from other countries. Such parents no longer have to apply for permanent resident status for their children before he or she is eligible for Canadian citizenship.
The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of previous amendments was essentially to bring stability, clarity and consistency to Canadian citizenship laws.
Previous amendments to the Citizenship Act also protected the value of Canadian citizenship by ensuring that our citizens would have a real connection to this country.
Along with the hon. members, I agree that the private member's bill before us today is certainly well-intentioned. However, while Bill C-467 does not achieve its objective in its current form, we are prepared to work together to amend the bill. To that end, we will be supporting the bill's passage at this stage so that it can be considered by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, of which I am now a member.
However, I would like to reiterate some of the concerns with the bill as it is written right now. The intent of Bill C-467 is to enable children of crown servants born abroad, including the children of Canadian Forces members, to pass their Canadian citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada. However, as drafted, the bill fails to do this.
The bill would also have the unintended consequence of denying citizenship for children of crown servants in situations where the crown servant was born abroad to a Canadian parent. That is because Bill C-467 would remove the right, under section 3.5 of the act, which allows crown servants to pass citizenship on to any children they have while serving abroad.
Bill C-467 proposes to confer citizenship automatically to children adopted abroad by crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada. The current act already allows anyone who was born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a crown servant, to apply for a grant of citizenship.
The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions.
It is true that under Bill C-467, children adopted abroad by crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, but they would also not be subject to the safeguards aimed at protecting their best interests. The bill would not treat these children the same as those born in Canada. I am sure all members would agree that we should not penalize the children of crown servants who are not able to pass on the citizenship as a direct result of their parent's service abroad in the name of Canada.
The intent of Bill C-467 could be achieved by expanding the exception that exists in the current act to ensure that the children of crown servants and Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside of Canada.
We are already working with the hon. member for Vancouver South to ensure the bill achieves its objectives and will continue that co-operation at committee stage.
As my grandfather said, “You can lose your possessions, but never your pride”. It is a pride he always felt in knowing we are and always will remain proud Canadian citizens.
I congratulate the hon. member for proposing this bill and I look forward to working with him to amend it.
Private Members' Business
September 28th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-467.
I have had the privilege of working with the member for St. Catharines on the citizenship and immigration committee since I was elected. He has been a spectacular leader and I have learned a lot from him. I have also worked with the minister who has brought forward a number of changes and has a passion for this portfolio that has been unmatched by many others. It has been one of my great pleasures since I have been here to be able to do that.
Bill C-467, as was mentioned by my colleague, stems from Bill C-37, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. Because of the demonstrated need for stability, simplicity and consistency in citizenship status, the 39th Parliament passed Bill C-37 which restored Canadians citizenship to individuals who fell into different categories.
For example: they may have lost their Canadian citizenship by becoming citizens of another country either as an adult or a minor; they may have lost their citizenship when they took an oath of citizenship in another country which included a clause that renounced any other citizenship; or, they were born abroad and lost their Canadian citizenship under the 1947 act because they were living outside of Canada on their 24th birthday and failed to take steps to keep it.
The so-called border babies born under 1947 citizenship act had to take steps to register as a Canadian citizen and, if they failed to do so, they never became Canadian citizens.
Bill C-37 protected citizenship for the future by limiting citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was as a result of consultations that we had heard across the country. What that means is that subsequent generations born abroad would no longer be given Canadian citizenship automatically. This was to end the practice of passing citizenship on endlessly to generations even if they had no real connection to Canada. The goal of fixing imperfect legislation is essentially to simplify the complex rules around citizenship.
Today, Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by crown servants and Canadian Forces personnel as children born in Canada, such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.
The government supports the intention of Bill C-467 but, as we have said, we have concerns with the bill in its current form as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences.
We have a bill before us that, if passed, would no longer enable children of crown servants, including the military serving overseas, to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada. Bill C-467 would remove the right to citizenship under section 35 of the act which allows crown servants to pass citizenship on to children they have while serving abroad.
Effectively, this would strip citizenship from children of crown servants born or adopted abroad where the crown servant had been born abroad to a Canadian parent. Bill C-467 proposes to confer citizenship automatically to children adopted abroad by crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada.
The current act already allows anyone who is born abroad and adopted by Canadian parents who were born in Canada, whether or not the parent is a crown servant, to apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respects international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child, including protection from trafficking and respects provincial jurisdiction on adoptions.
It is true that under Bill C-467 , children adopted abroad by crown servants and the military would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship but they would also not be subject to the safeguards aimed at protecting the best interests of the child.
As a result, the bill fails to meet its objectives. The government is confident that the intent of Bill C-467 could be achieved if we expand the current exception that exists in the current act to ensure that children of crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside of Canada.
We obviously want to continue to work with our friends opposite and make this Parliament work. We have shown clear indications since we returned and since we were elected that we are willing to do what it takes to make Parliament work to get results for Canadians, whether it is on the economy, whether it is seeking the best for our Canadian armed forces, or whether it is on our justice system.
Of course, we have seen dramatic changes with respect to Canada's refugee protection system. They were brought in by the minister and ushered through committee by our parliamentary secretary from St. Catharines. We did that in a spirit of cooperation that we could all be proud of. It was one of the most satisfying days I have had in the House. It was prior to the end of the last adjournment for the summer break. All parties stood in the House and congratulated the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and each other for a job well done with respect to refugee reform.
This is another opportunity for the citizenship and immigration committee to again work together in the best interests of Canadians and the best interests of the people the bill seeks to help. I am confident that by working together and by allowing this to get to committee, where we can make the amendments that I am hopeful and confident the hon. member who introduced the bill agrees are needed, we can come up with a bill that works for all Canadians, and we can continue to be proud.
In my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham I represent one of the most diverse communities in all of Canada. We have people from all over the world, and I have been extraordinarily proud to represent them. I have heard what they are saying. We see what needs they have. We can appreciate all that new Canadians do for this country. One of the things they tell me they like best about Canada is that they understand that Canada realizes that its strength is its diversity. That is something that this government has focused on. We will continue to do what is best for new Canadians and what is best for immigrants, and hopefully we can work together to get a proper bill through on this.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.
Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
This private member's bill stems from the passage, in the 39th Parliament, of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born to or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel and federal and provincial public servants, as children born in Canada such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.
First of all, I would like to commend the member for Vancouver South for his commitment to this issue, and I would like all hon. members to know that the government supports the intention of Bill C-467. However, we have some technical concerns with the bill in its current form, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have, as the member points out, some unintended consequences.
Nevertheless, I am confident that we can address these concerns together, with the co-operation of our parliamentary colleagues. The bill will have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants and our military serving abroad.
I would like to share with my hon. colleagues a very brief overview of Bill C-37 and the reasons that led us, as a government, to restore citizenship to lost Canadians and to include a clear limit on citizenship by descent.
Members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will recall many witnesses who testified three years ago this spring as they shared their love for this country as proud citizens. They shared their dismay and their frustration when they described how it felt to discover that their citizenship was not, in fact, recognized by the law.
The public outcry was enormous, and that is why the government corrected the legislation. When Bill C-37 came into effect a year ago, it restored or gave citizenship to most people who were known as lost Canadians. Changes to the law restored or granted citizenship to the vast majority of those who lost or did not have it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.
The changes meant that people who became citizens when the first Citizenship Act came into force in 1947, and people born or naturalized in Canada after 1947 and subsequently lost their citizenship, would reacquire their citizenship unless they formally renounced it or had it revoked because of fraud. Foreign-born persons adopted by Canadians between January 1, 1947 and February 15, 1977 would also be eligible to apply for citizenship. Complex rules that required some citizens by descent to take steps to apply to keep their citizenship were simply eliminated.
The new law also set a limit on citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was done to uphold the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring a real and concrete connection to Canada.
Hon. members will also recall debate of Bill C-14 in 2007 and the steps Canadians adopting foreign-born children had to take before their children could become Canadian citizens.
International adoption is a complex process, as we all know, involving many layers of approval by both provincial and territorial governments in Canada and by the federal government of the country where the child lives. In many cases, adoptions must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
With the passage of Bill C-14, parents of foreign-born adopted children were able to apply directly for citizenship for those children without first having to go through the steps of applying for permanent resident status. It was a clear and bold reaffirmation of the values and principles that define our identity, our country, and the notion of the Canadian family.
The private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned, and we once again praise the member for Vancouver South for his constructive efforts. In the coming weeks, we look forward to addressing the technical issues that would otherwise prevent this bill from achieving its rightful objective.
The government recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that Crown servants and their families posted abroad make to this country.
I am sure that hon. members would also agree that any children born to Crown servants working abroad should not be penalized by not being able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or they may adopt abroad as a direct result of their parents' service to this country.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no question that Crown servants abroad, including our military, have a connection to this country and we are confident that the changes proposed by Bill C-467 are consistent with the intent of Bill C-37.
There are a few issues with this bill that need to be examined. For example, the bill attempts to extend access to citizenship to the grandchildren of Crown servants by adding a new provision for children born abroad or adopted by Crown servants.
At the same time, it proposes to repeal a section of the act that currently allows all children born to a Crown servant outside Canada to be Canadians, regardless of the generation in which they were born outside Canada.
Similarly, right now, anyone born abroad or adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, may apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions. Under Bill C-467 as it stands now, children adopted by Crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, which could indeed be problematic.
Nevertheless, I am sure that all members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective and that, as Canadians, we should support our Crown servants posted abroad, especially and including military families, and recognize their sacrifice, their commitment and their strong connection to Canada.
That is why I am confident the intent of Bill C-467 can be achieved by expanding the current exception that exists under the law to ensure that the children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside our country.
To ensure that the good intentions of Bill C-467 are achieved, I look forward to working co-operatively in the coming weeks with the member for Vancouver South, and all members, toward some constructive amendments.
We have a committee that is currently working on Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act. We are working our way through it. As members know, it is never easy at committee to come to a consensus on absolutely everything. I believe that bill is going to come back to this House, is going to be supported and is going to be passed. For the first time in decades we will have strong and positive change to our refugee act.
At the same time, I think the committee, with all four parties represented there, can come to some common agreement on the bill. The member has a critic who certainly has an open ear and a colleague who has an open ear to ensuring that we do what is right at committee.
I anticipate that we can do the same with this bill. I look forward to the day the member has the opportunity to present at committee and work with us on what I think will be amendments, necessary amendments nonetheless, that would ensure there are no unintended consequences with respect to this bill and the impact it would have on Canadians born abroad.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, I am speaking today about Bill C-467 because I believe that it will correct a legislative error.
When the Citizenship Act was amended in 2008 through Bill C-37, the principle of restricting the transmission of citizenship by descent was included to ensure that Canadian citizenship was not passed on in perpetuity.
But in wanting to create an exception to restricting the transmission of citizenship for our military and officials who are overseas on a mission, we complicated matters. We created an exception to the citizenship exception that had just been passed. The goal was to maintain privileges for our citizens who have children overseas. However, as is often the case when a law is created or amended, unanticipated problems or gaps surfaced in the legislation.
Bill C-467 would remove the exception to the exception that was created and propose a new category of citizens in order to make the Citizenship Act fairer.
The law, in its present form allows our military and officials, who were themselves born abroad, to transmit their citizenship to any children they have when they are on a mission. However, rather than being considered citizens in good standing as though they were born here, these children have the status of Canadians born abroad, which does not allow them, in turn, to transmit their citizenship.
Bill C-467 would make these children full-fledged citizens with the same rights and privileges as the children of the military and officials born here and posted here.
When the government amended the Citizenship Act to restrict the transmission of citizenship, it maintained that the provision would ensure that Canadian citizenship is not transmitted indefinitely to individuals who have no ties to Canada. Although I believe that there should be nuances in this rule, I agree with the general principle.
Given the employee-employer relationship of these two parties, it is obvious to me that, for this category of citizens, their right to citizenship does not have to be proven because it is explicit. Consequently, their children should be considered as though they were born here—even if they were born abroad—just like children adopted from abroad, who now have this recognition.
That is exactly what the member for Vancouver South wants to achieve with this bill.
Here is a simple example to illustrate what I am talking about. I was born in Vietnam and adopted in 1974. I now have a Quebec birth certificate, which is my legal identification in Quebec. However, when I renew my passport, I have to send my Canadian citizenship card, not my Quebec birth certificate, as do all people born in Quebec.
I was adopted in 1974, long before the law was changed to allow children adopted from other countries to obtain citizenship upon arriving in Canada. If I were a member of the armed forces, any grandchildren of mine born abroad would be stateless. That situation is unacceptable.
In this case, my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, has five children, including one born abroad when he was Quebec's delegate general in Japan. That child will not have the same status as his four children born here.
This is an example that illustrates the need for this bill. The current citizenship criteria, which are essentially based on birthplace, seem to me to be outdated in these cases, just like the discrimination against parents who adopted children abroad in my time. The flaws in the system should be corrected by the bill my colleague has introduced.
With globalization and international labour mobility, more and more government employees, members of the military and other people will be going abroad to work.
Moreover, the Bloc Québécois has long been calling on the government to introduce exit controls for non-citizens, but the Conservatives have consistently refused. They recognize the problem, but refuse to take action.
Clearly, Bill C-467 does not correct the whole problem, because it only focuses on government employees. I feel we are going to have to take a much broader approach and review the principle of restricting transmission of citizenship by descent.
We support this amendment, but I want to say that this bill will not completely fix the flaw in the current Citizenship Act.
However, it does give vital recognition to people working for the government abroad.
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.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have seconded this bill because it goes some way toward solving some problems that were created as a result of the adoption of Bill C-37 which came into effect in April 2009. Law making is sometimes extremely complicated and there are unintended consequences and we are seeing some here at different levels.
The first level which Bill C-467 presented by my colleague from Vancouver South addresses is the most urgent and most obvious one. It is the fact that people who have had children while serving their country abroad and whose children are now having children of their own, those children cannot be Canadian citizens. That is nonsense. The riding which I have the honour of representing is in Ottawa. One would expect there would be a number of people living in my riding and throughout the city who have served our country abroad in the Department of Foreign Affairs, for instance, and who are now in this situation.
I know two ambassadors who have had children while serving abroad. In the first case, one of his sons is now working in the private sector in a bank in Paris. He and his wife are going to have their third child. The first two children, from the same father and mother, are Canadian citizens, but the third one, if the child is born in Paris, will not be a Canadian citizen if born there. The third grandchild of the man who served his country abroad, born from the same parents, cannot be a Canadian citizen. It is nonsense. Another well-known ambassador who served this country with great distinction has a daughter in Great Britain who cannot have children who will be Canadian citizens.
That is the first obvious unintended consequence of Bill C-37 that has to be fixed. I applaud my colleague's initiative. I hope that even if the government seems to have some hesitation about some technicalities it is concerned with, that we can see our way to at least adopting that.
The second level of complication was brought up by the member for Trinity—Spadina and I concur with her. Canada as a trading nation has to consider going beyond this bill. I have legislation on the books, Bill C-443, which addresses that. It deals with the fact that there are a number of Canadian citizens working abroad, for the United Nations or its agencies and for NGOs, and heaven knows, we fund them through CIDA. These are honourable, respected NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières. A number of them are associated with religious groups. A number of Canadians are serving the interests of their country through these organizations and they are going to get caught in the same situation.
That is the second level of complication that I hope we will address some day. I hope the government is paying attention to this. Whether we can do it through amendments to this piece of legislation or not remains to be seen.
The third one is the very dramatic situation where we will be creating stateless children. That can be an incredibly complicated situation for anyone.
These are some of the unintended consequences of the legislation that came into effect last year which I believe have to be addressed. The first one is being addressed through the legislation proposed by my colleague from Vancouver South and I hope we will see fit to pass it quickly.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill C-467, which calls on the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada. That would mean making it possible to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.
As my hon. colleague has said, the government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we do have some concerns that the bill as drafted would not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences.
Members who studied the issue of lost citizenship in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration know full well that citizenship is not something to take lightly or for granted. Studies and witness testimony over the issue led to us to the conclusion that legislation governing citizenship is by no means perfect and that we should truly appreciate the value of our Canadian citizenship.
Members will recall that in order to protect the value of citizenship and ensure that it could not be passed on to endless generations, Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament introduced a first generation limit to citizenship. The limit is there to ensure that Canadians would have a connection to Canada. Bill C-37 also created an exception to this new first generation limit. The exception means that children born outside Canada to Crown servants are also citizens.
Without this exception to the fist generation limit, children of Crown servants would not be able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. This means that as long as a Canadian citizen is a Crown servant working abroad, any children the Canadian citizen has or adopts abroad are Canadian.
Generation after generation of parents working abroad as Crown servants are able to pass Canadian citizenship on to their children, but let us say Anna has a child while working as a Crown servant in England. Her child, Nicholas, is Canadian. When Nicholas grows up, if he decides to work as a Crown servant in India, any child he has or adopts while working as a Crown servant there would be Canadian, but if Nicholas decides he does not want to work as a Crown servant, his child, in other words Anna's grandchild, would not be Canadian. We aim to change that.
Since early 2009 the government has heard from Crown servants and organizations representing them that it is unfair to penalize these children as a direct result of their parents' service to Canada. I absolutely sympathize with the need to recognize that Canadian families serving Canada abroad have a strong connection to Canada and should not be penalized for their service.
I agree with my colleagues that the private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned. After all, it proposes to treat children born or adopted abroad by Crown servants the same as children born in Canada so that they could pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt overseas.
As I have said, the bill does have some problems. For example, under this bill, children of Crown servants could not pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. Children of the original Crown servant working abroad who were born abroad to a Canadian parent would no longer have access to citizenship.
Children adopted by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada would become citizens automatically without regard to the international obligations and requirements that aim to protect the best interests of the child, for example, to prevent child trafficking. Bill C-467 would propose to confer citizenship automatically to children adopted abroad by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada.
The current act already allows anyone who is born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, to apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respects international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdictions on adoptions.
Nevertheless, I am confident that we can achieve the intent of this private member's bill if we expanded the current exception that exists in the current act, so that children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside Canada.
I recommend that, by addressing these concerns together, this bill could have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants, including our military serving abroad.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 6:55 p.m.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Madam Speaker, it is rather unexpected that I rise today to speak to Bill C-467.
At the outset, I want to say that I listened with great care to the speech from the mover of the bill, as well as the member for Trinity—Spadina. Clearly, we are in favour of this bill and certainly willing to get the bill to committee, but as the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there are some improvements that we would like in the bill.
Bill C-37 came into effect in April of 2009 and out of that whole process there are still gaps in the legislation. The fact of the matter is that this bill would not deal with all of the gaps that the member for Trinity—Spadina outlined so eloquently in her speech.
Having said that, this is certainly a positive move by the member for Vancouver South. I missed the initial period for questions but wanted to ask him whether this bill would apply to members of the reserve forces in Canada.
When we look at the summary of the bill, it refers to the enactment providing that children 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 service of a province be considered like a child born in Canada. The bill mentions the Canadian armed forces.
In some cases, reserve members are not covered by measures covering the armed forces in general. I was unable to ask the mover that question.
This issue has dogged us for quite a number of years. Having been a provincial member for 23 years now, issues have come up where people have found, perhaps accidentally, that they did not have Canadian citizenship. It came to a head, as we know, around 9/11 when the Americans started to tighten up on their rules of access to the United States, and people had to produce passports and prove citizenship. A number of people could not do that. There were some very well publicized cases, as members know.
Another question I wanted to ask the member was whether he had an idea as to how many people would be affected by this particular bill. The member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out that there are perhaps 2.8 million people, I believe she said, living abroad. There are people working in our missions, working for NGOs, and many working for multinational corporations.
As a matter of fact, it becomes almost a lifetime occupation for some people to spend all of their working lives being transferred around the world and spending very little time in Canada until perhaps their retirement years. During that time, it is quite conceivable that children will be born outside of Canada and at a certain point will be found to be stateless.
The member for Trinity—Spadina talked about Senator Munson, with whom I had the pleasure of travelling to Washington recently, indicating that in his case he could potentially be in a situation where a grandchild of his would be a stateless person. Clearly, we have to look at this whole area and err on the side of inclusiveness, including all people who could potentially be affected by this type of legislation.
One only has to look back three years ago when we debated Bill C-37 in the House. I read through some of the speeches of the day and some of the background.
We are not talking about a really simple issue here. This is a very complicated issue. The average person is not going to while away the hours and days becoming an expert in immigration law. I would think that in some cases one would have to be a lawyer to sort through some of this stuff and to really understand it.
One of the previous members talked earlier about Bill C-37, the bill to amend the Immigration Act, which was introduced in the House and received first reading on December 10, 2007, the whole purpose of which was to address the issue of the so-called lost Canadians, the people who lost their citizenship through no fault of their own when they were mere babies.
These people thought of themselves as Canadians. They wished to participate in Canadian society, but either ceased to be citizens or never were Canadian citizens in the first place for various legal reasons. There were different reasons by and large in each one of the cases and each case presented a very compelling reason. Even the Prime Minister was involved in one of the cases to try to resolve the issue. In many cases these individuals were not even aware that they were not Canadian citizens until they applied for a certificate of Canadian citizenship or other documentation.
It might surprise some to know, and I was informed of this a few years ago, that even today a very small percentage of the population actually flies on an airplane. I forget what the actual number was but only 13% or 15% of people have actually flown but that number must be much higher now. A very large number of people in our society have not had occasion to board an airplane and fly to other countries. If an individual has no reason to travel, he or she would have no reason to consider asking for documentation. Only when a life event happens are people forced to get citizenship documentation and sometimes find out they are not able to get it.
It would be interesting for people watching today to know that there are at least four distinct legal groups of lost Canadians. The first group is made up of naturalized Canadians, those who subsequently lived outside the country for more than 10 years prior to 1967. The second group is made up of people born abroad to a Canadian parent before the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. How is someone supposed to remember all of these facts, particularly if that individual happened to be born abroad?
The third group is made up of people who lost their citizenship between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977 because they or a parent acquired the citizenship of another country. The fourth group is made up of the second and subsequent generation of Canadians born abroad since the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. As the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, we are talking about 2.8 million people living abroad.
I understand that my time is almost nigh. Suffice it to say that we support the bill and are prepared to send it on to committee.
Private Members' Business
May 26th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON
As all members of the House are aware, this private member's bill stems from the passage in the 39th Parliament of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls upon the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada, such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.
The government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we are concerned about some unintended consequences. Our success as a country is no accident but a result of an abiding belief in values such as liberty, human dignity and freedom of conscience and where harmony is the rule rather than the exception. We are an open and tolerant society, renowned for our respects for democracy and for the freedoms that come with that. We celebrate our different cultural traditions but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian ones.
That is fundamental. We need to preserve the value of Canadian citizenship along with an abiding connection to our past and to one another, where citizenship means more than access to a convenient passport.
Within the past three years, the government has passed significant laws that would correct flaws in citizenship legislation. Bill C-14 and Bill C-37 reflect clear and bold reaffirmations of our values and the principles that define us as a country.
Under the old rules, it was possible for Canadians to pass on their citizenship to endless generations born outside of Canada. To protect the value of Canadian citizenship for the future, the new law under Bill C-37 put a limit on citizenship by descent to one generation born outside of Canada, similar to the rules in other countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
October 28th, 2009 / 3:20 p.m.
Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-467, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (children born abroad).
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce the bill. This 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 service of a province be considered like a child born in Canada.
Currently, children born abroad to Canadian government workers are considered under the Citizenship Act to be first generation Canadians born abroad. This, in turn, impacts their children in that they would not be eligible for Canadian citizenship if born outside Canada. This bill would ensure that children born abroad of Canadians working for the federal or provincial governments of Canada would be treated as if they had been born in Canada.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)